Is Satan real?

According to Christian researcher George Barna (, only 27% of all adults and 40% of Christians believe that Satan is real.  This means that people don’t take him seriously.  Satan is depicted as a fallen angel in the Bible.  He is depicted as a real force every place that he appears.  He is not simply a symbol of evil, he is the father of lies and is a master deceiver. 

Satan is the one who deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It was he who tempted Jesus in the desert, even twisting scripture in an attempt to get his way.  And it is Satan who will ultimately be thrown into hell when the Day of Judgment arrives.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us this about Satan: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Satan would like nothing more than for us to disregard his existence.

Why does this make a difference whether Satan is real or symbolic?  Everyone is willing to acknowledge that there is evil in the world today.  The difference is whether it is just something that happens because of sinful people, more or less as a fact of life that we will encounter evil, or if it is an organized force.  The fact that Satan is real means that he is working to destroy all those who follow God. 

Every Christian must deal with three forces that cause them to sin – the world, the flesh, and the devil.  The world is full of sinful people who tell us to be like them.  The flesh is our own sinful nature that we battle with, even with the help of the Holy Spirit.  And Satan whispers deceptions in our ear that we can get away with our sin and that it won’t hurt anyone.

Satan is not the only reason that we sin.  It is in our very nature since the fall of Adam and Eve.  But Satan is real and wants us to fail and wants us to turn our backs on God.  He wants us to live life our own way and forget about worshipping our loving Creator.

Is the Bible accurate?

According to Barna research, ( half of Americans believe that the Bible is accurate in what it teaches.  This number improves to 79% of Christians who believe that the Bible is accurate.  This does not include that the miracles performed in the Bible are literal or that the Bible is 100% historically accurate, only that the principles taught in the Bible are accurate.

One of the best known verses regarding the Bible itself is 2 Timothy 3:16.  “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  Many look at the Bible as being a collection of books written by many diverse men over the span of centuries.  This is absolutely correct.  But what many people don’t recognize is the amazing continuity between the books of the Bible.  The message is the same from book to book because God was behind the writing of it all.  God used the individual personalities and writing styles of many different people but He inspired the message.  Because of this every word can be accepted as not just the opinion of some well intentioned people but as the very words of God penned by those people.

If such a large number of people believe that the Bible is accurate, a bigger question remans – why don’t people live according to Biblical principles if they believe them to be accurate?  It goes back to the idea of absolute standards. People believe that the principles may be correct but they don’t apply to this day and age as they were written to a group of people thousands of years ago. 

Or the answer may be even simpler.  People believe that the Bible is accurate but they haven’t taken the time to read it so they can’t actually live according to what the Bible says. It doesn’t matter how accurate the Bible is if we are unfamiliar with its teachings.

I have a cell phone that can probably do a lot more things than send text messages and make phone calls.  But I have no desire to do anything more with it than that.  I have an instruction book that will tell me how to do everything else with my phone and I trust its accuracy.  But I’ve never read the book.  And I have no desire to make my cell phone do more because I’m happy with it as it is.  This is the way many people treat their Christianity as well.

Many people are happy with their Christian life as it is and don’t bother to read the Bible because they don’t want any more out of their life.  They fear that it will change them and cause them to do things that they don’t want to do.  In truth, knowing the Bible only makes you more fulfilled in your Christian life and will never detract from your life.

People may believe that the Bible is accurate but it takes more than just belief to make a difference.  People need to act on this belief.  If the Bible is accurate in its teachings, then we need a desire to learn its teachings.  Only then will it make an impact on our lives.

Is there absolute truth?

According to George Barna’s research ( 34% of Americans believe in absolute truth that doesn’t change according to circumstances.  Only 46% of Christians believe in absolute truth.  As Christians, the Bible should be our standard.  We hold that God’s Word is the basis of our beliefs.  But if there is no absolute truth than the Bible is just a book of suggestions.  And that is what it has become for many people, even those within the church.

When there is no absolute truth we have no basis to judge right and wrong.  It suddenly becomes a matter of one’s opinion whether an act is acceptable or unacceptable.  “Because my opinion is no more valid than your opinion, then we both must be right and we need to willing to accept all truths.”  This is what happens without an absolute standard to base our morals upon.

The lack of absolute truth has pervaded in the area of homosexuality probably more than any other area.  You constantly hear “who are we to judge?”  That is the battle cry of a lack of absolute truth.  We are not called to judge.  God is the judge and He has already made the pronouncement.  God doesn’t tell us to hate gays but He clearly calls homosexuality unnatural and indecent in Romans 1.  People explain away these passages and remove the authority of God’s Word when they refuse to acknowledge what the Bible says.

Of course this doesn’t just apply to homosexuality.  The lack of absolute truth has touched every moral or social area of our lives.  Abortion is explained away as a woman’s right to choose and no one has the right to make such a decision for a woman.  Stealing is ok because the bankers on Wall St have taken so much money from us that we’re really just taking back what is ours.  The justifications go on and on because there is no longer a black and white standard to guide us.  Anything is acceptable under certain circumstances.

Even within the church we can’t take a stand on issues any longer because of this lack of absolute truth.  We pick and choose the parts of the Bible that we want to accept and ignore the parts that we don’t like.  We explain away these parts by saying that they were written for another culture and aren’t meant to be upheld today. 

When you look around the world today and see the many problems that we have, the lack of absolute truth is the starting point of it all.  We can’t call something wrong if we have no basis for that opinion.  Your opinion is just as valid as mine without a standard to base it upon.  In a democratic society we base many things on the majority but what if the majority is wrong?  Or what happens when the majority shifts its opinion?  What was acceptable yesterday is wrong today and what was once wrong is now ok.  How do we judge without an absolute standard?

Christians must hold the Bible as their highest standard.  We can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible we like and ignore the ones that don’t match our definition of the world.  Instead we must shape our view of the world based upon the standards of the Bible.

What is a Biblical Worldview?

For starters, we should define a worldview.  A worldview is the filter through which we see everything.  It doesn’t have to be sophisticated or formal.  Everyone has one whether they know it or not from the most sophisticated people in a big city to the most uncultured people who do nothing but live for the weekend.  A worldview is what sets our priorities.  Someone who has a worldview that wealth and power are the most important things in life are going to spend most of their time attempting to possess these things.  Someone who holds that drinking beer and having a good time is most important will spend most of their time attempting to do this.

Having a Biblical worldview is not the same as being a Christian.  Ideally all Christians would have a Biblical worldview but the numbers don’t reflect that.  Many people in America consider themselves a Christian.  Depending on the survey anywhere from 75-90% of Americans consider themselves Christian when asked.  When asked about details of their faith, less than half meet the standard of evangelical Christianity however.

For our purposes a Christian is someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and believes that they will go to heaven on the basis that they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior.  Even among this very generic and simple definition of a Christian, few Christians have a Biblical worldview.

So what is a Biblical worldview then?  Researcher George Barna ( has done a lot of research in this area and I will use his definition and research findings.  A Biblical worldview is defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists, believing that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings, believing that Satan is a real being or force and not just symbolic, believing that a person can’t earn their way into heaven through a good life or good deeds, believing that Jesus lived a sinless life, and believing that God is the all knowing, all powerful creator who still rules the universe.

When those standards are applied, only 9% of America has a Biblical worldview – that’s Christian and non-Christian combined.  This is pretty lousy when we consider that so many consider themselves a Christian but not completely shocking because we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to have a Biblical worldview.  What is more shocking is how few have a Biblical worldview who meet the evangelical definition of Christianity.  The numbers only double to 19% of Christians who have a biblical worldview.  While this is certainly troubling, there may be more problems in the future.  Young adults aged 18-23 had an extremely poor showing of a Biblical worldview.  Only 0.5% of this age group can be classified as having a Biblical world view.

So what does the Bible really say and why should we hold to these beliefs?  Here are posts addressing each of these parts of a Christian worldview:

What Should a Christian’s Priorities Be?

Christians have a problem with priorities today like in no other time.  There are so many things that are demanding our attention and many of them are good things.  But none of us have unlimited time.  We are all given the same 24 hours in a day.  The difference comes down to how we choose to spend our time.  Because we can’t do everything we have to make choices and make sacrifices according to what is the most important.

Our priorities should be God, family, and then church in that order.  There’s obviously some need for clarification with these priorities though.  The fact that God should be our biggest priority in our life shouldn’t be a surprise.  In Matthew 22:36-38 Jesus explains our biggest priority.

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

Our first priority is to love God.  There are many things that are entailed in this which includes worshipping God, praying and building a relationship with Him, and following His commands.  There are a lot of Christians who can’t even get this first priority right. 

When you love somebody, it’s pretty easy for others to see it.  You want to spend all of your time with that person and do everything you can to please that person.  If Christians’ love of God were judged based on these criteria, how many of us could be convicted by a jury today?  I’m not talking about do people know you go to church.  I’m talking about do people know that you love God.  Do people see that you want to spend time with God and want to do everything you can to please God?  How many can honestly say that God is first in their life if that is the criteria?

Jesus also establishes the next criteria in our life.  Other people come after our love for God.  In Matthew 19:29 Jesus tells His disciples about the sacrifices they would have to make to follow Him.  “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

Also in Luke 9:61-62 it is written: “Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’  Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”

Family is important but it is not to take precedence over God.  This means that family functions should not pull us away from our worship of God.  God instituted the family as the most important relationship we have on earth but He never intended it to have precedent over Him. 

This is a fine line to walk and it is not easy.  But we must carefully decide what is a need for our family and what is simply a comfort.  We honor God by honoring our family.  When there is a need within the family, it is right to attend to those needs, even if it means missing out on church.  Our worship of God is not limited to the confines of the church and can be done at any place and time.

On the other hand, family should not be an excuse for not following God.  Jesus dealt with people who wanted to follow Him but wanted to wait until it was more convenient for them and their family.  Christianity is often not convenient for the family, particularly as it relates to those who are not Christians.  I know of too many people who don’t come to church on Easter because they have to cook dinner for their family.  My opinion is that if the family can’t come to church with you, let them wait another hour for their meal.  God comes before the conveniences of the family.

Before I go much further on this, let me tie in our third priority.  Our third priority is church.  And this is even more difficult than the tightrope we walk with regard to God and family.  God is obviously a big part of the church.  Attending church honors God.  Being an active participant honors God.  But the church and God are not the same.

The church is an institution.  This is not the way it began but it is what the church is now.  The church is full of programs that are good but are not found in the New Testament.  This doesn’t mean that they are bad, just that they are not a foundational part of the church and our worship of God.  The church is built upon the worship of God, the study of God’s Word, and the fellowship of believers – Acts 2 makes this pretty clear. 

We are always called to worship God.  That is why church attendance is important because corporate worship can’t be replaced with anything else in life.  But worship does not have to take place in a church and as a matter of fact shouldn’t always because worship is not an hour a week thing. 

The individual church should not be held at the same level as God.  The church is a living organism, it grows, changes, and sometimes dies.  People fight for the church – or most often against change in the church – harder than they are willing to fight for their beliefs in God.  People are more likely to become mad at the church because the worship style is becoming contemporary or the service times have changed than they become mad because the church has taken a liberal stance on a theological or social issue. 

Christians should absolutely be devoted to their church or they should find a church that they can be devoted to.  But this devotion should not come at the expense of the needs of their family.  And Christians should not confuse showing up at church with serving God which is a constant thing rather than a once or twice a week occurance.

What does it mean to be born again?

Jesus talks about being born again in John 3, right before the best know verse of the Bible, John 3:16.  Being born again is actually the context of that verse.

John 3:1-8 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Even though the concept of being born again is a biblical one, it is a phrase that I don’t use often because of the confusion surrounding it.  When Jesus first used it, it was actually to cause a bit of confusion and to get people to think about the meaning.  Today the term is used so often that it has lost meaning.  Many people outside of the church are familiar with the term but do not stop to question the meaning because they’ve heard it often and know that it’s a Christian thing.

But the same is true within the church.  We know that a Christian is born again but we don’t stop to ponder the reality of this.  Although the concept was completely new to Nicodemus, I don’t believe that it should be difficult for Christians to grasp.

We are born sinful people.  David writes in Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  As sinful people we are deserving of the punishment for sin.  But Jesus died to take away our sins and bore the punishment for our sins. 

But it doesn’t just stop there.  Picture that you’ve been working outside all day.  You’re sweaty and smelly and covered in dirt.  Odds are that when you come in for the day, you don’t just throw on some new clothes in exchange for your dirty ones.  Instead you jump in the shower and get yourself good and cleaned off.  When you get out, you don’t put your dirty clothes back on and you don’t go back out to your dirty labors.  You’re clean and you intend to stay that way.

This is where the concept of being born again comes into play.  If we were just forgiven, it would be like putting on a new set of clothes without showering.  But instead a transformation takes place.  After that shower you don’t want to do anything dirty because you just got clean.

Being born again means that a transformation has taken place.  We are all born physical beings.  Being born again means to be reborn as a spiritual being.  It means that we should no longer have the desire to do wrong but to do right.  Unfortunately we are still human beings as well and for the time being our fleshly side and our spiritual side are going to be in conflict and are going to battle it out.  But being born again means that we have a new spiritual side that did not exist at one time.

Does God see us daily and know everything we do?

Three of the characteristics that make God who He is are that He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  That means God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere.  We have to understand that even within those terms, there are boundaries, such as God cannot sin.  God is limited but only by His very nature, not by any inability or weakness.  It is a matter of the philosophical question of whether God can make a rock so big that He cannot move it.  Although all three qualities are very important, God’s omniscience answers the question at hand.

Psalm 139 paints the best picture of who God is in relation to how He sees us.  All 24 verses paint a vast picture of God’s power and knowledge.  The first four verses give us a taste of the entire chapter. 

1 O LORD, you have searched me
       and you know me.

 2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
       you perceive my thoughts from afar.

 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
       you are familiar with all my ways.

 4 Before a word is on my tongue
       you know it completely, O LORD.

God knows us because He is our maker.  My wife and I have only been married a year but usually I know when she is upset about something or mad at me by the way she acts.  Sometimes I can guess what she is thinking but not always.  If you’ve been married a long time, you probably know what to expect from your spouse in most situations.  But God made us.  He knows exactly what to expect from us because He is our maker and He knows us better than we know ourselves.

But God also sees us and what we do.  In the story of Adam and Eve, after they sinned, they tried to hide from God.  But of course that didn’t work.  Many people think that they can sin and get away with it because no one will ever find out about it.  This is why people cheat on their taxes and on their spouses.  Often times we discern that we aren’t hurting anyone and no one will find out so it’s ok.  But of course it is not.  God sees and even if there are no repercussions in this lifetime, there will be a time where people will be held accountable.

The flip side of this is good however.  God also sees us when we are in trouble and is always just a cry away when we need help.  We’re told to call upon the Lord in all circumstances.  Romans 8 even tells us that the Spirit interprets for us when we don’t know what to say.  God is not some cosmic spy who is watching and waiting for us to slip up so that He can crush us.  Instead He is a friend who is always near us whom we can call upon when we need help.

What is the Purpose of the Church?

This question is asked in several different ways such as why should I go to church?  Or, can’t I worship at home in my own way?  There is a growing dissatisfaction among people that the church is not what it should be.  Particularly among young people there is a movement away from the church.  There are people who still have a strong interest in Christianity but are fed up with church politics and many things that occur in the church that weren’t a part of the early church.

For starters, the church exists for the fellowship of believers.  Hebrews 10:25 tells us “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  It is important for the encouragement of one another that believers continue to gather together.

The church is also a body.  1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the church body is made up of many parts and that each one of those parts is to function according to how they are gifted.  Essentially the church is greater than the sum of its parts.  In any church there are people who are gifted teachers, gifted evangelists, those with gifts of service, mercy, and numerous other gifts.  Individually each person can only do so much but the church as a whole has a much greater reach because we help each other out with our gifts.

At some point in the 1900’s many churches stopped using their gifts to their fullest potential.  Many sat back and said that it was the pastor’s job to do those things because that’s what he’s paid for.  The pastor became expected to not only be the authority on God’s Word and to preach but he was also expected to handle the administration of the church.  The pastor is expected to visit the sick and shut in and follow up with every person who hasn’t been at church for two weeks in a row.  If the church isn’t growing, then it is often blamed on the pastor because he hasn’t made enough contacts in the community and has invited people to church or hasn’t planned enough outreach events.  Today the pastor is expected to excel in preaching, teaching, evangelism, mercy, and administration.

Compare this to how the church operated in the book of Acts.  The apostles were not utility men, they were specialists.  In Acts 6 they encounter a problem that is causing them to be pulled away from the ministry of God’s Word.  Rather than try to pick up the slack, they find other people to do the work while they continue to work in the area that God has gifted them.  Acts 6:2-4 says, “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

The primary function of the apostles was to administer the Word of God.  They didn’t declare that other things were not important.  Instead they made sure that they were taken care of but that they were not the ones to do it.  The purpose of the church is to use their gifts for the glory of God.  When the church starts doing this once again we can expect to see it be blessed like in the New Testament.

What Does it Mean to Pray Continually?

At the end of 1 Thessalonians Paul offers some final words of instruction for the church.  5:17 say that they are to pray continually.  This is bookended by “be joyful always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”

So does always mean always?  Yes, it does, but we must understand that it doesn’t mean that every second of the day is devoted to these things.  To pray continually mean that we should be in an attitude of prayer at all times.  We have a narrow and incorrect view of what prayer means.  When we have prayer time at church 95% of it is devoted to asking for things.  This isn’t saying that we ask for selfish things as most of the time it is not even on our behalf but still the concept of prayer for many people is about asking God to answer a request.

This isn’t all that prayer is about however.  Prayer is communication with God.  Consider how you communicate with your friends and family members.  You talk about your day.  You say what makes you happy or sad or angry.  The same goes for having an attitude of prayer and praying continually.  Obviously we don’t need to tell God about what we had for lunch or how some equipment broke down at work.  But we can express our frustration with the way someone speaks to us.  We can ask for love and understanding toward that person.  Or we can ask that God would help them change their attitude.

Praying continually doesn’t mean that we focus on praying that it distracts us from something else.  We need to keep our focus on the road while we drive but we can still think about God along the way.  We can thank God for a beautiful view, pray for safety when the sun is glaring, or even sing a song of praise as we drive.  This is praying continually.

What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is also called the unpardonable or unforgivable sin.  See Unforgivable Sin for more discussion on the forgiveness aspect of this.  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is found in Matthew 12:31-32 and parallel passages in the gospels.

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

The context of this passage is that Jesus was performin miracles and casting out demons.  The Pharisees stated that Jesus was using the power of Satan to do such acts.  Attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to that of Satan is what Jesus calls blasphemy against the Spirit.

This sin is not an accident or even an intentional sin.  Instead it is reflective of the attitudes of the Pharisees.  They were so set against the work of Jesus that they were willing to accept that Satan was working through Him rather than the Holy Spirit.  While there are many sinful people in the world today, few are so far from God as to attribute the power of God as Satanic.

Consider that many people accept that the universe was created in a Big Bang and that man is a product of millions of years of evolution.  God has been taken out of the picture because for humanity to have a Creator means that humanity is subject to that Creator.  Sinful people have done a lot to discredit God from having anything to do with our existence.  This doesn’t go nearly as far as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit would have to say that not only were we not created by God but because there is so much suffering in evil in the world that the universe was created by Satan.  This is how far removed from reality blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is.

While there are many people with hard hearts today, very few would go so far as to attribute what God is doing as the work of Satan.  Those who do so do not want to acknowledge God in any way and are completely lost.