Demonic Faith

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2:19

In a polytheistic culture, there were some who thought it was enough to be monotheistic. They believed in the one true God, but they weren’t expressing that belief through obedient surrender to Jesus and faithful action. James was challenging their self-congratulatory complacency.

Demons believe in God. They know He exists. They believe in Jesus in the sense that they acknowledge His existence and are terrified of Him. They shudder at His name and squirm under His authority. They don’t like to be around God’s Presence or anyone who carries God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit. The fire of the Lord burns them and the Light of Christ blinds them. While they are completely comfortable around nominal Christians and at home in religious settings void of the Spirit, they despise Christians filled with the Spirit and on fire for the Lord.

I’ve heard a number of people say, “I believe in God; I just don’t like organized religion.” By this they usually mean they have a generic belief in God that doesn’t require anything from them and doesn’t impact the way they live life. Their “faith” without action is dead (James 2:26). This kind of faith is no occasion for self-congratulations or pride. This faith just barely reaches the level of demonic faith. This person has about as much confidence and trust in God as the demons. Not exactly something to be excited about.

James reminds us that just as our spirit expresses itself through our body, our faith expresses itself through action. To take active risks and live in obedient trust is the life of faith. To call oneself a competitive athlete and yet never do any physical activity doesn’t line up. Likewise, to call oneself a follower of Jesus and yet never express our faith through action doesn’t line up. At the very least we should challenge ourselves to have faith that surpasses that of the demons.

Not Against Flesh and Blood

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

When we fight this spiritual battle, we fight as the Israelites did to take possession of the Promised Land. We are given new life in Jesus and there are some parts of this new life that we must fight for in order to possess. The land of this new life in Christ is already ours, but we must kick out the inhabitants of darkness that previously occupied our life.

This passage in Ephesians 6 indicates that the kingdom of darkness has a hierarchical command and control structure. Demons seem to be the lowest level spirit of darkness. Then there are powers (authorities) and principalities (rulers) that seem to be higher level beings of darkness that retained more of their power when they fell from heaven with Satan. We might call these powers and principalities “fallen angels” who are able to retain some of their former glory–though it is fading.

Satan is a counterfeiter. He is constantly trying to imitate in his kingdom of darkness the things of the Kingdom of Light. I believe this hierarchical command and control structure is an attempt by Satan to imitate and counterfeit the omnipresence of God the Father. Since Satan can’t be everywhere at once like God, he sends his minions everywhere.

I believe the principalities of darkness that are over a geographic regions are trying to imitate and counterfeit the fact that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. And I believe demons, with their constant need to be embodied in something physical, are attempting to imitate and counterfeit the Holy Spirit who dwells inside the body of believers, His Temple.

The reason I believe Paul needed to remind the Ephesians that our battle is not with people (flesh and blood) but with the kingdom of darkness is because we can so easily miss our target if we make people our enemy. We are like the Israelites, taking ground for the Kingdom of God, but different from the Israelites we are not fighting people. We are not even fighting ourselves. We are fighting the darkness that invades and persuades people. So our weapons are different. Our most powerful weapons in a battle like this are love and forgiveness.

And we don’t fight in order to attain the victory. Jesus won the victory for us on the cross and in His resurrection. We don’t fight for victory but from victory. We fight the battles knowing that the war has been won by Jesus alone! Here is how Paul writes it to the Colossian Christians:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2:13-15