I’ve been preaching through Ephesians 6:10-20 at our church, and thus I spent a couple of weeks talking about the devil and demons specifically addressing who they are and how they came to be the way they are.
If I understand the Bible well, the way Satan fell is that he became impressed with himself and came to exalt his own glory over that of the God who endowed him with glory. He became committed to his own splendor and this caused him to sin in a variety of ways and eventually to be thrown out of heaven (see Ez 28:12-19). Then, probably, the way the demons fell is that Satan deceived or otherwise persuaded them to join in his self-exaltation, and in so doing they fell under great condemnation and were also expelled from heaven (see Rev 12:1-12).
This got to me thinking the other day about our propensity to “worship” other human beings. We spend millions of dollars buying books and magazines, going to movies and watching television, searching the internet and doing whatever else we must to follow our favorites and know their every move. Even many followers of Christ are caught up in this cultural trap, but this way of life is more dangerous and even Satanic than we might imagine.
The whole “star-culture” is built on the fact that self-exalting beings have a passion to persuade others to join in their own self-exaltation. It’s not enough for us to be great; we also have to persuade others to notice how great we are, and somehow our joy or sense of fulfillment is not complete until they do. But this is precisely what caused Satan and the demons—angelic beings God created for his own glory—to be cast out of his presence forever.
Now, think about how amazingly traitorous and even demonic it is when we do this within the church of God—when Christian leaders exalt themselves under the guise of exalting Christ, and when everyday Christians follow those leaders like a pack of groupies. This is utterly Satanic and demonic, and I hope that upon thinking it over you’ll see it for what it is. It is a trick of the enemy to lure our eyes off of Christ and onto people who have been gifted by Christ.
I’ll admit that this can be difficult because God does give leaders to his people, and he does mean for them to respect and even venerate those leaders to some extent (see 1 Tim 5:17 & Heb 13:7-17). But at some point, proper veneration turns into inappropriate admiration and both the leader and follower run the risk of falling into the temptation of the devil.
This train of thought causes me to want to preach to my own soul: pay attention! Be warned! Don’t fall into the condemnation of the devil by exalting yourself, or of the demons by inappropriately exalting others beside God! I say this because the temptation to self-exaltation is at least a minor one for every person who has a public ministry. Every such person has at least a handful of people who tell them how helpful and impactful their ministry is, and with each such complement the soul can begin to be impressed with itself rather than with God. This is why Paul warned against appointing an elder who is young in the faith (1 Tim 3:7).
So be warned, my soul, and do not fall into the condemnation of the devil or the demons. And be warned, every soul who reads this, that you do not fall into that same condemnation.
It seems to me that, as serious as this problem is, the simple solution is to heed the great commandment and love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s to put him first and desire him most and pursue him always. It’s to be satisfied with and in him so that our soul doesn’t find itself craving for lesser glories. This is easier said than done, I know, but it is true nonetheless.