“Father, we’re grateful for this morning and grateful for the cooler weather. I pray that You will be with us today as we seek to open Your Word and understand it by the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. I pray that You will be with us in that endeavor. If there is anything inside of us, Father, that may be inhibiting our fellowship with You as Christians, we pause for a moment to privately confess sins as need be.
We thank You, Lord, for the many things You’re doing here. We thank You for the baptism that’s going to take place this afternoon. We lift up the whole day to You today and ask that it would be an eternally impactful day and that we would leave here changed people. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.” And God’s people said? “Amen.”
We are continuing our study on the doctrine of Satan. Actually, it’s really a study on angels. Satanology—or what the Bible says about Satan—being one part of the study. You have to talk about Satan because he, at one time, was a high-ranking angel. We’ve talked about his existence, his personhood, his names and titles.
We spent a lot of time talking about his original state and first sin, and as of late we’ve been talking about his works. What does he do? We’ve looked at the things Satan has done in the past—an awful lot of things.
We’ve been looking most recently at the things he’s doing right now in the present. And if time permits today, we’re also getting into his future. What does the Bible reveal about the future of Satan?
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:11 says, “…so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” Another way of saying it is, “Satan’s methods.” Paul knew all about Satan, and he knew how Satan worked. We can gain that same knowledge because there’s an awful lot of Bible devoted to this subject—that’s what we call satanology. The reality of the situation is you really can’t get very far in God unless you know who your enemy is and his methods.
If you don’t understand his methods, he’ll just keep doing the same thing over and over again to you to derail you as a Christian. How different it is when you understand how he operates and how he works. The last time we were together we saw that he does all of these things mentioned on this list.
I believe that we stopped in Matthew 13:38-39. Hold your place here in 2 Thessalonians and go over to Matthew 13:38-39. One of the things Satan does is he places false Christians amongst true Christians. Not everybody who dresses up in a suit, carries a Bible, and goes to church is actually saved.
Going to church doesn’t make a person saved any more than sitting in McDonald’s makes someone a hamburger or sitting in a garage makes me an automobile. What the Bible reveals throughout the inter-advent time period between the two comings of Christ (His First Coming and Second Coming) is that one of the things Satan does is he intentionally places false Christians amongst true Christians.
You say, where are you getting this from? It’s in Matthew 13:38-39. This is one of the parables Jesus told. He said, “and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one…”
You’ve got wheat and tares—tares amongst the wheat—and to a large extent they’re indistinguishable. Jesus specifically says in this parable in Matthew 13 to let both grow up together, and they’ll be uprooted at the harvest which is at the end of the age (the Second Coming).
Verse 39 mentions the “enemy.” Who would the enemy be? The devil. Its right there in the passage, “and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.”
We’re clearly told here that one of the things Satan will do throughout the inter-advent age is that he will intentionally sow unbelievers amongst believers. But, on the surface, the unbelievers look exactly like they are believers. You don’t have to get far in the biblical story to see the devil doing that. Jesus had 12 disciples, right? Yet one of them (John 6) is a devil. Which disciple am I referring to? I’m obviously referring to Judas.
We clearly believe Judas was unsaved. Partially because of the expression Jesus used of Judas, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Beyond that, Judas is called the son of perdition in John 17:12. The only other time that title is used is of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
When you get to the end of John 6 you realize why Judas wasn’t saved. He wasn’t saved because he never believed. That’s what makes you a Christian—you believe—you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. At the very end of John 6 Jesus says, “The one who betrays Me has not believed.”
When Judas ended his own life prematurely, Acts 1 tells us that Judas went to his own place. It doesn’t say he went to heaven. It doesn’t say he went into the presence of the Lord. It says he went to his own place.
When you assemble all of the biblical data, I think there’s a pretty good case to be made that Judas—who betrayed Christ—never was saved. The reason he wasn’t saved is that he never fulfilled the single condition that God requires lost people to fulfill to be saved; he never believed or trusted in Christ.
Yet with all of this scriptural evidence, the apostles themselves didn’t have the foggiest clue that Judas was unsaved. In fact, Judas was in their number when the Lord sent the apostles out to offer the Kingdom to the nation of Israel.
He gave them the ability to perform miracles and cast out demons and devils. And in that number is Judas (Matthew 10:1-4). Yet, when you go to John 13:21-22 (in the Upper Room) close to the end of Christ’s life on earth, it says, “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”
At this point He’s with the 12 in the Upper Room and He lets the cat out of the bag. He says, “One of you will betray Me.” They all pointed at Judas and said, “I knew it all along!” Right? That’s not what happened, is it?
Verse 22 says, “The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.” They didn’t have the foggiest idea that Judas was unsaved. They didn’t have the foggiest idea that Judas was going to betray Christ. Why didn’t they have that idea? Because Judas looked the part so well! You see that?
That’s an outworking of what Jesus said would happen in Matthew 13 when He’s describing the inter-advent age, saying there’s going to be unbelievers sewn amongst the believers. That’s a strategy of Satan that you see working out in the lives of the apostles. I think it’s a strategy that Satan even uses today.
I think it’s going to be a shocking thing when we get to the end of the inter-advent age and discover certain people who look the part so well—maybe they are in some place of influence in the church, maybe they’re a pastor (God forbid), maybe they’re an elder, maybe they’re a deacon, maybe they are some kind of spiritual leader. And to discover that they were never saved—that’s an astounding thing!
That’s a very real strategy that Satan uses. He sows unbelievers amongst believers. All that glitters is not necessarily gold. I was listening to a friend of mine who’s a pastor, and he was talking about the need to give the gospel out every week in your teachings. He began to tell me the story of somebody who was running his tape/audio visual ministry who finally heard the gospel. Finally it penetrated! The guy comes up to the pastor after the service and says, “I’ve finally received Christ as my Savior.”
Everybody was stunned and shocked because this is the guy who was having a big ministry in the church running the AV system. Everybody thought he was saved. Everybody assumed he was saved, but the reality is he wasn’t saved at all. Judas is in that group. This is one of the things Satan does; he sows unbelievers (the tares) amongst believers. They’re basically in a position of indistinguishability to the naked eye, and there won’t be a formal separation until the end of the age.
Jesus specifically says let both grow up together. These are very real things Satan is doing as we’re looking at this list here. What else does Satan do? That’s why I had you look at 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Satan actually performs miracles. Did you know that? He performs signs and wonders.
This is very important to understand, because there are Christians today that are totally influenced by experiences. Experience! Experience! Experience! Experience! Experience! That’s all they want to talk about! They’re very drawn to ministries that perform signs and wonders.
That’s really the height of their spirituality; they want to be involved in some sort of miracle. Or they want to work a miracle. Or they want to tell you about their miracle. Or they want to tell you about their private vision—or whatever it is.
It’s interesting that what we learn in the Bible is God does do some of those things, but at the same time Satan also does those things. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Notice what it says of the coming Antichrist, “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders…”
A lot of people just don’t want to acknowledge the fact that Satan is in the miracle business as well as God. Obviously, God has the most power—He’s the Creator. He can perform miracles and signs and wonders that Satan could not do.
That’s why Pharaoh’s magicians were able to imitate the miracles brought forth by Moses and Aaron under God’s power in the Book of Exodus up to a certain point. I think it was the gnats, if I’m not mistaken. Once that miracle occurred, Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t duplicate it and they said, “This is the hand of God,” or “This is the very finger of God.”
I’m not trying to argue dualism (that Satan and God are equals) because they’re not. Satan is a created being. But at the same time we have to understand that within the realm of the satanic is a tremendous reservoir of miracle working powers.
There are many commentators that just don’t want to acknowledge this—it scares them too much. They look at verse 9 and say, “Well that’s just kind of hokum when it says, ‘powers, signs, and wonders.’ That’s just hokum—it’s just magic tricks! It’s David Copperfield. It’s Tony Robbins running across the hot coals. They aren’t real miracles.”
I’m here to tell you that in the Greek text those miracles are very real that are described in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Why do I say that? Because here are the three words that are used: DYNAMIS for “powers,” where we get the word “dynamite” or “dynamic”; SEMEION for “signs”; and TERAS for “wonders.”
DYNAMIS, SEMEION and TERAS. That’s what’s meant here by powers, signs, and wonders wrought by the power of the Antichrist under Satan’s control in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. When you track those same Greek words, you’ll find each word used in the ministry of Jesus.
“Powers” is used of Christ’s ministry in Matthew 11:20. “Signs” is used of Christ’s ministry in John 20:30. In fact, if you were with us in our study of the Gospel of John, we made a point that John 20:30-31 is, in essence, the whole point of the book. The whole point of the book is the signs of Jesus Christ demonstrate the fact that He is the Son of God so that unbelievers might believe on Him and have eternal life.
And yet “signs” is also used of the Antichrist’s miracles in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. And wonders, of course, is used of Christ’s ministry in Acts 2:22. You have the notes, don’t you? I’ve used this before, and I always add a thing or two to it. I think I added Revelation 16:13-14. I’m not going to talk through all of these, but I would challenge you in your private study time to look all these verses up, because those things on this list are examples of every illustration or example I could find in the Bible where a miracle is happening and God has nothing to do with it.
Simon the sorcerer is mentioned there in Acts 8. He was performing signs and wonders to such an extent that he was wowing a whole society in Samaria. They were all following him because they thought he was someone great. When you go through Acts 8, you’ll discover he was performing those signs and wonders before he had heard the gospel and before he had believed in Jesus Christ for salvation.
The question is, how is he performing the signs and wonders before he had believed in Jesus Christ? Obviously, Simon the sorcerer had tapped into satanic (or occultic) powers. You see that? Everything on this list—many of them—we’ve gone over in the Book of Revelation: fire coming down from heaven that the Antichrist will bring forth; a resurrection from the dead which the Antichrist will bring forth. Obviously, these powers aren’t occurring through God, they’re occurring through Satan.
People come up to me and start talking to me about their miracle. They start talking to me about their private vision. They want to press this all of the time. One of the things you need to ask them is if they have tested the vision that they’ve received. That usually puts them back on their heels because they’ve never thought about that.
Then they’ll say to you, “Why should I do that?” Well, because it’s a biblical command, that’s why. It’s in 1 John 4:1, which says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit [even the miracle working ones], but test the spirits [in other words, make a judgment] to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
What we’re being told here is a miracle, in and of itself, is not necessarily the authentication that God is in it. This gets into a subject called epistemology. From the word epistemology we get the word epistle. From an epistle (or from a letter) we get knowledge.
Epistemology is, “How do we know what we know?” How can you determine if something is true or if something is false? Within our society today people will acknowledge something is true if it’s accompanied by an experience; that’s where people are.
Sadly, there is a version of Christianity that thinks exactly the same way, “God is in it if there is a sign or a wonder.” I’m here to tell you that is very, very poor epistemology. You don’t determine if something is true by a sign or wonder, since all of these Scriptures very clearly indicate that Satan perform signs and wonders.
You determine it’s true if it conforms to biblical revelation—the 66 books that we currently have—because it is impossible for God to lie. God can’t say something on Monday and contradict Himself on Tuesday. We can do that—because we have a sin nature—but God can’t!
All experiences have to be tested according to what God has already revealed. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 is an interesting passage where God, through Moses, is telling Israel, “You’re going now into the promised land. And in the promised land you’re going to find false prophets who are going to work signs and wonders. What you are to do is take those prophets who are working those signs and wonders, and you’re to put them to the test. If they say, ‘Let’s go worship other gods,’ you automatically know that that is a false prophet, because that false prophet is contradicting what God said earlier in His revelation in the Ten Commandments.” No graven images, no gods before me—the first two commandments.
You’re supposed to take their experience that they’re offering—a very real sign or wonder—and you’re supposed to test it according to what God has already said. Therefore, if they fail the test, you don’t follow them. It doesn’t matter how many visions they’ve had, doesn’t matter how many prophecies they’ve had, it doesn’t matter how many successful miracles they pull off, because Satan himself—like God—is in the miracle working business.
The epistemology (how we know what we know) that’s being taught today is, “If it’s an experience it’s got to be right; it makes me feel good.” What I’m here to tell you is that’s not how to function under God as a Christian. You have to run everything through the lens of His Word. Obviously, to be able to do that you have to know something about what? These 66 books! These 66 books should be your priority. Because as you learn the 66 books, you now have a basis for testing all things.
Take a look at Acts 17:11. Many of you are probably familiar with this passage. It relates to the Bereans. Notice what it says. Paul was coming there to preach. It says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily…” How frequently? Daily. It doesn’t say, “Open your Bible once a week,” right? “…to see whether these things were so.”
You’ll notice that these folks, the Bereans, were not close minded, because they heard Paul’s teaching and they were eager to receive it. You’re not dealing with a critical spirit, a pharisaical spirit, a “fighting fundy” mindset. They wanted spiritual truth. But at the same time, they recognized that they could be lied to. So, they were considered more noble minded than those in Thessalonica.
Because when Paul came to Thessalonica, they received him with eagerness, but they never ran his teaching through the grid of Scripture. You see that? The Bereans did that, and they did it every single day. They did it with the guy that ended up writing one third of the epistles of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul.
If the Bereans did that with Paul, how much should you be doing that now with me? Or anybody else you hear? Or anybody else that comes up talking about their personal private experiences? Everything has to be tested through the light of God’s Word.
Look at Revelation 2:2. This was the church at Ephesus that had a lot of things going for it. Jesus commends them before He critiques them for having left their first love. He commends them for the things that they were doing well. Jesus says to Ephesus, “‘“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false…”’”
Ephesus did what the Bereans did. They put Paul to the test and discovered that the things Paul said were so. So, they embraced the teachings of Paul. A few decades later the church at Ephesus does this. People came into the church claiming the mantle of apostle, and the Ephesians tested those claiming that mantle. They tested their teaching and their lifestyle according to God’s Word. And in this case, there’s a contradiction between the two. If there is a contradiction between a man-made experience or a man-made teaching and the Bible, which of the two do you think you should chuck? You get rid of the man-made experience and man-made teaching!
Had Joseph Smith done this—I don’t know what the spiritual status of Joseph Smith or his followers was—Mormonism would have never gotten off the ground. Because Joseph Smith, through Mormonism, essentially claimed that he had some kind of private interpretation or experience from an angel. The angel’s name was Moroni.
I’m not denying the fact that Joseph Smith had a real experience; I’m sure he did. But his error was thinking that the experience must be of God, you see that? I’m trying to read up a little bit on Islam. I don’t doubt that Mohammed had a real experience—allegedly coming to him through the angel Gabriel.
But obviously the teachings of Islam have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible and contradict the Bible over and over again. Had there been testing in a biblical sense, you probably wouldn’t have Mormonism and you probably wouldn’t have Islam. Two massive belief systems that are obviously competing for the hearts and minds of people today and control vast segments of the world population. That’s how important it is to put all things to the test.
That’s a proper epistemology, because what we see here in the 2 Thessalonians 2:9 passage is that Satan performs miracles and signs and wonders. How would you know if a sign and wonder is true or not? It has to conform to biblical revelation.
Not only does Satan sow unbelievers amongst believers—not only does he perform miracles—but he does something else. He promotes immorality. Look at Ephesians 2:1-3. Paul says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Who would that prince of the power of the air be? It is obviously a reference to Satan.
Verse 3 is a description of the things that were happening in people’s lives as Satan was working through individuals or unsaved people. It says, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, [the sin nature] indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
When it talks about the lusts of the flesh, desires of the flesh, indulging of the sin nature (verse 3), and that’s connected with verse 2, the prince of the power of the air, you see very clearly what Satan’s game plan is. It’s to promote licentiousness in the world—in cultures and in societies, and if he can get it done, perhaps even in the church.
The reality of the situation is that God has a standard morally. Today we’re blamed as being hateful for arguing for this standard—as if we made the standard up. But the standard is very clear when we talk about sexuality at least, Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. Jesus reaffirms the teaching in Matthew 19:3-6. The standard is heterosexual monogamy. One man for one woman for one life.
I completely get the fact that at times people fall short of that standard for whatever reason, and we always preach the forgiveness of God and the grace of God. But here’s the deal: the standard is still the standard.
I was reading an article by a law professor not too long ago, and she was basically trying to argue, “We’ve got homosexuality at work in our society. Now it’s time to up the game and push for pedophilia.” She was basically using the same arguments that the same-sex movement has been using for a long time to now promote the sexual relationship between a man and a child. See that?
These kinds of things, sadly, are becoming more and more normalized in culture. And who is behind that? According to Ephesians 2:2-3, it is Satan who’s behind it. Satan can topple any civilization and any culture when it becomes immoral.
It’s interesting that when you study the Book of Genesis, the sexual standard is given in Genesis 2:24. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” That’s the standard.
Then the fall of man takes place, Genesis 3. Then you see how fast that standard had been corrupted as you move into Genesis 4:23, “Lamech said to his wives…” Plural! Wait a minute; I thought the standard was one man for one woman for one life. In the Garden of Eden it was Adam and Eve. It wasn’t Adam and Eve and Michelle and Susan and Lucy—and all these other things. But you see how fast the standard had been obliterated.
I don’t know how much time existed between Genesis 2 and Genesis 4; I don’t think an awful lot of time. Now, what you see through the line of Cain developing is the standard is now erased. Here is a man (Lamech) who now has two wives; they’ve moved into polygamy. This is what Satan does! He takes the standards of God in the area of morality and he tries to alter them.
This is a quote from Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin, obviously, was one of our earliest founding fathers in the United States of America. He is writing a tract here where he’s trying to get Europeans to leave Europe and come to the United States. Here’s his advertisement, “Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America… Atheism is unknown there…”
See, these new atheists think atheism gave us the greatest progress in culture. Benjamin Franklin, who was there at the beginning of America’s origin, is very clear that atheism was unknown in the United States. Today some of the best-selling books are books written by atheists. “Atheism is unknown there…”
In fact, every single institution of higher learning that we have had in the United States of America was founded by Christians. Every single one of them! The very first one chartered by atheists was not until the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). That school was chartered in 1861, long after our Declaration of Independence. Contrary to what everybody says, atheism did not found the United States.
Benjamin Franklin is probably considered the least religious of our founding fathers. You ask people today to look at a picture of the founding fathers, and they can always name two founding fathers. They can’t name the rest of them. They can pick out Benjamin Franklin and they can pick out Thomas Jefferson in a picture. All of the others they can’t pick out. Why is that? Because in our secularized schooling system we’ve been trained to identify the least religious or the least orthodox of America’s founding fathers. Isn’t that interesting?
Benjamin Franklin, as probably one of the least religious, says a lot of things that you don’t even get in most churches today. He says, “Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America… Atheism is unknown there…” And then he says this, “Infidelity rare and secret…” In other words, this was his whole basis for getting Europeans to leave and come to the United States. This culture is based on a biblical understanding—a divine understanding—a divine blueprint of sexuality. One man for one woman for one life—heterosexual monogamy.
If something else is practiced in the United States, it’s rare and it’s secret. It’s certainly not splashed all over the television (they didn’t have television back then). It’s not splashed all over the entertainment world—the magazines and the newspapers.
People aren’t running around parading alternative lifestyles. That’s not what the United States is about. Franklin says, “…so that great persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either Atheist or Infidel.” So, “Come on over Europeans—to the United States—you’re going to find a really family-friendly culture. In fact, you’ll probably go through your whole life in colonial America and you’ll die at a very happy good old age. And more likely than not, you’ll never even run into an Atheist. You’ll never run into an infidel or someone you know who’s an adulterer.”
When you understand what was happening in France at the time he wrote this, you can see the distinctions that he’s drawing; morality was already starting to be chiseled away in France. He’s saying, “You’re not going to have that in the United States.” I look at a statement like this, I look at what’s on television, what’s in the newspapers or in politics, what people are promoting, and it’s amazing how fast and how far we have fallen from what the Creator says in the area of sexuality. This is an outworking of Ephesians 2:2-3 where Satan works to promote immorality.
One of the things that’s killing us is the invention of the one-eyed demon in your living room—your television. Now we have computers with immorality and filth—what used to be considered reprehensible, shocking. What does Franklin say here? “…having their piety shocked.”
I think one of our problems is that our piety isn’t shocked anymore. Because now we have a new normal where we think morality is abnormal and immorality is normal. Now we have this ability to promote immorality virtually anywhere in the world in a nano second. I think these things are tools that Satan has used to fulfill Ephesians 2:2-3, where the prince of the power of the air gets people to wander back to their sin nature. One of the evidences of this is people are into “invent your own sexuality.”
I was watching something on the news not long ago where it was a takeoff of the word “couple.” Now there is such a thing as a “throuple.” Have you heard of this? Where it’s three people getting married? They have a marriage ceremony—and all of these kinds of things. I don’t think things are going to really improve in that area unless we have a spiritual awakening. Because Satan has his tentacles everywhere just pushing the envelope, always, in the area of immorality, getting us to indulge the flesh.
You might be asking, “Pastor, how do I know if I, as a Christian, am walking in the Spirit according to the new nature or walking in the desires of the flesh?” I’m so glad you asked! Galatians 5:19-23 gives you your litmus test. How would I know at any given moment if I’m in the flesh or if I’m in the Spirit?
Well, if I’m walking according to the desires of the Holy Spirit and the new nature, I will evidence the following attributes in my life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” Boy, that one hurts! “Lord, give me patience—and give it to me right now!” We pray sometimes.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” That’s how you know, at any given moment, that you’re walking according to the desires of the Spirit because these things start to show up in your life.
But how do I know if I’m wandering back to the flesh? Notice the contrast to verses 22-23, given in verses 19-21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident…” In other words, this is obvious. What’s very first on the list there? Immorality. Sexual immorality in thought, word, and deed is a manifestation of the sin nature. It’s not a manifestation of the things of God; it’s a manifestation of the sin nature.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, [some of this sounds like some church meetings] jealousy, [wow!] outbursts of anger [losing your cool], disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing… And this is not even an exhaustive list because he says, “…and things like these…”
How do I know at any given moment if I’m following the Holy Spirit or if I’m following the prince of the power of the air—which wants me to indulge my sin nature? Well, if I’m following Satan’s agenda, I’m going to be walking in verses 19-21. If I’m following God’s agenda, I’m going to be walking in verses 22-23. It’s a pretty easy test.
Look at Mark 7:20-23. Here they’re all upset about Jesus because He had the audacity to have His disciples eat on the Sabbath. That’s what the religious crowd was upset about because that violated one of their Sabbath traditions.
I love how Jesus just gets to the bottom line. Verse 20, “And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.’” In other words, it’s not what you take in that defiles you; it’s what comes out of you. What comes out of us in our sin nature are the manifestations of the flesh—the works of the flesh.
It says, “‘For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications [you see how fast sexual immorality is mentioned on this list], thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’”
There you have a laundry list of works of the flesh, similar to what Paul details in Galatians 5:19-21. That’s how you know that you have been hoodwinked by Satan and you’ve gone back to the old nature as a Christian, because these things are starting to show up in your life rather than fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control).
One of the things Satan does is he wants individual Christians, societies, and cultures to discard the principles of God and go back to the sin nature to do what Frank Sinatra sang about, “I did it my way.” This is a direct strategy that Satan uses. And I have to say, as I’ve been studying these strategies, I think he’s pretty effective at what he does.
What else does Satan do? He opposes God’s people. Take a look at 1 Thessalonians 2:18. Paul the apostle says, “For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once…” The last time I studied this in the Greek text, “more than once” is used in extra-biblical Greek literature of a dog wagging his tail. The tail just flips-flops, flip-flops, over and over again, and Paul is using this to describe Satan’s attacks. “I wanted to come, but consistently I got opposed by Satan. I wanted to come again, and it didn’t work out. I wanted to come a third time. And I kept wanting to come—like a tail going back and forth on a dog—and Satan kept opposing me over and over again.”
When you walk with God, one of the things that you can expect is spiritual opposition. That’s what Paul himself experienced. Paul himself never says he was out of the will of God. As far as I understand it, Paul was directly in the will of God. And because he was in the will of God, Satan tried to thwart him over and over again.
Using a basketball analogy. When I was going through college playing college basketball, we had a bunch of guys on the team (like myself) that were okay. But we certainly weren’t stars. We had one guy that was good! I mean, this guy had game! In fact, this guy was so good that the Denver Nuggets actually came to see him play, which is unheard of for a NCAA Division III athlete.
Every single game we knew what was going to happen. They were going to double team him—triple team him—box-and-one. “We’ve just got to stop him! If we stop him, we can stop the team!” Why? Because he was a threat! You see that?
In the same way, the more consecrated your life becomes unto God, the more you can expect Satan to run the box-and-one on you—or the double-team—or the triple team. He’s not going to run it on an average player; he’s going to run it on the player that is good and that is effective because Satan works in history to oppose God’s people.
It’s interesting. You look at people going to the mall. They get into their car and go to the mall—no problem. Why is it that when I get into my car and try to come to church, the car doesn’t work? This doesn’t work; that doesn’t work; I’m getting into arguments with people that I shouldn’t be in arguments with in the car. Why is it I’m always rushing and hustling to get here and seem to always be a step late? Why is it when I go to the mall it’s always a fine enjoyable experience? Why is it that? Do you ever wonder why that is? Is that just Murphy’s Law?
What do you call that? What you call that is basic spiritual opposition. Anytime you try to do something of God that’s of an eternal consequence—of an eternal value—Satan will oppose it. That’s his nature! That’s what he did with the Apostle Paul.
You can sit in a movie theater and you could watch “Star Wars.” I’m not promoting “Star Wars,” and I’m not necessarily saying anything bad about “Star Wars.” If you want to watch “Star Wars,” you have freedom in Christ to watch “Star Wars.” I’m not getting into the movie critiquing business here. I just find it very interesting that I can sit through the movie “Star Wars”—which was over two hours if I remember right—and my concentration is totally unbroken.
Yet when I try to listen to a Bible teacher, or when I try to get into the Word, or when I try to pray, why is it that my mind wanders all over the place? Why is that? Is that just Murphy’s Law? I would say that is spiritual opposition. Satan doesn’t want you to be blessed by coming to church, by receiving something from the things of God, so he throws up every possible distraction, every possible encumbrance that you can think of. Look at Ephesians 6:11-12, just as more evidence of the spiritual opposition that we deal with.
One of my fears as a Bible teacher is that we’ll just do a bunch of theology. “Oh, satanology is just academic.” And we don’t really understand how this affects our daily life as Christians—daily life, daily decisions, moment by moment! That’s how relevant satanology—or the doctrine of Satan—is.
Ephesians 6:11-12—verse 10 is good too. It’s all good, but I don’t have time to read the whole book. Verse 10, “Finally, be strong in…” Your own self-determination? Whoops! Doesn’t say that! Finally, be strong in…” Your willpower? Whoops! Doesn’t say that.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” I’m not fighting this battle on my own! I’m tapping into divine resources! “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle…” You should underline struggle. Anybody struggling today?
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Part of the problem is that we think people are the enemy. Someone comes up to you and makes some critical comment about something which discourages you. You look at that person and you say, “That person is the enemy,” not understanding that the person’s weak mind is simply a pawn that Satan used to plant that critical comment about you in your mind, knowing that they would tell you that to derail you from what God has for you. People really aren’t the enemy. Satan is the enemy!
It reminds me of when the Apostle Peter was speaking with Jesus at Caesarea Philippi. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Him. Can you imagine that—rebuking God? That’s what Peter did in Matthew 16 because Jesus started to unfold the plan of the Cross and Peter didn’t think that was a good career move for a Messiah.
A Messiah is not supposed to die on a Roman wooden cruel cross. A Messiah is supposed to rule and reign! We believe that You are the Christ, so let’s get on with the business of the Kingdom. Not understanding that Kingdom manifestation is not the present program of God.
First, there’s going to be His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and the Church Age while the Kingdom is in postponement. Peter knew nothing about that—and didn’t want to hear anything about it. So once Jesus stepped out of Peter’s box of what he thought the Messiah should be, Peter started to rebuke Jesus. What does Jesus do?
He doesn’t look at Peter as if he’s the enemy. He addresses the source of Peter’s comments and says in Matthew 16:23, “Get behind Me…” Who? “…Satan!”
That’s what Paul is saying here. That’s what he’s saying when he says our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Here’s the deal folks—you as a Christian are rich. You say, “How do we know we’re rich?” It’s in Ephesians 1:3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with…” What? 95% of blessings? No. “…every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” We say, “God bless me.” And God says, “What else do you want? Your spiritual ledger is maxed out!”
Here’s my question. Who do criminals target, generally? People that they can steal from! They target people with assets necessary for them to continue their criminal career by stealing from them. They don’t target poor people; they target wealthy people. See that? You, according to Ephesians 1:3, are wealthy.
So, who is Satan going to target? Who is he going to oppose? Who is he going to attack? Who is he going to defeat or discourage? Who is he going to try to get to leave the things of God and go back to the sin nature? The whole attack is on the Christian. One of the things Satan does is he opposes God’s people.
I thought I was going to be finished with that list, but I don’t think I’m going to have time to get through with that. This a good place to stop because the next one is sex within marriage, and I don’t know if I really want to talk about that today.