Monday, June 23, 2008

The Demoniac - pt. 2

The Strategy of the Adversary

The devil is real, and he is not your friend. He is the father of lies and murder (John 8:44). He is the ultimate con man. The prince of darkness masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

What does Satan want from mankind? Basically, he wants our souls to be separated from God. He desires for humanity to reject God’s authority just as he did. This is his desire because he wants us to share his fate. Satan hates God, and he delights in the destruction and degradation of man because man was created in God’s image.

Beginning with the Fall, Satan has sought to divide the family and corrupt the society. He tempted Eve in the Garden, and he fanned the flames of jealousy in Cain’s heart (Genesis 4:6-7; 1 John 3:10-12); a jealousy which culminated in the first human blood being spilled on the earth. The family is God’s design not only for procreation but for the propagation of the faith from one generation to the next, and the family is beleaguered by dysfunction, abuse, immorality, materialism, and addictions. Satan would utterly destroy the family if he could. Of course, any society or organization will only be as strong as the families of which they are constituted. Kill them or corrupt them, Satan’s design is to wreck havoc on God’s creation.

While Satan is subtle and crafty, we are not ignorant of his intentions. Peter provides a warning:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (5:8-9)
The story of Job’s life certainly verifies the veracity of Peter’s warning.

We know from Hebrews 4:15 that Christ was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” This doesn’t mean that He was tempted to visit illicit Internet sites or falsify His income tax report. It does mean that he was tempted in the core areas of life just as we are. What 1 John 2:16 calls the “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”

The strategy of the adversary may be clearly observed by examining his temptation of Christ in the Judean wilderness.

#1 – Turn Away from the Will of God
Matthew 4:3-4. “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Turning stones into bread was no problem for Christ. In a matter of months He would feed a massive crowd with five loaves and two fish. He would do that twice during his ministry. Christ met the needs of other people. What would be wrong with meeting his needs?

Nothing; except for this: it was not Christ’s time to eat. That would have interfered with the divine timetable. Christ was to endure 40 days and nights of fasting and then the temptation of the Devil. As always, the enemy tempted one to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. The temptation’s essence was that the needs of the body are more important than the needs of the soul.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Even through hunger pangs that I cannot imagine Christ saw through the temptation. The bread that satisfies the soul is more important than the bread that satisfies the body.

#2 – Turn Away from the Word of God
Matthew 4:5-7. Satan quoted scripture too in his next temptation of Christ. He does this by using one scripture passage against another, instead of putting passages beside one another so that they might be rightly understood. His desire is to get us to sin even while pointing to a Bible verse. Don’t be fooled. Satan is able and more than willing to say right things. He can mouth sound doctrine, but his intentions are always evil. Satan deliberately misused God’s Word to tempt Christ to ignore God’s Word. Christ resisted the temptation to use one verse of scripture to nullify others.

#3 – Turn Away from the Cross of Christ
Matthew 4:8-11. Satan offered Christ a shortcut to the kingdom. He offered a crown without the cross. Satan, as Lucifer, once worshipped Christ in heaven. Now he attempts to have Christ worship him on earth. But Christ would not turn aside from the Father’s will. He went to the cross.

Satan can no longer tempt Christ to avoid the cross, but he does tempt us to be ashamed of it, to belittle it, to lack confidence in it, to minimize it, or just plain forget it. Satan desires for you to believe that a crown is possible without a cross; that salvation is attainable without the Substitute.

We must be obedient to God’s will by rightly dividing the word of truth and glorying in nothing but the cross.

The Boundary of the Adversary

Satan is not the ruler of hell. He has never been there; although that is his ultimate destination, and of this he is well aware. The adversary’s boundary is not a physical one; like the boundary of a kingdom or backyard. His boundary is established by God. He is only able to do and go what the Father allows. Martin Luther said that even “The devil is God’s devil.” He was right. The only freedom Satan enjoys is the freedom God permits. Satan surely means to pulverize the saints, but God means to purify them. We must fight before we celebrate, and learn before we are approved. The Puritans said that God allowed Satan’s temporary reign to increase the saint’s eternal joy.

The enemy is powerful. He is a formidable foe, but he is not like God. Satan is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. Satan is wholly evil and will sorely tempt you to do likewise, but he cannot force you to do anything. Geraldine may have blamed the devil for her sin – “The devil made me do it!” – but he can no make you sin than he could make himself like the Most High. Don’t blame Satan for everything wrong that happens. Don’t ascribe to him more power and authority than he actually has.

Because our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) we have a natural inclination to shift blame onto someone or something else. About this propensity to find a scapegoat Kent Hughes says:
We need the theological wisdom and honesty of the little girl who had a terrific fight with her brother. When her mother came in and pulled her off, she said to her daughter, ‘Why did you let the devil put into your heart to pull your brother’s hair and kick him in the shins?’
The little girl thought for a moment and said, ‘Well, maybe the Devil put it into my head to pull my brother’s hair, but kicking his shins was my idea.’
We are very capable of being evil all by ourselves (Mark, vol.1, p. 119)
We need to accept out responsibility to obey the Lord and not shift blame for our own misdeeds onto Satan or his subordinates.

Satan will attack. He must be resisted. James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” He may be resisted because, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Believers must understand that the most powerful weapon with which to attack the forces of evil is the Gospel. It alone is the power of God unto salvation. It alone has the power to change lives, including those that are mightily influenced by demonic powers such as the Demoniac. In every instance where Jesus, Paul, or some other New Testament figure exorcised demons from individuals it was within the context of Gospel proclamation. We should expect the gospel to come in power and triumph over the works of the devil. Christ commissioned Paul (and us) to preach among the Gentiles:
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in [Christ]
You cannot have a Biblical theology without a corresponding demonology. The devil is ferocious. He hates God, the things of God, and the people of God. Satan and his demons are real, and they are powerful. They are also defeated, but they are not dissuaded. The war is guaranteed. The serpent’s head has been crushed by Christ, and only through Him will you have victory.

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