Know Your Enemy

3rdSunday in Lent-HL, February 28th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

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The song you just heard, “Sympathy For the Devil” by the Rolling Stones will be our mental and audio hook to hang our message on.  Contrary to what Mick Jagger just sang, not only does the Devil not want you to identify him, he doesn’t even want you to believe that he’s real.  But Scripture makes it clear that Satan and the devils do exist.  However shocking that may be to some people, we have to get this settled as a fact; you see without this truth being known and believed, we will easily fall for any and all of Satan’s dark traps and illusions. The Devil is mentioned in the Bible’s most important sections, in the Gospels, and in the very words of Jesus; his existence is an entirely unavoidable reality of life.  So, let’s look at first what Jesus says about the Devil, and then will discuss why he isn’t a threat to we who are baptized and trusting in Christ for our complete redemption and salvation.

Jesus often calls the devil Satan.  This is a Hebrew word which means enemy or adversary. Satan really is the enemy of God, and at every turn he fights God and tries to prevent His good purposes, and those purposes of God are to save sinful humankind.

Satan is the source of all evil in the world.  From Him come all of our evil purposes and sinful decisions.  From him came all things that create pain and tragedy; all things that break down bodies and souls, families and whole communities.  It was Satan who put it into the mind of Peter to attempt to persuade Jesus to avoid His trip to Jerusalem where He was to be crucified upon a cross that would ultimately defeat Satan and destroy his claim over you.  It was Satan who put it into the mind of Judas to betray Jesus.  It is he who sows the tares among the good seed of God’s Word.

Satan is also called the devil.  This is a Greek word, which means “the Condemner.”  This name reminds us of another side of his nature.  He accuses us before God.  But the devil doesn’t just accuse us for sport; he accuses us because he is trying to trick us into falling away from God.  He wants us to think that we have disqualified ourselves from God’s mercy because we have sinned beyond God’s grace.  When Satan accuses us in this way, he is showing his evil lust for our souls, in that he is trying to make us turn from God’s Kingdom of grace and power, and then embrace his own kingdom of evil and death, which only is an illusion of power.  He is trying to trick us into thinking that we belong in his kingdom, not God’s.  And if we believe Satan’s lies, that is if we reject God’s truth, we can sadly become what Jesus called “children of the devil” or children of evil who do what their father, the devil, desires.  Therefore Jesus calls him a “murderer from the beginning,” that is, a destroyer of souls that rejoices to bring humankind to destruction.

Here is a truth worth remembering: All of humankind are separated from God at birth, and we are naturally under the dominion of the murderer of souls, Satan.

Jesus called him “the ruler of this world.”  He speaks of the devil’s kingdom and compares Satan to a strong man who guards his household, armed to the teeth, watching over his treasures.  But note the stronger One, Jesus Christ has come and has conquered him and taken from him all his weapons.  That means that Christ has redeemed us from our sins.  The devil has to shut his stinking and accusing mouth around our King Jesus, and he has no claim over we whom Christ has redeemed and claimed as His own.

As the tempter, the Devil can continue trying to entrap and snare us.  But he knows that his days are numbered.  We who believe in Jesus are safe and secure.  But we are not safe and secure because of anything we have done or think we can do, but instead all of our salvation rests solely on what God has done both upon the cross of Christ, and within the waters of our own baptism.

Upon the cross of Christ, God has freed the entire world from the penalty of sin by placing that chastisement upon His Son.  This is a gift that is completely free and universal for all sinful mankind.  But this general gift must become personal for each and every sinner.  And in Holy Baptism God does this very thing; He saves YOU from YOUR sins.

In our Old Testament lesson we see a glimpse of this strategy, when God spares the Israelites who were living in the land of Goshen from the swarms of flies.  He would use this same strategy another time after He sent the angel of death into the land of Egypt to strike down the first born of both humankind and animal kind; all first born accept the homes of the Israelites that applied the blood of a lamb to the door posts of their homes.

In Holy Baptism, in your baptism the blood of The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ was applied to the door post of your very heart and being.  It is a hedge of protection that God has emplaced both around and within you, which tells the devils very clearly, “Hands off; this one is mine!  I have bought this sinner by paying a dear price.”

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [Ephesians 5:1]

Do you understand that through Christ and your baptism, you are actually a child of the Living God?  And what child who is loved and cared for by their parents, would not want to imitate and learn how to live from them?  So too, we as legitimate sons and daughters of God have both reason and motivation to imitate Him.  We are His beloved children.

How do we imitate God?

We imitate God in love.  As God loves us, so too, we learn to love Him; not with our own natural love but with the superior heavenly born love that He gives to us.  There is a very special model of love we are to mimic and follow and it was spoken of in verse two of our Epistle lesson (Ephesians 5:1-9), listen: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

How did Christ show His love for us?  He gave Himself for us.  The Holy Spirit is ever working to cause us to remember this, even in the midst of the terrible attacks of the enemy, He reminds us that God loves us and hasn’t abandoned us.  The Father proves His love for us by sending His only begotten Son to die for us, in our place, so that we too, may each become sons and give ourselves to Him.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ proves His love for us by not only coming to us as one of us, but also dying for us, in our place.  But then He does something marvelous, He takes His life back up again from the dead and ascends back to His Father.  And then He does something wonderful; He promises us that where He goes so too, we shall follow Him and be with Him.

So, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things (these empty and meaningless words) the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them (don’t mimic them or want to be like them, because that would be going backwards into enslavement); for at one time you were darkness (like them), but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”  [vs. 6, 7]

You dear saints have been covered in your baptism with Christ’s very own robe of righteousness. To our Heavenly Father, you are that same fragrant offering and sacrifice of Christ that pleases Him so.  That being said…

Why would you want to go back to the stench of sulfur, the smell of the lord of this dark world?  Why would any of us want to turn our backs on the Kingdom of Light only to re-embrace the kingdom of darkness?  In this world, the lord of flies, Beelzebul reigns but only for a time.  His kingdom only exists of death; rotting flesh and flies.

The Kingdom of God is for us the Kingdom of Grace.  It is the rule of God’s grace here on earth, and of power and glory to come for us when we are called to our place of glory in heaven.  It passes far beyond our temporary existence of flesh where sickness and disease exist and it passes into eternity where our inheritance and glory in God’s Kingdom of Glory is waiting.

Unlike kingdoms here in this sinful world, where the kingdom makes the king, in heaven, the King, our King Jesus makes the Kingdom.  We haven’t been invited and accepted into His Kingdom as subjects, but rather we will be welcomed as heirs, joint heirs with Jesus; that means that we have an inheritance waiting for us in Christ’s Kingdom. [Romans 8:17]

Dear friends, don’t let the devils deceive you. Don’t think for one moment that the devils may not be watching you.  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8]  But don’t look for a scary red skinned demon with horns.  That is simply a fairytale depiction for weak minds.  Instead, be on the lookout for regular folks that are either flirting with the kingdom of darkness or may even have both feet firmly planted there.  They are the tools that Satan will use to entice you to first doubt His existence, and ultimately the very person of Jesus Christ, your Champion who freed you from that world.

May this knowledge of the enemy and the greater knowledge of your Lord Jesus keep your hearts and minds in the peace and power of God until the day He calls you home to receive the inheritance He has prepared for you.  I ask this, in the name of Jesus… AMEN!

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