Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the first couple of posts you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
The authors begin this chapter of their book by stating that Satan is described in Scripture as a thief, ruler of the world, god of this world, beast, prince of the power of the air, spirit of disobedience, and evil one, but he exists as an adversary of God and His purposes. The word devil comes from the Greek diabolos, which means to oppose. Devil is one of the twenty-two different names used to describe Satan in the Bible and is used thirty-five times in the New Testament. The devil is opposed to the extension of God’s kingdom on the earth and is actively seeking to deprive God of being glorified among the nations through the proclamation of the gospel as well as in one’s life personally. No doubt his mission is clear: to keep lost people lost.
Among the sequence of events that characterize the end-times and the return of Christ is the fact that Satan will be thrown into the abyss, “so that he would no longer deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:3). Meanwhile, he appears to have free reign in the world today, continuing to deceive the nations.
1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” God has claimed for Himself a people to serve Him. We are His possession and called to proclaim “the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). But where Christ is not known - where the gospel has not yet penetrated and transformed society to acknowledge the lordship of God - the nations, cultures, and peoples of the world are still in darkness under the dominion of Satan.
Rankin describes his experience going to Indonesia as a new missionary after years of preparation and anticipation. He was convinced that the gospel was the power of God for salvation to draw people to Christ. He was confident that he would arrive in Indonesia to join other missionaries and, as in the book of Acts, multitudes would come to faith and be saved each day.
However, instead of the massive response, he encountered indifference and antagonism, despite open opportunities to witness. He realized that to expect a Muslim to respond to the gospel was not unlike expecting a blind man to read a newspaper, and the Bible explains: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). There is nothing deficient about the power of the gospel message. The Holy Spirit still actively convicts of sin, truth, and righteousness. But we need to recognize that we have an enemy, the god of this age, who can blind the eyes of the unbelieving to the truth of the gospel. He works his deception with apparent impunity to lead the nations astray from knowing God.
Even when the gospel can be freely shared, the enemy is actively distorting the message and filtering it through contrary traditions and worldviews to keep the seed from taking root in the human heart.
The parable of the sower in Luke 8 tells us the reality of the world we are responsible for evangelizing. The analogy of the various kinds of soil represents various responses to the gospel. Some will welcome the good news but it will not profit them because they continue to be consumed by the cares of the world. The message does not take root in the lives of others because of barriers to understanding and belief represented by the rocky soil. Occasionally one’s witness will encounter fertile soil in which it is received, grows, and multiplies. But some of the seed falls on the hardened pathway as reflected in many cultures. Jesus explained that, rather than taking root, the seed remains exposed on the surface where birds come, take it away and devour it.
In explaining the parable, Jesus says that the birds are the devil - “...then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved (Luke 8:12). Remember, Satan is identified as a deceiver and a liar. When Paul expressed concern that the believers in Corinth were being led astray from purity of doctrine and the simplicity of faith in Christ, he concluded, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).
Let’s not forget that Satan’s purpose is to deprive God of the praise and glory that are due to Him. When Satan tempts a Christian to sin, it is to deprive God of His praise and glory in that person’s life. When he leads us to embrace the carnal and self-serving values of the world, he is merely thumbing his nose at God. When we indulge in lustful gratification rather than walking in holiness and obedience to God, it gives Satan the glory instead of God.
Throughout Scripture, we are told that faith is the victory. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).
Because believing God and accepting the truth of what He has said as reality is the victory, one of Satan’s favourite tools is doubt. Just as he implanted doubt in the mind of Eve when he said, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1), he continues to plant doubts in our minds to reject the truth of God’s Word and the victory over sin that we have been given in Christ.
The result is living for self instead of a cross-centred, Spirit-filled life. Abandoning His promises of peace, joy, power, holiness, and blessing, we strike out on our own and forfeit the power available for our witness that would bring glory to God. Satan robs us of peace and leaves us with anxiety and worry; he destroys our joy, leaving us struggling with despair and depression. We often attribute personal discomfort or pain to satanic intent. But our downfall and failure is not all about us! Satan has a much greater purpose in orchestrating our defeat. He deprives God of the glory He desires and has provided in our life in order that the world will not see a living example of the gospel. Satan’s strategy is to replace glory to God with what brings glory to us.
We have been given victory over all the schemes and strategies of Satan. With the death of Christ on the cross, the power of sin was conquered not just theoretically but as a daily practical reality for those who choose to walk in the Spirit that indwells every believer. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Paul explains what happened in the atoning sacrifice of Christ in which He took on His sinless body the sins of the world: “He cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14-15).
Satan and his minions are defeated. A Christian is a partaker in the divine nature of Christ. When we are in Christ, a continual carnal lifestyle is antithetical to our true nature. But it is Satan’s only hope of stemming the tide of God’s work on the earth. The enemy’s deception and lies rob God of His glory in our life. But because of the victory secured in Christ, the ultimate triumph belongs to God, and He will be exalted among the nations and to the ends of the earth.
So what about you? What worldviews are dominant in your community? What are the unique ways that Satan is keeping lost people lost?
What issues in your life are depriving God of His glory? How might you address them now?
What issues in your local church might be depriving God of His glory? How can you join with church leaders to address them now?
Let us know what you think in the comments below and share this post with your friends.