Taking on the devil

Monday, July 26th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 9: The Conquest of Evil

A friend attended a teen conference at which the speaker urged the youth to “take on the devil.” With rash words and brash self-confidence, he practically dared the devil to attack, insisting that the youth would whup him when he did. My friend was appalled by this foolhardy behavior, as was I when the story was recounted to me.

I couldn’t help but think of my friend’s experience as I read Stott’s description of triumphalism vs. defeatism.

“Some are triumphalists, who see only the decisive victory of Jesus Christ and overlook the apostolic warnings against the powers of darkness. Others are defeatists, who see only the fearsome malice of the devil and overlook the victory over him which Christ has already won. The tension is part of the Christian dilemma between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’.”

The truth is that Christ has defeated Satan. He is a conquered foe. Yet, although the crushing blow has been delivered, the enemy has not been eradicated. He still has power within this world. To nonchalantly taunt the enemy is foolhardy and unbiblical. Jude 9 states that even the archangel did not dare to bring an accusation against the devil, but said “The Lord rebuke you.”

Some will assert that we have been given authority over demons, citing Luke 9 and 10. A careful reader will see that this is an occasion in which Christ specifically gives the twelve and the seventy authority over demons. This cannot necessarily be transferred directly to all believers. But even if that authority is transferable, we should take to heart Jesus’ caution in Luke 10:17

“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

It is worthwhile for us to develop a healthy Biblical view of satan–a view that sees him as a formidable foe, but as one who has ultimately been defeated at the cross. Keeping these two thoughts in mind can keep us from running in fear of the enemy as the defeatists do, and from rushing heedlessly into battle as the triumphalists do. Instead, these two realizations help us to put into action the call of God in spiritual warfare: to stand, to resist the devil, and to proclaim Christ.

“First, we are told to resist the devil…We are not to be afraid of him. Much of his show of power is bluff, since he was overthrown at te cross, and we need the courage to call his bluff. Clad in the full armour of God, we can take our stand against him. We are not to flee from him, but on the contrary to resist him so that he flees from us. Our own feeble voice, however is not sufficiently authoritative to dismiss him….

Secondly, we are told to proclaim Jesus Christ. The preaching of the cross is still the power of God. It is by proclaiming Christ crucified and risen that we shall turn people ‘from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God’, and so the kingdom of satan will retreat before the advancing kingdom of God.”

~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

(See more of my notes on The Cross of Christ.)

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