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Actively Resisting the Devil

I want you to get a mental picture of the devil. What do you see? Maybe your mental picture was somewhat cartoony. Some red man with horns and a pitchfork. Maybe you saw an actual person. Maybe some horrible historical figure like Hitler. Maybe your image of the devil is a particular sin or some wrongdoing that haunts you. Chances are we have a very set idea in our heads of who or what the devil is. We tend to, I think in our imagination, paint him into a box, and once he is there, we are very cautious of him. As long as he stays in that box. Or maybe we minimize his power by personifying him too much. And that's where he likes to be. He is the most dangerous when we underestimate him.

So I'll tell you that for me for the longest time, my mental image of the devil was Scar from “The Lion King.” It was the first movie that I ever saw in theaters. And you know all the 1 Peter 5.8 stuff… that’s just the kind of the image that stuck. In “The Lion King,” right after Scar kills Mufasa, he tells Simba to run away and never return. And I used to find this very odd. Why didn't Scar just kill Simba too? That's what the villain would do. But I've learned a truth since then in my own life. One of Satan's most powerful tools is to simply convince us to shirk responsibility. It seems harmless at the time. I'm not coveting or lusting or murdering but remember that sloth is considered to be one of the deadly sins. If Satan can get us to run away and never return from God, he's won. Even if we don't do anything that we think of as outright wickedness.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

Ephesians 6.16

So, as we're speaking and thinking of limited mental pictures tonight, I've had one of this verse for most of my life. I've always envisioned most of the rest of the armor of God as these very important things that I need to put on and actively use. But the shield of faith is just kind of this force field that I can just hide behind when the devil just scatter shots these so-called flaming darts. But I like the word that is used here. What are darts? In today's world there are two types of darts that I think of that I want to use to illustrate this point.

The first one is bar room darts. They are precision instruments. You don't just grab a handful of them and toss them “willy nilly,” hoping that one or two of them will stick. You throw each individual one with intent and aim. And you don't necessarily throw at the same place every time. If you only need 17 more points to zero out, you aren't going to be aiming for the bullseye. Satan is a master dart player. He knows how to get us down to zero. He knows that he has to aim at different weaknesses depending on our circumstances. And only with the shield of faith can we guard against an attack like that. And sure, one of the goals of Satan is to kill our spiritual life with sin. But I think a lot of times that we think that that means that he wants to kill our physical life as well.

But there's another kind of dark that Satan uses… a tranquilizer dart. He wants to sedate us to a point where even though we're still physically alive, we're not doing anything to resist him. In “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis writing as one of Satan's chief tempters says:

“If he dies now, we lose him… That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth.”

No matter how old or young, how well equipped with the other pieces of God’s armor we are, if we set down the shield of faith as Paul says in any circumstance, Satan will strike.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4.7b

I love this verse. Rather than Satan, the roaring lion, telling us to run away, we can have him flee from us. But how do we do that? Is it by hiding behind some passive protection of the shield of faith? No! It says we must resist. A shield is a heavy implement. And if we don't put all of our strength behind it, it's useless. We must actively take up our shield of faith so that with it we can extinguish Satan's flaming darts. So how do we get that shield of faith?

Submit yourselves therefore to God.

James 4.7a

Submission has also come to be somewhat of a passive term in our culture. But it's not. And that’s not how James uses it. He says that we must give our whole lives in service and subjection to God. Only then can we be firm in our faith in order to resist the devil. It doesn't matter if you're 17 or 70, Satan knows how to get to you. And it doesn't matter your age or your background or any of that.

God loves you and He wants you to serve Him.