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The Enemy (2)

This article was first presented as a speech by Rev. Gise Van Baren at the 1998 Young Adult’s Spring Retreat in Loveland, Colorado. The retreat occurs in March of every year. Young adults of high school age and older are encouraged to attend.

 

The second battle plan of Satan can be found in connection with the temptation of Christ. It is rather striking that the two major temptations in Scripture are the temptation of Adam and Eve, and then the temptation of Christ Himself. Satan is directly involved in tempting our first head, Adam, and then our second Head, Christ.

When Satan came to Christ, what was his plan of attack? He didn’t ask the question, “Yea, hath God said.” But now he posited alternatives to the cross. In effect, Satan said to Christ, “You don’t have to go to the cross! You don’t have to die there to establish a kingdom with people who serve God.” Satan presents alternatives: “Turn these stones into bread. People will follow after an individual who can change stones into bread! You can establish a kingdom on that basis.” (That’s how politicians are elected—those who can promise prosperity to the nation are the people’s choice. Then it doesn’t matter what he does as long as he makes us prosperous.) Satan says that to Christ. “Change stones into bread and the nations will honor you.” There need be no cross, no death, no suffering, no pain. Christ can receive His honor and glory in a kingdom on this earth. Along the same line, Satan says, “Cast thyself down from the pinnacle of the temple.” Satan even quotes Scripture: “He will give his angels charge over thee lest thou dash thy foot against the stone.” Christ can throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and just before He is dashed to pieces on the stones beneath, while the people stand watching, God’s angel would come and snatch Christ from death! (Didn’t God say that in the Psalms?) Why, the people will accept him as the promised Messiah! They will place Him on the throne of David so that He can reign in Jerusalem. Thus He would fulfill all of the promises of Old Testament Scripture. There need be no death on the cross but Satan provides another way, apparently a better way.

Then Satan comes with the final temptation: “Bow down to me and I will give you all of the kingdoms of the earth.” What a promise! Neither suffering nor death are necessary to receive the kingdoms of the earth.

That’s the second line of attack by Satan. It has proved very effective in our day and age. Satan does not tell us to deny Christ. He seeks to influence the theologians and the preachers of our day, and the people within the church, into thinking that the historical cross has nothing to do with atonement. It was not necessary in order to deliver a people from sin and death. Perhaps the cross represents the death of one for principle’s sake. Christ merely serves as a good example. Many today present Christ precisely in that way.

So Satan has two clear means of attack. First: he would have us question the Word; secondly, he would have us question the power of cross for salvation. This is the history of heresy within the church. Arminianism questions the Word—and questions the efficacious cross. Roman Catholicism would add to the Word—and presents the cross as an incomplete work unto our salvation. Satan uses these very clever means of attack against the church of Jesus Christ. It would seem as though that church can not possibly survive the viciousness of such an attack.

All of this is recorded in Scripture. Satan’s battle plans have been clearly revealed there. It isn’t so that we are an ignorant people who wonder what Satan has done in the past or will do in the future. It’s all laid out in the Bible! One might say that it is rather stupid on the part of Satan and his followers to follow a course of attack that’s written out so clearly and plainly in Scripture. Why continue to attack in that same method today as he did already in Paradise?

The answer is two-fold. In the first place, Satan’s attacks seem to have proved very successful through the ages. When an enemy has devised successful methods of attack, why change strategy? Any army that has successfully used a specific strategy, will continue to use that in future battles. Satan understands that well. Why change strategy when it has apparently been so successful in the past?

And the second factor is that few bother reading Scripture anymore. Who knows the Word of God? Satan’s strategy is all outlined in the Bible, but who has time to read or study the Word, which is the “armor of salvation?” Many do not know even what it teaches.

So Satan’s deceptions seem very successful especially when children of God simply close that Word and put it somewhere on the shelf. These may speak religiously and piously, but do not know what the Word of God reveals.

There are many people today who don’t know what their Bible says—and that is even true with us to a certain extent. I have known people who don’t know where Matthew 1 is found in the Bible. Obviously, they must not have used the Bible very often. We admit that we must read the Bible regularly. We are told from the pulpit to read and study Scripture. We agree wholeheartedly—yet we hardly find time adequately to search out Scripture or read it regularly. Satan rejoices in that sort of thing. Why should he be concerned with the fact that Scripture details the method of his attack if “Christians” are not going to read it anyway?

Finally, we must note the dangers we confront with respect to this enemy. These dangers oftentimes are minimized. That’s the emphasis of the apostle in this chapter. We talk about “flesh and blood;” we talk about people persecuted in China by the leadership of that country—and they are. We can talk about that. Flesh and blood are persecuting those that serve God. That can soon happen here too. And sometimes rather boldly we insist that we dare face “flesh and blood” for Jesus’ sake. After all, these are mere men—flesh and blood. We are not that afraid of flesh and blood are we?

But you understand, the enemy is not just flesh and blood. We face Satan and his hordes of fallen angels. They are all around us. I know that we can’t see them. But they are all around us. How many are here? I don’t know. But they must be here (as well as the angels of God too). The fallen angels are here. These try to fool, to deceive and mislead.

Perhaps the greatest danger which we face is that Satan seeks to generate, in-so-far as that is possible, complacency within us. If you can see the enemy in front of you, flesh and blood, then you would be ready to fight. But we can’t see Satan. We can’t see the hordes of angels which he controls. We can read of and see evidences of persecution elsewhere, but we have religious freedom. No one interferes with our worship. We can listen to the preaching of the Word of God and learn of that each Sabbath. No one puts us in prison. We also live in an age and a country of affluence. We have all of the material things we need. We have far more than is necessary for our physical existence. We have our homes; we have bank accounts; we have our insurance policies. We will be provided for in our old age. We have protection against sickness. We have an easy life on this earth. We can enjoy many kinds of entertainment: some proper, much of it sinful. It’s not wrong to have “fun.” Yet we are living in an age in which we place too much emphasis on these kinds of activities: sports, television, movies (which we commonly condemn), and similar things. We have so very much available.

The result can so easily be complacency. No one stands at our door and says, “Are you a Christian?” No one tells you, “You may not go to church today. You may not worship God anymore.” So with all that we have, and with all of the available entertainment, we soon become complacent. The church may be attacked, and many Christians may suffer for Jesus’ sake, but in some faraway place. Satan wants us to let down our guard by making us think that we are not under attack.

Then, when we least expect it, Satan strikes. He does this in many different ways. That attack comes with devastating effect upon those who are not ready, who are complacent. These ignore the dangers. These know that Satan would have the rulers of the world to persecute the church. But we tell ourselves, “We are not under attack.” For us, Satan uses prosperity, entertainment, lives of leisure to draw us away from the Word. When we fail to read and study the Word (we are too busy doing so many other things), then Satan can more easily cause us to doubt the Word of God and begin to doubt the atonement of the cross.

That’s the battle you face today. In the years remaining until Christ’s return, you will face that spiritual battle increasingly. That’s not merely “flesh and blood” against which we fight. We fight against spiritual wickedness in high places. Are you ready to fight such a warfare? Are you ready? Is your sword burnished? Your armament, I trust, is not put in some closet, out of the way, but it is worn. ♦