Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Trouble with Spirits

As we continue to talk about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, it's important to look at another fallacy that our failure to understand this Spirit leads us into. Namely, that what we're engaged in is a battle of the 'spirit world.' 

When we think that the Holy Spirit is "just" "a" spirit that God has sent into the world, the way that He has sent angels into the world or other heavenly beings, then we tend to want to break everything down by what 'kind' of spirit is controlling it, what 'heavenly battle' is going on behind it. 

Let's be clear: Spiritual warfare is real. The Scriptures attest to that much. But let's continue to be clear: most of us don't need any help sinning. Our fallen human nature is enough to keep us turning away from God in shame; we don't need demons to do that.

What I'm trying to point to here is the error by which Christians point to spiritual warfare for everything, and there does seem to be a correlation between Christians who have a misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit as a mere spirit being dispatched by God and those deeply engaged in what they believe is spiritual warfare. 

So let's clear some things up about demons. Shall we?

First, demons are real. Jesus spent a portion of His time casting demons out of the afflicted, and this work continues into the New Testament through the apostles, so there is clearly a basis for saying that demons, and demon possession, are real. 

But second, demons have absolutely no interest in you at all. None. There is not a single demon in all of Scripture whose goal is anything other than to attack the name and the glory of God. That's it. Now, those who accept a doctrine of severe spiritual warfare will say that getting anyone to sin is an attack on the name and glory of God, since we are all created in His image and our sin keeps us from glorifying Him (whether we want to or not - they are equally concerned about spiritual warfare in believers as in unbelievers), but that's a severe overstretch of the Scriptures' revelation about demons. 

Because third, there is zero - zero - testimony in God's word that all sinners are demon-possessed and thus only sin because of an evil spirit that controls them somehow. Rather, the Scriptures are full of humans sinning all on their own and are very explicit about telling us where demons are involved and where they are not. And surprisingly? The activities of demons are never identified as sins. "My son is possessed by a demon that throws him on the ground and makes him go into trances." "The demons in the man enabled him to break his chains and roam freely about the cemetery, drooling on himself." "The evil spirit in the girl enabled her to tell the future." Not one demon that led someone to drinking, to abusing, to murdering, to raping, to...the list goes on. Whatever you want to put here. There is, of course, the serpent, but that's an entirely different story than what we're talking about. Entirely different. 

But this is where we end up when we think that the Spirit is just a spirit like any other spirit and therefore, must be in conflict with other spirits. No. Evil spirits are in conflict with God, but not because the Holy Spirit is like them - rather, because the Holy Spirit is so unlike them. He is, indeed, a person of God and no mere spirit being. 

And so, we have to get rid of this notion of spiritual warfare that makes everything into demonology by nature of so little more than our misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit. Hate to tell you, but the demons just aren't that interested in you. They aren't. 

But God...God can't get His mind off you. 

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