by Phil Enlow

On Friday, December 14, 2012, the world witnessed yet another tragedy, this time at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as a disturbed young man, Adam Lanza, first killed his own mother, then went to the school and slaughtered 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life. In the weeks since that day there has been an understandable outpouring of grief, shock, sympathy, and prayers for the victims’ families. We have also seen an outpouring of attempts to explain why such a thing happened — and, of course, how to prevent it in the future.

Most of the attempted explanations have been confined to the natural earthly realm. For example: Adam had psychological and mental health issues that were not adequately diagnosed and treated. He was a “loner,” a misfit in school. His parents were divorced. It was his mother’s fault. Etc., etc. I am struck by how many of the reasons put forth are essentially saying that it is “our fault,” that we — society — should have been paying attention and done something to “fix” Adam and prevent him from a murderous rampage that was ultimately not his fault.

One headline only this morning reads: “DNA of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza to be examined for ‘evil’ gene in first study of its kind ever conducted on a mass murderer.” Maybe biology explains it! He had an “evil gene” and couldn’t help being a murderer!

Some have indeed brought spiritual issues into the discussion pointing to the fact that our nation has been turning away from God as evidenced by such things as the removal of prayer from public schools. Such observations caused outrage in one writer I read who supposed that such a claim meant that a vengeful God had “retaliated” for the removal of prayer by slaughtering young children!

We live in a world that is desperate to account for and deal with evil without acknowledging either God or a moral order. To do so would be to admit that we are responsible for our actions and accountable to God, one day to face judgment. The only alternative is to look for “natural” causes. We are, after all — in their view — merely evolved animals. Some of us are “damaged” products of evolution and thus do “evil” things. If someone is “damaged” then he is not responsible and it falls to the rest of us to deal with it somehow.

And for those who still believe in God the devil loves to drag out the old supposed dilemma that God cannot be both all-powerful and good. If He is good then He is not all-powerful because evil things happen and He does not stop them. If He is all-powerful than He cannot be good, again, because evil things happen!

This dilemma is a false one and those proposing it willfully ignore what God’s own word reveals. But Satan never lets a good crisis go to waste, ever seeking to use the evil events of this present world to discredit belief in God.

No Surprise
The reality is that God’s people should not be in the least surprised by such events, tragic though they are. It is right to be saddened, sympathetic, prayerful, and considerate of those affected, but surprised? No.

Most of what I have read and heard seems to suggest that the only players in this drama are people and, maybe, God — and where was He? But that is not the world we live in. There is another kingdom — unseen — but very real. It is the kingdom ruled over by Satan and his “angels.” All are totally evil without hope of redemption having openly rebelled against the God of heaven.

1 John 5:19 reminds us that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Eph. 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Eph. 2:1-2 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” See also, Rom. 8:38-39, Eph. 1:21, 3:10, Col. 2:15, 1 Pet. 3:22.

There is an all-too-real government, unseen by men, that operates behind the affairs of this present world and actively opposes God and His kingdom. Does that mean that God is too weak or too unwilling to overcome Satan? Is Satan winning the war? Does God even care? Why do so many bad things happen?

Man’s Responsibility
I am certainly not trying to give Adam Lanza the “devil made me do it” defense. As I indicated earlier the one thing that men seek above all else is to evade responsibility for evil. But men ARE responsible and judgment is coming. Demons indeed inspire, but men cooperate.

In the beginning God created man in His own image and gave him the awesome responsibility and privilege of ruling over the new creation. In short order he rebelled against his Creator and sin and death began to fill and corrupt the creation he had been given. Effectively the rule was handed over to the devil and his followers.

Man is no match for the devil and his evil hosts. He is not smart enough or strong enough — and his nature lusts after evil things. 2 Peter 1:4 speaks of “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Our greatest problem is not the evil on the outside; it is the evil that lives in every human heart, a principle that is easily manipulated by the devil.

James 1:13-15 spells out the problem clearly: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” There is indeed a tempter but that tempter would be powerless without the evil desires that lie within the human heart.

If you want to know why there is so much evil in the world look in the mirror. We were all born into Adam’s family and all share his nature, a nature corrupted by sin. That sin may not find the same expression in every individual but it is there nonetheless. Left to ourselves we are helpless to escape the power of that sin — and the end of it is death.

Not Left to Ourselves
That sounds as though we are powerless and therefore not responsible but that is not so. Remember that I said, “left to ourselves.” The fact is that God has not left us to ourselves. From the beginning He has reached out to fallen man in many ways. And in an amazing display of love and mercy He has — at great sacrifice — opened up a door of hope through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Satan tried his best to keep that door from being opened but he was utterly defeated through the cross and the resurrection. Christ not only arose from the dead but he reigns on high over all of Satan’s power. Eph. 1:18-21. All the powers of hell could not prevent his victory.

But if that is so why do bad things still happen? If Jesus reigns then why doesn’t he protect us from all the evil things that happen?

The answer comes back to human responsibility. It is only the arrogance of men that would expect God to stop all the bad things from happening — so he could be free to pursue his ungodly lusts without consequence! There is a law of sowing and reaping. Gal. 6:7-8 reminds us: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction ....”

Why Judgment
Jesus gave us the answer to the question of responsibility and judgment when he said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19. Judgment to come will reveal the many ways in which God has reached out in love to men only to have them reject light and cling to darkness.

And there is no such thing as neutral ground. I once met a man who assured me that he didn’t serve either God OR the devil! In fact he was totally deceived and under the power of demons and had no clue. The gospel of Jesus Christ represents man’s only hope of escaping the power of darkness. In Col. 1:13 Paul tells his readers, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves....”

In his ongoing rebellion against God, Satan seeks to enthrone himself over the world of men. He desires their worship and service that they might provide him and the host of wicked spirits that follow him a means of expressing their evil nature.

Of course, when it comes to the good news of what Christ has done he seeks to blind men so he can continue to use, abuse, and ultimately destroy them for his own pleasure. 2 Cor. 4:4 tells us that, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” He knows all too well the power of that gospel to rescue men from his clutches.

Most people who read these words will consider them utter nonsense. Do you wonder why? 1 Cor. 1:18 tells us: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The truth of the gospel can only be seen as God reveals it.

When Men Choose Darkness
But what happens when men choose the darkness they love over the light that God would shine in their hearts? Listen to the words of Jesus in John 12:35-36 — “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”

The darkness that is overwhelming our world today is increasingly the product of rejected light. As that happens men have nothing to look forward to but living and dying under the dominion of that darkness and then facing Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment.

Satan’s method of ruling over men is painfully simple: just get them to follow their natural desires. He convinces them that gratifying those natural desires is the way to happiness, blinding them to the true outcome: death. As men yield, demons tighten their grip. In some this results in the heinous crimes we see in our daily news.

In Eph. 4:22 Paul encourages believers to “put off” “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Natural lusts that proceed from human nature are indeed deceitful. They lie to us, promising pleasure and fulfillment, leaving us empty yet unable to stop the pursuit. Sin is addicting, readily making slaves of us. Only grace can set us free.

The Spirits That Have Rebelled
No one is more of a slave to sin than are the spirits that have rebelled against God. They are utterly miserable unless they are expressing their evil nature — and men provide the vehicle for that expression.

In many ways the generation Jesus lived among in Israel parallels that of our present day. Listen to his words in Matt. 12:43-45 — “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

While his words give a picture of the need and desire of wicked spirits to dwell in men it also reveals what happens when anyone stops short of giving heart and life wholly to Christ. It’s not enough to get spirits out; Christ must come in — to stay.

Evil spirits prey upon every aspect of fallen human nature. That includes the more obvious things like various lusts and addictions, criminal behavior, anger, insanity and the like. But it also includes such things as greed, pride, pursuit of fame, lust for power and position, etc. Hence some men are rich and famous, widely admired, and some are homicidal maniacs. Yet each is equally under Satan’s dominion, serving his evil purposes. Each victim is cultivated through satanic deceit to fulfill those purposes.

Of course these things have always been — at least since mankind fell into sin — and evil things have happened throughout history. Time and time again unspeakable evil has reared its ugly head and reminded us of man’s true condition. And yet how easy it is for people to distance themselves in their thinking from such evil and to suppose that they are not like that, not understanding that apart from Christ they ARE part of that world order and share its destiny. Every evil thing you see in this world exists in YOU as well. It just needs the right conditions to find expression.

Something Has Changed
But I believe that what we are seeing in our day is far more than “evil-as usual.” Something has changed — and not for the better. There is indeed a downhill spiritual trend in our nation — and in the world as a whole. The general rejection of God and His Son Jesus Christ is accelerating and we see both symptoms and effects everywhere.

Many have correctly noted that our country was founded upon the belief that there IS a God and that there IS a moral order and that we are to be ruled by laws and not men, laws that conform to that moral order. That heritage has long since been rejected and men have proclaimed themselves free to make up their own rules and devise their own standard of right and wrong — accommodating their natural lusts and desires, of course!

The rejection of prayer in the schools is but a minor symptom of American’s ongoing descent into darkness. We have been witness over the decades to relentless attacks upon any place for Christ in public life, upon home and family, upon any form of biblical morality. Deviant sex is celebrated and protected. Men “marry” men and women, women. “Tolerance” is proclaimed for everyone — everyone, that is, but those who seek to honor and follow Christ.

In short, we are on a path to disaster — and I have difficulty seeing any stops between here and there. But for those from other countries who may happen to read this: don’t be too smug. What is happening is a worldwide thing. It isn’t only the United States.

Another Symptom
Here is just one other symptom that has come to mind often since the Newtown tragedy. How is it that so many of those who express such shock and rage at the shooting of 20 innocent young children there have no such reaction to the over 50 million children this nation has systematically slaughtered over a period of decades, children far younger, far more innocent, far more helpless than those in Newtown?

How is it that, in their view, a blob of meaningless discard-able tissue suddenly becomes a child precious beyond measure merely by passing out of the mother’s womb?! Suppose someone like Adam Lanza were to shoot all the newborn babies in a hospital maternity ward. Can you imagine the shock and rage that would occur?

But back up the clock a few hours to when those same babies were still in their mothers’ wombs and a significant percentage of our population would suddenly see nothing wrong with doctors destroying them in ways far more gruesome than with bullets. This is just one symptom of the simple fact that we have lost our way.

A Parallel
I mentioned earlier that there was a parallel between Christ’s day and ours. For centuries God had reached out to Israel, seeking to turn them from a pathway of sin and rebellion. Prophet after prophet had been sent to plead with them only to be persecuted and rejected by the nation as a whole, some even tortured and killed. Only a small remnant of believers remained faithful.

The religious establishment of Jesus’ day was heir to the rebellious spiritual heritage of Israel. Their condition was not one of mere ignorance but rather willful rejection of light and truth brought to them by the prophets and then by Jesus himself. But God will not forever strive with men (Gen. 6:3). As Jesus himself said, failure to walk in light results in being abandoned to the darkness men have chosen.

And that is how this age will end. God will faithfully preserve His own but the rest of mankind will be given over to “a powerful delusion” resulting in damnation (2 Thess. 2:11). Only the coming of Christ will bring all this to an end.

No Rejoicing
It is not that God wants it to be this way or that He rejoices in condemning the wicked (1 Tim. 2:4). For example, Ezekiel was commanded to say, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” Ezek. 33:11.

God’s heart is revealed in the account of Jesus approaching Jerusalem shortly before he went to the cross. Luke 19:41-44 says, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.’”

The calamity to come upon Jerusalem was the result of willful unbelief. It was God taking His hands off. The account in Matt 23:37-38 says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” What was the problem? “You were not willing.” How did Jesus feel about it? He wept.

I believe there is a lot of weeping in God’s heart today as He increasingly sees men reject the love that would deliver them from destruction. People wonder why He does not intervene to prevent bad things from happening. I believe eternity will cause us to be amazed at just how much evil has been restrained — in spite of man’s sin and rebellion.

Can you imagine a world totally abandoned to Satan’s control? We’ve seen examples in history of “hell on earth.” Suppose that’s all there was! Suppose God took His hands off completely and all restraint was gone? That’s where our world is headed and God only knows how far He will let it go before He steps in and says, “Enough.”

In the days before the flood we read in Gen, 6:6, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” Can you imagine the pain He feels as He looks down upon mankind today? We see enough evil in our daily news. He sees everything!

And yet He waits — why? His heart is still reaching out to those who will listen to His voice and respond. The door of hope opened by Jesus will not remain open forever but it is still open today. 2 Peter 3:9. As Hebrews 3:7 begins, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts ….”

Hear His Voice
Our world is actively — even militantly — rejecting any knowledge of God. I pray that anyone who reads this and is able to hear His voice will realize just how critical it is that you respond. He has no obligation ever to speak to you again. There is no neutral ground. To say, “No,” to God, even through neglect, is to say, “Yes,” to Satan and to take one’s stand with every act of evil this world has ever known.

Time is short and the devil knows it. That is why we see so much anger in our world. Satan is raging with anger and we see the symptoms of his rage every day in our news.

Men will search in vain for solutions, supposing that those who commit evil acts are merely damaged products of evolution, needing to be “fixed” or contained. We live in a broken world and there is no way to make the world safe for sin and rebellion! Do the best we can do and so long as men remain at war with their Maker and under the power of darkness evil things will happen.

No true follower of Christ should be surprised. We should, however, wake up and realize what is happening and seek him with all our hearts. Our redemption is drawing near. There are yet some who will come to the light and we have the privilege of being the light of the world as we allow Christ to live in and through us. Matt. 5:14-15.

As darkness deepens upon planet earth we who follow Christ will need his grace and strength more and more in order to stand. Slumber and complacency will not do. This world is not our home. Every ungodly thing that happens around should remind us of that fact and drive us to Him, not only for ourselves, but also for anyone who can still hear His voice.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

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