“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, is a thief and a robber.”
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” – John 10: 1, 10
Last week, the devil walked into our gathering. We didn’t notice him at first, but the results are always the same wherever he visits, chaos, confusion and angst.
We must be careful in not denying his existence, even recognising when he shows up. There is a habit in the West of seeing his work as just the result of natural human tendency, but that is never the case. He is real, and he has a purpose.
Jesus mentions the devil on more than one occasion and he had first hand experience of his guile. Paul, in his letters warns us that we too face dark Spiritual forces who are far more powerful and organised than we realise. It is, I often wonder, one of the most under-read and estimated verses in the Bible.
Over years of seeing the Devil work, I have come to realise that he has a primary strategy which is to destroy relationships. Marriage, nation, children-parents and especially those where Jesus is involved. Let us never forget, that because we gave allegiance to him very early on, he now blinds us to the truth of the Gospel.
The origins of the Devil suggest he was once an angel of significant status, and therefore he is powerful. However, there are a few things we should know about him as well:
Firstly, he comes under the authority of God. Like all beings, he appears regularly before his creator to give an account. Along the way, God paints the boundaries, and even the Devil is too wise to overstep those. God determines his limits.
Then, because of this, God uses him to his purpose. The devil constantly believes that he will win and can outwit God, only to find himself thwarted and frustrated. The cross must be the most perfect example of that, where surely Satan had thought he had victory, only to find himself soon after before the throne of Christ, answering to the one over whom he thought he had victory, and being reminded of his future!
Experientially, it seems Satan targets the church primarily. A sleeping church of no effect is not worth his efforts, but get out and start doing things, and you will find yourself in his sights. If that is your calling, to be missional for Christ, then expect attack against family, health, finances and above all relationships. His number one objective is to prevent people from receiving Christ, and confusing new believers who are slowly standing on their feet. He will do all he can to prevent this, and if you are the perpetrator, then you are a target. We need to expect it.
God also uses the devil to shake up his church and to discipline us. As the devil walked in the other night, it has caused all of us involved in our gathering to stop and assess whether what we are doing is what God wants. We see the need for changes, though we also recognise the effectiveness of what we are doing. What is God saying to us, we must ask?
The antidote is prayer, prayer and more prayer. If you find yourself under attack then you must pray. Be warned though, that for whatever reason God does not seem to always pull the devil back. Again, experientially, God seems to prefer to build us up to resist than to always remove the problem. Isn’t that usually the case with our Father? He obviously has an eternal purpose in doing so, in building us up to be more reliant, stronger, more fervent, passionate about his Son and His work. I don’t think we will be scolded for being too passionate about Jesus when we meet him!
So then, a bit about the devil. That’s probably all he warrants. Let’s finish with a few things about Jesus though. The devil answers to him, and will ultimately be judged by Christ. He is not Christ’s equal and opposite, one was created, the other divine. There is a vast chasm between them. Jesus tells us that ‘all authority has been granted him’ by the Father.
As Jesus reminds us here, his purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life. His love for us knows no bounds and he died to save each of us. For those who know, the work must go on.
But, consider this; the devil is a useful temperature gauge for the state of our faith. Have you seen him around lately?