Some years ago I was invited to visit the home of a young member of the Worldwide Church of God in Asia. He was a student, and lived with his parents. His parents, however, belonged to one of the Oriental religions.
This made it difficult for him to live a Christian life, and he had several questions he wanted to ask me.
"What should I do about that thing?" he asked, pointing to a small altar hanging on the wall. Such altars are a common sight in Asia. Many people put them up to provide a place for the household gods. There is usually an idol, some flowers and a few incense sticks.
"Each night, before he goes to bed, my father puts some rice or other food up there on the shelf as an offering to the idol," the young man explained. "In the morning the food is gone. Of course, probably rats eat it, but even so, I don't like it. It is as if we have made a place for the devil in our house."
I explained that he should not worry, since an idol is nothing (I Cor. 8:4), and that at the same time he should respect his parents' right to practice their religion . But I could see his point. Nobody in his right mind would deliberately go out of the way to provide a place for the devil, would he?
Or would he?
A place in your mind Satan is looking for a place. He doesn't really want a place on the wall of poor, confused people whom he has already deceived with a false religion. He knows too much about the truth. What Satan really wants is a place in the hearts and minds of those God has called out of religious confusion to be in His true Church.
But God's chosen people would not make a place for the devil, would they? Would you? Don't be too sure.
Satan and his demons do not need a physical place. They are spirits — evil spirits — and they are on the lookout for a spiritual place to do their mischief. That place could be your mind.
Up until the time you are converted, your mind is carnal and you cannot do the will of God (Rom. 8:7). But after conversion you begin, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to make that mind think differently.
The apostle Paul explained this in his letter to the people of ancient Ephesus. It seems that they had many of the same problems as we do today. So Paul wrote: "Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind... put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:22-24).
Paul then explained that with God's help, the old ways of lying and trying to take advantage of others can be overcome: "Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another" (verse 25).
Anger, bad temper, resentment — they all have to be brought under control. "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (verse 26). Another translation says, "Never go to bed angry."
That is excellent advice — to be taken literally, if possible. Don't go to bed smoldering with pent-up rage over things that have happened during the day. If that anger is directed against a member of your family, resolve the problem before retiring. If it is a friend, a quick phone call might help.
"Never go to bed angry" is not just a little platitude that Paul put in to fill up space. It should be followed. It is good advice. You will sleep better.
But there is a far more important reason why you shouldn't allow yourself to smolder with anger. Notice the next verse: "Nor give place to the devil" (verse 27). An angry mind, full of resentment and plans for revenge, makes a much better place for Satan the devil than a shelf on the wall. Satan, like a vulture, is constantly watching your mind, looking for a way to get in. Anger and resentment are sentiments he understands. If you give him a chance, he will work on those feelings to try to develop a root of bitterness.
Devilish attitudes Nearly two thousand years ago Satan noticed that Judas Iscariot was building an attitude of resentment toward Jesus. Satan waited patiently and then, when the time was right, he was able to enter into Judas and use him to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3-4).
If Judas never had gone to bed angry, his wretched attitude could have been nipped in the bud, and he probably would have still become one of the original apostles. Instead, he allowed his angry mind to become a good "place for the devil."
Anger is not the only emotion that provides a shelf for the devil. Look at James 3:14-15: "But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic."
James is explaining that emotions such as envy and jealousy and the desire for revenge are never a product of the mind of God. They come from the mind of man, earthly and sensual (that just means "natural").
But, James points out, these thoughts are also "demonic" or devilish. This is the way the devil thinks. So when Satan finds a mind that is consumed with envy, twisted by feelings of outrage and injustice and bent on revenge, he finds a kindred spirit. It will be easy for him to find a place in that mind. Then, when he has settled in comfortably, he can help feed the envy and strife with his own special brand of troublemaking.
If you allow it, Satan fans the flames of hatred and strife and makes them worse than ever.
Have you ever thought what a wretched, competitive and utterly miserable place the seat of Satan's government must be? How can Satan have any spirit of unity and harmony and love among the demons he rules? Their character, like his, is set on rebellion. They feel resentment toward God, who always thwarts their plans. They have nothing but hatred for the men and women who are made in His image. The demons know they will be defeated, for Jesus already has qualified to replace Satan as world ruler. Satan has nothing to offer them now, except an eternity of frustration and thwarted evil intent. There can be no real love among demons — no loyalty, no sharing, giving or cooperation.
Their only "success" can come from seeing how many of God's people they can trick out of eternal life. Satan and his demons have no other purpose except to "steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10).
Continuing with what the apostle James said: "Where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there" (Jas. 3:16).
The spirit of envy and strife between people, especially God's people, attracts Satan as surely as dirt attracts cockroaches. And as the roaches breed, and bring with them disease, so the devilish mind will fan envy and strife into confusion and every evil work. Never forget what happened to Judas when he made a place for the devil.
Guard your mind The Bible shows us that such emotions as anger, envy, resentment and revenge must be controlled quickly, before they become nesting boxes for the thoughts of Satan. We cannot allow him to get even a small handhold.
You can keep Satan out of your mind. He can find no place in a mind that is quick to forgive mistakes and that refuses to harbor grudges. He is repelled by a mind that is humble and refuses to become discontented and envious when others attain achievement and success. He will never be able to entice and lead away a person who is totally involved in performing God's great commission and is preparing for an eternity of service in God's Kingdom.
His best efforts to break in and enter will fail against a mind that is always striving to look at things the way God does, and is willing to bring every thought under control (II Cor. 10:5).
Jesus proved that it is possible for a human being, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to keep Satan out: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread'" (Matt. 4:1-3).
Jesus could have thought, There's nothing wrong with that! I have every right to eat bread after fasting 40 days — just as we might think, I have every right to hold a grudge against that person after what he did to me.
But Jesus didn't give in. He knew that, however appealing and satisfying it may seem, giving a place to the devil is always fatal. And He knew that staying dose to God, rather than focusing on carnal feelings, is the way to keep the devil out. Satan did his best to tempt Jesus, but Jesus resisted him, and Satan eventually was forced to admit defeat and slunk away (Matt. 4:1-11). But the tragic example of Judas shows us just what can happen when a person — any of us — lets vanity, anger, pride and resentment get the better of him.
Some hours after he betrayed Jesus, Judas apparently came to his senses, at least in a carnal way. He realized what he had done and felt human remorse and regret. Judas tried to undo the damage, but it was too late (Matt. 27:3-5). He had made a place for the devil, and Satan moved right in and used him.
Satan would like to do the same to you.