Satan Will Not Leave You Alone: Living in a World Filled with Devils

Some have said that the devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world that he doesn’t exist. Satan is the supreme deceiver, striving to rid our minds of his existence and to make us believe that all the Bible’s teaching about him is the stuff of myth, legend, and ancient folklore — antiquated stories that have no place in our enlightened and comfortably brave new world.

The devil is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the deceiver of nations (Revelation 20:3, 8). He “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), and he will do whatever is in his power to get us to forget him altogether and to live as if he doesn’t exist. As believers, we know Satan exists, but many of us still fall into his subtle trap of ignoring him and hoping he’ll leave us alone.

The Attitude I Fear Most

But just as we cannot read a page of Scripture without running into the sovereignty of God, neither can we read very long without coming face-to-face with the harsh reality of the power of the evil one. And so, we recognize that we cannot completely ignore his existence.

“We know Satan exists, but many of us still fall into his subtle trap of hoping he’ll leave us alone.”

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Because we too often walk by sight and not by faith — thinking we can live our Christian lives by some sort of spiritual inertia — we fall into Satan’s trap of thinking he’s not really there, or at least as if he’s not very active. It does seem, after all, to be a much more pleasant thought to believe that he’s not around or, at least, that we’re really not a significant enough target for him to spend his time on.

While all true believers know Satan exists, many have succumbed to the notion that spiritual warfare is not that big of a deal. I fear that there are even some Christians reading this now, saying to themselves, “Yeah, okay, sure, I know Satan exists, and yeah, I know spiritual warfare is real, but I don’t believe that Satan or his demons are lurking behind every bush, and I don’t believe that I can really do anything about spiritual warfare anyway.” That is the attitude I most fear for myself, for my family, and for the congregation I serve.

If We Were Not God’s

We do wrestle against cosmic powers — “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). These forces of evil have set their sights on all true believers, and they are unrelenting.

Paul teaches us that the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they might not see the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The implication is that in having blinded their minds, the devil then focuses his primary work on the followers of his enemy. It would seem to be the case that before we trusted Christ, the devil was certainly our enemy, but not to the degree that he became our enemy after we trusted Christ.

If we were blessed to grow up in a Christian home, he was unquestionably the enemy of our family. But after trusting Christ, we gained Christ and his righteousness by being united to him once and for all, and, as a result, Christ’s enemy became our enemy in a more significant way, and he began to take greater aim at us with his flaming arrows in order to try to bring us down. As Thomas Brooks wrote, “If God were not my friend, Satan would not be so much my enemy.”

Ordinary but Deadly Weapons

Although we know that Satan and his eager servants can neither indwell believers nor read nor control our minds, we also know that under the sovereignty of God, they can wreak havoc on us. However, rather than living with a minimalist view of what Satan won’t do, and rather than living as practical deists as if the Holy Spirit is not living and active, and rather than living as Reformed determinists as if secondary causality and secondary means are irrelevant, we must remember that God is sovereign not only over the ends of all things but over the means of all ends.

“The forces of evil have set their sights on all true believers, and they are unrelenting.”

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Therefore, we must make every effort to make use of the means our Lord has given us to fight. He has given us ordinary means of grace, and these are also the ordinary means for our daily warfare; namely, the word of God, prayer, and baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He has given us the Lord’s Day, and he has given us weekly, gathered worship with our family where we sing and proclaim our battle songs of final victory and affirm the faith once delivered to the saints.

We must not underestimate the mischievous work of Satan designed to keep us from regularly attending to these ordinary means of grace. Above all, our Lord has given us himself in Christ, and he has given us the Holy Spirit. And although Satan is not afraid of us, he is terrified of the one within us. And our protector never sleeps nor slumbers (Psalm 121:3–4), and in him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) because greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

We Cannot Be Unprepared

We must be prepared. We must acknowledge the war is real and raging all around us, and we must be ready to fight, for it is a battle for our hearts, our marriages, our churches, and our children, our time, our talents, our words, our wallets, our motives, our hope, our joy. We cannot pretend these things are off-limits to our accuser.

We cannot coast through the Christian life. We cannot live as if we are defenseless. We cannot allow ourselves to be unaware of Satan’s schemes. We cannot allow fear and anxiety to get the best of us, and we must pray to be strong and courageous, because the Lord is with us, for us, and in us. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught off our guard, but we too often are, because we too often forget about the harsh reality of spiritual warfare.

And while we cannot know the mind of God, and while we are not infallible interpreters of the providence of God or the work of the evil one, we know that God is sovereign, we know that Satan is at work, and we know that for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose, all things work together for our good, according to the good pleasure of God’s will and for God’s glory (Romans 8:28).

His Rage We Can Endure

And though this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For, lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him. —Martin Luther

Since we have been justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–10), our Father is conforming us to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), and just as Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), so God will allow us to be tempted by the deceiver in manifold ways (1 Corinthians 10:13). For that reason, Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in heaven, “deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).

“We must acknowledge the war is real and raging all around us, and we must be ready to fight.”

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And as the Spirit conforms us, we must become more keenly aware of our enemy’s deceitful schemes so that we would neither be outwitted by Satan nor ignorant of his designs (2 Corinthians 2:11), but instead be more watchful as he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), that we might always escape the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26), resting assured that in Christ we will endure to the end by his sustaining grace, because Christ has crushed the head of Satan and his seed, and the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20).

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You Are Not Your Own

Your body does not belong to you. Do you believe this? I don’t mean doctrinally believe it — if you’re a Christian, you of course believe that “you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). I mean do you functionally believe this?

It’s not difficult to tell. How you use your body reveals what you believe. It can be difficult to admit, if we feel exposed by our functional belief. Believe me, I know. I have plenty of functional beliefs that fall short of my official beliefs, in varying degrees at varying times.

“In what part of your life have you functionally forgot that you belong to Jesus?”

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The question isn’t an exercise in shaming — for you or for me. It’s an exercise in honest assessment, in reality therapy, and, if needed, in repentance. Which, for Christians, should be just a normal, everyday experience. As Martin Luther famously said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

Falling Forward Together

All of us fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). None of us has arrived (Philippians 3:12–13). God knows this far better than we do, and he’s made abundant provision for our shortfalls. Each time we repent — each day, even each hour — Jesus’s substitutionary, atoning death for us cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). God wants us to live condemnation-free (Romans 8:1) by taking full advantage of his endless supply of forgiving, restoring, encouraging, and empowering grace.

Since all of us redeemed short-fallers are in this fight of faith together, we can keep encouraging and exhorting one another every day to press on towards the Great Goal (Philippians 3:14), so that none of us becomes hardened in deceitful, habitual sin (Hebrews 3:13).

With God’s wonderful grace in mind, we can take a good, honest look at ourselves and ask: do we really believe that we are not our own?

Do You Not Know?

Let’s look at these Spirit-inspired, Paul-authored words in context:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

When Paul asked “do you not know,” he was addressing Christians. And he asked the Corinthian Christians this question a lot in this letter (1 Corinthians 3:16; 5:6; 6:2–3, 9, 15–16, 19; 9:13, 24). Now, some Corinthians were probably new believers and perhaps didn’t know. But Paul’s phrasing of the question makes it clear that he was giving a firm reminder to most readers who doctrinally knew, but whose behaviors revealed that they functionally forgot.

More poignantly, they were living in functional unbelief, which was real sin and required real repentance. They knew, and they didn’t.

Who Owns Your Body?

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul was specifically addressing sexual immorality among believers. Just like our society, the Corinthian society had a lot of available, accessible, culturally acceptable, and even encouraged ways to immorally indulge sexually. Very likely, many Corinthian Christians had backgrounds rife with immorality. They had habits of thinking and behaving sexually that still affected and tempted them as Christians. Some, apparently, had been repeatedly “falling short.”

“Our Master bought us with the price of his own infinitely precious life in order to make us free.”

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More than this, they were actually rationalizing it with a common adage, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13). In other words, Look, if the body has an appetite for food, we feed it. So, if the body has an appetite for sex, we should “feed” it. Besides, we’re free! Jesus’s sacrifice made all things lawful! (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul responded with a frank correction: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). When we become Christians, our bodies become members or appendages of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 6:15–17). And the very Spirit of Christ dwells in our bodies as the Spirit used to dwell in Jerusalem’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). Implication: every sexually immoral behavior a Christian engages in drags the Lord Jesus Christ into that engagement.

That’s why sexual sin, in particular, is a sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18). In Christianity, there is no bifurcation of body and spirit. Both make up the human being. To defile one is to defile the other. Both our bodies and spirits, though still vulnerable to sin and the futile suffering of this age while we wait for our full redemption (Romans 8:23), are nevertheless being redeemed by Jesus and will be raised (1 Corinthians 6:14). So, our bodies must not be given over to sin’s governance (Romans 6:12), because our bodies do not belong to us.

You Were Bought

But is this how we live? Do we knowingly behave with our bodies as if Christ is engaged in our physical actions — all of them? Or do we not (functionally) know?

“Gracious as he is, Jesus must still be our Master, which means we must obey him.”

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In describing the ways we are not our own, Paul used the metaphors of a bodily member, which does the will of the head; then a bodily temple, which is animated by the divine Spirit who lives there; then a bond-slave, who does the will of his Master. That’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

A bond-slave is not his own person. He has sold himself to someone else. He belongs to someone else. He does not merely do as he pleases. His time is not his own. He is not free to follow the whims of his personal dreams. He is not free to indulge the craving of his appetites as he wishes. He is not his own. He belongs to his Master. This is what a Christian is.

Freed at Great Cost

This bond-slavery of a Christian, however, is like no other — far better than any alternative of autonomy. Our Master bought us with the price of his own infinitely precious life in order to make us “free indeed” (John 8:32–36). What does that mean? It means when he bought us, he freed us from our hell-bound slavery to sin (Romans 6:6). He also bought for us the priceless gift of being adopted by the Father as his very children, which makes us heirs with Jesus of his Father’s kingdom and of infinite wealth (Romans 8:16–17). If that wasn’t enough, Jesus, our Master, both now and in the age to come, serves us beyond our wildest imaginations (Mark 10:45; Luke 12:37).

But, gracious as he is, Jesus must still be our Master, which means we must obey him (John 14:15). For our master is whomever or whatever we obey (Romans 6:16).

As Christians, we know this. The question is, do we really know? Is Jesus the Master over our time, expenditures, investments, home size and location, education, career, marital status, parenting, friendships, church involvement, and ministry commitments? If not, we do not (functionally) know what we think we know.

Glorify God in Your Body

We need good, honest self-assessment. What is the Spirit bringing to mind right now? In what part of your life have you functionally forgotten, or better functionally not believed, that you belong to Jesus? What are you stewarding as if it is yours and not God’s? Follow the Spirit’s lead and repent. Your gracious Lord and Master stands with scarred arms wide open to receive, forgive, and cleanse you.

“You and I are not our own. We are Christ’s.”

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You and I are not our own. We are Christ’s (1 Corinthians 3:23). In every sense, we are Christ’s — body, mind, and spirit. We are members of Christ’s body, our bodies are Christ’s temple, and we are bond-slaves of Christ, who has made us children of his Father and fellow heirs of his estate — what a Master!

He is only, however, the Master of those who obey him. That’s why it’s crucial that our functional knowing aligns with our doctrinal knowing. Or as Paul said, “You are not your own. . . . So glorify God in your body.”

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