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Ever side with Satan?

Posted by owner on May 29, 2012

We don’t like to think that sometimes we may be siding with Saran unawares. But even the apostle Peter found himself in that situation. But there are times when, like Peter, we may not agree with what God is doing or saying. How does Jesus handle it? And what can we learn?

Mark 8:33

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But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

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Background

Jesus has just told his disciples about his coming crucifixion. This is a theme none of his disciples want to hear about. The text tells us that Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to “rebuke” him. Jesus must not speak of dying or follow any course that would lead to his death.

Peter’s action is unprecedented, as it is not the place of a rabbi’s disciples to rebuke him. The incident tells us how upsetting this first mention of Christ’s coming execution was to the Twelve.

Observations

1. “Jesus turned and looked at his disciples.” The image is telling. It makes it very clear that Peter is not acting on his own, but rather reflects the feelings of Jesus’ other followers as well.

2.  “he rebuked Peter.” As a disciple, it was not Peter’s place to rebuke [censure, scold] Jesus.  Yet Peter was the acknowledged leader of the Twelve, and apparently took it upon himself to represent their views.

Those views, and Peter, do merit Jesus’ rebuke.

3. “get behind me, Satan.” “Satan” is both a name and an attribute. The word means “adversary,” and it is in this sense Jesus that uses it here. Peter is not the great fallen angel, nor is that being present in Peter. But Peter is acting like an adversary, speaking out against God’s plans.

4. “you do not have in mind the things of God” This phrase makes Peter’s error even more clear. He is not looking at Jesus’ coming execution from God’s point of view.

5. “but the things of men.” Peter has expressed his human point of view. From that viewpoint Jesus’ death would be a disaster. What would happen to the kingdom? What would happen to the power and position each of the disciples expected to assume when Jesus ruled? Besides, the disciples did love Jesus. And they depended on him. They would be devastated should Jesus die.

Implications

It’s impossible to evaluate God’s actions from a human point of view. We simply do not have the information or the perspective necessary to understand. Even more seriously, when we do what Peter did here we find ourselves inadvertently siding with Satan, and becoming God’s adversary.

It is not wrong to question God. Like the Psalmists, we often cry out “Why?” as we share our pain with our Creator. But it is wrong to stand in judgment on God, and declare him wrong in his decisions.

This is what Peter was doing. And this is what Satan did in his original rebellion. When we honor ourselves and our opinions above the honor we show God by trusting his choices, we too merit the Savior’s rebuke.

Satan’s Mind-bending

Posted by owner on August 4, 2011

In his book Victory Over the Darkness, Neil T. Anderson makes the fascinating suggestion that one of Satan’s schemes is to plant thoughts in our minds that we assume are our own thoughts.

There’s plenty of biblical evidence that Satan does work on our minds. In 2 Corinthians 3:14 Paul writes that Satan “hardens” the minds of unbelievers, and in 4:4 that the “God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving.” In 11:3 he expresses concern for believers “lest as the Serpent deceived Eve, your minds should be led astray.” The Greek word translated “mind” in each of these cases is noema, which focus not on the capacity to think but rather on the thoughts a person has. It is the thoughts that set the direction for our lives, Interestingly, in 2 Cor 2:11 where Paul comments that “we are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] schemes,” the word translated “schemes” is also noema, thoughts. Satan intends to corrupt us by planting his thoughts in our heads.

Anderson’s fascinating suggestion is that when Satan does plant his thoughts in our minds he uses our voice, deceiving us into assuming that the thoughts we have are our own rather than his. After all, if a thought was clearly identified as “Satan speaking,” we’d likely reject the thought out of hand. If it comes unlabeled to our minds, we’re likely to assume that the thought is our own, and are far more likely to let that thought set a direction for our lives.

There are biblical examples of this happening. While Ananias and Sapphira were chatting about that property they planned to sell, the chances are they assumed it was their own idea to keep back some of the money and pretend to give it all. Yet Peter lets us look deeper when he says, “Annanias, Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back some of the price of the land” (Acts 5:3). We can almost hear Ananias say to himself, “Lie to the Holy Spirit? I never looked at it that way!” Satan planted a thought that Ananias and Sapphira assumed was their own, and they let that thought set a disastrous direction for their lives.

I suspect we’re far more vulnerable to this strategy of Satan’s than we’ll ever know. We feel hurt, and the thought pops into our head, “he doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!” So we harden our heart against the person who hurt us, and in withholding forgiveness we hurt not him, but ourselves.

A terrible tragedy strikes our family, and the thought pops into our head, “How could God let this happen?” That thought sets the direction of our lives, and we grow to doubt God’s love or become bitter.

We look back on our disappointments and the thought comes, “I might have been happier if only I’d have . . . “ That thought sets the direction of our lives, and we let regret over what might have been blind us to the grace God is pouring out on us today.
You can come up with dozens of illustrations like these. Chances are you can identify personal experiences, times when let a thought planted by Satan set you on a disastrous course.

What can we do about Satan’s mind-bending tactics? In I Corinthians 2:14, Paul notes that “we have the mind of Christ.” The word translated “mind” here is not noema, thoughts. It’s nous, which focuses our attention on the capacity to perceive and understand. In the Person of the Holy Spirit God has given us true wisdom, an interpreter of our experiences, one who is able to stand in judgment on our thoughts. What we need to do is to develop a habit Paul encourages when he writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5 about “taking every thought (noema) captive to Christ.”

I suspect that there are two practices which will help us in dealing with our thoughts. The first is obvious. We need to learn all we possibly can about God and how he thinks. That takes time in Scripture to think God’s thoughts along with him, and time with godly friends who are also seeking to know him better. The second isn’t as obvious, but it is important. And that is we need to learn to challenge our thoughts . . . especially those that come quickly as reactions to things that are painful. We need to ask, Is this thought in harmony with who God is, and who God is enabling me to become in Christ? Not every thought we have is our own. Some are intruders, mental IUD’s planted by demons that will blow up in our faces if we let them set the direction for our lives.

The great thing is that we do have the mind—the capacity to perceive and to understand—of Christ himself. God has given us the Holy Spirit. Let’s give him to opportunity to challenge our thoughts, and bring them into captivity to Christ.

Confronting Satan #13

Posted by owner on October 18, 2010

Confronting Satan

The13th in a series of studies of mentions of Satan in the Gospels

John 13:2,27

“The evening meal was served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariiot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. . . . As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.”

Background
It’s the night of the last supper. Jesus and his disciples are gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Judas has already met with the high priests and agreed to turn Jesus over for 30 pieces of silver, the price the Old Testament established for the purchase of a slave.

As the disciples eat, Christ tears a piece of bread from one of the flat unleavened loaves, selects a piece of meat, and offers it to Judas. The act is unusual: it’s something the host of a banquet might do to honor an especially prominent guest.

Judas accepts the offering, And, John tells us, at that moment Satan entered into him.

Dismissed by Jesus, Judas then hurries out, heading for the house of the High Priest where a mob has gathered, waiting for Judas to arrive and lead them to the place where they plan to seize Jesus.

Observations
“the evening meal was served.” The Passover Meal was a high point in the Jewish religious year. It commemorated the night that God broke the bonds of slavery in Egypt and freed his people. This particular night was to mark the fulfillment of the Exodus promise. As God had broken Egypt’s chains Jesus was about the break the power of sin which held humankind in spiritual bondage. All at that table were to be set free. All but Judas, who took the bread offered him by Jesus but rejected the Giver.

“the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.” The word “prompt” is appropriate. Satan did not force Judas to betray Jesus. He had not even “entered into” Judas yet. Satan merely encouraged Judas. Perhaps he planted the idea of betrayal in Judas’ thoughts. But no seed grows unless it is planted in fertrile ground. Ground that has been prepared to welcome the seed. Judas welcomed the notion. So how had his heart and mind been prepared?

“the devil had already prompted.” We can blame Satan for planting the idea. But we can’t blame Satan for Judas’ response. The fact is that Judas had already prepared himself to be responsive when Satan’s prompting came. John tells us that Judas, who was the treasurer of the little group, had been stealing from the common purse. John calls him “a thief,” indicating that dipping into the group’s funds was a habitual practice and not an isolated failure.

In practicing sin Judas had become fertile ground for the devil’s prompting, and the seed Satan planted had quickly borne fruit.

“As soon as Judas took the bread.” The amazingly gracious act of Jesus in offering Judas the morsel should have flooded the erring disciple with remorse. He should have fallen to his knees and sought forgiveness. But instead Judas took the bread. He accepted the gift and the honor it conveyed with absolutely no change of heart. His hardness at that moment provided all the invitation that Satan required. And so John tells us that “as soon as” Judas accepted the bread, “Satan entered into him.”

Conclusions
Satan is a fierce enemy, but is forced to operate under rules established by God. He cannot enter anyone he wants to, as his request to God to “sift Peter like wheat” illustrates. What Satan can to is to “prompt” us from outside. With his options before us, it is up to us to choose.

But Satan and his demons do enter some. Entrance is what “demonize” in the Gospels means, and that is why Jesus is spoken of as “casting out” demons. So what is it that gives evil spirits access to our lives?
In this’ case it’s clear that despite Judas’ close association with Jesus he chose to make a habit of sinning by imbezzling from the group’s funds. This made him vulnerable to Satan’s promptings.

But it took one more thing to reach the tipping point and provide Satan with the legal ground he needed to enter Judas. And that was Judas’ rejection of the grace gift offered him by Jesus. When Judas took the gift, without repenting of his sins and his part in the plot to betray Jesus. he flung the door open wide for Satan to enter. And “as soon as” the door was opened, “Satan entered into him.”

The habitual practice of any sin prepares the ground for Satan and his emissaries. We become more and more aware of their promptings. And then we come to a point where God reaches out to us in grace, calling us to repentance. We reach the tipping point. We either respond to God then, or we throw open the door to Satan. And we can be sure that through that open door, demons will come.

Confronting Satan #12

Posted by owner on October 11, 2010

The 12th in a series of studies of mentions of Satan in the Gospels
John 8:44
“You belong to your Father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.”

Background
These words of Jesus shocked his listeners. They were spoken during a lengthy debate that began with a challenge from the Pharisees (8:13). In the confrontation that followed Jesus emphasized his relationship with “the Father, who sent me” (8:16). Christ’s testimony was powerful, for John tells us that “even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. (8:30).” It’s important to notice that Christ then spoke “to the Jews who had believed on him,” telling them that “if you hold to my teaching . . .you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

The implication that Jews needed emancipation stirred up the whole crowd. They protested, “we are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” In light of the centuries of slavery in Egypt, captivity in Babylon, and the current domination of the Jewish homeland by Rome, their words seems foolish. But Christ’s audience was aware that Jesus was speaking of spiritual slavery, and it was established doctrine that the merit of Abraham was so great that all observant Jews were guaranteed a place in the World to Come.

Christ’s response was immediate and devastating. Everyone who sins is a slave of sin. And no slave has a permanent place in the family.
Jesus went even further. He told them that their actions revealed that “you do what you have heard from your father” (8:34-38).

Now the crowd’s reaction was even more intense. His listeners insisted loudly, “Abraham is our father.” (8:34-39). But Jesus was adamant. If they were Abraham’s offspring they would have acted as Abraham did and believe the truth (8:38-41a).

As we read the text we can almost hear the outraged shout, “we are not illegitimate children!” and the claim “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Now the issue was rightly framed. The issue was not one of a biological relationship with Abraham, but of a spiritual relationship with the God of Abraham.

It is in this context that Christ identifies his protesting listeners as “belonging to your father, the devil” and of wanting to “carry out your father’s desires.” Their refusal to respond to the truth and their hostility to Jesus marked them as children of the “father of lies” who was “a murderer from the beginning” (8:44-45).

Observations
“You.” Some look at this passage and take Christ to be dividing humankind into two groups: children of God, and children of the devil. That conclusion may be a little hasty.

The family relationship described here is revealed by one’s response to truth and attitude toward to Jesus. Those who believe and love Jesus clearly are in God’s family. But not all know the truth or have made their choice.

“You belong to your father, the devil.” There were clear indications of relationship to Satan. Those in Satan’s family “have no room for [Jesus’] word” (8:37). They “do not believe” Jesus, rejecting the truth (8:45). In fact, they are actively hostile to Jesus (8:37).
We certainly cannot say that those who have not understood the truth about Jesus have a place in God’s family. But we should hesitate to consign them too quickly to Satan’s family. While all without Christ are lost, and the lost are under the sway of a world system dominated by the Evil One, the “family” relationship seems to hinge on one’s informed response to Jesus, either yea or nay.

“You want to carry out your father’s desire.” The informed choice to reject Jesus places an individual squarely in Satan’s camp, and aligns his desires with Satan’s.

When Adam sinned he declared his independence from God. But this choice did not involve declaring allegiance to Satan. Now Satan seeks to control human beings by shaping cultures to fit what John calls “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does” ( John 2:16). Human beings struggle in this world of illusion, assuming that they are free, yet slaves to sin and, unwittingly, slaves of Satan. But then the Gospel breaks through the illusions and reveals Truth. Some, still blinded, simply ignore the truth and go on in their ignorance. Some hear and believe the truth, turn to Jesus, and become members of God’s family. Some hear and reject the truth, making an informed decision not to trust in Jesus. These, like those whose debate with Jesus is recorded in John’s Gospel, deserve to be classified as children of their father, the devil.

Conclusion
It seems on one level to make very little difference whether an unsaved person is seen as a child of the devil or not. All without Christ remain slaves of sin and are lost. Why not simply lump all the unsaved together and call them the devil’s brood?

Probably the best reason is that in our passage members of the devil’s family are described as those who reject the truth [in contrast to being ignorant of it] and as those who have murderous feelings toward Jesus.
The Apostle Paul recognized one implication of this distinction. He was eager to share the Gospel with all people, hoping that many would respond to the Savior’s love. Yet Paul wrote that his message was “the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death, the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Corinthians 2:13,14). In sharing the Gospel we provided people with the opportunity to make an informed choice. In so doing we rejoice to see many enter God’s family. Yet we may well weep to see others take a different stand as their response identifies them as members of the family of the Evil One.

Confronting Satan, #11

Posted by owner on October 4, 2010

The 11th in a series of studies of mentions of Satan in the Gospels

Luke 22:31-33
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Background
It took place at the Last Supper. In Luke’s account, Jesus has just lead the disciples in history’s first communion service and announced his immanent death. And immediately the disciples turn to wrangling about which of them should be considered the “greatest.” Their insensitivity is stunning. But when Jesus rebukes them he doesn’t mention the pain he must have felt. Instead he reminds them, “I am among you as one who serves.” And he explains that greatness in his Kingdom is expressed as servanthood, not in power or glory.

Then immediately Jesus looks at Simon Peter, and we can sense him shaking his head is discouragement as he says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.”

Why single out Simon? The chances are it’s because the Twelve, and Simon himself, saw the rugged fisherman as the foremost among the disciples. Very possibly Simon was vehemently defending that position.
Whatever the reason for singling out Simon, Jesus’ remarks provide deep insights into Satan’s strategies, and into the divine protection offered all believers.

Observations
“Simon, Simon”.What was there about Simon that led Satan to “ask for” him? First, Simon actually was the leader of the twelve. On every list of Jesus’ disciples, Peter is listed first. And throughout the Gospels he remains close to Jesus as well as the first to speak up. Of course Satan wanted Peter: why go after a bystander when one can focus on a person destined to be significant in God’s kingdom?

The second reason is the same as the first. Peter was significant…and he knew it! The fact that Jesus singled out Peter in this situation suggests that Peter felt more important than the others. Peter had begun to put himself on a pedestal, and see the others as less significant than himself. This meant that Peter was vulnerable to Satan’s blandishments. Satan was eager to go after Peter because he knew that the one who believes himself strong is the weakest of all.

This reminds us of Job. Satan had to ask God for permission to mount attacks on that Old Testament saint. Both passages remind us that the notion of the “permissive will of God” has biblical roots. Satan intends to harm us. But he can’t attack us without divine permission.

This notion is a problem for some. Why would God permit Satan to harm one of his children? Here both the story of Job and of Peter help us. In the end, Job is not only blessed, but in the process of his suffering he reaches a point where “I had heard of you with the hearing of the ear, but now I see you.” (Job 42:5 ). Through the experience of suffering Job came to know both God more intimately.

It was different for Peter. He was well-acquainted with Jesus. But in the next few paragraphs we see Peter pledge that he will die with Christ . . . and that same night Peter denies his Master three times. Through the experience of suffering shame that night, Peter came to know himself better.

Both knowing God better and knowing ourselves better are essential for a healthy spiritual life. To see God more clearly is to trust him completely. And to see ourselves more clearly is to give up any tendency trust in our abilities or even in our commitment to Christ. Only when we look away from ourselves to him alone can we find and fulfill our place in God’s kingdom.

“Sift you like wheat.” Satan asked permission to tear Peter apart; to break him down even as the kernels of wheat were separated from the chaff. God is willing let us suffer pain, not to harm us, but to teach and purify us.

“I have prayed . . . that your faith may not fail.” It would be a mistake to assume that God didn’t grant Satan’s request. Christ, we note, did not pray that Peter might avoid the sifting. Christ prayed “that your faith may not fail.” The pain caused by Peter’s denial of Jesus went deep. No wonder after the third denial that evening Peter went out and “wept bitterly.”

There’s a parallel here between Peter and Judas. Both were stricken with regret after betraying Jesus. But Judas went out and hanged himself. Peter, despite the shame and guilt, hurried to the Lake of Galilee where he was told Jesus would meet him. Peter’s faith did not fail. He continued to trust in the Savior, and returned to him.

“When you have turned back.” Yes, Peter did turn away from Jesus. But while Satan was able to use fear to bring Peter to the point of denial again and again, Satan did not have the power to keep Peter from turning back. It was not a question of “if” Peter turned back, but “when.”

This is so helpful for us to remember when we fail God, others, or ourselves. There is no “if” about turning back. There is no “if” about God’s acceptance of us. When we turn back, we will be welcomed with open arms, as though we’d never gone away.

“Strengthen your brothers.” And what do we turn back to? Not a grudging welcome and shunting off to one side. Peter was a leader, and when he turned back his gifts of leadership were affirmed. His failure hadn’t cost him his significant role in the kingdom of God. In a very real sense, his failure had equipped him for it.

“When you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” Satan’s sifting could not alter the role God had chosen Peter to play.

Conclusions
One of Satan’s most effective ploys is to convince us that because of some failure God can has no use for us anymore. The truth is that our failure may very well have been one of the most important experiences we could possibly have, teaching us to know ourselves and our limitations that we might trust God completely.

When Satan or his demons remind us of our failures and whisper gleefully that we must have destroyed for all time any usefulness we might have had in God’s kingdom, remember Jesus’ words to Peter.
“When […not if…] you turn back, strengthen your brothers.

Confronting Satan #10

Posted by owner on September 23, 2010

The tenth in a series of studies of references to Satan in the Gospels

This tenth mention of Satan in the Gospels exposes our vulnerability to Satan’s influence in our lives.

Luke 22:3,4
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“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.”
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Background

Taken by themselves these verses might seem frightening. If Satan could control Judas to the extent of causing him to betray Jesus, what might he cause us to do? However, we are not to take these verses “by themselves.” We’re to examine them within the context of everything else we know about Judas.

Admittedly, we don’t know a lot. We do know that like the other element members of Jesus’ closest followers Judas had been with Christ from the beginning of his ministry. He had seen Jesus’ miracles, heard his teachings, watched his interaction with his critics among the religious elite. But we know more about Judas than this from a comment in John’s description of a time when a woman poured a vial of expensive perfume on Christ’s feet. John writes, “Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected. ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag money bag, he used to help himself to what was put in it” (John 12:4-6).

This insight into Judas is important for one simple reason. Judas’ embezzling ways make it clear that his heart was never with Jesus. Repeated, habitual sin had made him vulnerable to Satan’s influence. So prior to the last supper, when the devil planted the idea of betraying Jesus (John 13:2), Judas had responded to Satan’s prompting.

Observations

1. “Satan entered Judas.” Prior to this Satan had exercised influence on Judas from outside, tempting him and planting thoughts in his mind. Now Satan “enters” Judas, a position from which he will have even more influence.

2. “Judas.” Judas’ choices had made the entry possible. As John points out, Judas was a thief. That’s different from saying that Judas had stolen. To say one has stolen describes an act. To call a person a thief describes his character. By choosing a sinful lifestyle Judas had made himself vulnerable, first to Satan’s influence, and then to his invasion.

3. “Judas went to the priests.” Judas initiated the betrayal of Jesus. While Satan had suggested it earlier (John 13:2), our passage credits Judas with taking the initiative. There is no hint here that Satan’s presence forced Judas to take this decisive step. Certainly Satan actively encouraged Judas, but the choice and the responsibility was Judas’,

4. “Discussed how he might betray Jesus.” It’s clear from the text that Judas was fully aware of what he was doing. There is no other way to describe what Judas was contemplating except as a betrayal. Later Judas would be conscience stricken and return the money he received, confessing that he had “betrayed innocent blood.” But Judas had known all along that he was betraying an innocent person to implacable enemies who were committed to see Jesus dead.

Implications

We learn a number of things from this story. First, sin makes us vulnerable, first to demonically sponsored temptations, and when we respond to them, to invasion by evil spirits. When Paul portrays righteousness as a breastplate protecting our vitals from Satan’s most deadly attacks, he knows whereof he speaks!

Second, we are responsible for our choices, whether or not Satan or demons have a role in tempting us to make them. There’s no use trying to make excuses for our actions. Even Judas, whose betrayal of Jesus was undoubtedly actively manipulated by Satan himself, saw himself as responsible in the end. When he couldn’t bear the guilt he committed suicide rather than turn to God for forgiveness.

Satan, the Bible says, is on the prowl for those he may devour. Let’s be careful to live godly lives as followers of Jesus. Judas’ choices . . . to steal, to become a thief, to listen to Satan’s promptings, and ultimately to open himself up to invasion by the Prince of Demons . . . marks a path than leads to disaster. The best way to protect ourselves from Satan’s schemes is never to take that first step.

Satan and You #9

Posted by owner on September 13, 2010

The ninth in a series of studies of references to Satan in the Gospels

This ninth mention of Satan in the Gospels provides decisive responses to two challenges to deliverance ministry.

Luke 13:15,16
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The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
________________

Background

Jesus often came into conflict with the religious leaders over the Sabbath. The commandment in Scripture is simply to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy [set it aside] as a day on which no work was to be done. The rabbis had gone to great lengths to define “work.” Thus one Sabbath when Jesus laid hands on a woman who “was bent over and could not straighten up at all” and healed her, the president of the synagogue saw it as a violation of the Sabbath. The president immediately spoke up and announced that healings should be limited to the other six days of the week, leading to Jesus’ rebuke.

Observations

1. “You hypocrites” Jesus frequently charged the religious leaders with hypocrisy. The word means “actor,” and indicates a person is simply playing out a role behind a mask which hides his true self. Here Jesus implies that the president of the synagogue doesn’t care either about the Sabbath or the women Jesus healed.

2. “untie his donkey or ox” Animals need water to survive, so the rabbis determined that even though untying an animal was classified as work, if the purpose of untying the animal was to water it the untying did not violate Sabbath law.

3. “should not this woman . . . be set free on the Sabbath day.” Jesus point is clear. If it’s lawful to meet the needs of an animal on the Sabbath, it surely is lawful to meet the needs of a human being.

4. “daughter of Abraham” Not only is the woman human, she is a “daughter of Abraham.” This phrase is significant, for in the idiom of the day it identifies the woman as a person who believes in God. Surely one of God’s own deserves more consideration than an ox or donkey!

5. “whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen years.” Jesus identifies the cause of her infirmity as Satan. This does not mean that Satan personally caused the disability. Again in the idiom of the day, an evil spirit was understood to be the immediate cause, but one who was a citizen of Satan’s kingdom and who action in harmony with Satan’s purposes and character.

Implications

Some Christians believe that believers cannot be demonized. Yet Jesus clearly identifies this woman as a believer. Some also doubt that demons can cause chronic illness or disability. Yet Jesus states specifically that Satan has caused her back problem and “has kept her bound for eighteen years.”
While neither of these factors is crucial to the point that Jesus makes, they do make important contributions to our understanding of how demons may operate in Christian’s lives. And they do suggest that when the cause of an illness is demonic, healing may come by dealing with the demon(s) who are the cause.

Satan and You #8

Posted by owner on August 13, 2010

The eighth in a series of studies of references to Satan in the Gospels

This eighth mention of Satan in the Gospels is an enigmatic response to awed disciples.

Luke 10:17-18
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The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” ________________

Background

Jesus has commissioned seventy-two of his followers to travel through Galilee preaching and healing (Luke 10:1f). They return bursting with excitement.

Observations

1. “returned with joy.” The seventy-two are sent out by twos to visit “every town.” Their mission: “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you.’” (10:9). This is exactly what Jesus himself is doing, preaching the kingdom and healing. But when the 72 return what they talk about is that “even demons submit to us in your name.”

2. “even the demons submit.” The original commission is to “heal the sick.” The Gospel accounts make it clear that some [but not all] illness is caused by demonic oppression (cf Luke 13:16). Jesus commonly heals this type of illness by casting out the demons who cause them.

3. “even the demons submit.” The phrasing suggests that not only are the seventy two giddy with joy, but also in awe. It is one thing for demons to submit to Jesus. But for demons to submit to them!?!

4. “in your name.” The seventy two command demons “in the name” of Jesus. They have no intrinsic power over demons. They rely on the authority that Jesus delegates to them. Even when reporting they are careful to give Jesus the glory for what he is doing through them.

5. “I saw.” Jesus’ first words have led to constant speculation. When did Jesus see Satan fall from heaven? Is Jesus referring to Satan’s original rebellion? Is Jesus standing outside of time and referring to a yet future fall? Or perhaps Jesus is summing up Satan’s career? Whatever the reference, the speculation is irrelevant to the point that Jesus makes.

6. “fall like lightening from heaven.” It’s a powerful image. Satan’s fall is sudden, decisive, as unmistakable as a lightening bolt that flashes across the night sky. But as spectacular as the lightening bolt is, it is also brief. It dominates the night sky, but for mere moments, and then is gone. .

Jesus’ remark is dismissive. It’s as if he is saying, “Command demons? That’s nothing. I’ve seen the chief of demons flash across the heavens . . . an impressive sight . . . but here only for moments and then gone forever.”

7. “rejoice” Moments later Jesus goes on. “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20). Power over evil spirits appears special to us, and to some extent it is. But our focus, and our constant joy, is to be the fact that through Christ we are destined to experience eternity in God’s presence.

Implications

Believers do have authority over evil spirits in Jesus’ name. That authority is his, not ours, and we are to keep the focus on Jesus always. We are also to maintain our perspective. It is a joy and a privilege to free others from demonic oppression. But let’s keep our focus on the eternal salvation Jesus won for us and for others on Calvary.

Deliverance ministry is significant. But it must never take priority over sharing the Gospel of eternal salvation.

Satan and You #7

Posted by owner on July 30, 2010

The seventh in a series of studies of references to Satan in the Gospels

This seventh mention of Satan in the Gospels is in a rebuke Jesus aimed at Peter.

Mark 8:33
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But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
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Background

Jesus has just told his disciples about his coming crucifixion. This is a theme none of his disciples want to hear about. The text tells us that Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to “rebuke” him. Jesus must not speak of dying or follow any course that would lead to his death.

Peter’s action is unprecedented, as it is not the place of a rabbi’s disciples to rebuke him. The incident tells us how upsetting this first mention of Christ’s coming execution was to the Twelve.

Observations

1. “Jesus turned and looked at his disciples.” The image is telling. It makes it very clear that Peter is not acting on his own, but rather reflects the feelings of Jesus’ other followers as well.

2. “he rebuked Peter.” As a disciple, it was not Peter’s place to rebuke [censure, scold] Jesus. Yet Peter was the acknowledged leader of the Twelve, and apparently took it upon himself to represent their views.
Those views, and Peter, do merit Jesus’ rebuke.

3. “get behind me, Satan.” “Satan” is both a name and an attribute. The word means “adversary,” and it is in this sense Jesus that uses it here. Peter is not the great fallen angel, nor is that being present in Peter. But Peter is acting like an adversary, speaking out against God’s plans.

4. “you do not have in mind the things of God” This phrase makes Peter’s error even more clear. He is not looking at Jesus’ coming execution from God’s point of view.

5. “but the things of men.” Peter has expressed his human point of view. From that viewpoint Jesus’ death would be a disaster. What would happen to the kingdom? What would happen to the power and position each of the disciples expected to assume when Jesus ruled? Besides, the disciples did love Jesus. And they depended on him. They would be devastated should Jesus die.

Implications

It’s impossible to evaluate God’s actions from a human point of view. We simply do not have the information or the perspective necessary to understand. Even more seriously, when we do what Peter did here we find ourselves inadvertently siding with Satan, and becoming God’s adversary.

It is not wrong to question God. Like the Psalmists, we often cry out “Why?” as we share our pain with our Creator. But it is wrong to stand in judgment on God, and declare him wrong in his decisions.

This is what Peter was doing. And this is what Satan did in his original rebellion. When we honor ourselves and our opinions above the honor we show God by trusting his choices, we too merit the Savior’s rebuke.

Satan and You #6

Posted by owner on July 18, 2010

The sixth in a series of studies of references to Satan in the Gospels

This sixth direct reference to Satan in the Gospels is found in a parable Jesus told about sowing a field. In this parable, unlike the one in Matthew 12, the seed stands for the Word of God.

Mark 4:14,15
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The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
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Background

The image of a first century farmer sowing seed is a familiar one to Jesus original listeners. Everyone can visualize the farmer dip his hand in a bag of seed, and with a sweeping motion cast the seed evenly over the ground. Everyone also knows what happens to seeds that fell on the beaten path, or in places where the soil is shallow. Jesus uses this familiar image on more than one occasion, and applies it in different ways. In Mark’s version of the parable, Jesus answers the implied question, “Why doesn’t everyone respond to God’s Word?”

Observations

1. “the farmer sows the word.” In the parable Jesus is the sower, and his teaching is the seed. Yet the parable fits everyone who shares the Gospel, and to everyone who hears it.

2. “some people” This parable is about the people who hear the word. The Gospel’s impact reflects and reveals the nature or character of the listener.

3. “like seed along the path.” “The path” that Jesus refers to is a track beaten hard by the feet of those who pass along it. When seed lands on the hard surface, and lies there, exposed, to be snatched up by birds.

4. “as soon as they hear it.” In the first century birds attended the sower, eager to snatch up seeds as soon as they fell on hard ground. Jesus pictures Satan as present when the word is sown, quick to snatch away the seed as soon as it falls on hard ground.

5. “takes away the word that was sown in them.” The phrase “in them” is critical here. When the Gospel is sown it doesn’t fall “around” its hearers, but it’s sown “in them.” There is no flaw in the word itself.

Implications

The first implication of Jesus’ parable is that Satan [in the person of demons, his representatives] gathers round when the Word is shared. We do not typically think of demons “attending church” or eagerly observing as we witness to a friend. But the image of the birds watching eagerly for seeds to fall on the beaten paths, suggests that this is a time when demons are most eager to be present.

The second implication is that we humans bear personal responsibility for our response to God’s Word. In this parable the ground on which the seed falls represents people. In this parable the path clearly represents individuals who are hardened and unresponsive.

The third implication is that Satan has the ability to “take away the word.” In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul writes that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.” Each image makes it clear that Satan can affect our the reception of God’s Word.

Conclusions

One of the least understood and certainly one of the most pernicious of demonic activities involves their efforts to keep us from welcoming God’s Word and taking it to heart. To some extent their success depends on us. As believers, we need to intentionally open our hearts and minds when we read Scripture or hear it preached. We also need to be in prayer during services that others will be open to the word, and will hear it without demonic distortion. We also need to explicitly command evil spirits to remain silent and inactive, or to depart, when we minister the Word. Satan’s forces will gather to counter our teaching. But if we recognize the danger we can exercise our authority to block their efforts.