Summary: Paul, Pt. 17


According to a CBS News/New York Times Poll in the nineties, 64% or two thirds of Americans believe in the devil and 63 percent believe in demonic possession. A total of 72 percent of political conservatives believe in the devil, compared to 50 percent of liberals. And fewer Catholics believe than Protestants. Even 17 percent of those who say religion has no importance in their lives believe in the existence of the devil. 59 percent of Americans also believe the mind or body can be taken over by a demon or the devil. While a majority of all age groups believe in possession, younger adults are somewhat more likely to believe.

(“CBS Poll: Could It Be Satan? Yes”)

In the new millennium, according to a 2005 Harris Poll, about 6 in 10 Americans, believe in the devil and hell, and about 7 in 10 believe in angels, heaven and the existence of miracles and of life after death.

Professor Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame, citing an academic study of sermons preached by parish priests in the 1980’s, showed that talk of Satan “had diminished markedly,” while far more emphasis was placed on topics like loving one’s neighbor and being a good steward of the earth and its resources. E. Brooks Holifield, professor of American church history at Emory University, noted that among many Protestants, belief in the devil probably fell during “three big shifting points” with the emergence of theological liberalism in the 1830’s, the 1890’s and the 1920’s.

Is the devil a reality or fantasy? Is Satan a friendly ghost looking for someone to befriend or a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8)? What is your role and your responsibility in this spiritual warfare? What are the requirements and the risks of engagement? What are the resources and reserves that God has given us?

Recognize the Devil for Who He is

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:10-12)

A young inexperienced mouse went to look for food. Before he started out his wise old grandpa cautioned him, “Watch out, dear child, for our enemies!” The young mouse promised faithfully to do so and then dashed out into the barnyard. The first one he met was a rooster who stretched out his wings and, looking fierce, cried out in a terrible voice, “Cock-a-doodle-do!”

Scared out of his wits, the little mouse scurried back into his hole. “Grandpa, Grandpa! I’ve just met a terrible creature with a comb red as blood. When he saw me he threw back his head and screamed at me!” Grandpa smiled and said, “Foolish child! This is no enemy of ours! This was a rooster who crowed. You have nothing to fear from him!”

Taking heart the little mouse went out again and the first one he met was a turkey. He got so frightened when he looked at him that he ran back into the hole. “Oh Grandpa! he cried, trembling with fright. “I just saw a horrible black creature. He had yellow legs, a sharp beak and angry red eyes. When he saw me he shook his head and fiercely cried, “Gobble, gobble!”

Grandpa smiled, and chided, “Foolish child! He isn’t our enemy - he’s only a turkey! You will be able to recognize our enemy, the cat, by the humble way he carries himself. He keeps his head down and has beautiful golden eyes. His fur is smooth and he purrs ever so gently. When you meet him - run for your life!”

As in the end of one other epistle, Galatians (Gal 6:17), Paul concludes his epistle with a “finally” admonition, this time urging readers to “be strong” (en-dunamoo), literally meaning “empower” - “en” (in) plus “dunamoo” (strengthen). The word occurs a mere seven times in the Bible - six times employed by Paul (Rom 4:20, Eph 6:10, Phil 4:13, 1 Tim 1:12, 2 Tim 2:1, 4:17) and the last describing Paul’s growth in Acts (Acts 9:22). All seven instances refer to one’s spiritual enablement, and never to physical endurance. We are strengthened in God’s “mighty power,” not in our mortal passion or mental make-up.

Mighty (ischus) “power” (kratos, as in demo-crat, auto-crat, bureau-crat), or “dominion” in Greek (v 10), is used to describe God, and never Satan. The Bible tells us Satan has dominion, too, but never “mighty dominion.” His “dominion” is confined to death, which Christ has rendered this last stronghold and frontier powerless through His death (Heb 2:14). In contrast to Satan’s vanquished dominion, Christ’s dominion or might is described as glorious (Col 1:11), forever (1 Tim 6:16), forever and ever (1 Peter 4:11, 5:11), and “before all ages, now and forevermore!” (Jude 25).

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