October 29, 2013

40 Below

Out of the proverbial blue—or perhaps more correctly, out of the abyss—come occasional thoughts that run afoul of my faith. The style of expression seems my own, but the content is contrary. At such times I wonder: Did the thought actually originate with me, or did the devil somehow plant it there? 

The latter is how I explain an experience I had prior to my conversion while shamefully sharing a marijuana cigarette: the notion overtook me, as I stared into the eyes of my fellow profligate, to query, without words, Can you read my mind? 

Immediately, to my astonishment, his lips parted and pronounced, “Yes.”

Wow! In hindsight I recognize that we were both under the control of Satan, who beguiled our minds with his simple parlor tricks.

Jesus compares the state of humanity at the end-time to the days of Noah, when “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5, KJV; see Matt. 24:37). There is a great danger that we so degrade ourselves as to find no distinction between the devil’s thoughts and our own. I am, therefore, grateful if the Holy Spirit convicts me of a “hateful bird” flying about my head, that I may bring it into captivity to Christ (Rev. 18:2, KJV).


The devil, as Scripture warns, is intent upon capturing our hearts and minds
(1 Peter 5:8), and his evil host works diligently to this end (Eph. 6:12). Evil angels have been known to impersonate the dead. But angels, good or bad, can just as well take the form of the living. I discovered this in my first pastoral district, while studying with some former Mormons. They had a particularly hard time with the biblical state of the dead because of previous encounters with supposed spirits of the departed.

After we examined the Scriptures on that subject, however, a new twist was put on the phenomenon. On separate occasions the wife witnessed apparitions of her husband and her daughter—both still living. That is, she had specific encounters with these feigned family members, only to find shortly afterward that her genuine relations were elsewhere and had no knowledge of the event.

All were convinced that the supernatural was again at work, but were curious as to the meaning of it—this time. I suggested that God may have used these events to help them comprehend a Bible doctrine that so directly challenged their prior experience. These new apparitions effectively proved that while we may perceive the perfect likeness of a loved one, it may not actually be them. 

The family was eventually baptized into our church. Sometime later, however, I came to realize that without a biblical context, this spiritual mimicry could also be employed to lead people away from Christ.


I like my particular e-mail provider because it does not use picture ads. Nonetheless, the service does run text-only ads that are carefully adapted to my personal interests (as per their analysis of my letters—a craft rivaling the demonic). One such advertisement finally got my curiosity, and I clicked on the link. 

At the Web site, a New Age guru teaches people to consult with their “alternate self,” in a sort of autohypnosis. The alter ego emerges from a “parallel universe,” invariably bringing advice on how we—the pathetic lesser versions—can develop miraculous talents and wealth. (This is reminiscent of the worship afforded “demigods” in kabbalah magic.)

Simultaneously, a separate but similar message began appearing on a number of billboards where I drive. Selling Japanese takeout, the ads featured two images of the same individual, interacting with itself. One persuaded the other to eat eastern Asian food, and was dubbed the “Alter Edo” (the three-letter name of the restaurant).

Whether a product of Eastern culture or otherwise, the emerging motif is that of allegiance to one’s “higher self,” instead of to the Lord Jesus. It is perhaps more gratifying and comfortable—for familiarity—to commune with our own likeness than to take instruction from the One who has greater concerns than our material prosperity.

So it is to the enemy’s advantage to “ape” a human while they yet live, to say nothing of when they die. When the devil appears as Christ (as he did in Will Baron’s Deceived by the New Age)—thus drawing on the Bible theme—he runs the risk of people then consulting that Book and discerning the counterfeit. But when demons masquerade as some version of us, a corollary in God’s Word is not so obvious; and His counsel is less likely invoked. Without Holy Writ to inform us, the evil of our twin is readily cloaked beneath professed well-wishing.

The effectiveness of this ploy has, indeed, much to do with ego. A desire for self-exaltation ensnared our first family—Adam and Eve. Satan flattered them with the promise “Ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5, KJV). (The latest “Alter Edo” ad has the stand-in wearing a Superman cape, delivering rice noodles in wingless flight.) Nevertheless we will not obtain Godlike qualities through discourse with the shape-shifting serpent, but come to reflect his own egotism.

Our Refuge     

Before accepting Christ, I practiced yoga, summoning “serpent energy” with a prescribed mantra that now seems eerily akin to “Satan am I.” While doing this, I repeatedly slipped into vision and beheld busy replicas of myself. Fortunately, I was not favorably impressed. (Perhaps if my double had had more Hollywood appeal, it would have been otherwise.) 

From “My” Space to “i” Tunes, a prevailing theme in the commercial world today is “it’s all about you.” Perhaps this is another manifestation of 2 Timothy 3: “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves” (verses 1, 2, KJV). Like the solitary parakeet that befriends a mirror, our self-obsession is a sad testimony of an atrophied ability to cooperate with others (see also Matt. 24:13 and Rev. 18:2). It’s also an obsession that could lead to demon possession.

Frankly, I am quite weary of “me.” I want more of Jesus. That relationship—with an interested Sovereign who is vastly my superior and yet takes no advantage—is neither narcissistic nor naive. Communion with God—through His unchanging Word—is my refuge from a world of pretenders; my source of sanity and strength, and my eternal salvation.