Finding the Scriptural Balance in How to Address Demonic Activity

American Christians often think demonic activity doesn’t affect us, perceiving it only happens elsewhere and in plain sight, as it often occurs where occult rituals (calling upon spirits and using curses, etc.) are actively welcomed and practiced. A little over a year ago, it struck me that it didn’t make sense for spiritual warfare to be selective. In light of Ephesians 6:10-20, it’s clear that Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare every day, whether we acknowledge it or not.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12 ESV

As much as I believed this passage, I felt blind, ignorant, and numb to the warfare that must be going on around me. Perhaps you can relate. I did not see it for what it was, so I didn’t know how to pray against it. Verse 18 tells us to engage in the battle through prayer, being equipped with the whole armor of God as described in verses 13-17. In frustration, I asked the Lord to open my eyes and show me more specifically how to pray. And boy, did He answer! Over the past year, He’s opened my eyes and helped me to pray bold, authoritative, specific prayers for the battles waging in my own family and church, seeing them in light of the ongoing battle between good and evil that has existed for centuries.

When it comes to the conversation of our lives being affected by Satan and demons, there are two opposite extremes of a pendulum swing I see Christians fall prey to. On one side, there are those Christians who attribute everything in their lives to Satan, from personal sin to minor life inconveniences to major life trials. All of those things *may* be used by our enemy to attack us, but it’s unwise to give him too much credit. This line of thinking often ends up denying any personal responsibility for sin, reframing the truth to make the person seem merely a victim.

The other end of the pendulum swing denies that Satan and demons have any influence over us and that all of our sins are merely the result of our sinful flesh. This neglects the reality that our warfare is supernatural, trusting only in what is seen and undercutting what is spiritual. It assumes that every thought that enters our minds has it source with us, not acknowledging that thoughts can be planted in our minds by both our Heavenly Father and the devil himself. We see this is the case with Peter, as seen in his back-to-back interactions with Jesus in Matthew 16:17 and 23. Both ends of this pendulum swing are dangerous. Scripture teaches us a better balance.

Who or what is the source of the temptations we face?

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:13-14 ESV).” We are tempted by the desires of our flesh, yes. But this passage says we are lured and enticed toward them which begs the question: who is doing the luring and enticing? Who sees our desires and strategically tempts us to give in to sin? The enemy, for we see him craftily tempting from the very beginning in the garden of Eden and throughout history, even tempting Jesus in the wilderness.

Ephesians 2:1-3 shows us the reality of our complex depravity. It is not simply our flesh that we can be held captive to, but also the devil and the world. Voddie Baucham addressed this misconception at the 2014 Ligonier National Conference in his sermon, “The world, the Flesh, and the Devil.”

“The broader problem is this,” Baucham began. “That unless we understand this interplay between the world and the flesh, and the devil, we do not understand the sinfulness of our sin. We do not understand the radical nature of our depravity unless we understand that we are hemmed in on every side, that it’s not just one issue, but it’s everything around us and everything about us. And there are many of us who have lost an understanding of the radical nature of our sinfulness and as a result, we’ve lost an understanding of the radical nature of the sinfulness of those around us as well.”

With depravity this deep, who or what is the source of our redemption?

After describing the radical nature of our depravity in Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul goes on to say in verse 4 that familiar and wonderful caveat we see throughout Scripture: “But God…” Hallelujah, for He is our only hope! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)” Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” By the grace of God, the Christian is alive and free, but we must guard against the temptation to sin and thereby go back to captivity.

One glance at the world shows us how badly we need God’s help. The hour is dark. The need is great. Spiritual warfare wages all around us, with sin destroying everything in its path. We are desperately in need of help. There are vast reservoirs of grace available to us in prayer. Let it not to be said of us that we leave them untapped, having not because we ask not. As children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ, our birthright being freedom from the bondage of sin to be reconciled to God.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV).”

We pray with boldness not because of our righteousness, but His. Not because of our wisdom or understanding, but His. It is only through the power of Christ we petition God’s help. It is only through the power of Christ we prevail. He is our only hope.

Bathsheba: Adulteress or Rape Victim?

The best that Israel had to offer failed in a huge way, with effects rippling throughout generations. Men will always fail. Even the best, most godly men, with the best reputation. But Jesus.

Taylor N. B. Walding

With the recent #metoo movement in mind, I thought now would be a good time to address sexual assault from a biblical perspective.

2 Samuel 11:1-12:23 describes the series of events that lead to King David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.

Most people don’t think of Bathsheba when they think of sexual assault in the Bible, and that is likely because she is often painted in a negative light as some kind of temptress. There is nothing in Scripture to support that view, but somehow it’s been adapted over time.

The topic came up one summer* in our adult Sunday School class. While the majority of the people in the room were speaking solely of David’s responsibility before God in the matter and the consequences he faced, one man addressed Bathsheba’s role, citing the age-old phrase, “It takes two to tango.”

I cringed. Thankfully my father passionately interjected and explained the problem with that statement.

Bathsheba was not an adulteress. That assertion might surprise you, but consider the following:

We don’t understand the gravity of a king as a ruler.

The fundamental flaw in our inability to understand this concept begins with the reality that we don’t have this kind of ruler in the Western world today. 

During this time in history, kings had absolute, supreme rule. If they ordered something, it was to be done. No questions asked.

The closest thing we have to a king is a dictator. The problem is dictators always carry a negative connotation, whereas kings did not. 

Biblical kings under God had immense potential to be good… but they also had an immense capacity for evil, as we see here in David’s sin with Bathsheba.

In 2 Samuel 11:4a where it says, “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her,” the phrase “and took her” can be translated several ways, including “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, acquire, marry, take a wife, snatch, or take away.”

So when David sent messengers to take Bathsheba, saying no wasn’t an option for her. There was no consent, only obedience. 

The Bible doesn’t explicitly say whether Bathsheba wanted to be in this situation or not, but I don’t think it matters. What does matter is that when God addresses the situation through the prophet Nathan, it is David who is responsible. On top of that, nowhere in the biblical text does it call her an adulteress, temptress, immoral woman, or anything of the sort. There is absolutely nothing in the biblical text to suggest she lured him into the situation, even though that insinuation has often been made.

The Bible is very clear that David is the one at fault in 2 Samuel 12. He is the one to blame, and he is the one called to repent.

Bathsheba, after the suffering she endured at the hands of David, then mourned the death of her husband Uriah and her child that died as a result of this tragic situation.

However, this story gives hope for victims of sexual assault.

Bathsheba doesn’t go down in history as a helpless woman who lived a life of sorrow and shame. 

She gave birth to Solomon, who grew up and became the wisest man in all of human history, penning much of Proverbs.

At the start of the book of Matthew, Bathsheba is listed as Uriah’s wife in the lineage of Jesus Christ, an honor given to a handful of notoriously broken women in the Bible. Note that she is listed as Uriah’s wife, not David’s.

The article linked above states the reality that Bathsheba suffered sexual abuse and the murder of her husband at the hands of Israel’s greatest king.

The best that Israel had to offer failed hugely, with effects rippling throughout generations. 

Men will always fail. Even the best, most godly men, with the best reputation. 

But Jesus.

David faced real, tangible consequences for his sin. But by the grace of God, he was forgiven, and in his repentance wrote one of the most moving, heart-wrenching Psalms

Bathsheba faced real, tangible sorrow. She was sinned against greatly. But by the grace of God, she was not forgotten. God remembered her.

Christ is our ultimate Redeemer. He redeems even the most broken people, with the worst pasts, and the most pain. 

Glory be to God for his infinite grace and mercy, his nearness to the brokenhearted, and his willingness to redeem ashes to beauty.

*This article was originally published on November 12, 2017, on my former blog. A few changes were made.

How the Church Should Love the LGBTQ+ Community

Before June began, “Pride Month” posts were already circulating. This time last year I wrote a blog post dealing with the LGBTQ+ community, calling out false teaching that was circulated on campus. In less than 24 hours, it had hundreds of comments, most of which were spewing hate toward God, His church, and His people. There was community-wide outrage. I read every comment and felt the weight of their animosity.

More recently, the United Methodist Church voted to split their denomination over the same topic. It’s become a point of tension for Christians far and wide. More and more of my Christian friends celebrate and affirm our peers announcing same-sex relationships. Some of these Christians have bought into the lie that a person can be right with God while embracing an LGBTQ+ lifestyle. I addressed those Christians in the first piece.

However, there’s another side to the story. There are also those Christians who affirm biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality, but in an effort to love their neighbor, cheer on same-sex relationships regardless of believing it is sin. These are misguided Christians who are deeply empathetic and want to show love the best way they know how: affirmation.

But love as defined by God’s Word is not what we hear from our culture. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6 NASB). Instead of bold and unashamed gospel love that lays down its life for others, we are now seeing the effects of a generation raised to believe that kindness is king, and orthodoxy is optional. This type of kindness, often paraded as Christian love, is compromising and weak. They are woke about kindness, triggered by biblical truth.

As Christians, we’re to be as bold as lions (Proverbs 28:1) in the truth of God’s Word. One of the biggest setbacks I encounter to boldly speaking biblical truth is the resounding murmur among professing Christians who disdain public discussion of offensive or controversial topics, out of either cowardice or compromise. If in fear of the offense, discomfort, or retaliation that may take place, we cower from sharing the gospel, then we must ask God to fill us with more love, for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

The message I wrote last year was the essential gospel message of Christianity that has existed for two thousand years: that sinners must not only believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, but must also repent of sin in their lives. In every era, this message is received or rejected; loved or reviled. Jesus was clear when He said that we are either for Him or against Him. Biblically speaking, there is no room for, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t want to discuss sin or repentance.” That is not following Christ. It is following self, creating a false god fit to individual preference.

I’m no judge and I don’t claim to be one. Only God can judge a person, and that should terrify us all. Apart from Jesus Christ, it terrifies me. Being aware of these realities, it would not be loving for me to go on about life, having never been honest about sin. It is not born of hate that I speak boldly, but of love. If I hated sinners I would have kept quiet about their inevitable judgment from God. It is precisely because I love sinners that I must speak boldly.

The foundation of bad news upon which we share the good news of Jesus is that man is inherently sinful, rebellious, and under God’s wrath. This truthful message is deeply offensive and uncomfortable. Yet, it’s necessary, for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).