Tag Archives: Satan

A sobering warning

Ary Scheffer - The Temptation of Christ (1854)

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,  but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

I’m sure that, like me, you’ve heard a sermon or two through this text. The fact that Satan tests Jesus three times lends itself to a nice, tidy 3-point sermon. The fact that Jesus is in the desert and passes tests of faith hearkens back to Israel’s testing and subsequent failure during their time in the desert. The fact that Jesus succeeds where the Israelites failed demonstrates that Jesus has come to fulfill a mission that was originally Israel’s. Then there’s the nature of the three tests: one physical, one spiritual, and one that’s a little bit of both. There’s lot to be learned from this passage, but there’s one thing I’ve never heard anyone say about it.

I’m really careful in my interpretations of the Bible, and this passage recently spoke to me in a new, startling, and sobering way. I’ve heard some people point out that, in his second test, Satan quotes Scripture against Jesus. Satan tries to fight fire with fire, in a sense. In fact, this is exactly what He did in the Garden of Eden with Eve. He asked, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan is quick to take God’s Word and twist it…not a lot, mind you. Satan will intentionally twist God’s Word just enough to cause others to stumble. But Jesus is quick to counter Satan’s verses with some other verses. It’s a case of verses versus verses, really. I’ve heard this almost casually mentioned as part of sermons covering this section as thought it’s just one more thing that Satan has in his arsenal. But has Satan ever appeared to you and misused Bible verses to your face? Me neither! So, what else can we learn from Satan’s tactic?

It’s this: whether we mean to or not, if we twist God’s Word, we are satanic. Any misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the Bible, whether intentional or unintentional, is satanic. Even if we’re unintentionally misinterpreting the Bible, that only means we’re unintentionally being satanic.

Ask yourself, “Is my biblical interpretation satanic?”

I’m becoming more and more convinced that just “knowing your Bible” is utterly insufficient. Satan knows the Bible! If there’s nothing separating us from Satan in our Biblical knowledge then we’re in big, big trouble. Telling people they just need to know their Bible is like saying you should just “buy a gun” for home defense. I wouldn’t tell anyone to buy a gun if they didn’t know how to handle it! I think that’s why Paul tells Timothy to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We can logically assume that this means there is a way to wrongly handle the word of truth. That’s what Satan did while testing Jesus and that’s how he still operates today.

It’s not enough to just know your Bible, you have to also know how to rightly handle your Bible. Peter says there are two types of people who twist Scripture:  the ignorant and the unstable (2 Peter 3:16). Ignorant here describes one who has not acquired a formal education (which is funny to see, coming from a fisherman); and the word unstable refers to someone who has the tendency to change and waver in one’s views and attitudes (which is also funny to see from someone as rash and unpredictable as Peter was in his youth). So the sobering point is, if you’re going to tell people they need to buy a gun for home defense, it’s just as important that you teach them how to rightly handle their firearm, otherwise they’re a danger to themselves and everyone around them.

This should be very sobering to all of us. We must handle the Word of God with the greatest of care and humility. We must depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal its meaning and we must test that interpretation against the whole of Scripture. This is another reason it is so important for us to be involved in a local church; we must seek the wisdom of other believers to make sure that we’re not missing the meaning of the Bible–whether intentionally or unintentionally. If something is 99% truth, and 1% lie, it’s still a lie and this is precisely how we see Satan twisting the words of God.

At this point, the last thing you should do is instantly think of how this applies to other people. Notice I still said that is a thing you should do? I’m just saying it’s the last thing you should do. The first thing you should do is make sure this doesn’t apply to you. This requires humility, but we have to make sure we’re rightly handling the Word before we approach others. The point of all this is to push us towards greater humility as we approach the Scripture and greater dependance upon the Holy Spirit. Consider the plank in your eye and then, after you have made sure your eyes are clear, confront your brother about the plank in his! (Matthew 7:5)

So where to go from here? Well in the past I’ve written a few blogs that I called Bible Study 101. I’ve outlined several great possibilities in there. Another option is to read a book; I would recommend How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth, but there are many other options available, some of which are free. For a list of free resources that will help you understand God’s word more clearly, take a look here. Take heart and realize that, although the Bible requires a lifetime of study, it provides an eternity of benefit. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13), that we will rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and that we will never twist the word of God.

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The Hardest Question I’ve Ever Asked

Why would Satan rebel?

Two years ago, while taking my Christian Theology class through Wayland Baptist University, I stumbled upon a question that has caused me more struggle and doubt with my faith than any other question. This question threw me into a fog for several weeks and, afterwards, I just decided to avoid it. If I would start to think about it I would try to mentally “change the subject” or I would try to distract myself. I was afraid of what the answer could mean and what that conclusion could mean about my entire faith. So, although I knew deep inside I was being intellectually dishonest with myself, I avoided the question; that is, until very recently.

First, I’ll pose the question that troubled me, then I’ll elaborate on a few things to help you understand why the it was so troublesome, and finally I’ll share with you my answer.
The question: How could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, rebel against God and choose to pursue his own glory?
In order to better appreciate how disturbing this question is, consider two people…
God is the sovereign Creator of the universe. God is more than a big deal; he is the big deal. God is infinite in nature, omnipotent in power, and omniscient in knowledge. He created the universe without breaking a sweat, He has a plan that spans millennia, yet He knows the hairs on your head down to the number. Despite the vastness of our universe He knows us all intimately. He defies description and understanding. He cannot be fully understood and could never be controlled (Is 55:8-9). He is just in all His ways yet still merciful to us all (i.e. common grace). In short, God is perfect and deserves all worship and praise. At one point in the book that bears his name, Job is describing God’s unsearchable majesty and he uses powerful language to describe God’s power. For example, he says “the pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke” (Job 26:10). Job is describing the awesome power of God but then he says something even more amazing:  “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!” (Job 26:14). According to A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word in this verse that we read as “outskirts” means “end, edge, border, extremity.” In other words, after all we’ve just read about God’s majesty, Job tells us that this is just the border. It’s like God is an entire continent and all we’ve seen is the shore! Job says, after all we’ve heard of God, it’s just a small whisper compared to the true reality of who God is and what God can do.
So how could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, rebel against God and choose to pursue his own glory?
Satan is a finite, created being made by God to serve God and to worship God. He must appear before God and ask permission before he acts (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7) so Satan should know who is in charge. Satan, we presume, has seen God in His fully glory and, we can also presume, has even worshiped God. Thus Satan should know that God’s glory is unfathomable and that he is no comparison. Satan should know better! How could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, decide that instead of worshiping God, he would pursue his own glory?
To me, it just didn’t make sense. Perhaps there was something that went on behind the scenes that we didn’t know about. I know I’d heard about a strange theology where Satan was actually on God’s side; his job was just to test us. I didn’t like that idea! While it was possible that God had lost some degree of His creation, that idea honestly defies logic. How could the sovereign Creator of the universe lose control of anything? He made it and, if He wanted to, He could simply destroy it all with just a word (the same way He made it).
Reconsider some of the things we know about Satan. In John 8:44, NIV, Jesus says that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” He does not hold to the truth. In fact, truth is antithetical to his nature (the ESV says that when Satan lies he speaks out of his own character). When he lies, he speaks in his native language. I’m not sure what that even means but it sounds like no one could trust him; not even himself! Consider for a moment that even Satan is deceived by his own duplicity. Is it possible that Satan believes that, somehow at the end, he will beat God? Isn’t that foolish? I firmly believe that Satan is such a persuasive liar that He’s convinced himself that he will conquer God. Is it possible that Satan’s greatest victim is himself?
Which brings us to our answer. It shouldn’t make sense to rebel against God! After chewing on this problem for years, it dawned on me:  I was asking the theological equivalent to “Why does 3+4=6?” The truth is there is no logical answer! There is no good reason to rebel against God. That’s the answer. Rebellion against God shouldn’t make sense. It should baffle us that Satan would rebel against God.
Truthfully, and to make it more personal, it should baffle us that we choose to rebel against God. The Bible is not an exhaustive explanation of everything that ever happened. The Bible gives us everything we need to know, not necessarily everything we want to know. In fact, Deuteronomy 29:29 says that God will reveal enough to us for us to live obediently. There will still be “secret things” but we will know enough to live righteous, obedient lives that glorify Him.
(P.S. I realize that this doesn’t wrap everything up with a nice, tidy little bow on it. The truth is, there are still many things in the world that don’t make sense; those likely qualify as God’s “secret things.” What this realization does for me is it gives me assurance that Satan really is bad, God really is good, and it is foolish suicide to rebel against our Creator.)