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Today, we honor those that are being persecuted because they have faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not something that is only occurring in far off lands although what we experience here pales in comparison to what occurs in those nations where persecution is a daily part of believer’s lives. Why is persecution still happening? We’ll answer that this morning as we take a look at Satan’s changing tactics.
Today’s passage comes from 1 Cor. 2:1-8. I encourage you to take a look at this before we go any further.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of how Satan continuously worked to prevent the coming of Jesus Christ. It started with the prophecy found in Gen 3:15 when God told him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Satan knew there would be One that would deliver mankind and he knew that One would come from the seed of the woman. Yet he didn’t know how and he didn’t know when. As a result, Satan began to systematically attack everything and anything in that road to redemption for mankind.
Satan attacks in numerous ways, but those attacks fall under two general categories. First, he attacks the Jesus that is inside of every authentic follower of Christ. When we’re attacked or persecuted, the reason is not because of us, but the life we live because of Jesus inside of us. The good we do because of Jesus. The Word we read and live out because of Jesus. The life we live that has been transformed because of Christ. Satan attempts to use the circumstances of a fallen world to his advantage. He wants to silence you, discredit you, scare you, raise doubt in you . . . he wants you to rely on yourself. Satan uses whatever tactic possible to take our focus off of Jesus and reassign that focus to ourselves. When the challenges and trials of life arise, do people turn to God or turn from God? I’ve seen this go both ways first hand. I’ve seen people turn their backs on God because of some issue or crisis in their life. What I find interesting is that there is rarely a realization or even consideration that sometimes that crisis is a result of decisions the individual has made. Satan uses that and whispers, “God doesn’t love you.” He says, “God isn’t who He says He is or this wouldn’t have happened.” Satan says, “God has abandoned you.” Satan says, “You are all alone.”
Sometimes though, he messes up. He did this with Stephen, the first one that we know of to die for Christ. Acts 6-7 records the incredibleness that was in Stephen’s life described by Luke as, “Full of grace and power.” (Acts 6:8) Satan attacked him because he was living a life totally transformed for Christ. The church was growing by leaps and bounds and the religious crowd didn’t like it. Acts 6:10 says, “They were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” They couldn’t handle the situation their way so, “They secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” (Acts. 6:11) Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin, the religious Council of the day where the prosecution, “Put forward false witnesses.” Picture this; Stephen is sitting in a courtroom of sorts to answer charges of blasphemy – punishable by death mind you. I have been in the St. Marys Municipal Court on many, many occasions and see people shake, cry, and get nauseous when answering for minor traffic offenses where punishment is up to a $1000.00 fine and up to a year in jail. Stephen is facing death and yet, “All who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15) The high priest asks Stephen if the accusations were true. Stephen acted as his own lawyer and his defense, recorded in Acts 7, consists of a history of Israel from Abraham to Joseph; from Moses to David to Solomon reminding the Council of what they should already know. The Council didn’t see it that way. They ran him out of town and stoned Stephen until he was dead. Acts 8:1, “And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” A man named Saul, “Began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3) The church not only survived, but “Those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” (Acts 8:4) Those early Christian didn’t let a small thing like death stop them from telling others about Jesus. Sometimes Satan chooses the wrong person to attack. Don’t allow Satan to attack you by attacking the Lord of your life.
The second way Satan attacks is to attack the written Word of God. Satan understands what a lot of Christians do not. The Word of God changes lives. If he can keep the Bible out of the hands of believers, he can minimize that power. In foreign countries he does it by influencing governments to make it illegal to own or possess a Bible. In the United States, he does it by convincing people it’s illegal to carry a Bible to school or work, or to read it during breaks or other authorized periods of down time. He also gets people in the church arguing over minor points of Scripture and ignoring the most important principles. He gets people so involved in worldly activities and people conclude there is no time to read let alone studying the Bible. He gets people, even professing believers, to deny certain passages and even conclude that the Bible is metaphorical and or allegorical. There are people, even in the church that deny the inerrancy of Scripture.
Satan knows how powerful God’s Word is. We see this when we look at the time Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He spent 40 days there and ate nothing. At the end of those 40 days, He was tired, hungry, and weak and then along comes Satan. Satan tempted Jesus by appealing to His physical hunger. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Lu. 4:3) Jesus’ response is deafening: “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone.” (Lu. 4:4) Jesus quoted Deut. 8:3. Satan tempts Jesus again by offering to give Him all the kingdoms of the world if He’d just worship Satan. Jesus responds by saying, “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” (Lu. 4:8) Jesus quoted Deut. 6:13. Finally Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself off the top of the temple challenging that if He was the Son of God, that angels would catch Him. Jesus responds in the same way, “It is said You shall not put the your God to the test.” (Lu. 4:12) Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:16. It looks like Jesus’ favorite book is Deuteronomy, but He actually quotes from 24 different Old Testament books. Jesus knows the power of the Bible and so does Satan. That’s why he is on a relentless campaign to keep Bibles out of people’s hands and minimize the importance of Bible reading to those that do have Bibles. Even in the church we see this and it falls right in Satan’s plan. Fewer and fewer people even bring their Bibles to church anymore. More and more pastors preach feel good messages with little substance and less power. Peter told us the importance of the Bible when he said, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet.1:23-25) And Peter quotes from Is. 40:8.
So there you have it. Satan attacks the Jesus in your heart and downplays His significance in your life. He attacks the good you do, the transformation that is occurring in your life and tries to keep you silent so that you will not tell others about our wonderful Savior. He also attacks the written Word of God. If he can keep you out of the Bible, he can keep you down. In those countries where having a Bible is illegal, efforts to smuggle them in is ongoing. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105) “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) If the words of Jesus are so important that they are eternal, isn’t it important that we know what they are? When Satan attacks, and he will, the only way to fight against him is to put on the full armor of God. When you do this, you can withstand his attacks and have victory in Jesus.