This is a message about someone I don't like. His name is Satan. Sermons about Satan aren't new, but this one is a little different. Most of them focus on who Satan is. My focus this morning is on who Satan is not. I'm here to expose the most common lies of the devil. And those are the lies that he has told about himself.
I don't like to spend a lot of time talking about the devil. He and I are not on speaking terms, you see. But Jesus spoke about him from time to time, so it's no sin for me to do it. Jesus didn't mince words when He spoke about Satan's nature in John 8:44 (speaking to the Pharisees) -
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.Do we want to spend a lot of our time focusing on Satan and his lies? Some Christians become obsessed with what our enemy is doing, and that's bad. Having right facts about the devil is not a salvation issue - it's not something to obsess over. But you need to have the facts, for this reason: if you're sharing your faith with someone who has misconceptions about the devil, then that person probably has misconceptions about Hell as well. And if a person does not clearly understand about Hell, then that person will not see their need for a Savior to forgive their sins and keep them out of that Hell. So, getting the facts straight about our adversary, the devil, can be important. I'm going to focus on eight common misconceptions about Satan. Ask anybody on the street, and they'll most likely believe that a few of these are true. And if you find that you've believed any of these, don't despair. Just get the truth firmly planted in your head, and get rid of those lies. You'll be much better off.
Lie #1: There is no person or being called the Devil.
This is a fairly new lie. All through the centuries, people have known that there is a devil, and they have feared him. We can thank modern theology for the watering-down of the facts about our enemy. The liberal theologians will tell you, "There is no intelligent, evil being called the devil." They'll tell you, "The idea of a devil is just a personification of the evil impulses that are within us all." They'll tell you, "The concept of an evil being like the devil is from a primitive society, but we don't need to fear their superstitions." They'll tell you all kinds of lies that are the opposite of what the Bible tells us. Why are they doing this? They're saying it because they've believed their own lie. The devil is prompting them to say it so we'll lower our guard.
So what does the Bible say? Does God think there is a real devil?
Back in the 70's, a Christian singer named Keith Green wrote a song called, "No One Believes in Me Anymore." He subtitled it, "The Devil's Boast." He wrote it from Satan's point of view, to open the eyes of Christians like us to the very real problems that follow when people don't believe that there is a devil. Listen to these words:
Well, my job keeps getting easier as time keeps slipping away.That's kind of scary, isn't it? But that is where the world, and not a few Christians, are at.
I can imitate the brightest light, and make your night look just like day.
I put some truth in every lie to tickle itching ears.
I'm drawing people just like flies, 'cause they like what they hear.
I'm gaining power by the hour, they're falling by the score.
It's getting very simple now, since no one believes in me anymore.
"Heaven's just a state of mind," my books read on your shelf.
Have you heard that God is dead? I made that one up myself!
They're dabbling in magic spells, they get their fortunes read.
They heard the truth, but turned away and followed me instead.
I used to have to sneak around, but now they just open their doors.
No one's watching for my tricks, since no one believes in me anymore.
Everyone likes a winner - with my help, you're guaranteed to win.
Hey, man, you're not a sinner - no, you've got the truth within.
And as your life slips by, you'll believe the lie that you did it on your own.
But I'll be there to help you share a dark eternal home.
My job keeps getting easier as day slips into day.
The magazines, the newspapers print every word I say.
This world is just my spinning top, it's all like child's play.
I dream that it will never stop, but I know it's not that way.
Still my work goes on and on, always stronger than before.
I'm going to make it dark before the dawn, since no one believes in me anymore.
Lie #2: The devil is the opposite of God - God is infinitely good, the devil is infinitely evil, and they are in a constant battle, with no guarantees about the outcome.
This one is not a new lie. This one goes back for centuries. Rev 12:7-9 says,
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.Somebody somewhere got the idea that that war could have gone either way - that God's victory was not a sure thing. And so the myth grew. God is in constant battle with Satan, they say, and we have to exert our utmost efforts to help the forces of Good to triumph over the forces of Evil.
For example, in one part of Bolivia, they have an annual religious celebration called the "Diablada," the Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins. Everyone dresses up as an angel or as a devil, and they all meet in a big arena to re-enact the battle between Good and Evil. They do it with a series of ritualized dances, and this "battle" goes on all day. At the end, Good always triumphs, but it's never easy. And after Good has triumphed and Evil has failed, they all take off their costumes and go out and get drunk together. How's that for a religious celebration? Those people really know how to worship God, don't they?
But are we any different? Maybe we don't go out and get drunk after church - at least I hope we don't - but is our attitude any more correct? Consider this common saying: "All that is necessary for Evil to triumph is for Good to do nothing." How many of you have heard that saying? How many of you agree with that saying? Well, it's close to truth, but it has one two many "o's." It should read, "All that is necessary for Evil to triumph is for God to do nothing." Not Good, but God. One two many "o's."
Or how about that old familiar scene in movies and TV when a character is facing temptation? What always happens? Poof - a little devil appears on his shoulder, urging him to do the wrong thing, and poof! A little angel appears on the other shoulder, urging him to do the right thing. And how will this battle between Good and Evil end up? We hope the character will listen to the angel, but we never know for sure until the end of the scene. It all depends on how persuasive the little angel and the little devil can be.
What's the reason for this lie? It's because Satan wants to be like God, but he can't. So for now, he'll settle for the next best thing - he'll convince us that he is like God. He has spread this lie that he is in the same league as God, and that the battle between God and Satan, between Good and Evil, is a fair fight, with the outcome in doubt. Not so.
Satan is a created being, created by God, and therefore less than God. Satan is not omnipotent - he can't do everything; God can. Satan is not omniscient - he doesn't know everything; God does. Satan is not omnipresent - he can't be everywhere at once; God can. Satan is not omni-anything; God is. Satan is finite; God is infinite. Satan has limits; God has none. Satan attacking God is something like a chihuahua trying to bite a man wearing a suit of armor, except the differences between the two are even greater. The contest between God and the devil is not an even fight, and the details of the ending have been known ever since John finished writing down his Revelation. God has no opposite. There is no one like Him.
But Satan has an opposite. Do you know who the opposite of Satan is? The archangel Michael. (I like Michael - he has a good name.) Do you know what "Michael" means in Hebrew? "Who is like the Lord?" Even his name gives glory and honor to God. Satan seeks his own honor; Michael honors God. Satan rebels against God's authority; Michael submits to God's authority and derives his strength from Him. Satan acts in his own strength; Michael relies on the power of God. When there was war in Heaven, Michael led the army of God against Satan and his followers, and triumphed, not in his own name, but in the name of the Lord.
The bottom line is, don't go around thinking that Satan is the opposite of God. Don't give him that much credit. It's just a lie of the devil.
Lie #3: the devil is a man in a red suit with horns, a pointy tail, and a pitchfork.
I don't know where the myths about the devil's appearance came from. In the old stories and classical operas in which the devil appears, he is usually shown as a gentleman, rather handsome if you overlook the horns. And the pitchfork is a reminder of his alleged power to torment lost souls in Hell - I'll say more about that later.
What's the harm in thinking of the devil in those terms? Because it waters down our thinking about him. If he becomes a cartoon character, we start to think lightly of him. Hey, he's not so tough! Maybe we can outwit the devil! Take him on and beat him at his own game! I hope you can see the danger in that line of thinking.
Or maybe we can cash in on that phony appearance. Every buy a can of Underwood canned meat? What's their logo, their advertising symbol? If you can't remember, I'll give you a hint: their #1 product is deviled ham. I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't buy Underwood products because they're satanic - I have no evidence of that, so please don't get that idea. What I'm saying is that society has reduced the enemy of our souls to an advertising gimmick. Who's going to be afraid of that? And you can guess who's behind that lie.
What does the Bible say? The devil is a fallen angel - a spirit being. He has no physical body that we can see. Nevertheless, the Bible does describe his appearance to us, in surprisingly different ways.
Lie #4: "Speak of the devil and he shall appear."
In other words, if you use his name, you will get his attention. This is an old saying that isn't much used anymore, but it used to be a common statement. The idea was that if you don't speak of the devil, then you won't draw his attention. But there are two things wrong with that thought.
The first problem is that it assumes the devil is everywhere and can hear everything. Otherwise, how could he know if you spoke his name? In other words, it assumes that the devil is omnipresent. Oh, no, he is not - we just went over that. Omnipresence is an attribute of God and God alone. I'm sure the devil wishes he were omnipresent, because he wants to be like the Most High. But he isn't and never will be. When he wants to start trouble, he has to go out and look for it -
The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." (Job 1:7)So he spread this lie to make us think he possesses an attribute of God, and many have believed that lie through the centuries. But it is a lie of the devil.
The other problem with that idea is that you want to avoid drawing the devil's attention, and that's why you don't speak his name. I've got news for you. If you are living the Christian life, and especially if you are actively sharing your faith in Christ, then you are getting the devil's attention more than you could ever do by speaking his name. Acts 9:13-17 -
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." 14Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 16Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.That evil spirit, that follower of Satan, knew Jesus well enough. And he knew about Paul, even though he had probably never met him face-to-face. How? Because Paul's picture was on the wall in Satan's post office. Paul was the devil's Public Enemy Number One. Paul was leading souls to Christ, starting gospel-preaching churches, correcting false doctrines, and doing everything he could to advance God's kingdom. And every saved soul, every new church, every falsehood rebuked, was another setback for Satan and his plans. The devil knew about Paul, all right. And Paul didn't come to the devil's attention by speaking his name. He did it by obeying God. And if we are going to obey God, then the devil is going to keep his eye on us as well. Knowing that this is so, that's all the more reason to put our entire trust in the Lord. Because if you choose to serve the Lord, you're going to make one powerful enemy, whether you speak his name or not. So don't worry about speaking his name. That's not your worry.
Lie #5: The devil is the ruler of Hell.
This has been a common theme in classical literature for centuries. Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise Lost, the stories of Don Juan and Doctor Faust, and dozens of others place Satan on his throne in the pits of Hell, overseeing the torments of lost souls. For those who don't read classical literature, you can find the same theme in comic strips like The Far Side. You know the ones I mean. Crowds of souls in dark, flaming caves, tortured by demons with pitchforks, with Satan overseeing the whole thing. The only problem with this scenario is, it's all a lie.
Satan is not the ruler of Hell. Satan has never even been to Hell yet. And when he goes there, he will not be the king. Here's how we know that, from Scripture:
Lie #6: "The devil made me do it."
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. - James 1:13-15Any fishermen here? What do you fish for?
You don't fish for largemouth bass the same way you'd fish for lake trout, and you don't fish for lake trout the same way you'd fish for blue marlin. You don't use the same bait, you don't use the same hooks, you don't use the same rod or the same line, and you don't use the same methods. But the bottom line is the same: you are trying to make that fish think that the hook on the end of your line is something he wants to eat. And once the fish bites, it becomes a struggle of skill and strength to reel him in. It's not in your power to make the fish bite the hook. No, you have to lure him, trick him, entice him... tempt him, maybe? Hmmm.
Jesus told Peter and Andrew that He would make them fishers of men. (You know, back in Lie #2, we had Michael, and now we have "fisher." I like this message!) Satan is also a fisher of men. He fishes for the reputations of Christians. According to James 1:14, his bait is temptation, his hook is sin, and he knows just how to wiggle that bait for each of us, to get us to bite that hook. We were all born unsaved, children of the devil, and he knows our weaknesses. Once we bite on his hook, he really starts to work on us, to reel us in.
Some Christians never get free of that hook, and Satan has them where he wants them - their integrity compromised, their reputation destroyed, their testimony useless to the Lord. Those are the ones who try to fight free of the hook themselves. Satan is too strong a fisherman for us to outfight, and his line never breaks, either.
Other Christians just surrender and let themselves be reeled in. "The devil made me do it," they say, and that's their excuse for sinning. They convince themselves that it's not their fault, so they don't have to do anything about it.
What's the Godly response? How do we get free of that hook, if we've bitten it? We'll take King David as an example, in Psalm 51. When the Lord confronted him with his sin in the matter of Bathsheba, David might have said, "God, it's not my fault! I didn't go looking for that woman - she was just there when I looked over the city! The devil made me do it!" Is that what he said? No, he faced the issue honestly and realistically:
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)So if you've been drawn in by the devil's bait, and if you've got the devil's hook in your lip, and if you don't want Satan to destroy your life, the only thing to do is to forget the excuses, and put all the blame on yourself, where it belongs. Confess that sin to God and renounce it. The devil didn't make you do it, and he can't make you keep doing it. The choice is yours, and the responsibility for that choice is yours. Don't give Satan more credit than he deserves. He can't make you do anything. That is a lie of the devil.
Lie #7: Some people can make a deal with the devil.
This is also part of our mythology. Someone gets so desperate for something they want and cannot have, that they sell their soul to Satan. He gives them what they want, and when they die, he gets their soul. People believe this. Practicing Satanists try to do it.
Where do I start with this one? First and most obviously, it's a bad deal. Matt 16:26 says,
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?If someone really made a deal like this, they'd give away something eternal in exchange for something that won't last more than a few years. That's beyond stupidity.
Secondly, how many of you would go into a business deal with a man who's known for his dishonesty? Then why would it be a good move to make a deal with the father of lies and expect him to hold up his end of the bargain? No one ever seems to think about that aspect of the ol' deal with the devil. For some reason, people expect the ultimate liar, thief and murderer to adhere to the terms of a contract. That just doesn't make sense.
Thirdly, the whole idea is based on the thought that our souls are all bound for Heaven unless we do something to get ourselves condemned. And we know that's an unbiblical lie. It's not a happy fact, but most people's souls are bound for hell. So what would the devil gain by making deals for souls that are already condemned? He wouldn't gain subjects for his kingdom - we already discussed how Satan is not the ruler of Hell, but a future inmate of Hell. So the idea of a deal with the devil fails on theological grounds.
But finally, in addition to all these common-sense objections to making a deal with the devil, there's a fourth problem that no one ever seems to mention. The Bible says that our souls are not ours to give away. Ezek 18:4 (this is the Lord speaking) -
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son - both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.I can't ask Harold Crowell to open a mutual-fund account for me, and start it with money that belongs to Henry Gibbs, without asking Henry, can I? No! Whether I'm saved or unsaved, my soul does not belong to me - it belongs to God. So if my soul belongs to God, then I don't have the right to trade it away to the devil. None of us have that right.
So what do you do if you're witnessing to someone who claims it's too late for him because he's sold his soul to the devil? You remind him that Jesus is mightier than Satan, and His blood can forgive and cleanse any sin, even a deal with the devil. Jesus can negate any so-called contract and rescue a Satan-worshipper into the kingdom of God, if that person wants to be saved. It's happened before. It can happen again.
Lie #8: "A friend of the devil is a friend of mine."
This is a line from a song that was popular in the 1970's and 80's in some circles. As Christians, we'd never take such a thought seriously in our own lives. But I'd like to take a moment to look at how this thought goes beyond absurdity.
Satan hates God, because God is everything that Satan wants to be and cannot. We are created in the image of God. So when the devil looks at a human being, he is looking at the very image of the being he hates the most. Satan has no human friends. Indeed, we cannot conceive of the hate that he has for each and every one of us. Part of that hate is for us as Christians, because we have embraced Christ and rejected the devil's lies. But part of it is simply because we, as humans, by our very existence, remind the devil that God lives and will always be greater.
Satan wants to attack God, but he cannot. But, subject to the limits God puts on him, he can attack us. And he does. Why would he want to attack us? Three reasons:
Having said all that, and spoken of all those lies, what are we supposed to do about Satan?
That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning - there were all the dead bodies!Satan is at least that strong, probably stronger. Jude 9 says,
But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!".That should be our response. We're called to resist the devil when he comes against us, but resisting the devil isn't the same as getting into a fight with him. Fighting the devil is not the assignment we've been given. We're to preach the Gospel, and to teach and encourage each other. Let God handle the devil.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Romans 16:20).And if we start worrying about what the devil is up to, that's time and energy we're not spending on advancing the kingdom of God. God's kingdom is our concern. Satan's kingdom isn't worth our worrying about. So keep your eyes on Jesus.