In my youth, I had a friend who was obsessed with the devil. A Christian, but obsessed with the devil. Satan haunted his every waking moment. He was constantly warning all of us of the power of the Deceiver — waiting around every corner to trick us, trap us, tempt us and undermine our faith. He harped on sin and sinful behavior and never let any opportunity pass by to tell us how tenuous our faith really was. I always found such a belief system tiresome, immature, and frankly lacking any real faith. I mean, come on, who is more powerful? God or Satan? I believe in God, and to the extent that there is an evil incarnation at work in the world, I simply don’t give him more power than I believe God has. I worship God. I place my faith in God. I do not live in fear of the Adversary.
It constantly surprises me when “Bible-believing Christians” go all hooky over the devil. The devil can have absolutely no power over us that we don’t give him/her/it. Not if we truly believe that God is God and that Jesus the Christ is God made flesh (and that we are still recipients of God’s grace and power through the Holy Spirit). Guess what? I don’t think reading a Harry Potter book is going to undermine the faith of real Christians, and I don’t think it has more power to influence non-Christians than anything else. I see more harm in one hour of American Idol than I do in the entire Harry Potter series. Talk about corrupted values!
Why do we want to get all bent out of shape over inanities? There are so many more important things to focus on. Being the body of Christ requires practice. We need to focus on doing the good, which won’t leave us any time to pursue the bad. I always liked the early Methodist distinction between the Methodist movement and the Baptist movement. Baptists focused on what we had been saved from — sin — while Methodists focus on what we have been saved for — grace, and spreading scriptural holiness across the land. Our heritage points us to the future — to becoming who God wants us to be — instead of focusing on our failings, flaws, and faults. I wish we could remember this…
I watched a few minutes of a TV preacher the other night who hammered on his Bible while shouting that the devil is at work this very minute to destroy God’s church, and that he has already successfully taken over the United States of America. Really? Does God know? Does God know that Christian preachers are teaching their flocks that the devil is more powerful than God? Does God know that the gospel of bondage to fear is replacing the gospel of freedom in faith in many of our churches? Does God know that we are giving up the battle without a fight, simply laying down and rolling over and saying we believe the forces of darkness have extinguished the forces of light? Give me a break! Fear mongering should be left to politicians and not allowed into our pulpits. Sowing seeds of anxiety, anger, frustration, worry, doubt, stress, hate, and judgmentalism in our preaching and teaching is unacceptable. As always, I defer to the fruits of the Spirit, with a few humble additions. Let’s preach love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let’s preach compassion, mercy, justice, and forgiveness. Let’s talk healing, hope, grace, and unity. Let’s look beyond what is to what could and should be. Let’s stop whining about how bad everything is and begin to work for something better — while acknowledging the beauty and wonder of what we already have.
I wonder sometimes if we’re not afraid of true faith. If we have to walk the talk then we’re going to have to change — we’re going to have to act like we truly believe what we say we believe. We’re going to have to trust God and each other. We’re going to have to work together for good and not just expect someone else to take care of things for us. Somehow we’ve got to get over our fear of faith and become witnesses to the true power and majesty of God. ‘Cause, come on, the devil’s a wimp and can’t really do anything to those who live in Christ. We need to start acting like it.