Victory In Jesus Or Loss With The Devil? (ATP)
“During a recent message, Pastor Jeff mentioned, “Sometimes it’s your flesh coming against you & not the devil.” Well how can we distinguish which one is coming against us?”
These are the kinds of questions “Faith Fix: Ask the Pastor” is meant for! We should, as we study or listen to sermons, have questions and seek to get them answered. I would imagine that several people who listened had this same question!
Let’s start by asking this, who is the devil? The devil, lucifer, satan, beelzebub, (I always refuse to capitalize any of his names) was an archangel, used by God, created for His glory, who rebelled against Him and was cast to the earth. He is, in some way, behind all things considered sin that happen on the earth. He hates humanity and longs to see it destroyed and thus spends his limited time on earth seeking and tempting. He is not a red creature with horns, a pitchfork, and a pointy tail ruling a place called hell. The Bible calls him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he has a hoard of demons in his army. Maybe the most important thing we need to know is that he has been stripped of his power over the believer in God through Christ (Mark 16:17-18).
Of course, theologically, we could delve into a deeper understanding of who he is, but I have given a brief synopsis. I think the best way to sum up a description of him is in three words; he is a tempter (Matthew 4:3), deceiver (John 8:44), and accuser (Revelation 12:10). These are his only real “powers”. People tend to be way too devil conscious and spend too much time focused on how much “the devil is after them”. This is a popular thing and one of his tricks. He desires what he always desired, to have humanity worship him and one way they do is by talking about his great power in their lives. These same people will hardly ever discuss the power of God. This is part of the way that he deceives.
I say all that to lay an important foundation to answer this question. Most of our New Testament instruction is directed at what we choose. The only warnings about the devil fall into the realm of not being deceived by him. In fact, Jesus went to a great length to strip him of any power and the focus of the Epistles is to crucify the flesh. We are given two weapons to deal with the devil, and as far as I know, only two. The authority of Jesus’s name and the Word of God (the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17). We are given a whole book of weapons dealing with our flesh!
Both of these devil weapons really involve knowledge. This is the number one way “the Truth sets us free” (John 8:31-32). What will make us sin less? The knowledge of what sin is! What will make us draw closer to God? The knowledge of who He is and the path to get to Him! What will make us better people? The knowledge of how to be a true Christian. The devil’s goal is to distract us from all these things. He learns what will entice you, and then works at presenting those opportunities. His influence over unbelievers is a huge way that he does this, and often quite effectively.
Once I was talking to an elder in the faith, a minister who I trust deeply. I was talking about an issue I was having and he said quite plainly to me, “Let’s face it, the problem is you!” Hard to hear, but I knew it was right. The issue wasn’t that the devil kept me from what I wanted, it’s that I struggled with crucifying my flesh so I could have it. Even my prayer was wrong concerning it. “Lord, I have such opposition doing…” No, I didn’t have external opposition (which is what I thought), I had internal opposition. I didn’t want to. Now I know full well that internal opposition or lack of will power can be a very, very difficult thing to overcome, but at least now I knew what the enemy was. When you know what the problem is, then you can start to fix it! Was the devil trying to tempt me? Sure he was, but that’s just noise. I know he can’t make me!
So how do we know it’s us or the devil? I’m not sure we need to! What?!? Exactly! We know he will try and tempt us. We know he will inspire others to come against us. We know his tactics! We, however, are never told to focus on him! We focus on God! Over and over the Bible tells us to be Heavenly minded, to keep our thoughts on God, to model our lives after Jesus. We are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), but they are not our focus anymore!
What will help you stop sinning? The knowledge that sin brings forth death and leads so many right to hell! What will make you choose the right path? The knowledge that the only thing at the end of the wrong path is absolute destruction, even though there may be some pleasure along the way (Would you knowingly eat rat poison even if it was candy coated?)! What will make you witness to people? The knowledge that if you don’t they may have to spend eternity in hell! See, the Bible brings us perspective, and perspective should effect us to change.
This is the reason I hate horror movies so much. Written and produced by people who don’t know God, they certainly know the devil though they may not even understand they do. Under his inspiration they magnify the devil to God like status (isn’t that what he always wanted), get these ideas of a powerful devil into popular culture, and then because Christians spend more time focused on the world than God, they get deceived and live afraid and devil conscious!
So to cap this off, we need to understand the truth. The devil is our enemy but his power is very limited. We must learn to yield ourselves in the right direction, only to God. The Bible tells us what the works of the flesh are and that anything that draws us to embrace those is an enemy. Period. We must choose the better path and that path usually begins with dealing with our flesh.
Put into practice denying the flesh. Not living miserably without joy, but make it a practice to just tell yourself no sometimes. If you have areas you struggle with more than others (and you do because we all do), put them before God and ask Him for help. Talk positively about the power of God in Christ and how it’s working in your life. You will start to experience true transformation in that area and send the devil packing! Live with knowledge and live transformed. Keep God exalted and the devil demoted, and your focus, Heaven bound! Then and only then will you see the victory here that Jesus already paid for!