Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

Having spent considerable time and energy over the last weeks and months reading John Calvin, that great Genevan Reformer, I now have the splendid opportunity to study Martin Luther as well.  And oh what a joy! It’s as if someone should’ve said to me: “If you liked Calvin (for all the right reasons, of course, not the wrong ones) well you’re going to love Luther.” And they would’ve been right of course.

The same theological, hermeneutical, homiletical, and pastoral insight which made Calvin such a dear and shining light to many, is there in its brash and bold (and yet foundational) form in Luther. And is it ever encouraging to read.  Indeed I can think of few things as delightful to the soul. However, enough already… Let’s get to some Luther quotes.  From his “What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels” (1521).

After explaining how some confuse the Gospel as merely referring to the four first books of the New Testament, Luther wrote:

There is, besides, the still worse practice of regarding the gospels and epistles as law books in which is supposed to be taught what we are to do and in which the works of Christ are pictured to us as nothing but examples. Now where these two erroneous notions remain in the heart, there neither the gospels nor the epistles may be read in a profitable or Christian manner, and [people] remain as pagan as ever.

The stout German is obviously off to a good start. But one can leave it to the ‘wild boar’ to run a royal rampage across deception and unbelief. He then defines Gospel per se:

Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ, just as happens among men when one writes a book about a king or prince, telling what he did, said, and suffered in his day. Such a story can be told in various ways; one spins it out, and the other is brief. Thus the gospel is and should be nothing else than a chronicle, a story, a narrative about Christ, telling who he is, what he did, said, and suffered–a subject which one describes briefly, another more fully, on this way, another that way.

There you have it. The gospel is a story about Christ.

He then goes on to show that this same gospel is the one we get in the Old Testament as well:

Thus when Isaiah in chapter fifty-three says how Christ should die for us and bear our sins, he has written the pure gospel. And I assure you, if a person fails to grasp this understanding of the gospel, he will never be able to be illuminated in the Scripture nor will he receive the right foundation.

Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws. Therefore you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner. First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate. As St. Peter says in 1 Peter 4, “Christ suffered for us, thereby leaving us an example.” Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows the love, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. However this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel. For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint. His life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you.

In short this mode [of understanding Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites. You must grasp Christ at a much higher level. Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare. The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own. [emphasis mine] – Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. Timothy F. Lull, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2005). 93-95.

Well, I don’t know how one could ever strike any more deftly at the very vitals and heart-beat of unbelief.  This penetrates to the core of all false teaching and apostasy which teaches us not to believe in Christ as everything for our salvation, but rather someone and something just shy of it.  Some thing (no matter how small or seemingly reasonable) must be left outstanding.  And just as surely one believes this then all one’s glorying in Christ and his cross falls faint to the ground.

And what’s more, the human heart, in its pride, ever resists such a free gift from our Gratuitous Benefactor and Heavenly Father. And as much as we might think we can today find evidence to the contrary, there’s nothing we like less than a free handout — and from God, least of all. It restlessly tugs against such an offer of absolute and unconditional grace. And of course our sinful hearts are joined in a distorted chorus by the world and the devil, ever providing a relentless deluge of resistance.

And yet the Gospel truly is good news… the best in the world…in all creation. May God by his mercy grant us ears to hear, and hearts to understand, how great and marvelous his love is toward us. Amen.

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In the first place, it should be directed not only against the opponents outside the Church but also against the opponents within. The opponents of Holy Scripture do not become less dangerous, but they become far more dangerous, when they are within ecclesiastical walls.

At that point, I am well aware that widespread objection arises at the present time. Let us above all, men say, have no controversy in the Church; let us forget our small theological differences and all repeat together Paul’s hymn to Christian love. As I listen to such pleas, my Christian friends, I think I can detect in them rather plainly the voice of Satan. That voice is heard, sometimes, on the lips of good and truly Christian men, as at Caesarea Philippi it was heard on the lips of the greatest of the Twelve. But Satan’s voice it is, all the same.

– J. G. Machen. Article found here.

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So here’s some John Calvin on spiritual warfare… A good reminder for us always I think.

“We have been forewarned that an enemy relentlessly threatens us, an enemy who is the very embodiment of rash boldness, of military prowess, of crafty wiles, of untiring zeal and haste, of every conceivable weapon and of skill in the science of warfare.  We must, then, bend our every effort to this goal: that we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed by carelessness or faintheartedness, but on the contrary, with courage rekindled stand our ground in combat.  Since this military service ends only at death, let us urge ourselves to perseverance.  Indeed, conscious of our weakness and ignorance, let us especially call upon God’s help, relying upon him alone in whatever we attempt, since it is he alone who can supply us with counsel and strength, courage and armor.” (Institutes 1.14.13)

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“Consider that it is the greatest desire of God the Father that you should have loving fellowship with him. His greatest desire is that you should receive him into your souls as one full of love, tenderness and kindness to you. Flesh and blood is apt to think hard thoughts of God, to think that he is always angry and incapable of being pleased with his sinful creatures, that it is not for them to draw near to him, and that there is nothing in the world more to be desired than never to come into his presence. ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ say the sinners in Zion. ‘I knew that you were a hard man’, said the evil servant in the gospel.

Now, there is nothing more grievous to the Lord, nothing that serves the purposes of Satan more than such thoughts as these. Satan rejoices when he can fill your hearts with such hard thoughts of God. Satan’s purpose from the beginning was to fill mankind with lies about God. The first blood that murderer shed was by this means. He led our first parents into hard thoughts about God. ‘Has God said so? Has he threatened you with death? He knows well enough that if you eat of this fruit, it will be much better for you.’ With these lies he succeeded in overthrowing all mankind at once. And remembering this great victory, he readily uses the same method with us.

Now it is exceedingly grievous to the Spirit of God to be so slandered in the hearts of those whom he dearly loves. How he remonstrates with his people. ‘What iniquity have you seen in me?’, he asks. ‘Have I been a wilderness to you, or a land of darkness?’. But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me’. And see the Lord’s reply: ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you’ (Isa. 49:14-16).

The Father knows that his people can bring no greater hurt to his loving heart than to have such hard thoughts of him. He knows full well what fruits this bitter root is likely to bear. He knows what alienations of heart, what drawing back, what unbelief this bitter root will bring forth. And worst of all, he knows how it leads us to avoid walking with him. How unwilling is  a child to come into the presence of an angry father! Consider, then, that receiving the Father as one who loves us gives him the honour he desires and is exceedingly pleasing to him. Scripture sets out his love in a noteworthy way. ‘He commends his love towards us’ (Rom 5.8). ‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us’ (1 John 3.1). Why, then, this foolishness? Why are we afraid to have good thoughts of God? Is it too hard to think of God as good, gracious, tender, loving and kind? I speak of saints. How easy we find it to think of God as hard, austere, severe, unable to be pleased and fierce, which are the very worst characteristics of men and therefore the most hated by God (Rom 1.31; 2 Tim 3.3). How easily Satan deceives us! Was it not his purpose from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God into our hearts? Assure yourself, then, that there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep our hearts filled with him as the eternal source of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.

Many saints have no greater burden in their lives than that their hearts to not constantly delight and rejoice in God. There is still in them a resistance to walking close with God. Why is this? Is it not because they are not skilful and so neglect having loving fellowship with the Father? But the more we see of God’s love, so much more shall we delight in him. All that we learn of God will only frighten us away from him if we do not see him as loving and merciful to us. But if your heart is taken up with the Father’s love as the chief property of his nature, it cannot help but choose to be overpowered, conquered and embraced by him. This, if anything, will arouse our desire to make our eternal home with God. If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?

So do this: set your thoughts on the eternal love of the Father and see if your heart is not aroused to delight in him. Sit down for a while at this delightful spring of living water and you will soon find its streams sweet and delightful. You who used to run from God, will not now be able, even for a second, to keep at any distance from him.”

John Owen ‘Communion with God.’ Pages 31-33.
Abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law. Banner of Truth Trust 1991, 2008.

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“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. (1 Sam 2:1)”

Wow, there’s a lot in that phrase. But, ‘my mouth derides my enemies’? Because I rejoice in your salvation!

Think about who your enemies are. Obviously, Hannah, here, had certain enemies in mind. If we read from the text we find,

And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Sam 1:6-7)”

Who are our enemies? Do we have any enemies? We may or may not have people in our lives that we would call our “enemies”. But there is one who we should not forget is our enemy – indeed our mortal enemy. And that is Satan, the great accuser of the saints. He is against us entirely because God is for us. And since God has loved us with a love in Christ that is so immeasurably great, Satan now hates us with all the vehemence he can muster. And we must not underestimate this fact; that he is furious at us and means to do us harm — to destroy us even, if that were possible (we have Christs promise that none can take us out of his hand).

Yet, even though Christ has won the war (and the outcome is sure), Satan hasn’t figured on giving up. And not withstanding God’s absolute sovereignty, the Devil still plots as much mayhem as possible. These are the battles that we fight in the Christian life. Indeed we are up against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Yet Paul says,

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)”

So figuring that the Joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh 8:10) how can we recognize this as it regards facing our enemies in the spiritual realms? Hannah says, “My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.”

Brothers and sisters, let us consider how we may “rejoice with joy” (1 Pet 1:8) in our salvation, and in Christ our savior and in the glorious grace that has been shown us in him, and thus “deride” our enemy — that accuser of the brethren. For we may be sure this is the very last thing that he would have us doing. But if we are to resist the Devil that he might flee from us (Jas 4:7) let us indeed rejoice in God. And not just for that reason, but may it be to submit to God; may it be to give him the most glory in our lives; may it be to magnify the glory of his grace; may it be to the praise of his name.

“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Rev 12:10)”

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