The forces of evil are real, and they can petrify us, but a simple Truth can give us hope. In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe explains the strength and authority that’s available to us when we come face to face with the enemy.
The Source Matters
I think I met a demon in the Philippines while I was on a mission trip with a basketball team. I was walking into a small town when a frail woman—less than 5 feet tall—approached me. She gazed up at me with glazed eyes, and she said in a male voice—in English— “You’re not welcome here. Get out!”
Shivers went up my spine. I was terrified. At this point in my life, everything I knew about demons came from Frank Peretti and C. S. Lewis.
While reading Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, I imagined a cosmic battle. The angels looked like Thor—all big and strong and good-looking. And the demons were just like the Orcs in The Lord of the Rings series—equally as strong but ugly. I had no idea who was going to win—Thor or the Orcs.
Later, I got my hands on a copy of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The demons in Lewis’ work of fiction are clever and strategic in their scheming. How did one man stand a chance?
So here I was in the Philippines, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Peretti said demons are stronger than I am, and Lewis said demons are smarter than I am. And now an itty-bitty Philippine woman was trying to intimidate me. That day I realized that demons are bullies.
Strong and smart bullies who are invisible? C’mon, that’s terrifying stuff!
Now, I’ve learned something since that trip to the Philippines. If we read books about demons without also consulting the Bible, we’ll be left with an incomplete picture of the demonic world. Apart from Scripture, we’ll find more questions than we will answers.
Jesus, if I’ve been looking for answers to spiritual questions outside the context of You—the Word of God—bring me back to base camp. Honor our time together as I examine my own thoughts on evil and as I study Your interactions with demons. I ask that You free me from any fear. Amen.
From Bullies to Wimps
I switched schools in the fifth grade. Back then, I wasn’t 6′ 5″; I was small and gangly, and new. One day at recess, I headed outside, but no one wanted to play. So I took a walk, looked at some grass, kicked a few pebbles, and turned the corner of the building… to find the school bully waiting for me.
Tom was huge, and his minions were many. As they circled me, I knew this wasn’t going to end well.
“What’s your name?” Tom asked.
“Pete,” I answered.
“Well, Pete, we’re the welcoming committee.”
As the circle tightened, my terror increased. I didn’t stand a chance.
And then Nate showed up. Nate had his T-shirt rolled at the sleeves. I could tell he’d hit his growth spurt early.
Nate walked right into the center of the circle, “You’ll have to go through me first.”
I was like, “Yeah. That’s right! What he said.”
Tom and his minions dispersed.
This experience taught me a fantastic truth. In the presence of greater strength, bullies become wimps. We can watch this truth play out in Scripture as Jesus’ teaching was interrupted:
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. (Luke 4:33-35)
That’s what you call a demonic tantrum. Jesus commanded the demon to exit the man and, like a toddler told to take his hand out of the cookie jar, the demon threw a fit. Why is that?
Demons know obedience isn’t a choice in the presence of Jesus.
In the presence of greater strength, bullies become wimps. This was true for Tom, and it’s true for demons.
My Protector, when I feel surrounded by evil on all sides with no visible rescue plan, remind me to relax in the presence of Your greater strength. As I rest in You, I want to imagine Your Spirit with His sleeves rolled up, standing up for me. Amen.
A Few Powerful words
In the presence of Jesus, demons become wimps instantly. How? By power and authority—two expressions of His greater strength.
When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (Mark 1:21-22)
It was customary for rabbis to read a scroll and then share what other, more famous rabbis thought about the passage. In contrast, Jesus interpreted the passage Himself. As the Word of God, He taught God’s Word with authority. It must have been mesmerizing.
Those listening recognized they were in the presence of someone great as they heard Jesus teach. And they weren’t the only ones.
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon… He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:33-44)
It’s only one word in Greek, ea. Imagine a loud, ear-piercing, evil shriek, and you’ve just translated ea correctly.
One minute a demon is destroying a man from the inside out. Then Jesus shows up, and the demon shrieks in terror, “Ea!” What changed?
Jesus showed up.
In the presence of Jesus, demons become wimps instantly. Why? Because evil knows the ultimate authority of Christ limits its reign. A day of total destruction is coming, and the demons won’t survive. With that in mind, I’d screech too.
I love how Jesus responds to the demon. He answers none of his questions and affirms none of his fears. Jesus simply says, “Be quiet! Come out!”
The demon doesn’t charge Jesus to death. There is no endless battle. When face to face with the authority of Jesus, the demon obeys.
Jesus, like those listening in the synagogue, I am also amazed by Your authority. Perhaps I’m even more amazed that Your authoritative Spirit lives in me. Speak through me in the presence of evil, giving me bold words in moments where I’d likely shriek if left on my own. Amen.
Demons are invisible, but they aren’t invincible. So how do we take them down? Is there a formula?
In Acts 19, Luke tells us that many were convinced that a simple phrase was the secret. They’d go around town saying, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13). One day, seven sons of a Jewish high priest were doing just this when an evil spirit answered them:
“Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:15-16)
Their formula didn’t add up quite right, did it?
Knowing someone who knows someone who knows Jesus does not grant you immediate access to the authority of Jesus. If you aren’t in Christ—if you yourself aren’t indwelled by the Spirit of Jesus, who is all authority—then demonic bullies are stronger and smarter than you. You can throw Jesus’ name out there, but it won’t make a bit of a difference.
The right question isn’t, “What would Jesus do so I can replicate it?” Power and authority aren’t a formula. It’s a presence.
So let’s scrap “What would Jesus do?” and replace it with “What will Jesus do?”
Ah, since you asked, let me answer. What Jesus did on earth then, He’ll do on earth now through the power of His indwelling Spirit who resides in all believers.
With you in Christ and Christ in you, there resides in you a greater strength; and in the presence of that strength, demons become wimps.
How does it work? Simply walk into a room or down the street of a Philippine town.
Who are you? You are a child of God, filled with His Spirit. As a result, all power and authority keep you. Walk like it.
Jesus, Image of the Invisible God, give me the courage to purposefully enter relationships and situations that will require that I lean into deeper dependence upon Your indwelling Spirit. Thank You for direct access. Such intimacy makes me brave. Amen.
Sniff Out Evil
Can demons hurt me?
I get asked this question often, and my answer is, “That depends.”
In 1 John 5:18, he assures us, “ We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them.”
The word “touch” means to handle, grab, or influence.
If you are in Christ, you are indwelled by Christ; and because Christ lives in you, an evil spirit never will!
But just because you’ve been lost to grace and just because Jesus has won the battle, that doesn’t mean Satan will stop trying to hurt you. He looks for vulnerabilities—for opportunities to intimidate, divide, and even wound or kill. Though the evil one can injure our bodies, our spirits are off-limits to his malevolence. Even in physical death, we experience intimacy with Christ!
Still, the question remains: What do we do when we sense evil stirring?
Some of our family dinners look like Norman Rockwell paintings. Most of them don’t. One night in particular, we were having a nice conversation when suddenly someone said something, someone else took offense, and off we went. I could smell the bully in my house.
I looked at my wife, and I could tell she smelled it too. So I said, “Everyone, stop. Stop. Stop! STOP!” Stunned silence. “I’m going to pray for a second, ‘Lord Jesus, I know you’re here. The evil one is trying to destroy and divide. Jesus, rescue us.’”
Even in Christ, Satan keeps after us because he’s a bully. In the presence of Jesus, he’s a wimpy bully; but he’s still a bully. He loves to divide, so he goes after families and churches.
Three things to consider:
- If you’re not in Christ, you’re on your own.
- If you’re in Christ, demons can’t influence you.
- And those who are in Christ can help those who are oppressed by demons.
Maybe you feel too small or inadequate to help someone who’s being oppressed by evil. Listen, we entered the world as wimps, but Christ lives in us, and He possesses authority. In the presence of greater strength, bullies become wimps; and Jesus is that greater strength. Everywhere you go, you bring with you Authority.
Who needs the Authority living through you?
Jesus, if I’m in Christ, I am not on my own. Show me who needs my help. I know the path from oppression to freedom is a road flanked with evil, so armor up my weaknesses. Rescue me from my own vulnerabilities. Let’s loosen chains by Your authority. Amen.
- What have I learned about Jesus’ power and authority?
- Who may need my help in finding freedom in Christ’s authority?