|Volume 20 Number 2 February 2018||
Satan on the Run (James 4:7-10)
“The soul is a citadel which no enemy can storm without consent.” Yet, brethren give way to the devil. James gave a double warning against being “double minded” (1:8; 4:8). Such is a good description of a worldly church member who needs to be converted (4:8; 5:19-20)! Three things stand out in our text to help us in our confrontation with the devil.
First, the devil is our foe. He is a personal foe. He tempted Jesus, entered Judas, desired to have Peter and hindered Paul! So is it with us, too.
The devil is a powerful foe. This is demonstrated in several ways. Note the names by which the devil is known: Apollyon, Devil, Satan, Prince and Beelzebub. Observe the creatures with which Satan is associated: Serpent, lion and dragon. See the accomplishments of the devil: moral depravity and ruin of the whole human race. Therefore, divine intervention is needed to subdue him (1 John 3:8).
Satan is a prowling foe (Job 1:6-7; 1 Peter 5:8). He is no mythical or cartoon character in a red jogging suit. The devil is not a personification of “evil”—with a “d” added. He is no shy, backward being (Job 2:1; Matthew 4:1; 2 Corinthians 11:14).
We must fight or “resist.” What does it mean to resist? To resist is to stand against, to withstand, to argue with, reason with or plead with. Preparation is needed for such an undertaking (Ephesians 6:10-16). Other imperatives or steps needed in resisting include: You submit to God; be in subjection. You draw nigh unto God; enjoy close communion (Hebrews 10:22). You cleanse your hands—guard your outward conduct (1 Timothy 2:8; Psalm 24:3-4). You purify your hearts; inspect your inner motives (1 Peter 1:22; Psalm 66:18). You show genuine repentance (Matthew 5:4). Repentance is associated with being “afflicted,” to make oneself wretched (Romans 7:24), and “heaviness,” casting down of eyes in shame (Luke 18:13). You humble yourselves (v. 6).
Here are some observations about these imperatives. These verbs are in the aorist tense, indicating that these things are to be done once for all, as a settled thing. Just forsaking sin is not enough. Age and circumstances may cure us of some lusts, while the evil of such was never felt or admitted by us. There is a repentance of which one needs to repent (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Secondly, the devil “will flee from you.” Satan may not leave at first, or he may only temporarily (“he departed from him for a season,” Luke 4:13). Wolves will flee from earnest attackers, but they will defend themselves against those in whom they sense even the least fear. What you do will determine what the devil will do! “Flee”; seek safety by flight. The devil, too, will shrink back, stand aloof, if resisted.
Those who resist the devil will enjoy other promises. God will draw near to them (Ezekiel 18:32; Luke 15:20). Further, God will lift you up—“exalt” you (1 Peter 5:6).
If the devil is living in your heart, it is time to evict him! Has Satan filled your heart with something (Acts 5:3)? Possibly, you need to leave his kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
The question posed in the title of this article must be asked on a congregational level. “Is the congregation of which I am a member stagnant?” When something is stagnant, it is sluggish, motionless and inactive. A congregation can become an assembly of run of the mill, pew warming, keeping the lights on, non-active Christians. Jesus rebuked the Laodicean church, which had become like many churches today—lukewarm in service to the Lord (Revelation 3:14-22). That ought to be a clarion call to modern Christians. Clearly, God has expectations for His churches that ought to be our goals and objectives, too. Consider some reasons for stagnation, results from stagnation and remedies for stagnation.
Although each situation and every Christian are different, let us be so bold as to suggest a few things that could easily cause stagnation. In the first place, laziness very well may be the cause for many inactive members of the local church. It is much easier to let someone else do the work! Paul spoke of the lazy man as being one who was undeserving of food (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Is the lazy Christian any different than the lazy man who was afraid of the cold and would starve in the harvest (Proverbs 20:4)? Sadly, many lazy Christians are the very ones who wonder why the church isn’t growing today as it once grew.
A second problem may be apathy. The Laodiceans seemed to be apathetic about their service, and as a result, they were very distasteful to our Lord (Revelation 3:15-16). A third reason for stagnation may be doubt in our personal abilities and talents. Surely there is always someone who could do a particular job better than we can, but is that a valid reason for each one not doing his best? A fourth reason for stagnation is sin. Too many are still active in Satan’s kingdom and are like the Israelites of Elijah’s day, “faltering between two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21).
A stagnant church will be ineffective and unproductive in God’s work (Titus 3:14). Our Lord would have us bearing fruit (John 15:5-8). When we are actively engaged in Jesus’ work, our Father is glorified (Matthew 5:16). Motionless Christians should take a lesson from deserted houses in our communities. When a house is neglected, the roof leaks, the ceilings are damaged, the floors decay and the home becomes unlivable. The wise man wrote, “Because of laziness the building decays and through idleness of hands the house leaks” (Ecclesiastes 10:18). Another inevitable result of stagnation in the local church is that a few are forced to do the work of the many. Very little is accomplished, and Satan is pleased by the lackluster efforts.
How may such a situation be remedied? We must wake up! “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14-16). Let us be renewed in dedication and in action for the greatest work ever given to man (Psalm 51:10-12). One has said, “A better church begins with a better me.” If the congregation of which you are a member needs to wake up and get moving, why don’t you wake up and get moving? Let us never become so distracted or discouraged that we fail to be about the King’s business. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:22).