Resist the Devil

Bob RoaneCounseling, Jesus Christ, Wise living

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded….Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-10)

Satan is God’s Defeated Foe

William Gurnall (1616–1679) was an English pastor who wrote about spiritual warfare.1 Gurnall urged Jesus’ followers to hang on to our assurance that God is watching Satan’s every move and God will never let the devil have the final victory. When the Lord says: “Stay,” Satan must stand like a dog by the table while Christ’s saints feast on God’s comfort and joy. The devil does not dare snatch even a tidbit, for the Master’s eye is always upon him. Scripture says: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”2

Victory in Jesus

R. C. Sproul notes that in recent years, there has been renewed interest in Satan’s work in Hollywood films and Christian circles. Some Christians blame particular demons for particular sins (anger, sexual lust, cursing, lying, and other bad habits). But this is unbiblical and unbalanced. Too much concern with Satan and demons draws our attention away from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords. We are to focus on Jesus’ victorious saving work and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power. Obsession about the devil may please him, but it is not pleasing to God.

Scripture says that Satan can oppress, assault, tempt, slander, and accuse us. But a Christian indwelled by the Holy Spirit cannot be possessed by a demon. Scripture says: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”3 Too much emphasis on Satan and demons distracts us from dealing with our own sin and pursuing Christ-like sanctification. We cannot say, “The Devil made me do it.” Christians can be tempted, incited, or seduced by Satan, but not controlled or coerced by him. That’s great news!

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One (God the Holy Spirit) who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Submit to God and Resist the Devil

Christians are responsible for working out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.4 What does that look like and what are some specifics? I outline Ephesians 4:25-32 like this:

Put Off the Works of the Flesh Put On the Fruit of the Spirit
Falsehood (lies, deceiving, fraud) Speak truthfully to your neighbor.
Sinful anger, grudge-holding, giving the devil a foothold Be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Stealing in any way Work, be useful, share with those in need.
Unwholesome talk Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. Benefit and bless listeners.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Gal 5:19-26 teaches something similar:

Put Off the Works of the Flesh Put On the Fruit of the Spirit
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Scripture says: We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning (without repentance), for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them.5

The Best Defense

Pastor Robert Morgan reminds us, “The best defense is a good offense.” Scripture calls us to resist Satan and his demons as our enemies, but to keep our eyes on the Lord. We must not be too afraid of anything, because Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, is more than equal to all emergencies. The Bible gives us keen insights into the devil’s schemes, but we are always to focus more on Christ.

God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Christ every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.6

In Paul’s letters, the word Jesus occurs 219 times, Lord appears 272 times, and Christ is found in 389 times. Satan (the devil) is mentioned in only 16 verses. Morgan advises us: When things are going badly, when we feel trapped between sword and sea, resist the devil, but keep your eyes on Christ our Champion. He will see you through. He will make a way.

This is my Father’s world, O let me never forget That though the wrong seems often so strong,
God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world. The battle is not done.
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And Earth and Heaven be one. (Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901)

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 The Christian in Complete Armour: A Modernized Abridgement (3 Volumes).     2 Rom 16:20.     3 2 Cor 3:17.     4 Phil 2:12-13.     5 1 John 5:18 NLT.     6 Phil 2:9-11.