Dialogue with the Devil
As we prepare for the Season of Lent. let us go back to the origins of sin. Reading from Genesis:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
God created us in his image which meant that we could also create. This allowed for infinite possibilities. Some of those possibilities could be dangerous. We needed God’s guidance to properly tend the garden.
We remember the serpent. He took the form of a serpent, but he was a fallen angel who rebelled against God. Simply put, he disapproved of the creation of humankind. Unable to create himself, his. the goal was to pervert and distort the creations of God:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Genesis 3:1-7)
What wisdom is Satan talking about? We have this explanation from the Apostle Paul:
My speech and my proclamation were made not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are being destroyed. But we speak God’s wisdom, a hidden mystery, which God decreed before the ages for our glory and which none of the rulers of this age understood, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:4-8)
With Satan’s so-called wisdom, he crucified Jesus. In his wisdom, God knew this was possible when he created us. Thus Jesus offered himself as a sacrificial lamb before our world even began. Reading from 1 Peter:
You know that you were ransomed from the futile conduct inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (1 Peter 1:18-20)
Though Satan lost at the cross, that had not stopped him from tempting us with his lies and half-truths. Satan tried his powers of temptation upon Jesus during his wilderness experience. Let us see how this might apply to us today:
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus had been in the wilderness. without eating, for a very long time. He realized that he needed spiritual food as well as bread. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote:
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
How often does Satan try to distract us, with food, from meditating on the word of God? This is why fasting can be beneficial. It helps us to focus on God’s word. That is the last thing our flesh (carnal self) wants us to do.
Satan’s next temptation of Jesus is a big one for all of us:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:1-11)
This temptation has to do with a sign. Satan asks Jesus for a sign to prove himself. Satan asks Christian for a sign. Many fall into this trap. Satan wants us to believe that we are not connected to God unless he has given us a vision or miracle. We may look for God to validate us. God has validated us on the cross.
Some Christians brag about the signs they have received. This is what Jesus said about signs:
An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Matthew 16:4)
The sign of Jonah prefigured Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. That is all we should need to believe that God loves us and is with us. That is all the proof we need from God. Jesus rises.
Signs are not insignificant. In Mark’s Gospel, we read:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17)
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. (1 Corinthians 14:22)
Paul referred to the sign of tongues on the Day of Pentecost, which attracted the masses to Peter’s preaching.
Now let us look at the last temptation of Jesus while he was in the wilderness:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
This temptation is perhaps Satan’s greatest deception. Life is often looked upon as a climb up the ladder of success. That ladder has many rungs. Reading from Isaiah:
Whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from milk,
those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little. (Isaiah 28:9-10)
Satan tells us that we can take some short. We will not have to suffer a cross. Unfortunately, Satan can reward those willing to take shortcuts, and he does. That is why many go his route. If we do so, we will hurt others along the way. We will ultimately hurt ourselves.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:5-8)
How do we resist the temptations of Satan? We do not do it through a dialogue with him. We will not defeat him with worldly wisdom. He invented worldly wisdom. Eve made the mistake of entering into dialogue with Satan. Jesus would not enter into dialogue with him. Instead, he quoted scripture, which Satan cannot nullify or dismiss. He used the word of God against Satan. The whole universe was established by the word of God.
Let us use the method that Jesus used against Satan. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)
The last one on the list is our offensive weapon against Satan. This is our best way to keep a Holy Lent and Holy life. God is with us and for us. We must be willing to use the weapon he has given us. We are in a battle. Jesus has won that battle. Let us follow in his footsteps.