“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever felt like you were up against something you weren’t prepared to fight? Something you didn’t have the power to overcome? There are times we all feel like that. When it comes to spiritual warfare this is generally even more true. What power do we have to stand against the spiritual forces of darkness in this world? James offers us one here that is both simpler and more powerful than anything else the world has produced. Check it out with me.
The occult is popular right now. It has been for many years. I think there are several reasons for this. It’s always carried a natural taboo at least in the lands where the Christian worldview has carried some weight, and anything that’s taboo tends to attract a morbid curiosity. It’s intriguing as well, since we know so little about it. Where there is “knowledge” about the occult, it almost never comes from any objective source, but from a creative imagination.
One of the biggest reasons for its popularity, though, is that most people have a natural sense that there is more to the world than just us. There is a spiritual world that lies just beyond where we can see. We have always had that awareness. And, we have a sense that whatever this is that’s more than us isn’t all good. We have this sense and we want to know how to deal with it. The occult offers the promise of power in and over this spiritual realm. So, when someone speaks who claims familiarity with it, we tune in.
Here’s the problem: On our own, we don’t have any kind of spiritual power. None. When the spiritual forces of this world press in on us, we have no natural defenses. The truth is that there is only one source of power or authority in this world: God. Any power that exists does so because He has granted it for some reason to which we are probably not privy. He has given the devil a measure of power over this world for a time, but it is a broken power whose clock is ticking. He may have shared some power with demonic subordinates, but we have very little to go on beyond sheer speculation when it comes to that so I’m not going to say much more. On our own, though, we don’t have any meaningful power to stand against the spiritual forces of this world.
Here’s what that means: The occult is all nonsense. I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s all fake (although much of it is). I mean that in the sense that all the wrangling for the means to obtain the power to exert some control over the spiritual world is silliness—dangerous silliness, but silliness all the same. The reason for that should be obvious. If all the power is God’s power, then the only power we are going to be able to access is His. We can’t get that from Him unless He gives it. We don’t have any power to somehow force Him into that either.
Let’s push just a bit further here. We only get access to God’s power when we are committedly on His side—that is, when we have given our lives to Jesus and received the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The only other spiritual power in the world is what God has allowed Satan to wield. What this means is that if we dabble in the occult and manage to obtain any kind of spiritual power, while it is God’s power by definition, it is only that bit He’s allowed to Satan. And that power we’re only going to access if he allows us to have it.
What this means is that whereas our goal may have been to obtain some power to protect ourselves from the spiritual forces in the world, all we’ve done is gotten power that won’t give us any up on God because it’s His already, it won’t give us any up on Satan or his consort because he’s the only who gave it to us and then only because he knew we could be blindly led to advance his evil purposes, meaning we merely opened ourselves up to be hurt by the very thing we were seeking protection from. It’s no wonder God is so explicit in the Scriptures that we stay away from it entirely. While there is something to it (less than we imagine popularly), it’s not a good something and it’ll only lead to hurting ourselves and the people around us.
So then, what can we do? We’ll talk about that this afternoon.