The Best In Satan's Arsenal!
By Minister Raymond D. Sopp
Genesis 3:14-15: "And the Lord God said to the serpent, 'because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise (crush) you on the head, and you shall bruise (crush) him on the heel.'"
Satan succeeded in his quest to corrupt God's creation. He managed to corrupt God's most cherished and precious creation, mankind, whom God fashioned into His own image. Satan defrauded Adam and Eve into exchanging God's glory for his corruption. They immediately found not only that they themselves, but also that which God gave them -- dominion over the earth -- had entered into Satan's corrupt kingdom of self-centeredness. Adam and Eve were defrauded by Satan into thinking that moving from the position of a servant to that of a god was a step forward in their evolution. Instead, all they found was the consummate peril of nakedness!
The corruption of self-centeredness, or godhood, had now permeated God's creation. The corruption of self-centeredness immediately began to bare its fruit of anger, strife, jealousy, covetousness, selfishness, envy, greed, lust, hatred, vengeance, etc. From mankind on down, the law of the land was now the survival of the fittest. Instead of a kingdom of servants, we now have a kingdom which delights in devouring one another, just so we can say in a spirit of egotistical pride, "I am my own god!" Even today mankind continues down the same path of godhood, by deciding for himself what is good and what is evil, without perceiving his own pathetic nakedness. From time to time mankind is willing to help his fellow man, if he can derive from it a sense of self-satisfying condescension, or gain some future advantage for himself. Mankind may even obey God Himself if he sees a self-serving advantage in it. But then, his shameless naked attitude of godhood is exposed as he becomes enraged at God if he perceives his act of obedience, or benevolence resulted in personal loss instead of gain. Is it no wonder that we who are Christians perceive this corrupt creation to be as close to hell as we will, or ever want to be.
From time to time I hear people say that they would rather be a god in hell than a servant in heaven. What a profound display of spiritual blindness or ignorance, and/or a consummate display of perverted logic! As a god in a kingdom of gods, in other words hell, the only person you have to look after you is yourself, within a world where there is a vast myriad of other gods lusting for power and dominion over you. At the same time you're lusting and waiting for the opportunity to pay back in kind for evil done to you and/or gain dominion over someone else. Now to me that would be hell! Whereas, in a kingdom of servants, you will indeed have to give up your godhood -- your self-centeredness -- your self-concern, and begin to treat others as you would treat yourself. But you may say, "If I don't look out for myself, who will?" Well, in a kingdom of servants you would indeed no longer be looking out for yourself, but you would gain a vast myriad of other servants who would be looking out for you. In other words, in Satan's kingdom you'll be alone amidst a vast myriad of enemies, but in God's kingdom you'll be laying your life down in exchange for a vast myriad of servants, anxiously waiting to pick up your life. As for me, I see great gain in God's kingdom.
Accordingly, now the sayings of Jesus begin to sound incredibly wise, and not nearly as foolish as we had once thought. Luke 9:23-24: "And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, 'if anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.'" And Luke 12:29-34: "And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And finally Luke 22:24-27: "And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He (Jesus) said to them, 'the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.'"
In other words, we must let go and let God handle our affairs and concerns. We must deny ourselves and let God, our creator, become God of our lives once again. What a scary thing to do! I guess that's why it is written in Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Only then can we have the courage and freedom to become a servant to all. To have the courage and freedom to love someone even if they do not love us back -- to do good to those who persecute us -- to take up our cross and follow Jesus -- to regard another as more important than ourselves -- to let go of a suffered wrong, forgive, and then love our enemy. Otherwise, we will remain a slave to self-centeredness, concerned only for others if we can perceive a benefit for ourselves. Hence, we will quickly become embittered when we perceive "an unfairness" in our lives which seems inharmonious to our labor of "love", if we can call it love. Hebrews 12:15: "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." And who do we usually end up getting mad and/or embittered at? None other then God Himself! Ergo, Satan wins another battle.
Although Satan won the first battle, God declared the victory, "He shall bruise (crush) you on the head, and you shall bruise (crush) him on the heel." Accordingly, God moved quickly and cut mankind off from the tree of life and allowed death to reign so mankind's fate (corruption) would not become sealed in perpetuity. Then God placed in motion His plan of redemption for His most cherished and precious creation, mankind. In the fulness of time, when our redemption was at hand, Satan knew this meant his head would soon be crushed. This would mean that Satan would have no choice but to set free those prisoners of corruption (mankind) who accepted God's plan of redemption. Therefore, Satan used "THE BEST IN HIS ARSENAL" of deception to thwart God's plan of redemption. Hence, God's lamb -- God's only Son -- Jesus, the restorer of the breach, became the recipient of Satan's best deceptions. Now we know where to look to familiarize ourselves with his deceptive tactics. And now we also have insight to some of the characteristics that are present in both God's kingdom and in Satan's kingdom. All of which can now be used to help us discern and consequently avoid the snares and deceptions of our enemy, Satan.
Matthew 4:1-4: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, 'if You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'it is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" The Scripture Jesus quoted originated from Deuteronomy 8:1-3, "All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." Why would the Spirit of God lead both Israel and Jesus out into the wilderness and allow them both to become hungry? To test their heart (spirit) to see if obedience was from their lips only, or truly genuine and steadfast within their heart!
Hebrews 5:8: "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." Unfortunately, there is no other way to test the genuineness of your obedience than to be placed in a situation where you have the power to say NO, and to say YES would mean saying no to your own desires and/or needs. You place two plates in front of your child. One plate has a cookie placed upon it, but the other has a vegetable placed upon it. Being much wiser than the child, and therefore knowing what's best, you say to the child, eat the vegetable and leave the cookie alone. And if the child eats the vegetable and walks away from the cookie, you have indeed found a genuine heart of obedience. But if you say to the child, eat the cookie and leave the vegetable alone, and the child does so, you still have not proven genuine obedience. Why? Because, you were actually in agreement with the child; therefore, all that was proven was that the child could be obedient to himself. And being obedient ONLY to self is actually nothing more than the definition of rebellion. And if this rebellion (self-centeredness) continues unabated, the child will grow up as a god, determining right and wrong solely on the basis of what's best for him or her personally. Therefore, concerned only for himself or herself, the concerns and the desires of anyone else simply vanish. The only thing in their heart which now has any value or significance is that which he or she sees in the mirror.
Hebrews 12:26-27: "And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, 'yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.' And this expression, 'yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." There will be no created being in the new heavens and new earth which has not been tested for this spirit of rebellion. The new heavens and new earth will be unshakable (rebellion free) for eternity. Revelation 20:7-8: "And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth." God held Satan in reserve so he could be used once again, at the end of times, to test the genuineness of obedience within the hearts of mankind. Why? Because there is NO other way.
Satan's temptation toward Jesus was exceedingly cunning when he started his sentence with, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." Satan knew the second Jesus used His power to satisfy His own desire, it would in fact prove just the opposite, that He was not God's Son. Remember the characteristic seen in God's kingdom is that of a servant whose concerns and desires are always expressed outward, and never, never inward. John 7:38: "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" The living waters, a.k.a. the Holy Spirit, will ALWAYS flow outward, never inward. Why then are people perplexed when someone filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and has the gift of healing, cannot use the gift upon himself? In the same way, why were people perplexed by Jesus in Mark 15:31-32, "In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, 'he saved others; he cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!'" Ah! But if He did come down from the cross, would He not have proven just the opposite? This time Satan lost.
Matthew 4:5-7: "Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'if You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge concerning You; and on their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.' Jesus said to him, 'on the other hand, it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Jesus was referring to Exodus 17:2-3, "Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'give us water that we may drink.' And Moses said to them, 'why do you quarrel with me? Why do you TEST the Lord?' But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, 'why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?'" And Exodus 17:7: "And he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they TESTED the Lord, saying, 'is the Lord among us, or not?'"
Was Jesus actually going to trust God's Word without testing it first? If Satan could tempt Jesus into mistrusting and doubting God's Word enough to feel the need to test it, would it not have caused an erosion to take place in Jesus' obedience? Accordingly, if Jesus would have given in to Satan's temptation, how then could Jesus face the excruciating pain of the cross which awaited Him? After all, how could Jesus become obedient to God the Father and allow Himself to suffer the excruciating death of the cross if God the Father could not be absolutely trusted? However, Jesus remembered a time in Israel's history when they doubted God's presence due to their circumstances. But then Israel soon discovered that God was not only with them, but was trying to prepare them for the battles which lay ahead; inasmuch as it was impossible to enter the "Promised Land" and defeat their enemies without a deep abiding faith and trust in God.
If Israel had gone into the "Promised Land" without this deep abiding faith and trust in God, they would have turned back at the first sign of any suffering from the hands of their enemies, and/or found their nation annihilated from the face of the earth, and ultimately would have thwarted God's plan of redemption. Remembering Israel's mistake, Jesus was able to say with complete confidence, faith, and trust, "On the other hand, it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."
Remember what Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29, "Jesus said to him (Thomas), 'because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'" God did not want to reveal His hand to Israel in their time of tribulation, because if He did, their faith and trust in Him would not grow sufficient enough to face their enemies. On the other hand, we found that Jesus was able to face His cross even when His circumstances demanded a verdict of abandonment, because Jesus was able to trust God at His Word without seeing. Otherwise, how could He have made a statement of ABANDONMENT one moment in Matthew 27:46, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" And yet at the very next moment make a statement of absolute TRUST in Luke 23:46, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." Like Jesus, we MUST learn to trust God without seeing, inasmuch as our Lord God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Matthew 4:8-10: "Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, 'all these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'begone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" Now panic stricken, Satan was willing to give up his possession of the whole world in the hope to thwart God's plan of redemption. And all Jesus had to do to worship Satan and gain the whole world was to put Himself first and God the Father second. Now, if Satan was willing to give up the whole world to keep us out of heaven, would that not strongly suggest to us that we should be equally willing to give up this world to gain heaven!? That's why Jesus said in Mark 8:36, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" Well, Jesus did not have to think twice about it as He declared: "Begone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only."
Finally, in an act of shear desperation, Satan pleaded with Jesus to be merciful to Himself through one of His disciples. Satan even used the disciple who Jesus just hours before said that he was blessed because God revealed to his heart that He (Jesus) was indeed the Son of God. Satan thought, just maybe, he could deceive Jesus into thinking it was God once again speaking to Peter's heart in Matthew 16:22-23, "And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'God forbid it (or God be merciful to You), Lord! This shall never happen to You.' But He turned and said to Peter, 'get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.'" But Satan's last desperate attempt to deceive Jesus was to no avail. As soon as Jesus heard that He should take thought of Himself, He immediately knew that it was just that old tempter Satan again. Because the characteristic -- the nakedness -- of self-centeredness, and selfishness can only be found in Satan's kingdom -- hell!
My most precious brothers and sisters in the Lord, the shaking of our Lord's Church as quoted above in Hebrews 12:26-27, has begun. This shaking MUST take place before the second coming of our Lord for His Church -- His bride. 1 Peter 4:17: "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" Our Lord is at the door and will be coming back soon for those who cannot be shaken. Therefore pray, "Lord keep me from temptation and the evil one. And deliver me safely into Your Kingdom according to your Word." 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to ENDURE it." AMEN! And to God be the glory!
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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