Wednesday, 5 March 2014

14 Traits of Our Old Nemesis: the Devil

Many of us will no doubt remember the “Flip Wilson Show” which aired in the early-mid 1970’s. One of Flip Wilson’s characters in the show was that of Geraldine Jones in which he dressed up as a woman. It was hilarious! It was the character Geraldine Jones who popularized the phrase, “the devil made me do it.” While funny in the context of the comedian’s TV show, there is a serious side to that phrase too. There is more to “the devil made me do it” than simply something by which to get laughter from the masses.

I don’t normally give the devil the time of day; his days are numbered, and he knows it. Besides, in Christ we already have the victory. Having said that, however, doesn’t mean that the devil has just rolled over and buried his head in the sand; until that last moment, he will continue to create as much trouble for you and me as he can. Still, I also believe that God is still very much in control, and when the dust settles, it will be God’s will and plan that prevails.

As I thought about all this, and since I haven’t considered the topic for a while, I looked through the Scriptures to see what kind of ways the Bible describes Satan and his antics. Though I’m sure I missed several, here are some random thoughts on fourteen characteristics of Satan, or if you’d prefer, the devil.

The Devil as Persecutor
Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury” (Revelation 12:13). Think about that for a moment. He’s “filled with fury” which means that there’s nothing but fury in him. You couldn’t put anything else into him if you wanted. “Fury,” a word that my dictionary defines as “intense, disordered, and often destructive rage,” and he’s “full” of it. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The Devil as the False Accuser
The devil is the “accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). Could you imagine endless accusations by someone who has a grudge against you? Endless, day after day, night after night, every time you turn around, there’s that guy with a giant chip on his shoulder, making all sorts of accusations against you. It would be one thing if the accusations were valid, but these are all false. Being accused of something you’re not guilty of, that’s the devil for you.

The Devil as Liar
For he [the devil] is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). When we think of someone as being the “father” of something, what we’re saying is that the “something” had its genesis with that person. He or she was the inventor of it, and as the inventor, that person is likely also an expert in the operation of the invention. As the “father of lies,” the devil is an expert. I would dare say that he’s probably forgotten more about lying than all of us put together ever knew about it. The point is, we need to be aware that in this life we will regularly face a barrage of lies.

The Devil as Warrior
The devil “makes war” (Revelation 12:17) against the children of God. At the risk of sounding critical, sometimes I think that here is where we often have our heads buried in the sand; we don’t know that we’re at war. There’s shrapnel flying all around us, and we scarcely seem to notice. Have we become desensitized to the barrage of our old enemy’s attacks?

The Devil as Murderer
He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). It is interesting that the second generation of mankind on the earth already witnessed the first murder. Right before Cain killed his brother Abel, the Lord warned Cain, “sin is crouching at your door” (Genesis 4:7). Who is behind sin? The devil. Who is ultimately behind murders is the same devil that crouched at Cain’s door, and every other murderer’s door since him.

The Devil as Prison Warden
We’ve all heard stories of people who have gone to prison for their faith. Their only crime was that they were Christians. “The devil will put some of you in prison to test you” (Revelation 2:10) speaks to his control and involvement in the institutions of men.

The Devil as Road Block
In speaking to the Thessalonians, Paul said that “Satan stopped us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18) from visiting them. What’s stopping us from blessing and ministering to others in the name of Jesus? Perhaps it’s the devil himself who sometimes also sets up roadblocks for us today.

The Devil as Sickness
Obviously we would never go so far as to suggest that there is a demon behind every illness, but as in the case of Job’s misfortunes, it’s clear that the devil is behind some of them. “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7). Likewise, in speaking about the crippled woman He had just healed, Jesus said that, “Satan has kept [her] bound for eighteen long years” (Luke 13:16).

The Devil as Promoter of Betrayal
The devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot” (John 13:2). Later that evening Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:21). Have you ever betrayed anyone? Have you ever felt betrayed by someone? Guess who was likely behind it. That’s right, the devil.

The Devil as Deceiver
Is it only some people who are fooled by the devil’s antics? No, he “leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). There isn’t a person alive today, or one who ever lived, that hasn’t been deceived by the devil at one time or another.

The Devil as Worker of Miracles
It is interesting that when we think of miracles, we always seem to think of the good.  However, the truth of the matter is that often it is also the “spirits of demons performing miraculous signs” (Revelation 16:14). The devil can “even cause fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men” (Revelation 13:13). Here too is where we often error; not every miracle or healing is from God. If it serves the devil’s purposes, he can physically heal us too.

The Devil as Bible Scholar
In the temptation of Jesus, the devil said, “throw your self down, for it is written” (Matthew 5:6). If the devil knows the Bible well enough to quote (and misquote) it back to Jesus in an effort to tempt Him, how much more so can the devil do likewise to us? It’s not only Christians who like to quote Bible verses.

The Devil as an Angel of Light
Paul spoke of people “masquerading as apostles of Christ” and that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” He then goes on to speak of how in such cases even righteousness becomes a masquerade (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Think about that for a moment; why would someone pretend (wear a mask) to be righteous if they were not trying to fool and deceive others? This in turn means that even the pastor himself could really be a demon in disguise. Ouch!

 The Devil as Possessor
Satan entered Judas” (Luke 22:3). Think about that. One of the twelve was “entered” and possessed by the devil. Is it really too farfetched to think that others who we think of as Christian leaders cannot also be “entered” and possessed by the devil? Of course that then raises the whole question of being simultaneously possessed by the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the devil at the same time, which I do not believe is possible. The only answer then is that, going back to our previous point, maybe that person masquerading as a Christian leader really isn’t even a Christian at all. Being possessed of the devil is not just fanciful fodder of Hollywood horror films; it can be an unsettling reality.

So Where Do We Go From Here?
I do not mention all these devilish characteristics to strike fear. Though Satan will use every possible means to deceive and destroy, as I said at the beginning, we who are in Christ are already victors (1 Corinthians 15:57). Though skirmishes from the devil’s camp do still remain, the battle is already won. Thank you, Jesus.

I mention these biblical references to the satanic antics simply to encourage discernment, and perhaps for some of us, to wake us from our lethargic slumber. Let’s not be fooled; not everything that sounds Christian, nor everyone who claims to be a Christian, really is. Don’t fall for “the trap of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26). As Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). We would do well to meditate on that verse.

I mention these things because I believe that “even now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18), and I sometimes fear that one of the ploys of the devil is to cause people to embrace a spirit of universalism, which I see as becoming more and more prevalent in the world today. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Finally, I mention these things because like you, I too am looking forward to the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such I also want to encourage us all to be ready for that great and wonderful day. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:20-21). That day could be today. Are you ready?

All Bible quotations taken from the New International Version (NIV).

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