As I’ve mentioned before, I try to find a sane middle ground between the extremes regarding our Enemy. I don’t look for his direct involvement in everything that goes wrong in my life—If my car breaks down, it’s not necessarily because the Prince of Darkness took time out of his busy schedule to sabotage it. On the other hand, I thoroughly believe that he's alive and well and at work in the world today, and is the immediate cause behind a lot of the destructive lies and evil in the world.
In today’s reading, our Lord was confronting some of the Jews who claimed to follow him (Jesus) but had some very confusing ideas about it. Aside from the main point of the passage, which is the Jews’ rejection of him, there are at least three things we can learn about Satan from what our Lord said about him.
First, Jesus called him a “murderer from the beginning.” What was the basis of this? Whom had Satan killed? The best explanation is that he’s referring to the spiritual deaths of our first parents, which led inevitably to their physical deaths. This doesn’t remove any of their responsibility, but it was initiated by the Adversary. He lured them into his trap, and they walked right in.
Second, he's a liar and the "father of lies." He lied to our first parents (by telling them a partial truth, like he usually does), and all lies in this world can be traced ultimately back to him. He doesn’t care what lie someone believes, as long as it keeps them from the Truth.
Third, people who aren't redeemed by Christ are his (Satan's) spiritual children. I know that this is a hard saying, but only because it’s easy to misunderstand. The Bible doesn’t teach that anyone outside of Christ is a conscious worshiper of Satan and 100% evil. What it does mean is that ever since the Fall, every human being is either a spiritual child of God or a child of the Evil One. The common notion of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man is completely contradicted by Jesus' own words here.
So does he actively and personally attack believers? Of course he does: The first two chapters of Job attest to that. And if someone claims that the Enemy is active against their church or in their individual lives, I don’t dismiss it out of hand. But I think that most of the time he works through intermediaries, and someone would have to rate pretty high in importance in order to get his personal attention. But the point is—in the end, it doesn’t really matter. In the practical work of trying to follow Christ in my daily life, whether or not something is a direct attack of Satan doesn’t change a whole lot. All his work needs to be opposed, but the first order of business is to submit myself to God. Then I can resist the Devil and he’ll flee from me.
Lord Jesus, I thank you and praise you that even though we have an Enemy, he is a defeated one. You made a public spectacle of him through the Cross, and your victory is mine.
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