Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: victory

Jesus and Satan

Jesus and Satan were not strangers when they met before Jesus began His earthly ministry. They had known each other since before the world began. Each understood the other’s intentions and that it would be defeat for them if the other one could gain his goal.

Satan offered Jesus sovereignty over all the nations and peoples of the world, as a subordinate to himself. Jesus could enforce righteousness over all the world, but in the end all people would be doomed to hell.

He had already convinced the Jewish leadership of that day that this was a good plan. Messiah would come and rule the world with a rod of iron and the Jewish people could Lord it over all the people of the world.

He offered the same idea, just packaged a little differently to Karl Marx. There would be a time of struggle followed by an ideal society of equality and peace. He offered it to the Ayatollah’s of Iran, a strict enforcement of righteousness would bring peace. He offers an earthly utopia in many different ways, all have brought disappointment, and left people worse off than they were before.

The devil is even offering this dream of an earthly utopia to Christians today. He tells them that Christ will return and establish a 1,000 year reign of peace over all the world. But even those who describe this earthly reign of peace in alluring terms say it will end badly. At the end of the 1,000 years there will be a great rebellion ending in an unprecedented bloodbath.

This dream offered by Satan in many different forms is a means of distracting people’s attention from their greatest need. They are sinners, doomed to eternal damnation.

Jesus refused Satan’s offer. Satan’s only alternative then was to destroy Jesus, so that he could have uncontested sovereignty. That was going to be easy, because Satan already had control of the Jewish authorities.

Thus it happened that Jesus was condemned to death, scourged and nailed to a wooden cross. There He hung, broken, defeated; Satan’s total victory just minutes away.

Then Jesus spoke from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and Satan’s expected became a crushing defeat. Satan had never anticipated that God would forgive the world of sinners who had rejected and mistreated His Son. How could He? Forgiveness is completely foreign to him.

Satan is defeated, doomed. He knows it; his hatred of God and his anger at God now moves him to capture as many people as possible and take them to hell with him.

God forgives us when we surrender completely to Him with all our being. He sets us free. But we won’t be free for long if we do not forgive others. If our feelings are hurt, if we are bitter over being mistreated or neglected, if we are angry, Satan already has us in his claws. The only way to get free is to forgive.

Even if we say, I forgive, but surely God will deal with that other person some day, Satan still has us in his claws. We must forgive completely to be completely free. God will judge all sin. He doesn’t need us to tell him who, or when or how. That is His domain, not ours.

We cannot outsmart Satan, we cannot overpower him. There is only one weapon that is effective against him. For that reason he does his utmost to prevent us from using it. Forgiveness is the weapon that is more powerful than anything in Satan’s arsenal.

Feeling like a victim?

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; build ye houses, and dwell [in them]; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. Jeremiah 29:4-7

Aren’t we in much the same position as the Jews who were captive in a foreign land that did not know their God? This vile world that we live in is not a friend of grace, to lead us on to God. Do we think it should be? Do we feel like victims?

Victims we may be, but we are not helpless. God is our help and He instructs us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get on with living a victorious Christian life, right here where we are.  He even tells us to pray for our governments in these heathen lands. And all the countries of the world are heathen lands.

Complaining does not bring peace, it just discourages us. Why should citizens of the heavenly kingdom ever be discouraged? Jesus promises abundant life, it is within our grasp. “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)

This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting

Jesus came down from the mountain where He had been transfigured and found a great crowd gathered around his disciples and a demon-possessed boy. At the end of the account, after casting the demon out of the child, He told His disciples “Howbeit, this kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting.”

The disciples had been perplexed. Jesus had earlier sent them out and given them power to heal diseases and cast out demons. When the father of this boy brought him to them, they were confident that they had done this sort of thing before, they knew how to do it. This time it didn’t work.

No doubt the scribes were delighted at the discomfiture of the disciples. The crowd was probably disappointed at not being able to witness something spectacular. What went wrong?

This whole passage, and particularly Jesus’ words at the end, have often puzzled me. I think a glimmer of light has dawned in my mind. Jesus is not giving a recipe, or formula, for healing, such as: “six days of fasting and ten hours of prayer every day and no evil spirit can stand against you.” He was warning against self-confidence or any kind of idea that “I can do this.”

Fasting is to deny ourself of that which sustains our natural strength. It will not do to fast in order to have strength; we must rather relinquish any claim to have strength of our own. Prayer then will connect us to the power that comes of God.

We humans are no match for the spirits who populate the unseen realm of darkness which is all around us. Physical fasting can help take our mind off our natural appetites, but does not, of itself, give us power over the forces of darkness. It appears that fasting gives some people a sense of spiritual superiority, which leaves then defenceless against temptations to pride and self-exaltation.

What I think Jesus means here by fasting is to deny all pride, ambition and desire to be praised, and to trust only in Him to give us power to withstand temptations. The result may not be dramatically apparent to others, or ego-building, but it does promise a life of spiritual victory.

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