“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors . . .” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Last Sunday, Matthew Price brought us a timely word for the next installment of our journey through Ephesians. (Many thanks to Matthew for providing his own notes for this post!) If you didn’t catch his helpful Ephesians summary up to chapter 6, verse 9, be sure to check it out.
Our passage for the week: Ephesians 6:10-13:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
While the New Testament makes many references to the devil and to demons, the intention was not to have everyone go home with an unhealthy fear by making too much of the devil. However we don’t want to make so little of him that we aren’t wise to his schemes, tricks and motives.
Who is the devil?
- A created but fallen angel, who sinned against God in heaven
- Painted in the Bible as a serpent, a dragon and a roaring lion to show his cunning, hatred and cruelty against the people of God
- Jesus called him the ruler of this world, as when he tempted Jesus, he was able to offer Jesus kingdoms and power.
- The word, “devil” is Greek for “slanderer” or “accuser.”
- “Satan,” in Hebrew means “adversary.”
- He is mentioned in the New Testament as a tempter, the evil one, a liar and a murderer.
He is at war with you and with us and against God. Even now, he hates this church plant for the good it will do. Even now, he will be working against it.
He is against your marriage, against your family life, against your friendships. He wants you to not have to faith, or maybe a faith with no actual life to it. He wants you to be ineffective. To keep you from praying, from reading your bible. From knowing God’s truth.
Matthew likened him to a glorified graffiti artist. God has painted us clean in his pure white righteousness, but his enemy comes and tries to spray lies on us. And God just keeps wiping us clean as in Zechariah 3. Jesus has rescued us from hell and a life at the mercy of the devil and his schemes.
Ultimately Satan has failed and all of history is drawing towards that day when Jesus returns to restore all things. But in the meantime, the devil has a big influence. Even now, as children of God, we still live in a fallen world. People around us sin. The devil still carries authority over spiritual forces we don’t see, and governments and powers that we do see .
People, all people, including David Cameron when he passes laws that clearly contradict the word of God, are not our enemy. We are called to love people, to serve them, forgive them and pray for them. Our enemy is the devil.
And so as Christians we are at war. The devil is at war against us and by being in Christ, we are at war with him. That’s why the Christian walk can be so difficult.
The devil is subtle. He twists the word of God. John Stott points out that the devil is as happy when you compromise in your faith or when you are in error just as much as if you are sinning. He will tempt you with pride, the source of his own personal anger. He encourages unhealthy self-esteem (we think it’s all about us and how good we feel), personal fulfilment (when we make it about our own kingdom and not God’s) and independence.
The devil would much rather see us concerned for our own needs and wants and pleasures – to think only of ourselves because it keeps us from seeing or relying on God. On the other hand, God asks us to seek Him and love and serve others before ourselves because those things make us LESS focused on ourselves.
The devil doesn’t want you to feel close to God. He doesn’t want you to feel part of this church plant. He WANTS you to feel left out – like God is blessing everyone but you. He wants you trapped in a particular sin. He wants you to stop praying, He wants to wreck your marriage. He wants you to walk off the battlefield.
It takes an army to win a war, so together we achieve far more for God. WE are an army. However, the devil seeks to divide us. If the forces against us are united, then how much more united do we need to be? Together, we give up our own ambitions to serve the King.
In Ephesians 6:10-13, Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord, put on the full armour of God (which Keith will be looking at next week), and to stand.
Put on your armour; you wouldn’t walk into a battlefield without it. A policeman doesn’t go to work without his stab vest on. You don’t walk onto a cricket pitch to have balls thrown at you at a hundred miles an hour without all the gear above to protect you. Put it on!
And finally, stand. Sometimes that’s all we can do. James 4 says: “resist the Devil and he will flee from you.”
Your spouse may be difficult to live with and you don’t see how they will ever change. Stand. Keep loving. Be strong in the strength of the Lord. Stand.
Your kids may be going through a horrible stage and it takes all your effort not to throw them out of the window. Stand. It will change. Stand.
You may hate your job and everyone at it, but God doesn’t seem to give you a way out. Stand. Be faithful. As hard as it is. Stand.
Your exciting church plant that you joined isn’t quite what you expected and no one is who you hoped they would be. Stand. Stick with it. God has great things planned.
Each time you come to church even though you don’t feel like it, you win a victory.
Each time you love a spouse or a friend even though they certainly don’t deserve it, you win a victory.
Each time you get through a day with a toddler and don’t throw them out the window or run off screaming, you win a victory.
Each time you resist joining in gossip, or losing hope, or losing your temper, you win a victory.
Each time you thank God for things, despite your disappointments, you win a victory.
Matthew finished his message with: “We are sons and daughters of God. We have God’s word to us in the Bible. We have his Spirit living within us. We are on the winning side. In the book of Revelation, we see the devil tossed into a pit forever, a reminder that on the cross, Jesus defeated all the power of the devil forever. We can choose to believe in Jesus’ victory and live a life as God’s children – to fight against the devil, or we can choose to be defeated by his lies and wily ways. We can fight. We can fight together. We have the tools, and we have God on our side.”