Today, we’re continuing in our message series Life Lessons. In this series, God is teaching us practical lessons in living for him that apply to everyone of us. This morning our message is entitled “Resist the Devil.”
Who is the devil? We are introduced to him in Genesis 3 as a serpent. The serpent lied and tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God. They gave in to the temptation and fell into sin and the entire course of history was altered. The devil or Satan is a created spiritual being or angel in rebellion against God. Unfortunately, only about one third of Christians in America think that Satan is real. Most people who claim to be Christians think that Satan is simply a symbol of evil. So, Satan has done a great job of making most people think he is not real, which makes them vulnerable to his temptations. Yet, the Bible and Jesus teach us that Satan is very real and is a danger to each person, believer and unbeliever alike.
Revelation 12:9 (ESV) And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
I believe that this verse in Revelation speaks of the defeat of Satan through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What we want to consider this morning are some of the characteristics of Satan. He is likened to a great dragon and an ancient serpent. Both of these are fearsome, dangerous and deadly beasts. And what is Satan’s prime mode of attack? He is called the deceiver of the whole world. Jesus said that the devil was the father of lies. So, Satan, tempts and seeks to deceive people by spreading lies. Lies about the truth, about God about people and so on.
The world spoken of here and throughout the New Testament describes the domain of Satan including the unbelievers that are deceived. Satan has an army of one third of the created angels, which are fallen angels or demons that carry out his orders on earth. Now, Satan was defeated by Jesus on the cross, but he still resists and battles the church until his final judgement at Christ’s return. So, presently and since Jesus’ resurrection, we have Satan influencing the world populated by unbelievers and we have Jesus over His church and believers.
Satan has infiltrated every world system. Each of these systems was created by God, but have been subverted in many ways to serve Satan. Christian teachers have identified seven systems in which Satan is battling the church. They are religion, family, education, government, media, arts and entertainment and business. Those are the battlegrounds between the Devil and the church. We must learn to resist Satan in each of these areas in order to win back people for Jesus. A few verses later in Revelation we read the good news about our battle with Satan.
Revelation 12:11 (ESV) And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
This verse tells us how believers can conquer Satan. We overcome him by three things. First and most important is by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lamb. Secondly, we conquer Satan by speaking the truth of God and defeating his lies. Finally, we love the Lord and following Him more than our lives and so are willing to die for our faith. This morning, we’re going to learn more about how to resist the devil in our daily lives from James 4.
James 4:1-2a (ESV) What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
James is concerned about quarrels within the church. These verses tell us what the cause of arguments and disputes between is. It has to do with our inner desires. We want something and if we cannot get it, we get in quarrels with others in order to get what we want. Now, I don’t believe that there were murders within the church. Jesus taught us that if you hate your brother in your heart, you are guilty of murder. When you are in a quarrel with someone else, it is easy to fall into the temptation of hatred. What is the solution to getting our desires under control?
James 4:2b-3 (ESV) You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
The things that we truly need, we can have simply by asking God for them in prayer. We shouldn’t try to quarrel with or force others to give us what we need. God is our source of all our needs, not other people. But there can be problems with our prayer lives as well. Sometimes we ask God to meet our needs, but He doesn’t answer our prayers. James tells us that it is possible to pray the wrong kind of prayers. A wrong kind of prayer would be a prayer to simply meet our own wishes or desires.
This is a very common reason why prayers aren’t answered. In fact, a lot of people think that prayer is simply asking God for the things they desire. If that was true, Jesus would have instructed us to pray in our own name. However, we are instructed to pray in Jesus’ name. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray for God’s will and God’s desires, not our own. Those are the prayers that God answers.
James 4:4 (ESV) You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Where do these wrong and selfish desires come from? They come from the world, the domain of Satan. If we become friends with the world and its ways, sometimes referred to as being worldly, we become an enemy of God. We must make no compromise with worldly thinking and its standards, but submit ourselves to God alone.
James 4:6 (ESV) But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
A common theme in James, is that we as believers must humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God’s will. Those who are proud will be opposed by God. God will not answer their prayers, God will not bless them. Why? Because they are friends of the world, not of God. On the other hand, those who humble themselves, will be given God’s grace. God’s grace is God’s blessing, in His presence and answers to our prayers. That’s how we can control our desires.
Why was James warning believers about becoming a friend of the world? Because it is so easy to happen. The world and its systems are all around us. The majority of people around us are worldly. Worldliness infects every one of the seven systems in this world. The systems are not wrong in and of themselves. For example, the family was invented and created by God, based on the marriage of one man and one woman. The worldly idea of family is becoming in increasingly perverted.
How does a person become infected by worldliness? By listening to and believing the lies of Satan. Every step away from God is a step into the world of lies inhabited by the devil. God does not want us to retreat or isolate ourselves from the world. No, we are to influence the people in the world for Jesus, not the other way around. So, how do we control our desires and resist worldliness?
James 4:7-8 (ESV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Everybody follows or is submitted to either God or Satan, whether they realize it or not. We begin by submitting ourselves to God. That means we determine to do whatever God tells us to do in His Word and by His Spirit. Once we are submitted to God, we have the strength to resist the devil. Through God’s power, when we resist Satan, he must flee, because he is a defeated foe. We resist the devil in our own lives and in his attacks on other’s lives. As we seek to be closer to God, He will respond and come closer to us.
Part of drawing closer to God is repenting of any sin that we have. God does not want us to be double-minded. A double-minded person considers themselves a believer, yet they also are involved in worldly sin. James goes on to talk about true repentance.
James 4:9-10 (ESV) Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Repentance involves deep remorse for our sin and a determination to turn from it. Repentance means coming to hate the sin we have committed and humbly seeking God’s forgiveness and strength to resist. The promise of God in verse 10 is that when we humble ourselves, God will strengthen and lift us up. James concludes this section with some practical advice.
James 4:11-12 (ESV) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James is returning to the problem in the church of the quarrels and fights. These would always involve speaking evil things about others. Judging involves speaking evil of others in a condemning way, with no thought of helping the other person or drawing them closer to God. God is the only judge and we must be careful to be peacemakers in our relationships with others, both believers and unbelievers as we draw near to God.
I think it’s important for each one of us to realize that we can be deceived by Satan. And that we are regularly deceived by him. You see, every time we sin, it’s because we’ve been deceived and fallen for Satan’s temptations. Every temptation is a lie from him. He tempts us with lines like:
To overcome that mindset, we must draw near to God, resist the devil and have a heart-felt repentance whenever we fall into sin. As we continue to do that on a daily basis, God will purify our double-minded hearts to submit to Him alone. We will learn to pursue not our own desires but …
James 4:13-14 (ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
What’s wrong with the statement about someone’s business plan. They plan to move to a town, spend a year there and make some profit from their business. The problem, as we’ll see is the self-centered assurance of such a statement. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, let alone what will happen a year from now. Certainly, the current pandemic has taught all of us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. No one expected or predicted what has happened this year. Let’s look at how we should pursue God’s will and how we should look at the future.
James 4:15-17 (ESV) Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
It’s not wrong to plan for the next year, but those plans must be made with humility. The confidence that we know exactly what the next year is going to bring is arrogant boasting. Only God knows what tomorrow will bring. And though He at times will let us know some thing about the future, there are surprises for everyone. All of our plans and indeed all of our lives should be submitted to the Lord.Oftentimes, we think of sin as doing wrong things, which it certainly is.
James here reminds us that not doing the right thing is also sin. If we don’t pursue God’s will, it is sin. To avoid worldliness, we must pursue God’s will. Some people think that God’s will is a broad field with fences around it. If you stay inside the fences, which represent sin, you can choose whatever you wish to do in life and stay in God’s will. That view is not supported by Scripture at all. Sin is not just doing wrong things, sin is not doing the right things, sin is not following God’s will.
Is it sin to go to another town and do business? Not in and of itself. However, if God’s plan is for you to stay in your current town and you go to another town, it is sin. Sin is doing anything that is outside of God’s will and God’s direction. Jesus taught us that God’s will for your life is a narrow path, not a broad road. He had a will for you everyday of your life, a path for you to take.
How can we know God’s will? We can discern God’s will from His Word, His Spirit, godly counsel and our circumstances. When those four things line up, we can be confident that we are in God’s will. God wants to help us in pursuing His will.
Our topic today was resisting the devil. The devil’s domain is the world, that he has deceived to believe his lies. God wants us to control our desires, so that God’s desires become our desires. To have the strength to resist the devil, we must draw near to God. Not only will He give us the grace to resist, He will also teach us the truth so that we can not be deceived by Satan’s lies.
Finally, we must pursue God’s will, not just for the big decisions in life. But for every decision. Seeking to follow Jesus along the narrow path that He has marked out for our lives. As we do that with His help and His guidance, He will fill our lives with His presence and blessing. He will help us spread His truth throughout the world and see more people come to Jesus.