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Revelation by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 14 secs

Angelic Conflict: Influenced by Demons

 

We are looking at the indirect attacks of Satan, often referred to as demon influence. Remember Satan's ultimate and over-arching goal is to demonstrate that he can rule the creation as well as God can, if not better. So he has designed his objectives in time and in relation to the human race to discredit God on the one hand and to demonstrate his own capabilities on the other hand. In terms of discrediting God Satan attempts to prevent God from accomplishing His particular goal. He wants to keep God in the Old Testament from ruling the planet through His designated servant Adam. God created Adam as a vassal to serve Him and to be His vicegerent to rule over creation. So Satan wants to prevent God from accomplishing His end through mankind so his objective was to usurp the rule of the planet. This occurred in the dynamics of the temptation and the fall. He was victorious in that. He is referred to in the Scriptures as the god of this age, he is the prince of the power of the air, he is the god of this world. He is the one who empowers fallen mankind in his rebellion against God. So his initial objective was accomplished in the fall.

 

Following that he goes on to have subsequent objectives. One is to distract mankind and to blind mankind from the truth, 2 Corinthians 4:4. How does he do that? Furthermore, if Satan is the one who is blinding people to the truth of the gospel then what about the impact of their own sin nature? Doesn't that have a role to play? We will see that these things work together in tandem. One of the ways to distract from the truth is to trot out a whole array of competing truths, competing truths that are complete with their own rationales, their own philosophical or religious support systems, very sophisticated systems that can engage at every point that which God reveals to be true. Satan is devising thought systems, religious systems and philosophical systems, that easily deceive and entrap mankind into false ways of looking at reality and understanding who he is and understanding the world around him. The three major elements that we look at in any of these is how any system of thought views God, how that system of thought views man, and how that system of thought views nature or creation. Then in the Old Testament his objective was to prevent the seed of the woman arriving and accomplishing God's strategic objective. In that he failed.

 

In the New Testament we see a shift in his tactical objective. He has lost the major strategic objective at the cross but he still has a last chance. He is going to try to attack both the church and Israel. He needs to attack the people of God during the church age, specifically in relation to God's purpose for church age believers. God's purpose for church age believers is for them to grow to spiritual maturity so that their life can be a trophy of God's grace, can be an evidence in the angelic conflict in the trial against Satan that following God and being completely subordinate to the creator's will is the only path to happiness, to meaning in life, and to real joy and success. Every time we apply the Word in our life we are just building that testimony, so Satan's objective is to distract us and to get our eyes off of God and onto material things, onto creation itself, or onto ourselves in terms of arrogance, self-absorption and everything else that goes with the focus on self.

 

In terms of the church age he continues to blind unbelievers to the truth. This leads to what we often hear today when people talk about the fact that we are in a culture war. Well Christians have always been involved in a culture war which involves capital T truth that is revealed in the Word of God, sometimes referred to as Bible doctrine, other times as divine viewpoint, but is what Jesus referred to as truth in John 17. In His prayer to the Father regarding believers He prays, "Sanctify them by means of truth, thy Word is truth." It is a truth that incorporates and encapsulates every dimension of life. It is in and of itself a truth that is sufficient. Does that mean it answers every question we have? No. But it gives us the framework through which we understand God, man, and creation. In going to the Word of God we have the starting point, the framework, the platform, on which to build our understanding of God's creation and mankind. So there is this truth war that leads to a culture war.

 

A second objective that Satan has is to attempt to prevent God from fulfilling His promises, specifically the promises he made in the Old Testament to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their progeny the Jewish people. He is seeking to ultimately prevent God from bringing them to this piece of real estate in the Middle East, described in Genesis 15 as being bounded by the river of Egypt in the south, the river Euphrates to the north and northwest and the Mediterranean. If Satan can prevent the Jews from ever occupying the land then he has demonstrated that God can't control His creation either, so he wins by default. I tis no coincidence that we are engaged in wars in recent years in the Middle East, that there is so much turmoil in the Middle East. There is and will continue to be turmoil in the Middle East because once Israel returned and established itself as a nation in the Middle East in 1948 then this is getting too close to the fulfilment of those promises that God made. So Satan is going to pull out the stops to do everything he can to try to destroy that particular nation and to distract Christians from supporting that nation. One of Satan's tools down through history is anti-Semitism and he has come into various systems of thought both outside the church and inside the church to try to develop theologies that Christians would buy into that are inherently anti-Semitic. 

 

Then there is the insidious danger of demon influence. The reason demon influence is so insidious is because we think in terms of demon influence a lot more than we think we do. What determines the difference is how much of the Word of God we have learned and are applying in our thinking.

James is contrasting the wisdom that comes from the Scriptures and the wisdom that comes from society and from culture around them. Remember James was living is a world where wisdom had a particular significance and nuance in Greek culture. It is philosophical, intellectual; it has to do with a body of thought that had sought to understand and organise the creation and nature, how we know what we know, trying to pierce the realities of the universe to come up with ultimate realities. All of this intellectual activity is designed to try to understand creation, ultimate reality, and mankind from a non-biblical viewpoint. However, when we get into the Bible the concept of wisdom in the Bible doesn't have to do with abstract thought. Wisdom in the Bible, based on Old Testament usage, was something that was very practical, down to earth, and we would just call it the application of God's eternal truth to the every-day problems, issues, challenges of life, so that as we apply these eternal truths of Scripture to what we are doing then we produce something in our lives, a testimony to God that has beauty, value and eternal significance. It is skilful living in terms of the application of Bible doctrine.

When James is writing he asks a rhetorical question of this somewhat confused and carnal audience. James 3:13-16 NASB "Who among you is [claiming to be] wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior [application] his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom." Then the contrast of the pagan ideas dominating in the culture and popular in the congregation. "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." Notice James focuses on mental attitude sins as the core issue; he is not talking about overt sins. He uses the word "heart," a term that refers to the core of one's soul where thinking takes place, where deep-seated beliefs are. James goes on to say that this "wisdom" that produces arrogance, bitterness and jealousy, is a wisdom that is contradictory to the wisdom of the Bible; it is not that which comes down from above. And he uses three adjectives to describe it. First, it is earthly; secondly, natural; third, it is demonic.

He uses the word "earthly" because it is showing that this is something that is time-bound, it doesn't get out of the boundaries of space and time. It emphasises the finitude of all other competing systems of truth; they are based on the finite, they come out of rationalism, empiricism or mysticism and are the products of the finite mind of man. Human wisdom, no matter what the system is, is finite. That means there is always a whole host of data beyond their limit that can change whatever they come up with on the basis of their finite thinking. The second word he uses is translated in most Bible, "natural," but this is a poor translation. It is the Greek word psuchikos [yuxikoj] based on the noun psuche [yuxh], meaning soul. The "natural" man is the soulish man who doesn't have that spirit component, that regenerative component that allows him to understand the things of God. So this wisdom is the product of fallen human beings who have no clue what divine viewpoint truth is. It is the best man can do and it doesn't even come close to truly explaining, and organising the data of creation. Then the last part: it is demonic. To the degree that something is not biblical it is demonic. That is what this passage is saying. Human philosophies, human religions, are all demonic. What that means is that it partakes of the same basic core element of the thinking of Satan. You are either going to think like God or you are going to think like Satan. That's it; that is the black and white issue. You are going to think like God on the basis of divine revelation or you are going to think like Satan.

The indirect attacks of Satan occur through thought systems. In religion: the overt idolatry of idols of wood and stone all the way through to the contemporary sophisticated intellectual idols of modern man. Philosophical systems, whatever they are, if the starting point is inside creation it is idolatry because it is taking some element within creation and exploding it up so big that it will then explain everything that is in creation. All philosophical systems are built upon a presupposition that man apart from God can understand reality. That is what Satan is saying: you don't need God, you just need your own innate abilities and you can come to truth apart from God. Part of what demon influence does is provide a rationale and a support system for our sin nature. Satan knows all about the corruption in the soul and he wants to generate things that appeal to it and attract it like a magnet so that you are going to want to go in that direction, the area that is going to feel good and comfortable and the way you think life is going to work.

Two things that characterise Satan's thinking. The first is autonomy. Satan is his rebellion thought that he could make it independently of God. That is what autonomy is: the creature is going to become a law unto himself and he is going to be able to make life work apart from God. He is going to find happiness, peace and stability without having to take God or the Bible very seriously. This is the basic orientation of the sin nature. The second orientation is antagonism. When we look at Genesis chapter three and see God come into the garden the basic thing that happens is that Adam and the woman are afraid, and they run from God. The basic orientation of our heart toward God is fear. We try to run from Him; we think that he is out to make our life miserable, that God just wants to judge us and punish us and is out to destroy us, and our heart is antagonistic to God because we basically fear Him because we know in our heart of hearts we know we are corrupt, condemned and fallen sinners. That doesn't mean that we can't exercise positive volition.

We need to think about the example of the apostle Paul. None of us would say that Paul had negative volition at God-consciousness. He is positive to God, but what happens to him? Paul gets immersed in religion—demon influence. He gets immersed in the rigorous legalistic system of Pharisaism and he is out attacking and persecuting Christ, the body of Christ. Jesus Christ met him and said: "Why are you kicking against the goads? He was kicking against the goads because he feared God at the core of his soul orientation. We don't want God; he didn't want God. There was an element that was positive but there is this other element in the soul that just hates and fears God. So that part of the sin nature gets attracted to the thinking of the cosmic system, which is what happened to Paul. He got attracted to the rigorous legalism and self-righteousness of the Pharisaic system.

The only solution to all of this is to have our thinking overhauled by the Word of God. That is what Paul says in Romans 12:2. We are not to be conformed to the world system but we are to be transformed by the renovation of our mind. Now if we are not supposed to be conformed to the world system then we had better understand how the world system is influencing us, or we won't spot how we are being conformed. We are so close to who we are and to our cultural upbringing that it is hard for us to distance ourselves, to have the objectivity to see how we are influenced by the idolatry and the demon influence of our own culture. The only way that can be exposed is by the Spirit of God and the Word of God and to be taught in such a way that helps us to understand how we are being eaten up by our own sin nature and our own desire to restructure so much of the Word of God into our own comfort zone. 

Illustrations