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Who is Satan?

C. S. Lewis once suggested that we make two mistakes regarding the devil. One is to give him more authority than he deserves—then he can do what he wants. The other is to deny that he exists—then he can do what he wants (The Screwtape Letters). People today typically think of Satan as a symbol of evil, wearing red tights and a tail, the stuff of Saturday cartoons. He's just as happy to be ignored as to be feared.

But it's impossible to ignore his work—broken hearts and homes, abuse, disease and immorality. Even those who do not admit the reality of Satan must admit the reality of Satanism. In some places in America, the worship of Satan is growing ten times faster than any Christian church. In recent years, the Satanic Bible has outsold the Holy Bible in many university bookstores.

This essay is written to convince you that Satan is both real and defeated. He wants you to believe neither is true. The choice will be yours.

Admit his reality

Who is Satan? Satan goes by a number of names in the Bible. The two we know best are "Satan" and "devil." The former means "accuser" and is found 34 times in Scripture—the one who accuses and abuses us. "Devil" is found 36 times in the New Testament, and literally means "slanderer." Satan is also known as the "ancient serpent," the "dragon," and the "evil one." Jesus' description of Satan's work in John 8:42-47 is a frightening resume indeed.

First, Satan claims ownership over every unsaved soul. In John 8 our Lord refers to his enemies as children of their Satanic "father" (v. 44). He is the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), the "prince of this world" (John 12:31) who controls this fallen age (1 John 5:19). Christians live in a world dominated by Satan. We are soldiers stationed on enemy soil, living in an occupied country.

Second, the devil blinds our minds to the truth, for he is "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). This is why the person who has not received the Holy Spirit cannot understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Satan wants to snatch the seed of the word from the hearts which need it most (cf. Matthew 13:1-9).

Third, Satan lies about God's word. From Genesis 3 to the present, he manipulates the truth of Scripture to lead us astray. The one who quoted the Bible in tempting Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) will misuse God's word to deceive us as well. Not everything we hear taught as the truth of God is. Our enemy can quote the Bible better than we can, but always for a diabolical end.

Fourth, the devil is a "murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). Satan is a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Those who serve his cause engage in physical, emotional, and sexual attacks against each other and the rest of us. Their master wants nothing less than the wholesale destruction of the human race and especially the people of God.

Fifth, Satan rules demons. They serve as his minions and foot soldiers in his ongoing war against the Lord and his children.

In essence, Satan opposes God. In John 8 he inspired the religious leaders to seek Jesus' death. He later led them to crucify our Lord. Satan is the opposite of God in every way. Our Lord is light; Satan is darkness. God is a holy, consuming fire; the devil is sinful, sickening, diseased. God is Spirit; Satan is unholy carnality. God loves you; Satan hates you. God gave his Son for you; Satan would take your soul. God is your Father; the devil is your foe.

Don't give him too much power

Satan is real, but he is also defeated. Jesus came to earth to destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8). When our Lord died on the cross, sin died. When he rose from the grave, the grave lost. One day Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire, to be tormented day and night for all time (Revelation 20:10). Satan will not reign in hell—he will be punished there, forever.

Satan is at war with our Father, and we are the battlefield where the conflict rages. He cannot hurt God, so he attacks God's children. The best way to wound me is to attack my sons. In our spiritual war with this enemy, how do we win?

First, resist him in God's strength: "Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). The moment you are tempted, submit the issue to God and choose to resist: "Do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:27). It will never be easier to refuse sin than when it first appears in your mind or heart.

Second, claim your victory in God's power. Your Father promises that he will allow no temptation without giving you the strength to defeat it (1 Corinthians 10:13). The moment the enemy appears in your life, stand on that promise. Assume the victory which it promises.

Third, wear the armor of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 6 exhorts us: "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (vs. 10-12).

This spiritual "armor" includes God's truth, righteousness, gospel, faith, salvation, Scripture, and prayer (vs. 14-18). Stand in these. Practice them. Trust them as God's power in your life. And they will be your victory.

So expect to be tempted by your mortal enemy. Lions only roar when they attack. Stand in God's strength today. When you fail, go to God for forgiveness, grace, and victory. And the next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

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