Introduction: We as a nation are engaged in a War on Terrorism. Our enemy dealt a serious blow to us on September 11, 2001. Since then we have taken the fight to our enemies but they have not given up. In fact they continue to kill our young men and women serving in Iraq on a daily basis, while inflicting as much damage as they possibly can to the Iraqi government and infrastructure.
Of course our enemies in this war don’t wear uniforms or drive tanks, so it is much more difficult to identify them. They also utilize car bombs and suicide bombers to do most of their dirty work, both of which are extremely difficult to guard against. Their goal is of course to weaken our resolve and will to fight to the point that we will eventually pack up and leave.
But I don’t want to spend our time discussing the pros and cons of the war in Iraq or Al Queda’s strategy. I want to discuss a much more important war that is being waged all around the world today. It is a war between good and evil, a War that has been raging since the day God kicked Satan out of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul describes this battle in his letter to the church at Epehsus. In Ephesians 6:10-18. Follow along as I read this passage.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
The Apostle Paul understood that we as Christians are engaged in a Spiritual War that is just as real as the war our soldiers are fighting over in Iraq today. He also understood that we are fighting a real enemy in Satan, and that He is just as dangerous and just as committed to His cause as Al Queada.
However, today fewer people than ever before actually believe in the Devil. In 1966 A man submitted a manuscript entitled THE DARK PRINCE to a well-known publisher. The publisher refused to publish the book however because they said the subject was a dead issue and no one believed in that sort of thing of any more. That was almost 40 years ago, but unfortunately that statement is truer today than it has ever been before.
In fact According to the latest poll conducted by the George Barna, 60 % of Americans believe that the devil, or Satan, is not an actual living being but is simply a symbol of evil.
Someone once said, "The devil’s cleverest trick is to make people believe that he does not exist." Someone else said, "The devil may be out of fashion for some, BUT HE’S NOT OUT OF BUSINESS."
Which reminds me of something Billy Sunday, an Evangelist of the early 20th Century, once said. He said, "I know that the devil is real for two reasons. #1, Because the Bible says so. And #2, BECAUSE I’VE DONE BUSINESS WITH HIM."
Most of us here this morning wouldn’t want to admit it, but Like Billy Sunday we’ve all done business with the devil at some time or another.
So the first thing I want you to remember today is that we as a church are engaged in a Spiritual War against a very Real enemy named Satan.
Unfortunately many Christians today have forgotten that. They mistakenly believe that their brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with them about certain things are their enemies. In fact some of you here this morning may believe that I am public enemy #1. But that’s not what our text says. Look again at what Paul said in verse 12.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Charles Stanley agrees. In His book, “When the Enemy Strikes,” Stanley says, “We must be very clear on one point: brothers and sisters in Christ are not our enemies….We need to recognize that the devil attempts to blind us and deceive us so that we will become divided and begin to war against one another rather than against him! The real enemy is the devil and his forces acting behind the scenes in every case of spiritual assault.”
Now as I said a few moments ago, nobody including me, likes to admit the fact that we sometimes allow Satan to influence us to say and do things that we shouldn’t say or do. But the truth is it happens, and we’ve got to realize that and be willing to forgive one another when it does happen.
Listen to what Jesus had to say about Satan in John 10:10. He said, “The Thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Jesus makes it plain in this passage of Scripture what Satan’s goals are.
#1 To Steal…
-Satan wants to steal your…joy. He wants to make you as miserable as he possibly can. Unfortunately He can use all kinds of difficulties, problems and circumstances to accomplish this goal.
-He also wants to steal your love… He wants to steal your love for God, your love for your family, and your love for His church. He will often tempt you to follow through with many of your fleshly desires in an attempt to get you to sin.
-Thirdly, Satan wants to steal your peace…God wants to give you His peace, which according to the Apostle Paul is a “peace which surpasses all understanding.” Satan steals your peace by causing things to happen in your life that cause you to fret and worry.
#2 Secondly, Satan comes To Kill…
First of all, He wants to Kill your enthusiasm for sharing your faith. He knows if he can succeed in making you miserable, then the chances of you being very excited about sharing your faith are slim to none.
Next, Satan wants To Kill your desire to be faithful to the Lord. He knows if he can cause you to disobey the Lord and go against what you know to be God’s will, then He will be able use your disobedience against you. He’ll do his best to convince you that you are unworthy of God’s love, and unworthy to be called a disciple of Christ.
#3 Finally, Jesus says that Satan comes To Destroy…
(1) He wants To destroy your relationships… He especially likes to destroy the relationships you have with Christian brothers and sisters. He knows it’s easier to get to you if you don’t have the love and support of other believers. So He will do everything he can to destroy the relationships and friendships that you cherish the most.
(2) Secondly, Satan wants To destroy your Christian witness and influence…He’ll usually attempt to get you to say or do something in public that will bring condemnation to the church or the cause of Christ. He knows if he is successful then non-believers will look at you and use you as an excuse for not wanting to go to church.
(3) Next, Satan wants To destroy your family…He can use everything from drugs and alcohol, to marital infidelity to achieve this goal. He knows if he can destroy your family, he can deal a severe blow to your support system.
(4) Finally, Satan wants to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ…Not just this church, but every Bible Believing church. Sometimes he uses false teachings or false prophets. Other times he causes arguments and fights to break out, which successfully divides the church.
In his book, “When the Enemy Strikes” Charles Stanley says, “The devil actively seeks to separate husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees. He seeks to destroy friendships and divide churches.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23 that Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
JESUS LOVES THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIS LIFE FOR IT.
SATAN ON THE OTHER HAND HATES THE CHURCH AND WANTS TO DESTROY IT, and is determined to do everything within his power to accomplish that goal.
Jesus not only wants this church to survive, He want it to thrive. He wants Sulphur Spring to continue having a positive influence on the lives of individuals and families in Franklin and Simpson County and the surrounding area.
Satan on the other hand wants to add Sulphur Spring to the list of Churches that have had to literally close their doors. He wants to destroy our reputation and influence in the community. He wants people in the community to have such a negative attitude about the church that they will discourage others from coming here.
Jesus wants to bring joy and happiness into the lives of people through this church. Satan on wants to convince people that coming here would be the last thing on earth that they would want to do.
Jesus wants to bring unity, harmony, and peace to this church. He knows how important it is for a church to be unified in spirit and purpose. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night he was arrested he prayed for his disciples and for us. Listen to what he said. He prayed… “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23 NIV
That of course is the last thing Satan wants. He wants to wreak as much havoc on the church as possible. He wants to destroy our Unity and Love for one another. He wants to bring disharmony, division, and conflict to the church. And unfortunately, he can and will sometimes use Christians to achieve his goal. Which is why the Apostle Paul warns us in several passages of Scripture to stay away from those who seek to divide us.
Romans 16:17 says, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
Then in 2 Timothy he gives his young apprentice Timothy the following advice. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Jesus wants us to love and support one another, which will bring glory to the Father. Satan wants us to hate and despise one another, which will bring humiliation to the Father.
Jesus came to heal those who were sick and save those who were lost. Satan wants to inflict pain and suffering on us, and lead us down the paths of unrighteousness.
Jesus wants to help us clear up misunderstandings and resolve problems in the church as quickly as possible. Satan wants to keep the waters muddy and keep things stirred up, so nobody can see things clearly. He wants to make mountains out of molehills. He wants people to keep the phone lines hot with gossip.
Jesus wants to use Sulphur Spring Baptist Church to accomplish His will and further the Kingdom of God. Satan wants to destroy our ministry within the church and our mission in the world.
Jesus wants to encourage and give hope to those who are hopeless. Satan wants to discourage and convince us that there is no hope. He wants us to believe that things are never going to get better, and will more thank likely get worse. He wants us to throw in the towel and give up.
Jesus wants to build up the church. He has given each of us certain abilities, talents and spiritual gifts that He wants us to use to build up the church and further the Kingdom of God. Satan wants to dismantle, disassemble and even destroy the framework of the church. He wants us to use our God given gifts and abilities for selfish and self-centered motives. He wants us to become conceited and full of pride.
The Apostle Paul knew how dangerous pride can be. In Galatians 5:26 He said, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Jesus wants to shed light on our problems and provide us with the answers. Satan wants us to focus on the problem instead of looking to God for the solution.
Jesus wants to reveal the truth, because He knows the truth will set you free. Satan wants to keep the church from seeing and understanding the truth. He is the Father of Lies and according to the Apostle John there is no truth in Him. He wants to twist and distort the truth, to achieve his own ends. He wants continue deceiving people so he can keep them from seeing and accepting the truth.
Conclusion : - A man named Bob Williamson fought with the 4th Infantry Division and was a part of the invasion force that landed on the beaches of Normandy on D’ Day when over 6,000 Americans were killed. Willaimson recently said that the memories of the war still haunt him. He said, "How would you like to go to bed at night and dream about the war every night? I see dead buddies, I see all those guns going off and everything."
He went on to say, "I FIGHT THE WAR EVERY NIGHT."
Another war is being fought every day and every night. And it, too, is killing people by the thousands. Satan is worse than an Adolf Hitler or a Saddam Hussein. He is a blood-thirsty, soul-thirsty liar and murderer! And he’ll do everything he can to destroy people’s lives, their souls, and the church of Jesus Christ! As Christians, we must be prepared to fight the battle using the spiritual weapons that are at our disposal. This morning we all need to report to our Commanding officer, the Lord Jesus Christ, and let him know we are ready and willing to fight the good fight, and stand firm against the attacks of the Devil.
A man was going to Halloween party one night dressed in a devil’s costume. On the way to the party it started to rain and storm, so he decided to take shelter in the nearest building. Which just happened to be a church where a revival meeting was taking place. As soon as he walked through the door everyone turned around to see who was coming in late. When they saw him, they began to scream and scatter like a covey of quail.
One lady got caught in her pew and fell down in the midst of all the confusion. The man decided to go check on her and make sure she was okay. He slowly made his way over to where she was. With him standing there looking down at her the lady said, "Satan, I’ve been a member of this church for over 30 years, but I want you to know that I’ve really been on your side the whole time!"
I wonder, whose side are you on this morning?
I want to close by sharing the Devil’s Beatitudes with you.
1. Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend even an hour once a week with their fellow Christians – they are my best workers.
2. Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked -- I can use them.
3. Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church –for they are my missionaries.
4. Blessed are the trouble makers – for they shall be called my children.
5. Blessed are the complainers –for their complaints are music to my ears.
6. Blessed are those who keep a list of the preachers mistakes -- for they get nothing out of his sermons.
7. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church – for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.
8. Blessed are those who gossip -- for they shall cause strife and divisions that please me.
9. Blessed are those who are easily offended -- for they will soon get angry and quit.
10. Blessed are those who do not give an offering to carry on God’s work – for in stealing from God you steal for me.
11. Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister -- for he shall be with me forever.
12. Blessed are you who, when you hear this, think the preacher is talking about someone other than you– for I’ve got you right where I want you.
Do you need some good practical advice related to one or more areas of the ministry? If so check out my website and purchase my E-book "Get Practical! Sound Advice for those in the Ministry."