The Devil Inside
One of the things I love about my pastor — and by extension, our current congregation — is the freedom we have when it comes to the ‘mysteries’ in the Bible. While there are certain core principles and ideas which are absolute and immutable, there are also opinions on articles of faith which are not, as he likes to refer to them, ‘deal-breakers.’
Items within the ‘mysteries’ category allow for debate and discussion; so long as they are built upon a scriptural foundation, a variety of possibilities are entertained. It is within these concepts where spiritual exploration is possible, something I think is necessary not only for the vitality of a faith, but also for a vibrant relationship with the Father.
One of those items — hotly debated within our own fellowship of assemblies — is the notion of ‘Satan.’ While many rigidly adhere to the age-old teachings that this is a powerful, independent persona, there are others giving voice to the idea that what the Bible describes as ‘Satan’ is something very different from that; at this point I fall into the latter camp, and am perfectly comfortable with it.
Simply put, I do not think that ‘Satan’ — an individual, malevolent entity — exists as it has been portrayed. Translated from Hebrew as ‘Adversary,’ my studies suggest that when ‘Satan’ is mentioned in the scriptures it is referring to what lives inside each of us, giving tangibility to the fight between the desires of physical existence versus the quest for spiritual connectivity with God.
Here’s but one example, to illustrate my point. During the 40 days of temptation which Jesus faced, it is said that He was offered all the kingdoms of the world by ‘Satan’ — to rule at His whim — in exchange for worship [Matthew 4: 8-10; Luke 4: 5-8]. While each gospel encapsulates this temptation within three verses, the overall message has filled volumes of commentaries.
Judging from everything I have read about el Diablo, I have difficulty ascribing THAT kind of power to ‘him’… or any individual entity, excepting God Himself; while Luke’s description includes the phrase [quoted from the KJV], “… for that [power] is delivered unto me [the Adversary]; and to whomsoever I will I give it,” I maintain that this is in reference to an existing power within God’s son. For me personally, it just doesn’t track any other way.
All of this brings us back to Jesus. If He was fighting an Adversary which lived within, facing off against the temptation for the treasures of the physical world as he understood them, then said-temptation becomes disturbing real. As mentioned above, Jesus most certainly had that power inside of Himself, and — most importantly — He knew it.
Being the son of God, all He had to do was reach out and GRAB said-power — it was His for the taking, not because of an offer from an exterior ‘devil’ but because of the power which resided within. The fact he turned away from this temptation, and EVERY temptation, suddenly becomes mind-boggling.
It’s one thing to resist temptation from a absolute foe which is obviously out to harm you, but to resist things which you KNOW can be yours just because of who you are? Incredible. Then, when you consider what lived within Jesus — the actual power of God Himself — and His being able to resist THAT kind of temptation? It magnifies Jesus’ greatness even further.
If true, the lesson seems to be that “Satan” only has the power which we grant it, which further enhances the notion of ‘the fight’ occurring inside each of us; when considered in this light, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” takes on new meaning, doesn’t it?
Indeed, the notion that Jesus would drop to a knee for anyone other than His own Father (as detailed in the example above) — much less a known enemy — is absurd, at least in my mind. To be honest, I cannot imagine that being even a viable consideration.
However, the temptation to worship the pleasure of physical existence — with the kind of power He could yield — is a very real, very palpable temptation; there is no greater enemy than our own carnal whims, after all, because they are embedded within each of us. This is one of the central themes throughout the Bible… and one we face inside ourselves, every single day.