Sunday, March 23, 2014

See Satan

She's coming for your friends

Be sober!
Be alert! 
Your adversary (the devil) prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast through faith…

…knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brothers who are in the world.
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace (Who called you to His eternal glory in Christ) will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen & establish you.  (1 Peter 5:8-10)

Continuing our theme of “seeing” things differently - from God’s perspective, let’s now talk about our enemy, and how we should “see” him. 

Seeing Satan is important.  He hates it when you see him. Satan doesn’t want to come into the light and be seen.  He is a creature of darkness, always hoping to stay hidden and out of your sight and out of your mind.  And if he is seen at all … he wants you to think he’s beautiful, cuddly, safe, and trustworthy.  It’s easier for him to take you and your friends as his prey if you don’t see it coming.

The master deceiver tells us: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” 
Be alert! 

Your enemy is smarter than you, stronger than you, more experienced than you, and he never rests … he will find a way to get you (and everyone you love) to be his servants if he can. 

Satan is his proper name, and Satan is the devil.  There are lots of misunderstandings about him, lots of crazy teachings and strange ideas.  Some are scary like a horror movie, some things are true, and most are not.  Here I want to use lots of scriptures and a few of my thoughts to focus your attention on the main things you need to know in order to survive this enemy.  This is more about how you should “see” him and understand him in order to combat him.  

Who is he chasing here?

Satan is your worst enemy

First, you need to know that he is real, and he is very bad.  There are no words to describe how awful he is, but we can do some comparisons.  Satan is worse than Hitler, Stalin, the Pope, Osama Ben Laden, Vladimir Putin and Vlad the Impaler combined.   If you added up all rapists and mass murderers, they would not be as sick and terrifying as Satan.  All other bad guys are usually nothing more than Satan’s tools, messengers, angels … he used them to make people suffer, but it is Satan who is behind the curtain, manipulating them.
He is the enemy of God, and he is THE enemy of mankind.  

He wants to devour your children and your friends.  He loves lies, deception, torture and death.  He wants to use you, then kill you and your family and friends.  And while making you suffer or killing your body is (apparently) fun for him, his ultimate goal is to be sure you and your children and everyone you love will spend eternity together with him in the lake of fire. 
Child attacked by a lion

And he will succeed more than he fails, according to Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14). 

Consider that – most people you know will be his meal.

Satan is your “best friend” – your greatest blessing 

Oddly, Satan is not only the cause of suffering, he is also the provider of “great” things.  Satan has given people “wonderful” relationships, hot girlfriends, riches, fine houses and cars.  But these weren’t gifts at all – they all come with strings attached.  You get to be rich and popular and pretty, and he gets your soul. 

Why? Because he doesn’t want to win every battle, he wants to win the war.  But we are so stupid and blind, we often think that if we’re doing well it’s because God loves us.  Remember how Satan tempted Jesus?  With food after a forty day fast.  Yahweh isn’t the only one who offers food to the hungry.  Satan’s very first temptation involved a piece of delicious fruit with a side-order of knowledge.

Sometimes the “good” things we enjoy; like our nation, our family, our friends, our education or material goods – are not blessings at all.  Sometimes they are bait.  Sometimes that yummy looking cheese is our last meal. 

What's your cheese?
The cheese in a mousetrap doesn’t appeal to me at all.  But I’m foolish for other kinds of bait.  The trick to resisting Satan is to know your own “cheese.”  What is irresistible to you?  Remember: it won’t necessarily be evil by itself.  It’s usually something that won’t kill you or destroy you right away, or you’d be too smart to fall for it. 

What’s your cheese
Again: don’t merely read over this to get to the end of the article.  Rather, stop and think about it.  Because one thing’s for sure: Satan knows what your cheese is, and he’s having a blast sucking you in.  All fishermen love finding just the right bait to lure their prey – it’s fun for them.  So – what bait are you foolish for?

Peter’s advice above is personal and perfect.  He tells us exactly how we should “see” Satan … as a hungry lion, and we are the prey.  When he advises us to be sober, he’s not writing merely about us avoiding alcohol, but about us avoiding anything that would make us lazy in our watch for the devil.  Whatever makes you stupid, or forgetful, or sleepy, or lazy or to look the wrong way.  Shoot, sometimes it can even be to make you good at following God!  Soon comes pride, or overwork, and then suddenly you’re vulnerable again. 

“Be watchful” is an expression that means something to anyone who has served in the military and had to stand watch.  I used to stand watch over military aircraft on my base occasionally.  They gave me a flashlight and a white belt.  We used to joke about it.  If the Commies invaded while I was on watch, I was expected to fight them off with a flashlight?  Shoot, there were plenty of guys in my own squadron I couldn't have beaten in a fight with a flashlight as my only weapon. 

On the other hand, the people at NORAD were constantly vigilant.  We had planes in the air, ships and submarines at sea and missile silos on full alert, 24x7.  Our enemy was real, he was very dangerous, and our nation had men and women watching diligently. 

As disciples of Jesus we must be the same.  We must be aware and watchful.  You should go through all of your life with a big flashing CAUTION sign in your mind’s eye! We are at war, and the enemy is not Islam or Al Qaeda.  They are amateurs compared to Satan. 

Satan disrupts our communication

Right now, for example, Satan wants me to mess up this article.  He is doing what he does to all writers, preachers and Christian teachers: he will try to make us lazy so we don’t double-check our facts.  Then if I make a mistake you may doubt me, and you might ignore this message. 

If that doesn't work, he’ll help me make this long and boring, knowing that you will not read it closely.  Satan loves a short attention span!

Do you think I’m being paranoid? 

Check this out, from Jesus’ parable about the 4 kinds of soil: 
“These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.”   (Mark 4:15)

Satan is alive and active and he is here as I write this, and with you as you read it (or not). 

Yes, Satan has the power to hide the good news, so that people don’t even see it:
If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

Stop!  Don’t merely read over that … go back and think about it for a minute! 

Must we be sexy or angry to be effective?

Let that thought settle in your mind as you try to talk to people about God.  Most people who see their audience isn't listening either start screaming dire warnings, or seek to improve their presentation.  Preachers are always talking about new visual aids, great sound systems, power point multimedia stuff, fancy clothing, or even grungy clothing … whatever it takes to get attention.  We even have “worship” leaders to soften us up with music and make it all tasty and yummy and appealing, so we'll shout praise God - and be happy.  

They forget that it’s not about how skilled a communicator a person is … if Satan blinds the mind of the audience, that’s it.  Shoot, if even the Apostle Paul’s good news could be veiled, should his response be to take a public speaking class, or produce a slicker video?  No – rather we try to be good and clear in order to be effective, but we must also remember that we are not entertainers

We who teach, preach, make disciples, or in any way communicate about God – we are messengers, not entertainers.  It’s our job to deliver God’s message (Luke 14.16-24), not our own.  It’s our job to deliver it accurately and well – but it is not our job to embellish God’s message.  As soon as we start trying to make it “sound good,” then we are playing with fire.  Speak the truth in love, and know that sometimes Satan will interfere.  If/when that happens, ask God for help – don’t try to defeat Satan on your own.  You will fail, believe me.  

In the same way when we communicate with fellow disciples, we are training, equipping, and developing one another to do battle.  We are fellow soldiers (1 Cor. 9:7, Phil 2.25, 2 Tim 2.3-4, Philemon 2), and so our training to be “on watch,” to remain diligent, and to keep watch out for the flock (each other) is too important to be reduced to silly things like entertainment or popularity. 
Trained, armed, watchful and effective
Very few excellent battlefield commanders are popular during the heat of battle, and none are entertaining.  But if they lead their guys to victory and get them out alive – they will be loved more than any silly USO act.

Ask any Marine combat vet about their sergeants who took them into harm’s way.  Do they wish he were nicer?  Better looking?  Meaner?  No – you’ll find most of the time they mostly wanted their sergeant to be effective.  (On the other hand, you’ll often hear different things from military guys who served in peacetime.  Consider that as you think about your brothers at church – most churches have made their peace with the local Philistines.  So it’s pretty easy for them to talk about what they “like” – the style of music and/or preaching … it’s all about what “we like” these days.) 

Yes, Satan is right here, right now, trying to block our communication.  If he can’t mess up the communicator, he’ll mess up the listeners.  If that doesn't work, he’ll help the audience forget quickly.  That’s why God has so many ‘reminders’ and memorials!  If that doesn't work, Satan will introduce fear, confusion, mistrust … or perhaps pure laziness.  He will do whatever it takes to ruin your effectiveness.  
Satan is a handsome, kind lion king.
Surely he won't eat us! 

Satan is Lord

Did you notice in that last passage above (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) that Paul referred to Satan as a “god”?  He is a god, indeed.  Anyone or anything worshiped by people is a god.  

Not only is Satan a god, but he is also a king over a kingdom and a father over a household.  Hopefully this language sounds familiar to you, since it’s the same kind of language we use to talk about Yahweh, the one true God. 

One of his titles is “Beelzebub,” which is (roughly) the lord, boss, or head of the household of demons.  He is the lord of evil, he is the god of this world. 

SEEING Satan as the god of this world is important.  Usually we are tempted to see people as “good” or “bad,” as saved, Christians, disciples, lost people, sinners, or whatever.  But from God’s point of view, there are only two kingdoms: His and Satan’s.  Everyone who ever lived or ever will live – is a part of one kingdom or another.  We are subjects of the king to whom we submit.  Sin is nothing more (or less) than bowing at the throne of Satan. And all of us who are now a part of God's kingdom ... we used to be part of Satan's - ALL of us!  

You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ….” 
(Ephesians 2:1-5)

Remember: “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel.”  Since that’s true, how can we look down on sinners?  How can we hate or despise a person who sins?  Can you afford to have an attitude problem with someone who is living according to their own god, and who is blind to the truth?  Is it his/her fault? 

How arrogant can we be?!?  We who can see dare to mock the blind man for tripping over a curb? 

This is what love and grace are about.  As the song says, “Why did my Savior come to earth, and to the humble go?  Why on the cross be lifted up?  Because he loved me so.” 

People in Satan’s grasp are not to be feared, admired or hated.  They are to be pitied.  They are blind and don’t know it.  And why?  Because Satan poked out their eyes.

And that’s why God has us as messengers to bring the prodigals home – to seek and save the lost.  He has given us the task of rescue.  Then once we’ve rescued them from Satan’s kingdom and reconciled them to our Father, we help them grow in God’s kingdom until they are strong enough and mature enough to join us in the battle against evil. 

Satan is lord of a kingdom, and most of the people in this world are blindly following him down the road to destruction, while most who call themselves Christians are more concerned with fashion, their hobbies, their earthly nation, their church or even their physical family to care enough to rescue those who are dying. 

And that puts a giant smile on Satan’s face!  Satan loves a lazy, misdirected disciple.  Anything that keeps us from seeing him sneaking up on us is good for him!

Satan’s Magic

Satan is called a liar and the father of lies.  He is the master deceiver.  Let’s use another word for his deception: magic.  He is better than Penn & Teller and Houdini and all magicians put together, but he uses many of the same tricks.  One of their tools is “misdirection.”  Misdirection is when the deceiver gets you to look the wrong way while he does the trick elsewhere.  If you’re checking out the pretty assistant, you’re not seeing what his hands are really doing. 

Consider today’s fascination with ‘demon possession,’ or other “supernatural” things.  Satan loves this stuff, because it’s a perfect misdirection.  While you fret over that – you are not making disciples, you are not strengthening others, you are … well, you’re doing NONE of God’s work.  It’s just idle chatter. 

Speaking of idle chatter, most of what we argue about at church or with the government is much the same.  Scholars spend their lives in idle chatter.  I’ve had several encounters with this.  Well-meaning people get so involved in some issue or another, they refuse to listen to the truth until you’re telling it the way they want, or in the building they want, or from a mouth with the education they want, or…?  They did the same thing to Jesus (Luke 7.31-35). 

Pay Attention!

One more thing: don’t hate Satan.  Don’t fear him.  Don’t curse him.  Satan is to be respected and watched out for.  In Jude (scripture below) some men are mentioned who “revile angelic majesties,” and it’s revealed that they are fools.  Even the archangel Michael didn’t trash talk Satan.  It is not smart to taunt a powerful murderer.  

The only reason we can survive Satan’s attacks and deception is if we stick together under God’s protective umbrella.  If we have good pastors/elders, teachers and brothers and sisters … they aren’t trying to charm us or impress us, but to protect us and guide us.  And they do this best when they keep us close to God.  We should run from Satan, and stick like glue to God.  But we must not hate or disrespect Satan.  That’s just stupid. 

As long as we stay close to God, we have nothing to fear.  Or as David wrote: if Yahweh is your shepherd, you can fear nothing – even death itself. 

As long as we keep watch diligently – expecting an attack – we can fight it off.  But letting down your defenses, getting lazy or inattentive … these are cracks in the walls that Satan can slip through and get access to your soul. 


There’s much more to say about this, but I will stop now.  I hope you will take this as a personal challenge, and ask yourself the simple question: What does Satan do to you – to keep you from being effective?  How might he distract you?  What’s your cheese – How might he lure you? 

Various scriptures & quick thoughts

Below are some more passages about Satan.  As you read over them, I hope you’ll take your time and think and pray on them.  Ask God to show you the truth, and erase some of the ignorance that is rampant among believers. 

For example: These days it’s popular for Christians to say things like “God has a plan,” and “God’s in charge,” and we even sometimes sing a song that claims “this is my father’s world.”  If this is your father’s world, and Paul said “the god of this world” is Satan … maybe you should re-think that song (or your allegiance). 

I’ll try to keep my comments to a minimum, but just read these, and prayerfully re-think things, asking God to open the eyes of your heart

Satan does not want you to read on.  But if you do, he doesn’t want you to pay attention to details, or commit these to be parts of your life.  He’d much rather you concern yourself with other things.

So – who’s your daddy?

How to resist Satan
Do this stuff. 
In this order. 
It’s simple, but it’s hard work, so work hard:  

1.      Submit to God
2.      Resist the devil (and he will flee from you)
3.      Draw near to God (and He will draw near to you)
4.      Cleanse your hands (you sinners) &
5.      Purify your hearts (you double-minded) 
(James 4:7-8)

Satan’s magic: distract and trap.  How should we react?  Read carefully:

Flee from youthful desires &
Righteousness, faith, love and peace,
With those who call on the Lord …
From a pure heart

But: refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will
2 Timothy 2:22-26

Satan’s people

Make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose: to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious:
Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God,
The one who does not love his brother. 
1 John 3:7-10

Satan & the church …
Remember as you read these that the church is an earthly part of God’s eternal kingdom.  We are children of the king, but also we are His servants, slaves and soldiers.  Satan is at work to stop us.  So he has spies among us who are messing-up our communications, leading us in bad directions, and causing us to disdain each other.  Look at how Satan operates within the church:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity
Ephesians 4:25-27

But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. 
(1 Timothy 5:11-15)

This next one is about pastors (elders) in a church of Christ.  They were supposedly the leaders of the church.  They ate the Lord’s Supper each week with their church family, and seemed to be good guys.  That’s why they are called “hidden reefs,” because they do to human souls what coral does to a ship: they disembowel her.  They LOOK good … but they are actually evil!  Do you have these at your church?  Would you recognize them if you did? 

…These men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.  
(Jude 8-13)
My, he looks like us but strong and handsome

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. 
(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)    
Look carefully at your “sheep”!!
In this case a brother sinned and was “disfellowshipped” or “shunned” by the church, which was proper.  But he repented, and still the church kept him “locked-out” of their fellowship.  Paul understood that this gave Satan an opportunity.  The lamb that strayed would now be easy prey.  So Paul wrote that they should now let the lamb back into the fold and comfort him.

Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. 
(2 Corinthians 2:6-11)

Remember that Satan is our accuser – Jesus is our savior!
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before Yahweh’s angel, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 
(Zechariah 3:1)

he's king of the world! 
Satan is King

If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?  If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 
(Matthew 12:26-28)

 “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
(John 12:31)

“Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded me. Get up, let us go from here.
(John 14:29-31)

This is when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.  It’s specifically about Jesus sending Paul to the Gentiles, but it’s also God’s call to you.  Rescue people from the kingdom of Satan!  

“And I said,
‘Who are you, Lord?’
And the Lord said,
‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ 
(Acts 26:15-18)

Satan fouls up our plans:

But we, brothers, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us. 
(1 Thessalonians 2:17-18)

No Fear
Since the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death (that is, the devil)
…& might
free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 
Hebrews 2:14-15

Fail & Recovery
We don’t have to fail, but we will.  And when we do, we can recover and be even stronger.  During the last supper Jesus told Pete that Satan was about to take him down.  But then Jesus said that after he had gotten over it, he needed to rise up and help his bros:

 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 
(Luke 22:31-32)

Soldiers of Christ, arise

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
Put on the full armor of God,
…so that…
You will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God,
…so that…
You will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness….   

Ephesians 6:10-14

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