A. One day down at the Veteran’s hospital, a trio of old timers ran out of tales of their own heroic exploits and started bragging about their ancestors.
1. One old timer said, “My great grandfather, at age 13, was a drummer boy at Shiloh.”
2. “Mine,” boasted another, “went down with Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.”
3. “I’m the only soldier in my family,” confessed vet number three, “but if my great grandfather was living today he’d be the most famous man in the world.”
4. “What did he do?” the other vets asked.
5. The old timer answered, “Nothing much, but he would be 165 years old!” (That would be something!)
B. Some war veterans have many wartime tales to tell, but others, like my great uncle Hank, who survived the Battle of the Bulge, would not speak of his war experiences.
1. Make no mistake of it, war is war, it is no picnic.
C. Max Lucado opens his chapter on today’s promise with a surprising story from history.
1. The thought of picnickers wanting to have a picnic is not surprising or unusual.
2. But the picnickers that quiet and sunny Sunday afternoon in July of 1861, who thought that a picnic in the countryside would be nice, were in for an unwelcomed surprise.
3. And so, on July 21, 1861, many Washingtonians rode horses and buggies to Manassas for a picnic and to witness their Union soldiers bring an end to what they thought was a small rebellion.
4. They arrived at the battlefield, spread their blankets, thinking they would eat and cheer from a distance, like people in our day do at a baseball stadium.
5. One soldier described them as a “throng of sightseers…They came in all manner of ways, some in stylish carriages…others in buggies, on horseback and even on foot…It was Sunday and everybody seemed to have taken a general holiday.”
6. A reporter from the London Times observed, “The spectators were all excited, and a lady with an opera glass…was quite beside herself at the sound of an unusually heavy discharge, saying, ‘That is splendid, Oh my! Is not that first rate?’ ”
7. It wasn’t long before reality rushed in as a real war broke out and with the sound of gunfire, the sight of blood, and the screams of wounded soldiers, the spectators realized this was no picnic.
8. Mothers grabbed their children, and husbands called for their wives, and everyone ran for their wagons and jumped onto their horses.
9. Tragically, some of the spectators were caught in a stampede of retreating Union troops.
10. One spectator, a congressman from New York, was caught by Confederate soldiers and was kept as prisoner for nearly six months.
D. You might think that that was the last time onlookers took picnic baskets to a battlefield, but it wasn’t.
1. Sadly, countless people today don’t realize there is a spiritual war raging around us and in us.
2. Such people do today what the Washingtonians did then, they make preparations as if they are going to a picnic, but then they find themselves in the midst of a war.
3. The apostle Paul describes the spiritual battle with words that are familiar to most of us, and especially familiar to those of us who are participating in our Wednesday class on Spiritual Warfare taught by Alan Perkins.
4. Paul writes: 10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
5. That is a power-packed section, filled with truth and guidance for the battle.
6. In our Wednesday night class, we are spending 13 weeks unpacking and applying God’s commands and provisions to enable us to stand in battle and experience victory.
7. But I will not attempt to go into that kind of detail this morning in this sermon about the spiritual war.
8. Paul’s simple advice for us is to dress for spiritual war, rather than pack for a picnic.
E. But one thing I want us to know and understand is the fact that the Bible identifies the real and present foe of our faith: Our enemy is the devil, otherwise known as Satan.
1. Which of these two images more closely lines up with your thoughts and impressions about Satan? Hopefully, not the red guy with the pitch fork! Right?
2. The Greek word for “devil” is diabolos, and it shares a root with the verb diaballein, which means “to split.” The devil is a splitter, a divider, a wedge driver.
3. The devil divided Adam and Eve from God in the garden, and he wants to separate us from God as well.
4. Max Lucado says, “He wants to take unbelievers to hell and make life hell for believers.”
F. But let me ask you: do such thoughts of a devil sound outdated?
1. Do you file discussions of the devil in your mental folder labeled “superstition” or “primitive religion”?
2. If that’s the way you think and feel, then you are not alone.
3. According to the research of the Barna Group, this is what Christians believe about Satan:
a. 40% (4 out of 10) strongly agree that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”
b. An additional 20% (2 out of 10) said they agree somewhat with that perspective.
c. Only a minority of Christians (35%) indicated that they believe Satan is real.
d. The remaining participants said they weren’t sure what they believe about Satan.
4. So let’s let those numbers sink in – that survey points to the conclusion that as many as 65% of Christians (that’s a majority), refuse to believe in the existence of Satan.
5. And don’t you think that must make Satan so happy!
a. He is thrilled with the current skepticism about him and he loves it when we laugh at the thought of him.
b. As long as Satan isn’t taken seriously, he is free to work his evil behind the scenes.
c. If we can’t or won’t diagnose the source of our conflict, then how can we fight against it?
d. Oh, the devil is very happy to make our lives a mess and keep his name out of it.
G. But God is not content to let Satan do his work anonymously.
1. The Bible carefully traces Satan’s activities to a moment of rebellion that occurred sometime between the creation of the universe and the appearance of the snake in the garden of Eden.
2. At some point in history, an angel led a coup against God and was cast from heaven.
3. The prophet Ezekiel described Satan’s downfall like this: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every kind of precious stone covered you...Your mountings and settings were crafted in gold; they were prepared on the day you were created. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub, for I had appointed you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you. (Ezek. 28:12b-15)
a. The words of the prophets can sometimes have several meanings and applications, but surely these words apply to the devil.
b. He has in Eden, he was a guardian angel, he dwelt on God’s holy mountain, and he was blameless until wickedness was found in him.
4. Ezekiel continued: 16 Through the abundance of your trade, you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I expelled you in disgrace from the mountain of God, and banished you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud because of your beauty; For the sake of your splendor you corrupted your wisdom. So I threw you down to the ground (or earth); I made you a spectacle before kings. (Ezek. 28:16-17)
5. The prophet Isaiah includes this description: 12 Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens! You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground. 13 You said to yourself, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly, in the remotest parts of the North. 14 I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” 15 But you will be brought down to Sheol into the deepest regions of the Pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15).
a. The devil’s heart had become proud.
b. He was not content to worship God, he wanted to be worshiped.
c. He was not content to bow before God’s throne, he wanted to sit on that throne.
6. This is why God hates pride and opposes it.
a. That’s why Paul urged Timothy not to be too quick to promote a new covert to a place of leadership or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil (1 Tim. 3:6).
H. And so, Satan succumbed to pride, and as a result God cast him out of heaven.
1. Jesus referred to that eviction, saying: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18) – When lightning falls, the descent is brief and electric and crashes with a thunder.
2. The apostle John was given a vision about Satan’s fall and recorded it in Revelation 12, saying: 7 Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, 8 but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him. (Rev. 12:7-9)
3. Satan was cast out of heaven, but he is not out of our lives.
I. The Bible tells us that Satan is deceptive and destructive and active.
1. He is the one who deceives the whole world and he doesn’t work alone, but has his co-workers.
2. Revelation 12:10 identifies him as “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night.”
3. Revelation 12:12 says that “He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short.”
4. Peter tells us to “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
5. Jesus says that Satan comes “only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)
6. Satan wants to steal our happiness, kill our joy, and destroy our lives.
7. The devil is the enemy of our God-given destiny and longs to be the destroyer of our souls.
J. That’s why we must not dismiss Satan, but we must take him seriously.
1. The Bible clearly portrays Satan for what he is: an arrogant, anti-God force of great cunning and power.
2. The Bible describes Satan as the devil, the serpent, the strong one, the lion, the accuser, the murderer, the god of this age, the prince of this world, the prince of the power of the air, Beelzebub, and Belial (Beal-ee-ill).
3. Satan oversees a conglomeration of spiritual forces, principalities and powers, thrones and angels, and wicked spirits.
4. We see what Satan accomplished in the garden with Adam and Eve.
5. We see the war Satan waged against Job.
6. We see the way Satan battled with Jesus in the temptations in the wilderness, Satan even tried to use Scripture against Jesus.
7. Jesus knew that Satan was real, not some mythological image or illustrative allegory.
8. When Jesus taught us to pray, He did not tell us to pray: “Deliver us from nebulous evil powers,” rather He taught us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” (Mt. 6:13)
K. So let me summarize what I want us to understand today: First, the spiritual battle is real and is serious; and Second: Satan is real and is dangerous.
1. So, that’s the bad news, but our sermon series on hope in the promises of God, isn’t about the bad news, but is about the good news.
2. So, here’s the good news based on God’s promise.
3. What God wants you and me to know and be assured of is this: You Can Defeat Your Enemy!
4. And why is it true that we can defeat Satan, our enemy?
5. Two primary answers to that question are: First, because God is greater and more powerful; and Second, because Satan is a defeated foe.
L. Let’s start with the second reason: Satan is a defeated foe.
1. Ultimately, we don’t have to defeat the devil because he’s already been defeated.
2. We’ve already seen that Satan lost the battle in heaven and was thrown to the earth and knows that his time is short
3. Paul gave us this promise in Romans 16:20: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (How’s that for Satan being a defeated foe?!)
4. I like the way the NIV renders Colossians 2:15: And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
5. On the cross and through the resurrection, Jesus stripped Satan of victory, and Satan and his minions are being held on a short leash until the final judgment. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6)
6. On that day, Jesus will cast Satan into the lake of fire from which he will never return.
7. I like the way Max Lucado summarized this fact: “Evil will have its day and appear to have the sway, but God will have his say and ultimately win the day.”
8. Satan may be vicious, but he will not be victorious, unless we allow him to in our lives.
M. So, we can take great comfort in the fact that our enemy is a defeated foe, and that our God is greater.
1. The Bible offers us many promises that give us victory over our enemy.
2. The apostle John reminds us: You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4).
a. God greater and He is in us!
3. I love the Old Testament story of Elisha and the spiritual forces of God who were on his side.
a. The king of Aram was angry with Elisha and sent a massive army with horses and chariots to surround the city where Elisha the prophet was staying.
b. The next morning, Elisha’s servant discovered that they were surrounded by these enemy forces and he asked Elisha what they were going to do.
c. Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)
d. Elisha’s servant must have thought, “What are you talking about, Willis?!” (Gary Coleman, Different Strokes, 1978-1985)
e. Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
f. God miraculously intervened and delivered Elisha.
g. When we are on God’s side, we are never outnumbered or overpowered.
3. The apostle Paul tells us that: God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Cor. 13:10).
a. So, Satan’s powers are limited toward us. He cannot overpower us, unless we let him.
4. Paul also tells us to “put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil...” and how we can take up “the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:11, 16).
a. We can win the battle with the armor of God in place and in use.
5. James tells us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
a. Our job is to resist the devil, not by relying on our own strength, but by remaining close to our champion, Jesus.
6. In Martin Luther’s classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress,” he reminds us of this truth:
“Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, The man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He!
Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.”
N. Many years ago C.S. Lewis wisely observed in his book The Screwtape Letters, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. 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 a materialist or magician with the same delight” (The Screwtape Letters).
1. So, as I bring this sermon to a close, let me suggest that we should give the devil his due, but we shouldn’t give him more attention than he’s due!
a. An unhealthy interest in Satan and the occult can be dangerous.
2. Paul has given us our marching orders: as soldiers of Christ we should put on the full armor of God, and take our stand beside our Commander.
3. We should take seriously the opposition we will face.
4. But as we do so let’s also remember that if we stay close to God, we are promised that our side will be victorious!
O. Let me end with this illustration: Do you enjoy following a favorite sports team?
1. Whether it is football or baseball, basketball or hockey, or soccer, if you are watching a live contest you are going to be anxious for your team’s victory. Right?
2. And if they fall behind in the contest, you are going to be even more anxious.
3. But have you ever had the experience of watching a recording of the game, and you know your team won the contest?
4. Yes, it’s true, a die-hard fan of a team wants to see the contest even if they know the outcome.
5. But here’s the difference, if you know the outcome, you can watch the game stress-free.
6. It doesn’t matter if your team falls behind, you don’t panic, you know they win in the end.
7. God’s promise to us can and should give us that same confidence and assurance.
8. Between now and the final whistle, we may fumble the ball and get behind in the score, but if we stay in the game, and follow the Coach’s plans and commands, we need not worry, because we know who wins in the end.
9. We are definitely in a contest; it’s a battle, so we better not pack a picnic basket.
10. But it is a battle that God has won, and we can win the victory with God.
P. So, our assignment for this week, is the same as the assignment for the last three weeks.
1. Write today’s promise on a piece of paper and put it in a place beside the other two where you will see it every day.
2. The promises we have focused on so far are:
a. I am somebody special to God – I am made in His image and Christ died for me.
b. I have a priceless and limitless spiritual inheritance.
c. I can defeat my enemy, the devil, because God is greater and he is a defeated foe.
3. Pray over these promises. Believe them and then act in accordance with them.
4. What a difference the promises of God make!
5. What amazing hope God’s promises give us!
Unshakable Hope, Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson, 2018