More than thirty years ago Flip Wilson kept America in stitches with his television characters “Reverend Leroy,” the friendly, pompous pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” and “Geraldine Jones,” the sassy African-American woman in a miniskirt.
Whenever Geraldine would impulsively buy a dress—or do anything she shouldn’t—she excused her urge by blurting the line she made famous, “The Devil made me do it!”
America laughed at Geraldine for her obviously lame excuse. In fact, to say, “The Devil made me do it,” became the rage all over the country.
A widespread theology exists that seems to be a strange mix between Reverend Leroy and Geraldine. We find ministries with leaders who point to the Devil and his imps for the sins that plague us. For example, one very radical ministry told a Christian woman who visited them that her problems came from a “legion” of demons within her, and in order to get rid of them, she needed to vomit them out right there in church! Others are told they have a “spirit of divorce,” a “spirit of lust,” “neglect,” or “procrastination.” These spirits are blamed for people’s sins, and the solution to these sins then becomes casting out the spirit causing them. Geraldine would be proud.
Frequently the Bible uses the word “spirit” to refer to a demon, often attaching a descriptive word or phrase such as “unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23), “evil spirit” (Acts 19:12-13), “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), and “deaf and mute spirit” (Mark 9:25). Words such as “unclean” and “evil” describe the nature of the spirit itself. But phrases like “spirit of infirmity” and “deaf and mute spirit” describe the particular affliction the spirits cause.
Unfortunately, many people launch from these verses into theological error when they confuse affliction with transgression, naming a demon after their sin.
The Bible never describes the work of demons in the lives of believers directly in terms of immorality. In other words, to say a believer has a “spirit of lust”—as if his real problem is a demon—assumes something the Bible never teaches. The demonic realm can influence a believer’s morality. However, God’s Word describes demonic influence in a believer’s life not as “possession”—or even “oppression”—but primarily as temptation.
So, how should we respond to temptation? We must know and hold fast to the Word of God. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, the Devil again tried to muddle God’s Word, as he did with the woman in the garden. But Jesus not only knew the Scripture, He clung to it—and sent the Devil packing (Matthew 4:1-11).
The best way to counter temptation’s tug is to choose to do what’s right. James 4:7 gives the strategy, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” A number of other great verses include: Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Mark it down as a fact: We will always struggle with temptation in this life. But God has not left us alone in the struggle. We cannot cast out temptation. But we can resist.
We have a great opportunity to glorify Christ by responding with faithfulness in the face of every evil enticement.
Taken from Wayne Stiles, “The Devil Made Me Do It?” Insights (July 2005): 1-2. Copyright © 2005 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide. Snake photo by Ltshears. “The Temptation of Christ” painting by Ary Scheffer, 1854. Public domain.