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Summary: Satan specializes in crimes of opportunity. We’re supposed to deprive him of opportunities! (#20 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)

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“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

The more than a century of feuding between the McCoys of Kentucky and Hatfields of West Virginia is believed to have its origins in a dispute over a pig.

The real origins of the feud are lost in time. There were apparently already bad feelings between the two families in 1878, when a dispute over the ownership of two razor-backed hogs in a Hatfield pigsty provoked the first recorded incident of violence. The McCoys, upset when a court decision over the pigs went against them, ambushed a group of Hatfields who were deer hunting. No one was killed, but a few days later Staton Hatfield fired on two brothers, Sam and Paris McCoy, injuring one before he himself was killed by a single shot through the head, and the feud was on in earnest.

Pettiness, deceitfulness, misplaced anger and bitterness. So many stories could be told, and I know that everyone here has seen it all their life. You may remember an account I used as an illustration sometime back, about the two deacons who feuded about everything, and when one of them hung a peg on the back wall for the pastor to hang his hat on, it caused such a fight between them that the church split, and to this day, those two Baptist churches are referred to in that town as “Peg Baptist” and “Anti-Peg Baptist”. A sad, sad state of affairs.

The preponderance of tales like this, and the evidence of wide-spread deception and petty feuding on every level of society, in every nation, culture and tribe, in every time, only serves to prove that Satan is an expert in what he does.

THE GREAT OPPORTUNIST

Satan is an opportunist. Not by choice. He has been reduced to that by Christ.

The last battle that Satan planned and set into motion, was when he deemed to rise above the Most High on the Throne of Heaven.

It was a short battle, apparently. Jesus saw him falling like lightning from Heaven.

Maybe you remember seeing movie scenes where a big-muscled bouncer carries some rowdy drunk by the collar and the back of the belt to the door of the tavern and unceremoniously tosses him into the muddy street outside.

Kinda like what happened to Satan, except the speed was like lightning.

Since then, as evil as he is, he has needed God’s permission to touch God’s people.

Now it’s true that those who don’t belong to God are his, and he doesn’t need permission to touch them; but he doesn’t have to plan and implement. He has them and can use and abuse them freely, and he does. Although he is still limited to a degree, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world.

But he can’t plot against us, because he needs God’s permission to touch our lives. (Job 1:12, 2:6) He can’t make a plan and then come and exercise that plan of his own accord, because yes, even he, is accountable to God and cannot act against God’s people without permission; and when he gets that permission, it is for God’s ultimate glory, and for the eternal good of the Christian, as we see at the end of the book of Job.

So Satan is an opportunist, looking for any little crack or foothold we give him in our ignorance or self-pride, and he drives in a wedge. Tempting the old man, trying to catch us in weakness, trying to entice us to yield to the flesh and then act out the desires of the old nature. That’s called sin, and I’m sure he dances with glee every time it works.

LYING AND ANGER

No word of scripture is an accident. No word is there thoughtlessly or un-purposefully. So we need to spend some time considering why Paul would admonish his readers to put away lying and speak truth to one another, and then tell them to deal rightly with their anger, in the context of warning them not to give the enemy of their souls a foot-hold.

Taking in the wide shot, the first thing we see is that they are both products of self-pride. Self-conceit. The very sin that got Satan expelled from Heaven in the first place.

Whatever ‘categories’ we give to lying or anger (and here I’m speaking of sustained anger), pride is at the base. Self is the supposed beneficiary.

The Bible has a lot to say about pride and the evil thereof, because it is pride that divides, and God does not divide, but unites. It is pride that exalts the flesh, and God says that the exalted will be brought low. It is pride that seeks only the good of self, and God says it is the servant who will receive the greatest reward.

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