In this series of posts on spiritual warfare we have covered the reality of the demonic (part 2) and the wide-ranging issues within a church that the Bible says can be demonic in origin (part 1). Those two posts ought to at least make us realize that this is not a topic that the church can safely ignore. This post will continue to use Luke 11 to provide a very brief introduction to the work of demons.
The work of demons
They are united (vv. 17-18,23,26) in their opposition to Christ (v. 23) and His kingdom (vv. 17-19)
Luke 11 shows that demons do indeed have a purpose and that they are united in that purpose. They are not "divided" (v. 17) in their hatred for God.
This does not mean that demons necessarily like each other or that they always fully cooperate with each other. The more evil a demon is, the more self-centered he will be, and the more self-centered he is, the more potential there is for his interests to come into conflict with other demons. God no doubt frustrates Satan's kingdom with these internal conflicts from time to time.
But having said that, there is one thing that unites all demons – a common enemy and a common hatred for God and for God’s people. Verse 23 says, "He who is not with Me is against Me." There is no neutrality in the cosmic war between Satan and Christ. And every demon is united in his purpose of opposing Christ. But if every demon is against Christ, it follows that he will also be against Christ’s kingdom and His people. This gives the explanation for the hindrances, bureaucratic red tape, technical problems, hatred from men, and resistance that we saw in part 1. The work of demons is to hinder, hold back, and frustrate our kingdom work. (Next week we look at Christ's very encouraging teaching on the conflict of kingdoms that withstands these purposes.)
They can work both inside or outside of a person (vv. 24-26) and can seek to influence and/or control that person (vv. 14,21-22) in order to keep him at peace with Satan's independent kingdom (v. 21) and at war with Christ (v. 23)
Secondly, demons can work both inside and outside of a person. Verse 14 speaks of a demon who was inside the mute man somehow controlling either his brain or his mouth. Verses 24-26 speak of a person as being a "house" for a demon and entering a person and dwelling there. This is the kind of control that flows from what we think of as "demon possession." Satan’s goal according to verse 21 is total ownership and total control of individuals, homes, churches, and nations.
But demon possession is not the only type of control that Satan and demons have had over humans. In context, Christ is indicating that the Pharisees were being controlled by demons. Elsewhere Jesus told the Pharisees, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do" (John 8:44). These Pharisees weren’t "possessed" like this mute man was, but they were still under his influence, and Satan used the Pharisees to oppose the work of Jesus. 1 John 5:19 says, "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." Satan can move or sway any unbeliever to accomplish his purposes, and one of his puprposes is to maintain control of his own kingdom (v. 21) and another purpose is to harrass and scatter the sheep of Christ's flock (v. 23; cf. John 10:12; Ezek. 34:5,6; etc).
But when we engage in spiritual warfare, it destroys the peace of demons, and successful spiritual warfare scatters the enemy's forces. Verse 21 says, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace." But Christ was disturbing that peace through His ministry.
Something analogous happens with the ministry of believers. Since every believer has angels assigned to him/her (Matt. 18:10; Ps. 91:12; Acts 12:15; etc.), the moment that Christian moves into a new neighborhood, his angels are invading that neighborhood even if the neighborhood had previously been at peace with Satan. When we learn how to engage in spiritual warfare (see later posts), our invasion becomes even more forceful. Our angels are not just present in the neighborhood (and no doubt causing tension by that presence); they are actively scattering the demonic forces.
I will illustrate this with our last neighborhood. When we moved into our last neighborhood, it was a very high crime area. Our family immediately began to engage in spiritual warfare, including prayer walking the entire area three to five times a week. We began to quickly see the neighborhood turning from a high crime area to an incredibly low crime area. But the moment we left, our angels left with us, and it was as if a demonic invasion back into that neighborhood immediately happened.
Crimes that hadn't happened in eighteen years began happening from day one of our exit. We tracked crime stats for the next twelve months and crime remained high. Former neighbors kept commenting in the NextDoor app that they were puzzled on the almost overnight rise in crime. Why the day and night difference? I believe it was because the Christian influence had left and the spiritual warfare had ceased. The moment that happens, demons will try to regain their former strongholds (v. 26). What is true of human "houses" can be true of human territories.
This means that there can be no neutrality anywhere. We are either aggressively advancing Christ's kingdom or we are losing ground. The first Gospel promise of the Old Testament is Genesis 3:15 and it says that God will make the woman at enmity with Satan and Satan at enmity with the woman and her seed. Enmity is a sign that God's grace is at work whereas seeing that Satan's "goods are in peace" (v. 21) is a sign that things are not as they should be. Whether inside or outside of a person, Satan and his demons will oppose you and God and therefore it is critical that we learn how to fight back.
They seek to capture and guard areas (v. 21)
Why has Satan captured so much of America? I believe it is because the church has lost its saltiness by failing to maintain antithesis and failing to apply the Law and the Gospel to all of life. When that happens, Jesus said that the church is "good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot of men" (Matt. 5:13). Without God's favor resting upon the church, the feet of the enemy will take domionion and triumph. Jesus will not allow victory to happen for a saltless church. We are seeing a generation where verse 26 is true. Right now, Satan not only "guards his own palace" (v. 21) in America, but he has established so many strongholds because of Christians being AWOL from the battle that the last state of America is much worse than its former state (v. 26).
The point is that Satan is always seeking to capture and guard new territory. It is high time that the church quit using carnal weapons (2 Cor. 10:4) and began engaging Satan with weapons of warfare that are mighty in God for tearing down strongholds and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). One of those weapons is church discipline (v. 6), which hands over wicked professors to the kingdom of Satan (1 Tim. 1:20). Like the story of Ai (Joshua 7), there can be no victory without holiness. But I am jumping ahead of the story. Here we are giving an introduction to the work of demons.
They seek to destroy God's creation and any vestiges of the image of God in man (v. 14)
Another thing that demons seek to do is to destroy God’s creation or at least to mar it. They hate anything that reminds them of God. Verse 14 shows one such destructive act – to make a person unable to speak. This is a marring of part of the image of God in this man. But demons in our generation have sought to mar every aspect of the image of God in man.
God's image in man has two aspects - the metaphysical and the ethical. The ethical aspect of predisposition towards God in our knowledge and righteousness was lost in Adam and restored through redemption (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). Though the metaphysical aspect of the image of God is horribly marred by sin, it can still be found in all humans (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Genesis 1-2 showcases the metaphysical image of God in man as containing at least the following: logic, language, social interaction, knowledge of the law, spirituality, choice, immortality, true community in marriage, and dominion. The attacks of our culture upon each of these and the distoration of each of these has become more and more pronounced.
They seek to cause disorder (vv. 23,25)
Demons also seek to cause disorder. Verse 23 says, "and he who does not gather with Me scatters." Scattering breaks up unity, so that clause indicates that demons attempt to destroy true unity (to "scatter") in the family, church, and society as a whole. Verse 25 says that the demon comes back to the man who was rescued from his dominion - "And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order." To be put in order is the opposite of the disordered state of the person before the demon was cast out. Demons love disorder.
Whenever you see neighborhoods filled with lawlessness and disorder, you know that Satan has been at work there. The same is true of churches. God establishes "order" in the churches (1 Cor. 14:40) and says that He "is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (1 Cor. 14:33). So one of the jobs of demons is to scatter and cause disorder. When you see high levels of division and disorder within a congregation, look for the presence of demons. They were certainly present in Corinth (1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14).
They can evaluate areas of vulnerability (vv. 24-26 with 22)
And then, finally, demons seek to exploit any areas of vulnerability that they can exploit. They are "seeking rest" (v. 24) and seeking to regain entry to previous strongholds (v. 26). They trust in their armor to give them conquests (v. 22). We see these attempts even when God allowed Satan to tempt the Perfect Man, Jesus. Satan exploited every potential weakness that he hoped might exist (Luke 4) and "when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time." Demons are always looking for opportunities.
But once we know what those potential vulnerabilities are, we can shore up our defenses. And once we can identify what it is that gives demons strength, we can take those advantages away. Verse 22 says, "But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils." Christ has the power to tear down strongholds and penetrate the "armor" of every demonic stronghold.
But it is only when Christ takes ownership of the "spoils" that Satan is rendered powerless and the man has nothing to fear. 1 John 5:18 says, "We know that whoever is born of God does not keep on sinning; but he who has been born of God, while guarding himself, the wicked one does not touch him."
Luke 11 describes the state of a man who has a demon cast out but who does not become a Christian. His life may be brought back to some state of order, but since his "house" was empty (vv. 25-26), he has no way of resisting further infestation of demons. His life is totally vulnerable to attack. A true Christian home has Christ at its heart (John 14:21) and is filled with the Spirit (Acts 11:24). Such a person is impervious to demonic attack (1 John 5:18). But the self-reformation of the Pharisees lacks that power. Jesus said,
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, "I will return to my house from which I came." And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
In John 5:14 Jesus told a man whom he had healed of lameness, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." This vulnerability issue affects even people who are merely afflicted outwardly. Willful sin gives Satan an advantage and makes you more vulnerable to his manipulations. And this passage indicates that demons are adept at evaluating areas of vulnerability in our lives.
Though Luke 11 has limited information about demons, it gives us a nice introduction to their nature, their work, and their weakness. Next week I hope to finish looking at Luke 11 by showing the incredibly powerful resources that we have in Christ and the weakness of demons to resist a man of God who knows how to use the spiritual weapons of God.