Illustration of the Devil in the Codex Gigas, ...
Illustration of the Devil in the Codex Gigas, folio 270 recto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Reading: 1 Tim 4:1-16

Subject: Seducing Spirits & Doctrines of Devils

A Little About Words…

Before we can really talk about what this passage in 1 Timothy means, we need to define a couple of key words: “seduce,” “doctrine,” and “devil” (as in lower case d devil, not uppercase THE Devil).

seduce:

1: to persuade to disobedience or disloyalty
2: to lead astray usually by persuasion or false promises
3: to carry out the physical seduction of : entice to sexual intercourse
Important points to consider: 1) something that seduces us is so attractive, that it is as powerful as the sex drive — it is not something that blindsides us; rather, we enter into it willingly; 2) it persuades us to be disobedient or disloyal (in this context, to God); 3) it persuades us by promising something that it can’t deliver, or that is a lie.
Is anyone thinking of that darn apple right about now?
doctrine:
2: something that is taught
3: a principle or position or the body of principles in a system of belief : dogma
4: a principle of law established through past decisions (in this case, God’s)

5: a statement of fundamental government policy (here, God’s kingdom, or theocracy)
6: a military principle or set of strategies (whoa…)
Okay, let’s look at this one:
A doctrine is a foundational principle, meaning it forms the basis for our thoughts and our actions. It is so important, that it is an irrefutable law.
A doctrine is also taught, which means it is acquired or learned, not by a single exposure, but by repeated exposure, over time, and practiced until learned and second nature. We don’t accidentally learn something. It happens slowly, over time and in multiple arenas, in order to perfect our learning. This makes perfect sense when talking about a child learning to read, right? Or a new believer learning about salvation and redemption through the blood of Jesus.
Now think about evil. And look at definition #6. Hmmmm…
At first we might dismiss this definition as not relevant to this use of the word, doctrine. That would be a fatal mistake.
For the enemy knows how to work the system. If he showed up at the door with an evil practice, most people would spot it and run the other way. But he indoctrinates us slowly, because it is a military tactic. We are at war, right?
Wow.
devil:
1: (when capitalized) : the personal supreme spirit of evil often represented in Jewish and Christian belief as the tempter of humankind, the leader of all apostate angels, and the ruler of hell
3: an extremely wicked person : fiend
4: a great evil
5: a person of notable energy, recklessness, and dashing spirit; also : one who is mischievous
7: something very trying or provoking
8: severe criticism or rebuke : hell

9: the difficult, deceptive, or problematic part of something
10:dust devil11: the opposite of Truth : a belief in sin, sickness, and death : evil, error
We know who THE Devil is, but what are devils?
These definitions tell us who: demons, fiends, spirits of great evil (the minions of THE Devil) — those “spirits of the powers of the air” that we wrestle with. They have great energy, are trying (relentless) and provoke us to do things, often to our detriment. These devils have no other job than to deceive, destroy, distract and divide, and, as they need no sleep, do it 24-7. As devils, they are the opposite of everything that is God (that is why the Devil is called Satan, “The Opposer” [2 Thess 2:4]).
Can you see why we are told to “pray without ceasing?” (1 Thess 5:17)
Let’s sum it all up…
Seducing spirits present us with something that looks so good and promising (false doctrine, or doctrine of devils), but is the exact opposite of what we know to God’s will. However, they make such an appealing case (to our flesh, our minds, our “thinking”), that they provoke us to do that which we know to be in error and contrary to God. Sometimes, we are enticed into it slowly (we rationalize it, over time); at others, we are slowly deceived, until we realize, to our horror, how terribly wrong we have been. The case they make is so powerful, that it takes strong tactics to protect and defend ourselves. And they work at it, and work at it, and work at it, until they succeed, because they have no other assignment than to do just this! It is strategic — not random or chaotic — because it is war: between THE Devil, and Our God. And one of the contestants knows he has “but a short time” (1 Thess 2:17). So his clock is ticking.
Okay — everyone with me so far? This set-up is important, because this is not child’s play!

What Does Paul Say are “Doctrines of Devils?”

Now that we know how life-important this matter is, let’s look at the specific list Paul provides to Timothy, to provide to the early Church:

1. Forbidding people to marry (as some churches do with their clergy)
2. Commanding the abstention from eating meat (as some churches do, especially on certain days)
3. Believing in old-wives’ tales (here’s an assignment: look up the origin of saying,”God bless you,” when someone sneezes.)
4. Putting exercise ahead of spiritual well-being (how about those Sunday “soccer travel teams” your kids want to play on?)
5. Treating young people of society with contempt (who should be “bringing up [my] child in the way he should go,” anyway? Hmmm…)
6. Refusing to use our gifts of the Spirit (“I’m not ready yet…”)
7. Disregarding things of the Spirit (“I’m not sure if I prayed today…”)
8. Not “checking” ourselves against God’s Word and the Spirit (“I had to put aside my religion and deal with that woman.”)
9. Being self-centered (“Look what I did!”)
I am betting that many of us experience (myself, included) some of these things, maybe even daily — for we are but dust — but what this passage is telling us is that NONE of these things is a safe habit to adopt. And, it also tells us, that ALL of them are powerfully persuasive places to hang out that, in time, will lead to being in opposition to God. And it warns us to protect ourselves against these things, and know them for what they are: tactics to destroy, deceive, distract and divide us from the One Who truly is the source of life: the Everlasting God.
My friend, Gene, and I, discussed this today. Let’s not confuse commitments we make voluntarily in these areas (we talked specifically about remaining single, or choosing to go on a “Daniel diet” for a period of time, while fasting. These are promises we make to God, not commandments from Him. We are obligated to hold them up, not because of the food or marriage issues involved, but because we have made a vow to God, which He takes seriously, as He, Himself, is a God of truth, and is The One Called Faithful and True (Rev 19:11).

So What Do We Do?

Far be it from me to mess with the splinter in someone else’s eye, when I have a utility pole in my own. But here is what I take away from this, for ME:

  1. Knowledge is Power: I need to know what God says on the matter. If I’m not sure, I use my concordance, and find out. The Word of God is our sword (Eph 6), and with it we can prevail against the enemy.
  2. Prayer: There is a reason Jesus modeled, “Lead us not into temptation… Deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13). Prayer is part of the full armor of God in Ephesians 6.
  3. Watch out for our minds: When I start over-thinking things, I run the risk of rationalizing something that the Word says is sinful. I need to take God’s Word at face value, as a reflex.
  4. Stop doing bad stuff: If I reflect on something that I start to feel is wrong, I need to stop doing it! We all refine our understanding as we mature, so we are going to slowly realize that some things that used to do (certain “hymns” which we, eventually, learn are not scriptural, for example, or celebrating a holiday), we need to stop doing.
  5. Look at the 1st century church: If I want to know how God wanted things done, I need to find out what Jesus (the “Word of God”) said about it in the New Testament, and then read about the lives of the twelve in the Book of Acts.
  6. Stop “ranking” sins in importance: God put together being self-centered with murder as both sinful. It is not for us to decide which sin is greater.  See #3.
  7. Remember: this is war: Nothing is accidental. We are in the end-times, and the enemy is pulling out all his best tactics, and going for the leaders, because time is short.
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