Flee the Devil

 

The idea of the Kingdom of God is a hard concept to get our heads around. There are two places in the Bible where the Kingdom of God is fully expressed. One is at the very end- in the Revelation of John and the other is at the start in the first 2 chapters of Genesis. The bits in the middle, particularly in the New Testament show glimpses of it, through a mirror darkly. Let’s go to Genesis

 

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

 

Genesis 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.’

 

The picture we have of Adam and Eve in the garden was that they walked with God.  There was labour involved but it was a simple labour. Mostly it was just enjoying the presence of God.

 

It was only after they disobeyed God that the labour became hard

Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband,     and he will rule over you.”17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;    through painful toil you will eat food from it    all the days of your life.18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,    and you will eat the plants of the field.19 By the sweat of your brow    you will eat your food until you return to the ground,    since from it you were taken; for dust you are    and to dust you will return.”

But in the kingdom before the Fall the word that characterized their existence was “Abide”.

 

In fact, that word that characterised that time still is what we should be doing in the kingdom now.  I heard a wonderful preacher last Monday talking about how we think we need to do for God as though he was not powerful enough to do for himself. And all we need to do is to walk the garden with God, in his presence. His talk gelled with what I have been saying about being and abiding rather than doing and toiling.

 

But even in that abiding, there is one thing however that we do need to do and that is the word “Resist”

 

 

 

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

1 Peter 5:8 Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

 

Think also of two other mentions in Scripture

 

Genesis 4:6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

 

Luke 22:31Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail.”

 

Just because we follow Jesus and profess him as Christ, does not make us immune to the attentions of the Devil. In fact, we are a magnet for him.

 

We can pretend we are above sin, but such pretending serves Satan, not God... God teaches us that a Christian is never dominated by sin; a Christian is often assaulted by sin [1]

F B Meyer tells us that there is no church fold which the devil does not eagerly visit, bent on injuring its usefulness, or snatching away its careless professors.[2]

 

Resist (antistēte) means “withstand,”. It is a term of defense rather than attack. Christians may stand firm against Satan only if they depend wholly on Christ, standing firm in the faith.[3]

 

The focus remains on God and the resisting of the devil is secondary.

When acquiring virtues and avoiding sin become the primary focus of our walk we have elevated the secondary over the primary[4]. Focusing on sin, either by committing it or by being consumed with fighting it, keeps us from practising God's presence[5]

 

We need to be vigilant in our resistance to the wiles of the enemy

 

Charles Stanley gives sage advice in this regard:

We have no control over what drifts through our minds. Evil thoughts are not sin. Sin is grabbing hold of those thoughts and dwelling on them.[6]  

 

The battle begins not with the temptation to do something but with the temptation to dwell on anything that conflicts with what is true. [7] Every sinful act is committed twice: once in our head's and once in our behaviour. To win the behaviour battle, we must first win the battle that takes place in our minds.[8]

 

We should not beat ourselves up over that fact that we are tempted by the Devil. Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil (in the days after his baptism, in the desert and through the words of Peter over his need to die)

 

And no matter how much we do works, that is not going to change. An ancient text from the 14th century called the Cloud of Unknowing says: However much you fasted, however long you stayed awake, however early you rose, however hard the bed you lay on, however harsh the garment you wore, yes, and, were it permissible (as it is not), if you should put out your eyes, cut the tongue out of your mouth, stop up your ears and nose as firmly as possible, even if you should slice off your private parts and cause your body all the pain you could think of, none of this would help you at all. The stirring and rising of sin will still be in you. [9]

 

It is what we do in response to that temptation that can bless us or can cause problems for us, just as it did for Adam and Eve.

Genesis 3 Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

There was once a program through the schools called Stranger Danger, warning children about the dangers of going with strangers but the problem with that program is that a survey of kids on what they thought the danger was showed that the kids did not have any idea what the danger was.  And I don’t want you to be like that.  Flee from the devil means what?  Why do we need to flee from the devil?

 

The reason is that the devil is not a nice guy, despite what TV programs like Lucifer tell us. His job is to accuse us and to tempt us to not follow God.

 

The way he does that is through a 3 letter word called sin.

 

Sin is essentially rebellion against the rule of God.[10]  Sin is a unilateral declaration of independence.[11]  Sin is the voluntary commission of an act known to be contrary to the will of God. [12] Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A mortal being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, “I AM.”[13]

 

When we succumb to the wiles of the enemy and act out his temptations, we lose our ability to abide with God.

 

Genesis3:8Then the man and his wife heard the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

 

Sin is a system of thinking that can enslave us and prevent us from wanting to please God. [14] Sin is hell begun; it is disruption, disintegration, disease.[15] Sin introduces a kind of static interference in communication with God and as a result shuts us off from the very resources we need to combat it.[16]

 

When we fail to acknowledge sin as sin, our listening to God will become tainted as a result.[17]

 

Alienation is always a consequence of sin.[18]

 

Genesis 3:23So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Our relationship with God is damaged beyond human repair because our succumbing to the enemy instead of resisting him and fleeing from him. Thank God, that damage can be divinely repaired by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ

 

Hebrews 4:14  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 

So, let me reiterate, we are to be passive in abiding with God but we are to be active in resisting the enemy.

 

 



[1] Gary Thomas Thirsting for God 200

[2] F B Meyer Tried by Fire 179

[3] 1 Peter. In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 856).

[4] Thomas 90

[5] Ibid 78

[6]Charles Stanley The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life 98

[7] ibid 92

[8] ibid 91

[9] The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works- 35 

 

[10] Charles Colson Kingdoms in Conflict 86

[11] Rasik Ranchord Dare to be a disciple 55

[12] A W Tozer That Incredible Christian 30

[13] Tozer, A W The Knowledge of the Holy 38

[14] Larry Shallenberger Divine Intention: How God's Work in the Early Church Empowers Us Today 68

[15] E. Stanley Jones Abundant Living: 364 Daily Devotions

[16] Philip Yancey Rumours of another world 144

[17] Leanne Payne Listening Prayer 202

[18] Stuart Babbage The Mark of Cain 39