Most believers, it seems, have never looked a real demon in the face. They have not been a part of an exorcism, or seen demonic manifestations occur right in front of them. That is likely because the enemy of our souls is much more crafty and subtle than to put blatant evil out there for everyone to clearly discern that something insidious is among them. Rather, Satan cleverly disguises his dark agenda in ways that are sometimes barely discernible. In fact, it can be so subtle that we even take the presence of evil for granted. I hope that last statement scares the be-jeebers out of you because our struggle as Christians is not a contention with humanity, but with unseen dark forces and powers.
If you have ever felt like your Christian life or your church is just plain dull, as if things were like a perpetual gray sky with no sunshine, it is quite possible that an evil canopy hovers above. I’m not really talking about a literal cloudbank of evil, but a palpable intuition that something is askew and not quite right. The true face of evil is ordinary and common, shallow and superficial. When expecting to see the sight of evil in the apparition of a devil with a pitchfork, the real presence of evil is a well-dressed and well-groomed gentleman name Mr. Lucifer. He looks more like a pencil toting paper-pusher than the architect of severe systemic evil in the world. While far too many Christians are wasting time on witch hunts, the respectable looking Mr. Lucifer strolls unopposed into the church.
Mr. Lucifer says things that make sense to church folk: “I’m quite sure it has never been done that way before;” “Perhaps you ought to induce a little guilt in order to get the people to serve;” “Well, not everyone can really follow Jesus like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa;” “Everyone in our town already knows about God, so there is no intelligent reason to plant another church – after all, what about us and our needs?” Maintaining the status quo at all costs is at the heart of the satanic agenda because life transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit is Mr. Lucifer’s greatest nemesis.
“Zeitgeist” is a German word. It roughly translates in English as “the spirit of the age.” In other words, zeitgeist has to do with what is already assumed around us. It takes for granted the way things are, and feels threatened if anything is new or different. Because God desires spiritual growth and maturity in his people, Mr. Lucifer will oppose anything that develops others into disciples who learn to follow Jesus. And he does it not through pitched open battles, but in the shadows. Parking lot conversations, church prayer chains, and meetings that never seem to get anything accomplished are his standard fare. Anything that takes place in the dark and keeps people in it is the realm of his power.
Make no mistake about it: not only is there a Spirit of the Church; there is also a spirit of the church, a zeitgeist, a low-lying snake-crawling yawn-inducing banality that wants to keep slipping demonic roofies into the after-church coffee. The effects of it inevitably lead to a preference for discussing the weather and last night’s football game over how to put the just-listened-to sermon into practice.
The good news of it all is that God wiped out the charges that were against us because of Mr. Lucifer. God took all our disobedience and shame and nailed it to the cross. It was there that Christ defeated all dark powers and forces (Colossians 2:14-15). God has given us a new lease on life – one in which we no longer have to succumb to unthinking conformity to the way things presently exist. We have the freedom to question, to fail and get back up again, to love without fear.
“Dear friends,” the Apostle John said, “don’t believe everyone who claims to have the Spirit of God. Test them all to find out if they really do come from God” (1 John 4:1). Evil is much closer than you think. And the solution to it is yet even closer.