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Resisting the Devil

Here's a repost from 2010...

Playing around with some thoughts.  Comments welcomed...

Jesus Christ crushed the head of Satan (Gen 3:15); drove out the devil (John 12:31) and disarmed the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame and triumphing over them (Col 2:15).

How?

Through dying on a cross.

He didn't come down from the cross to bust out some ultimate fighting moves on the devil.  It's not that, as He died, the Spirit went to work on Satan behind the scenes with baseball bats and chains.  The cross wasn't Christ's non-violent resistance stunt distracting us while the elect angels went ballistic on the forces of evil.

No, it's all there on Golgotha.  The all-time decisive cosmic face-off did not involve hordes of spiritual forces doing battle in the heavenlies.  It involved a lonely Man on a lonely hill.  The taunts of the devil rang out from the lips of His enemies: "If you are the Son of God, come down now from the cross."  The diabolical onslaught did not come through waves of black magic but through the simple appeal to use power and save self.

The greatest ever spiritual battle involved the simple choice of whether this Man would obey His Father or serve Himself.  The height and width and breadth of the battlefield was that single cross.  The one Victor was that Champion strung up on a tree.  Right there this defenceless Man was crushing, driving out, disarming and triumphing over evil once and for all.

What does that tell you about evil?

Well if it was something like an equal and opposite force, then you might expect a heavenly punch-up.  But it's not.  It's not a created thing but a perversion.  It's a parasite, distorting everything good and pulling it down into oblivion.  (See these Mike Reeves talks on evil for more).

And so the Author of Life enters into this matrix of death.  Christ absorbs this evil at its worst and transforms it.  He does this, not by taking it seriously as a legitimate opponent but by entering it in simple obedience to His Father's will.  As this Man trusts God - even in the jaws of death - He reverses the cycle of self-assertion and self-vindication.  This cycle is the very opposite of God's own life and therefore the quintessence of evil.  So the Source of good goes to the heart of evil and, by turning the other cheek, overturns the whole thing.

Therefore we get the ultimate Genesis 50:20 moment.  Even what Satan intends for evil, God intends for good.

So, again, evil is not granted an existence alongside God and His creation-redemption agenda.  It is a perversion which is then taken up into the purposes of God and made to serve Him.

Well then.  We stand, clothed in Christ and His victory.  And the evil one, thrashing around in his death-throes, fires some flaming arrows our way - some mixture of temptations and condemnations.  And both James and Peter tell us "resist the devil" (1 Pet 5:9; James 4:7) and James adds the promise "and he will flee from you."

That's always seemed to me an extraordinary promise.  Doesn't it sound a little far fetched to believe that I can send Satan scurrying into the night?  Yet that's exactly what "fleeing" means - running scared.  And how are we going to make Satan flee from us?  Simply by resisting him.  That just means 'standing against' him.  He wants you to indulge a craving, you simply stand against it.  Nothing more, nothing less, just resist.  He wants you to wallow in past sins, you simply stand against it.  And the devil runs for his life!  He has met a Christian - a little Christ - one clothed in the Champion and employing those same tactics.

If that sounds incredible to us, maybe we don't properly understand Satan or his defeat.  Recently the devil's been coming at me with some recurring thoughts about myself.  Ordinarily I'd get embroiled in an endless round of indulging the thoughts and then condemning myself for them.  Either way he wins.  I can't explain exactly why but of late I've just known a real freedom to laugh at the temptations - whether I've caught myself entertaining them or not.  Whatever.  I'm not called to engage Satan mano e mano.  That battle's been won.  And I don't get to nip his temptations in the bud - that's not an option.  My job's pretty simple.  Just stand in Christ and refuse to take his temptations seriously.

And maybe to fart at him.

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18 thoughts on “Resisting the Devil

  1. Cal

    2 thoughts:

    1) I find it interesting that by the Son obeying the Father, the Son is doing His own will whereas if He were to listen to the Satan, He would have no only forsaken His Father but also Himself.

    In that riddle, it seems, we see what this means. By being slaves to Christ, we are His Freedmen for the Lord keeps no slaves but by turning to being "free" by refusal to obey Christ we end up becoming slaves to everything else and in the end, a slave to sin.

    2) Realizing evil and sin are parasites and not concrete realities was what drove Augustine out of his gnosticism into rethinking his perception of reality. Sin is lawlessness and chaotic, which is merely an absence. An absence cannot be explained, only its solution. Interesting how the Apostles (and Scripture) only proclaim Christ as Lord, and not a treatise on the properties of sin and its constitution. Everyone knows the problem (in varying language), the only thing to shout is the answer.

  2. Glen

    Hey Cal, yes, we lose our lives to find them - because *first* the Divine Persons do this. We share in this freedom - the essence of which is to belong to One who loves us.

  3. Paul

    Brilliant Glen, thank you, very encouraging.

    Someone pointed out the Bible says resist the Devil and flee temptation, and we often try to do it the other way round.

    The Asherah poles were just wood but for some Israelites the devil had a hold through them - so chopping them up (rather than thinking they could ignore them) was a great way of saying no to the devil and joyfully expressing freedom in Jesus.

    So, that craving: in Jesus I really can "just say no" to the devil, and the way I say no to him is not always by thinking I can resist the lure, but can be by gratefully putting the thing I crave beyond my reach.

    And then maybe, as you say, farting at him.

  4. Ephrem Hagos

    Without the verifiable triumph over the rulers and authorities through "the kind of death Jesus suffered", a, k.,a., Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical, with power to take many captives with him and give gifts to mankind, anything less is a cover up!

  5. Howard

    "And so the Author of Life enters into this matrix of death. Christ absorbs this evil at its worst and transforms it". I find it fascinating that John speaks of Christ as 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world' - that is, before the world was furnished, before we walked in Eden, before the Serpent's sting, Christ essential nature was the one spoken of in Philippians; one who would give Himself entirely to the will of the Father and to death, and use this to bring redemption. Creation itself seems to 'whisper' of this truth in its very design (the use of 'death' by God to speak of renewal in seed-bearing plants in the first week, and, of course, the creation of Eve). We begin to gain a true insight in how the created order "speaks" of Christ when we reflect on these wonders.

  6. Ephrem Hagos

    @Howard: "The Author of Life entering into the Matrix of death" is an echo of the Messiah entering his glory right in the kind of death he suffered which, I pray, will fire the imagination of more people.God bless you.

  7. Glen

    Hi Paul - I think Cal's second thought is helpful above. We ought not to give sin and the devil too much credit. They are perversions of reality. The real resisting work happens in looking to Christ and seeing reality and fullness of life there. Then we can cut down the Asherah poles with glee. But we cut them down more because they are powerless than because they're powerful, if you see what I mean.

    Thanks Orange.

    Yes Howard - eternity is "life poured out and in losing found", the earth is full of *this* glory.

    Ephrem: The Author of Life entering into the Matrix of death is not an echo of Christ and His cross - it *is* Christ and His cross. The cross was not a picture of something deeper - everything else is a picture of *it* - wouldn't you say?

  8. Ephrem Hagos

    Hi Glen: I am afraid you missed my meaning. The Author of Life entering into the Matrix of death is an echo of the Messiah's entrance into his glory right in the kind of death he suffered, i.e., synchronized events excelling death itself and defining "the Son of the living God".

  9. Paul

    thanks Glen, that's very helpful. Look to Christ then we can cut them down because they are powerless - really good way of putting it

  10. Howard

    "The Author of Life entering into the Matrix of death is an echo of the Messiah’s entrance into his glory right in the kind of death he suffered, i.e., synchronized events excelling death itself and defining “the Son of the living God”. That's really touching on something very deep! The crucifixion became the moment of glory - 'the Lord reigns from the tree', I believe one version of one of the Psalms can be read. Lots to think about here.

  11. Ephrem Hagos

    Here is endless food for thought. To a dying man's prayer: "Remember me, when you come as King!", Jesus answered: "I promise you that TODAY you will be in Paradise with me." (Luke 24: 42-43)

    God bless you!

  12. stjohnschelsea

    Hi Glen. Hope all is well with you guys. Great to have a look at your blog and get some stimulation and encouragement! One thing we've been talking about a bit here in discussion with people from a strong charismatic background is that the letters in the NT never instruct us to rebuke the devil, rather to resist him. That's a very different take from what's often spoken of in charismatic contexts. It's a very different view of spiritual warfare: it makes Christ's work the active 'achieving and protecting' bit, and my work the passive 'standing in and receiving' bit. Let's resist. Cheers bro for your encouraging words.

  13. Ephrem Hagos

    "Rebuking the devil" sounds good in principle. In practice, however, it always has a catch. Success in resisting the devil comes only with the truth about Jesus Christ, in his victorious death on the cross, as revealed only by the work of the Holy Spirit.

  14. Glen

    Hey Andy, Great to hear from you.

    And yeah, it's amazing how passive Christ *Himself* is in resisting the devil. In Matthew 4 He just quotes Scripture and in Matthew 26 when Satan's insinuations come through the lips of the passers-by ("If you are the Son of God....") again He's passive. He just remains on the cross. And Satan is defeated.

    Treating Satan as an equal opposite gives him a power he does not have,

    God bless!

    Ephrem - couldn't agree more!

  15. Ephrem Hagos

    Jesus' HYPERBOLIC QUESTION, "My God, my God, why did you abandon me?", was not a passive response but a complete discredit of the challenge of proving himself to be the Son of God by coming down from the cross where he was hanging in the first place exclusively by his own will and power. Therefore, had Jesus rose to the bait he would certainly have given up his promised defining moment which "not even death will ever be able to overcome". Only Jesus knows how to resist the Devil! (Matt. 16: 13-18; 27: 40-46)

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