Friday, February 12, 2010

Knowing the Enemy

I could be married to the biggest Cowboys’ fan of all time. I really do believe that if you cut Mike’s arm open, he’d bleed silver and blue. You can imagine how stressful this past NFL season was for our household.

We got into an interesting discussion on January 3rd, when the Cowboys hosted the Eagles. Mike was particularly concerned about one of Philly’s wide receivers, DeSean Jackson. His words were, “He’s a deep threat…if he gets past the secondary and catches the pass, he’s likely to score every time.” Then my sweet husband went on to tell me this. “I bet the Cowboys have a man to man coverage on him with a deep safety over the top…just in case that defender got beat. That way there’s someone to catch him.”

In the NFL, coaches and players watch hours of the opposing team’s footage in preparation for the upcoming game. The goal is to learn the opposing team’s every nuance. They counter their strengths, exploit their weaknesses. That day, the Cowboys crushed the Eagles, 24-zip. In my husband’s mind, it trumped our wedding day.

As Christians, we also face an enemy, and need to be equally prepared. It’s a delicate subject. I know many passionate Christ-followers who don’t believe in the devil. They think Satan doesn’t exist…that hell is not an actual place. While that is an attractive line of thinking, it’s also a symptom of what I call “a la carte Christianity.” I like this part of the bible, but not that. This verse makes me feel warm and fuzzy, but this one makes me a little nervous. I’ll put the 23rd Psalm on my tray, and leave 1 Peter 5:8 behind, thank you very much.

That particular verse gives us a glimpse of what we’re facing. “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I find it interesting that Peter chose to compare the evil one to a lion. Lions tend to attack weaker animals…especially the sick, young or straggling. They like their prey alone, and vulnerable. Satan also likes an easy catch.

The enemy has more than one name in the bible, and makes many appearances. I chose verses from Job and Matthew to illustrate who he is, and how he works.

The book of Job is about a righteous man of good character. But God allows Satan to test him. This alone gives us insight into what the enemy can and can’t do. Job 1:6-7 – One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan the Accuser came with them. “Where have you come from?” The LORD asked Satan. And Satan answered the LORD, “I have been going back and forth across the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

You can bet our enemy isn’t happy that this part of the story isn’t lying on the cutting room floor. Because already, just two verses in, we know three important facts. First, Satan is the accuser. Second, he has to account to God. God has complete authority over him. We also know this because Satan was compelled to answer God. And his answer tells us another key fact…the evil one is not omnipresent. He can only be in one place at one time. His demons can and do assist him in his work, but as a created being, he is limited.

Job 1:8-11 – Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth – a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.” Satan replied to the LORD, “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason! You have always protected him and his home and property from harm. You have made him prosperous in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” So God allowed the Accuser to test Job.

I can almost hear the bitterness dripping from his voice. The enemy hates the Almighty and he hates His people. But Satan unwittingly gives us another piece of valuable information here. He can not read minds. Neither can he tell the future. If he could, he wouldn’t have questioned Job’s motives or his faith. Satan persecuted Job without mercy…and the end result? Job’s faith is strengthened, as is his relationship with the Father.

Matthew 4:1-11 has always intrigued me. Satan and Jesus, face to face. I wonder what that moment was like for our Lord. Was He frightened? Or simply determined? We know He was fully God, and fully man. We know He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. That alone tells us that testing can come even when we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. Matthew 4:2 gives us another clue – For forty days and forty nights he ate nothing and became very hungry. I think it’s safe to assume he was tired and lonely. Jesus wasn’t tempted at the Temple, or His baptism. The enemy waited until He was most vulnerable. Now let’s look at the way Satan tempts Him. Matthew 4:3 – Then the devil came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, change these stones into loaves of bread.” It’s almost funny…Satan…testing the pride of the One who created the universe, yet chose to wrap Himself in flesh to reach us. “If you are the Son of God….” Christ felt no need to prove Himself to his enemy. We also need to be careful not to led pride lead us into sin.

I want to look at another verse with you before we watch how Jesus responds. Matthew 4:5-6 – Then the devil took Him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He orders his angels to protect you. And they will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.’” Satan quotes Scripture. He misinterprets it, and uses it incorrectly, but it sounds good, doesn’t? People have been talked into doing great wrongs at the misuse of Scripture. The Ku Klux Klan posts verses from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus on their website, and you’d be hard pressed to say they do anything positive or godly. The point is this. Satan is very smart. And a lie is far more effective when mixed with a grain of truth.

Matthew 4:7 –Jesus responded, “No! The Scriptures also say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’” Jesus countered him with the Word of God after every temptation. And it’s right there that we learn perhaps the most important thing about our enemy. If there’s one thing that will take him down, it’s the Word of God. When used correctly, and with faith, the Scripture is a powerful thing.

We know that every Christian will at some point go through trials. Where are you strong? Be careful of pride. Where are you vulnerable? Know who you are in Christ! For years I bought into the lie that I was fat, worthless, that no one liked me. Put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 – Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Notice how the Word of God is our only offensive weapon. Everything else is of a defensive nature. What else can we do? 6:18 – Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
Satan is real. Demons are real. There are points of biblical theology where scholars disagree…interpretations that vary slightly. But there are very few who argue the existence of an enemy. An enemy who knows his time is short. Who knows his best tactic at the moment is to convince the world he doesn’t exist.

How ironic. How this must ding his pride. Lucifer was once an angel who once resided in Eden, whose clothes were “adorned with every precious stone – red carnelian, chrysolite, white moonstone, beryl, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald…”(Ezekiel 28:13). He was called the angel of light, who “had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire.” (Ezekiel 28:14).

Our best weapons are our faith in God, and the Word of God. He is powerless against Jesus. Know your enemy, and know your defense. To live a life in fear, imagining demons around every corner gives him power. So does living in ignorance. Know who you stand for, and know the One who stands beside you. Above all else, live in victory…and remember John 16:33 – “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

For my of my blog, and for daily devotions, please check out