Copyright 5/10/13 By Sarah G. Pemberton
“I don’t want to be one of those Christians who thinks there’s a demon behind every bush.” How often do we hear modern American Christians quote some variation of this contemporary proverb? (I used to quote it myself.) It sounds very wise, and those who say so, generally talk a great deal about the importance of “staying balanced” theologically. But as I get older, I’m much more interested in staying free in Christ than in whether or not anyone else perceives me as “balanced.” Whose “balance” are we talking about, anyway?
I do understand where such proverbs evolve from. We’ve all met Christians whose lives seem to be an exhausting, chronic, negative focus on fear of everything Satan is doing, to the point that it emotionally drags down those around them. I spent too many years of my own life living in that quagmire of fear. One wants to ask such Christians, “Which ‘god’ are you seeking to glorify and worship? Jehovah or Satan? Jesus or demons?” In all due fairness, when one has seen sufficient evil in this world, it is also easy to understand how these people react so strongly to the demonic realm. But these seem to be those people who have become completely obsessed with “discerning” and “fighting” evil, to the point that they display little or none of the joy for which Jesus said His disciples should be known. (Neh. 8:10; Jn. 15:11; Jn. 16:22)
Rest assured, in no way am I discounting the danger of the demonic. Yet the most effective way to discern the truth and clean up a mess of nasty evil is to simply turn the light on (Mt. 5:13-16), get the proverbial bucket and the bleach out, and start scrubbing, rather than wasting time talking fearfully about all the cockroaches hiding in that dark, dirty room. Likewise, in spiritual warfare, the most effective way to deal with evil is first to repent of one’s own sin, then forgive the sins of others, then pray for those who haven’t a spiritual clue yet, and to love them by the same grace which saved oneself. (Gal. 6:1-10; Jas. 5:13-20)
But is this advice – “Don’t look for a demon behind every bush” – really “mature” and “balanced,” or is it merely a cynical overreaction of Western Rationalism to the neurotically anxious extremes of some obsessive Christians?
What I want to know is where in the Bible did Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, John, or even any of the Old Testament prophets, ever make such a statement, or anything close to its meaning? The only usage of the word “balance” in Scripture is in the Old Testament laws relating to honesty in doing business, and to God’s weighing in the balance of justice, His righteous judgment of the nations. The term is never used to describe our desirable attitude toward God in worship, nor our attitude toward spiritual warfare. In fact, in relation to God, the Lord says, “I would that you were either hot or cold; but because you are neither, but lukewarm, I will spit you out of My Mouth.” (Rev. 3:16-22) And in relation to spiritual warfare, Scripture is replete with passages warning of Satan’s schemes and how to defeat him. (Rev. 12:7-9; II Cor. 10:3-7a; Acts 8:4-25; 10:38-48)
The Scripture does, however, have a lot to say about “fullness.” God’s prophetic warnings and promises are “fulfilled” in the “fullness of time.” The disciples of Jesus go forth “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8; 4:31; 5:14-16; 6:5,8) to do astonishing works of healings, miracles, authoritative preaching and teaching proven by said miracles (Mk. 16:20; Acts 19:11-12), and uttering prophetic revelations given to guide the saints (Acts 11:28; 21:4-14; I Tim. 4:14), in consistency with Scripture. So perhaps this concept of “fullness” rather than “balance” is our guide to a more fully Scriptural perspective on spiritual warfare and how we should view the level of evil in this world, until Jesus comes again.
From the beginning to the end of Scripture, there is one characteristic which always goes hand-in-hand with Satan, demons, and other evil supernatural entities: deception. (Gen. 3:1-15; Rev. 2:13; 12:9) Satan is the Great Deceiver and the Accuser of the Brethren. Since the average person retains some semblance of conscience, the devil is not likely to seduce most people with a direct approach of, “Hello, my name is Mr. Satan, and I’m here to kill you, steal every blessing God has for you, and to destroy you and all those whom you love. Would you please sign this contract on the dotted line, giving me control of your life?” No, with most people, he must be much more subtle, suggesting temptations which come in the guise of one’s own thoughts. Most ingenious of all is his strategy of convincing people that he simply does not exist – or in the case of some Christians, that his defeat upon Jesus’ Cross renders him no longer a threat of any kind, or that demons are a rare problem with which we rarely need to contend. Indeed, to those who remain intimately abiding in Christ, only listening to Holy Spirit’s Voice, Satan is truly no danger. But Rev. 19:20-20:10 makes it clear that although Satan’s primary power (the guilt of our sin) has been defeated at the Cross, nevertheless, he has yet to be completely bound and rendered harmless until Jesus’ bodily Second Coming at the end of the earth age. We simply have been provided with supernatural spiritual weapons for defeating his otherwise powerful lies. (Eph. 6:10-18)