[Dec 27]—How WE Defeat Satan

            I remember in my early 20’s how a duology of fiction about spiritual warfare became all the rage for several years: This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. They were fascinating reads about how demons, angels, and Christians interact in peoples’ lives, and to their credit they awakened a lot of people to the reality of the spiritual battles going on around us all the time, and they certainly presented an orthodox message of salvation as far as that went. However, I had some problems with them.
            The first and foremost was that it showed God’s “side"--represented by heavenly angels--as being all too often on the losing side of the battles they fought. Of course you have to have realistic conflict in good drama, which means it has to look like the bad guys are going to win during most of the story. However, anything that gives the impression that the forces of God and the forces of Satan are equal and opposite in power is very problematic, because that’s not the picture that the Bible presents. When light is introduced into a darkened room, there’s no real “battle” between light and dark: The darkness flees as fast as the light advances. When Jesus encountered demonically possessed people, there was no question as to who was the dominant one: The demons cravenly begged for him not to send them into the pit. If it ever comes down to a conflict based on strength vs. strength, it’s not going to be a conflict that lasts very long at all.
            The other problem I had was the overly dramatic way the heroic Christians in the novels dealt with Satanic forces. They exorcised the demonically possessed characters in very dramatic ways.
            Now, does that never happen? I think it does happen, at least occasionally. But I think we make a mistake when we focus so much on the dramatic “power encounters”--which are rare--versus the ordinary ways in which the Enemy tries to influence us.
            Quite frankly, I don’t think that most people are personally tempted by the Prince of Darkness himself very often. He’s not omnipresent like our God is. He can only focus on so much at a time. I think he’s behind the major “zeitgeist” of the times, and he indirectly leads people astray through various means. I wish I was enough of a thorn in his side to warrant his personal attention, or at least the better part of me does.
            What does all this have to do with today’s passage?
            It talks about a war in heaven. We can debate whether this is in the past or in the future, but that’s really irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make. In the story, whenever its setting, Satan and his forces attack Heaven, and they’re repulsed by Michael, who apparently is God’s chief military officer. Satan and his hordes are cast back out, and that's their part in his defeat, but I want you to pay close attention to our part that’s described here. What does it say about how we triumph over the Enemy?

·         By the blood of the Lamb. We receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Boss. At that moment, the Accuser, the one who’s been acting as sort of a prosecuting attorney in God’s court, can say all he likes. He doesn’t have to lie about me to make me look bad: All he has to do is tell the truth about my behavior. But it doesn’t matter what he says or how he says it. From the moment I trust in Christ, Jesus’ blood covers my sin. And that’s the only victory I’ll ever need. Do you fully grasp this? From the moment you receive Christ, the Enemy has lost you for all time. You've already won complete victory in the most important battle you'll ever face. That’s it. It’s done.

·         By the word of our testimony. As far as Satan’s concerned, what's the only thing worse than someone coming to faith in Christ? A person coming to faith in Christ who won’t shut up about it. I said before that I want to become as big a thorn in Satan’s side as I can. You too, right? You know how we can do that? Tell lost people about Jesus. I have to warn you, though: When you do this, you're majorly "whacking the hornet's nest." When you do that, you’re invading the Devil’s kingdom and planting the flag of Christ on property that the Enemy considers his. But oh, the rush! I have to tell you, there are few things in this life that give as good a rush as leading someone to faith in in the Savior. It’s totally worth it. Just be prepared for the opposition, just sayin’.

·         Being willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for our Savior. This “voice in heaven” gets uncomfortably specific: “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” You know where we get the word “martyr,” right? It’s the word for “witness” in Greek. The reason we associate the term with someone giving up his life for the sake of Christ is because the ones who died for the faith were demonstrating their testimony in the ultimate way. It’s easy to say “Jesus is my Lord and he’s everything to me,” but it’s quite something else when a prison guard holds a sword over your neck and says “Renounce him or die!” and you continue to claim the Name.  Now, in America, most of us aren’t called upon to literally die for the faith. Whatever we’re called to sacrifice, quite frankly, is laughable compared to what others have given up and are giving up right now—this very moment—for his sake. But martyrdom isn’t something we volunteer for. If he chooses to allow us that, then so be it. We should smile and be glad that we can suffer for the Name, and (hopefully) will be going to our Homeland quickly. But all of us who claim the Name of Christ should—must—be willing to give up whatever he calls us to give up, nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
      I remember one of the iconic photos of the Vietnam War era, one in which someone literally set himself on fire to protest his government’s policies. Naturally I don’t for a moment condone that. But think for a moment: If Christians had that type of dedication and willingness to sacrifice themselves for the Kingdom, what could Satan do to stop them? Threaten them? Confiscate their possessions? Jail them? Murder them? They’d be virtually unstoppable.

Look, I know it’s more attractive and exciting to think that the way we confront Satan is through dramatic “power encounters.” But I think that most of the time the way we most effectively fight him and his forces and his influence is through 1) trusting in the name of Christ, 2) spreading the Good News about him, and 3) being willing to do whatever it takes to spread that message. If we do that, what exactly can he do to stop us?

Lord Jesus, I want to make the maximum impact for your Kingdom. I really do. But it starts with simple things, like telling a friend or coworker about you, and being available to do whatever it takes to see you glorified. If that’s going to happen, it’s going to have to happen by your grace. Please. 

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