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Who Is Satan?

Who Is Satan?

The Bible says that there are three sources of our sin: the flesh, the world, and the devil. In other words: you, where you live, and who runs the place. I want to focus on the devil because he is such a neglected aspect in the teaching of many churches today.

Outside of horror film lovers (of which I’m not), our culture considers, for the most part, Satan and the idea of some malevolent force in the spiritual realm as a complete joke—the leftover superstition of an uneducated, base existence now thankfully lost in the mists of time. No educated person takes seriously the idea of Satan as a real, living, destructive person. That’s the stuff of fantasy and ignorance.

The Bible has a different take than the culture—a real shocker, I know. But how many of us really think through the implications of what the Bible says about the archenemy of mankind? Do we even know what it says? If we do, we’d better take it seriously. If we don’t, we’d better find out.

The Bible gives Satan a lot of names, all painting a grim picture of the enemy of our souls. The reason these names have particular significance for the Christian is because the implications of the names have no bearing on God.

He’s above it all, but we are not.

Satan will be who he is—not a big concern if you happen to be Jehovah, but more to the point, Satan will be who he is to you and me. This is why his names have particular bearing on what we understand and how we walk.

What are those names? Here’s a short list: accuser (of you and me), destroyer, adversary, deceiver, father of lies, murderer, roaring lion, ruler of demons, ruler of this world, thief, tempter, serpent of old.

There are many other names for the enemy of our souls, but seriously, how many do we need? It’s not a pretty picture.

The question is, will we believe it? Do you take Satan seriously?

It’s easy to think of him as the enemy of our souls in the abstract, but do you really see him as an active, destructive force for evil in your daily life? From the beginning, when Eve fell to temptation in the garden and Adam went along with her, Satan’s opposition to everything God is and does is well cataloged in the Bible—and Satan plays for keeps. He’s a deceiver and a killer.

As a deceiver, he’ll try to convince you that that relational struggle you’re having is just about you and the person giving you fits; as an accuser, he’ll tell you that you’re guilty of the sin God has already forgiven; as a liar, he will claim that God is displeased with you and doesn’t love you; as a thief, he’ll rob you of joy; as a roaring lion, he’ll try to paralyze your spirit with fear so he can feast on your flesh; as the tempter, he’ll throw in your path whatever it takes to bring you shame, defeat, desolation; as the destroyer, he will destroy everything that’s good, everything that’s fruitful, everything that speaks of God.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Do we take this reality seriously?

The other day I was watching a TV preacher parade across the stage taunting Satan like some cat with a wounded bird, encouraging the crowd to mock him because, as the guy explained, Satan is a proud spirit who can’t stand being mocked. It wasn’t the first time I had seen a display like this, but it still made me cringe. Is that all Satan really is—some helpless wounded bird we can slap around? If he’s such a pathetic adversary for someone walking the Christian life, why are we told to be alert and sober because he is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat (1 Peter 5:8)? Why does the Bible refer to “the wiles [cunning deceitfulness] of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11)? Why are we told to be on guard against his deception and temptations?

The TV preacher wanted everyone to think of Satan as some toothless old lion. Try telling that to the early Christians ripped limb from limb by real lions in the Roman coliseum, the result of Satan’s efforts. Satan as decrepit and powerless is fiction. He’s still destroying, still deceiving, still devouring. Satan is still a formidable adversary. Satan’s activity in this world and in your life is deadly serious. We don’t have to fear him, but he’s not to be trifled with.

When attacked by the evil one, the apostle James tells believers to resist the devil and he will flee from them (James 4:7). Nowhere in the Bible are believers instructed to take the devil head-on, not even Michael the archangel—the leader of the armies of heaven. What does this most powerful warrior angel do? Jude 1:9 explains, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’

When it comes to Satan, let’s allow the Lord to do the direct fighting. We are told to resist. Jesus allowed the Lord to fight for him as well. Remember when Satan came to tempt Jesus in his hour of extreme physical weakness after his long fast? What did he do? Certainly not all he could have!

Even though He had the power to summon more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53), when contending with the devil, Jesus merely spoke the words of his Father, the words of Scripture, as His answer.

He resisted. It was enough. Satan fled, as we are promised he will do when we resist him.

Now, you have to admit, it makes for better TV to have some guy in a nine-hundred-dollar suit, diamond-studded cufflinks, and alligator shoes strutting across the stage, showing the wildly cheering crowd how spiritually tough he is by yelling insults at Satan, but when it comes to dealing with Satan in our everyday lives, we’d do better to follow Jesus’ and Michael’s examples rather than some faith healer who can’t heal his own hair.

Enemy #1 in this spiritual war we see unfolding through the struggles of our lives is Satan himself. We don’t need to walk in fear of him, but we need to be on our guard, taking seriously his deadly serious purposes and activity in our lives.

Excerpted from A Beautiful Defeat: Find True Freedom and Purpose in Total Surrender to God by Kevin Malarkey, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014.

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