Monday, January 12, 2009

How to resist Satan

Soldiers going into battle know they must resist the enemy or they will be wiped out. We have an active enemy who has a well devised plan for our personal destruction. We must heed God's instructions concerning this most important subject. Peter (I Peter 5:5b-10) and James (Jas. 4:6-7) both command us to resist Satan through humbling ourselves towards God and standing firm in our faith. "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." The word "clothe" (or "fasten firmly on") was usually used of putting on an apron over other clothes. The reason being God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves under God's hand so that He may exalt you. Humble yourselves, (active co-operation) under God's mighty hand He is in complete control of all that happens. Because He is in control we may trust Him fully in all that He allows us to experience. He is the one who will exalt you (Luke 14:11), and He will do it in His time, not yours. You are to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." "Cast" (lit. "throw upon") suggests an effort on our part. The tense of the verb may suggest a one time action. Cast it on Him because He care for you, God is intensely interested in every person He created. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal Glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." Be of sober spirit (alert), because Satan is looking for prey to devour. Be alert. The world in which we walk is a mine field, and we must walk alertly lest we step on a mine. Satan continually prowls about. He is our "adversary" (the term usually refers to an opponent in a lawsuit). "Devil" refers to a false accuser or a slanderer. In his activities against us, he will lie and cheat to try to win his case. He prowls like a roaring lion. Don't get lost in the physical imagery or try to draw too much out of the roaring; the core idea is that Satan is a predator who hunts prey. Resist Satan. When Satan roars, we do not run, but stand firm in our faith-we do not give in to fear (compare Jas. 4:7). When Satan roars, if we run, who is then controlling our lives? We resist, knowing that other believers are having the same experiences (present continuous tense-these experiences are continuing). You are not alone, as Satan would have you believe. We must deny ourselves. We must take up our cross and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24-26). The issue here is not self confronting self as the means of denial. Jesus does not ask for more self-denial. It is not a question of denying certain things to oneself, like ice cream during Lent, but of disowning the ego's claim to possess this life. The task is not ego-conquest by means of the ego (a persistent delusion of many of Christians today), but ego surrender to the redemptive initiatives of God. We must choose to take every thought captive to Christ: Paul notes the basic idea in II Cor. 10:3-5: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." If we do not captivate our thoughts in time they will captivate us. Strongholds are mental patterns of thought burned into our minds over a period of time or by a traumatic experience. In effect they are mental programs by which we operate. They are revealed in unchristlike temperaments and behavior patterns. They are often unrecognized by self, and when recognized, seldom understood as our own choices ("that's just the way I am). Taking thoughts captive does not refer to every stray thought that comes my way. That would be parallel to confessing every temptation as sin. When evil thoughts come, we simply refuse to give them "free air time" and ignore them. This parallels our refusal to give room for temptation to entice us to sin. When we find ourselves dwelling on these thoughts, then, we should take them captive to the throne of Christ. Choosing to put on our spiritual armor (Eph. 6:19-10). This should not be thought of as a one-time event, but as a habit we cultivate throughout our lives. Make a habit of praying on the armor as you get dressed in the morning. We must refuse to let fear dominate us: the way to deal with fear is to maintain focus. God has given us a Spirit of sonship, not fear (Rom. 8:15; II Tim. 1:7). All of us must learn to face our fears: We must be willing to face the question "What do I fear the most?" or "What is the worst thing that could happen to me?" If it be death, then Jesus offers to set us free from continuing to live in fear of it anymore (Heb. 2:14-15; 3:1). If it deals with our family, we must remember who the Ultimate Protector and Provider is. If we fear "getting clobbered," and we let that fear paralyze us to inaction, then we already are getting clobbered. If it deals with with reputation or ministry, we must remember God's gracious hand on our lives, and willingly submit ourselves to His loving sovereignty. The issue is never our reputation but His. We must choose truth rather than deception: there are several sources of deception. 1. Self (I Cor. 3:18; 6:9; Gal. 6:3, 6:7; Jas. 1:22-27). 2. The lure of sin (Rom. 7:11; Titus 3:3). 3. Other people (Rom. 16:18: Eph. 5:6; Col. 2:4; II Thess. 2:3; II Tim. 3:13; Titus 1:10; II John 1:7). 4. Satan (II Cor. 11:3; II Thess. 2:9-10; I Tim. 2:14; Rev. 13:14; 20:8, 10). Don't make the mistake of blaming all deception on Satan-we do not always need his help to be deceived. We must verbally proclaim the truth: Three passages may be noted: I Peter 3:18-20a: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. The word "preaching" does not necessarily mean to give them a chance to repent. It can simply mean to proclaim (as in Rev. 5:2), and taken here to mean that Christ proclaimed His victory over a group on imprisoned spirits. The implication, if we take this as Jesus preaching over demonic spirits, is not vindictive "rub it in your face" trash talk-it is the pure and simple proclamation of truth to demons. Ephesians 6:17; "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Though most likely simply a variation in style, this may refer to the verbal declaration of the truth of God as inspired by the Spirit. In light of the warfare metaphor used by Paul in Ephesians 6, it would be naturally seen as a weapon used in spiritual conflict. Revelation 12:11: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." "Testimony" is more than just the story of coming to faith-it is the verbal proclamation of the truth of God as revealed by Jesus and as it works in our lives (not primarily their witness about Jesus but the witness that they had received from Him). Such testimony is obviously verbal, and is intimately intertwined in truth. Why must we resist the Devil? Here are just a few examples. 1. Satan is goal oriented. He is not distracted and never forgets his purpose. He is very aggressive in looking for ways to implement his ill-favored goal in our lives (I Chronicles 21:1). 2. Satan attempts to persuade us to do what he suggests. He tries to stimulate us to action on his behalf (I Chronicles 21:1). 3. Satan is so convincing that advice from qualified counselors can fall on deaf ears (I Chronicles 21:4). 4. Satan knows that if we accept his lies, God will discipline us (I Chronicles 21:9-14). During this chastening, Satan will be right there prompting us to distrust God and to become angry with Him. "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you."

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