Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
- Luke 22:52-53
“Not being reconciled to the fact of sin— not recognizing it and refusing to deal with it— produces all the disasters in life. You may talk about the lofty virtues of human nature, but there is something in human nature that will mockingly laugh in the face of every principle you have. If you refuse to agree with the fact that there is wickedness and selfishness, something downright hateful and wrong, in human beings, when it attacks your life, instead of reconciling yourself to it, you will compromise with it and say that it is of no use to battle against it. Have you taken this ‘hour, and the power of darkness’ into account, or do you have a view of yourself which includes no recognition of sin whatsoever? In your human relationships and friendships, have you reconciled yourself to the fact of sin? If not, just around the next corner you will find yourself trapped and you will compromise with it. But if you will reconcile yourself to the fact of sin, you will realize the danger immediately and say, ‘Yes, I see what this sin would mean.’ The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship— it simply establishes a mutual respect for the fact that the basis of sinful life is disastrous. Always beware of any assessment of life which does not recognize the fact that there is sin.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
“But America began moving away from older beliefs in human sinfulness and in spiritual blindness apart from the assistance of God. Andrew Delbanco wrote The Death of Satan, in which he traces how, during the early nineteenth century, American culture began losing its grip on the Christian doctrines of the evil of human nature and the reality of Satan. ‘Pride of self,’ he wrote, ‘once the mark of the devil, was now not just a legitimate emotion but America’s uncontested god. … Liberal individualism assumed its modern form in these years.’”
- Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
The title of the post is the title of the book by Andrew Delbanco. I have not read this book, but Keller has chosen a very interesting quote from it. I may have to buy a copy. The subtitle for the book is “How Americans have lost the Sense of Evil.” (Yes, I have already looked it up, just haven’t clicked ‘add to cart.’)
Many years ago, I was talking to a theologian who said that the two greatest goals of Satan in each person’s life was to the trick the person to believe that God did not exist, but more importantly, that Satan himself did not exist. Thus, the title of the book. In Delbanco’s opinion, at least inferring from the book title and subtitle, that if we think Satan is dead, then we’ve lost our sense of evil, anything goes, and we are answerable to no one. I am sure Delbanco has reasons for making the claim that this started in the early nineteenth century. This means that Chambers’ comments (probably made in England or Egypt, definitely not America) warning of such thoughts occurred roughly one hundred years after America had started a very slow death spiral into secularism. Albeit, America has sunk into the depths of secularism far slower than Europe and Canada (as reported in Keller’s book).
With Satan “dead,” at least to the senses of modern man, Satan could run amok in our minds, dreaming up all sorts of evil and somehow tricking us into thinking that it was a good thing.
For those who go to church regularly, don’t think that those wooden and glass doors can protect you from this evil, the evil that escapes our senses. You cannot find a magical sanctuary inside today’s churches. Ask any one hundred churchgoers if they believe in a personal devil. Even if you limit yourself to 100 who say they believe in Jesus (some in church do not), you will get a variety of responses, mostly trying to evade the question. They might think that there is no personal devil, but if they said ‘Satan’ three times really fast, will he appear like Beetlejuice in the movie of the same name? Most of these churchgoers, if answering honestly, either don’t know because they avoid even thinking about it or they have a firm belief that Satan is indeed dead. They just don’t want to say that “in church!”
Satan works tirelessly to keep us from becoming a Christian, largely by fooling the individual into thinking it is his own idea and not external forces at work. But Satan works just as hard trying to thwart Christian growth among those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. That is why Satan is alive and well in our churches. Who do you think is behind every church controversy, and sometimes regardless of which side you are on? They set up two camps. Does either camp consult the Bible and God Himself to find out which is God’s camp? Maybe neither camp is God’s camp. In every case I imagine, God is saying that the answer is in His Scripture. If you know Him, you will know what the Scripture is saying.
If this seems odd to you that Satan is at work inside the church, have you ever read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis? It is a fictional story, but play along, please. Screwtape, a senior devil, writes letters to Wormwood on how to handle Wormwood’s ‘patient.’ Even people who have not read the book may know that much. But Wormwood’s patient becomes a Christian between the first and second letter. If Satan, or as Screwtape would say “Our Father Below,” only focused on preventing you from being a Christian, there would be no need for Screwtape letters #2 through #31, at least in this fictional (but allegorical) book by C. S. Lewis. Note: If this intrigues you to read the book, please have your head on a swivel. This is one devil talking to another. You often must think in mirror images, what is good is bad and vice versa. But the book is delightful.
You see, if Satan does not exist, then he can thwart our Christian growth, make our Christian testimony seem hypocritical at best and a farce at worst, and make us so worried and focused on our own personal problems – after all if Satan did not exist and God is good, they are our personal problems (see how the logic unravels the issue). We will be unable to witness to the next generation and God’s church will wither on the vine, all while we try to find some earthly remedy for our personal ills.
If you have any idea that Satan is not at work in your life, that idea was probably put there by Satan. He is alive, only he wants you to think that he is not.
But should we worry? Jesus told us not to worry. We need only to focus on Jesus, our source of Joy, Strength, and Hope and so much more.
Max Lucado speaks of having to get his wife to the hospital quickly while being a missionary in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (I think I have that right, either that or the airport.) They lived on the far side of town, and he did not know the streets of the inner city that well. He only knew that the hospital was on the far side of town and that the statue of Christ the Redeemer was just beyond that. He found his way to the hospital by keeping his eyes on Jesus, at least a statue of His likeness. (Forgive me if it was the airport, but you get the idea.)
Remember, Satan was defeated on Calvary. His efforts to make you fruitless are just simply his death spasms. Satan can do a lot of damage, but only if we take our eyes off Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.