Satan, Demons, Ghosts and Spiritual Warfare

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Every Halloween season I get a couple of the same questions, “Do you believe in ghosts?” “Can demons possess a Christian?” and “Where did Satan come from?” So, let’s go ahead and tackle all of those at once.

I don’t believe in ghosts. Why?

The Bible teaches that prior to the death and resurrection of Christ all those who died went to Hades. This is the realm of the dead the Hebrews often referred to as Sheol. Hades was divided into two areas—one for the righteous (paradise) and one for the unrighteous (i.e., those who did not worship the one true God and Him alone). This is what Jesus is referring to in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This is also why Jesus tells one of the thieves on the cross that “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Why did God send the dead to Hades? Because before Jesus shed His blood for the people of God and gave them His earned righteousness, no one could enter into the throne room of Heaven.

Today, if a person dies outside the grace of Christ, he or she still goes to Hades to await final judgment but those who have been saved by faith in Jesus go to heaven (2 Cor. 5:8). The saved return with Christ at His second coming, receive glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21) and live with Him in the new heavens and new earth.

So, because I believe that souls either go to Heaven or Hades, I don’t believe they are roaming around old houses or graveyards. Thus, I don’t believe in ghosts.

Yes, I know Samuel’s ghost is raised in the Old Testament but he is now in heaven. I know God can and does make exceptions such as Samuel in order to deliver a message to Saul but I don’t see that God is in the haunted house business!

What about Satan and demons?

The Bible teaches that Satan was an angle who was very beautiful and became so vain that he longed for more honor and glory than was his due (Ezekiel 28:15-19). Satan rebelled against the will of God and persuaded a number of fellow angels to follow him (Rev. 12). These fallen angels were cast out of heaven and onto the earth where they too await final judgment. Contrary to South Park, Satan and demons do not reign in hell but will be cast into it for eternity (Rev. 20). Yet, Satan and his army of demons are still under God’s control as we see in the Book of Job and in the exorcisms performed by Christ in the Gospels.

I do not believe demons can possess Christians for they have the Holy Spirit. However, as theologian Wayne Grudem has argued, we are all demonically influenced in the sense that Satan’s followers can play upon the evil temptation that are within our own hearts.

I have only seen demon possession once, as a kid and it does appear to be rare in the west because Satan would defeat his own purposes by doing so in an area beset with secular presuppositions. However, the way to deal with demons is to pray, fast (Matt. 17:21) and to quote Scripture as Jesus did during His temptations. Let the sovereign God do His work.

One last thing, why I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in “paranormal activity” but I believe it is the work of demons. The Bible teaches that demons often “masquerade as creatures of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) such as spirits that foretell the future or give visions of departed ones or whatever. Thus, I warn all to stay away from fortune tellers, ouija boards, seances, etc.

One of the lessons of the Book of Job is that one may come under demonic attack but a person of God only has to deal with God for He has absolute power over the darkness.

Celebrating Inerrancy and Church History

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Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Yet, it was not 40 years ago that evangelicals discovered the inerrant nature of God’s Word. As Robert Pruess and John Girstner pointed out in “Inerrancy” (Zondervan, 1980), it is a view held by the church fathers, medieval Christian leaders and the reformers. In fact, you don’t have a serious challenge to the inerrancy of the Bible until Johan Semler in the 18th century (that would be nearly 1700 years after the penning of the New Testament).

It is not that influential Christian scholars missed “problems” for a millennia and a half. Many of these great thinkers were well versed in Greek and read the texts with great care.

As Preuss points out, the church fathers constantly refer to the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture. Preuss goes on to note that the idea of an errant Word was “unthinkable.”

Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is heretical to say that any falsehood whatsoever is contained either in the gospels or in any canonical Scripture.” Luther and Calvin followed. The latter referred to the Bible as “the sure and infallible record,” “the inerring standard,” “Free from every stain or defect,” etc.

This high view of God’s Word continued with Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, Billy Graham and on an on. So, when folks like Brian Zahnd or Rachel Held Evans (neither of which are scholars) ridicule those who hold to inerrancy, they are rejecting not only the clear teachings of Scripture but also more than a millennia and a half of teachings by the very people God chose to guide His church.

Those who followed Semler and modern skepticism have implied again and again that they are attempting to rescue the faith in light of contemporary attitudes. Yet, the end result has been nothing short of a train wreck. Mainline denominations who followed this path have been dying for decades.

When I read and listen to those who deny inerrancy I always find that they hold certain passages to be inspired and they just so happen to agree with their preconceived notions (funny how that happens). Moreover, I am reminded of an evangelical European scholar who, while debating a “progressive” who was arguing for an innovative interpretation of the atonement responded, “Before I turn my back on Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley, Warfield, Machen, John Stott, Billy Graham, etc….I would be VERY hesitant!” Amen.

New Research That Indicts Pastors


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New research from Lifeway and Ligonier Ministries says a lot about the state of the church in North America and, unfortunately, it’s not great! Here are some of the results:

-53% believe people are “essentially good by nature”, which counters the clear teaching of Romans 3:10-12.

-51% hold that other religions may lead to salvation.

-69% believe “small sins” do not deserve eternal punishment.

-58% affirm that worshipping alone (i.e., listening to K-Love and watching a preacher on TV) can replace congregational worship.

-44% hold the Bible’s teachings on sex to be “outdated.”

It’s not all bad news, 91% of evangelicals believe in justification by faith alone and 97% affirm the Trinity although many are confused about the doctrine. For example, 78% responded they agree that Jesus is the greater “created being.” Also, faith among millennials is up from 14% to 18% but the majority of them do not believe the Bible is literally true, the majority do not hold that homosexual behavior is a sin and 46% assert that “gender is a choice.”

The summary of the study concludes: “The 2018 State of Theology survey reveals deep confusion about the Bible’s teaching, not only among Americans as a whole, but also among evangelicals. There is something very wrong when a majority of Americans can give the correct answers to basic Bible questions and at the same time say that their beliefs are purely a matter of personal opinion.

These results show the urgent need for sound biblical teaching and the bold preaching of the gospel. Millions of people do not understand the holiness of God, the reality of sin, and the one way of salvation in Jesus Christ. There is much work to be done, but it is our hope that these findings will serve the church in its efforts to reach more people with the faithful proclamation of the truth of God’s Word.”

The fault for these shocking results are not just an increasing pagan culture but falls at the feet of preachers like myself. In general, the church over the last thirty years has slid from Biblical preaching to self-help seminars. Ministers need to wake up and realize they are called to be like Timothy and Titus not like Tony Robbins.

The church at large need to return to expository preaching with the pastor digging in to the Word of God every day (not buying sermon outlines online). They need to know and preach “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9) and anticipate questions by training themselves in apologetics (1 Peter 3:15). Pastors need to remember that we will not be judged by the size of our church nor by our social media presence but by our handling of the Word of God (James 3:1).

Celebrating Inerrancy--Yes, Human Language Can Convey Divine Truth


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It became fashionable in the modern era to claim language is insufficient to convey any truth especially that within the sphere of the divine. If those ironically using language to argue that language is inadequate for truth claims then Scripture cannot do anything but weakly point to truth rather than contain truth itself. Yet, as J.I. Packer and Gordon R. Lewis contend in “Inerrancy” (1980), the Bible itself counters such claims.

Packer points out that Jesus and the Apostles clearly quote Scripture as clear and authoritative. Moreover, such a skeptical approach, while trying to defend the transcendence of God, end up greatly limiting God as if the Tower of Babel caused as much confusion among the Trinity as it did among creation. With all due respect, it is arrogant to claim to have a better hermeneutic than Jesus and His chosen Apostles!

Furthermore, the modern objection to sound doctrine often takes the form of, “that’s just your interpretation.” Yet, such a defensive statement ignores two thousand years of orthodox discussion about the Bible by Godly men and women as well as the transparent nature of so many Biblical claims. For example, when Jesus states “Jesus stated, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6), is this really a vague claim? Try to tell a police officer that when running a Stop sign that it is “open to interpretation.”

It is true (and Scripture affirms) that we cannot know God fully but, as Packer often notes, we can still know God truly through His Word and His Spirit. If you stop and think this coheres with our day-to-day existence. I cannot everything to know about my wife, my son or my friend Jim, but is it true that I cannot know many true things about them they have conveyed in ordinary language? Of course!

The error proponents of the inadequacy of language make is rooted in a fundamental problem of balancing God’s transcendence/immanence. It was a mistake most famously made by the influential theologian Karl Barth. Such a question is beyond the scope of this short blog post but for those interested please check out the excellent article on the subject by John Frame HERE. For now, it is enough to quote Frame on Barth, “To Barth, God’s transcendence implies that he cannot be clearly revealed to men because Barth’s thinking ran on good Kantian lines…(but) Scripture itself never deduces from God’s transcendence the inadequacy and fallibility of all verbal revelation. Quite the contrary: in Scripture, verbal revelation is to be obeyed without question, because of the divine transcendence…”.

Similarly, human authorship of Scripture has also claimed that it is incapable of giving us completely accurate information about God, ourselves and the way to live. Yet, as Gordon Lewis notes, Scripture itself does not claim to be purely human but the product of God working through human beings (2 Tim. 3:16). It is a modern oddity for professing Christians to dismiss the very claims of one of the pillars of their faith, limit the divine and claim a better interpretive scheme than Christ Himself.

Final Thoughts on Race, Social Justice & The Social Justice Statement

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Sorry for the delay in posting but I’ve been swamped. This past weekend, I preached on Biblical Justice and Social Justice. It was one of the most emotionally draining sermons I’ve ever delivered and I even had to cut it off for time’s sake. Here is the long and short of it that also reflects my current thinking on the current debate over social justice.

First of all, I appreciate the Statement on Social Justice drafted and signed by godly men like Dr. John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Dr. James White, Dr. Voddie Baucham, etc. While I have concluded that I will not sign the Statement, I am disturbed at many of the reactions I have seen on social media. I have seen many attack or impugn the motives of these men and I find that to be repugnant.

I regularly listen to The Dividing Line and Grace To You and read the many books written by these men and they have been a great blessing. I have learned much from them and will continue to do so.

Also, these men have legitimate concerns. As I raised during my sermon this past weekend, approaches to societal ills such as “critical race theory” (or CRTS) should be rejected by evangelical Christians. CRTS divides society in such a way as to instruct all minorities to distrust all Caucasians and even shun any who do not fit the theory’s originators of those who are “truly black” or “truly Hispanic,” etc.

I admire that many of these Christian leaders have boldly spoken out on defending the life of the unborn and the Biblical definition of marriage. I think it is also right for all evangelical pastors to also speak regularly on racial injustice as they do on these other important issues.

I began my sermon preaching on God’s commands as to justice. As I posted earlier, the Word of God is very clear that we are not to entertain allegations against anyone without two or three witnesses. I believe that evidence such as recordings from dash board cameras would count. Sole allegations, however, should never be considered regardless if it is in a court of law or the court of public opinion. As such, we, as Christians, should withhold judgment if and until evidence comes to light whether it concerns a Supreme Court nominee or a police officer accused of racism or a shooting victim alleged to have acted aggressively.

I then shifted to speak about race and justice. I prepared by listening to Dr. MacArthur’s sermon series, Dr. White’s remarks on his fine show as well as reading and watching various presentations by pastor Thabiti Anyabwilie, Dr. Eric Mason and Lecrae. I also sat down with several members of my congregation who are black.

I was pleased to hear that racial tensions have greatly diminished over the decades in our own little corner of the world. I was, however, disgusted to hear stories about mistreatment by police officers. I was also disturbed to learn that many minority members of my church faced a lot of criticism from their African-American friends for not attending a “black church.” Thus, Dr. White is correct that racism can in fact work both ways.

My friends expressed concern that while they understood why white evangelical pastors have preached on behalf of marriage and the unborn, they were distressed that we had not spoken as passionately about issues such as the slaughter of young black men in places like Chicago, the high rate of incarceration of minorities in America and shooting such as that of Treyvon Martin.

Of course, a number of white evangelical leaders have addressed these issues but there is a difference between acknowledging a problem and preaching on an issue with true passion. I apologized for personally being guilty of making such a mistake.

I agree with Dr. White’s exegesis of texts such as Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 that the key to true racial reconciliation is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Critics have pointed out that the “just preach the Gospel” approach is historically problematic. For example, men like Gen. Stonewall Jackson were known for their Christian piety yet defended the evil institution of slavery during the American Civil War. What do we make of this?

I argued that, as best I could ascertain, the reason Christians could profess Christ and yet engage in such puzzling behavior is the same reason pastors can study the Word and minister to people then go home and watch inappropriate material online or a mother could pray over her children at night and then affirm an ungodly relationship among friends the next day. The problem is sin and when our inherit sinful nature is coupled with cultural acceptance the result is toxic.

So, we must preach the Gospel clearly and boldly. Yet, we must seek to establish diverse congregations so that our study, teaching and preaching are challenged by those with very different experiences from our own.

Before entering corporate defense law and then working for eight years for a Christian non-profit law firm, I served as a prosecutor in upstate New York. I worked closely with police officers. The overwhelming majority of those men and women were dedicated, under paid, fair and heroic servants. However, I knew of a handful who were racist. They had no business possessing a badge. If, tragically, such a person takes the life of a person of color AND the evidence eventually shows either a horrible mistake or malice, pastors, white or otherwise, should speak out. If the shooting, however, was justified then I beg my brothers and sisters of color to hear the Word of the Lord and wait for evidence that God Himself has stated is admissible. In sum, I pray that the segregation of Jesus’ church would end, that pastors of all colors will regularly speak out on injustice but always keep the Gospel (2 Cor. 5:21) at the core. I pray that God’s people lead the way in healing our fractured society by embracing God’s design for justice. I pray that all of those in Jesus Christ remember that we have one enemy, which is Satan and his fellow demons and that, as best I know, they do not have a skin color.