Monday, January 3, 2011

Yes, There is a Satan ... Literally

Today I want to talk about a very real enemy we have.  It is an enemy whose defeat is imminent, but who does not seem to believe that to be true.  It is the one who accuses us, tests us, and attempts to deceive us.  Today I am going to talk about Satan.  Please note that my goal today is in no way to give glory to such an evil being, but to give us an accurate picture of just who this enemy is.  Nothing is more important than knowing the Lord, but the Word of God spends time telling us about Satan and in that I believe it is important for us to know about him. 

I will begin with a few misconceptions.  First of all, Satan is not a horned being with a tail and pitchfork as so many seem to believe. 
"Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.  Ezekiel 28:12-17 NKJV
Some would say that Satan's beauty was changed after he was cast out of Heaven.  That may be so considering he has appeared as a serpent in Genesis and is described as a dragon in Revelation, but it is also apparent that Satan can change his appearance as the need suits him.
And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.  2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NKJV
Paul shares with us here that Satan can appear as an angel of light, just as his ministers can appear as ministers of righteousness. 

We also see that Satan worshiped musically before God.  Many like to associate rock music, in particularly music known as heavy metal, as the "devil's music."  I disagree.  Some who perform that music may associate with Satan, but I do not believe that music is necessarily Satan-inspired.  When you think about it, Satan was created to be a music minister to God.  In that function, do you think his focus would be on simple rhythms and distorted sound?  Just as Satan appears as an angel of light, I believe his music appears the same.  I can guarantee that many Christians would declare a band singing about Jesus to heavy metal music as Satanic while lauding the brilliance of the music of the likes of Richard Wagner, whose operas are about as antisemitic as you can get.  Even now, the whole New Age music genre is meant to produce beautiful-sounding music but directed at a kind of spirituality that is completely opposed to God. 

I hope that we can see from the start that Satan is not a horned and tailed red monster playing air-guitar to Metallica on his pitchfork. He is more likely to be in your church, appearing as an angel of light or influencing his minister to appear as a teacher of righteousness. 

Another thing we need to dispel is that Satan is opposite of God.  Satan is not some being in some eternal struggle with God.  Satan only exists because God has not chosen to annihilate him.  We also see in Ezekiel that Satan is a created being.  Satan may be full of wisdom and more powerful than we are, but the power of Satan is nothing compared to the power of God.  The only reason Satan even exists to harass, accuse, and test us is because God has chosen not to annihilate him or send him to his eternal home in Hell.   Whatever leeway Satan has is only because God has allowed it.  When compared the the majesty and glory of God, Satan is nothing.  When it comes to his effect on our lives, it is only what God allows.  Let us look at some Scripture regarding Satan's freedoms and limitations in Heaven and on earth.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.  Job 1:6-12 NKJV
We see two things from this passage. First, Satan still has access to the throne of God.  He is able to still speak to God and even have conversations with God.  We also see that Satan is limited as to what he can do to us.  Those of us in Christ have a hedge around us and our stuff.  Satan can not touch us, our family in the Lord, or even what we own unless God allows it.  If your car breaks down on the way to church, the response should not be to blame Satan, but to ask God why He allowed it.  God is not just going to let Satan run amok on us or our things without a purpose, and we need to seek His purpose behind allowing those things rather than raising our hands in defeat or defiance. 
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.  Revelation 12:10 NKJV
We learn here that Satan stands before God day and night and accuses us.  Whereas God has forgotten and forgiven our sin, Satan has not.  He works to bring up that sin to God day and night to try and shake God's love and favor toward us just as he did regarding Job.  God, though, sees us through the blood of Christ and those accusations fall on deaf ears. 
And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."  Luke 22:31-32 NKJV
This again is related to Job.  We see Satan desiring (and apparently getting) permission to test the faith of Peter. God will allow Satan to test us.  I know we like to think of the protecting arms of God, but there are times that God will let down those arms and allow Satan to influence our lives, sometimes rather dramatically.  We see from these examples, that testing can be just about anything.  It can be a death in the family, loss of money or job, loss of possessions, persecution, and all other sorts of calamity that comes into our lives.  God allows and Satan is all too eager to put us through the paces, but God always has a purpose behind His tests.  Even when we fail, as Peter did, it only serves to humble us and ultimately increase our faith. 
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  1 Corinthians 5:4-5 NKJV
Satan is also used of God to punish an unrepentant brother or sister.  When there is someone in the church who refuses to repent, who is under the influence of Satan and believing the deception rather than the truth of God, is turned over to that deception.  The ultimate goal is restoration still as we see here, that the one is turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.  This reminds me of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  He did not listen to his father's wisdom and desired his inheritance.  He was given what he desired and took it and squandered it on sin.  Eventually, as sin does, it brought him down to the end of himself, to the point where he realized just how empty the sinful life was.  It left him poor and destitute and humbled him until he decided to return to his father.  The same can be said for us if there ever comes the sad time when we refuse to repent of our sin and are turned over to those desires after being excommunicated from church. 
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.  2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV
And, finally, Satan is the ruler of this age.  He is not our ruler, but he is of the world and of those not in Christ.  He has deceived them into believing that the truth of God is a lie or at the very least negotiable, that the love of God is a form of tyranny, that the Gospel that welcomes all is prejudicial, and that worshiping only the true and living God is close-minded.  His deceptions have brought forth wicked evil governments that even exist to this day to abuse, persecute, outlaw, torture, imprison, and kill both his chosen people and those of us in Christ.  Make no mistake, we live in a world under the delusion of Satan draped in his darkness, and under his authority.  This world is not our home.  We are to bring light to this dark world and the truth to a land of deception. 

Satan is a very real influence in this world, but one of his greatest deceptions is the one he perpetuates as to his real identity.  The world thinks of Satan as some monstrous being playing heavy metal music to our children when in reality even that is part of his delusion.  The world is deceived into serving the very Satan it claims to oppose.  We often make that same mistake in our churches.  We like to talk about his influence in our world and in our lives, but we fail to address his very real influence in our churches.  He sends his teachers and so many follow them.  I daresay that even many of those teachers do not realize they are following the doctrine of Satan and not the Word of God.  Satan is a wolf in sheep's clothing, darkness masquerading as an angel of light, a minister of lies pretending to teach truth, and he is in our churches. 

We also see that Satan has much freedom in our world.  He is called the god of this age to a world all to eager to follow his lies.  We also see that the freedom he has is limited by God.  He is not allowed to touch us or anything we have unless God specifically allows it.  Satan thinks he is a disruptive force in the lives of Christians and even deceives us into believing that.  The fact is that Satan is not a force unto himself, but a tool used by God.  What he does to us is allowed by God for His purposes and not Satan's agenda.  What we can learn from that is that when those bad things happen in our lives or when we feel our faith being stretched to its very end, the answer is not to cry out to Satan in defeat or defiance, but to cry out to God and find out what purpose is behind our testing.  We must also keep the hope during our times of testing that there is a purpose behind it and that purpose is to strengthen us not destroy us. 

So, brothers and sisters, be grounded in God's Word to not be led astray by the lies of Satan, keep your faith during times of testing and cling to God even if you should fail that test, and always keep your eyes focused on Christ.  We will address these other issues as the week goes on, but Satan's ultimate goal is to be worshiped as God and the first step in that is to take your eyes off of Jesus.  Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! 
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 5:8-11 NKJV

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