Overcoming … The Devil

The Devil.  Our last enemy to consider is Satan; also known as the devil or the evil one.  Jesus taught us in John chapter 8 that at the heart of Satan’s character is a liar.  “The devil was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44).

At the heart of Satan’s temptations are lies.  Lies about Christ and His character.  Lies about Christ and His finished work on the cross.  Lies about Christ and His promised victory over sin in our lives.  Lies about Christ and His goodness.  Lies about Christ and His living inside us.  Lies about Christ and His love, acceptance, and forgiveness.  Lies about finding our satisfaction in Christ rather than Satan’s idols and ways.

So how do we overcome this last enemy and the temptations that come through his lies?  We overcome the devil by faith.  This is not just some kind of religious answer.  It has tremendous practical application.  The Bible teaches that “greater is He who is in you (God Himself) than he who is in the world (Satan)” (I Jn 4:4), and “this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (I Jn 5:4).  We overcome Satan – ruler of the world system – by faith.

What does this faith look like in practice?  It means that when Satan tempts us with his lies, we resist him by faith; our faith in Christ and our faith in His promises.  When Satan holds up a mirror to our failures and says “failure” is who you are, we rest in God’s promise that we are loved, accepted, and forgiven (Lk 7:36-50).  When Satan digs up our sinful past and says “sinner” is who you are, we believe God’s description of us as “holy and beloved saints” (Col 3:12).  When Satan puts his finger on a current sin challenge and says “go ahead and give in” since this is who you will always be, we trust in God’s promise that change is possible and sin will not longer be our master (Rom 6:6).

This resting, this believing, this trusting is done by faith.  We don’t try to outwork or outwit Satan.  We resist him and experience victory by believing God’s truth in place of Satan’s lies.

On more than one occasion, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be protected from the evil one.  We need that protection because Satan’s ways are so wily.  And one of his sneakiest attacks is to get us off the simple and clear message of the gospel.  Satan is happiest when we add all kinds of heaviness and nit-picking and rule-keeping to the gospel.  And Satan is most defeated when we feast on the true message of God’s grace.

Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, “”But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (II Cor 11:3).  Satan knows the power of the simple and pure gospel message to not only bring us redemption, but to transform us as well.  And he knows and celebrates the trouble we find ourselves in when we complicate the gospel.  When we add to the gospel with rules or arguments of minor issues or human logic that needs a pigeon-hole for every nuance of Scripture, we are adding a layer of complication that plays into Satan’s hand.

And the outcome of these additions is disunity, divisiveness, and disharmony and the death of our witness to the world.  Jesus promised, in His last prayer with His disciples in John chapter 17, that the world will judge whether or not the Messiah has come based on the unity of His body, the church.  And our witness is clearest when we practice the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”.  By faith, we believe in the power of the simple and pure message of the gospel.  Christ has overcome the evil one and when we allow Christ to live His resurrected life in us, we will overcome the devil as well.