What The Serpent Wants From YouErwin W. Lutzer | November 5, 1995
Selected highlights from this sermon
Did you know that Satan cannot act independently of God? So when Satan comes against us, we can be assured that God is still in control and knows what is going on. We also need to be aware that sometimes God uses Satan to chasten the disobedient and purify the obedient.
All of us know that we are indeed in a spiritual battle. What’s in it for Satan? Why all this harassment? Why all of this activity when he knows that he has already been defeated?
Well, one of the things that Satan wants to do, that he always wants to do, is to separate the soul from God. He wants to separate us from God as believers as best he can through guilt and through a sense of alienation and a feeling that God doesn’t love us because we aren’t good enough. He wants the unbelieving world to be separated from God, and for them, the Bible says, he blinds the minds of those that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ should shine onto them. And he wants people to be like he is—independent and evil (He always calls bad good and good bad.), thoroughly evil, and he’d like us to be as much as possible like he himself is. That’s his goal.
But let me tell you that his method is always to make sin look good. That’s the way he works. People are always saying, “Well, how can you tell whether a problem is demonic or whether it’s just our sin nature?” Often you can’t. Sometimes you can, but frequently you can’t, because he works through the sin nature. He makes sin look appealing. He makes sin to appear as if it’s a really good deal. Satan is the sin sower, and he’ll tell you, “If you follow me, if you do your own thing and fulfill your own desires, and not always be consulting with God, you’ll really be better off, because if you follow God you might be lonely, you might be single, you might be in despair. And think of all the pleasures you might miss.” And so that’s the battle.
What is his motive? I want you to know today that he is angry. He is very angry at God because he wants to be like God, and he never is going to be like God and he knows it, so he’s angry at that. He’s angry because God purchased us at high cost out from under his domain, as we learned last week, and Jesus Christ defeated him. So he’s angry with us, and he uses us to get back at God.
Now in the history of theology, what you find is there have always been two extremes. On the one extreme there are those who have just done away with Satan, and they have underestimated him. I think that’s the way it was when I was growing up. Oh, you heard a couple of messages about Satan. I went to seminary and studied Satan in theology class and we memorized the notes and we put those notes on an exam somewhere. God knows where that exam is today. And clearly He’s not telling, but He would be the only one who would know. And so that’s what was done. It was theoretical.
And then when I came into my first pastorate I began to have a more realistic view, because when you begin to counsel and you begin to see expressions of demonic activity before your face, you begin to realize that this battle is a whole lot more real than I realized. But today we live in a time when I think that the opposite error is now in effect, and that is where people are overemphasizing Satan, or I should say perhaps not overemphasizing him but they are rather overestimating his ability and his strength.
Listen to some people and you almost get the impression that he is some kind of a second god, and God and the devil are duking it out, and in the end, yes, God will win, but it’s almost a close call all the way along the line. And there’s some wrong theology that is being taught in what is known as the deliverance ministries. Now, I believe in deliverance, and in the next two messages in this series we are going to be speaking about that, about resisting, and about spiritual deliverance. But there’s been some wrong theology that’s been communicated.
Now, what I’d like to do today is to give you five truths, and I know that you didn’t maybe bring notebooks with you, but you should write these down somewhere. Five truths that we can hang onto! We’ll turn to some passages of Scripture. Some I will simply stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance. And what I’d like you to do is to pretend. Are you good at pretending? I want you to pretend that you’re not here listening to a sermon, but that you are in my study. And we’re sitting across from one another with about five or six feet between us, and you’re looking into my eyes, and I’m looking into your eyes (I try to look into your eyes when I preach, and you probably are trying to look into mine, but some of you folks are sitting too far back to do that), and we’re just having a talk.
Today it’s time to talk to the pastor, and we’re just chitchatting, but we’re chitchatting about truth, and what I have to say I want you to take seriously. Sometimes we say to one another, “Well, you know I want to tell you something, but don’t take it personally.” Well, I want you to take this personally, just between us. Here we go.
Truth number one: Satan cannot act independently of God. He cannot act independently of God. You listen to some people today and you would think that Satan is autonomous, as if he has such freedom he can just harass people at will, and God is in heaven just simply saying, “Well, after all, he is the prince of this world, and I’ve got to let him do it.” No, that’s not the way it is.
Think with me. Satan and God have this little conversation about Job one day, and they are discussing Job, and God is saying, “Look, he’s a great man, and he loves Me and turns away from evil.” And Satan says, “Yeah, but take everything he has away and he’ll curse You.” God says, “Okay, Satan, let’s test Job. You take everything away but don’t touch his life.” So Job’s children die. God even gave Satan there the authority to take the lives of Job’s children. Awesome power! Yes, awesome power but done under the providential guidance and direction and limitation imposed by God!
Later on Job passes the test. Satan comes to God and says, “Well, you know, touch his life (You haven’t touched him.) and he’ll curse you.” God says, “Go ahead. Touch his body, but you can’t take his life.” And Satan smites him with boils from top to bottom.
You know that I frequently ask people this (I did when I preached that series of messages on the book of Job.), “Where did Job’s trial come from? God or the devil?” Well the answer is the immediate cause was the devil, but the ultimate cause was God, so that when Job was wrestling there in the ashes, he was wrestling with God, because he knew that it was God who had tested him. Now you think about that. It’s not as if Satan could just take on one of God’s children without asking permission to do it.
One day Satan was looking at Peter, and he thought, “You know, this Peter is so rash. He’s always making these promises. He’s got a little edge to him.” Have you ever met people who have an edge to them? Some of you live with a person like that. They have maybe even more than one edge to them. And Satan said to himself, “I’d like to see Peter fall. I’d like to see him deny Christ.”
What did Jesus say in Luke 22? He said: “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I pray for you that your faith might not fail, and when you are restored, you are going to be stronger because of it.” Now notice that. Satan couldn’t attack Peter willy nilly. He had to go to Christ. I almost get the impression that he came begging to Jesus and said, “Give me a chance to test Peter,” and Jesus gave it to him.
Now you think of the implications then. If that is true, and it is true, if Satan cannot act independently of God, think of what that means for some of you who live under the fear that you have been cursed because of your genealogy or because of a curse that has been put upon you. I and another pastoral staff member were counseling a lovely young couple who love the Lord Jesus Christ who came to us in fear, fearing that someone in another country who hated them (It’s an intricate story.) had put a curse on them, because this person was profoundly evil. And they even wondered whether there was a car accident in their lives, or health problems that resulted from this curse. Well, the answer is this: People may put curses on one another, and certainly Satan has the power to curse, and there are witches who cast spells, but if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your destiny does not rest in the hands of Satan. Your destiny rests in the hands of God. God is the one who determines how long you are going to live. It is not up to Satan to somehow attack you and to do you in. If you feel that you have a curse, probably that fear, if anything, is going to be worse than the curse itself. And I suggest what you do is you commit yourself to God and say, “God, I belong to you and I reject any of these curses, or the fear of curses, because I do not belong to the devil. I belong to God.”
Who is Satan to say to you, “You’re going to die at the age of 26?” He has no right to say it. He has no right to destroy you. It says in Hebrews 2 very clearly that Jesus came to render powerless (That’s what my Bible says.) him who had the power of death,” that is the devil. You belong to Christ.
Oh, let’s turn in our Bibles to Exodus 20, a passage of Scripture that I think has often been misinterpreted and misused, and has been used by the devil to give him license to do things that he has no right to do. You’ll notice that it says in Exodus 20:5 (It’s speaking about the curse of idolatry, and idolatry is a curse): “You shall not worship them nor serve them for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing loving kindness to thousands to those who love me and keep my commandments.”
I cannot count the number of times people have asked me about this passage. They say to themselves, “I was brought up in an occultist home. I have a bad background. There are generational spirits in our family,” and there may be. Just yesterday I read about a little girl, two or three years old, uttering obscenities that she could not have learned in a normal way, so there are generational spirits, yes.
But, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, there are two things about this passage. Very quickly, it was pointed out to me actually by our associate pastor, Daryl Worley, to whom God has given a very keen mind, to notice what the text actually says. “I will visit the iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me.” So if you meet somebody like that you say, “Oh, are you a God hater?” And if they are a believer they’ll be shocked and say, “No, I’m not a God hater. I love God.” And you say, “Then whatever it is that is being spoken of here does not apply to you. It says that the curse is, if there is a curse, on those who hate Me to the third and the fourth generations. And if you belong to God, you have no reason to be under the curse of Satan.”
Now, I have had people tell me that Satan actually uses this passage of Scripture to harass God’s people, and they live in defeat. They say to themselves, “Well, you know my family was so bad, and we’ve got all these problems. There’s nothing that I can do except to simply accept it because this is going to go on for at least three more generations.” I would say, in the name of Jesus Christ, rebuke that kind of a spirit. Rebuke that kind of unbelief and negativism, and say to yourself as a Christian, “I belong to God. My destiny is with Him. He is mine, and I am His, and who shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height or depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
My dear friend, if you are a believer, you have a whole new identity. You are now in Christ. Nothing can touch you in Christ unless God approves it. A curse may be put upon you. If the curse even worked and you died in accordance with it, it would be within the providential hand of a loving Father. God loves you as one of His children. You are His and Satan cannot touch you without His express written consent. I don’t know if it is written, but it is expressed and it is consent.
When our children were younger we used to take them to the zoo. All parents have a responsibility of taking their children to the zoo. And I remember our children, just like all others, would go over to the lion cage. And if you have a child about 2 or 3, they say, “No, Daddy, I don’t want to see the lion. The lion’s going to get me.” But you walk confidently over to the lion cage. Why? It’s because children see only the lion. That’s all they see. But you are an adult, and you not only see the lion. You also see the bars. And there are many people today; all that they see is the lion. They think to themselves that Satan has so much authority, he can at will cast spells, he can bring about death, and God has nothing to do with it. My dear friend, I want you to know that he is the lion who seeks whom he may devour, absolutely. He is loose but God keeps him on a leash. He cannot tempt Job, and he cannot tempt Peter without express consent. He cannot act independently.
Rejoice if you are a believer for you have triumphed over his lies. That’s number one. Are you ready for number two?
Ready or not, here we go. Number two: God uses Satan to discipline the disobedient. He uses Satan as a means of discipline. How many times have I quoted (and you are going to hear it, no doubt, from me many more times) the words of Martin Luther that the devil is God’s devil? Take your Bible and turn to 1 Samuel 18. This is the story of Saul. You know, I’m preaching a series of eight messages and I’m sure that that is enough, but in my heart I’m saying that if I really did justice to the topic, it would be more like a dozen messages or 15, because Saul himself almost merits an entire message.
First Samuel 18:10-11: “The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’”
What’s going on in the text? An evil spirit from the Lord! Well, if you’ve been following our argument so far, what else would the text say except that the evil spirit was from the Lord? He can’t act independently. But here was Saul, consumed with jealousy, filled with rage at David. He would not accept the fact that God had abandoned him as king and had stripped him of the title, and he hated David, and wanted to kill him.
God says, in effect, “Saul, if this is the way you are going to act, if this is the way it’s going to be, I’m going to send you an evil spirit who is going to take that jealousy and that hatred and that paranoia (because he became very paranoid), and I’m going to magnify it. I’m going to let a spirit harass you. That’s a judgment for your sin that you are unwilling to repent of.”
You say, “Well, can you prove that in the New Testament?” Oh, I knew you’d be asking that, so I’m ready for you. In 1 Corinthians 5 you have a man living in immorality. Actually incest! He is involved apparently sexually with his step mother, and the Apostle Paul is upset with the church for knowing about it and not doing anything about it. And that in itself is an entire message. But notice what he says in verse 5: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
He’s a believer. Paul says, “We have to cut him off from the fellowship, and in cutting him off from the fellowship we are abandoning him to the devil, and the devil is going to harass him. The devil is going to judge him. Why? That his spirit may be saved, that he may be brought to his senses and repent. God is going to make it so miserable and use the devil to make it so miserable that the man, in desperation, will finally repent and give in.
You say, “Well, do you think that there are evil spirits today that are used by God like this for believers?” And the answer is, “Yes, I believe that.” Years ago I was counseling a man, and you know, these cases are very difficult. We as a staff talk about our philosophy of counseling, and about our needs, and it is difficult. It really is, but he couldn’t sleep at night. He had insomnia. He had depression. He told me he was up at 4 o’clock in the morning praying, and it didn’t do any good. He was memorizing Scripture. And here’s a man who is literally being eaten alive. He is being harassed, and I had no idea what his problem was. I couldn’t find it. I asked him all the right questions. He gave me all the right answers. Well, it was weeks later when his life became unraveled. He had been having an affair during this period of time. And I believe that no matter how secret it was, and no matter how well guarded it was, no matter how he thought for sure that no one would find out, because he was a believer God said, “I’m going to make this man so miserable that he’ll finally come clean, that his spirit may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ. I’ll use Satan to do it.”
So, number two, God uses Satan to discipline the disobedient. Maybe David even experienced this when he said, regarding his sins, “Day and night was Thy hand heavy upon me.”
And then number three, God uses Satan to purify the obedient. I’m giving it to you slowly enough so that you can write it down. God may use Satan to purify the obedient. I have frequently pondered that passage in 2 Corinthians 12, which we will not turn to, but it’s there (You can write it down.) where the Apostle Paul has a thorn in the flesh. He says “it is a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” Now, that’s interesting. Three times the Apostle Paul prays to the Lord and says, “Lord, take this from me.” And God says to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is perfected in your weakness.” And he says, “Most gladly will I therefore now rather glory in my infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” And of this evil messenger who means evil toward Paul, Paul says, “Even though he is my enemy, God is using him for my good and my purification.”
See, Paul didn’t have this problem because he had committed some sin that he had to confess. In fact, he tells us that the reason that it was given was to keep him from the possibility of falling into the sin of pride. And God says, “I’m going to give you a thorn in the flesh, and it is going to humble you, and keep you on your knees, and broken before me. And I’m going to leave it there, and I’m going to let you struggle with it.”
Can’t you imagine Job, Saul, Peter, this man in Corinthians, and people like the Apostle Paul all going to a deliverance ministry, and saying, “You know, we’re all having some kind of demonic activity in our lives at some level, and all that we want to do is to simply have it rebuked, taken care of, because that’s the way we want deliverance?” Now, I believe in deliverance, but it isn’t always that simple. It isn’t as clear cut as some people would want us to think it is. We need to be careful. And that’s why one of the first things people who struggle with demonic activity have to do is to thank God for the struggle. You never thank God for the sin. No! But you thank God for the struggle, because number one, you know now that God is in it. He’s back of it! And number two, you know that in some way He is using it for your good. He may be using it to discipline you. That may not be the purpose. He may be using it to refine you. And He is going to deliver you, but think of all the lessons you are going to learn as a result of it. It is God’s teaching tool. So, number three, God may use Satan in our lives to purify us.
Number four, God and the devil, of course, have different purposes in our conflicts. There are different purposes, contradictory purposes. What does God want out of our conflicts and our wrestling with the devil? And we do wrestle with the devil. I have wrestled with the devil. You have wrestled with the devil. We all have. What’s the purpose of it all? Well, God has His purpose. God says, “What I want to do is to give you some really good chances to show that you love Me.” And, “I will be glorified if you are content with Me rather than content with sin. I will be glorified if you will obey Me even when it’s hard to obey Me. I’ll be glorified if you love Me so much that you’ll be satisfied with My will, even though it’s tough.” That’s the way God is glorified. He had one Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and now the Scripture says that He wants to bring many sons into glory through suffering. And usually it cannot be accomplished in any other way except through suffering. If you are suffering today, you have a brother called the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s God’s agenda.
What’s Satan’s agenda? Oh, his agenda! “The thief cometh not for to steal, to kill and to destroy.” He wants to steal. What does he want to steal from you? He wants to steal your peace because he knows that if you are not at peace, you’re going to make wrong decisions. You’re going to do wild things. You’re going to cast about for some kind of an answer within your soul. He wants to steal your fellowship with God. If you’re a believer, he knows that he cannot steal your soul, but he wants to steal your witness. He wants to render you inoperative. He wants to see you on the shelf. He wants to see you so filled with unbelief and hatred and negativism and such a preoccupation with your anxieties that basically, so far as we can discern at least, you are really not of too much value for the kingdom of God here on earth. He wants to paralyze you. That’s what he wants.
Number four, and most importantly now, temptation is our clearest example. Temptation is our clearest example to develop Christlikeness, to prove that we love Christ. Temptation is the battleground upon which (I’m going to put it somewhat indelicately) either Satan wins or God wins. Now, that isn’t correct theologically because God always wins, but that’s a whole other theological story that needs to be told at some other time. But whether we give into temptation or whether we resist it, God is either honored, or He is dishonored. Satan is either glad, or Satan is very unhappy.
In order to understand that a little better, turn with me in your Bible to Matthew 4. It’s a classic passage that has been preached on many times, and I shall make only a few brief remarks regarding it, and that is Christ and His encounter with Satan. Notice Matthew 4:1 says: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Do you know what I think the impression is that is sometimes given? I think that there are people who think, “You know, Jesus was there in the desert, kind of running away from the devil, and the devil was going up and down the Judaean hills saying, “Where is He? Where is He? I can hardly wait to get to Him.” You know, I think that the opposite was true. The Scripture says that Jesus was driven into the wilderness in order to be tempted of the devil. The devil may have been doing the hiding, and Jesus was going to smoke him out, because they needed a confrontation. They were on a collision course.
And I want you to notice here again that the devil is God’s devil. Christ is driven into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And you and I are put in situations of temptation. And those situations of temptation, in some instances, at least, have been ordained by God to give us a chance to show how much we love Christ, and how committed we are to fellowship with Him, which incidentally is the only real motivation that you and I will ever have to choose Christ rather that the devil. It is love for Christ that is the greatest of all the motivations.
But now notice quickly. The tempter comes to Him (verse 3) and says to Him: “If you are the son of God (more accurately, “Since you are the son of God)”, command that these stones become bread.” He takes the very common desire of the body. Jesus had fasted 40 days. If you ever fast 40 days I am told that after 40 days you become hungry, and that’s exactly what happened in the life of Christ.
Some of you are smiling because you think you’d be hungry before that time, but actually what happens is that after a while your system shuts down and you are not hungry for about 40 days, but after that you are. And so the tempter comes and he says, “Cause these stones to be made into bread.” And God has the ability to create. In the Old Testament He created manna, and made little wafers. “Go ahead and do it and eat.” Now, just in and of itself, without a context, there’d be nothing wrong with that. Jesus used fish to feed a huge multitude, and he took five loaves of bread and fed a multitude. He had already done it, but it was the wrong time in the wrong way, and it wasn’t the right time and the Father’s will. That was the point.
Now Satan comes to us in the very same way and says, “You have a desire for food. You have a desire for sexuality.” You could actually put into this text any lust of the flesh you wanted, whether it was alcoholism or drugs or gluttony or pornography. You have these desires? Oh, fulfill them. And we as humans rationalize them and we say, “Yes, if I have the desire it must be okay to fulfill the desire.” And the answer is, “No, not all the time. No, you can’t make that equation. Christ had the desire. He had the ability, but it wasn’t the right time.
Do you know what Jesus said? He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Christ said, “I have bread that has come to me from heaven, and I’m feeding on that bread. It’s the bread that My Father and I have, and that’s so satisfying to Me that I can say no to this temptation, and I can live by the words that come out of My Father’s mouth.” And that’s your temptation and that’s my temptation. And what we need to do is to recognize that these desires, no matter how explosive, no matter how great they may be, no matter how hooked we might convince ourselves that we are, if we learn to eat the bread that comes down from heaven in fellowship with our heavenly Father, we will be able to say, “Be gone, Satan, for it is written ‘Man shall not live by this alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Look at the second temptation. He takes Him to the holy city. Notice his authority and power. I don’t know how he… Does he scoop Christ up? We’re not told. He stood Him on the pinnacle of the temple, perhaps the southeast wall that goes into the Kidron Valley. And he takes Christ there, and he says to him, in effect (very modern loose translation), “Become a bungie jumper. Just stand there and cast Yourself down, and the angels are going to scoop You up and bring You back, and word is going to go throughout the city of Jerusalem how fantastic You are. And do it, because after all, I’ve got a verse for You. ‘He’ll give His angels charge concerning You, and in their hands they shall bear You up.’”
People don’t recognize that Satan knows a lot of the Bible by memory, and he comes with a verse. Jesus said, “You shall not test the Lord your God.” You shouldn’t put God to the test.”
My heart broke one day when I was watching television. I was watching one of these deliverance ministries where a man, I believe, came very close to being so presumptuous that the very words that were taking place here would be applicable to him. He was talking about his ability to heal, his ability to cast out demons. And then he said, “I was in this funeral home,” and he said, “I was just tempted to raise the dead.” And I thought to myself, “Well, you know, if you were tempted to, why didn’t you try?” But he spoke with such arrogance. It bothered me. God is his judge. Sorry I said it. Strike it from the record. But I am troubled by people who think they have such authority that they can do whatever they want, and God is just in heaven waiting to do nothing but to do their will.
Parenthesis! We do not have absolute control over the devil. Only God does. We don’t have that. If we had absolute control we’d gather together. We’d have a prayer meeting. We’d banish him from Chicago. Then we’d banish him from the United States, and then the whole world and we’d get rid of him once for all. We can’t do that. God has a purpose. God is going to do it at the end, but we can’t. God has given us all these resources to fight him individually and personally, and as a church, but it’s not as if we have absolute control. Notice this. Jesus said, “Don’t test God. Believe Him but don’t test Him.”
You appeal to Christ’s pride! Then the covetousness, the lust of the eyes! He took Him to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and he said, “All these things I give You.” He said, “Jesus, I’ll give you the scepter,” and theologians debate as to whether or not he had the right to say that he would give that scepter to Christ, but he says, “I’ll give you the scepter.” And Satan knew that whomever you worship has the right to be obeyed. “You worship me, and then you obey me, and you can have the kingdoms of this world, and you can have those kingdoms without going to the cross.” And Jesus comes back and says, “Be gone, Satan, for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and serve Him only.’” And then notice it says in verse 11: “The devil left him and behold angels began to minister to him.”
And there is such a thing as having resisted temptation, having come through it. Have you had this experience? I know that I have. In resisting a particular temptation, and later on, having such a sense of God’s presence and such beautiful fellowship, you say to yourself, “If I had given into that temptation, no matter how pleasurable it may have been, it could never have been worth the presence of almighty God.” God is with us, and His blessing comes to those who believe.
I think maybe some would say that Satan is coming through the pipes this morning, but let us remember that if that is true, it’s been approved by God, so that means we no longer have to pay any attention to it and we can just finish the message.
Let me summarize today with three S’s. Number one, submit to God. Number two, the Holy Spirit. You see, it isn’t just submission. We don’t win the battle only by submission. Submission is very, very important, but it is faith. And faith comes by receiving the Holy Spirit in His fullness. Jesus went up to heaven, the Bible says, and when He was there He poured forth the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we receive the Spirit of God in faith.
If you walk by the Spirit, you’ll not fulfill the desires of the flesh. Nobody has ever been able to live the Christian life by determination. Nobody ever lives the Christian life because they feel guilty, and they think that it’s about time to change. We can only live the Christian life victoriously when we receive in simple faith the filling of the Holy Spirit, and then we stand.
So you have submit. You have the Spirit. And then, stand. It says in the book of Ephesians that we are to stand against the wiles of the devil. Where do we stand. We stand on territory that Christ conquered when He died. This was the last message that I preached. We stand there, absolutely convinced that He has won a victory for us, that we do not have to be a part of his wiles, and I believe (Some people disagree with me) that we have every right to talk to him as long as we tell him to be gone. And we say, “Be gone in the name of Jesus, for it is written…” And you have to say it maybe three times, maybe five times. Jesus here had to say it three times, and later on he came back.
And we stand and we stand and we stand, and we recognize the victory that He has won on our behalf.
Some of you have heard me tell the story before, but I need to tell it here because it fits, about the time when I was studying French at one of the universities here because I was supposed to pass a French exam. And I don’t know any French at all. I still don’t, by the way. But the only thing that I could say in French was “Cut the grass” (chuckles) which, as you know, is “Mow de lawn.” (laughter)
And I had to go into the professor’s office. He took a journal off the shelf, a philosophical journal, and I was supposed to translate on sight. I flunked it the first time. I flunked it the second time. The third time I was so afraid. I’ll tell you I could hardly eat breakfast. There have been few times in my life that I’ve been so intimidated as that time. And I began to think, you know, that Satan could be involved in this somehow. And so I began to recite Scriptures: “Be gone, for it is written…” The Scripture says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving…” And then I’d quote: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” I quoted all these verses and they didn’t help.
But I got into the car and I began to just say these verses over and over again. I said, “This is really something. How could I be so shaken up over a French exam?” And I got there, and before I got to the university, I remember I was about a half mile away, suddenly such a sense of peace flooded over me. It was just overwhelming. I have few times in my life so sensed the intimacy of God’s presence. It was just as if every worry, every vestige of concern left me and I was in that car alone with God. What a moment!
I walked into the office. He took the journal off the shelf, gave me something to translate, and I flunked it cold. (laughter) I went back to Edgewater Baptist Church where I was the pastor at that time. I was in such a good mood. My secretary said, “Why are you in such a good mood? What got into you?” I said, “I’ve just flunked French three times in a row.” (laughter)
And so I say to the students who are present. If you’ve got to flunk, do it victoriously. (laughter) So you don’t have to ask me, I did pass it on the fourth try. One of the things I learned is that he doesn’t leave just because you throw a verse at him.
You submit. You receive the fullness of the Spirit. And then you stand, and you stand, and you stand. And after you’ve stood, you continue to stand because he will hammer you, and hammer you, and hammer you, and you have to say, “It is written, ‘Be gone.’” And eventually he says to himself, “I can’t take this anymore,” and he leaves.
We have a lion who is going about, seeking whom he may devour. But I want you to know that the Bible says they overcame him by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb.
Folks, the conclusion today: It’s our responsibility to glance on the lion but to gaze on the Lamb, because the lion has been tread upon by the Lamb of God who has opened the book, who has crushed the head of the serpent, and invites all of his people to say, “Stand with Me in victory and enjoy God.” And enjoy God! That’s the whole point of it. And with His help and strength we can. We can!
And let us pray.
Father, thank You that Your Word says that we have exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we can overcome the world and the devil. Help us to receive those in our spirit today.
For those who struggle, for those who feel hopeless, we ask, oh Lord, that You will engraft in them in this moment the truths of Your Word that they may stand. Father, hear the prayer of all of those that have prayed. And grant us strength that we might be victorious. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.