In our nation today, we are surrounded by what I would call a climate and culture of hate. It is far more than just disliking someone. The feelings go very deep and reveal rage and resentment. Where did all of this come from? It is far more than a corrupt political judicial system.
The prophet Jeremiah lived in a time in Judah that is very much like what we face today in our nation. In verses 9-10 he put his finger on the problems when he wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
Our LORD has considerable to say about the kind of culture we live in today. In Matthew 15:16-20, He talks about the fact that the defilement we see is not a surface problem. It is much deeper.
“So, Jesus said,’ Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth came from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, theft, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
In 1 Samuel 16, we read of the process the LORD used in helping Israel select a new king. Saul had stopped listening to God. He even consulted a witch for guidance. God had enough. So, in 1 Samuel 16, the LORD is guiding the prophet in identifying who will succeed Saul. He sent him to the family of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. He had a number of sons. So, one by one they were brought before Samuel. When the prophet saw Eliab he said, ”Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Note: We are so easily impressed with outward appearance, but God isn’t. He knows that the real issue is the heart.
Returning for a moment to Jeremiah 17 and verses 5-8 – listen to what the LORD says, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. (Now notice the contrast) – Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD. For he shall be like a tree, planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (This sounds very much like Psalm I). Then He (God), goes on in Jeremiah 17 to describe the deceitful heart and the desperate wickedness. This kind of heart is absolutely incapable of pleasing God.
The Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 describes the works of the flesh (a heart not yielded to God) – “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentiousness, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitious, dissensions, heresy, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries, and the like of which I told you beforehand, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (does what you have just read sound familiar?)
What is the real answer? Are we just going to treat the symptoms or will we look deeper? Paul closes out Galatians 5 with the contrast of life in the flesh with life in the Holy Spirit – vs. 22-26 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Question: Which life do you prefer? Life in the flesh and all of its manifestations, or life in the Holy Spirit with all of its manifestations?
Have you ever taken time to study what life was like in Eden before Satan, the serpent, appeared and deceived Adam and Eve?
Before – the couple was very comfortable with each other; they enjoyed fellowship with God. All of their needs were cared for. Fruit was wonderful and satisfying. There doesn’t appear to have been any anxiety or stress.
After – they surrendered their wills to Satan, they were faced with shame over their nakedness; tried to hide from God, their Creator, pain in child-birth; hard work in dealing with weeds and thistles, removal from the garden, murder, and on it goes. Satan never reveals the true cost if we take his bait.
A. Who is this enemy of our souls?
1. Job 1:6 reveals that Satan was a created being accountable to God. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.”
2. Colossians 1:16 says, “For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him”.
3. Jesus in Matthew 25:41 reveals that Satan was an angel. “Then He (the LORD) will also say to those on His left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
In Revelation 12:7 we read, “And war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.”
4. In Ezekiel 28:14, he is referred to as “the anointed cherub.” It goes on to say that he was the highest of all created beings.
B. What happened?
1. Remember that he was created perfectly. Ezekiel 28:12-13, God said, “You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.”
2. Jude 6 reveals to us that Satan originally lived in a heavenly abode, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He (God) has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Be sure to read 2 Peter 2:4).
3. Ezekiel 24:4 has God saying, “You were on the holy mountain of God.” He was supposed to be a guardian of God’s glory.
4. But then Satan became corrupt in his person due to his own power and pride. Ezekiel 28:15-17, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you. 16 “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore, I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. 17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor;
I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you.”
5. Satan became enamored with himself. In Isaiah 14:13, he is pictured – “For you have said in your heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest side of the north.”
Note: In Timothy 3:6, Paul is guiding Timothy in what to look for in church leadership and he says – “Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he falls into the same condemnation as the devil.”
Satan was evidently created by God and like us, given the freedom of choice. He believed he was good enough to be God or even greater so he rebelled and he lost. He was cast down to the earth but he is not done. His agenda is to do everything he can to frustrate God’s agenda and to corrupt God’s special creation – that’s us. So, he is relentless in trying to turn a man against God.
We have a responsibility to become aware of our adversary and how he operates. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 is talking about forgiving a brother (or sister) and verses 10-11 says,” Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
As I close this study, I urge you to become aware of the schemes and strategies of Satan, but not be obsessed by him or them. Rather, I urge you and myself to do as Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Paul in Romans 8:37 wrote, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
There is victory through Jesus, Pastor Leonard