The Devil, Delusion, & Discernment
The good news: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
The bad news: Satan hates you and has a destructive plan for your life.
Although not explicitly stated in Scripture, I believe Satan has already made meticulous plans for the downfall of believers. All that is left is for us to step into his carefully laid trap. Unfortunately, the trap is hidden—it blends in with our aptitudes, surroundings, and friends—and it’s disguised as the path to fulfillment. Satan does not come to us announcing who he is; he comes to us and tries to put ideas into our minds that we think are our own. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, thought that their decision to lie about the sale price of the land was their own. Peter corrected that misconception by this astounding question, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3). They thought this deception was their own idea when it was actually a suggestion of Satan.
Satan’s goal is to make sin look good. He entices us to do something while making us think that the idea was ours. If we don’t fear these ideas but act on them, our ministry, our testimony, and our family could be destroyed. Satan’s traps may look reasonable and even exciting, but they conceal a deadly hook.
In his arsenal of destructive plans for us, one of Satan’s greatest desires is to give us a counterfeit religious experience to make us think we have encountered God when, in point of fact, we have connected with Satan himself. This is why Satan gives his apostles the power to do miracles and mouth biblical platitudes. Remember, counterfeits look like the real thing.
Years ago, I sat next to a woman on a plane who told me she could prove reincarnation. Even as a child she had visions of a house in Vermont, a state she had never even visited. Later in life she visited the location and discovered that her early visions were accurate. She interpreted this to mean that she had lived there in a previous century in another life. In her mind, this was proof of “the transmigration of souls” or reincarnation.
I explained that there is no such thing as a “transmigration of souls,” but there is such a thing as “the transmigration of demons.” I told her that her information had come to her from evil spirits.
She became indignant, “I have nothing to do with evil spirits, I receive only those who come to me clothed in light!”
You can be sure I pointed out 2 Corinthians 11:14–15 where Paul says Satan and his false apostles come disguising themselves as angels of light. Satan’s greatest delight is when, like Eve, we mistake his voice for the voice of God. Deception is his greatest weapon.
Fake Miracles, Haunted Houses, & Telling the Future: A Biblical Look at the Enemy of Our Souls
Pastor Lutzer answers questions about Satan and demons to help you better understand the wiles of the devil—and our authority and security in Christ.
Q: How close can Satan come in duplicating the miracles found in the Bible?
A: Well, consider the story of Moses. After performing each miracle, the magicians of Egypt were able to recreate many of the same signs, until they got to a certain point where they could no longer duplicate the miracles of God.
I believe that Satan can even perform acts of divine healing, but these miracles bring with them an evil presence. I know a man who was miraculously healed in a “healing meeting.” He said it all felt very strange. Then he rebuked Satan and his disability returned. Telling the difference between the work of God and the work of the devil can be difficult. We must be discerning.
More could be said, but I hope that helps.
Q: Are there haunted houses?
A: Yes. I have unknowingly stayed in two different hotels, only later learning they were famous because they were haunted. The “spirits” that inhabit these places are not the spirits of human beings. They are demonic spirits who knew the people who lived there or perhaps died there. In the Bible, they are spoken of as “familiar spirits” (KJV), that is, spirits who were familiar with the persons they now represent. Some translations simply refer to them as mediums, but the idea is that these are spirits that belong to a family.
Q: Can Satan predict the future?
A: Only to some extent. He is not omniscient like God; he knows what people are planning, but he doesn’t know if they will succeed. He may know that a man is planning to assassinate the President of the United States on November 22, 1963, but he doesn’t know infallibly that it will happen. The man’s gun might jam; he might miss or be picked up by the police ahead of time, etc.
(By the way, I was in my first year at Dallas Seminary when the assassination took place and many fortune tellers came forth to say that they had predicted the event. I have often said with more than a bit of sarcasm that it is much easier to predict an event after it happens rather than before!)
Q: When people go to a séance, are they speaking to a dead relative or a friend?
A: Definitely not. Again, they are speaking to a demonic “familiar spirit” who knew their friend or relative.
Q: How much power does Satan actually have?
A: As much power as God allows him to have and not one whit more. Satan is totally subject to God’s authority moment by moment. He had to go to God to get permission to afflict Job. In Revelation, we see an unidentified angel, acting alone but on God’s behalf, seize the dragon (Satan) and throw him into the bottomless pit and seal it (Revelation 20:1–2). Satan is no match for God!
Q: Can you ever believe the devil or one of his demons?
A: Only when he is speaking to Jesus and therefore is compelled to speak truth (Mark 1:24). At other times believe him only when he tells you he is lying.