Renew Your Mind (ministry)

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2, KJV)

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Mon, 10 Aug 2009

Does the devil need to get God's permission to attack a believer?

Have you ever heard someone say that the devil can't attack a believer (in Jesus Christ) unless he gets God's permission, as in the story of Job? And then there's sort of the underlying premise or statement, that IF you've been so attacked and God 'allowed it' -- then there isn't much you can do because that would go against God's will. Or maybe God allowed it to teach you to lean on Him. Right? I've heard it a few times from various believers, and even find it on a 'discernment' web site, yet even here some discernment is needed. Here's the quote :

This idea of the Devil claiming his wife is problematic in that believers are under the sovereign care of Jesus, it is he who has the keys of death and hell. No believer will die unless God himself allows it. The book of Job gives us insight on how God may allow the devil to afflict us but it is only by his permission, the Devil is not running around doing whatever he wants, his power and ability has to answer to God first.

I also found something similar in a short article by Greg Laurie, where he says, speaking of the devil:

He can do nothing in the life of the Christian without God's permission. While God may allow demonic attacks in your life, you are still under God's divine protection. In the book of Job, for instance, we read of the angels coming to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan being among them. God said to him, "From where do you come?" (Job 1:7). Satan answered, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the Lord essentially began bragging on Job, who was "a blameless and upright man" (v. 8). Satan, in response, pointed out the hedge of protection God had placed around Job's household and everything he owned. We see by this passage that in spite of his power and wicked agenda, the devil must ask permission when it comes to the life of the child of God, because God has placed a divine hedge of protection around His own.

Well, ok. This sounds plausible and not unreasonable at first glance. But, let us reason and see if these things be true.  Since this sort of teaching appears to be somewhat prevalent, and since it does touch on issues that directly affect the issue of spiritual warfare, I wanted to sort it out myself, and write about what I found.

The question of a Hedge of Protection

One of the premises is that as believers, we have a 'hedge of protection' around us, as Job had. Since there were no scripture references given to bolster this argument, as far as it may be applicable to Christians, I can't directly respond to this or any of the assertions in that regard. The only New Testament passage I may be able to liken to a 'hedge of protection', off the top of my head, would be the sheepfold that Jesus mentions in John chapter 10. He says that He is the door to the sheepfold, and that His sheep may go in and out and find pasture. However, He also adds that there may be some that try to enter in another way (sneaking over the fence perhaps?) and they would be thieves and robbers. In addition, we are told in 1 Peter 5:8, that we are to be sober and vigilant [watchful, alert],  since the devil walks as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The Apostle Peter is writing to believers, and there isn't a mention of a 'hedge', and why would he tell us to be on the look-out if we had this 'hedge of protection'? On the other hand, knowing about the grace of God, given through faith in Jesus can also certainly act as a 'hedge' of sorts. In addition, there are also psalms (17:8, 36:7, 61:4, 63:7, 91:4) that mention having refuge under the shadow of His wings. So to me, this argument is a mixed bag, one could make a case either way.

The question of God's sovereignty

Another premise to this teaching is that God and/or Jesus is in sovereign control over our lives. I certainly don't want to question that God is sovereign or supreme. I know there are some who believe that everything that happens is according to God's sovereign will and control. Actually, the word 'sovereign' now raises red flags for me, as it is frequently tied into the notion of 'predestination'.That is a theological battle that I'm not going to attempt to resolve. Since the premise that I'm addressing essentially takes that belief, I'm going to rest my response on a few scripture passages that point, to me, to the idea that we do have some measure of choice and will of our own, and that has some bearing on the issue of whether attacks of the devil only happen if God 'allows' it, and are therefore (sometimes with an unstated assumption?) part of His will.

The first part of my response to the premise of God's sovereignty in our lives, is that according to Scripture (His Word), He operates in our lives under Covenant.   We could speculate endlessly about what God could or might do or allow, but if it disagrees with His Word AND if we're believers, then Scripture is (or should be) our final authority. Right? From reading the Bible, there are many places where God tells his people that IF they do some thing, THEN he will do or not do certain things. I just did a search in e-Sword, for the term 'if ye' (King James Version) for both the Old and New Testament -- and it came up with 151 verses! Here's a very small sample of some 'if ye' verses, though not all of the 151 verses are in the 'if-then' category:

And if ye shall despise my statutes,or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: (Lev 26:15 KJVA)
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. (Deu 11:13-14 KJVA)
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (Gal 5:18 KJVA)
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (Joh 15:7 KJVA)

So clearly, where the word 'if' is used, it's a conditional sort of statement, there are conditions to be met. In addition, there are passages of scripture that talk about having a choice, or choosing one thing or another; for instance: I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: (Deu 30:19 KJVA)

Also, in the Old Testament, there's the example of the priest Eli and his 2 sons: Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. (1Sa 2:12) Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1Sa 2:30) [The Lord speaking by Samuel, begun in verse 3:11] And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. (1Sa 3:13 ESV) This is saying that God punished the house of Eli, even breaking an earlier promise (v2:30), because Eli did not restrain his sons. Clearly there was some responsibility resting on Eli in this case. Another example in the New Testament is found in John 15:22-25 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.' (ESV) Meaning, that although the law / prophesy had to be fulfilled, they still had a choice and are guilty of their sin of unbelief.

Then I did another search for the word 'covenant' and there are 273 verses in the Old and New Testaments! Obviously I'll have to narrow down that search. Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of the new covenant -- which is what we have in Jesus, and the verses from Jeremiah are repeated in Hebrews 8:8-12, as follows:
For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, (9) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. (10) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (11) And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (12) For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (ESV)

Jesus speaks of establishing the new covenant in Mat 26:28, Mar 14:24 and Luk 22:20. As far as I can tell, since I'm not an expert on the topic, a covenant is similar in some respects to what we in the U.S. would call a 'last will and testament' (hence the terms 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament'); and the terms of the will take effect after the person who drew up the will is deceased. Of course, in our case Jesus died and was resurrected, but it's through the covenant that we get to inherit the terms of his 'will', so to speak. So in relation to that part of the premise (namely the 'sovereign control' question), I think there's an element of free-will and choice along with the sovereignty / hand of God. It doesn't appear to me to be an 'either/or' thing, it's both.

The question of God giving the devil permission to attack a Christian

To me, the biggest question is: Does the devil need to get God's permission to attack a believer, or does God give such permission? This is the one I really wrestled with, and then after studying several scriptures the light came on. First of all, the book of Job is in the Old Testament, before the cross. I think we can all agree on that. When I did a search in the New Testament under 'devil' and 'satan' -- that's where I found most of my answer.

First of all, we find in 1Jn 3:8b what is one of my favorite verses of scripture: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (ESV) and that When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Col 2:15 NASB) Which begs the question, why would God re-arm the devil when Jesus disarmed him? Finally, this is the passage of scripture that really settled the question for me: And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2Co 6:16 KJVA) Oh yeah, this made me remember, and it finally sunk in past my thinking, that I am a temple of the living God! Why would God give the devil permission to attack His temple? Then I remembered the encounter Saul (Paul) had with Jesus on the road to Damascus:
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.(4) And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"(5) And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.(Act 9:3-5 ESV)
You see, he told Saul that he was persecuting Him, meaning Jesus! We are part of Him, His body! In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (Joh 14:20 ESV) So if I am in Him, and He is in me -- then it would be tantamount to the devil asking God for permission to attack Jesus. Wouldn't that be a ludicrous suggestion? When you look at it from that perspective it is to me, anyway.

But the devil is crafty, and if he can get you to believe his lies, then he's got you where he wants you. Here's a passage of scripture that also seems to speak to the issue:
But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. (2Th 3:3 ESV) This is saying, that the Lord will guard you against the evil one, not that He'll allow the evil one to attack you. In the verses prior to this Paul writes: Finally, brothers, pray for us, ... and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. (2Th 3:1a,2 ESV) He is asking for prayer, to be delivered from wicked and evil men; with absolutely no mention of a 'hedge of protection' that God may 'allow' to be removed.

And just to put the icing on the cake, there is only 1 verse of scripture in the New Testament that mentions Job:
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:11 ESV) The KJV uses the word 'patience' instead of 'steadfastness'. And just to state the obvious, if Job were an example to the New Testament believer of God giving the devil permission to attack us, wouldn't that have been the place to say so? Yet, all it says is that Job was patient / steadfast, as we should likewise be patient and steadfast. While I was looking into these questions, I did find some interesting things in the book of Job that appear to me to point to Jesus, but this article is already pretty long, so that may become part of another article.

In Conclusion

This teaching very much ties into a personal example: When I was about 10 or 11, I attended a Christian summer camp for a week, which my parents heard about from one of the neighbors. They had an afternoon chapel service, and during one of those services I went up for the altar call to accept Jesus as my savior. When I got home I told my step-mother, and her response was: 'How can you believe in a God that would allow me to treat you the way I do?' (i.e. being abusive, verbally and physically). I didn't know enough then to be able to counter such satanic logic, and then spent many years claiming to be an agnostic. There was no automatic 'hedge of protection', as the abuse continued for a few more years. I had been deceived into believing that it was God who 'allowed' her behavior, if there even was a God in the first place, not taking into account that she played a part through her own beliefs and actions.

I think one reason I wrestled with this so much is because I end up contradicting some people whom I greatly respect. However, I decided to 'let the peace of Christ rule (govern) my heart', and I've been greatly edified in the process. I think this particular belief or teaching benefits the devil more than God -- I can almost imagine him or one of his dark cohorts whispering in someone's ear 'hey, don't go running to God about that trouble, he gave me permission to attack you! Look at Job!'.

In the end, if you come across a statement that appears on the surface to be scriptural, but that leads to feeling despair or without hope, confused or having been forsaken; then I submit it's not of God. Of course, you can use EFT for some of these feelings; but more importantly, look to the Lord for His Spirit to lead you into the truth of the matter through prayer and His Word.

Also, I ran across this article that also addresses the issue with a similar conclusion.

Thank you for visiting

Welcome to the new home of the Renew Your Mind ministry.
The content on this site is currently (Sept. 2012) the same as the content I had on the EFT for Spiritual Warfare site. I decided to change to a new domain so it would be less confusing if or when I decide to expand my focus beyond using EFT.

Be assured however, that I still use EFT, and that I will always have a Christian perspective. It's more that I've discovered that our diet (food) choices can sometimes have quite an impact on our emotions and general well-being, so I may also want to incorporate some of that into my articles and coaching.

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