Monday, April 24, 2017

Jesus Believed In The Devil

As a young Christian - over 35 years ago - I heard a statistic from a poll stating that approximately 90% of the people in America profess to believe in God, but only about 30% believed in the devil. I remember being shocked by that disparity. More recently, a George Barna survey reported that only 27% of adults in America believe that Satan is a real being; and perhaps more shocking in Barna's survey was the fact that only 40% of those who classified themselves as "born again Christians" believed in a real devil (2008 Barna Worldview Survey, Those who do not believe that the biblical words "devil" or "Satan" refer to a real being assume that those terms are only symbolic and merely refer to the principle of evil in the world.
That evil is present in our world is indisputable, whether there is a being behind the evil is obviously disputed. Perhaps you are among those who don't believe that Satan is a real being. You would obviously have a lot of company; but I must tell you, Jesus would not be in your company. The writings of the Apostles of Jesus are quite clear: They believed the devil was real, and Jesus believed in the devil.
An Important Point of Clarification:
When I speak of "believing in the devil", that is qualitatively different from believing in God or believing in Jesus as a matter of personal faith. Biblically, to believe in God or to believe in Jesus entails trust in the same. In other words, biblical believing is more than mere mental assent to a theoretical assertion. It is not merely to say you believe; it is to actually believe that which is asserted. To believe in God - the Bible's God - is different from believing in gods, or some higher powers. It is to believe in an Awesome Being with both the wisdom and power to create the Universe, to create nature and infuse it with power, to create us with the ability to see and hear and know Him. To truly believe in this Being is to respond in humility, and to utilize our varied communication abilities to express our growing awe and appreciation of Him.
Likewise, to believe in Jesus is more than to have fond feelings about a historic figure by that name who was merely a good teacher or philosopher with a good reputation. It is more than to merely believe He was a nice guy who was misunderstood and murdered. To believe in Jesus - as Scripture encourages us to do - is to believe He was who He claimed to be - the Son of God, the Messiah (or Christ) of God, the Savior of lost humanity.
To believe in the devil is to believe in his being. It is to believe that Satan, first seen as a serpent in the Garden of Eden, is a real creature. It is to believe that he is not, however, a creature limited to physical life such that he should die like all animals eventually do. Satan is a spiritual being endowed with eternal life. To believe in him is to respect him as a creature with great intellect and great power. The Bible first calls him "crafty" (Genesis 3:1). To believe in the devil is to recognize him as the ultimate source of evil, the inspiration of all rebellion against the Creator and His rule. Not only is the devil the source of all that we would readily recognize as "evil," he is the source of all the precursors to evil which we often fail to recognize.
Jesus not only believed in the devil in this manner, He did more to make Satan known than anyone had before Him. Evidently, Jesus wanted us to recognize the devil as the enemy that he is and respond with appropriate resistance.
Jesus certainly did believe in the devil.
This fact is woven throughout the Gospels and the rest of the writings of the Apostles. One of Jesus' closest disciples, the Apostle John, expressed the mission statement of the Messiah like this: "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 John 3:8). And John preceded that statement with this one: "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." Notice friend, Satan is the original sinner. Read Genesis, Chapter three, and you will see how this "original sinner" inspired the original sin in humanity. Simply put, to sin is to violate the will of our Maker. Sin can be a seemingly slight violation like eating fruit from a tree that was plainly forbidden - the sin of Adam and Eve, or it can be as horrifying as the murder of a sibling - the sin of Cain against Abel.
Both explicit and implicit acts of the devil are recorded in the Gospels. When Jesus was very young, within two years of age, the devil inspired a deadly plan through Herod, the evil Roman King. Magi (wise men) had come from the east to find and honor the newborn king because they had seen His star. In Jerusalem they told people about their journey. One of those who heard was Herod. He asked the wise men to return when they had found this child, saying he also wanted to worship the baby king. But he was operating in deceit. His real intent was to kill the child. When the Magi did not return (because they had been warned not to in a dream), Herod sent a detail of soldiers to Bethlehem with these horrific orders: "Kill every child under the age of two." Jesus would have been among them except that Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt with his little family. The Scriptures do not explicitly state that Satan was involved in this terrible atrocity; here his involvement, though certain, is only implied.
At the launching of Jesus' ministry, shortly after He was baptized in the Jordan River, Scripture records a profound personal encounter with the devil. Jesus was led into a desert where He fasted for 40 days. This circumstance was a test of the Son of God as He prepared to launch His public ministry. There in the desert, Satan directly confronted Jesus (see Matthew and Luke, chapters four). The devil approached Jesus with three temptations or tests. The essence of the accounts is that Satan spoke to Jesus and Jesus spoke to Satan. Satan suggested specific actions for Jesus to take and offered specific incentives for Him to act. What is obvious in the accounts is that the interaction is between two "persons," the person of Jesus and the person of the devil. The devil tried to lead, to influence or control Jesus; Jesus resolutely resisted him.
Consider just the third and final test of Satan in these accounts. Here is Matthew's record of the experience: "The devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor" (Matthew 4:8). As Jesus looked at all these kingdoms and their glory, Satan made this offer: "All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9). Jesus would have nothing to do with the devil's deal. Instead, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 which says, "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only;" then He ordered Satan to leave. And Satan left. Nothing about this account should leave you thinking Jesus was interacting with a mere symbol of evil. To the contrary, Jesus was interacting with the author of evil, the Evil One - the very being behind all evil.
The Devil and the Demons
The Bible leads us to believe that angels were created before mankind. It tells us that the devil was one of those angels, a high-ranking one who rebelled against the Creator. For his rebellion, God cast him out of heaven along with one-third of the angels who were sympathetic to this rebel. The devil was the ringleader of the rebellion; his angelic followers, evil like their leader, are known as demons. Jesus once told His followers that He was an eyewitness to this heavenly eviction. His disciples had begun to get "big heads" over the fact that demons submitted to them in His name. His response to them cooled them down; He said, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from the sky" (Luke 10:18). Thus Jesus testified that He was present when Satan was originally cast out of heaven by the power of God. Having put their experience in perspective, he told them not to rejoice that spirits submitted to them; rather, they should "rejoice that [their] names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Spiritual pride was at the root of that rebellion in heaven; it cost Satan his place there. Thus, Jesus confronted His followers' first step in that prideful direction and reinforced the crucial point of required humility - by faith in God and by the grace of God we can claim our place in heaven.
As one reads the Gospels, you discover that some of the first ones to recognize Jesus as the Son of God are demons - the cohorts of the devil, other fallen angels. Matthew tells of an encounter of Jesus and a couple of demon-possessed men early in His ministry. The influence of the demons on these men was manifest in extreme violence and aggression towards others. Most people took pains to avoid them out of fear. Jesus did not avoid them. As He approached, the demons addressed Him. They shouted, "What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Matthew 8:29). While people - impressed as they were with Jesus - were still trying to figure out who He was, these demons recognized Him as "Son of God." If Jesus was there when Satan was cast out of heaven, as He claimed, then He would have been there when these were cast out, too. This was not their first meeting.
Please see that Jesus believed in the devil and the demons. They are real beings, evil beings, beings to be resisted and overcome. If we listen to Jesus speak about the devil, we hear Him describe the character of an evil person. Some of the most powerful material is in John's Gospel. There Jesus called the devil a "murderer from the beginning" and "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Please notice, this was no mere symbol of which Jesus spoke; the devil is a real being.
The Apostles of Jesus, men who taught what He taught them to teach, were not shy about addressing this evil being. They spoke of possessing spiritual awareness of the devil's diabolical "schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11). They described him as being like a "lion prowling around in search of someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). The Apostle James provided an interesting two-point formula for living the Christian life effectively. It says, "Submit to God and resist the devil" (James 4:8). The Apostle Paul reminded believers to "put on the whole armor of God so that [we] can take [our] stand against the devil's schemes" (Ephesians 6:11). Again, none of this language sounds like the Apostles were speaking of a mere symbol for evil, but rather the embodiment of evil in a real being.
In the final book of the New Testament, where the Apostle John relates a great vision he experienced, he speaks about this evil foe of God and man with astounding clarity. He reveals a bit of the story which Jesus told His followers He had personally witnessed. All of this John does primarily to identify the "dragon" in his vision. Listen: "And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him" (Revelation 12:7-9).
Surely you can see that Jesus believed in the devil. The call of God on our lives is to believe in His Son, Jesus. That is, we are called to believe that Jesus is who and what He claimed to be. That is not, however, the only belief we are called to; we are to believe the things Jesus taught. Among those is this: there is a devil - a real enemy to be overcome. Jesus would invite, "Follow me;" but He would also have us know that opposition is to be expected.
Does that seem scary? We do not have to be afraid as people who have received Jesus and His gifts via the Holy Spirit. The Apostle John, writing to the born-again, spirit-filled, followers of Jesus, stated clearly the basis for our fearless stance in this world. He said: "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome [all the evil spirits aligned against Christ], because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4 emphasis mine).
Why is this important? James tells us. There are two core tasks of the Christian life. First, we must submit to God. Second, we must resist the devil. And this is not multiple choice. Both steps of faith must be taken to ensure victory in Jesus. We cannot have a genuinely productive spiritual life otherwise. We can submit to God in prayer by asking as Moses did, "teach me your ways so I may know You and find favor with You" (Exodus 33:13). We can resist the devil by judging the thoughts that come to our mind, rejecting those that contradict the word of God and the ways of God. That would be to learn from the mistake of Adam and Eve. Instead of resisting the devil, they submitted to him. They entertained his ideas until they seemed reasonable. Then they sinned. Please take this battle seriously. Jesus did. And He wants you to, too!
(All documented Scripture is from the New International Version)

Article Source:

No comments: