Sep
9

Dealing with the Devil

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Text: Matthew 16:21-28

 

[podcast]http://zion-umc.org/home/audio/sermon_08282011.mp3[/podcast]

 

What Does the Bible Say About the Devil?

Because I want to teach on the importance of making God-honoring choices with our lives, I’ll keep this to a quick summary of what the Bible has to say about the Devil: a spirit that exposes the failings and sins of humanity through deception and temptation.

To quickly summarize what the New Testament teaches about the devil, here’s a list:

  1. The devil doesn’t “make” anyone do anything.  It’s a choice made by the person.
  2. Jesus has already defeated the devil.  (Acts 10:38, Hebrew 2:14)
  3. Christians are to resist the devil and not make room in their lives for him (Eph 6:11, James 4:7).

You may be sorely tested by temptation or weakness – but you have a free will, and you get to choose if you’re going to give in or not.  It’s up to you – and it determines the quality of your discipleship.

Each Day Contains Choices about Which Kingdom We Will Serve

We live in a culture of quick fixes. There are lots of people looking for the easy way to an easy life, especially if the personal cost is relatively low.  Do you want to get rich quick? Do you want to play a guitar better than everyone else – and never practice? Do you want to marry the most attractive man or woman in the world?  You might need to make a deal with the devil.

The culture of the quick fix loves the idea of getting whatever you want for nothing up front and everything paid in full at death. The problem is that you’re blinded to the true price of the deal: your immortal and eternal soul.

History is full of stories and legends about people who have made a deal with the devil.  You may have heard the expression, “a Faustian bargain,” referring to the German legend of Faust, who traded his soul for unlimited knowledge and earthly pleasures. It’s become a way of describing the unbelievable rise to fame and fortune by a person who seemingly didn’t pay his dues on the way up: musicians, artists, politicians, actors… many people fit the bill.

There’s an even more famous person who had multiple offers from the Devil:  Jesus. The Devil offered him everything – power, riches, and being able to skip the hard parts of His future.  I’m very thankful that Jesus didn’t take the Devil up on those offers!

We all have a choice to make: which kingdom will we serve?  Following what Jesus has said to Peter, it’s very clear that to serve God’s kingdom, the only choice is the way of the Cross.  “If any want to become my followers,” Jesus says to the assembled disciples, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” – down that road (v. 24). That’s the only deal a disciple can take. Focus on saving your own life and making it easier, and you’ll lose in the end. Focus on giving away your life by going down this path with Jesus, and you’ll find real life and not the kind that’s artificially and temporarily inflated by the attractiveness of a devilish deal (v. 25). Is it worth giving your soul for something that won’t last?

Disciples Follow Jesus by Giving Away Their Lives

Jesus spent time questioning His disciples about the perceptions others had of Him.  “Who do people say that I am?” (16:13) and “who do you say that I am?” (v. 15) are questions designed to help the disciples define Jesus’ identity in the midst of a world full of competing gods and divine claimants. Simon, of course, gets it right. “You are the Messiah,” he answers, “the Son of the living God” (v. 16).

Jesus blesses Simon’s declaration and renames him “Peter,” the rock upon which Jesus’ church will be built – a church that will always seem to be butting up against the gates of Hades and the specter of the evil that binds people to sin and death (vv. 18-19). Peter will hold the keys to the kingdom, the one who takes up the earthly authority of Jesus to “bind” and “loose” in Jesus’ name through the teaching and leadership of Peter and the rest of the disciples, then and now.

This was a big job –carrying on Jesus’ own ministry in doing battle with the forces of evil, which are represented by the devil.

 

Following Jesus is Never Easy, but it is the Only Way to Eternal Life

Every day we’re presented with a choice about whose kingdom we’re going to follow. “Stand at the crossroads, and look,” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). For Jesus, that path is a crossroad.  It’s also a crossroad for us.

As we begin a new school year, it’s a good time to take a moment and think about the choices that we encounter each day.  Where do you see people making deals with the Devil in our community?

Every day, we are bombarded with messages that say not only can we have it all, we SHOULD have it all.  The question we have to keep before us is, “will having it all get me closer to Jesus or further from Him?” What should we be saying ‘no’ to in order to have a soul that is shaped like Jesus’?

As a church, how are we providing alternatives to the temptations of the culture around us?  How are we challenging the gates of hell?

Find the good way, and always walk in it!