Duped and disarmed

Though God the Father ordained the cross to deal with sin… Jesus was also nailed to the cross via the actions of secondary agents —rulers and authorities — such as Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and even Satan.

The “rulers and authorities” of Rome and Israel, as well as their father the Devil, disarmed Jesus, stripped Him naked, held Him up to open shame, and celebrated what they thought was their triumph over Him.

But despite these horrific details of the death that Jesus died, its paradoxical: for on the cross, God was disarming the powers, stripping them naked, triumphing over them, and holding them up to public contempt.

What Satan thought to be the end of his hated enemy once and for all, turned out to be the complete opposite. Death did not have the final say, for God raised His Son from the dead, proving that He is sovereign and evil does not get the last word.

In many parts of the world today, and in nearly all cultures, there are a lot of superstitions, which are conjured up to help protect people from the very real threat of what we know to be demons, even if they go by other names elsewhere.

But, thanks be to God, as Christians, we need never fear this dark demonic domain, for when Christ was crucified and raised from death to life, Satan realized he had been duped and disarmed.

John Calvin says that the demons “are disarmed, so that they cannot bring forward anything against us… our guilt being itself destroyed.” Demonic powers cannot rightly accuse those who are in Christ of guilt, nor can they possess Christians or separate us from God’s love.

So, this Easter, revel in the fact that Satan can no longer hold your guilt against you, he’s been disarmed and put to shame. We are the victors in Christ!

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” Colossians 2:15

The Agony of Defeat

Though it’s been forty years since I played in the NFL – wow, can that even be possible? – I still keep up enough to both enjoy and be miserable, week in and week out, concerning how my team’s performing. Many people assume that I root for the Saints because I played for them, but that’s actually not the case. I’ve always rooted for the team closest to the city that I live in. That said, for the last 28 years, my team has been the Atlanta Falcons.

It was so exciting to see them pull off home field advantage in the playoffs, and then commanding victories led to them facing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. I kept saying over the two weeks leading up to the game that I really thought they had a very good chance of winning the game. That result was exciting to think about, especially considering that the Falcons had only been to one Super Bowl and had never won one.

Then it happened. I’m sitting with friends, enjoying great food, and repeatedly jumping up to holler and give a high five, as Atlanta dominates in every aspect of the game. They were so far ahead, and then the Patriot’s started slowly coming back. Still, it seemed virtually impossible that Atlanta could lose the game based on the score and time left.

But it happened. The seemingly impossible happened. The sure-fire winner of Super Bowl 51, actually lost the game in overtime. It was absolutely devastating.

I was reminded of ABCs Wide World of Sports that ran on Saturday’s years ago. It was about the human drama of athletic competition. The intro always showed excerpts of glorious victories followed by epic tragedies from sporting events. Over this montage of quick clips the narrator said, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport. The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”

All that got me thinking about some of the greatest sure-fire-win to epic-loss scenarios from history. Many are athletic events, but not all. As I ran through the list in my head, several came to mind from the Bible. Of course there’s David and Goliath. Who saw that coming! But there’s another one from the Bible that trumps them all. It will forever be the greatest comeback of all time. I’m speaking of the resurrection.

How I felt immediately after the Falcons sudden loss had to be similar to how Satan felt when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The thrill of what the devil assumed was his greatest victory, suddenly turned into the agony of defeat.

The good news is that unlike the Falcons loss, Satan’s loss that day will never be forgotten or diminished. The Falcons aren’t finished, there’s still hope of winning a Super Bowl. Satan’s loss, was eternal. It was the greatest and most epic failure in all of human history. Making Jesus right when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.”

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25

A pig in a poke

There’s a story of a young man named Tom who bought a cow from an old farmer for $250, sight unseen. He trusted the farmer. The next day, however, when Tom came to pick up the cow he discovered that it was dead. Shocked, Tom demanded that the old farmer give him his money back. “Can’t do that” said the farmer, “I spent it already.”

Tom thought about it for a moment and then said, “OK, I’ll take the dead cow.” “What are you going to do with him?” the farmer asked. Tom said, “I’m going to raffle him off.” The farmer said, “You can’t raffle off a dead cow!” “Sure I can, watch me” said Tom, “just like you, I won’t tell anybody its dead.”

A month later, the farmer met up with Tom and asked, “What happened with that dead cow?” “I raffled him off” said Tom. “I sold 500 tickets at five dollars apiece and made a profit of $2,495.” “Did anyone complain?” the farmer asked. “Just the guy who won,” Tom said, “So I gave him his 5 dollars back.”

Tom grew up and is now a political consultant. Tom was very cleaver. Deceitful, but cleaver!

My father used to use the term all the time. “Don’t buy a pig in a poke!” The saying was first recorded in London around 1530. It was intended to be good advice to honorable traders. A poke is a small bag or sack used to stuff a piglet in for sale at the local market. The proverb encapsulates “buyer beware”. In other words, always inspect the goods before you pay for them. Make the seller open his poke. Pull the piglet out and examine him. Never just trust an old farmer because he looks honest.

The Bible says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light? Satan is just like that old farmer, and even more like Tom. He knows that what he has to sell is actually dead. But he also knows that he’s a great salesman. Good enough to get us to think that he’s truthful and trustworthy. The devil is always selling a pig in a poke. Satan hopes that buyers will not beware, act on impulse, and buy the lie.

Don’t do it! Don’t buy a pig in a poke! Always be careful to examine what you’re being asked to buy. Take it out of the bag and check it out in the light of God’s truth.

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Satan

Dualism, as a philosophy and a religion, has hovered over Christianity from the beginning. Dualism teaches that the universe is the staging area, the combat zone, for two equal and opposite beings who struggle with each other eternally.

Though Satan is a dangerous foe, many make the mistake of attributing to him power that he does not possess. Satan is not omnipotent or omnipresent. Nor does he have the power to actually perform miracles, though he can counterfeit them.

The Bible teaches that Satan is a finite spiritual being. In short, he is a created creature. He’s more powerful that we are, but he is in no way as powerful as Almighty God.

There are two primary myths about Satan that he continually props up. He loves spreading disinformation about himself. His marketing team has done a masterful job of convincing people that only one or the other of these false narratives is true.

Myth one, is that Satan is a ridiculous myth. As a mythical figure, he can be lots of fun and funny Disney type characters like a ghost or goblin, or a harmless foe who wears red flannel underwear, has horns and a long tail. Myth two, is Dualism, the belief that Satan is every bit as powerful as God and is an equal force on equal footing.

What I find interesting is that Hollywood, those producing TV programs and movies, actually seem to totally buy into either one or the other of these positions. Think about the TV shows or movies that you’ve seen that includes Satan as a part of the cast. He’s either depicted as a harmless foolish and funny character that everyone with a sane mind knows does not really exist. Or he’s depicted as an evil and all powerful force that is almost impossible to stop.

Christians who have studied God’s Word, however, know better. We are fully aware that Satan is real, and we know that if we’re not paying attention he can reap havoc in our lives. That’s why Peter warns us to be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

But, we also know that as a created creature, Satan is totally subject to God, and not a match for God’s sovereignty and power. For greater is he that is in us, than he who is in this world!

“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:2

Fear

Fear

The story is told of Linda Burnett, 23, a resident of San Diego, who was visiting her in-laws. While there she went to a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries.

Later, her husband noticed her sitting in her car in the driveway with the windows rolled up and with her eyes closed, with both hands behind the back of her head. Concerned he walked over to the car and noticed that Linda’s eyes were now open and she looked very strange.

He asked her if she was okay, and Linda replied that she had been shot in the back of the head and had been holding her brains in for over an hour. The husband called the paramedics, who broke into the car because the doors were locked and Linda refused to remove her hands from her head.

When they finally got in, they found that Linda had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded from the heat, making a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot. The wad of dough had hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She initially passed out, but quickly recovered.

We laugh at that story, but can you imagine how scary that was for her. One minute everything’s great and then, BANG, someone’s shot her and she’s left trying to keep her brains from falling out. Of course, it was all in her head (pun intended). Nothing she thought was happening actually happened.

There are fifty seven verses in the Bible about fear. The Bible mentions two specific types of fear. The first type is beneficial and is to be encouraged. The second type is a detriment and is to be overcome. The first type of fear is fear of the Lord. This is a healthy fear, a reverential and respectful awe of God; a reverence for His power and glory.

The second type of fear is straight from pit of hell. It’s an attacking fear from the enemy of our soul. Even though I’m not a fearful person by nature, sometimes fear just grabs me. It’s as if Satan knows when I’m vulnerable and he strikes.

When this fake fear grabs me, I immediately go to the Psalms. There I find perspective. There I’m reminded that the key to overcoming fear is total and complete trust in God. In Psalm 56:11 the psalmist writes, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

The end of fear is knowing that God’s got your back, and He’s in complete control.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7