We ignore the existence of the Evil One to our own peril. As I noted in last Sunday’s exposition entitled Real Christians Persevere, he is at work right now in the world seeking to dissuade us from remaining in Christ. This does not mean we should be looking for a “demon behind every bush,” but it certainly means we need to be aware that a real Evil One is alive and well in our world. C. S. Lewis reminded us that we must not be people of extremes in our dealings with the devil:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.
- C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters (Preface)
We should not be naïve about Satan’s power in our lives. He assaults, berates, confuses, and discourages us through every means available to him. (As I said Sunday, even the devil works through “means.”) But we should not have an “unhealthy interest” in Satan by giving him too much credit, “casting demons” out of everything and everyone, mimicking the power encounters of Jesus as though it were the normal pattern for the daily lives of everyday people like you and me. Jesus never told us to cast out demons. Instead, he simply told us to pray, “Deliver me from the Evil One.”
Luther once called the devil “God’s devil.” What did he mean? Well, here is a great truth that tells us something remarkable and mysterious about God. The assaults of the devil that are intended to weaken and break us can be used by God to strengthen and bless us. When the church “turns someone over to Satan” for discipline (I Corinthians 5), the goal is that Satan will make life so hard on them that they will be restored. In this way, Satan works against himself! And who can forget Job? The devil wanted Job to curse God and die, but instead God received glory and Job enjoyed blessing! The devil is “God’s devil” in that he can bring nothing into our lives without God’s permission. He is “God’s devil” in that the very things he may bring into our lives are used by God for our good. God is constantly outwitting old Lucifer in ways that must befuddle him, ever using his machinations to bless His children.
“Thank you God for your mysterious ways! Deliver us from the Evil One, our Father, and bless us through ‘your’ devil. And come again, Oh Lord, and crush him forever. – Amen.”