Friday, January 8, 2016

Satan's Schemes


Distractions interrupt our lives every day. Social media, text messages, pop-up ads, and unexpected calls detract us from focusing at work and home. Most of us have trouble focusing for long periods of time, in part, because of distractions. These distractions can costs thousands of dollars in productivity at work and conflict at home.

 

Distractions on the road are deadly. Distracted drivers cause thousands of accidents. Drivers spend more than half their time focused on things other than driving. According to AAA, “Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16% of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.   [Research] has discovered that distraction ‘latency’ lasts an average of 27 seconds, meaning that, even after drivers put down the phone or stop fiddling with the navigation system, drivers aren't fully engaged with the driving task.”[1]

 

Have you considered the danger of distractions to your faith? When we become distracted from Jesus Christ, we can veer off the course spiritually. We can run into a guardrail or miss an important exit in our spiritual journey. Over the next several weeks, will look at spiritual distractions. Success, sinful patterns, social media, and spiritual immaturity are a few of the distractions we will evaluate.

 

Today, we are going to talk about our chief adversary, Satan. Satan slithers in and out of schedules. Most of the time, we don’t notice him. Satan seeks to get our minds off the mission by distracting us from our purpose.

 

“U.S. snipers are trained to take one shot at a time. IN the classroom, they crack open the books to learn about barometric pressure, wind velocity, geometry, and physics. On the range, they apply classroom fundamentals by implementing new tactics and discovering new techniques. They get a feel for each target. They adapt with each scenario. And all of their training is founded upon marksmanship, observation, and the stalk. There are four components of marksmanship a soldier must master before approaching the line of fire—position, aim, breath, and trigger. All must be controlled, steady, and precise. Training to perfect these skills requires tedious work. Hours turn into days, and days turn into weeks and months. Over time, the elite soldiers apply what they have learned in the classroom so well that it becomes second nature to them. Eventually, all of their work and dedication are bent toward one goal—to protect themselves and their country from a hostile enemy. In our own lives, we have an Enemy who has waged war against us. . . . We must find the right way to engage our Enemy within the battlefield of our hearts. We must be prepared, precise and steady.”[2]

Satan works to distract us from our purpose.

Many parents in the Presbyterian church have taught their children using Westminster Shorter Catechism. The most famous of the questions (known to a great many Presbyterian children) is the first:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.


While this is not a statement drawn directly from Scripture, the wisdom behind it is. Our purpose is to glorify God with our lives. Satan wants to keep us from that purpose.

 

The Word of God reminds us that we are in a battle of the mind—a battle that requires extreme focus. We must take every thought captive. Every thought!

 

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

 

Moses, the writer of Genesis, introduces Satan by describing his subversive nature. In the Garden of Eden, Satan appeared to lure Adam and Eve away from obedience to God.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

The historical account of the Fall provides insight into the tactics of Satan and the reality of spiritual conflict. Satan began his attack by questioning God’s command. Instead of silencing him, Eve answered his question, and the trap was set. She replied, “No. We can eat of the trees of the Garden, except the tree in the middle of the Garden.” She allowed Satan to distract her and both Adam and Eve fell right into the trap. Perhaps she began to wonder, “Why did God put that forbidden tree in the Garden to begin with?” Satan succeeded in distracting Eve.

Today, Satan is still lying and distracting people from the love and purpose of God. Tim Chaddick in Truth and Lies pointed out a few of the big lies that the Enemy is telling.[3]

·         God doesn’t care because people are suffering.

·         The truth is relative, and the Bible is  unreliable.

·         God isn’t good.

·         Your sexuality defines who you are.

·         Jesus isn’t coming back.

·         I don’t even exist.

·         No one will know.

 

We must stay alert to Satan’s tactics.

 

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shows us the right way to deal with Satan’s diversions. Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father had showered Jesus with approval. At this point, before Jesus began his ministry, he went to the wilderness to be tested.

Satan tempted Jesus in all the ways we are tempted: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

How did Jesus respond to Satan’s distractions?

1. Jesus surrendered to the Father’s plan instead of serving his own physical desires.

Matthew 4:1-4 When Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

In Jesus’ hunger, Satan attempted to persuade Jesus to provide bread for himself instead of trusting the Father. For God’s own purpose, it was necessary for Jesus to experience hunger and be tested. Satan wanted to distract Jesus with another option. Satan attempted to lure Jesus into using his power for himself. He wanted Jesus to act independently from the Father and reject God’s purpose.

What did Jesus do in response? Jesus embraced God’s Word. He said, “It is written.” God’s Word was Jesus’ authority, not physical hunger. Jesus relied on the Father’s provision, not on his own strength.

2. Jesus was not willing to prove himself, only his obedience to the Father.

Matthew 4:5-6 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus was not interested in drawing a crowd by wowing people. At times, Jesus told people to keep miracles a secret. Jesus had no interest in proving himself in a grand spectacle at the Temple mound. Jesus, with ease, disarmed Satan’s attempt to twist the Scripture to fit his own purpose. Satan was not able to drive a wedge between Jesus the Son and God the Father.

Satan himself knows the Scripture better than most of us. Many today are quick to speak about the promises of God. However, we must be careful that we do not try to make God suit our own purposes, putting ourselves at the center of our own universe.

3. Instead of elevating himself at the wrong time, Jesus waited for the Father to fulfill his destiny.

Matthew 4:8-11 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Satan took Jesus to a place that he was able to see the splendor of all the kingdoms of the world. The angel of light, Satan, delivered a message of success and power. In high definition, Satan attempted to lure Jesus toward a path that avoided pain and humiliation. This was an offer that was too good to be true. It was a scam.

Satan was attempting to sell Jesus a crown without the cross. Satan said, “You don’t have to die. Sacrifice is not the only answer. There is a better, easier way.” It is no different for the American church today. Satan wants us to sit in our churches and have a good moral lesson and go out there and live by societies definitions of success.

The Devil wants to spin a tale for you too. He wants to convince you that there is another way to find meaning and fulfillment outside of the cross. Some take the Devil up on his offer.

“Remember the 1987 movie Wall Street—the original one? Charlie Sheen plays Bud Fox—a young na├»ve Wall Street stockbroker in the early 1980’s. Fox has an insatiable desire to succeed and rise to the top. Working for his firm during the day, Fox spends all of his spare time trying to find an angle to approach the high-powered, extremely successful, ruthless, and greedy broker Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. He eventually gets his chance to meet and impress Gekko, who then takes the young man under his wing. In one of their first meetings, Gekko teaches Fox the foundational truth for success in three words: ‘Greed is good.’ This is a great example because it is so extreme. These actors are really portraying caricatures. This movie also shows the relationship between personal philosophy and morals/values. In the movie, their philosophy in life is ‘Succeed at all costs.’ And one of the values that helps them live by this philosophy is greed is good.”[4]

Satan will try anything to lure you away from your relationship with God: sex, money, power, self-fulfillment, pride, even religion. He will give you every opportunity to excuse your choices. Satan will help you twist the truth enough so that you feel that you are making the right decisions; he will give you Scripture references to back up your rebellion.

The message is simple. Be alert. Don’t get distracted by Satan’s message. Glorify God. “Seek first his Kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be added unto you,” Jesus promised.

Charles H. Spurgeon, a British pastor who lived in the 1800s, said, “If you will tell me when God permits a Christian to lay aside his armor, I will tell you when Satan has left off temptation. Like the old knights in wartime, we must sleep with helmet and breastplate buckled on, for the arch-deceiver will seize our first unguarded hour to make us his prey. The Lord keep us watchful in all seasons, and give us a final escape from the jaw of the lion and the paw of the bear.”[5]

We don’t have to fall into the Devil’s trap. God will provide a way of escape for us.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.





[1] https://www.aaafoundation.org/distracted-driving?gclid=CjwKEAiA2IO0BRDXmLndksSB0WgSJADNKqqofoqmHcLWLyaCE-kUqTLLaKloGmeQWz3Y2Ij_1IwZixoCe1zw_wcB, (Retrieved on December 28, 2015).


[2]Tim Chaddick, Truth and Lies, (Nashville, TN: Lifeway, 2015), 97.  


[3]Chaddick, 16.


[4]Chaddick, 62.

 


[5]Charles H. Spurgeon, “Spurgeon’s Daily Meditations,” The Spurgeon Archive at www.spurgeon.org.