Demonic and Evil
Our church, Trinity Fellowship Church, just finished a sermon series through the book of James. James presses the church to make sure their theological convictions aren’t merely stuck in their brains, but flow to their hearts and tongues. What we believe should flow from our minds to our heart and a fruit of that is a life that practices what we indeed preach.
As we made our way through this book, one particular sermon on James 3:13-18 from our pastor and my friend, Richie Buckler, particularly rocked my world. James 3:14-15 (ESV) says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
Richie called attention to the truth that what James calls demonic is not what we typically think of as demonic. Oftentimes when we think of demonic activity, we think of what we see in some of the horror movies leading up to Halloween. Exorcisms and serial killers. That’s our first inclination when we hear demonic activity. Those indeed are demonic. But James highlights that bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in our hearts are demonic as well.
Warning for the Church
Our churches, thankfully, are not likely to encounter demonic activity that warrants content for a true crime podcast. However, we are likely to battle jealousy in our own hearts. Churches split because of this demonic activity. That’s the danger that James’ wants his readers to be aware of. That’s the warning for us as Christians.
This is the reason James spends such a large portion of his letter addressing the tongue. In verse 11 of chapter 4, James says, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” Again, what James calls evil is not our first idea of evil. Yet, slander, gossip, and critical speech are destructive to the life of any church.
Strong words that James writes down, but the dangers are real. A church can quickly be destroyed with the seeds of jealousy and the fruit of an untamed tongue. These were the very weapons of Satan used in the garden against Eve. I am uncertain of what kind of snake Satan utilized for his mission to disrupt humanity’s peace with God. I am not sure if this particular snake had venomous fangs or constricting muscles. Regardless, the serpent did not utilize power to overcome Eve. Satan instead used words. He used truth sprinkled with lies to sow seeds of doubt in Eve’s heart.
What divided mankind from their creator is what divides our own churches. Demonic and evil are the words used by James to describe such a heart. How can we say we believe what we believe when we act the way that we act? What do we do to battle jealousy, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, and a critical spirit?
Battle jealousy with contentment. Adam and Eve were given a garden full of fruit bearing trees for them to enjoy and be satisfied. The serpent reminded them of the one tree they were prohibited from eating. He added that God was withholding from them. The reality was that God had given them so much. He had created them and sustained them. They were not lacking. Yet, they looked at what they didn’t have as opposed to what they did have and presumed God was withholding from them. We do the same thing. We see what others have. We see that others don’t struggle with the things that we struggle with. We want what we don’t have and we forget the mercies and graces that God has extended to us in Christ. Do we meditate on what we don’t have? Do we celebrate the successes of others?
Battle selfish ambition with the Great Commission. Christians, you have so much more in common with other Christians in your church than you have uncommon with them. One of the greatest commonalities that we have is the Great Commission. There are those outside of the church that need the Gospel. If we are to be ambitious, let us be ambitious about the Kingdom of Jesus. A kingdom that calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. (Matthew 16:24) Our King laid down His life for His enemies. Are our desires more important than the desires of our brothers and sisters? And do our desires reflect our King’s desires?
Battle slander with truth. Speak truthfully of one another. Slander is telling a lie about another. The burden of proof on the truthfulness of our speech is on us alone. We do not get a free pass for sharing a lie about someone even if we thought it was true. We are accountable for our words. Do we speak truthfully about one another?
Battle gossip with wisdom. One pastor, Matt Mitchell, writes this definition of gossip, “The sin of gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” And every child raised in the south has probably heard their momma say, “If ya ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Does the truth of a brother or sister need to be shared? Are we seeking to restore or destroy?
Battle a critical heart with grace. For the Christian, we can boast in the truth that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) All our faults, all our sins have been taken care of on the cross of Christ. Our God forgives us and we stand before Him blameless because of Christ. We have been covered with the righteousness of Christ. Christians are a forgiven group of people that should be quick to forgive people. A critical heart is quick to judge and slow to show mercy. Love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) Are we extending the same mercy we want to receive from others?
In our churches, we should fight for unity and truth as we work for the proclamation of the Gospel to the lost in our communities. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)