Episode 1. Lie #1 – The Devil Doesn’t Exist
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Surveys reveal that 70% of believing Christians don’t believe in the existence of the devil. 70% – so it seems that the devil’s greatest lie, which is that he doesn’t exist at all, is working …
Surveys reveal that 70% of believing Christians don’t believe in the existence of the devil. 70% – so it seems that the devil’s greatest lie, which is that he doesn’t exist at all, is working a treat.
I had someone ask me the other day with quite some scepticism in their voice, “You don’t actually believe that there’s a devil do you?” It was that kind of intimidating tone that says if you answer yes then you must be a blithering idiot. You know that tone right? You don’t actually believe that there’s a devil, do you?
And my answer was, “Sure I do. Absolutely I do. A thousand times yes I do.” At which point the look on their face told me that as far as this person was concerned their suspicions about me were confirmed. Yes, that Berni Dymet is a blithering idiot, a religious nut, a fundamentalist.
With a little smile on my face I asked this person, “Do you kind of want to know why I believe that there’s a devil?” I guess, a bit of uncertainty and slight hesitation, a suspicion, a slight fear they were about to be bashed over the head with a Bible (which they needn’t have feared because my Bible is a tablet computer and I’d break the screen so I wouldn’t do that.)
“Yeah I guess”, was the tentative answer. “Well let me tell you the reason I believe in the devil”, what I told him. “I don’t mean that somehow I put my trust in him, but I believe in his existence and the reason I do is because clearly Jesus does.” “What?” “Sure,” I said, “Jesus absolutely believes in the existence of the devil.” That’s where the conversation ended.
Here’s an interesting set of statistics. The Barna group is a highly respected research organisation in the US. They conducted a survey on spiritual beliefs and attitudes. Lots of findings but here are a few that you might find interesting.
1871 self described Christians were asked about their perception of God. 78% said that He’s all powerful, all knowing and the creator of the universe who rules the world today. 40% strongly agree that satan is not a living being but simply a symbol of evil. An additional 19% said they agree somewhat with that perspective, a total of 59%.
Only 26% disagreed strongly with that preposition and 9% disagreed somewhat with that statement, the rest weren’t sure. So let’s do the maths here, 78% of self described Christians believe in an all powerful God, 69% almost as many, don’t believe in a real personal force of evil, the devil and a further 8% aren’t sure.
And add the 69% and the 8% and you get 77%, so boiling it right down to basics about the same number of people who call themselves Christians both believe in God but don’t believe in Satan or they’re not quite sure.
Incidentally most Christians surveyed didn’t believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit either. When asked to respond to the statement, “The Holy Spirit is just a symbol of Gods power or presence but not a living entity,” 58% either agreed or agreed strongly with that statement.
Now I don’t know where you’re at. One person listening today may be a Bible believing Christian the next one may not. You may never once in your life have ever considered the possibility that Jesus is who He says He is.
But wherever you are let’s look at those survey results objectively and dispassionately for a moment. Almost 80% of Christians believe in an all powerful God which begs the question, what do the other 20% believe in? Why do they call themselves Christians in the first place?
Nevertheless round figures 80% of people believe in God, almost exactly the same number that don’t believe in the devil or weren’t sure and you have to say to yourself, “wow that’s really weird. That’s among Christians.” So the statistics of people who don’t believe in the devil amongst people who aren’t Christians would be even higher.
Today I’m kicking off a series of ten messages called ‘The Top 10 Lies that The Devil Wants You To Believe’ and when I was planning that all out my first instinct was to say, look the top lie, numero uno, would have to be that God doesn’t exist but when you look at the research that’s not what it tells us. The top number one lie that the devil wants you and me to believe is that he doesn’t exist.
Do I find that in my Bible? Absolutely I do. He makes his first appearance in God’s Word pretty early on in the piece. So when this personal force of evil appears to deceive and to tempt Adam and Eve, how does he do it? Does he rock up as the devil with horns and an evil face, dressed in black and red, pitch fork in hand, breathing fire, smoking around the edges?
Does he introduce himself? Does he say, “Hi Adam, hi Eve, I’m satan your local personal force of evil, I’m here to tempt you and to lead you away from God and to ruin your life?” No. Genesis chapter 3, verse 1:
The serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say to you ‘you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘No, we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden but God said, you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden nor shall you touch it or you’ll die.’
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You won’t die because God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was to be desired to make you wise she took of it’s fruit and she ate and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made loin cloths for themselves.
See Satan came disguised as a serpent, a snake. He came breathing lies, twisting what God had said to Adam and Eve.
When I was in the military one of the arts of warfare that they taught us was the art of deception. The art of making things appear to be something that they weren’t in order to trick our enemy for the sole purpose of killing him. They taught us the art of camouflage, to hide from the enemy.
In fact the snipers took that to the enth degree. I remember once when we were on exercise and we were told that there were three snipers concealed in this rather small patch of forest and they told us to walk around openly to see if we could find them. We didn’t find a single one and when the instructors said to the snipers to stand up, one of them stood up within just a few feet of where I was, I mean I couldn’t believe it and that’s exactly what satan does.
If he can somehow make us believe that he doesn’t exist at all he can just sit there and take pot shots at us all day and ruin our lives and you know he’s a very good shot. Gods Word tells us this, 2 Corinthians chapter 11, verse 14:
No wonder even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
He’s into camouflage. So if you want to sneer at the notion that someone believes in the existence of the devil go right ahead. Stand in the snipers field of fire and let him take pot shots all he likes. Me? I’m going to do what God says. We each have our choices to make, I absolutely believe God when He says through the Apostle Paul that we shouldn’t be ignorant about the designs and the deceptions of Satan so that we aren’t outwitted by him, 2 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 11.
Or when He says through the Apostle Peter that we should keep alert because like a roaring lion our adversary the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour, 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 8. I guess C S Lewis sums it up the best for me. C S Lewis was the author of Narnia and a great theologian. He writes this:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence; the other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail the materialist or a magician with absolutely the same delight.