With the unrelenting pressures of an ungodly society constantly seeking to diminish our spiritual strength, the words of the apostle Paul are as relevant for us today as they were in the first century when he wrote, “Neither give place to the devil” (Eph 4:27). The idea that “the devil made me do it” is fact, in the sense that sin results when we “give place to the devil.” The apostle Peter warns us, “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Pet 5:8).
The night before His death, the Lord Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). Most of us can see that same influence is working on us, as Paul expressed it. “I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present” (Rom 7:21). That is the devil at work. He is tempting those of us who want to do good to, instead, do evil.
We live in the real world, full of temptations and trials. “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). If we are facing many kinds of temptations, what can we do? James answers. “Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). And, the Christian’s constant battle is described this way by the apostle Paul. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 cor 10:4-5). Thus, we are told to “Fight the good fight of the faith…..Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (1 Tim 6:12: Eph 6:11). But, how does the devil even get a place in our lives? Or, how do we give place to (or make room for) the devil in our lives today?
The only way we can please God is to learn what He wants us to do! Ignorance kills. “For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom 10:3). God purposed that “they shall all be taught of God” (John 6:45), for by knowing the truth is freedom from sin possible. “Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). As Paul writes, “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). If Satan can keep us in ignorance, he can keep us for himself.
Satan lied to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:4), and he has been at it ever since. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he Speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof’ (John 8:44). Paul warns us about false teachers and their methods. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor 11: 13-15). If the devil can keep us ignorance of God’s will, he can keep us in his power. False teaching is just one of the means the devil uses to accomplish that.
THROUGH WRONG ATTITUDES
The wise man said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). It was such recognition that “For as he thinketh within himself, so is he” (Prov 23:7), that Jesus stated, “For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, railings” (Matt 15:19). If the heart is full of wrong things, if the attitude is wrong, then the life will be wrong. When “we give place to the devil” in our thoughts, he controls our lives.
The listing of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians shows the importance of controlling our attitudes, for among these works of the flesh are: “fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Gal 5:19-21). And, each of these is, or results from, ATTITUDE. To avoid “giving place to the devil,” let us learn the attitudes God teaches. “Be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself….Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there by any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things (Phil 2:2-3, 4:8). If we fill our hearts with the hate, bitterness and vengeance of the world, our lives will reflect that violence. If we give place to the devil in our thoughts, our lives will also be dominated by him.
After Adam and Eve had sinned, God came to the Garden of Eden asking, “Where art thou?” (Gen 3:9). God was concerned about them as His children. We must also be concerned about our own spiritual states. “Try your own selves, whether ye are in the faith; prove your own selves. . . . Takes heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things: for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee” (2 Cor 13:5; 1 Tim 4;16). Many people today are lost simply because they are not concerned enough to search the Scriptures and determine their spiritual state. The devil wants us to be “lukewarm” (Rev 3:16), unconcerned, indifferent.
Cain asked the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). And, the devil would like each of us to answer with a “NO!” But, we must be concerned about each other, or we “give place to the devil.” Satan resists the application of the command, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself’ (Luke 10:27) and Jesus went on to tell the story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:28-37). If we would “resist the devil” let us live so that, “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying. . . . and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Rom 15:1-2; Heb 10:24). Selfish living is living for Satan. The Lord was concerned for us, and came to this earth to die that we could receive salvation. But, our acceptance of that salvation demands we show the same concerns that brought Him to earth.
In this land of prosperity, it is difficult to focus properly on spiritual values. We tend to measure everything by money or property. And, this is precisely the way the devil wants us to think. We need to learn the lesson again: “We brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out. . . .But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, as drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim 6:7,9).
Christ put it this way, “Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). But, the world all around us seeks for “the food which perisheth” (John 6:27). And, too often Christians give place to the devil by taking the same lure.
The most important question any of us must face with regard to life’s emphasis is that which the Lord asked. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose is own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26, KJV). The important things are not bought with money. The eternal things are the things of real value. And, these eternal things are free and available to all.
If Satan can keep us looking at this life, we will forget to look to the source of our strength. “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is. . . . Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume. and where thieves break through and steal. . . . .while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal” (Col 3:1; Matt 6:19; 2 Cor. 4:18). By focusing our lives on the material, we “give place to the devil.”
What courage was displayed by Peter when he stepped over the side of the boat and began to walk on water toward Jesus! But, then he saw the waves and by fear he began to sink. “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt 14:31). It was fear that kept the children of Israel from entering into the promised land of Canaan. When the twelve spies returned from investigating the land, their report was negative. “But the men that went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who came of the Nephilim: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Num 13:31-33). Their fear kept them from seeing what God could do, and instead focused only on what the enemy could do. It made them feel small and afraid. So, we are told, “And with whom was he displeased forty years? was it not with them that sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that were disobedient? And we see that they not able to enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:17-19). And, fear remains one for the most effective tools that the devil has. We are to “walk by faith” (2 Cor 5:7) and we are to “live by faith” (Rom 1:17). If Satan can replace faith with fear, he has us.
The confidence of the Christian and the reason for it is plainly revealed. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. . . . .I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me. . . .What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?. . . . . All things are possible to him that believeth” (Matt 28:20; Phil 4:13; Rom 8:31; Mark 9:23). The Christian is to live confidently, with the assurance that Christ always cares and strengthens. Even as the apostle Paul was facing persecution and imminent death simply for preaching about Christ, he could confidently say, “For which cause I suffer also these things: yet I am not ashamed; for I know him whom I had believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Time
when Paul preached to Agrippa, the king replied, “And Agrippa said unto Paul, With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that Whether with little or with much, not thou only, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am” (Acts 26:28-29). Agrippa stubbornly refused to become a Christian. Too many today still resist the gospel. Many, like King Agrippa have heard countless sermons and have been taught God’s will, but stubbornly refuse to obey it, thereby they “give place to the devil” when they stubbornly resist the plain message of salvation in Christ.
If we do not “give place to the devil,” then our confidence extends beyond the grave. Death can have no terror for one who trusts in the risen Lord! Thus did the apostle Paul write, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . .henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing” (Phil 1:21; 2 Tim 4:8). When we live for Christ, refusing to make room for the devil, we can have that same confidence,