Scripture Reference: 1 Samuel 15:23, Mark 5, Acts 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 10:18-22, Ephesians 4:27, 1 John 3:12
Ten Doors That Let The Serpent InDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | November 12, 1995
Selected highlights from this sermon
ThoughSatan was defeated at the cross of Christ, he continues to assault humanity. Temptation, oppression, and demonic invasion have been used to bring people under his control. He also exerts his will in our lives through many different doors including: rebellion, anger, hatred, fear, guilt, drugs, false, religions, occultism, despair, and sexual immorality.
We can overcome his attacks. With a constant prayerfulness and a sustained confidence in Christ’s triumph, we can move from darkness to light while putting on the full armor of God and completely submitting to God.
Here in Chicago there was a con artist who worked like this. He came to a client and said, “I want to give you a good deal. Give me a few hundred dollars and after you’ve done that I will return all the money with a great increase.” And so the con artist did that. And the client bought the deal and gave him some money, and weeks later, the con artist returned with the money, and with a generous increase.
A few weeks later the con artist showed up again (this broker). He said, “If you give me some money we’ll be able to invest it and it will end up being very very valuable again. And that’s exactly what happened.
This went on for a time until the amount that the client kept giving him was greater and greater until finally the client gave him $50,000, and that was the last time they met.
There are some things that scam operators will tell you. Number one, never lose sight of your long-term goal. Your long-term goal is the enslavement of your client. Don’t ever lose sight of it. Number two, do all that you can to develop confidence so that the client will not fear you. If possible, do not arouse suspicion. Use attractive bait, but keep the hook well-hidden. Show what you have to show, but hide what you have to hide. Have as many lures as there are interests among the masses. Different strokes for different folks!
You know, the Bible teaches that we have guardian angels. I believe that. I believe Matthew 18 where Jesus Christ talks about little children having angels. He says, “Their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” And because Satan is the great imitator, it is my suspicion, though I can’t prove it biblically, that what he really does is he imitates what God does, and he assigns to us specific spirits whose sole responsibility it is to observe us, to watch us, to look at us to know what is happening, to try to make maximum use of any opportunity they might have to cause trouble and to cause us to stumble into sin.
What I’d like to do, first of all, today is to give you some of the stages of demonic control, some of the stages of demonic enslavement. First of all, at the lowest level we could say there is temptation. Temptation means that we are presented with an opportunity to sin because remember, as we learned last time, it is always Satan’s desire to make sin look good to us.
One day there was a couple eating together, and they were having breakfast—probably some bagels and maybe even some cream cheese. And they said to one another, “You know, we would like to appear spiritual because there are people in the church who are selling their property, and they are giving it to the church, and they are considered to be heroes. Let’s sell our property, and give the money to the church, too, but we will withhold some of the price, and give the impression that we’re giving it all because we want to be spiritual too.” Kind of a half lie! Well, you know the story in Acts 5. They did it, and later on God sent Peter to them and said these words: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?”
Listen carefully. What Satan does is he puts ideas into our minds that we think are our own. We think that they are our own because, you see, if we thought for a moment that they came from Satan we’d be terrified. Can you imagine Ananias and Sapphira having breakfast, eating their bagel, and a demonic spirit appearing and saying, “Sell your land and give part of it to the church, but hold part of it back”? They’d have been terrified. But he didn’t do that. He put it in their minds, and they weren’t afraid of that idea because they thought it was wholly and totally theirs.
Now, I believe that as Christians Satan cannot read our thoughts. There is protection. But it does appear as if he can drop ideas into our minds. And certainly in the case of the unsaved, he has more opportunity. In fact, Jesus said that when the Word of God is preached, it is snatched out of the mind. And when the disciples asked for an explanation, do you remember what He said? He said, “It is Satan that comes and snatches the Word of God out of their minds.” People who have difficulty memorizing Scripture can memorize some of the Cub's batting averages. Admittedly the numbers may not be that high, but they can memorize some of those things, but one thing they cannot do they cannot remember Scripture, because there’s the battle of the mind. Satan comes and snatches it out of the mind. The level of temptation!
There’s a second level, and that is–we could call it by a number of different names—obsession, oppression, a stronghold. A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference, and a couple made an appointment to see me. A fine Christian couple! They reared some really nice Christian kids, and now they have a grandchild who is one year old. And this dear Christian woman, who never had a problem like this with her own children, now can’t be left alone with the baby, because she has these horrid thoughts, gruesome thoughts of wanting to kill the child with a knife. Just awful thoughts! A Christian woman!
Do you think that those are her thoughts, this grandmother who loves her little baby so dearly? Are these really her thoughts as a woman? No, those thoughts are injected by Satan, and yet when you try to analyze it, you wish that you could always find out the exact reason and the cause. And I asked all of the right questions and was never really able to uncover the real source. Satan takes advantage of all kinds of things. He is not a gentleman at all, and therefore does not play by the rules. But you see, once you begin to identify, and you begin to say, “You know, these thoughts are really not my thoughts; they are injected by an evil spirit,” you can deal with it much more easily once you understand its source. Obsessions!
I’ve had people tell me that they are in church singing a song and suddenly some of the most blasphemous thoughts that one could even imagine just foist themselves upon the mind. And some of you who have various addictions, you know the word obsession and its meaning.
Then third, of course, you have actual invasion. This is demonic invasion, or demonic possession, as it is called in the New Testament. There are many examples of that. Perhaps the clearest is found in Mark 5, and though we will not turn to it, it is a passage that you should read and think about. Here’s a man who is among the tombs, and he is there and he is cutting himself. He is trying to commit suicide. He is in despair. He lives alone. He doesn’t want people around him. He wants to live in isolation. And Jesus Christ cast legions of spirits from him and set him free. Interestingly, remember the spirit said, “Let us go into something; let us go into the pigs,” and Jesus allowed them go into the pigs. And does it not say that 3,000 of them ran and drowned themselves in the lake?
You say, “Well, what happened to those demonic spirits after the pigs drowned?” Well, then they were then free to roam, trying to figure out where to go next, getting instructions where they could do more mischief. And some of them might have even returned to the graveyard where the man was. Maybe he had a familiar spirit. That expression is used in the Old Testament when it comes to séances. If you want to talk to the dead, you talk to a witch who has a familiar spirit. The word familiar means a spirit that was especially familiar with the person who has died. And therefore it can take on those characteristics.
It knows his history, and that’s why there is so much deception when it comes to talking with the dead. Nobody talks with the dead. They talk to spirits, who impersonate the dead, and a familiar spirit is one who knew the dead, and sometimes those spirits may return to the point of death, and therefore you have haunted houses.
Just the other day my daughter was telling us that there is someone in her school that says, “Well, you know, there’s this woman who died many, many years ago and she still lives in our house. And she shows up but she is a kind, nice woman.”
When I was in Banff, Alberta, a number of years ago, and saw these stairs. The hotel I was in was haunted. They said there were two rooms and the Calgary Herald had just run an article on that topic. And as we were in this dining room area where a young woman was giving us a tour of this beautiful hotel in Banff, I noticed that there was a stairwell (a marble staircase) with potted plants on every one of the stairs. You couldn’t go up the staircase so I asked. And she said, “Well, a young woman was married here many years ago. She fell down the stairs on her wedding day, hit her head and died here, and her spirit lives here.” And she said, “You can talk to the people who work here in the restaurant in the bottom of the hotel, and they will tell you that they frequently see her. She comes back.”
So I said to this young woman, “I would like to give you a biblical interpretation of this data.” And I said, “First of all, I want you to know that this young lady who died here has never been back. She’s gone to wherever, but it is not she who returns. Number two, there are familiar spirits (evil spirits, demons actually, who perhaps even possessed her) and they sometimes hover in the area of where the person lived.” And I’ll never forget… I mean she was a little surprised at this explanation. She looked at me a little bit incredulously and said, “I don’t like the word demon. I prefer the word ghost.” You know, like Casper, the friendly ghost.
I want you to know today, just for the sake of the record, that there are no friendly ghosts. There are no friendly ghosts. Ghosts there are. Haunted houses there are. Poltergeists! You read the stories of dishes breaking. Some of you have had experiences like that. There are demons in the world and they are very real.
One story from a couple that used to attend Moody Church many years ago! One of the people in the family who happened to be, I believe, this lady’s father, a very ungodly man who clearly was into the occult and demonism, died. Now what happens to those spirits when a man who is inhabited by spirits dies? Well, they need to go somewhere else. They began to attack the family. And to make a very long and interesting story short, they actually had to put to death in their family both the cat and the dog who went absolutely berserk after the death, because evidently spirits came and even inhabited those animals. And that sometimes happens, as proven in Mark 5.
What we’d like to do today… You’ll notice the sermon topic is, I believe, Ten Doors that Let the Serpent In. And that could be misinterpreted, so let me give you a couple of explanations. Number one, when we go through these ten doors I don’t want to give the impression that if you open this door you are possessed. I simply mean that this is the way in which Satan gets a foothold. This is the way in which he gets an obsession. This is one of the doorways that he uses to harass us. Secondly, some of these doorways are sins. That shouldn’t surprise you. Sins of the flesh! I’ve already told you that sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the work of Satan and the work of the flesh because they converge because Satan exploits the works of the flesh, and uses them for his own ends. And therefore we cannot always make that clear differentiation, and we don’t have to because the cure, whether the sin is of the flesh or whether or not it is exploited by Satan, is usually the same.
And then finally I want you to be aware of the fact, as we go through here, that we are not speaking, as I mentioned, about possession as much as we are talking about strongholds. Because of the length of time that we have together, I’m going to basically list these. Today’s message is not an expository message. It is a topical message, and for each one I will give you a brief explanation, and almost always a verse of Scripture to go along with it that you can jot down to think about and to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.
Number one, rebellion! Rebellion! It says in 1 Samuel 15:23: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” And stubbornness is like rebellion and idolatry. It’s like occultism. Now, the context is, of course, Saul who disobeyed God. And those are the words of Samuel:
“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” The first sin ever committed was a sin of pride. It was a sin of rebellion when Lucifer said, “I will be like the Most High.”
Now, I know that everyone who is listening to this message today thinks to himself or herself, “That’s not mean,” because you’re not rebellious. You wouldn’t be listening to this message if you were rebellious, you think. Actually, it just means being disobedient. Whenever we are disobedient, whenever we know what God wants us to do, and we don’t do it, and we, in effect, say, “God, I know that you want A, B, C and D, but I’m going to do X, Y and Z,” that is rebellion against God. And beware lest there be in you and in me a root of rebellion that does not submit to the Lordship of Christ, and the sovereignty of God. Rebellion! Rebellion!
But you and I recognize extreme forms, don’t we? We know what it is like to have ministered to families and to people where there may be children that are very rebellious and just antagonistic to any form of authority. Watch it! Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and Satan will use it in your life.
Secondly, there is anger. Ephesians 4:27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” When Rebecca and I were first married we said that we would never go to bed angry. And I think we kept that rule, although Rebecca, wasn’t it true that one summer we didn’t go to bed for two weeks? (laughter) Wasn’t that the case? I’m just joking. Just joking!
Now, listen to me very carefully. There are some people who become violently angry at the smallest irritation. They almost become different persons. They love to smash. They love to break. They like to put a fist through a wall. I was eating with a young couple one time and I noticed calendars in the oddest places. (laughter) I asked for an explanation, and they told me. Anger! Anger! Watch it! Watch it, those of you who just blow up, and you just become so violently angry you could just do some very, very terrible things in your fit of anger. You could become a murderer in your anger. The Bible says, “Do not give the devil a topos. Don’t give him an opportunity. Don’t give him a place. That’s what the word topos means—don’t give him a place to have his foot, so to speak.
Thirdly, and related to this is hatred and murder. Remember that early on in this series of messages I quoted 1 John 3:12 regarding Cain and Abel. “And why did Cain kill Abel?” John asks. Well, the answer is because he was of that evil one. Hatred! And what did he have to be angry about? Well, just the fact that he was offering sacrifices that God was not receiving, and God was receiving Abel’s sacrifice! But God said to him, “Look, all that you need to do is to offer your sacrifice, like your brother is offering it and then you will also be accounted righteous.” But he became angry, inflamed with anger. “I want to just kill him. Just the satisfaction of seeing him dead is worth any consequence.” That’s what you think before you do it. After you do it, you have second thoughts. Watch that!
Number four, fear. I’m thinking of particularly here irrational fears—irrational fear and paranoia such as the case of Saul that we spoke about briefly last time. Also, in Luke 22:31, I find this very interesting where Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” And Peter ends up being unable to witness for Christ, and unable to identify himself with Jesus Christ because he is terrorized. He’s afraid that if Jesus Christ goes to the cross, he may have to go to the cross. And therefore, when a servant girl comes and says, “Don’t you belong to His company?” he denies it three times and ends up swearing. He ends up lying. Notice that the devil was involved. Irrational fears! Sometimes even rational ones, whether it is in Saul’s case this tremendous overwhelming sense of jealousy, the feeling that everybody is against you, the interpretation of events that make you fearful beyond all rationality and comprehension.
Number five is guilt. It’s guilt. Zechariah 3:1-7! Though the Bible says that there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, Satan always wants to have you doubt God’s ability to thoroughly cleanse you and forgive you. And that’s why you’ve heard me comment earlier about the number of letters that we receive here about the unpardonable sin. Somebody’s always thinking that he has committed a sin that is too great for God to forgive. And then you have Christians who have confessed their sins, and yet they are awash with guilt, because they don’t know the difference between cleansing and forgiveness. Like the woman who said to me, “I had an abortion, and though I have confessed the sin a thousand times, I still feel foul from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.” That dear woman was forgiven because the promise is there, but she was not cleansed.
He forgives us and He cleanses us. He gives us a brand new conscience. He washes us. Subjectively speaking He washes us clean so that we can look into the eyes of our Heavenly Father, and know that we have been spoken clean. Oh, how the devil hates that. He wants you to use guilt for another reason that I shall point out in just a few moments.
Number six! You have such things as drugs. Here we could put alcoholism, but I’m thinking also of psychedelic drugs—the whole eastern meditation. Now the Bible doesn’t say anything about drugs per se because psychedelic drugs at least were not known in those days. But what you find is people who want to empty their minds. They want to empty their minds and think about nothing. Now we’re supposed to meditate in the law of God day and night, but that means we have content. People who want to empty their minds find that spirits come in.
When my wife and I were on that cruise to Alaska, and the lecture was being given regarding some of the Native American customs of having the experience of enlightenment, they talked about the need to empty the mind, and how drugs could help bring that about. Just ask Adolf Hitler, though you won’t have a chance to, but if you were to, he would tell you that.
Number seven, false religions! Now, folks, just remember this. If in any part of the world you are ever visiting as a tourist or as a missionary, and you come to a temple, or you come to a statue or a shrine, and people are bowing down before it, always remember they are worshipping demons. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:20 that the pagans who worship idols, Paul says, worship the demons.
If we had time we could prove that from the Old Testament. God said that wherever there is idolatry, behind the idolatry is demons. It’s interesting that in the Psalms it clarifies that. It says that our forefathers who worshipped idols were worshippers of demons. And don’t be fooled because somebody says, “Well they are not actually worshipping this idol of stone or wood—they are just venerating it.” Don’t be fooled by that. That is also idolatry, and behind it is demonic worship. “Thou shall worship the Lord thy God only. Thou shall not bow down. Thou shall not serve any representation of God because God is a jealous God.”
I have visited a few countries of the world. I was in the Far East many years ago, and there were some people with us and they wanted to go into this pagan temple just as tourists to look around. And I suppose that’s okay. I don’t judge those who do it, but I said, “I’m not going in” because I knew that that pagan temple where ancestors were worshipped was a habitation of demonic spirits. And I thought it best to respectfully decline going inside.
Number eight, all forms of occultism, and this includes so many things that we can’t even begin to mention them all. But listen to what God thinks of some of these things. Let me read it to you, and then I’ll give you the passage I am reading. “When you enter the land which the Lord God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination,” (You know, even divining or witching for water… When we were out on the farm years ago as kids we used to witch for water, and I don’t know whether or not it worked. We didn’t have the equipment to dig the well where the twig went down. Some of you know that experience. Well, there was another man who was doing it and he began to talk to the twig. And would you believe that that thing was ripped out of his hands, and according to his testimony, flew at least 30 feet from him. You’re not supposed to be divining for water, witching for water. A witch? The Bible has a few things to say about those things.) or anyone who practices witchcraft or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, one who casts a spell, or a medium or a spiritist or one who calls up the dead.” Listen to this: “For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable things, the Lord your God will drive them out before you.”
God will judge you. They are detestable. Anybody who reads a horoscope is rebelling against God. They are shaking their fist in God’s face and saying, “I’m not looking to You to guide me. I am looking to the stars.” That is detestable in the sight of God.
And who can even begin to mention all of the New Age cures for ailments? My parents (in Saskatchewan, Canada—some of you can’t even pronounce Saskatchewan, in an area that is so flat and so sparsely populated that you would be convinced that sin hasn’t even come up that far north, and if it has you would think that it would be frozen solid) walked into a health food store because they wanted some health foods and some (I want to say) pills, but the correct word would be vitamins. And would you believe that the woman behind the counter wanted to know their birthdates so that she could look at her occult chart to know which ones would be best for them. Occultism! And the New Age movement is ancient occultism with a friendly American face. There are as many ways to be involved in the occult almost as there are interest among Americans.
Number nine, despair and hopelessness! Absolute despair! Listen to me very carefully now. And you can turn here sometime when you have time to reread Mark 5. You talk about a hopeless situation—a man among the tombs that wants to be isolated and is thinking of committing suicide, and cutting himself and mutilating his body. Despair and hopelessness!
If you believe a lie of the devil, it becomes truth for you. Will you remember that? If you believe the devil’s lie, it becomes truth for you. That is to say, you think that it is the truth. The devil likes to bring hopelessness. My situation is hopeless. I’m not able to find any way out. There is no way out. God has abandoned his responsibilities in the world. The promises of God can no longer be believed. I am utterly hopeless. Where is the escape hatch? Let me die. Let me die! Hopelessness and despair! That’s not of God.
Number ten, sexual impurity! You know, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:5 that husbands and wives, for example, should maintain their proper sexual relationship “lest Satan tempt you,” it says. And what do we have to say today about eroticism, about heightened sexual desires, about those who find themselves with an insatiable lust and desire for pornography and all forms of sexual aberrations?
I was at a conference yesterday, and a young pastor was there, and just telling me what had been uncovered in his small church (frightening) among some people who would appear to be some mighty fine Christians—all of those things that lie hidden, and sexual deviations of various sorts and kinds, and motivated by a heightened euphoria, which drives relentlessly and causes people to take all kinds of gambles to fulfill their lusts and desires.
Let me now give you five truths that we must hang on to. Five truths! Number one: I know that this is very busy, but you must be convinced, absolutely convinced, of Christ’s triumph over all this mess. You say, “Well, that’s not hard to believe because it says in Ephesians that He has ascended above all principalities and every name that is named. Obviously Christ is triumphant.” Well, I know that that is obvious, but does that not breed hope? If Christ is triumphant and if we have been placed in Him, as the Bible says, are we not also seated at the right hand of God the Father? Does that not give hope to those of you who are writhing in despair, believing that you have to be locked into the battle and never win?
Second, and this is a toughie now, but just hang on! You must move from darkness into light, and that is the place where most people stumble. You see, when the Bible says, and Jesus is the one who said it in John 3, that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, and he says anybody who does evil deeds hates the light, neither comes to the light lest his deeds should be exposed, what is the darkness about which Jesus Christ speaks? What is darkness? Darkness is secrecy. Darkness is that shame that binds people—those chains.
I know I’ve used the illustration before of the man who saw me in Washington, D.C., when I was there many years ago and said, “I have to talk to you.” And it was raining and we shared an umbrella as we walked around the block. Four hundred dollars a month on pornography! And he said, “I’m not giving you my name. Nobody knows about this. You are flying back to Chicago. You are the only man in the world who knows what I am doing.” And he wouldn’t give me his name.
I tell you that there is not much hope for a person like that no matter how often he spills his heart before God. And what happens is that there in the darkness, there in the secrecy, there in the hidden places that are so skillfully covered, that is the devil’s workshop.
I’m not saying that you should share it publicly. I’m not saying that you should willy nilly tell whomever. But I believe that God has somebody for everyone with whom you can share your personal struggles, who will be trustworthy and pray with you that this problem, this addiction, brought to the light, will be exposed. And then to those who walk in the light the devil’s power to shame and to hide will be broken.
Number three! You know what you have to do when you really are counseling people and they’ve got chronic problems, and I’m not saying that this works all the time, but here’s a fundamental question. Absolutely fundamental that I have to answer and you have to answer! When you and I struggle with our sins and when we lose those battles with the devil, here is a question for you. Are you willing (Am I willing) to do whatever (And that’s the word to underline), to do whatever is necessary to be free? That’s the question, and that’s why point number three is we must move from partial to complete submission.
You see, it’s like an alcoholic. He’s not willing to do everything or whatever to be free unless he has bottomed out, unless he is so desperate that finally he says, “Okay now, whatever,” and finally when he says that, there’s hope. Now we are getting to hope. So, you see, what we need to do is to move to complete submission.
Number four is, of course, the armor of God. And in this series I will not even be able to comment on it because it is there in Ephesians and it just begs to be preached. But let me point out what putting on the armor of God means. Yes, we accept the breastplate of our righteousness. We put on the shoes shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. We put on the helmet of salvation which is the Word of God. We take the sword of the spirit. But then also it says, “Above all…’ If you happen to forget everything and, you know, you are running out the door and you have to say, “Hey, I forget everything,” it says, “Above all, taking the shield of faith…” Faith in the fundamental belief that we are really up against a defeated foe who has told us, “You can never win.” And we take it from him rather than from God. And that’s why often we are defeated.
And in ancient times when they went forward, you know, with the shield of faith, I am told that those shields were beveled. That is, they were linked together, so that when an army marched you basically had a whole wall that was marching in unison to conquer. That’s what we are as a body of Jesus Christ by the way. I have to put my shield into your shield. They have to be linked together. Yours has to be linked to mine, and that’s the way in which we are going to win this. We can’t win this alone. I can’t win it alone. What we need is one another—the strength of the body, the ability of the body to intercede, the ability of the body to pray, the ability of the body to come to those in the deepest hour of need.
And then number five, it says, “Praying at all times in the Spirit.” And of course, we can do a lot of different things, but we have to pray in the Spirit, with the Spirit’s promises, believing that God is with us, trusting and just praying and praying and praying. And we’ve seen here at The Moody Church God do some wonderful things during prayer meetings—prayer meetings in which there has been faith and trust and belief and commitment.
This story comes to us from England. There was a man who was doing a great feat in a circus, and the large crowd of thousands watched as a serpent came and wrapped itself around the man. And then suddenly in the stillness they could hear bones cracking as the man was crushed by that serpent that he thought he had trained. He had gotten that serpent when it was only about two feet long. And he had trained and worked with it, and he thought he had it trained. At that time, he could have crushed it, but he just let the serpent go, and the serpent crushed him. He developed confidence in it.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we ask in Jesus’ name that You will come and deliver your people. Would you come, Father? We have prayed for this. May Your blessed Holy Spirit be here to speak a word of deliverance, for the truth shall set you free. Oh Father, we come needy sinners, having been bloodied and bruised by the enemy. Some come hopelessly to receive hope. Others come helplessly. We all come hopelessly.
We pray today, Father, that Your people would experience the freedom of the Spirit, the breaking of the strongholds of sin. We thank You that You do break those cords. We thank You, Father, for the instances where we have almost heard chains fall off of people. And we ask that in these moments You will bring to us the guidance and the leadership of your Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.