Those who remember the old Flip Wilson TV show will recall one of Flip’s characters, Geraldine (Flip in women’s clothing), who was mischievous and prone to doing naughty things. When called out, she would always say in a lilting voice, “the devil made me do it.” It was funny and Flip also featured the Reverend Leroy of the Church of What’s Happening Now opposing Satan and his works. In one episode, Reverend Leroy confronted the Devil himself (played by Bobby Darin) and defeated the old serpent handily.
Well, at this time of Halloween we see evidence of devils and demons and lots of attention paid to the world of sinister spirits. Maybe too much attention, at least too much if it masks the reality of Satan at work today. For the Devil is an active spirit, Saint Peter warned us, like a roaring lion seeking to bring down Christ’s followers (1 Peter 5:8-9). The same man Jesus warned Satan could sift him like wheat (Lk 22:31-34) later proclaimed such a warning to us.
When tempted in the desert, Jesus confronted and defeated Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13), despite Satan’s attempts to confound the Lord with citations to the Bible.
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
In our small group we have been studying Genesis chapters 1-3. We have seen how Satan was permitted to be active even in the Garden of Eden, to lure Eve and Adam into willful disobedience to God, with disastrous consequences to mankind. Eve’s answer to God’s question, “What is this that you have done?” was, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:13). In other words, the Devil made me do it.
But there are some important things to remember about Satan, even as we acknowledge that he is active in our world and wishes us only evil things.
- Satan is a fallen angel (Jude 1:6), a created being not a deity, with only the capabilities and power God permits him to exercise. Satan has none of the attributes of God himself. He is not a god in opposition to God Almighty. He is more a direct opponent of the faithful angels and is in no way equal to God.
- Therefore, though Satan can move about the earth he is only able to be in one place working his mischief. For example, when Satan presents himself to God and obtains permission to trouble Job, he has been walking over the earth looking for trouble. He can only do what God suffers him to do. See Job 1:6-12, 2:1-10.
- Satan has been defeated by Jesus, as foreshadowed from the beginning in Genesis 3. Though given license for a time to exercise limited power on earth, Satan will be completely defeated when Christ returns. See, e.g., Rev. 12:9, 20:2.
- Thus, if we belong to Jesus, we have no need to fear Satan in any ultimate sense, even as we have to be on guard against his pernicious influence in our lives, his efforts to draw us into sinful deeds or to take away our confidence and joy in the Lord. Satan loves to whisper in a believer’s ear to undermine our hope. When we fail, Satan is at hand eager to tell us we’re no good, we’re not really Christians, we’re not really children of God. Don’t listen!
- In popular literature and entertainment, Satan is often depicted as suave, sophisticate, appealing, wanting us to have the fun and pleasures God denies. This was essentially the appeal to Eve and Adam. Satan’s point of attack is on the truth of God, the trustworthiness of what God says (the Bible). We see this all the time. We see it in churches today that repudiate the clear teachings of scripture in favor of the mood of the culture today.
- Satan always lies. As Jesus declared, Satan was a liar from the beginning (Jn 8:44).
- Our attitude toward Satan needs to be balanced, not letting him terrify us or giving him too much sway, while also recognizing his reality and his menace. We defeat him in part by denying him the dignity and pride he wants, which well may have motivated him to lead a rebellion of angels against God.
- We need to resist the devil. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) We need to put on the whole armor of God. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:10-13).