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Archive for April, 2011

We need to have a little talk… about Satan.

Posted on Saturday, April 30th, 2011 by Sanctuary staff

Could it be... Satan?I know, Satan is an awkward topic for most folks these days. We’re enlightened, educated, modern thinkers – we don’t believe in a nasty guy with a pitchfork and a red suit, right? You might remember Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live. This is the kind of person I imagine likes to talk about Satan.

But the truth is, we need to acknowledge Satan’s existence. When we don’t , we are unable to keep our sanity about the destructive things that happen in our lives and the world around us. I was recently reading a great book titled I Believe in Satan’s Downfall (Green, 1981) (an excellent primer on how we as Christians are to understand Satan, by the way). An observant nine year-old friend of mine saw the book in my hand and out of his mouth came a profound truth: “There has to be Satan. Otherwise all the sin and bad stuff is God’s fault.” As Green puts it, “If there were no Satan, it would be hard to resist the conclusion that God is a fiend both because of what he does, in nature, and what he allows, in human wickedness” (p. 19).

I so often talk with folks who are struggling because it does seem to them that the suffering in their life is God’s fault and God’s desire for them. When our worldview is missing an acknowledgement of Satan and his evil work, we’re hopelessly vulnerable to misunderstanding God. Allow me to share some basic truths about Satan, and then we’ll quickly move on to the reality of Christ’s victory.

Who is Satan? “One of God’s creatures – a spirit of great ability, who became consumed by pride, rebelled, lost his position, and set up in opposition and in implacable hatred against God, the source of his existence” (Green, 1981, p. 34). Satan is part of the supernatural realm of created beings that includes the angels who do God’s bidding. He is violent, powerful, highly intelligent, a liar, and persistent. Much of the difficulty and pain we experience in life is devised and implemented by him. But he is also bound, nothing more than a usurper with no rightful authority over us, and cowardly, afraid of anyone who stands up to him in the name of Jesus Christ.

Satan would prefer that we are blind to his existence and work; our denial of his presence adds greatly to his power. I see this all too often when believing Christians are alienated from God by the assumption that the darkness in their life is God’s desire and doing. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters is a valuable read for helping restore to us a healthy recognition of the work of Satan. Let’s listen in on this dialog between Screwtape and Wormwood: “My dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics… I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you” (Lewis, 2001, p. 7).

My main goal in this short article is to remind you, or tell you if you’ve never heard it before, that we mustn’t deny, forget about, or ignore Satan. Let me close, however, with the very good, wonderful, hopeful, and life-giving news: Jesus has defeated him! Satan has no rightful authority in your life. You can have confidence in the cross of Jesus, in the presence of the Holy Spirit with you, and in the living word of God. I can’t encourage you enough to seek God’s presence in prayer, to engage in deep relationship with other believers, and to seek Godly counsel and support for whatever battle is underway in your life – one excellent guide in this process is Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer (Payne, 1991).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Do you find it awkward to think or talk about Satan? Have you been hurt by the ways others have talked to you about evil, or punishment, or Satan? Have you found ways of paying attention to this dimension of reality that help you?

Recommended reading:
Green, M. (1981). I Believe in Satan’s Downfall. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Screwtape Letters. New York: HarperCollins.
Payne, L. (1991). Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.