Scripture Reference: Genesis 3, Acts 5, James 4:6-7
The Devil We AbhorDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | November 5, 2006
Selected highlights from this sermon
Satan roams the Earth, seeking to corrupt humanity, and he does so with much success. Using temptations, obsessions, and invasions, Satan and his comrades wreak havoc in this world but only to the extent God permits.
But where did he come from, and how can we win against his schemes? In this message, Pastor Lutzer answers these questions and reminds us that Jesus has already won the victory over Satan, and through Him, we can too.
There is a story, perhaps it is apocryphal, about a contractor who walked into the office of the president of a company. The company was looking for contractors to build a multi million dollar housing complex. They were looking for contractors to submit bids. With all things being equal that meant that the lowest bidder would get the job.
The contractor walked into the president’s office and noticed that no one was there. He had the bid that he was going to submit in his hand but he had not yet written the amount. He noticed that the bid of his most competent rival and competitor was open on the president’s desk. All that he needed to do was to look at the number and then write in his own number and come in just a little under his competitor and he would get the job.
The problem was that as he looked at it he noticed there was a can of soda pop directly on top of the number. He didn’t want to cheat, so he walked out and walked back and forth, but nobody was there. The hallway was empty and the office was empty. He thought, “I’ll lift up the can of soda pop really fast, see the number, and then put it down.” As he did, hundreds of drops spilled out unto the desk and unto the floor.
That man experienced what we could be called the law of unintended consequences. When Lucifer, whose name means “light bearer,” decided to roll the dice and gamble that independence from God was better than dependence, he set in motion a series of events with consequences that were far beyond his control. What a stupid decision he made.
It was a foolish decision right from the outset for a number of reasons. First of all, he was limited in what he could achieve. He didn’t have omnipotence like God. He couldn’t create out of nothing. He knew that God was stronger than he was, so why does the Bible tell us in Isaiah that Satan said to himself, “I will be like the Most High”? He wanted to be like the most high only in this respect: that he would have independence from God. He didn’t realize that when he took on God in the way in which he did that he would rebel, not wanting to be God’s servant. But he is still God’s servant, still doing God’s bidding and still under God’s control even today.
You say, “Pastor Lutzer, how strong is Satan?” You’ve wondered about it and today you are going to get a very clear answer. I’m glad you asked the question. He is as strong and powerful as God allows him to be and not one whit more. He rebelled that he might no longer be God’s servant, but he still is. He is still subject to the will and the purposes of the Almighty. He was limited in what he could achieve.
He was also limited in what he could foresee. He didn’t realize that when he fell he would take only one third of the angels with him and two thirds would continue to give glory to God because they were preserved from falling from a divine decree. He didn’t know that. He couldn’t foresee the existence of hell and his eternal punishment.
He was also limited in damage control. I can’t prove it from Scripture, but I believe after Satan sinned he regretted it because he began to see the uncleanness that was in his soul and he began to see the terrible consequences of his sin. But it was too late. He cannot be redeemed even if he were to repent. He won’t repent because he is too evil, but even if he did, God cannot allow bygones to be bygones. The Bible is very clear that no sacrifice was made for his sin. He is a hapless player on a trajectory headed to final, eternal punishment and there is nothing that he can do about it.
In heaven, so far as we know, he was the anointed cherub who covers. The idea seems to be that he was involved in worship and he had the responsibility of taking the praise of other angels and making sure that it got to God. But he began to take some of it for himself, and he who might have been the choir master of heaven from now on will never ever sing again. All that he can do for all of eternity is howl. The song is gone.
God had many ways in which he could have responded after Satan sinned. God could have simply said, “I’m going to crush you with raw power and I’m going to annihilate you.” God could have confined him to a distant planet. But God decided not to do that. God said, “I’m going to let you become the ruler of this world, now that you have man on your side, and I am going to meet you on a level playing field.” This earth is going to be the place where a drama is going to be enacted between good and evil, between justice and unrighteousness, and it’s all going to be played out on this planet. And that is what happened.
Now we look at his strategy as he shows up in the Garden of Eden. It says in Genesis chapter three, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” Notice how he comes in disguise. A serpent evidently before the Fall was a very beautiful being and Adam and Eve would have no reason to fear it. That’s the way the devil works. He always hides himself.
If he were to march down the isle of a church and say, “I am the devil in all of my fury and I am here to deceive you so that you will spend eternity with me in hell,” the people would be frightened and run to the door.
But, he doesn’t do that. He puts a servant of his behind the pulpit. And the servant tells people, “You know, there are many different ways to God. As a matter of fact, all that you need to do is believe in the cosmic Jesus. Go inside of you and you will find Jesus, no matter who you are. Furthermore, evil doesn’t really exist and there is no coming judgment and all of the new age techniques that you read about really work.” That’s what he will do. People say, “Well that’s nothing to fear.” He lies about who he is.
He also lies about who God is. He comes to Adam and Eve and says, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” He puts a question mark where God put a period. Eve says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ‘Thou shall not eat of it, neither shall thou touch it, lest you die.’”
Satan responds and says, “You shall not surely die. This God of yours, he is restricting you. Why does he keep you from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? What kind of a God is that? Look at the laws that he has built. He wants to confine you! Why don’t you exercise your freedom and really show that you are free and eat? I personally would never serve a God who wasn’t good, and a God who confines you and limits you isn’t good.”
He questions God and he gives them the indication that the benefits of rebellion are wonderful. He says, “You know that the day that you eat from it you shall not surely die, but God knows that the day you eat thereof your eyes will be opened and you will be like him, and he doesn’t want you to be like him, knowing good and evil.”
So they eat, and that promise was in some sense fulfilled. They not only now have an intellectual sense of what is right and wrong, but they have experimented and they have experienced evil and it has defiled their souls. He now has the entire human race on his side. From now on all of the children that are born and the future generations will all be born with the taint of his sin and his rebellion.
What does he do today and how does he try to do his work among believers or unbelievers, as far as that is concerned? He is so angry at God for reasons that we can’t go into because of lack of time, though I will be giving you one or two reasons in a few moments, and he hates the idea that we have been redeemed. What he wants to do is to get to us so that he can get back at God. It is amazing the amount of power and authority God has given him. Mind you he is subject moment by moment to God. He can’t wiggle unless God approves it. But what does he do? He gives us temptation. He gives us the ability to put ideas into our minds that we think are our own so that we are not afraid of them.
In Acts chapter five we have two believers, Ananias and Sapphira. They are having breakfast and they are enjoying their bagels. They are having a talk because revival has broken out in the church and the people are selling everything that they own and they are giving the money to the church. They say, “We have a piece of property and we can sell it to the church probably for a thousand dollars. Let’s give five hundred dollars to the church and pretend that we are bringing it all so that we appear to be better Christians than we really are.” So that is what they do.
Later on Peter comes to Ananias and says, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Satan filled his heart? If Satan had shown up for that breakfast and said, “Here I am to put an idea in your mind to make sure that you are a hypocrite,” they’d have been terrified. But he doesn’t show up and they can’t see him. All that they have in their minds is an idea, “And there is no fear in an idea that we have created,” they say to themselves. And so they go through with it and in this instance, both of them died. God was beginning the church and he wanted us to know that the church should be holy. Satan puts ideas in our minds that we think are our own.
The next stage is obsession because Satan wants to control. Obsession means now that you are hooked and you have an addiction and you can’t help yourself. That anger is so deep within you that you can’t commit yourself to a church and you can’t become involved. Now suddenly you discover that you’ve got all kinds of options out there that obsess you and you are distracted from God’s purpose in your life. What he wants to do is to have those kinds of distractions that will obsess you.
He may even come to you as a spirit guide. Tonight in the evening service we are going to hear the testimony of the wife of one of our pastoral staff members who at the age of four invited a spirit guide into her life. She was rejected by her father and the spirit guide in effect says, “I’ll be your companion,” and she said, “Great!” She invited a demon into her life. There are as many strategies out there to deceive us as there are interests among Americans.
In extreme cases there is also invasion where people are actually possessed by the devil. There is a remarkable story about this in Mark chapter five, where a demonized man meets Jesus. I’ll just tell you about it because you’ve already read it, I’m sure.
The man is cutting himself and he’s trying to kill himself. He is so strong that no one can subdue him and he has torn off all of his clothes. He is in the tombs because he loves the idea of death. Satan loves the idea of death and he likes to be in fowl places. He sees Jesus and immediately the demon within him says, “We know who you are, you Holy one of God.” Even the demon has to admit the truth. So you have temptation, you have obsession, and eventually you have invasion. People have demons and sometimes you can tell it in the way in which they look at you.
Let me give you some of the characteristics of what Satan wants to produce within our hearts. First, he wants to produce self-hatred. “You are so awful you should cut yourself. You’re so terrible you should commit suicide.” Furthermore, there is shame. “Look at what you have done. And you call yourself a Christian? You believe that God can accept you after what you have done? You are such a great hypocrite that not even God wants to have a thing to do with you.”
What he’s trying to do is to make a wedge between us and God and then to have a victim mentality. People like this have all kinds of inter-relational problems. Nobody can get along with them. If they have friends, they push them away through the most absurd kinds of behavior and their expectations are such that no one can meet them. They think that it is always somebody else’s fault. Demons lead us to those kinds of empty, nonproductive relationships and no one can get along with us and we always think it is their fault.
Let’s think now for a moment of the doorways that Satan uses to get a foothold in our lives. I am going to be elaborating on this in the evening service. There are at least a dozen or more, but I shall mention only two or three in passing.
Let us suppose for a moment that you are a Christian and you are standing at the end of a street and Jesus is at the farthest end where the Celestial City is, or heaven. There are houses on both sides of the street. You’re walking along and Satan cannot impede you; he cannot stand in the way of you walking to Jesus. But what he wants to do is to distract you and he wants to put ideas in your mind that he wants you to accept.
So you walk along and from one house he is calling and says, “You don’t have to read your Bible. Really, don’t read it! It’s boring anyway.” Another house calls out to you and says, “Hey, there’s sex over here! Sure, it’s not within marriage, but God knows that you have needs. What does the Bible have to say about this anyway? Just go along and do your own thing!” You go along a little more and you hear, “You know, here’s some drugs. Why don’t you get involved in drugs or alcoholism? It will help you to escape.”
On and on we go and we have these voices calling at us, these ideas in our minds, these distractions that keep us from Jesus and impede our way to the Holy City. We can reject those ideas, but Satan wants us to become so obsessed by all that he has told us. He wants us to become obsessed with the occult. He says, “Sure, you can play with the Wigi board and you can see a witch or a fortune teller. It’s all just kind of make believe.” So you’ve got all of these voices that are shouting at you all the time. We are constantly bombarded by temptations. That is Satan’s method.
Let me hurry on to tell you about his defeat and the triumph of Jesus. Colossians chapter two says, “He disarmed all principalities and all powers and triumphed over them in it.” The Bible says that Jesus did that on the cross. I want you to visualize the serpent, that loathsome beast, who in his anger tries to take advantage of the man who is victorious over him. And this man called Jesus takes his heel and just stomps it into the asphalt on the serpent’s head and turns his heel. All that the serpent can do is to nip his heel. His head is crushed in the sand and the dirt and the grime. Jesus comes and shows who is boss over the serpent.
Jesus wins the victory in two different ways. First of all, Jesus redeems a company of people. When Satan fell he thought to himself, “I know God is just. He can’t let bygones be bygones. There is no way that humanity is going to be redeemed because they fell along with me ever since the Garden of Eden. Therefore, they are all headed to my eventual fate to share hell with me.”
Yet here Jesus comes along and buys people from every tongue and race and every color and every ethnic group. Jesus buys these people when he dies on the cross. Satan knows that these miserable sinners are going to be exalted above where he was in the heavenly realm, as we learned last week, and Satan is absolutely angry with us because we represent the redeemed company purchased by Jesus. He hates Jesus and he hates God and he hates you. He is out to do as much damage as he possibly can. But Jesus won the victory and there was nothing that Satan could do. He was helpless in the presence of Jesus. He could not stop Jesus from doing what Jesus wanted to do.
Satan also knows that he is headed for the pit. He knows that every day is one day closer to the lake of fire that he so richly deserves. We have many things that have been written about hell. Milton said that, “The devil rebelled because he would rather be a king in hell than a servant in heaven.” Milton was wrong for this reason: there are no kings in hell. Believe me, Satan will not be a king in hell.
In addition, you have the words of Dante and the Inferno. Dante says, “The demons are going to be walking along with pitchforks and they are going to be tormenting people.” Listen to me very clearly: the Bible says in Revelation chapter twenty, verse ten, that Satan is thrown into the lake of fire where there is sulfur and fire, “And he will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” In hell Satan is not going to be the tormentor, he is going to be the tormented. In all humiliation and in all shame, that proud being will be brought down and today he knows that his doom is sure because Jesus Christ’s victory is uncontested.
You say, “Pastor Lutzer, why is he still allowed to do so much damage in the world?” When you see lightening, you see it almost immediately. But the thunder takes a while to get here because sound doesn’t travel as fast as light. When Jesus died on the cross it was the lightening. The thunder is on its way! Satan has already been defeated. His sentence has been commuted and God says, “For a little while I am going to allow him to be out on bail.” But it’s all a done deal! He can’t repent, he doesn’t want to repent, and the lake of fire is where he is headed and he can’t change it.
It is a bad idea to rebel against God. God was going to show for all of eternity that the idea of taking him on and saying, “I am going to be like the Most High and I am going to be my own God,” is always fraught with consequences that are out of your hands. It is the law of unintended consequences. Satan today is a defeated being and a hapless player in a drama that is God’s from beginning to end. All that he can do is to wait for his doom.
In fact, during the tribulation period he is going to be thrown out of heaven by Michael. Remember, he and Michael were colleagues back in the days when Lucifer was a choir director. The Bible says that after he is thrown out of heaven he is angry because he knows that his time is short. It says that the people overcame him by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb. Praise God!
So what I want us to do today as we conclude is to look at the book of James. What does the book of James tell us as to how we have to war against this evil being who seeks our destruction? The Bible says that he takes God’s ideas and can actually snatch the word of God out of our minds. Remember, your mind is not just a physical substance but also a spiritual substance. Therefore, our minds actually exist in the metaphysical realm and that is why he can put ideas into our minds and can take ideas out of our minds if we let him.
Jesus told a parable in which he said that Satan came and snatched the word of God out of people’s minds. There are some of you who find it almost impossible to memorize Scripture. You can memorize the Cubs averages very easily. You say, “That’s because they are so low.” Sorry about that Cub fans. But some of you can’t memorize Scripture because the battle for your mind is so intense. Some of you have been involved in the occult. Some of you know what spirit guides are.
So what do we do? First, James says in chapter four, verse six, “Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” That is where it begins. Verse seven says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” You repent of all of the sins. You repent of the doorways in which you have allowed Satan to enter. You repent of those early stages where he was able to gain a foothold and make you oppressed and obsessed.
You spend as much time repenting as you need and you list all of the things that you have done that have given entry to an evil spirit to harass you, to control you, and to direct you, and you submit it to God. You come without any agenda, without any idea that you are able in some way to hold back some part of your life from the sovereignty of Jesus. The Bible says that we should submit to God.
And then it says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If he doesn’t depart, keep resisting and resisting and resisting. When Jesus was confronted with the enemy in the desert he says, “Be gone Satan, for it is written.” The Bible says in the book of Luke that Jesus said that three times quoting Scripture. And then it says, “And the devil departed, waiting for a more opportune time.” He’ll be back and he’ll be back and he’ll be back. But the more you resist him, the more Scripture you quote, and the more you bring yourself under the authority of Jesus, the more he must back off and his power becomes weaker.
You say, “Why does God even allow us to be in such fights?” I love what the Puritans said. They said, “Satan is given to us that we might fight against him and be victorious in order to increase the joy and the happiness of the saints.” You say, “But the devil is winning so many victories today.” Listen, the devil is always defeated. Even when he wins victories his torment in hell will only be that much greater. That’s why every single move that the devil makes against God he will eventually pay for. He is never the winner. It only appears that way for a while.
The Bible says to submit yourselves to God and to resist the devil. In chapter five James says that what you need to do is to confess your faults, one to another. There is a sense of accountability there. If people are involved in addictions and sins, we are to confess their sins to a small group who would pray for them. You would see mighty deliverances that take place because the devil hates exposure. He always wants secrecy and darkness because he wants to work undercover.
Then you live a whole life of praise. Satan cannot take praise. That is why I told the people last Sunday evening that you should have the Hallelujah Chorus on in your apartment or in your house. Play it loudly because the spirits don’t like it, I can assure you. The angels do but the devil doesn’t. That’s why in the Old Testament when Saul was tormented by an evil spirit David would play on his harp and sanity would return to Saul for a little while. But because Saul didn’t deal with his sin it would always come back.
We are in a cosmic battle that is unbelievable. If our eyes were opened we would be surprised at what is going on in the spirit world. But God sends his angels and his presence and his spirit to us so that we can be victorious against the devil who we abhor. Don’t you like the fact that he is headed to the pit forever and ever and ever?
We all know those wonderful words written by Martin Luther: “And thou this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him!” I commend to you today a little six letter word, “Christ.” The little word that will fell him, praise God!
Let’s pray. “Father, we want to thank you today for the triumph of Jesus. We want to thank you today that there is no question, but that the loathsome serpent has indeed been crushed. We thank you that for every victory Satan has in this world that he is defeated many times over in the world to come. We thank you today that we can stand with Jesus against him and can do so victoriously. Deliver Father those who are struggling with evil spirits. Deliver those Father who are going through times of great pain. May they be able to identify the doorway and to identify the means that was used and the lie that was told them. Grant that oh God we pray, in Jesus name we ask, amen.”