How do we so abruptly move on? The current topic from the pulpit is just too difficult to leave. Actually, we never leave this essential understanding in the Christian life, but after preaching on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” from 2 Corinthians 12, I just have to give it some more attention – if not for you, at least for myself!
After reading the Facebook post and the various comments that followed, my mind was fully engaged. I tried my best, but I couldn’t walk away from the situation. Not only was a Christian sister from our church being attacked in her stance for Christ, but the attacks were uninformed, insane and insensitive. The would-be theologians confidently expressed their infallible positions with abject ignorance.
The original remark that sparked this firestorm of strong opinions centered on the Grammys that recently aired. The show that recognizes the top achievements in the musical industry was opened by a supercharged performance from the Australian rock band, AC/DC. The second of their two songs was their billboard classic, “Highway to Hell”. Accompanying the band were plumes of fire on the stage and an audience merrily singing along sporting red horns and flashing satanic symbols.
How can that even be possible? In the Bible he is referred to as “adversary” (1 Pet. 5:8), “dragon” (Rev. 12:7), “thief” (Jn. 10:10), “enemy” (Mt. 13:39), “murderer” (Jn. 8:44) and “tempter” (Mt. 4:3). He’s everything Jesus Christ is not. He’s the anti-christ (1 Jn. 4:3). It’s darkness versus light, lies versus truth, hate versus love. There’s no way! Even the most naïve Christian can’t confuse the voice of Satan with the voice of Jesus Christ, right?
I suppose if it were that simple, we wouldn’t need all the biblical exhortations that warn us of Satan’s schemes and cunning plans. We wouldn’t hear about his victories in the lives of professing believers. And we wouldn’t need to be vigilant, continually looking for the deception that lurks in the murky corners of our hearts. Was he defeated at the cross? Yes! Is he subservient to God? Yes! Is his eternal doom secured? Absolutely! But for His wise purposes, God has permitted the Ancient Foe to “prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). And his primary target? Christians!
Satan is the prince of darkness, but he often uses his “smiling light” to achieve his best purposes. His effectiveness is limited when he comes as an open enemy, but very powerful when he knocks on the door of our hearts; carrying a Bible, posing as a friend, masquerading as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11: 14). Satan is so subtle and clever that he can even deceive the Lord’s choice servants into thinking they are following the Lord when in reality they are following him. Remember when Peter sought to prevent the Lord from entering Jerusalem? Remember our Savior’s response? “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Mt. 16:23).
So if Satan can deceive an Apostle, how can I know he isn’t deceiving me through his minions of demonic representatives and humans disguised as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15)?
Something original please!
Okay, so I’m not the creator of this undertaking nor do I presume I could ever top some of the essays that have been written along these lines, primarily C.S. Lewis’ classic, Screwtape Letters. However, after seventeen years in full-time pastoral ministry and the last fourteen in the same location as a lead pastor, I have increasingly gained a greater understanding for the working of God within His church. I have also become more intuitive to the diabolical schemes of the Enemy. I very rarely experience Satan’s often-assumed overt attacks accompanied with a raised pitchfork and the smell of sulfur. Yet, I have witnessed his subtle covert operations to thwart the work of God.
Forgive me for being a bit biased and I do not wish to appear overconfident, but I do not believe Satan will pull our church down through his conventional and often expected means. The people at Grace Bible Church enjoy serving. They uphold moral living and strong marriages. They believe all glory should be directed toward our risen Savior. They want to depend on God’s strength for ministry success. They esteem pure doctrine. They champion Scripture as the final authority. And they know false teaches from the pulpit down to the nursery must not be tolerated. By God’s grace, these are solid convictions to affirm and uphold. They do not make us impenetrable to assault, but they are heavily fortified defenses to keep the Enemy at bay.
The details are irrelevant, but through providence I had the opportunity to engage another unknown gentleman from across the nation in a civil and thoughtful debate on the validity of the Bible. From the initial contact, we couldn’t disagree any more. Was he an atheist? No, he is a professing Christian and the lead singer of a popular Christian band.
It’s one thing to simply differ on doctrinal issues. You say old earth and I say young earth. You say Arminius and I say Calvin. You say pre-trib and I say pre-wrath. These debates within the Christian church are as old as time. Very few Christians will line up precisely on every issue. At times we might even have wholesale disagreements in regards to what the Scriptures really say about various matters.
Yet we’ve been able to reasonably settle these debates by cracking open our Bibles. We come to the Word with the common agreement that the Bible is God’s authoritative means to communicate with His people. We collectively hold to an eternal truth and adhere to honest exegesis that humbly “goes where the Scripture goes.” The debate is centered on “what does the Bible say?” Even if we disagree, our dispute is objectively based and the doctrinal “hills to die on” are clearly defined.
The rules have changed. Welcome to the brave new world!