Years ago, when Bay and I were still in youth ministry, our group of high school students joined us from most of the Christian churches around the area. Vividly, I recall one night when we were discussing 1 Peter 5:6-9, and the reality of the enemy of our souls, one of the young men raised his hand, and informed us that his pastor had told his congregation: "You don't have to worry about Satan! He's not the boogie man; he's not out to get you, or anything."
With that memory stirring in my mind, I was perusing through the internet, and ran across an interesting article in the Washington Post, published in 1995, by a professor from Columbia University, who wrote a book by the same title as the article:
The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil.
The author, Andrew Delbanco, writes,
"Once Satan was understood to be everywhere. But, now, when he attacks, he gives the "fatal stab unseen," and his slyness -- his very essence -- is confirmed by the difficulty of recognizing him. Now, the devil's cleverest wile is to convince us that he does not exist. We can track and follow the devil's decline into invisibility, a process that has seemed as ominous as it was inevitable..."
The remainder of the article is this gentleman's tracking of the slide of the enemy into nothingness.
Basically, Delbanco says, Americans have settled on evil that results from problematic childhood backgrounds.
We've nodded our heads and agreed to "scientifically researched bad behaviors that find their roots in a lack within sociological and/or psychological environments."
But, he says..this is getting tiresome. Some evil just can't be explained away...and, this from a secular author!
I was reminded of a line in a song, no doubt published about the same time, by Christian songwriter, Keith Green, talking from Satan's perspective:
"I used to have to sneak around. But now they just open their doors. No one's looking for my tricks because no one believes in me anymore."
There is some truth here, obviously, if what the now-former-pastor of one of our local churches once told his congregation is any indication.
But, CS Lewis warns us in the introduction to his little book, Screwtape Letters, Satan's strategy is not only for us to think too little of him, but, also, too highly (to have an unhealthy interest in him; ascribe him too much power).
This, we know for sure:
No matter what, Jesus-followers need acknowledge we are in a battle with the unseen world.
The enemy, and his military host, exist to deceive us, distract us, and undermine God's glory.
We are in a war with the unseen world.
As John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:15.13) reminds,
"We are forewarned that our enemy relentlessly threatens us, an enemy who is the very embodiment rash boldness, of military prowess, of crafty wiles, of untiring zeal and haste, of every conceivable weapon and of skill in the science of warfare. We must bend our every effort to this goal: that we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed, careless, or fainthearted, but on the contrary, with courage rekindled stand our ground in combat. Since this military service ends only at death, let us urge ourselves to perseverance."
..."Since this military service ends only at death...."
Did you catch that part?
It either ends at death or we're called home by rapture (oh, come soon, Lord Jesus!)...
And since, that's so, we need take Peter's words (1 Peter 5:6-9)seriously:
Humble ourselves UNDER GOD'S MIGHTY HAND (1 Peter 5:5). It's easy to remain humble when we recall the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God that led the Israelites out of bondage and into the Promised Land. We're on the same journey, Jesus-followers. Let's remember who our God is: the God who protects, provides, and has a plan that is for our good and His glory (a plan that will prevail, no matter what)...
Cast your cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). The God whose mighty hand and outstretched arm covers us, wants us to bring all the battle worries to Him. Take off the backpack of anxiety and hand it to Him. He'll carry it all... And, in due time will "lift us up" (bring the victory; it is sure!)...
Be alert (1 Peter 5:8). Remain watchful. Be on guard. Recognize who and what we are up against: the architect of all malice and iniquity (Alistair Begg). Be strong and steadfast in your God, who watches over you.
Be sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8). Keep correct thoughts. Think rightly about the enemy and your situation. Remember Satan definitely exists to bring believers to a defeated life; but, keep in mind you and I already have the victory. Jesus defeated him at Calvary. His time is limited. Our God is stronger. Know his strategies and his wiles; his methods and his ways. He's very, very personal when it comes to his warfare (Paul describes it as a wrestling match...face to face, hand to hand).
Resist the enemy, firm in faith (1 Peter 5:9). Take your stand in faith...strong in the Word of God and the power of Truth, and at all times, pray!
Of course, there's more we need to be aware of in spiritual warfare...it's simple, but complex.
One thing I've noticed this week...these first five steps? One hinges on the other. We can't skip steps. We can't jump to number five without doing number one. Goodness, we can't do number two without doing number one. They follow in order...and, sometimes, I find myself battle weary, because I've not consistently done things according to God's order when it comes to the battle.
In my own pride, I've figured I can just do it myself.
How like a two-year-old I can be when it comes to warfare.
No wonder, the enemy often laughs at me, rolls his eyes, and dances over me in delight.
As my grandson, Ethan, once wisely stated (at about age 4), "We gotta do the rules...."