2 Corinthians 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
Your daughter is on the club soccer team. Your son has a part-time job after school. You’ve just received a raise and more responsibility at work. Your cancer is in remission. Your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to take your relationship to the next level. You finally have your “man cave” or your crafting room.
And the devil laughs.
Try to imagine our world if the devil had control. What would Racine look like if Jesus took the leash off the devil and let him loose to create havoc?
Immediately our mind imagines that downtown Racine would look like Ukraine or Iraq. We imagine a strip club on Bate St. and a drug house on Olive St. We picture mass chaos, bloodshed, and moral decay.
Certainly Satan might appear as he does in Revelation – as a dragon tearing apart the fabric of our society.
Or he might appear as St. Paul describes him, “masquerading as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He might appear as an agent of good, giving you everything your heart desires. In that way tearing apart our society, thread by thread, seam by seam.
Your daughter is playing in a weekend tournament and your son is sleeping in after closing the store Saturday night. So they are not worshiping the God who game them their abilities and knowledge. And Satan approves.
You have more work to do for your job. You don’t have the time serve on any church committees or school groups. And Satan grins.
Your health has returned so you are not on your knees daily pouring out your heart to God in prayer. And Satan is pleased.
You are moving in with boyfriend or girlfriend. You know what God says but choose to ignore it for sexual pleasures. And Satan couldn’t be more ecstatic.
You finally have a room in your house all to yourself. You become more cloistered away from the rest of the family. And Satan loves it.
Satan enjoys anything that will take you away from Christ, His Word, His worship and your fellow believers.
The devil is scary when we imagine he is the power moving the pointer on the Ouija board. Or when a person is possessed by a demon in real life. Or a rock star is yelling onstage, “Who wants to go to hell?” and ten thousand teenagers are chanting, “We do.” Or when another family is torn to pieces by adultery or a woman is undone by her addictions or a little boy is destroyed by another sick man.
Those are times when the devil is roaring and ravenous like a dragon.
But the devil can be even scarier when he masquerades as an angel of light. All he has to do is lead us little by little away from Christ. We start measuring our happiness based on our surroundings, our busyness or our feelings instead of the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. The Evil One is a great con-artist who entices us to look away from Christ and focus instead on ourselves and on the perishable possessions we collect in this world. Keep in mind that a lot of things that distract us from Christ can seem like very good things.
So what would things look like if Satan took over Racine? Simply put, “Christ would not be preached.” Satan is winning if he is keeping you away from your Savior, from the forgiveness of your sins, from Word and Sacrament.
Satan is a predator in our lives. Since the dragon was expelled from heaven, he has brought his war to us here on earth. He is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He is an ancient serpent looking for someone to sink his teeth into. He is the destroyer and nothing good ever comes from him. He is the author of death and diseases, misery and heartache. He is the angel of light who sneaks up on us and leads us ever-so-slightly on the path to hell.
Ever since he fell, Satan has been all about possessing you – not necessarily in the overtly terrifying way we see in the Gospel accounts. He wants to keep you in the spiritual darkness he authored. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The devil will do anything, say anything, to obscure the lovely face of Christ, to keep us blind to our soul’s only Treasure.
The devil very seldom tempts people to sin by saying, “Here is a really bad idea, which is going to get you into a lot of trouble.” Nope, the father of lies (John 8:44) usually whispers into our ears: “I’m giving you a golden opportunity here. Try it, and I promise you’re going to enjoy the results.”
You can look at Genesis where the devil successfully tempted Adam and Eve by telling them his way was better than God’s way. Or we could reference the story of Oregon’s Sadie Renee Johnson. Johnson is a compassionate 23-year-old woman who cares deeply for her firefighter friends. Knowing they were bored with having nothing to do, she set a small fire.
It was her intention the fire be small and be put out in a day or two. Well, Johnson's good intentions got out of hand – as did her forest fire. The Sunnyside Turnoff Fire caused dozens of homes to be evacuated, covered 80 square miles, took nine days to contain and two months to extinguish. The bill for Johnson’s fire came in at $7.9 million.
Read through Scripture and you will find Johnson is hardly alone in listening to Satan’s wiley suggestions. King David thought a little glimpse of Bathsheba wasn’t such a bad idea; Achan believed taking a bit of gold and silver from fallen Jericho couldn’t cause any problems, and Ananias and Sapphira figured lying to the Lord was an O.K. thing to do.
They were wrong. Just as we are wrong when we think Satan’s suggestions can trump the Lord, His Law, and His love. Such a belief always – that’s always – leads to catastrophe.
Far better for God’s people to follow God’s plan. Far better for God’s people to follow Jesus.
Satan has tormented you. He has ripped your life apart. He has whispered seductively in your ear.
But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected (CW: 200). The King of creation has proclaimed, “Now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:31-32). Jesus announced this shortly before He died. Even as He hung on the cross, as Satan’s defeat was being written in holy blood, the “driving out” and “drawing in” had begun.
As if a spell was being broken, the dying thief begged, “Jesus, remember me” (Luke 23:42). A murderous centurion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). Secret disciples came out from hiding to bury their crucified Savior. The cry continues to ring out through the centuries, “It is finished.” And the noose around Satan’s neck grows ever tighter.
On Calvary’s crest, upon the cruel cross, Jesus Christ conquered. The message God sent to His churches in St. John’s day and still today is, “Appearances can be deceiving. Yes, there are still dragons out there. Yes, you cannot always trust those who appear in the light. But, whether you can see it now or not, Christ has conquered the dragon. The archangel has taken the mask off he who masquerades as an angel of light. The devil has gone down in defeat. Satan has been stopped.”
Let’s be very clear about who the devil is. He is not the opposite of God. He’s bad enough to be that, but he’s not big enough. The devil is powerful but he’s not a god; he’s not even close. He’s merely another creature. By the way, hell is not his home; it is his prison cell.
God made angels to watch over you and guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11). He doesn’t need their help, but uses them to provide for His children. The angels fight against those who were once there own. The angels did their part in God’s plan to conquer, defeat and destroy Satan and his demonic angels once and for all. Although the devil may win some skirmishes, the outcome of the war between good and evil has been decided. The great dragon has already been hurled down by the archangel and his angelic army. “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:10).
It was to defeat the devil and his demonic forces that Jesus entered our world. From that moment when the Christ Child first cried in the Bethlehem stable, the battle was engaged. At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, Satan, who managed over the millenniums to lead the world astray, tried those same tactics in the tempting Jesus. In the wilderness, he made appeals to Jesus’ senses. They were rebuffed with words of Scripture. Earthly power that would entice any normal individual was offered, and defiantly declined. A shortcut to the Savior’s years of suffering was suggested, and summarily rejected. There was no quick way for Jesus to save the sinful souls of this sorry planet. There was no smooth path to victory over the devil, or the many minor dragons he had spawned in this world.
While Jesus saw “Satan fall like lightening from the sky,” (Luke 10:18) it was here on earth where Jesus looked Satan in the eye and defeated him once and for all. It was not in heaven, but here on earth, where the greater victory took place, through the bloody cross and the open grave. For by the cross, the sins which Satan uses to accuse us were taken away and atoned for by Jesus. Jesus entered death in order to defeat death. Jesus rose from the dead and descended into hell to crash through its gates and stripped Satan of all his power.
So take courage. Rejoice. The Innocent Lamb defeated the Great Dragon! The Word conquered the Accuser! The Way, the Truth and the Life overcame the Father of Lies. Christ on the cross crushed the ancient serpent’s head. The Hand of God has silenced the roaring lion. The Gift of God is greater than the schemes of the Evil One. The archangel has hurled down the angel of light. There is nothing left to fear.
The devil has an unlimited number of disguises in his wardrobe. But our desire to grow in God’s Word should also be unlimited. Whether Satan shows up as an angel of light or darkness, the Gospel will always expose him for the liar and the murderer that he is (John 8:44). The pure Word of God will always chase him away (Matthew 4:11). As we sing in “A Mighty Fortress”, “One little word can fell him,” (CW: 200). And indeed, he’s judged, the deed is done. Our victory has been won! Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)!
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.” Amen. (Revelation 12:10