Defense against the devil – Part 3

INTRODUCTION: We first meet the devil in Genesis 3. There, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and the father of lies (John 8:44) appears to our first parents as a talking serpent, creating doubt about the goodness of God and about the truth of His word, and eventually tempting Adam and Eve to disobey the LORD and to eat the forbidden fruit.

But even though he was cursed because of his wickedness in Eden (Gen. 3:14-15), the devil has continued to tempt people to sin throughout human history, even down to our day. The devil hates God and hates His Christ and so hates the followers of Christ. The devil hates believers and he hates the church, and his ambition is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

As God’s word to His people, the Bible clearly reveals the devil and tells us about his schemes. In fact, the believer would be wise to become familiar with how the devil operates so that we are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).

In this third post in this series, we will continue our study about the devil and about how the disciple of Jesus can avoid becoming a victim of his devices.

A brief review of the last post is in order. We determined that, for the disciple of Jesus, there are definite limits on the devil’s threats. First, the Lord is the defender of every follower of Christ, so any activity of Satan must first be allowed by the Lord. The devil can do nothing unless it is allowed by our sovereign Lord. But beyond that, we also saw that the devil can bring material loss, physical distress, and even death on the disciple of Jesus, but that these events of suffering and testing are not to be received as a threat to the believer. That is, material and physical loss are of no spiritual consequence. The believer’s standing with the Lord and his eternal destiny are unaffected by these changes in circumstances.

Further, we saw that there is nothing that the devil can do to take away our salvation. Once the disciple passes from death to life (John 5:24) and is secure in Jesus’ hands (John 10:28) as a result of their faith in Jesus, the devil is powerless to threaten them with condemnation.

THE REAL THREAT

We did discover, however, that the devil is a very real threat in causing spiritual shipwreck. “Shipwreck” is the term we use to describe a disciple of Jesus who has ruined their testimony and who has squandered their usefulness to Christ because of their sin. This is the realm where the devil thrives. Satan spends most of his time scheming how to damage the testimonies and ruin the usefulness of the followers of Jesus by tempting them to sin. For this reason, the disciple of Jesus must be alert for the devil and his “schemes.” The Lord allows the devil to “prowl about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and careless disciples may be devoured.

DEFENSE STRATEGIES – PART 1

So, how does the disciple of Jesus defend themselves from the devil’s threat of shipwreck? I am going to suggest two main strategies.

In sports, the saying goes that, “the best defense is a good offense.” A modification of this idea will serve the disciple well in his battle against the devil. The strategy is this: Build the walls of your defenses so high and so thick that the enemy has great difficulty in breaking in. How do we build high, thick spiritual walls? The continual use of Christian disciplines will make you an unlikely target for the devil’s attacks. He will seek out easier prey.

HIGH, THICK WALLS

What are these disciplines? There is nothing novel about them. First, read and meditate on the Bible. There is no better defense against the devil than a well-worn Bible. A disciple who has a solid foundation in the Scriptures will prosper (Psalm 1:2-3). Also, times of prayer. Genuine, deep fellowship with other believers. Regular corporate worship. Times of thanksgiving. Praising the Lord. Proclaiming the gospel to others. Recording and reviewing times of His great faithfulness. Being careful to obey the commands of the Scriptures and avoid sin. The one who does these things will have thick walls indeed.

VULNERABILITY

But the devil also seeks those times when you are especially vulnerable to attack. Our adversary will wait a long time to spring his temptation trap, and he usually strikes when we are vulnerable. Paul says that we should not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11), and part of that is being aware when we are vulnerable to attack.

When are we more vulnerable? When we are tired. When you are physically or mentally more tired than normal, you are not as alert to attack. In seasons of extended effort where you feel depleted or exhausted, you will be more vulnerable.

In a season or period of stress, you can become vulnerable. Maybe your situation at work is difficult. Perhaps there are financial pressures. There could be relational stresses at home or in your extended family. If these go on for a while, they can wear you down and distract you from normal alertness. Then you are vulnerable.

Other situations are when you are discouraged or depressed for whatever reason, when you feel isolated or alone, or when you experience the letdown that comes right after a significant victory or accomplishment (remember Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19). The disciple of Jesus needs to be aware of these vulnerable situations so that they can avoid shipwreck.

DEFENSE STRATEGIES – PART 2

How, then, is the disciple to defend themselves?

  1. Make it a habit to always be on the alert for enemy attack (1 Peter 5:8; Eph. 6:10-13). Remember, we are in enemy territory and the devil’s goal is to render us useless for Christ.
  2. Develop the discipline to regularly evaluate your spiritual vulnerability. Are you tired, stressed, feeling alone and isolated, depressed or discouraged? Be aware of these things!
  3. In times of greater vulnerability, increase your alertness to spiritual attack and sharpen your readiness. Seek reinforcements from others in the body of Christ. Refuse to be shipwrecked or sidelined by the devil’s schemes.

            SDG                 rmb                 11/26/2021                 #460

Defense against the devil – Part 2

INTRODUCTION: We first meet the devil in Genesis 3. There, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and the father of lies (John 8:44) appears to our first parents as a talking serpent, creating doubt about the goodness of God and about the truth of His word, and eventually tempting Adam and Eve to disobey the LORD and to eat the forbidden fruit.

But even though he was cursed because of his wickedness in Eden (Gen. 3:14-15), the devil has continued to tempt people to sin throughout human history, even down to our day. The devil hates God and hates His Christ and so hates the followers of Christ. The devil hates believers and he hates the church, and his ambition is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

As God’s word to His people, the Bible clearly reveals the devil and tells us about his schemes. In fact, the believer would be wise to become familiar with how the devil operates so that we are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).

In this post, we will continue our brief study about the devil and about how the disciple of Jesus can avoid becoming a victim of his devices.

THE LIMITS OF THE DEVIL’S THREATS

One of the reasons that some believers fear Satan is because they assume that he has vast powers which can be unleashed on the follower of Jesus at any moment. This view of the devil as an ever-present threat naturally creates anxiety and fear. “If the devil is that powerful, how can I defend myself against his attacks?”

This type of fear of the devil is sin because it displays an ignorance of what the Bible teaches about the head of the fallen angels, it manifests a lack of faith in the Lord and His promises, and it suggests that God is not powerful enough to defend His children.

AN EXERCISE TO DETERMINE THE DEVIL’S REAL THREAT

Let’s take a minute to see how the devil can and cannot threaten the disciple of Jesus. In this exercise, we will ask two questions for each potential threat. QUESTION #1 is, “Is this perceived threat even a possibility for the devil?” In other words, according to the Bible, is this something that the devil has the power to do? This is a question about ability. QUESTION #2 is, “Is this possible threat something that should bring fear to the disciple of Jesus?” This is a question that addresses the disciple’s response to a possible threat from the devil. QUESTION #1 deals with facts, and QUESTION #2 touches on faith.

Now, what potential threats are we going to consider? I will consider four. Threat #1 is material loss. Threat #2 is physical death. Threat #3 is eternal death. And Threat #4 is spiritual shipwreck. So, let’s begin.

Threat #1: The threat of Material Loss. QUESTION #1: Can the devil, either directly or indirectly, bring about material loss in the life of a disciple of Jesus? The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ The clear proof of this is in the book of Job (chapter 1), where we see Satan bringing about the financial ruin of righteous Job. QUESTION #2: Should this possibility of material loss bring fear to the disciple of Jesus? No, it should not. When Satan has brought great material loss to Job, Job testifies that “the LORD gives, and the LORD takes away” (Job 1:21). Paul had lost all things for the sake of Christ (Phil. 3:8). According to Jesus, the cost of following Him is to lose your life (Matthew 16:25). The disciple must learn how to live in humble means and how to live in prosperity (Phil. 4:10-12). Therefore, if the devil is allowed to bring material loss into your life, the disciple of Jesus makes adjustments and continues to trust the Lord and obey His word. Score: Y/N

Threat #2: The threat of Physical Death. QUESTION #1: Can the devil, either directly or indirectly, bring about the physical death a disciple of Jesus? Again, the answer is ‘yes.’ We can again consider the book of Job, Chapter 2, when the LORD tells Satan that he must not take Job’s life. If the LORD restricts Satan in this instance, it must mean that Satan had the power to take Job’s life. But we also know from Revelation 11:7 that, at the end of the age, the beast will kill some of the saints, and the beast receives his authority from the dragon (Satan) (Rev. 13:2). We also know that, throughout the years since Christ commissioned His church, the devil has used persecution to kill many faithful saints. QUESTION #2: Should this threat of physical death cause the disciple to fear? The answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ For the disciple, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Hebrews 2:14-15 makes clear that, since Christ has died and risen again, the devil can no longer threaten the believer, even with the threat of death. “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26), physical death is no longer a threat for the disciple of Jesus. Therefore, if the devil is allowed to threaten me with physical death, I will continue to trust Christ and praise His name. Score: Y/N

Threat #3: The threat of Eternal Death. QUESTION #1: Can the devil threaten me with eternal death? That is, do I, as a born-again, water-baptized, Spirit-filled, Bible believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ need to worry that Satan may still be able to cause me to sin and thus join him in the lake of fire? No. Resoundingly, no. I have crossed from death to life (John 5:24) and the devil is powerless to do anything to change my eternal destiny. I WILL receive my resurrection body and WILL spend eternity in heaven. Since the answer to QUESTION #1 is ‘no,’ QUESTION #2 does not need to be asked. Satan has no power, so there is no reason to fear. Score: N/N

Threat #4: The threat of Spiritual Shipwreck. QUESTION #1: Does the devil have the ability to tempt me to sin and thus to make a “shipwreck” out of my life and out of my testimony, and ruin my usefulness for Jesus? Yes, he does have that power. In fact, knowing what he himself can and cannot do in regard to the saints, the devil spends most his time considering how to damage the testimonies and the usefulness of the followers of Jesus. So, this threat of spiritual shipwreck is very real. QUESTION #2: Should the threat of “spiritual shipwreck” cause the disciple of Jesus to fear? Yes, the disciple of Jesus should realize that the devil has the power to ruin their life and render them useless to the Master. This is the reason that the New Testament speaks so much about the devil and his “schemes.” The Lord allows the devil to “prowl about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and disciples who are careless may be devoured. Score: Y/Y

The devil, then, can ruin your testimony for the Lord Jesus and render you useless for His service. This is his great threat. Next time we will talk about how to defend ourselves.            

SDG                 rmb                 11/24/2021                 #459

Defense against the devil – Part 1

INTRODUCTION: We first meet the devil in Genesis 3. There, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and the father of lies (John 8:44) appears to our first parents as a talking serpent, creating doubt about the goodness of God and about the truth of His word, and eventually tempting Adam and Eve to disobey the LORD and to eat the forbidden fruit.

But even though he was cursed because of his wickedness in Eden (Gen. 3:14-15), the devil has continued to tempt people to sin throughout human history, even down to our day. The devil hates God and hates His Christ and so hates the followers of Christ. The devil hates believers and he hates the church, and his ambition is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

As God’s word to His people, the Bible is clear to reveal the devil and to talk about his schemes. In fact, the believer would be wise to become familiar with how the devil operates so that we are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).

In the next couple of posts, I will be talking about practical ways that the believer can defend themselves from the ploys and schemes of the devil.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Here in Peter’s first epistle is one of the classic biblical texts describing the devil’s activity. First, the apostle makes a clarion call for the disciple to be alert. There is no excuse for slackness in your walk with Christ. The disciple is to be alert for the enemy’s attacks at all times. We are in enemy territory, and we must expect the enemy to attack. So, “be sober, be on the alert.”

Now, what is the enemy’s goal in his prowling? What is the devil hoping to achieve? The devil is seeking to render you useless for the Kingdom. Make no mistake about it. The devil seeks to ruin your life and to make a shipwreck of your testimony for Jesus. Therefore, make it a matter of spiritual discipline to always be on the alert for enemy attack.

Also, know this, that the devil will continue with his ambition of ruining your life until you are called home or are quickly changed. So, your alertness must be lifelong.

And the more useful you are to Christ and His kingdom, the more eager the devil will be for your shipwreck. So, if you sense that the spiritual attacks on you are frequent and intense, know that this may be because you are perceived as a threat to the devil’s plans. The devil does not waste his artillery on harmless targets.

THE DEVIL USES MEANS TO ACHIEVE HIS ENDS

Even though the devil can attack directly, he almost always works through means. Most commonly he issues his temptations though the “world” and the “flesh.” Our purpose here is not to give a complete theological description of these two areas, but to describe them briefly so that the disciple can be alert to their working in your life.

The “world” (“kosmos” in the Greek) is a label for the godless world systems that have been constructed by fallen man at the supervision of the devil that are anti-God and that appeal to sinful behaviors. These include economic and political systems, and cultures that operate without any reference to the living God and breed godlessness. The “world” creates the visible playground for pride and lust and greed and hatred and jealousy and envy and revenge and so on. The devil has planned and constructed these “world” systems to ensure the ongoing sin of the unrighteous and to tempt the righteous to give in to sin. Thus, the devil uses the means of the world to cause the shipwreck of believers.

The devil also works through the means of the “flesh.” The flesh is not the same thing as the human body. The LORD created the human body as the ideal vehicle for carrying a man or a woman from birth to death. Rather, the flesh is the indwelling desire lurking deep within every human that craves and delights in sin. The flesh loves sin. The flesh dwells in the human heart and constantly suggests sin to the subconscious so that the person will indulge in sinful thoughts and words and behaviors. Think of the flesh as the enemy inside the gates, tempting the disciple who loves righteousness to continue in wickedness and ungodliness. Paul talks about the war with the flesh in Romans 7:14-25 and in Galatians 5:13-24. The message here is that the devil uses the flesh in his efforts to shipwreck believers.

SUMMARY

Let’s review what we have covered today.

  • The disciple of Jesus needs to be on the alert for the attacks of the devil.
  • The devil’s attacks against the disciple are lifelong.
  • The more useful the disciple is, the more the devil seeks to derail them.
  • The devil’s goal is to shipwreck the disciple’s life by ruining their usefulness to the Kingdom and their testimony for Jesus.
  • The devil most typically works through the means of the “world” and the “flesh.”

In the next post we will talk about when we are most vulnerable to the devil’s schemes and what the devil can and cannot do to the disciple of Christ.            

SDG                 rmb                 11/23/2021                 #458