Do you believe there is such a thing as a real devil? Forty-seven percent of those who consider themselves evangelical Christians, 69 percent of Catholics, and 65 percent of mainline Protestants don't. They think Satan is just a symbol of the evil that exists. (George Barna, What Americans Believe (Ventura, CA, Regal Books, 1991), 204-6.)
Joe Beam writes, "Believing there is a devil who is served by angels and demons is not popular in the religious world of modern America. But denying the devil's existence gives him unacceptable leverage in his efforts on earth today. It is true that our faith must be in God and our reliance on Him. But blindly facing the attacks of a real and vicious enemy unarmed is foolhardy, unnecessary, and extremely painful. God Himself tells us in the Bible that Satan exists, warning against his deceit. Paul counseled that awareness of Satan's schemes keeps him from outwitting us (2 Corinthians 2:11) and that putting on the full armor of God enables us to stand against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6:11)." (Joe Beam, Seeing the Unseen Revised (Howard Publishing, 2000), 38.)
Spiritual warfare is real, and it has been going on since the Garden of Eden. It is reality not fiction.
Theophilus and the Powers of Darkness
Sylvia had been told by two or three different friends, none of which knew the others, that she should read This Present Darkness, a novel by Frank Peretti, providing much insight into spiritual warfare and the necessity of prayer. It looked interesting, so I decided to read it, too.
As I read the book, Ephesians 6:12 became a real-life drama that I was experiencing along with the people in the story. It started me thinking about what is happening all around us in the invisible realm and about the power of prayer.
I found the sequel, Piercing the Darkness, to be even more exciting than Peretti's first book. Sylvia said this is the only novel she has read where she found herself actually praying for a fictitious character.
One day while I was reading it, the words "Theophilus and the Powers of Darkness" came strongly to my mind. And I wondered if the Lord was saying that there would be a sequel to Theophilus and the One True Church.
The Two Faces of Religion
Over the years I had limited my Bible reading mostly to looking up proof-texts for a Bible class, article, or sermon. But now I was more interested in reading one of the New Testament letters, for example, all the way through from beginning to end in one sitting as first-century recipients might have done. Amazingly, it is so much more meaningful that way. Too, I began to notice verses that I had taken out of context and misused.
Two books I found to be enlightening at this point were People of the Lie and The Two Faces of Religion.
In The Two Faces of Religion N. S. Xavier, M.D., a psychiatrist, explores the spectrum of healthy spirituality and sick religiosity. Healthy spirituality involves compassion, self-respect, equality, cooperation, discipline, and outreach to others. Unhealthy, sick religion is characterized by dysfunction, fear, anxiety, artificiality, manipulation, and closed-mindedness. It is external, exclusive, and discourages individual thought and creativity.
People of the Lie
In People of the Lie Dr. M. Scott Peck studies evil from a scientific standpoint, defines it, and shows why and how it exists. Not the mere transgression of religious norms, evil is a force residing inside that seeks to snuff out goodness. Evil is at its worse when it is clothed as love and concern, but all the while the underlying motives are manipulation, snooping, and guarding the flock from alleged false teaching. Evil, therefore, is a real psychological illness bringing about distortions of reality.
In one chapter he reports on his research involving demon possession and exorcism: "Of course I did not believe that possession existed. In fifteen years of busy psychiatric practice I had never seen anything faintly resembling a case. ...I doubted that I ever would. ...I had discovered a large volume of literature on the subject -- none of it scientific.' Much of it seemed naive, simplistic, shoddy, or sensational. A few authors, however, seemed thoughtful and sophisticated, and they invariably stated that genuine possession was a very rare phenomenon. ...I decided to go out and look for a case. ...The third case turned out to be the real thing. Since then I have also been involved with another case of genuine possession. In both cases I was privileged to be present at their successful exorcisms. ...I now know Satan is real. I have met it (sic)." (M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983), pp. 182-183.)
Around the time I was reading these books, I saw a television news magazine special on exorcisms. They interviewed people involved in exorcisms and showed a deliverance team working to free a teenage girl, who allegedly was possessed by demons. I watched very closely with skepticism, and it appeared to be credible. Actually, because of my sectarian background I had more trouble accepting that God would work through someone who had his collar turned around backward than I did with the fact that demons are still around and are being cast out today.
It is the middle of October 2011 now as I write this. And there is Halloween stuff displayed almost everywhere you look, especially in the marketplace. This is a constant reminder of the power of Satan's influence over so many to celebrate a holiday that honors him.
It is sad that so many children are caught up in it. They are not learning to oppose the demons they are dressed up to represent. Back when our children were small, Sylvia and I encouraged them to be involved too. We thought it was innocent fun. But it is not. We knew very little about the spirit world back then.
When I became aware of angels and spiritual warfare, I had a strong desire to learn more. And if the Lord wanted me to write a book called Theophilus and the Powers of Darkness, then I needed to prepare myself with as much information as possible. More importantly -- as a Christian, whether I like it or not, I'm already in the war between God's kingdom and Satan's kingdom! Paul makes that clear in his letter to the Ephesians. He said that our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but against evil forces of the unseen world. (Ephesians 6:12)
In his book on the subject, Charles Kraft says: "Furthermore, we are living in Enemy territory. Fortunately, we are on the winning side! There is absolutely no doubt about the outcome. Not only have the Enemy and his dark angels been defeated, they have been humiliated. For Jesus at his resurrection 'made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession' (Colossians 2:15)." (Charles H. Kraft, Defeating Dark Angels (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1992), p.20.)
Ken Blue writes: "The fight is real. The victory of Christ through his cross and resurrection is final, but not yet fully realized. Evil continues to exercise its bounded, though significant, power until Christ returns in his glory." (Ken Blue, Authority to Heal (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1987), p. 89, as quoted by Charles Kraft in Defeating Dark Angels, p. 21.)
The evidence of this war is all around us. Child abuse. Epidemic drug and alcohol addiction. Government corruption. Random murder in the streets. The list goes on and on. In addition, Christianity in the Western world battles competitive religious philosophies today among which are Satanism and the New Age movement. Ed Murphy explains:
"Satanism in the broadest sense of the word is contact with, worship of, homage to, and even use of spirit beings other than the one true God. This covers all paganism, positive and negative witchcraft, occultism, and even non-Christian religions. While it is true that Judaism and Islam are theistic systems closely related to Christianity, they reject outright Jesus as Christ, Son of God, and Lord. The New Testament teaches that apart from the personal knowledge of Christ, one does not know God... (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 8:5-7; 1 John 2:22-23).
"While Satanism is the most horrendous and immediately destructive, it is probably not the most dangerous to the greatest number of people worldwide, because it is too obviously evil for the general public... (By contrast) the New Age movement is so dangerous because it seems so right for modern man. It denies the objective reality of evil in an evil being called Satan... It inclines itself toward 'good' things." (Ed Murphy, The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992), p. 499.)
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul described a view of reality that seems strange to even the most sincere of Christians in this country. He wrote, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:12-13).
Kraft continues: "Satanic beings are involved in every kind of disruptive human activity. They can hinder earthly endeavors and even delay answers to prayer. (Daniel 10:13) They seem to have authority over places and territories, such as buildings, cities, and temples. Additionally, they appear to have authority over social organizations and groups, and influence sinful behavior such as homosexuality, drug addition, lust, incest, rape, and murder.
"...Scripture tells us that demons seek people to live in. (Matthew 12:43-45) They apparently envy us our bodies. They have different personalities, are destructive (Mark 9:17-29), and differ in power and wickedness (Mark 5:4; Matthew 12:45).
"Satan, unlike God, is not omnipresent. He can only be in one place at a time, though he apparently can get from place to place very quickly. The other members of the hierarchy, including demons, therefore, carry out his schemes throughout the universe...
"We can assume demons' primary concern is to disrupt and, if possible, cripple anything or anyone that might be a threat to Satan's domination over the world... They produce 'strongholds' in people's minds (2 Corinthians 10:4) and probably in other places as well. They attack Christian ministries and are agents of doctrinal aberrations. (1 Timothy 4:1) They affect health (Luke 13:11), perhaps affect weather (Luke 8:22-25), and even have 'the power over death' (Hebrews 2:14), though they have no power except that allowed them by God." (Charles H. Kraft, Defeating Dark angels (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1992), p. 20.)
The Good-Luck Charm
It seems that most Americans who discover the reality of what Paul was saying, learn it the hard way -- by experience. Ed Murphy is an example. (Ed Murphy gives a detailed account of his experience in his book, The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare. Charles Kraft summarizes it in Defeating Dark Angels.):
"When this event happened during the 1960s, Ed had only an intellectual belief in demons, though he had been a missionary in Latin America. And he certainly didn't believe that a Christian with as vibrant a faith as that of his fourteen-year-old daughter, could be demonized.
"Ed had returned home from a trip at the frantic urging of his wife and started talking to Carolyn. 'Within moments,' Ed recalls, 'her usually sweet personality changed. With a strange glare in her eyes she screamed at me, telling me to leave her alone. There was an undeniably evil presence in her eyes. Carolyn and I went to our knees in prayer, crying to the Lord to break the evil oppressing her life.
"'I had noticed several weeks before that she had a small round object hanging on a chain around her neck, but didn't think anything of it. As we prayed, my attention was drawn to this object. (She had been given it by a friend who professed Christianity but did not live like a committed believer.)...
"'After a little investigating, I discovered the 'star' to be a pentagram, a symbol of the occult world. "You will not find full freedom from evil spirits until you remove it and renounce the spirit forces associated with it,' I told her.
"'She responded quickly, tearing it off her neck and throwing it on the floor. She confessed and renounced her 'innocent' occult involvement and her interest in certain evil rock music. She even confessed to having a selfish and rebellious attitude.
"'In no time at all, we were in a face-to-face confrontation with evil spirits.
"'Dad, they are after me. I'm afraid.
"'Get out of my daughter's life,' I commanded. 'She has broken all allegiance with you. Get out! Leave her alone! In the name and authority of my Master, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who defeated your master on the cross, I command you to go away from Carolyn and don't return. Get out of her life!'
"'Immediately the struggle ceased. Carolyn became calm, joyfully praising the Lord for setting her free. The evil spirits had left. We both cried and rejoiced before the Lord for his grace.
"There was a bit more work to do after this incident, for Carolyn's involvement at the fringes of the hippie-occult subculture turned out to be more than she had at first indicated. However, as she renounced her involvement, confessed her sins, and destroyed the symbols of that way of life (including other 'charms' and certain heavy rock music albums), she gained the freedom in Christ she had lost by allowing the Enemy to seduce her...
"Not only did (Ed) come to believe in the reality of the dark angels spoken of in Ephesians, he came to realize that even Christians aren't immune to their intrusion. In spite of the warnings in Ephesians and other portions of Scripture (1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7; 1 John 5:19), the position taken by Ed and most evangelicals is that Satan is so defeated (Colossians 2:15) that his activities can't affect them... Experiences like Ed's have, however, taught many evangelicals that they were wrong about the Enemy and his dark angels." (Charles H. Kraft, Defeating Dark Angels (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1992), pp. 12-13, with quotes from Ed Murphy, Equipping the Saints (Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1990), pp. 27, 29.)
Carolyn Murphy's experience really got me to thinking. Over the years I had collected a wide assortment of visual materials to provide ideas and detail reference for my art work. I decided to go through all my books and files and destroy anything that dishonors the Lord and gives Satan permission to be in my life.
Drawings of ancient gods and occult symbols were the first to go. I went through my collection of rare comic books and threw out the horror stories. But the most difficult decision I had to make was in regard to an oil painting that was perhaps technically the best work of my art career.
It was a color story illustration for a men's adventure magazine. The scene was a gunfight in an old western saloon. On the wall behind the bar in the background was a painting of a nude. The illustration represented many hours of research of period costumes, props, and settings, sketches, final detailed drawing and color painting.
Because of the nude, Sylvia didn't want the painting hanging in our home. Therefore, for most of those years it was stored away out of sight. At the time I made this decision, however, it was hanging on my office wall in the computer department at Brevard Federal. Since the nude bothered Sylvia, I began to consider disposing of it. I struggled with that. I didn't want to give it up. It was the only example that I still had of the level of skill I had attained in my profession. I was very proud of that illustration.
I finally acknowledged to myself that the painting had been too important to me. It had become an idol. I had to make a choice between the painting and Jesus.
I chose Jesus.
When the painting had been destroyed, there was a feeling of relief that surprised me. A burden had been lifted. There was peace.
Unlimited permission to copy text without alteration or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.