Last week I wrote about how we have angel friends fighting for us in the invisible realm and cheering for us to obey God. This week I want to talk about the flip side of that coin: the bad guys.
To put it as bluntly as possible: Obey God because demons can get you if you don’t.
It’s a naive worldview if we think that human beings are the most evil thing that exists. That is not the picture the Bible paints. There are beings out there that are more evil than we are, and they want to tempt us to step out from under God’s authority and protection so that they have access to influence and torment us.
This was already happening by the third page of the Bible. God had given Adam and Eve authority and dominion themselves (Genesis 1:28) under His authority and protection. But then they disobeyed God about something that seemed really, really small. After all, it wasn’t murder or adultery. It was just doing the opposite on purpose of one thing God’s voice had told them to do.
But that act of disobedience opened the door for the devil to do all kinds of things. Humanity ended up with the devil as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31) who continues to be “at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1). Yuck! I don’t want to facilitate the devil being “at work” anywhere near me!
Jesus died to save us from that kind of life. But there are still examples of believers letting Satan “fill their hearts (Acts 5:3). Our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). And I don’t know any better way to make yourself look available and edible than to disobey God knowingly and on purpose about something, thinking it’s “small.”
You see, as long as we obey God, we are under His authority and protection. We may die obeying God, but even in death we are spiritually safe and guaranteed to resurrect again. On the other hand, if we disobey God, even about something as seemingly small as a bite of fruit, it’s like we have painted a big red target on our back and started jumping up and down waving our arms and shouting at the devil at the top of our lungs, “Over here! I’m over here! Come and get me! I’m not standing under the protection of God’s authority anymore!”
And that’s just stupid. If we do that, we’d better hope the Holy Spirit convicts us to repent, and hope that the Holy Spirit decides to be the spirit that responds to us first!
Once the Lord had told me to go on a service trip with a specific organization. I was dreading the application process because I was afraid they would reject me (I wonder where those fearful thoughts were coming from?). I started thinking, “God told me to go on the trip, but He didn’t tell me I had to fill out the application form. What would happen if I didn’t fill it out? Would God make it possible for me to go miraculously? Would He show up and discipline me somehow to make me do it? Maybe I’ll just wait and find out…”
Thinking those thoughts, I went to have dinner with my friends. I started to feel really yucky over dinner. Not physically yucky, but that ‘oppressed demon feeling’ kind of yucky. It was hard to eat or enjoy anything. All I could think about was needing to go get alone with God and address whatever was going on. I wondered if this was related to imagining not filling out the application form. I decided to repent of entertaining those thoughts.
As soon as I repented of those thoughts, the yucky feeling vanished. And then I had a vision:
I was a living chess piece in a game of chess that God was playing. He had put me on a certain square for His strategy and told me to stand on that square until He moved me again. Like a kid, I started testing the boundaries. I put one toe over the edge of my square. I thought, This still counts as standing on my square, right? Nothing happened, so I tried putting one whole foot over the edge. Am I still on my square now? Then I pulled it back and tried the other one. What about if I keep one foot on my square but I put all my weight on the foot that is off the square? Does that still count?
And then I noticed a huge, hungry, enemy chess piece standing nearby, leering and salivating, waiting for me to step off my square. It grinned down at me and said, “You know, if you step off that square, I can eat you.”
Yikes! I jumped back into the very center of my square, all fingers and toes inside, and stopped playing around.
That vision showed me what had just happened to me in the spiritual realm. It also showed me what had happened many other times in my life when I had disobeyed God. Looking back, I could see the pattern. I remembered situations where the enemy had been able to torment me with fear or confusion or whatever from the time that I disobeyed to the time that I repented. I remembered dangers that God had been trying to protect me from when He told me to do or not do something. I remembered thoughts from the enemy, trying to tempt me out from under that protection.
The most dramatic example was a confusing and hurtful situation that had affected me for several years afterwards. Years later, I still couldn’t figure out what was my fault or what I could or should have done differently or even what exactly had happened.
But near the beginning of the development of that situation, there had been one very small thing the Lord had told me to do and I had done the opposite. Someone was coming to give me keys and I knew he wanted to talk to me too. As I was going down the stairs to open the door, I clearly heard God say, “Just take the keys and that’s it.” I remember thinking, as I went down the stairs, “But surely I could just ask him how church was yesterday, too. It wouldn’t really matter to disobey about something that small.”
So I asked him. And so we started talking. And he asked me questions I couldn’t answer, because I couldn’t ask and hear what God wanted me to say when I knew God had told me to not enter this conversation in the first place. And that “small thing” opened the door to a whole lot of much more complicated confusion and pain. And only years later did I realize my part in the situation could have been prevented if I had obeyed God that evening and just gone back upstairs with the keys.
What I did that day was like taking off my scuba mask when I was deep underwater, or stepping out from under my shield in the middle of a battle. Only by a few centimeters, right? Only for a few seconds, right?
God won’t grab us and drown us as punishment for taking off our scuba masks underwater. He’ll be jumping off the Life Guard chair and diving to our rescue at the speed of love. But we’ll start getting water up our noses. That time, I found out the hard way what He had been trying to protect me from. And learning that the hard way was in itself a form of His protection, too. He allowed me to go through just that much suffering and no more in order to teach me that disobedience is never “small.” He allowed it because He never stops protecting. He never stops fighting for me.
And guess what? Obedience is never small, either. There’s a reason the devil is afraid of you obeying God. You just stand on that “chess square” of obedience where God told you to stand, no matter what it costs you, whether it seems pointless or boring, no matter how much or how little you can see from there of what part this is playing in God’s overall strategy, and that is what will scare the devil most.
Because his head was crushed by an Obedient Son. And when you are under God’s authority, then you have God’s authority. You have nothing to fear from choosing to obey God, but the devil sure does! Don’t let him project his fears onto you. Don’t listen if he tries. Do what Jesus did: Crush the devil by obeying your Father.
Jesus is our Hero, who succeeded where we failed, who obeyed on our behalf. He died so that whenever we step out from under God’s authority and protection, we can come right back. We can repent and be forgiven and come back instantly (1 John 1:9), and we can take up our rightful place again (Luke 15:22), under God’s authority, exercising God’s authority.
Imagine how good Adam and Eve’s life would have been if they had obeyed God: walking with God, talking with God, enjoying intimacy with Him, hearing His voice and obeying Him, having authority and dominion, living forever, and not giving lying snakes the time of day. Jesus died to get that all back for us. So let’s not throw it away. And let’s repent at once if we do. If we stay under the shield of obedience, we can win the battle. If we wear the scuba mask of obedience, we can explore the ocean. If we stand on the chess square of obedience, we can defeat the enemy.
Every time we hear our Father’s voice, we get to decide whether to respond to it like Adam and Eve or like Jesus. Angels cheer our obedience, demons fear our obedience, and Jesus deserves our obedience. Let’s listen to His voice and overcome the world.