Let me apologise first of all in case the title of this article seems somewhat sensationalist. I am of course not trying to encourage anyone to put themselves at the disposal of the devil. And yet this article occurred to me many, many, months ago, with this very title to demonstrate just how serious this subject is. And then after writing my article of last week and speaking about the devil working through people, I wanted to clarify exactly what I meant by that. Many people’s lives have been ruined by accusations that they are in league with the devil and I want to make sure that what I am saying is utterly clear. (Obviously I am not in league with the devil – in case that point needs to be made explicitly!)
Let me first of all explain why it first occurred to me to write this article. I come from a Christian cultural background where people talk a lot about the supernatural world, demonic activity, voodoo, witches and wizards. To me as a Christian and an African there is absolutely no question that various occultic practices genuinely take place, that there are people who are in league with the devil, and worship Satan etc. These practices are totally incompatible with worshipping God. I do not believe that there is anything good about witchcraft, and I continue to be amazed that Western Christians (including some westernised African Christians, to my double amazement), speak highly of the Harry Potter series and even try to draw parallels between a narrative promoting witchcraft and the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, I will not be looking in detail at the demonic world, the occultic world or Harry Potter today.
The point about these, however, is that just as in mediaeval times, many Christians use accusations of witchcraft to attack their enemies – even their Christian enemies – I especially mean in Nigerian Christian circles. (It might also happen elsewhere, but I am not aware of this). As Christians we are all supposed to love one another, but something that quickly becomes apparent in any Christian circles is that there is often a gaping chasm between what we are supposed to do, and what actually happens. And the point about an accusation of witchcraft is that it is almost impossible to defend yourself – because it all happens in the spiritual realm, not the physical world of tangible evidence. All you can do is protest your innocence. So you kind of have to pray that no-one will make such an accusation against you, and if someone does make such an accusation then it becomes a case of your word against theirs – and – it can all get quite messy.
I was thinking a little about all this, and I was reflecting that while yes, witchcraft is real and there are people who “operate in the spiritual” – as Nigerian Christians say, the Bible does not seem to focus on this nearly as much as (Nigerian Christian) people do. The Bible seems to hammer on other things. And this is what led me to writing this post.
If you were to ask a typical Nigerian Christian how the devil typically works through people, they would talk about witchcraft and the occultic world and satanic practices. However the Bible’s answer is different. So then, this is how to really make yourself a powerful instrument in the hands of the devil.
The devil can work through anyone
Firstly, I want to emphasise that the devil can work through absolutely anyone alive on earth. This includes people who are totally committed to the work of Christ and pray sincerely, and are passionate for the pursuit of Christ – that is people just like me, and including me myself! So you don’t have to be in any way involved in dark practices.
How to work for the devil?
It is so simple, all we have to do is sin! Whether it is for a split second, a half hour, a day, a week, a year or a whole lifetime, every time we sin we further the purposes of the devil, and we hinder the purposes of God. The Bible teaches us that the devil comes to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10v10). Every time we tell a tiny little lie, every time we express a little hatred, every time we cheat a little we are contributing to the brokenness of this world, or we are helping the devil accomplish his tasks of stealing, killing and destruction. This is one of my favourite analogies for almost anything: the streets, parks, lakes and other waterways of the United Kingdom have increasingly become defaced with all manner of litter to an extent which is disgusting, frankly. And how does it happen? Everyone comes and drops just something small – a crisp packet, a chocolate wrapper, a soft drinks can. Before long, the cumulative effect of everyone’s actions means that everywhere is covered with litter. And is this not just exactly what we see? Things have really gotten worse over the last couple of decades, and I have personally witnessed people discard anything and everything straight out onto the road. So we all contribute in little ways, but the mass effect is dreadful for all of us.If we would all start clearing up a little, here and there, then over time the problem of our litter would be reduced. However, in your experience does that tend to happen? It is much easier to casually toss something away than to stop to pick up your own litter, much less anyone else’s.
So to apply this analogy to the Christian life, sinning is like discarding litter, whereas acting in love, forgiving other people’s sin is like picking up other people’s litter (and not dropping any of our own in the first place).
Something that requires little effort when dealing with anyone is to get them to act in their own self-interest, that is, getting them to do what they want to do, what they feel like doing, rather than what is necessarily right. Where we go ahead to do what we want to do, even where that is not right, the Bible calls this “submitting to the desires of our sinful nature”.
If the devil’s aim is figuratively speaking, to spread as much litter as possible, all he has to do is get us to submit to the desires of our sinful nature. So this is why it is so easy for him to get us to lie, to cheat to steal etc all in the sake of our own self-interest. That is, many of us would not necessarily just lie for no reason at all. However, how many of us might have “massaged” details on our CVs (lied) to get better jobs? (Our own self-interest). How many people might have fiddled a few details on their tax return (lie, steal) to keep more money for themselves and out of the clutches of the taxman? (self-interest). How many times do spouses or long-term boy/girlfriends cheat on one another for the sake of their own gratification? If not outright cheating, how about flirtation, a few stolen kisses? In many cases, these are not seen as “big” things. We laugh over them, as we confess to hiring cash-in-hand builders, or taking stationery supplies home from the office. These are the kind of “little things” that as Christians we feel we can safely admit without risk of too much censure – largely because everyone else is admitting to the same things. And yet, little by little they all contribute to the huge problem of sin that costs all of us so much in this world.
In addition to all of these, an even more effective way to be used by the devil awaits. Again, it is as open to Christians as it is to anyone else – and like God, the devil DEFINITELY does not discriminate about who he will use. (And if the devil can use anyone, then I humbly submit that God can even more so use any of His precious people who are made in His image….)
A greatly effective way to be used by the devil is to place something in your heart, give something pre-eminence in your life over God. God’s way is the way of truth, peace, forgiveness, love, humility. When we place something in our hearts above God, it means that we are ultimately willing to sacrifice truth, peace, forgiveness, love, humility and other virtues that God calls us to in pursuit of that thing, whatever it is. Some common things that we as humans tend to place above God are our own pride, greed, sex, money. How often has it been true that people will trample absolutely everything before them in single-minded pursuit of material gain? Sometimes people are willing to sacrifice their own families, other people’s livelihoods, other people’s feelings, lands and resources and precious human life itself – for the sake of their own ease and comfort. It is not as if these people do not realise that what they are doing is wrong. It is not as if they do not realise how much pain (stealing killing destruction) their actions are causing. It is rather that when we do these things, we think that the price is worth paying to satisfy our own desires.
Or how about pride? Someone who elevates their pride above God might act against what is true, might deliberately lie, to preserve their own status, or how they are viewed. They might disobey God’s commands and refuse to love others, just to show that they are better than other people. Instead of sharing with people who have nothing, they might prefer to keep everything to themselves, thinking that they deserve it because they are special.
Or how about sex? How easily the pursuit of physical gratification at all costs can lead to the breaking of hearts, lives or families! This can be true when you are talking about extra-marital adultery, consensual pre-marital sex, rape (in whichever context) – or when you are talking about the international trafficking of people for the supposed “sex trade”.
It is okay to like money, or sex, or to be happy about your position in life. However, placing anything above God means that your pursuit of money, or sex, or pride is no longer subject to God’s laws, whether they are specifically about these things, or more general. So you would disobey God’s laws to get what you want. On the other hand, putting God first means that God’s laws come first, no matter how much you would want or desire money or fame or sex or whatever else it might be.
I believe that when you place anything above God, you effectively make yourself a ballistic missile in the hands of the devil. The devil can reliably release you to cause pain and devastation in the pursuit of your goal anywhere you go. When you give yourself over completely to these things you don’t even make an effort to try to listen to the claims of humility, etc etc – you just pursue your godless goal blindly, with sheer disregard for everything else.
So do you want to make yourself a powerful instrument in the hands of the devil? Stop looking at witchcraft and instead just give yourself over to sin. I believe that this is why the Bible hammers so much more on sin than it does on witchcraft. I believe this is why the Bible tells us endlessly that we are to have no other gods before God. It is when you meet Christians who are completely given over to pride, or greed, or lust, or other such things, (hatred? vindictiveness? envy?) that you realise that the devil can happily work through Christians as easily as he works through anyone else.
If on other hand, you would prefer to make yourself a powerful instrument in the hands of God, then you have to give yourself over to God, and the pursuit of God’s truth. You have to make up your mind to submit yourself to God’s laws, always, and proactively go out to love other people and start working to heal the world, rather than add to the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that already exists within it.