Friday, December 19, 2008

The Devil, Our Adversary

Chuck Swindoll told the story of how his uncle Zeke walked into a smith shop right after the smith had finished working on a horseshoe. The shoe was not red hot anymore, but it was still cooling down. Zeke walked into the shop and saw the horseshoe sitting on the straw, and picked it up before quickly putting it down again. The smith laughed and said, "Hot, isn't it?" Zeke replied, "No, it just doesn't take long for me to look at a horseshoe."
Funny, but proud. Interestingly, pride is probably the most dangerous sin, but the least talked about. Pride is what caused one of the highest angels to fall, thinking he was like the Most High God, and thus caused humanity to fall when our ancestors were deceived. You could say pride is the worst sin, then.
This post examines the Devil, who is our adversary. We'll look at 1) who he is, 2) what he did, 3) what God did, 4) what the Devil does today, 5) and what our response is to the Devil.
First, Who is the Devil
Does he exist? Yes. 7 books in the Old Testament and all New Testament books talk about him. Christ taught about his existence (Matthew 13:39, Luke 10:18, 11:18)
Is the Devil a person? A person has three aspects: intelligence, emotions, and a will. Satan:
Possesses intellect (2 Cor 11:3, Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning), has emotions (Revelation 12:17, he is angry and wants to make war with followers of Jesus), and has a will (2 Timothy 2:26, the Devil has taken some people captive to do his will).
Further, he is treated as a morally responsible person. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus explains that the eternal lake of fire is prepared for the Devil and demons. Also, when he is described it is with personal pronouns (Job 1).
So if he’s a person, does that mean we can talk to him and communicate with him? Can people talk to Satan or make deals with the Devil? Yes. I read of a Christian leader who met a man deep in the occult on an airplane, who told him they find church names and pastor’s names and pray to Satan that the pastors of all churches in America would fail morally. How encouraging for me! If you have ever dabbled in ouigi boards, tarot cards, seances—stop! These are all modes of communicating with the Devil or his fallen angels. Contacting spirits are direct or indirect forms of appeasing Satan, and giving him a foothold.
Does this mean that, as some of us verbalize, that every time you sin, Satan is personally attacking you? Though the Devil is a fallen high angel, he is not God. Because he is not omnipresent like God, he can’t be everywhere attacking everyone all the time. He doesn’t need to. He has “the flesh” inside you, your sin nature, that desires sin already. This is who the Devil is. Next...
What did the Devil do? If he was once a high ranking angel, and now is the enemy of God, then how did that happen? Ezekiel 28:12–19 speaks of him as a guardian cherub (like the one who guarded the Garden of Eden), and he was the highest of all angels “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” Imagine that! If he walked into a church service, he would be gawked at because of his beauty, not threatened because of horns and a pitchfork.
Isaiah 14:13–15 tells us he was full of pride, “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” These passages, if read in context, are also about modern day nations or kings Isaiah and Ezekiel and their audiences knew, but as the prophets did many times, these portions are where the prophecy either overlaps with one about something else as well, or breaks away to speak of something else before resuming (See Daniel 9, Matthew 24 as well--Jesus being a prophet too).
See how Satan, the Devil, rebelled? Pause here for a second and take a "selah," (Psalms uses this word to mean "coca break," or "reflect. Stop. Breathe. Think about what just happened.") We're talking about God Almighty creating a high cherub, perfect in beauty and the model of perfection, who snaps and rebels. Let this encourage you if you are trying to live like Jesus and a follower of God--those who seek power will always be able to take advantage of those who seek God. It is because we have different values. If a follower of Jesus responds with power instead of godliness, he must maintain what is successful in that endeavor with power as well. In church, those who follow Jesus will be taken advantage of by anyone who seeks power. It happened to Jesus, and sometimes it is exactly what God wants to happen so He is glorified and we can grow. Think about it...
Next, on this topic, what was God's response? Did He annihilate Satan? Send a redeemer for him like He would do with humanity? He cast him out of heaven, until punishment.

We are still in between the two acts: God casting him out of heaven and God punishing Satan forever.
What The Devil does today:
His names are his major attributes:
54 times the Bible refers to him as Satan, “the enemy; adversary.” He made himself the enemy of God.
All followers of Jesus are enemies of Satan; all who choose not to follow Jesus are pleasing to him
Some other names he has are: Prince of this world (John 12:31); god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) “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;" Ruler of the Kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2). What is the application of these things? Be aware (as 1 Peter 5 warns us): When you chose Jesus, you chose to become Satan’s enemy. I think about this even as I write--I have had to take so many breaks from this post--more than any other, due to coincidental interruptions (kids screaming or malfunctions of some sort). Even consider sickness amongst those serving Christ. Is it coincidence that in creating a foundation for what our congregation believes I have battled sickness related to my voice the last few months?
The Devil notices you as a threat the more you grow in your following of Jesus. When you chose to be involved in church, you chose to be more of a threat to him. When you chose to be a leader in church, you chose again to be even more of a threat. If God led you to be in full-time vocational ministry—you need prayer.
Also, I need to post a warning here: Don’t choose to be a pastor unless you're sure you are called by God to do it. Do it if God calls you. You can serve Him in many ways without being a shepherd of a local church, but don't try to serve in a church on your own strength; only do it if you know God is leading you to do that and He has or is (or is going to really soon) equip you. Without the call of God, there are moments when it is too intense for any man to continue. Believe it! Following Jesus comes with a cross, and there are few who walk that narrow road! I believe we have many in our congregation who are up to the challenge, and as we sang, “A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD.”
Let's keep moving to the names of the Devil, and see how those identify what he does today. Next, note that 34 times the New Testament uses the word “devil,” meaning “slanderer.” He takes something that is true, and changes it just a bit. That's slandering, smearing or adjusting the facts. He is the father of lies. Jesus called him on this in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” It doesn't get any clearer than that. He accuses believers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). In Zechariah 3:1–2, Zechariah’s eyes are open and he sees Satan standing right beside Joshua the High Priest, accusing him of Israel’s sin before God. The Lord rebuked Satan. After reading this, one might be thinking--aren't Christians supposed to try and convert others?
Why all the talk about how difficult the Christian life and following Jesus would be if you're trying to see people follow Jesus, Nate? A friend of mine told me a great story (Marine Hoorah after this). A Marine recruiter was at a high school recruiting some years ago. He looked around and noticed that all the other branches of the military had significantly more people standing in line for their recruiters, and he had only a couple. He said (which means shouted), “most of you who sign up for the other branches of the US Military will get in. But only a few of you have what it takes to make it through the Marine Corps training to become a United States Marine.” Suddenly he had everyone waiting to sign up. Jesus said wide is the road that leads to destruction and many find it, but narrow is the road the leads to life and few find it. You need to know ahead of time, following Jesus means an enemy who is real will not like you. But we have Almighty God on our side (keep reading).
What else does the Devil do today? He deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9), he is called Lucifer in the King James Version of the Bible, a “nickname” meaning “light bearer/shining one” It is a translation for the Hebrew meaning the same thing, or “star of the morning.” He still tries to be this light, but is false. He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He will do enough good to get you to do enough evil. He also prowls about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is the tempter (Matthew 4:1). He introduced sin, and we have a sinful nature pulling us. Remember the Devil doesn't need to always tempt you when you sin (and he can't tempt everyone all the time, since he's not omnni-present). He has an inside agent--our sin nature working against our desire to walk in the Spirit. It keeps pulling us down towards sin, the past, what we have confessed. To read more about this see Romans 6; Galatians 5:16.
One question we wonder is how powerful is Satan to hurt me? Read Job 1, where God gives Satan parameters, "do's" and "don'ts" for what he can and cannot do. In other words, how powerful is Satan? Answer: He is only as powerful as God allows, and not one bit more!
So lastly, what do we do about Satan. Talk to him? Taunt him? Focus on God, not Satan. The Devil would like you to either a) focus too much on him and be distracted, or b) not believe he exists at all and underestimate him. Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Focus on that. Colossians 3 tells us "set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." When tempted, James 4:7, tells us how to get out, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Prevent attacks such as Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Truth, Righteousness, Gospel, Faith, Salvation, The Spirit and the Word, and prayer. Finally, walk by the Spirit, not the flesh (Galatians 5:16) and be self-controlled and alert (1 Peter 5:8)
"But how do we defeat Satan?" someone might be asking. "Didn't Jesus give us power to defeat him?" No. It is not necessary. GOD HAS ALREADY DEFEATED HIM! His doom is written in Revelation 20:10, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." They will not be tormenting, but will be tormented themselves forever.
The destination of Satan and his fallen angels is the place everyone who remains an enemy of God will go as well. All who decide to pay for their own sin will go there. No matter how much good a person does, it doesn't count until they repent of the bad they have done. People were never meant to go to hell, and God became human so we would have a sure way to heaven.
Are you reading this and thinking that you want to follow God but have never asked Him for forgiveness for your sin? Why haven't you? Just by believing in what Jesus did when He died instead of us for our sin and was raised from the dead--that saves us from the penalty of our sin. Then follow Jesus.

1 comment:

Dion said...

"Focus on God, not Satan"

I think that sums it up. So often I hear people talk to Satan while they are praying. Binding Satan and what not. Seems to me you should talk to the One with all the power.