Forest Antemesaris • February 15, 2023
Recently, a music awards show was in the news for a provocative performance. In this performance, Satan was portrayed in an appealing and celebratory fashion. Whether or not the performers meant to make a statement about their religious beliefs or simply poke fun at Christian convictions, the shameless messaging is revealing. It is interesting how some who do not even believe that Satan exists will glorify him and masquerade as if he is “cool” or worthy of praise. (It should go without saying that those who portray Satan as such do not have our best interests in mind and should not be applauded or esteemed by Christians).
While the motivation for such performances is not explicitly given, it is always worth remembering that Satan is not what a godless culture makes him out to be. He is not a hip, cutting-edge revolutionary bringing liberation and freedom for the oppressed. He is an enslaver who captures the unsuspecting to do his bidding (Acts 26:18; 2 Tim. 2:26). He is a cruel master who promises what he can’t deliver and lures us with what we desire (2 Pet. 2:19). There is nothing glorious about the devil. Satan is not cool.
He Is a Murderer and a Liar
Satan is not a misunderstood anti-hero who is here to save the day. Those who view him as such have been deceived by him. The Son of God tells us the truth about the devil’s identity: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44 ESV).
Satan has been lying since the beginning (Gen. 3:4) and is working to deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9). His goal is “only to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10). This isn’t cool or glorious or worthy of celebration. It is heartbreaking and painful. The devil is an enemy to all that is good or right or pure. Unholiness is not something to celebrate, it is something to repent of (Heb. 12:14-17).
He Is a Defeated Foe
Satan and God are not destined for an eternal struggle. They are not engaged in a chess match that might end in a draw. We cannot choose to be “team Satan” and maybe squeak out a victory. Satan may be having a heyday, but we already know how the story ends. The Son of God is destroying the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8). When Satan struggles against God and His people, he is “defeated,” “thrown down,” and “conquered” (Rev. 12:8-11). Jesus has destroyed him through His death and resurrection (Heb. 2:14-16) and Satan “knows that his time is short!” (Rev. 12:12).
A godless, biblically ignorant culture likes to portray Satan as if he is the lord of the dead or the king of hell. Satan will not be reigning over anybody in hell. Gehenna will not be a party for Satan and his buddies. Satan will not be torturing anybody or dulling out any punishment. He will be tortured and punished. Satan will not have a good time in hell, and neither will those who follow him there. The Bible tells us of Satan’s end, and it is not glorious: “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever… And if anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:10, 15).
We Are Not Impressed or Afraid
As Christians, we do not have to be impressed with the cheap deceptions of our adversary; nor do we have to be afraid of his spiritual rebellion. We must always remember that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and we are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 11:14; 2:11). Likewise, we have no need to be afraid of him or those who seek to glorify him. He is a defeated foe who is conquered by the blood of the lamb (Rev. 12:11). We can resist him by remaining firm in the faith and he will flee from us (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).
We must love those who are enamored with Satan and are doing his will. We must strive to do whatever we can to help them repent: “save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 23). Our goal is to correct God’s opponents with gentleness so that “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Satan is not worth celebrating, but salvation is.
Forest Antemesaris • January 31, 2023
One of the most underutilized weapons in the Christian’s arsenal is prayer. The crowning aspect of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 is “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). We should listen to the songs we sing and take the messages to heart. We sing verses like “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged: Take it to the Lord in prayer” (What a Friend We have in Jesus) and “In seasons of distress and grief My soul has often found relief, And oft escaped the tempter’s snare, By thy return, sweet hour of prayer” (Sweet Hour of Prayer). Did You Think to Pray? Likewise admonishes us, “When you met with great temptation, Did you think to pray? By His dying love and merit, Did you claim the Holy Spirit As your guide and stay?”
May God help us to train ourselves to make prayer our automatic response to temptation! Jesus told His disciples in the garden to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41) and taught His disciples to pray to God, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mt. 6:13). God wants us to endure temptation more than anybody (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Thess. 4:7), we should solicit His help when we are facing seemingly unendurable temptation!
Likewise, we cannot underestimate the power of God’s Word in our fight against temptation. God’s Word is “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) and is living, active, and sharp (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word was Jesus’ tool when the tempter sought to lure Him into sin (Mt. 4:1-11), and it should be ours as well.
There are a couple of ways in which familiarity with and meditation on God’s Word can help us overcome temptation. In the first place, God’s Word helps us to have our minds transformed so that we can discern between what is good and what is evil (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:17; Heb. 5:13-14). Also, having the Sword of the spirit stored in our heart gives us instant help in tempting situations: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). The more we meditate on and internalize God’s Word, the better equipped we are to overcome temptation.
The Psalms tell us that the blessed person delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night (Ps. 1:2). It is not automictically the case that those who know more of God’s Word will sin less, but it is true that God’s Word is our greatest offensive weapon against being overwhelmed by temptation and conforming to the world. If we find ourselves struggling with sin and giving into temptation more than we used to, we likely need to flee to God’s Word for refuge: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Prov. 30:5).
Responsibility and Accountability
Finally, to help us overcome temptation, we should take responsibility and seek accountability. If our sin is always somebody else’s fault, we are not taking responsibility as we should. God does not tempt us, but our own desires lead us astray (Jas. 1:13-15)! When it comes to sin, we are in the driver’s seat. As God encouraged Cain before he murdered his brother, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). We can choose to rule over sin. There is no sin that we must commit. So, when we sin, we should take responsibility for our actions by admitting that we’ve done wrong, and seeking God’s mercy: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
God has given us Christian brothers and sisters to help us when we are struggling with temptation. Our time together in fellowship, worship, and community is designed to create an atmosphere of accountability and genuine spiritual concern for each other. If we neglect to assemble with the saints and spend time with our brothers and sisters, we will be more susceptible to caving into temptation. The wisdom of God tells us that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1). We should confess our sins to one another, reach out for help, and be willing to be held accountable by our brothers and sisters (even if that means receiving rebuke). We are commanded: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-12). We are told to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (Jas. 5:16).
When we are struggling, we should be with the church more, not less! May we take hold of God’s resources to help us in the fight against temptation.
Forest Antemesaris • January 31, 2023
We have all been tempted and, in moments of weakness or thoughtlessness, given in to our desires. Though we looked at some principles to help us overcome temptation in James 1:13-18 last week in our first worship service, there are some practical actions the Bible describes as well. Here are a few of them.
The Bible tells us, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Realizing that temptation comes from my own desires (Jas. 1:13-15), I must be honest with myself and recognize that I’m not above sinning or being drawn away into temptation. A little bit of earnest self-inspection goes a long way. We should be aware of our own weaknesses and areas where we are more likely to be tempted. Then, we should work on being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2), mindfully seeking the guidance of God’s Word in the areas we struggle most. To do this, we may have to face some embarrassment and empty ourselves of some pride, but it will always be worth it to take heed lest we fall.
One easy way to resist temptation is to try not to get into tempting situations. Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid every possible tempting situation because we don’t know the future, but we can avoid some of them. If we know there is a certain sin we struggle with, we should strive to avoid the things that make that sin easier if we can. The book of Psalms opens with this description of a blessed individual: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Ps. 1:1). Avoiding the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seats of scoffers can help us resist temptation. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:33 admonishes us, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
The company we keep and the activities we engage in can go a long way to us being more or less likely to give in to temptation. If I know myself well enough to know what I struggle with, I can get out ahead of temptation by avoiding those situations altogether. These “triggers” are personal to me based on my desires and my past, but they are worth avoiding whenever possible. This may require me to draw some boundaries and miss out on some opportunities, but holiness is worth that cost (Mt. 5:29-30; Heb. 12:14).
Look For the Way of Escape
God has promised that He has given a way of escape for every tempting situation, enabling us to endure it: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). God can help us endure and escape temptation! Sometimes that looks like literally fleeing, like Joseph who had to run from the clutches of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:11-12). Thus, the Bible tells us to “flee youthful passions” (2 Tim. 2:22), “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), and “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14).
Learn to Say No
We have all been in a situation where another person compels us to do something we know we should not do. We need to learn to say no. God’s wisdom tells us, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10). The word consent is key in that verse. Nobody can force us to do something we do not want to do. Our peers may coax us, influence us, guilt trip us, and plead with us, but we do not have to yield. When we feel the social pressure to do that which God calls sin, we must remember that we have the power to say “no.” If they make fun of us for not going along with them in sin, we will be blessed (Mt. 5:10-12)! We live for the approval of God, not the approval of people (Gal. 1:10).
Forest Antemesaris • January 31, 2023
Have you ever felt like God has forgotten about you? Maybe you have prayed the same prayer repeatedly without receiving the answer you were hoping for. Maybe you thought things would be different than they are. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that God “is not slow to fulfill his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9 ESV).
Many of the psalms sympathize with those who feel as if God has forgotten them. Psalm 13:1 asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Likewise, Psalm 44:24 asks, “Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”
Sometimes there can be a tension in faith; one that simultaneously feels as if God is not moving but trusts that He eventually will. When we feel this tension, we should meditate on the fact that we serve the God who remembers.
God Remembered Noah
Noah was on the ark for a lot longer than just forty days and nights. While Noah was on the ark, the Bible does tell us that it rained for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12). But the Bible also tells us that “the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days” (Gen. 7:24). Can you imagine being Noah and his family? God told you that it would rain for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4), but He never mentioned the 150 days of waiting! I imagine on the forty-first day, tensions began to rise a bit on the ark: “The forty days are over, where is God?”
I imagine after sixty days, seventy days, 100 days, the nervousness only grew. Can you imagine being on the ark with all those animals, surrounded by nothing but water for 150 days? That’s five months! Meanwhile, the God who told you that it would rain for forty days and nights is silent.
This background helps us better grasp the beauty of Genesis 8:1: “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” There was a span of time when it may have been easy for Noah or his family to think that God had forgotten them, but they served the God who remembers. In God’s anger about the corruption of the earth through sin, He did not forget His mercy and compassion for those in the ark. Likewise, God will not forget us. Like Noah and his family, we may have to wait longer than we expected, but God will always remember.
God Remembered Israel
What kind of life would you expect the chosen people of God to live? Few of us would expect God’s chosen nation to be subjugated to slavery in a foreign nation, but that is exactly how the history of the Israelites as a nation began. While in Egypt after the time of Joseph, the Egyptians forgot how a Hebrew had saved their nation and began to oppress the people of Israel. The Egyptians “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (Exod. 1:13-14). Israelites were being murdered, their young were being slain, and they were subjected to grueling conditions and mistreatment for generations. Where was God? Were they still His chosen people? Why wasn’t God acting to help them? Had God forgotten His people?
With this background in mind, Exodus 2:23-25 becomes even more beautiful: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”
Exodus teaches us that God hears, remembers, sees, knows, and acts. No mistreatment goes unnoticed by Him. No burden we bear escapes His sight. There is no struggle we endure that God does not know about. There is no prayer for deliverance His people pray that He does not hear. God will act when the time is right. He will remember His promises and He will keep His covenants. God knows all the details. He knows the right time to act. He knows what needs to happen. We only need to know that He will remember us. The next time you feel as if God has forgotten you, or God does not know what you’re going through, meditate on the fact that we serve the God who remembers!
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)