Tag Archives: Satan

Mrs. Owens and Satan… and Jesus

You couldn’t say the dog ate it because you didn’t have a dog.  Mrs. Owens, your third grade teacher, was scowling down, asking why you didn’t have your homework done.  When you couldn’t provide a sufficient excuse, her imperious expression changed to one designed to produce in you extreme shame and self-loathing.  She had practiced this face in the mirror and looked down as though you were something she had accidentally stepped in.

But here’s the question: Did her “shame on you act” work?  Did she inspire you do achieve greatness in the third grade?  Not likely.  That’s because shame or feeling guilty actually inhibits you and makes you less likely to do better.  Research on addiction has found that when people feel shame about their addictive behavior, they are more likely to repeat.  More likely!


Of course, there is a better way.  We can acknowledge we have messed up and, without wallowing in shame, figure out how to do better.  That’s what this line from the Bible means:

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

To paraphrase, when we mess up, God would have us change our thinking (that’s what “repent” means), recognize we did wrong, turn around and make a better choice.  That’s what “godly sorrow” looks like.  “Worldly sorrow,” third grade guilt, just makes us feel crummy and stuck.

Satan’s name means “accuser.”  He tempts us into doing wrong things and then turns on us, accusing us and making us feel shame. He knows in that condition we will be stuck.  Contrast that with the work of Jesus:  He took our shame and guilt to the cross, and encourages us to enjoy the freedom of changing how we think.  He says, “Go, and sin no more.”

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)


Hardly Fair

Bambi vs. Godzilla was hardly a fair fight.  Haven’t seen it?  Here’s the link:  https://youtu.be/8s3UogfAGg0    Go ahead and check it out; we’ll see you soon…

There would be no betting on Bambi vs. Godzilla because the outcome would be absolutely certain.  Same thing if you spot a spider in your bathtub.  Stomp, splat, the end.  Cool way to start a devotional blog, eh?  

But there’s a point coming.  Keep the certainty of those outcomes in mind the next time you find yourself struggling with the devil.  Temptation seems so strong but, when you put your whole trust in Jesus, He promises to come and make His home within you. 

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  (John 14:23) 

When you remember He is there and turn Him loose, it’s not a fair fight.  

1 John 4:4

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

I heard a guy say, “Whenever Satan knocks on my door, I say, ‘Jesus, it’s for you…'”   That’s good advice, but the outcome is hardly fair.

If You Dare

There’s no way Robert Johnson could have sold his soul to the Devil, in exchange for the ability to play guitar exceptionally well.  He couldn’t have sold his soul because he didn’t own it.  We may feel like our souls belong to us, but in reality, Jesus taught, they have already been sold to Satan.  They are being held for ransom.  That is why Jesus posed this haunting question:

“…what can a man give in exchange for his soul? ” –  (Matthew 16:26b)

No matter how much you would pay, it would not be enough.  The cost is impossibly high.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is this: Jesus has already paid the ransom and offers freedom and life for our souls.   He extends the offer to anyone willing to abandon the cage that holds them and dare to follow Him.  But a hostage rescue only works if the hostages dare to follow their rescuer.  That’s a tough choice for those hostages who have gotten used to captivity and may actually feel more secure staying where they are!  Sometimes cages feel like life.

That’s why Jesus said:

“… whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. –  (Matthew 16:25b)

Power, not Pea Soup

If you don’t believe Satan is real, turn on the news.  Satan is very real, his power is great and demons under his control torment people and cause them to do twisted, evil things,  Jesus knew demons were real.  When He rescued people from the demonic, He was not pretending.  He was not just going along with the people’s ignorance and superstition.  He released tormented people with great compassion and seriousness of purpose.  And yet, Jesus didn’t approach exorcism with  Hollywood sensationalism.  No pea soup.  He didn’t need it.  He had power.

I have witnessed more than one person being released from demons.  Each time it freaked me out.  I knew I was out of my element, and had no clue what to do.  What happened was very real and had wonderful, lasting effects.  But i was a bystander.  On my own, I don’t know much about banishing demons and have no power.

But God does.  Jesus proved it by casting out demons.  He was so effective, the Pharisees accused Him of being in league with Satan!  Jesus quickly demolished that accusation by pointing out that Satan would not work against his own interests (Matthew 12:25-26).

And what He said next, shows us Who has the power to overthrow demons:

“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

Jesus cast out a demons by the Holy Spirit; He used the power of the Spirit of God.  You fight spiritual battles by the Spirit.  And God’s Spirit always wins.  That being true, the question becomes, how does one get access to this Spirit of God?  Jesus said it is when “the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The only way to have the Spirit of God is by entering into the kingdom of God.  You do that by trusting Jesus, allowing Him to be your “King.”  Do that, and here is His promise:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you foreverthe Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)


“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

When it comes to spiritual warfare, you don’t need pea soup, you need power.  A mentor taught me to approach situations that seem to be demonic with this sort of prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, You are King over all and You have the authority to conquer all evil spirits by the power Your Spirit.  I don’t know whether _______________ is happening because of an evil spirit, but if it is, please Lord Jesus, rescue ______________ and send those demons away forever.  Please fill ____________ with Your Spirit completely, leaving no room for any other demonic spirits.  Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

There is no magic in those words.  But when we acknowledge Who is King and Who has the authority, there is great power.

Where’s Home?

At the Olympics this week, USA beat Russia in hockey and the Cossacks beat Pussy Riot in Sochi Square.  That second event must have been a vivid reminder to any westerner who witnessed it: You are not in Kansas, Toto; you are in Russia.  Russia is under the control of Putin.  And, Putin is not happy with Pussy Riot.  Maybe you have been comfortable in Sochi, but don’t be fooled: you don’t belong there – not if you appreciate the freedoms we protect at home.  Dennis Rodman may feel welcomed in North Korea.  But, if he made one wrong move, he would quickly discover who really controls the country that it is not his home.

When a person discovers the truth about Jesus, and turns to Him by faith, he or she turns away from the world.  They are not physically leaving the world, but are shifting their allegiance to Christ and becoming citizens of His kingdom.  They are in the world, but no longer belong to it. They experience a radical shift in understanding and in priorities.  Important motivators for the world, like seductiveness, fame or wealth, now make as much sense as Cossacks beating young girls in a punk band.  Followers of Jesus, they have become alien visitors in this world.  John reminds us:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.  (1 John 5:19-20)

Is the whole world under Satan’s control?  You can do your own assessment.  Start with the news…  Take a trip to the Ukraine, to Venezuela, to North Korea, to Egypt, Iran or Washington DC.  Sit through a few previews of “Coming Attractions” to see what Hollywood thinks will sell.  Figure out why so many public idols have overdosed.  Is the world getting better?

Me? I’ll follow my King, my God and My Savior, Jesus.  If you are curious and want to know more, I’ll do my best to show you what I have discovered.  The nice thing is that it really is your call.

Who Holds the Chain

Enormous, yellow fangs, dripping with slobber, and hot, angry eyes were all I saw as a German Shepherd hurtled across the lawn at me.  I was walking to my first grade class at Clinton School, just cresting the rise on South Hamilton St., when I first encountered the beast from Hell.  He almost got me; i was too scared to run.  But just before his vicious teeth clamped around my face, the chain went taut and he was yanked back off his deadly trajectory.  Stephen King couldn’t have scripted it any better.  Who would do that to little kids on their way to school?  I picture an old, twisted, asthmatic geezer, rubbing his hands and cackling with glee.  Fact is, first grade wasn’t much better, but that’s a different story…

You never knew when that dog would be out.  Every day, on my way to school, I had to convince myself that the chain would hold, that he couldn’t get me.  Eventually, I learned to really trust it.

You and I are in a similar situation with Satan.  John says:

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God [Jesus] keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.  (1 John 5:18 – my added explanation)

Read this right:  It doesn’t say a believer is never tempted and never sins, but that he or she does not continue on that course as an habitual, regular lifestyle.  It does not say we have to try hard to be good.  It says Jesus keeps us safe. The evil one cannot harm us.  Literally, he cannot fasten himself on to us.  This is not meant to scare us, but rather, to reassure us.  We are meant to be encouraged and trust Jesus to keep us safe.  From time to time Satan will come flying out and attempt to make us think we are goners.  But Jesus holds the chain.

No Middle Ground

If you don’t love your brother you might just as well murder him.  There is no middle ground.  Hold on!  Step away from the gun.  I am making a point (actually John is) in a blunt way.  There is no middle ground between love and murder when considering whether your actions are motivated by the Holy Spirit or by Satan.  Your actions reveal to whom you belong.  Here’s how John sets it up:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

Somebody asks, “Hey, John, what if I just sort of tolerate my brother?  Do I really have to love him?”  John’s response is:

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. (1 John 3:11-12a)

There is no middle ground.  Any attitude toward your brother that is not produced by the Holy Spirit is motivated ultimately by Satan.  The Spirit produces life; Satan comes to kill and destroy.  John says, you either are a child of God and have His Spirit, or you do not and are a child of Satan. That sounds harsh to us.  We want shades of gray, ambiguity, moral no man’s land.  But spiritual reality leaves no middle ground.  It is like the sharp edge of a sword, dividing one side from another.   Jesus taught this “either-or” message in the sermon on the mount”

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22 )

There is no middle ground.  You either are in step with, and powered up by, the Spirit of God, Who gives life, or ultimately serve the one who brings death.  That teaching is tough.  It doesn’t sound reasonable.  But it is true.  We might compare it to the attitude of a college football coach who will not accept anything less than 100% from his players.  Any player who is half-hearted, who simply goes through the motions, might just as well go sit with the other team.  No middle ground. The difference with John’s teaching is that who you are, which “team” you are on, is not based on personal effort but rather on a gift, God’s Gift, His Spirit.  That is why John calls those who live by the Spirit “Children of God.”  They have been born into new life in a new family.  In his Gospel, John explains it:

Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

If this doesn’t rub abrasively against your natural instincts, you should read it again, chew on it some more.  There is more coming…

For Spiritual Teenagers

When a person discovers the truth about Jesus and surrenders to Him, the first few days and weeks of new life is filled with wonder — and also doubt.  Is it really true my sins are forgiven?  Is God really accessible to me as my Father?  In John’s first letter he “sings a song” to those who experience those doubts.  He calls them “dear children” and reassures them of the truth of  those promises.  (See: No Doubt)

But following Jesus isn’t just about coming to faith in Jesus, it’s a lifelong process of learning to consistently live according to Jesus’ “upside-down” understanding of reality.  Jesus’ teachings tend to contradict the knee-jerk reactions we learn from the world.  His command to love with self-sacrifice is perhaps the most stark example of that (See: John vs. John Lennon).  Living by Jesus’ teachings is only possible by the power of His Holy Spirit within us.

Most of us are like spiritual teenagers.  We have passed the excitement and wonder of new life in Christ and are now experimenting and learning how to live this new life.  Frequently we stumble with painful awkwardness.  John “sings his song” to us, too.  He says:

I write to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one  (1 John 2:13b)
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.  (1 John 2:14b)

Addressing us as “young men,” John repeats his most urgent reminder:  “you have overcome the evil one.”  Peter, from first hand experience, knew that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a restless lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  Lions look for the weak and the frightened.  They don’t waste their energy on those who know they are strong.   That’s why John wants us to know, in the adolescence of this new life in Christ, that we have overcome the evil one.

How did we do that?  Jesus did it, on our behalf, on the cross.  Without meaning to diminish the sacred significance of the crucifixion in any way, it was the ultimate “rope a dope.”  Jesus allowed Satan to take his best shot.  And then He got back up.  In Him we have overcome Satan.

It doesn’t feel  that way, though, does it?  In a fight, or in most athletic contests, there are many things that happen that cause us to feel as though we have lost.  But the person that knows he will win, the one who can feel it in his bones, generally does win.  In our case, John says, we have already won!  

John also reminds us “adolescents in Jesus” that we are strong.  How so?  It’s not in our own strength, but “…because the Word of God lives in you.”   He doesn’t mean we have memorized a bunch of Scripture, although that is a good thing to do.  It is the “logos” of God, the mind and mindset of God that lives in us by His Holy Spirit.

If you have not yet surrendered to Jesus, keep looking and investigating until you become convinced of Who He really is.  None of this will fully make sense to you until you experience it in Jesus.  If you have surrendered by faith, if you have received the new life of the Holy Spirit, then John wants you to understand that the struggle you experience is a normal part of the deal.  It’s as normal as a teenager’s voice cracking when he tries to ask a girl to go to the prom.   But, as you struggle with these various, normal temptations, remember these truths:  you have already won the fight against Satan, and it is the Spirit of God, the Living Word of God in you in Whom you are strong.

No Doubt

I was halfway out to my car at the end of a long day.  I thought, “Did I lock the workshop?  Better go back and check.”  I knew it was locked, but I couldn’t get past the feeling of doubt that was seeping into my mind.  I went back and shook the door; it was locked (of course…).  Turned around and went back to the car.  But something inside my head was going, “Are you sure?  Maybe it just seemed locked…”  Did you ever find yourself doubting something you knew was true?  It’s okay; you don’t have to raise your hand.  I think most of us have had moments of doubt like that.

John was a man who had walked with Jesus, saw Him die, and who spoke with Him after his resurrection.  Now, perhaps as much as 40 years later, with the wisdom and perspective that only come to the elderly, he observes some troubling changes in the body of believers.  He could have scolded them, tried to lay down the law.  But John knew that if he could solidify some of the basic truths in their hearts, help them turn away from doubting things they knew to be true, that the Holy Spirit would keep them on track.  So he writes a kind of song to the believers – to the ones newest in the faith, to those who are in their most robust years of living out their faith, and to those who have grown old in the faith.

To the newest believers, he writes:

I write to you, dear children,

because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12)

When someone says, “I forgive you,” even though it is a relief, we more or less assume that they haven’t done so completely, or that if we did the same bad thing again they would “unforgive” us.  That’s why it is so hard for new believers to truly understand that God’s forgiveness doesn’t work that way.  When God forgives our sins, they have been forgiven, all of them.  It’s over!  John knows that doubting that can undermine our understanding and experience of everything else about our life in Jesus.  John knows Satan knows that, too, and loves to tempt us to doubt.  So he nails it down for the children in the faith.  You are forgiven.

A bit later, he addresses the newest Christians again:

I write to you, dear children,

because you have known the Father.  (1 John 2:13c)

John knows how essential it is for us to understand that God – Almighty God, Creator of the Universe –  is our Father.  Jesus taught us by His example to approach God as our “Abba,” our Papa, particularly in times of great distress (Mark 14:36).

John “sings” to the new believer, reminding him (or her) that God, Who is their loving Father, has completely and irrevocably forgiven them all their sins.  He has not done so capriciously, but rather has accepted full payment on their behalf in the blood of His Son, Jesus.  “…your sins have been forgiven on account of His Name.”  

Maybe you have had some doubts about those basic truths.  Let John’s “song” sing to you.

Held by Faith

When Jesus said to Peter,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

He was warning Peter about the trial to come.  But more than that, He was encouraging him, informing Peter that He would keep him safe.   Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail!

So, here’s the question: When we suffer, when we are discouraged and confused, who is responsible for making sure our faith doesn’t fail?   After all, faith is our lifeline, our means of connecting to God.  Who protects it?  Whose job is it to keep our faith strong?  Our natural inclination is to believe that we must work harder to keep our faith strong.  We have to tell ourselves to believe.  But is that true?

In Peter’s situation, Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail.   Maybe you think that Peter was more important to Jesus than you are.  Is that true?  (Hint:  What did Jesus teach about “the least of these, my brothers”? – Matthew 25:40ff)  Do you think that Jesus, the One Who promised,

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

… would somehow fail to pray for your faith?

And how did you get your faith?  Did you work it up?  Did you “squinch” up your face and ball your fists and hold your breath?  Or was your faith given to you by God?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

By the way, when God gives out gifts, batteries – rechargables – are included.

The toddler is going with his grandfather, down to the soda shop to get a cone of mint-chip.  As they get ready to cross Main, Grampa holds out his hand and says, “Hold onto my hand and don’t let go.”   Hand in hand, off they go, picking their way through a break in traffic.  Whose job is it to make sure the child is still holding on?

In my Father's Hand