How Satan works.

How does Satan work?

Something I state fairly often is “I don’t know the technical interaction of how Satan, Demons, the sinful nature of man, fallen creation, free will and evil; I’m not sure how they work.” What I can say without a doubt is they do work. There is evil. Satan is a fallen angel who is condemned already to hell forever. He knows where he is going. So what does he want to do? How does he work? What’s his purpose? I’ve learned there are four things the enemy wants to do.

1. Satan the Separator – Judas Iscariot was able to be a part of The Twelve. He had he same power the other eleven had. He went out on the same mission trips the others did. He at some point chose to follow Jesus. He experienced Jesus healing, feeding 5000, teaching, and living out the gospel. Yet, at some point in time, Satan put it in Judas mind, his heart to live a life separated from God and the other eleven.

Scripture says, “Now by the time of supper, the Devil has already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Him [Jesus] ~ John 13:2

We can be so close to the things of God and God Himself, yet we can live a compartmentalized life. We can all be Judas. Satan wants to separate us. Satan hates the people of God. Satan is evil because he chose to be and he cannot be changed now. It’s too late for him. So Satan’s one purpose is to work against God. Satan can’t touch God, so he often goes for the next best thing: God’s people.

Jesus prayed His desired purpose for unity because He knows the church is strongest when it’s together. Jesus said, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one is Us so the world may believe You sent Me” ~ John 17:21.

Satan is a separator. He wants to separate the people of God. If you see separation in the church where you live and serve, you can know Satan is behind it. He wants to separate your friends, family and faith family. If Satan can separate, he is well on his way to messing up our families, our churches.

Do you see God wants unity and Satan wants separation? The next time you have relational separation happening, remember Satan is behind it (Matt 16:23). And remember it may not just be you who are viewing the situation from the outside angle. Satan will use anyone to bring division in his people. I’ve learned to be careful at every angle. God deserves it.

2. Satan the Isolator – Peter the Son of Jonah became the mouthpiece of the church in Acts 1-12. He was a fisherman before Jesus called him to join up. Peter, never scared to jump up with a bold proclamation, said, ” …. I will lay my life down for You” (John 13:37). We all know Peter ended up denying Jesus around the fire barrel and left weeping and broken (Mark 14:72). Peter left disappointed and demoralized. That’s what happens when Satan isolates a Christian. He wants to isolate because he works in isolation. He will talk a person out of church, of out fellowship, away from accountability in community, away, away, away, from everything God, etc.

The next time you find yourself isolated? Remember who wants you there. It’s not God (Psalm 133)

3. Satan the Demoralizer – Judas. Peter. Both got demoralized after Satan worked in their lives. Once separated, then isolated, Satan works on our emotions. Our souls. He gets us alone and makes us forget God, forget Jesus work on the cross, he makes us have mental conversations that are time wasters and hate breeders. He gets us alone and make it rain. Judas committed suicide. Peter left weeping. Jesus knew Peter was hurting to the extent that He gave news of the resurrection specifically to Peter (Mark 16:5). Satan can depress us. He desires to suck the spiritual life from us like a new vacuum on a dusty floor. But Jesus, he restored Peter to the ministry as Peter repented and made himself available to God again (John 21).

The next time you feel demoralized, look back to see how Satan is working. Get your identity from the cross of Jesus Christ. Claim Gal 2:20 as you run forward for God.

4. Satan the Decimator – Peter knew this better than anyone.  He experienced the works of Satan, the influence of evil and the restoration and healing of God. Peter blew it, lived with it, came back from it and learned from it. He knew what Satan did to Judas. Satan decimated Judas life. Satan doesn’t just want to sideline or sidetrack God’s people . He want to take us out. That is scary, but it’s true. Peter said in his letter, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil  is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet 5:8). He wants to take believers out of action. He wants to get us unprotected, separated, demoralized so he can decimate us in isolation.

Does seeing Satan’s activity as a decimator put urgency in you to walk close to Jesus?

What can we do to protect ourselves, our families and our church families?

  • Stay in the word and live from it; take a Bible everywhere you go – Matt 4:1-11
  • Pray at all times, especially with a few other passionate praying people – Acts 4:31;         1 Thess 5:17; Col 4:2
  • Remain humble no matter what – 1 Peter 5:6-7 

I heard a great quote somewhere. It this, “Obedience brings the presence of God; humility keeps the presence of God.” 

Sharing the gospel in preaching – What? Why? How?

I recently took a weekend off to attend a wedding of a great friend. When Sunday came of course we went to worship. My daughter and I went early to a prominent reformed church in Albuquerque. Then we went to the hotel and picked up my wife and my daughter’s friend who came with us. We  all went to another church. An even larger church. As a matter of fact I could definitely live my life out of this local church. I’m not sure about the first one. Anyway ….

At both churches the hospitality was good. The music was good at both, but the second would be my preference. The preaching and teaching was good. Excellent. Without going into a full critique, one thing unsettled me at these churches. Everything at both churches was good, biblical, and done with excellence. I was in awe. And I sensed the Spirit. But one thing was glaringly missing for me.

At both of these churches the simple gospel was not shared.

Let me be clear in what I’m saying. First the gospel itself was not shared. Second, there was no invite for people to cross the line of faith, receive Jesus, ask questions, or sign up for baptism.

Is it because I’m a Baptist? We seek to share the gospel in every service. Our preaching would include the gospel in every message. A pastor who knew I had gone to Gordon-Conwell asked me once, “Do they teach you to interpret Old Testament narratives without including Jesus?” I said, “Yes, they taught us to let the story of the Old Testament stand on its own first. Then, think Christ Centered Preaching.” But that depended on the professor.

The gospel needs to be shared in the preaching of God’s word, not matter what the text. Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of all the word of God.  What I’m targeting here may be different than what Bryan Chapell deals with in his Christ-Centered Preaching, but it has to be closely connected.

What is the gospel?

  • The simple gospel can be included in every message of the Bible by looking for the redemptive factor in the text (Chapell). Black preaching does this so well.
  • 1 Cor 15:3-4 is probably the most concise, easiest way to state the gospel. This is the content of the gospel.
  • Mark 1:15 gives the pathway – repent and believe. Change direction for the best – Jesus Christ death, burial and resurrection.

Why include the gospel?

  • The nature and mission of the church demands it. We exist for no other reason. Any other reason given still has to find its birth in the gospel. Without the gospel, we have no message.
  • The brevity of life demands it. Life is short. It’s brutal.Then comes the end. Heaven or Hell. Grace or judgement. And on any given Sunday someone either may not get another week or they may not come back to church. This situation is high risk.

How to share the gospel?

  • In preaching. The two churches I attended are growing, have a lot of people and momentum. Maybe they are doing something I can’t see. Probably so. But in many churches the people will take on the attitude of the pastor. If the pastor does not share the gospel in preaching and teaching (and his personal life), then how can he expect the people to do it?
  • In worship. The gospel can be explained in the worship service parts that are not preaching. Testimony, song transition, scripture reading, video. It’s possible to do it and not be vague and not be a salesman.
  • At the beginning of the message, or at the end, a simple gospel statement and call for response is always appropriate. It doesn’t have to be an altar call (I use a variety of methods), but can simply sound something like this:

As we end today, for those of you who have questions about the gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a few leaders waiting for you if you would like to talk over coffee.

or

Where is the redemptive factor today? (you might state the text’s redemptive purpose first, but then…) For some of you it means you need to cross the line of faith. You are ready. If you are ready for a change of direction (repentance) and believe Christ died for your sins, was buried and rose again (Mark 1:15; 1 Cor 15:3-4), we are ready to celebrate with you. As we end the service, our team will be here in the front to celebrate with you and get you connected to the next steps. Come and let them know of your desire to move forward.

I’m not saying every service in a church has to be an evangelistic event. What I am saying is the church should not lose its urgency. The two churches I attended probably don’t have to worry about it. And I’m glad for that But most other churches might ought to think through how the gospel is shared.

I make a simple appeal. And let there be no doubt. I’ve preached the Old Testament before and not included the gospel in the message, and hated myself for it. It’s not complicated. So I’m not meaning to judge. I’m guilty also.

I’ve used many different connections for people to make a spiritual need known. Inquiry room. Full blown altar call. Cards. They all work. But what works best for us is ending he service with a holy moment. We sing just two verses of a song. I have leaders in place to meet anyone with any need. After preaching and including the gospel, I give a call for discipleship, but also for ministry; prayer. After the second verse of the song, I pronounce a formal blessing on the people. I tell them the music will keep playing and we will still be here for those who have needs (think introverts here). We almost always have people who have prayer needs, requests for baptisms, and some want to just encourage others.

I hope you preachers and teachers will share the gospel somewhere along the line in your Bible teaching. The stakes are high. It’s not that difficult. Why not? That would be my response.

 

The weakness of the local church – recovering the essence

Earlier this year I ran across an interesting challenge. Dr. David Platt, President of the
International Mission Board announced in June a plan to open the floodgates to get people on the mission field. I was at the SBC annual meeting in Columbus this year. Platt’s announcement, really the IMB’s, left the feeling that “there’s gonna be a lot of questions” on the convention floor during the question and answer period. Amazingly, there was no a question. Platt had shared the answers before anyone could ask the questions. God blessed it. 

In a written FAQ regard missions policy, I ran across this description of what it takes to be a missionary.

SPIRITUAL QUALIFICATIONS

  • Vibrant personal discipleship: As they abide in God’s Word and walk in step with God’s Spirit, IMB missionaries bear fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ.
  • Evident personal disciple making: IMB missionaries are meaningfully involved in a local church in which they participate in leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized in the church, and showing believers how to obey Christ, all with a view toward reaching the nations with the gospel.
  • Call: The call to serve as an IMB missionary has been discerned within a local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.
  • Commitment: IMB missionaries are devoted to the vision, mission, values, and beliefs of the IMB.

As I read this I wondered, “do I meet this criteria?”

In many churches missionaries are the people who could not make it in a local church in the West. Missionaries are not considered to be good speakers. They are the ones who seem to be good at other things, but not real ministry. That’s the unwritten feeling anyway, of some. 

I’m going to do some writing and reflecting on this statement above. For now, I want you to ask yourself, “could I cut it as a missionary?” 

Notice the bolded areas of the statement above. I’m going to explore the idea that local churches do not require of their own members the same requirements we expect from our missionaries. We wonder why local churches are weak. We don’t make disciples is one reason. We don’t expect members to be conduits. We let disciples remain cups. Even our leaders are not expected to really make disciples. They get to keep it all and never give it away. 

God expects more of us than we expect of ourselves. Most of our leaders and members could not qualify to be missionaries. What does that say to us? About us? Are you up to some change in your life? Are you ready to live the purposeful life God desires for you? Pray. Ask the Lord to speak to you about what you should do. I’ll write more soon.