Do you believe what Jesus believed? When it comes to talking of the Devil, demons, or even the idea of objective evil, the modern mind tends to struggle. In our western framework, we are often guilty of dismissing the idea of spirits, especially evil ones. The reality is, many Christians don't take the Biblical claim seriously, the claim that we not only live in a fallen world, where bad things happen (trials; see last week's post), but that there are forces of evil at work aiming to destroy us and the whole of creation.
Dismissing evil is a common error. Devil, demons, and the forces of evil are all things that the scripture and the Saviour see as critical and not to be slept on.
That said, there is another error that some believers can fall into, and that is one of an unhealthy fixation on the role of evil in our lives. As opposed to the mistake of dismissing evil outright, many of us have fallen for the trap of focusing more on the evil one than our deliverer. A "devil under every rock" mentality is no way to live either.
CS Lewis wrote in his book, "The Screwtape Letters:"
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 with both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. ix.
When Jesus closes the petition/supplication portion of His prayer, He uses the phrase, "deliver us from the evil one." By calling us to pray this way, he is rightly positioning us for the day we will face in this world in which we live.
On the one hand, he invites us to acknowledge the reality of evil. To be aware of the fact that there are currently forces seeking to devour us, destroy us, defying the will of the Father to see His love and His Kingdom reality expressed in and through us. It is critical not to be dismissive of the evil in and around us. Some trials in life come because of our own stupidity. Some happen because we live in a fallen world. And still, some bad things happen to us because there is evil in this world, and it is actively targetting and plotting our destruction. Being aware of evil's reality helps us avoid the enemy's schemes and positions us to overcome. Overcoming is at the heart of what Jesus is after for us when He teaches us to pray, "deliver us from evil."
Jesus promised us that "in this world, we would have troubles," but, He told us also to "not fear because He has overcome them." (John 16:33)
When Jesus died on the cross, he freed us from the penalty of Sin. He, through the work of the Spirit, is setting us free from the power of Sin. And, one day, He will set us free from the presence of Sin, eradicating its existence, along with the Devil and all of the forces of evil. The work of the cross is finished and is unfolding, accomplished and in process. What is not unfolding, however, is the authority of the Devil over the people of God. Colossians 2 says, "having cancelled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took 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."
We must realize that the Devil is defeated. Evil has been conquered. Jesus has overcome and has delivered us from evil. Evil has no authority over us when we are in Christ.
When Jesus tells us to pray "deliver us from evil," He has invited us to rest in His deliverance, to sit in His victory, to stand in His authority.
A while back, I had a chilling realization. The Devil is real. Demons are real. Evil is real. That epiphany scared me to my core for the longest time; it became an unhealthy focus, a fear, a type of reverence and worship in the deepest part of me. It steered my life for a time, robbing me of some joy and locking me up in various types of bondage and fear. Then I had another realization, that if the evil part is true, then it must all be true. If the Devil is real, then so is my deliverer. If the Devil is who Jesus said he is, then perhaps Jesus is who He says He is! I began to learn and am still learning that greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world. I have come to believe that no believer should ever be ignorant of the schemes of the Devil, and no believer should ever fear evil or live in any bondage to it because Jesus has delivered us.
The Lord's prayer is an invitation to protection AND dominion over the evil one. Rest in the victory of Jesus, stand in His authority.
Grace, Peace and Victory.
"This, then, is how you should pray:
"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. Mattew 6:9-13