Episode 1. Satan's Hit Parade
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There are three lies above all others that the devil wants you to believe. And surveys show that at least for his top of the pops, Lie Number 1, he’s being really successful at it. But … what if …
There are three lies above all others that the devil wants you to believe. And surveys show that at least for his top of the pops, Lie Number 1, he’s being really successful at it. But … what if we knew what those lies are, and how to hit them out of the park?
The Devil Doesn’t Exist
I had someone ask me the other day, with quite some scepticism in their voice I’d have to say, “You don’t actually believe there’s a devil do you”? It was that kind of intimidating tone that says if you answer yes you must be a blithering idiot, you know that tone right? “You don’t actually believe that there is a devil do you?” And my answer to this person was, “Sure I do, absolutely I do, a thousand times yes, I do”.
At which point the look on their face told me that as far as this person was concerned their suspicions about me were confirmed. Yep, Berni Dymet is a blithering idiot, a religious nut, a fundamentalist. But the reason I do believe in the devil is because Jesus believes in the devil.
Here’s an interesting set of statistics. The Barna Group is a highly respected research organisation in the United States. They conducted a survey on spiritual beliefs and attitudes. This is what they found. 78% of self-described Christians believe in an all powerful God, I guess you kind of expect that, I would have thought it would be higher but 69%, almost as many don’t believe in a real personal force of evil, the devil, and a further 8% weren’t sure.
Add the 69% and the 8% and you get 77%, so boiling it right down to basics about the same number of people who call themselves Christians believe in God but don’t believe in Satan or they’re not too sure.
Now I don’t know where you’re at, one person listening today might be a Bible-believing Christian, the next one may not. You may never once in your life have considered the possibility that Jesus is who He said He is. Wherever you are though let’s just look at those survey results objectively, dispassionately for a moment.
Almost 80% of Christians believe in an all powerful God, begs the question what the other 20% believed and why they call themselves Christians in the first place. Nevertheless round the figures, 80% believe in God, almost exactly the same number don’t believe in the devil or they’re not sure.
Today I’m kicking off a series of four messages called ‘The Top 10 Lies That The Devil Wants You To Believe’ and when I was planning all that out my first instinct was to say, “Look, the top one, numero uno, would have to be that God doesn’t exist. But when you look at this research that’s not what it tells us. The top number one lie that the devil wants you and me to believe is this that he doesn’t exist”.
Do I find that in my Bible? Actually I do. He makes his very first appearance in Gods Word pretty early on in the piece. So when this personal force of evil appears to deceive and to tempt Adam and Eve how does he do it? Does he rock up as a devil with horns and an evil face dressed in black and red with a pitch fork in his hand breathing fire and smoking around the edges?
Does he introduce himself, does he say, “Hi Adam, hi Eve, my name is Satan, your regular local personal force of evil, here to tempt you and lead you astray from God.” Actually no, he came disguised as something entirely else. Genesis chapter 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden but God said you shall not eat of the fruit of that tree that is in the middle of the garden nor shall you touch it or you shall die.
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You won’t die, for God knows that when you eat off it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise she took from it fruit and ate and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made loin cloths for themselves.
He came disguised as a snake. He came breathing lies, twisting what God had said to Adam and Eve.
When I was in the military one of the arts of war that they taught us was the art of deception, making things appear to be something that they weren’t so you’d trick your enemy for the sole purpose of defeating your enemy. When I was in the military they taught us the art of camouflage to hide from the enemy. In fact the snipers took this to the enth degree.
I remember once we were told that there were three snipers concealed in this small patch of forest and they told us to walk around openly and to find them. We did not find a single one of them. When the instructor told the snipers to stand up, one of them stood up within just a few feet of me and I couldn’t believe it.
You see it’s exactly what Satan does. If he can somehow make us believe that he doesn’t exist at all he can just sit there and take pot shots at us all day ruining our lives. And you know, he’s a very good shot. God’s Word even tells us that, 2 Corinthians chapter 11, verse 14:
And no wonder, even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
So if you want to sneer at the notion that someone believes in the existence of the devil go right ahead, stand in the snipers field of fire and let him take pot shots all he likes. Me? I’m going to do what God says. We each have our choices to make and I absolutely, one thousand percent believe God when He says through the Apostle Paul that we shouldn’t be ignorant about the designs and the deceptions of Satan, so that we aren’t outwitted by him, 2 Corinthians chapter 2 and verse 11.
Or, when He says through the Apostle Peter that we should keep alert because like a roaring lion our adversary, the devil, prowls around looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 8. I guess C S Lewis the author of the Narnia series, also a great theologian, sums it up best for me. He says:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our human race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence and the other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail the materialist and the magician with the same delight.
Let me say it again, the reason that I believe in the existence of a personal force of evil, the devil, Satan, is because as I read my Bible, as I read what Jesus said and did, what I discover is that He clearly, clearly believes in the existence of Satan. Who am I then to disbelieve?
You Aren’t Who God Says You Are
Have you ever found yourself doubting yourself? Who you are, what you’re capable of? Do you ever find yourself wondering whether God actually loves you, whether, given the hash you’ve just made of things just the other day, whether He really is going to forgive you this time? Whether you’re in the right place doing what you should be doing? Whether God has a plan for you, a destiny for your life?
Do you ever find yourself doubting? Well you know, that list of questions, that list of doubts, I’d be so surprised if there’s not at least one or two of those that didn’t strike a chord with you. I heard someone say recently that these days, when it comes to God, it’s not so much guilt that many people experience its uncertainty. That makes sense because we live in a world where, these days just about anything goes.
So we don’t experience guilt so much as the thing that ultimately convinces us that we need a relationship with Jesus but that’s been replaced with a sense of uncertainty. In a world full of so many choices, in a world where indeed anything does go, in a world where we’re told you can have it all. Our experience is much more of a sense of uncertainty about our worth, about our direction, about where our lives are headed, about whether God would actually ever think to forgive us.
And my experience that applies almost equally to those who don’t yet know Jesus personally and those that do. That may sound a little bit odd. Shouldn’t Christians be free from doubts about who they are and where their lives are headed? You’d think so after all in some respects that would be the whole point wouldn’t it? But in my experience many aren’t. Just the other day a woman posted this on my blog site, she said:
“I feel that God does not seem to want to help me for reasons that I cannot understand. I pray and I pray and I pray and nothing ever seems to happen. I try my hardest to serve Him and to love Him but things just seem to go from bad to worse. I want victory but I just don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. God seems unpleasable.”
Yeah okay, Robyn was going through a really tough patch in her life but often that’s when we start questioning God. What’s going on? Is there something wrong with me? Why aren’t you answering my prayers? The questions go on and on. We all have them from time to time, they’re quite natural I guess and if Satan can convince us that things aren’t right with God or that God’s forgotten us or that He’s unpleasable, can you see how destructive that can be?
Man, if Satan can sew enough doubt in someone’s mind that God is just unpleasable, that we can never be worthy, that we can never match up to God’s standards, then can you see how the devil wins? This is one of the huge lies he perpetrates and actually it’s the lie that lies at the heart of Robyn’s problem.
Her symptoms are the questions she’s asking, the uncertainty she has, the anguish she’s feeling, the pain is a symptom. It always is. It points to a disease and in Robyn’s case. The disease is that she doesn’t really know who she is in Christ. She believes in Jesus, she just doesn’t know what honour and blessing and status that confers on her. If she knew that, God, right there in the midst of her trials would be healing her disease.
Consider this powerful truth, it’s a Scripture you don’t often hear quoted and yet it talks about the sharp contrast between the world’s standards and God’s wisdom in choosing us to be His people. It comes from 1 Corinthians chapter 1 beginning at verse 25:
For Gods foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and Gods weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call brothers and sisters, not many of you are wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are. So that no one might boast in the presence of God, He’s the source of your life in Jesus Christ who became for us the wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption in order that, as it’s written, let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
Do you see how Robyn’s operating by the world’s standards? Now I’m not being critical of her at all, we all do this naturally, we all look at who we are, our circumstances, where our life’s headed or not headed as the case may be and we add all of those up and decide we’re are mess, we’re not worth it.
God comes along and says this, “I don’t choose you because you’re some superstar, I don’t choose you because you’re fancy and flash and bright and noble in the world’s eyes, I chose you because I love you. The world may not have chosen you, the world may think me a fool for having chosen you but I chose you to shame and confound those who think themselves wise, I chose you the weak, the Robyn’s of this world to show my glory through you.” And so what God’s saying here, “When people start to see the strength you have in your suffering, when you see how to overcome your suffering other people will see my glory through you.”
Let me ask you something, with all the doubts and the questions and the uncertainties that perhaps you have experienced in your life, does that give a whole new perspective to what you’re going through? Does that completely change things for you?
Gods foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.
He chose you to be one of His people for a reason. The instant we come to grips with the truth, the truth that God is with us, the truth that we’ve been chosen by Him, the truth that Jesus is the source of our life and our forgiveness and our right standing with God, our uncertainty, our whimpers turn into a boast, boast in the Lord. Look at what Jesus has done for me. I was weak, He came into my life with strength, I was lost and now I’m found.
Circumstances become irrelevant; our failures, our weaknesses, the apparent directionlessness of our lives, all those things become irrelevant because in Christ we have a new life. In Christ we are set free, in Christ we have a future and a hope and a solid foundation, He is the rock on which we stand. So when the devil comes sowing seeds of doubt about who we really are in Christ we can boldly proclaim:
If God is for us, who is against us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? No, in all of these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.
You’ve Really Blown it This Time
That’s what the devil wants you to believe – you have blown it buddy! And did you know the great power of this lie? Do you know why it’s so effective? Do you want to know why it had the power to keep me away from God for two decades of my life? Here’s why.
Because in actual fact it’s true! But Satan is so good at twisting truth’s into lies. He takes the simple truth that we will never be worthy of God’s love in and of ourselves. We aren’t, we’ve all sinned, we’ve all failed, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. And he kicks off this marketing campaign that tells us in very clever ways that not only are we not worthy but there’s no possible way that we will ever be worthy again in our lives and at that point it’s game over.
If I sound particularly passionate about this one it’s because I am. It’s because this lie kept me from having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ for a good twenty years of my life. I was totally unaware that the devil existed at all let alone that he was behind this lie fuelling it in my heart.
I couldn’t face God, I couldn’t because deep down I knew that the way I was living my life didn’t honour Him. I absolutely knew that I had to clean up my act before I could approach God otherwise He’d, I dunno and that’s what causes many a person never to go to God in the first place and it causes many a person to turn their backs on God for the same reason because they’re not worthy and they’re afraid of the consequences.
A few years ago I received this email from a young man who’d listened to one of these radio programs on his radio station locally. I’ve kept it because what he said had a powerful impact on me. Have a listen to what he wrote:
I’m only a new Christian and I’ve been with the Lord probably about ten weeks and I’ve been going great guns and then I had a night when I went out drinking and I told my friend I wasn’t sure if I could be a Christian anymore. I felt so terrible about it and I thought I’d really blown the whole thing with God. It’s only when your program came on the radio tonight that I realised that that’s why Jesus died for me. Thank you God for Your grace, it was really awesome tonight.
Of course it was awesome, he thought all was lost and then he heard the good news of the grace of Jesus Christ. This young man was fed this lie by the devil because the devil knew that if he could get this guy to swallow it he would do what he did to me for twenty years, keep him from going to God and ask Him for forgiveness.
So what do we do with this lie? What’s the answer? Do we crawl away into a corner and hope that God doesn’t notice the hash we’ve made of things? I mean Adam and Eve tried that. They tried to run away from God and hide in the garden. When they believed the lies of the devil and they ate the fruit of that one tree, just the one that God said don’t eat from this one:
They’re eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked, they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze and the man and the wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees in the garden.
Have you ever considered how patently ridiculous it is to try to hide from God? But we all do it when we swallow the devil’s lie. Why did they hide? Because they were ashamed, because they instantly knew they’d disobeyed God. It was just ordinary fruit on that tree, nothing special inside the fruit; the point was the one thing that had changed was that for the first time they were experiencing guilt.
For the first time they knew that they had disobeyed God, they had disrupted their relationship with God and their immediate reaction? Like that young man, like me and like you was to go and run and hide.
Friend what’s the answer? The answer to this lie is knowing the truth, the answer is that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is totally, totally for me and for you. It’s totally bullet proof, have a listen, Romans chapter 5 beginning at verse 1:
Therefore since we now have a complete right standing with God through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we now stand and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
For while we were still weak at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed rarely will anyone die for a righteous person though maybe for a good person someone might actually dare to die but God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Much more surely then, now that we’ve been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of Jesus, how much more surely, having been reconciled, will we now be saved by his life?
What’s all that saying? Simply this, because Jesus died on that cross to pay for every sin and every mistake, every turning of our backs on God, large, small, past, present, future, the requirements of the inherently just nature of God have been met and when we put our trust in Jesus and what He’s done for us on that cross we’re forgiven by God, freely, it’s called grace for a reason.
If we could somehow work our way into a right standing with God through our own strength and our own ability Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on that cross but we can’t, that’s why Jesus died, that’s why God forgives us, by grace and so when we put our trust in Jesus instead of crawling away and trying to hide behind the bushes, we can boast in what Jesus has done for us.
While we were totally unworthy God proved His love for us by sending Jesus to die. He didn’t wait for me to sort my life out; He didn’t wait for you to sort your life out because He knew that if He did that He’d be waiting for an eternity. He proved His love for you and for me by acting before we acted and not only have we been saved in that through the death of Jesus we’re forgiven, we’ve been saved in that when He rose again from the grave He gave us a completely new life.
And in case it hasn’t quite sunk into our hearts let me finish with this story. The great reformer Martin Luther once dreamed a dream in which he stood on the day of judgement before God, satan was there to accuse him and when the books were opened he pointed to transgression after transgression of which Luther was guilty.
Luther’s heart sank in despair but then he remembered the Cross and turning upon the devil he said, “There is one entry which thou has not made Satan”. “What is that?” asked the devil. “It is this” answered Luther. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin”. (1 John chapter 1, verse 7)
That’s the truth, the God honest truth. And now as you know the truth may the truth set you free.