“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” - Kevin Spacey’s iconic line in the movie The Usual Suspects. It’s an interesting notion, and yet it is one that is eclipsed by a much greater truth. To put a spin on that classic verse, I believe that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the church that he was a force to be reckoned with. Here’s the thing, I have given up believing in the devil and I’ve never been so free!
For anyone who knows God’s unconditional love for them, the devil has as much power as a fart in a cyclone. Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil, once and for all on the cross. Why then do we as the church pump up the devil’s power to the point of worship? Why do we focus so much time and energy on warfare, travailing in prayer for God to come and defeat personal demons, strongholds and evil principalities?
A prayer warrior once told me that 80-90% of intercessors in their city have spent time in mental health units of various hospitals. I can only think that it is because they are driving themselves to insanity by chasing and raising up defeated enemies over which they can then exercise their spiritual authority.
We spend so much time searching out devils within and without that we have never really stopped to think about why. We even search out satan in bible passages that have no mention of him. Have we ever stopped to consider that the writer of Genesis had absolutely no concept of “The Devil” when they wrote the story of the serpent and the fall? The understanding of a spiritual being responsible for evil only developed for the Jews after the exile, long after much of the Old Testament was written.
So why do we give him so much glory in our church services and prayer meetings? Why do we have to cleanse the temple so to speak, making sure the presence of darkness does not slink into our gatherings, our homes or our cities? Do we not have Christ in us, the hope of glory? Are we not the light of the world? Can darkness coexist with light? Surely by our mere presence, the devil has no ground.
Changing my thinking
The questions I am asking here represent a significant shift in my understanding of who I am and what the cross has accomplished. I once believed, and was regularly taught, that I would always struggle with sin, that the enemy was always looking to attack me, that God needed me to pray for certain things before he could do them. Basically, that the cross really didn't do much.
And yet, the bible regularly proclaims that we have been saved from sin, that we are in the light, not in darkness and that the enemy is defeated. As for praying for God to do things, we act as if we need to twist his arm to help us out.
As Paul says in Romans 5:8, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. The book of Revelation calls Jesus the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. From God’s perspective, his offer of forgiveness and union was appropriated and the work was finished long before sin ever came into effect. In essence, sin, death and the devil were defeated before they were ever even a problem.
A life of easy living
So now the devil really doesn’t present a problem to me at all. Sure I need to remind myself sometimes that the sinful nature is dead and I don’t need to continue acting in a way that is damaging to my relationships. But I am no longer “pressing in” for breakthroughs against an unseen enemy. I simply take the unhelpful thought captive and remember my unbreakable union with Christ, brought about through his death on the cross, while I was still a sinner.
I’ve come to realise that God isn’t offended by sin, but has come to save us from sin. He’s not waiting for us to be free from sin before he can be with us. He’s not running for the door every time we do something wrong. What kind of doctor would be offended by sickness? How effective could he possibly be? No, doctors are immersed, baptised even, in sickness daily, seeking to bring health and wholeness to everyone. Our God is the same, immersed in our fallen states, revealing the forgiveness and unity that has already been worked out on the cross and bringing health and life to all that would drink the living water.
And this is exactly what I have been doing. Disregarding an ineffectual and unworthy enemy and focusing instead on life filled with God’s love. I’m choosing to let the living water bubble up from my union with him, rather than begging God for another outpouring of heavenly rain. Like St Paul, I’ve decided to know nothing but Christ and him crucified and let ol’ “whats-his-name-again?” disappear into oblivion. I’ve spent too much time now drinking the joy and freedom of the living water. Why would I resolve to do anything else?
Russell Croft has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
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