Practicing The Presence Of The Devil
A Carmelite monk of the seventeenth century known as Brother Lawrence wrote a Christian Classic titled Practicing the Presence of God. It’s still in print after 300 years. Practicing the presence of the devil could be taken as the opposite of practicing God’s presence, but that is not what is intended here. C.S. Lewis in his witty and wise book The Screwtape Letters tells Christian believers that there are two errors into which you can fall regarding the devil and his demons or fallen angels: you can be obsessed with them to too great a degree or you can ignore, fail to believe in, or acknowledge their existence. It is the latter error that is here our concern. Peter says it is to our peril that we ignore the presence, purposes, and methods of the father of lies, the ever present prowler: the devil.
The Scriptures are quite clear concerning the actions and purposes of our Sovereign God. Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:38 and Matthew 5:45 are just a few of the verses revealing that God sends both good and evil (trouble, testing, calamity) into the lives of unbelievers and believers. He causes rain to fall and sunshine to glow on both unrepentant sinners and those who confess their sin and turn from it. The devil is like an “ambulance chaser; he is “Johnny on the spot to turn to his own ends whatever God does so he may ruin your response in a crisis or even as you bask in His blessing; seeking to decrease your faith and eviscerate your obedience to your God and Savior. And what is perilous to you is that you are often simply oblivious to what he is doing and that is he doing it, even as you are so well warned in the Word. You lash out at others with whom you are in relationship; you slide into depression; you absent yourself from the people of God; you fail to grab hold of God’s promises; you are dominated by real or perceived circumstances in your life; you behave arrogantly in your self-interest; you forget who you are and whose you are! This is the work of the deceiver and you are complicit in his designs. You fall right into his trap without acknowledging that he is and his location is right at your door (see Genesis 4:7), doing his thing with and to you!
Luther was so aware of the devil’s presence he famously threw his inkwell at him hitting the wall instead. Such awareness not only reveals a willingness to hear God and take seriously the warnings of the Lord, but it enables you to heed His instruction in preparing to do battle with a cunning adversary and then taking the field of battle in full armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). The warnings of Scripture are there so you will not go into each day unprepared. In fact the words of the King James Bible version of our text can hardly be improved; be sober—take it seriously; be vigilant—never let your guard down! When Jesus rebuked the devil he left Him, for a time. The seventy two disciples whom Jesus sent out returned with the triumphant joy that the demons even submitted to them in Christ’s name. Satan can be rebuked, deflected, and defeated; but not if you do not even realize he is there and how he works. Vigilance requires practicing awareness of the presence of the devil, even as you practice the presence of God in your faith. Your arch-enemy likes nothing more than you not recognizing he is in the room and speaking to you. He doesn’t want the spotlight as Jesus turned it on him in the desert. He loves masks. He delights in the masquerade.
Don’t give him the satisfaction of remaining incognito while you succumb to his innuendos and subtle poison arrows. Your behavior is always a mark that he is having his way when that behavior conforms to faithlessness rather than faith. Your faith only grows in the crucible of repeatedly snuffing out his burning arrows. They never stop coming in this life, but your discernment skills in identifying them for what they are grows by leaps and bounds as you exercise faith in what God has said.
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