12 December 2008

The Devil Made me Do It

by Phil Johnson



uring one of my trips to India a few years ago I met a college student who approached me after a meeting where I taught. He said he believed he was suffering an intense Satanic attack, and he wondered if I knew of any special methods of spiritual warfare that could help rid his home and family of Satanic influences.

So I asked about the nature of the "attack."

He said he was finding it impossible to get along with his mother. He said the two of them hardly ever spoke a civil word to one another, and it was destroying the peace of their household. He said he found it hard to study the Bible or grow spiritually as long as these tensions ruled the household. And he had come to the meeting that night, specifically hoping I would tell him how to get Satan out of his household.

I first asked him what made him think this problem was uniquely Satanic. As he described it to me, it sounded much more like raw carnal pride on both his part and his mother's. They were constantly saying unkind and unloving things to one another. He admitted that he purposely did things he knew would annoy her. He spoke disrespectfully to her. He said he just couldn't stand her and didn't like being around her.

It sounded like youthful rebellion on his part, more than a satanic attack. So I said, "It sounds to me like you're just behaving in a fleshly way. I think you need to look into your own heart for the culprit, rather than blaming the devil and outside influences."

But he insisted that I just didn't understand the issue. It must be Satanic, he said, because the nature of his conflict with his mother was so powerful—and living with her was like living with the devil.

When I raised my eyebrow at that, he quickly added that he couldn't help himself; the temptation to speak hatefully to her was so overpowering, it was as if evil forces took over his mind.

I told him first of all, that regardless of Satan's involvement in his struggle, the root sin causing his problems was fleshly, carnal pride. I also reminded him that when he sinned with his tongue, he was sinning deliberately of his own accord, so he couldn't escape his own responsibility by blaming Satan for the turmoil in his household.

But I told him I agreed that his trouble was probably also demonic. After all, James 3:6 says, "the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell" I also reminded him that according to 1 Samuel 15:23, "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." By indulging in that kind of rebellion, he was committing a sin as evil and as satanic as witchcraft. He was opening his own heart and life to Satan's influence, and he was giving Satan every opportunity to take advantage of him. "You need to own those sins and repent of them," I said.

Then I told him, "I'm going to let you in on a secret. I'm going to give you a foolproof technique for spiritual warfare that is the most powerful and potent defense against Satan you could ever employ. If you do what I say, and follow these instructions every time you are tempted to speak an unkind word to your mother, I guarantee this will solve your problem."

So he took out his pen and a piece of paper and prepared to take notes. And when he was looking at me expectantly, ready for the answer, I quoted James 4:7: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." And Ephesians 4:26-27: "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil."

Furthermore, I said, "If Satan doesn't flee—if he is successful in luring you into sin—it is always because your own wicked heart agrees with him and cooperates with him, and so you do whatever sinful thing he has tempted you to do. When that happens, instead of blaming it on influences beyond your control, you need to repent, and admit your own fleshly complicity with the devil, and resist him rather than cooperating with him. 'Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour . . . resist [him, and remain] stedfast in the faith' (1 Peter 5:8-9)."

I could tell he wasn't pleased with my reply. He desperately wanted me to agree that his problems were completely caused by the devil, and that therefore this was completely outside his own heart and beyond his own control. If I had offered to come to his house and conduct some kind of ceremonial exorcism, I'm sure he would have taken me up on it immediately. But he was not prepared to admit that he was in any way culpable for the disharmony in his own home.

We'd all like to believe that our struggle with sin involves only external enemies. We're willing to say that Satan is to blame for our sin. We're even willing to blame the world—as long as it's an external cause. As long as we don't have to take the blame on ourselves.

But even our struggle with the world is a struggle that is fomented by inordinate desires that emanate from within ourselves, because "All that is in the world [is] the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:15). Those are sinful tendencies that come from within us. We ourselves are to blame when inordinate worldly affections crowd out what should be a pure love for God and the things of God. Neither the world nor the devil could ever take advantage of us if our own flesh did not cooperate.

Phil's signature


35 comments:

NoLongerBlind said...

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."

The strongest temptations usually come at our own personal "sweet spots"; therein lies the challenge and difficulty.....

DJP said...

Good counsel and teaching. If I had the wit, it might be helpful to chart out some of the differing theories as touching growth in maturity and holiness. No doubt the appeal of Charismatic (and related) methods to the Biblical one you map out is that it offers instant, dramatic jumps and bumps, with little personal effort or persistance.

The key word being "offers."

Johnny Dialectic said...

Reminds me of the moment in "Liar,Liar" when the now can-only-tell-the-truth lawyer (Jim Carrey) gets a call from a client he recently got off of a criminal charge. Arrested again, the client has called for advice.

Carrey grabs the phone from his secretary and screams: "STOP BREAKING THE LAW!"

We do have choice when it comes to sin. Choose to stop breaking the "law", and plead for the Spirit's help.

MarieP said...

"Neither the world nor the devil could ever take advantage of us if our own flesh did not cooperate."

Thank you for this very balanced blog post! On the one hand, we must not blame it all on the devil and find him behind every bush. On the other, we are not humanists who deny the existence of Satan and the aid of the Holy Spirit fighting spiritual warfare.

MarieP said...

It reminds me of Romans 6:

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Terry Rayburn said...

In the overall context of Scripture we see that the essential tool of the devil is lies.

"Seeking whom he may devour" is essentially "seeking whom he may deceive".

Resisting the devil will be much easier if this is understood.

As new creatures who love Christ and hate sin in our heart of hearts, the thing that brings us into sin is somehow thinking that sin is (at least temporarily) better than not sinning for whatever reason.

This is always a lie, but our three-fold enemies -- the world, the flesh and the devil -- convince us otherwise.

How to resist the devil? Not with "power" (Charismatic or otherwise), but with "truth".

Willpower won't cut it.

Resist the father of lies with the truth of the Father.

Hard to do if we're not in the Word.

donsands said...

Thanks for sharing that. You did well with your brother. He was fortunate the Lord sent him to you.

Satan surely sifts us. He sifted Simon Peter. When can't avoid it, because our sovereign Lord wants us to be sifted for His glory and our good.

The key for me in the sifting id to see the Lord Jesus. Peter saw Him, and his soorow was intense, and he wept bitterly for denying his Savior and Friend.

And maybe God doesn't call all His children to be sifted. And the sifting can surely come in various degrees.

The Lord has hold of us, and His grace is always sufficient, though the thorns may be with for a while, we can overcome the pain and weakness in His strength and love.

Solameanie said...

Phil,

You realize, of course, that you have just upset the entire applecart for those who follow the Gospel according to Flip Wilson, not to mention ministries that make a lot of money off of deliverance.

Forgive me. I get snarky when I'm on antibiotics and antihistamines.

A very, very, very good post!

Shawn said...

The Apostle Paul said,

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" - Rom 7:18

Since Satan is not omnipresent, am I to think that I am so important that of all the places and people in the world he would be there influencing me?

Or is it more likely that I am just so depraved and that my heart is so despertly wicked (Jer 17:9)that without any outward prompting I will by myself fall into sin.

I tend to think the latter is the true statement, since God made it clear in Genesis 8 that our hearts are evil and prone to sin even from our youth.

David said...

Great Post! To be honest, I would love to be able to blame everyone else for my sin, and then when I am finally done with it to say some magic words and **poof** be done with them, but that is not reality.

Does anyone ever consider that at Judgment day God will destroy the devil and his angels BUT He will also destroy all those who sin who are not covered with the blood of Jesus.

donsands said...

"Since Satan is not omnipresent, am I to think that I am so important that of all the places and people in the world he would be there influencing me?"

We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness. There in the spiritual realm are many spirits who fight against us. I agree Satan himself is probably in China, but I simply use his name as an expression of our contending with the spiritual wickedness.

I agree it's our flesh, or myself, that is to blame for my sin.

Satan sifted Peter, and Peter sinned, but the Lord had prayed for Peter, and so he was converted.

I believe the Lord intercedes for all His children, and so Satan's devouring has no more teeth to it, but simply a barking chained lion.

Adrian Warnock said...

Well, this might surprise you or on the other hand it might not. But, THIS particular charismatic completely agrees with Phil on this post, and incidently thinks its one of your best ones yet. But then I am kinda difficult to pidgeon-hole sometimes, arent I?

Gisela said...

"We ourselves are to blame when inordinate worldly affections crowd out what should be a pure love for God and the things of God. Neither the world nor the devil could ever take advantage of us if our own flesh did not cooperate."

Thank you for this. I really appreciate it.

tcblack said...

Bang on target. As one who teaches principles of Spiritual warfare I can confirm that my students are always a bit frustrated with the first part of the class which focuses on holy living. Fortunately they get the grasp of the concept by the end (for the most part).

Victory doesn't come on the heals of incantations (seven sons of Sceva) But on the heals of surrender.

Wilco said...

I have been struggling with anger for a long time and have been in therapy in the past. Recently I asked for pastoral help from people in my church. I thought satanic influence was an option since I really felt the anger was beyond my control. They saw no evidence for my theory and told me to see a (christian) therapist.

15 minutes ago I got mad at my wife and this post was the first thing I read afterwards.

Ouch.

This means I'm just a jerk. This means it's a character issue. Which is a lot harder and more painful to get rid of.

Anyways. Thanks for the inspired and inspiring words.

CR said...

Wilco,

What would also be helpful would be to put on the armor of God that the apostle Paul speaks of Ephesians 6. It's God's armor, but it is armor that we must put on.

The advice that Phil points out from Scripture is excellent on fleeing from the devil. But often times people think they can go through a whole day or days or weeks or months leaving their armor on the ground with them being half asleep and expect at moment's notice to be able to defend themselves in a spiritual warfare when it's too late when their armor is laying aside.

Our pastor did an excellent series on putting on the whole armor of God. If I knew how to link directly to that part of the website for his series, I would.

CR said...

I think it's also important to note that it is a spiritual warfare and the combatants are God and Satan (I'm not in any way, shape or form suggesting dualism). So, God and Satan are the combatants, and Christians, having been delivered from the bondage of the power of sin are participants in this spiritual warfare.

CR said...

I meant to say: and the main combatants are God and Satan.

Russ said...

Ah yes, 1 John 1:10 "If we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us." How often are we practicing atheists and won't admit it, in denial about how we'd NEVER do or say what we do if we remembered that Omnipresent Jesus is RIGHT NEXT TO us observing EVERYTHING. Just because He doesn't MANIFEST His presence, or more likely because we're so spiritually dull, fleshly and worldly doesn't mean He's not there.

I was talking with a brother in Christ about this and how cocksure both odiously self-righteous sides of the John 3:16 disaster are of themselves, flagrantly violating this very verse, 1 John 1:10 above, without a care, as Jesus groans. And of course then we blame God for the Church's powerlessness and worldliness. THAT's a surprise, God save us. If I point at you as the supposed source of the problem I've got three pointing back at me showing the REAL culprit with the big thumb pointing to God to call down judgment if I don't repent. God save us.

Russ said...

Ah yes, 1 John 1:10 "If we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us." How often are we practicing atheists and won't admit it, in denial about how we'd NEVER do or say what we do if we remembered that Omnipresent Jesus is RIGHT NEXT TO us observing EVERYTHING. Just because He doesn't MANIFEST His presence, or more likely because we're so spiritually dull, fleshly and worldly doesn't mean He's not there.

I was talking with a brother in Christ about this and how cocksure both odiously self-righteous sides of the John 3:16 disaster are of themselves, flagrantly violating this very verse, 1 John 1:10 above, without a care, as Jesus groans. And of course then we blame God for the Church's powerlessness and worldliness. THAT's a surprise, God save us. If I point at you as the supposed source of the problem I've got three pointing back at me showing the REAL culprit with the big thumb pointing to God to call down judgment if I don't repent. God save us.

Russ said...

Oops! Sorry! I got no Blogger notice that the first post was received so you can delete it and this to save space.

candy said...

I remember being a member of a charismatic church some years ago, and suffering from extreme depression. I tried everything I could to dispel the debilitating despair. A guy in our church claimed to have a deliverence ministry. In hopes of getting rid of the gloom, I went to him for counsel. He guided me through some sort of rigamarole to determine if I had demons. He concluded that I did not. Thank goodness I only went to him as a last resort at the time and that I really knew deep inside that he did not have the answers I needed.

I remember a really weird book from way back when, called "Pigs in the Parlor" that stated that Christians could have demons, and I remember, even though a very young Christian, totally being turned off by the book and realizing that much of our struggles dealt with the flesh. But...years later, I was seeking an answer, any answer.

I realized later that more reasonable answers came from a person who suffered the same bouts of melancholy I did.

Spurgeon stated: Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality. Of them it may be said, "Melancholy marked [them] for her own"; fine minds withal and ruled by noblest principles, but yet they are most prone to forget the silver lining and to remember only the cloud.

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness. They may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualification for his peculiar course of service.

David Mohler said...

Excellent article.

Susan said...

1. Phil--great post. Thank you. I was just thinking today that I've been getting worse and worse in terms to fleeing from temptations. It is as if my flesh has made a merciless comeback these past few years after about a long period of relative peace and tranquility. Jesus has set his own free, and we need to have the desire to run from sin--but I've been caving in way too often and way too easily. Thanks for this timely post!

2. Candy--I smiled when I read that Spurgeon quote, especially the part about Melancholy marking certain people for her own. I guess I'm one of those people (although I wouldn't say that I have a fine mind). Glad to be reminded that the "prince of preachers", whose words offer us so much hope, suffered from melancholy himself! (And you know, I do find that the Lord is very merciful to those who tend to be more melancholy in nature.)

Susan said...

(Oops, that's "in terms of", not "in terms to".)

(And guess what my word verification is right now? "PRODIM". How about that? So appropriate for a person who has often struggled with melancholy!)

Robert said...

Phil,
Well done; spot on.

thank you very much for another truthful, edifying post.

bob

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I love that your answer was permeated with Scripture.

Baptyterian said...

Absolutely agree with the post. Wondering about a treatment of when things do turn to "spiritual warfare" and Satanic attacks. Can we know the difference, and how?

Andrew W. Moir said...

Great post! Thanks for this well-done teaching. I'm a former Pentecostal who ran away headlong into the arms of Reformed soberness. :)

Candy: That Spurgeon quote spoke about me dead on. Thanks for sharing that with us. :)

Since the subject came up: if anyone cares to look around on my somewhat new blog, I did a several-part breakdown of the Armor of God. Look for my links list and you should find it. :)

http://bibletrue.blogspot.com

Andrew W. Moir said...

Er... actually the Armor of God breakdown is found under my blog archive, dur. :P

Live As If said...

This week has been a real struggle because the Holy Spirit has been convicting me of my selfishness and pride a la James 4:1-8.

i haven't been wanting to give up the selfish things i was seeing happiness in, even though the Spirit was saying otherwise, particularly with the above passage he put in front of me... several times.

So i am deeply grateful for your teaching tonight: the thing needed to finally break through my stubbornness.

Thank you.

Becky, a slave of Christ said...

Amen, Phil.

Respectabiggle said...

Candy - What's the source for that Spurgeon quote? I'd really like to read the whole thing.

937 West Main Middleville said...

I've notice that this site makes frequent use of images not in the public domain, such as the cut that appears to be from Norman Rockwell. Was this licensed from http://www.rockwelllicensing.com?

. said...

Phil:
I wonder if I might "reprint" your blog entry on my blog. You've done a nice job dealing with the condition of man and I'd like to have your thoughts appear on my blog. May I have your permission?

Thanks,
Dan Grubbs
The Portico Dialogue
http://porticodialogue.blogspot.com/