Dear Christ Church,
As I mentioned this past Sunday, in an effort to give these sermon follow ups a bit more of a personal touch, I am going to start doing a Facebook live video on Monday at 4pm. If you missed that, you can always watch it later if you go to my facebook page. For those of you who are not on facebook, or would prefer to just read my answers, here is a written response to the questions I received.
Question #1 Can you share a story of when you have seen the spiritual realm?
I purposefully chose not to share stories about extraordinary supernatural experiences that I have had, because I think we can have an unhealthy desire sometimes to dwell on the sensational. The reality is that every day is a day where we see the spiritual realm as we interact with other human beings. We all have a spirit and so it is a false dichotomy to think that what we see with our physical eyes is not always spiritual.
With that being said, there are extraordinary spiritual experiences that we can have. Here is one example that happened a few months ago. I received a call from a young man I have been reaching out to, who in our interaction was always very mild mannered and respectful. However, he called me up and his voice was much lower and different than I had heard before. He started talking about how God had done terrible things to him. When I offered to pray for him, he started screaming at me and attacked the people he was with. The police had to be called. I definitely think there were some demonic forces at play.
Question #2 Is every temptation from Satan?
I guess I should give a fuller answer than that. The Bible talks more often about evil coming from inside of us than outside of us.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Jam 1:14-15 ESV)
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." (Mar 7:21-23 ESV)
Satan doesn’t make us do things. He just pours gas on the fire of desire towards rebellion against God.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. (Joh 8:44 ESV)
We can wonder; is this from Satan or is this from me? However, the Bible tells us to be aware of both the evil in us and outside of us. We don’t need to necessarily parse out where it is coming from. We need to do battle against both. And how we do battle is the same. Darkness is fought with light, no matter the source of darkness. What we need is the gospel of Jesus and our new identity in him through faith to combat the darkness of our sin and Satan.
Question #3 Can Satan interact with you in ways other than just your thoughts?
Yes, we see this throughout the Gospels, as well as, Acts. His interactions come through giving false speech, violent acts and even plaguing with Infirmities. Similar to what I wrote in the answer above, we should have evil spiritual forces as a category in our lives. Not as the exclusive explanation, but as an explanation.
Question #4 Why does God allow Satan to have some authority over the world?
First, it is important to affirm that everything is under God’s authority.
For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' (Isa 46:9-10 ESV)
God is not locked in a cosmic battle with Satan. Satan is under his authority. Even in Job when we see Satan doing terrible things to an individual, all those things are only done under the authority of God. The Bible says that we wrestle with evil forces, not God. And as we are strong in him, there is no battle.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2Co 10:3-5 ESV)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jam 4:7 ESV)
So this question is really good, because it acknowledges that if Satan is doing things, then he can only be doing those things that God allows him to do. So why does God let him do evil things?
We aren’t told the answer for that. We don’t always know why God allows what he allows. But we are given two guiding principles. 1) God does all things for his glory. 2) God does all things for our good. This doesn’t resolve things for us immediately though, because it still raises the question of how can we know that God actually is good? How do we know that He isn’t just playing games with us?
We can trust because God is good, because God has proven himself to be good through Jesus Christ.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, (Tit 3:4 ESV)
God’s goodness is not an abstract principle, but is as real as the person Jesus Christ who really lived and really died for us to show us that he really does love us. Before the cross of Christ on that hill outside of Jerusalem known as Calvary, all doubts about God’s goodness go away. And so because of Jesus, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “ When we cannot trace his hand, we must trust his heart.”
I love you Christ Church!
Facebook Jeff Boettcher