- Who We Are
- Plan Your Visit
- News & Events
I got a phone call recently from my brother Ken telling me that he had been the victim of identity theft which surprised both of us because he’s very diligent about shredding and protecting his personal information. But apparently someone got a hold of his birth date and social security number and that was all it took to open up false credit card accounts at two major retail stores (Sears & Bob’s Discount Furniture).
Ken was notified by two different banks, ones that he didn’t do business with, that they had run credit checks on him before they issued the credit cards. The cards were approved even though the addresses given were false resulting in thousands of dollars of purchases that were made in my brother’s name.
Immediately Ken called the credit monitoring company and told them about the fraud and asked them to investigate the situation which they did. And it didn’t take long for them to figure out that his identity had indeed been compromised.
My brother then had to file a police report, all kinds of affidavits, reports with the banks and then with the IRS. It was a big mess and took hours and hours of time over a period of several weeks before it was finally resolved and he got his money back.
But it could have been a lot worse if Ken didn’t have a credit monitoring company to alert him to the theft. It could have taken months for him to realize what happened. So my brother strongly recommended that I invest in identity theft protection which I did the very next day.
Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? I hope not, but it goes on all the time in this country. 15 million Americans have their identities stolen every year costing up to $50 billion dollars. One out of every four people has experienced identity theft with a new victim every two seconds. Identity theft is the most frequent, costly and pervasive crime in the United States right now. Please be careful to protect your identity.
Identity theft. That’s what we’ve been talking about in this series called Fear Not. We’ve been talking about how fear can rob our identity in Christ and keep us from acting like adopted children of God, beloved sons and daughters of the King, citizens of heaven, new creations.
Throughout this series we’ve been doing some character studies. A few weeks ago we looked at Jairus in the New Testament and saw how Jesus told him not to be afraid because he was going to raise his daughter from the dead. And he did. It was an incredible miracle bringing that little girl back to life.
Last week, we looked at the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. And we saw how he went from a mountain top experience, literally, down into a deep valley of despair overnight. And Matt pointed out how quickly fear can overtake us and drive us into isolation where we become completely self-absorbed and feel like we’re totally alone. Fear is when we need God and each other the most, but it often drives us to run away and hide.
Today I want to look at another character in the Bible. And to be honest this is my least favorite character in the whole story of Scripture. He goes by a number of names in both the Old and New Testament.
But even though he’s found throughout the Bible, some people don’t believe he’s real. They think he doesn’t exist. Or if he does exist, he’s a symbol of something or a force of some kind. Others believe he’s like a cartoon character dressed in bright red yoga pants with horns and a pitchfork.
But I believe he’s real. I believe he’s as real as Elijah or Jairus or David who wrote Psalm 23 or as Adam and Eve in the garden. I believe he’s as real as you and me. He’s a person just like us, but he’s more than a human being. He has supernatural capabilities.
And I believe that in a series on fear he needs to be exposed for who he is because he’s behind a lot of the fear enslaves us. He loves to leverage our fears for his own advantage. He loves to steal our identity in Christ. In fact, he’s the mastermind behind all identity theft.
So this morning I want to do three things. I want to expose this character for who he is. I want to make us aware of how he uses fear in our lives. And then I want to leave us with some God given resources to help us resist him because we do not need to live in fear of him.
Who is this character?
Well, if you haven’t figured it out yet I’m talking about Satan. I don’t like to talk about Satan much. I don’t like to give him this kind of exposure, this kind of publicity. I’d much rather talk about Jesus. And, to be honest, I don’t want to put myself in his cross hairs. But in a series on fear we have to talk about Satan because he’s the one who drives our slavish fears.
In the Bible he goes by a lot of different names depending on the context in which he’s mentioned. The name Satan means “adversary.” He’s an adversary, not an ally. He’s an enemy. He’s the enemy of God and of all God loves and of all God does. He’s the enemy of God’s people as well. If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ today, he’s your enemy too.
He’s also called the devil. The word devil means “false accuser” or “slanderer.” In Matthew 12, Jesus calls him Beelzebub which literally means “Lord of the Flies.” I don’t about you, but I don’t like flies. I’m not a big fan of flies. Do we have any fly lovers here? I wouldn’t mind if there weren’t any flies. Just like I wouldn’t mind if there wasn’t a Beelzebub, a “Lord of the Flies,” to contend with, but there is.
He’s referred to as the tempter, the wicked one, the ruler of this world, the god of this age, father of lies, the prince of the power of the air, Lucifer, the great dragon, the serpent of old, a thief, a murderer, a liar, a wolf, a roaring lion. In fact, there are more names for Satan in Scripture than for anyone else except Jesus himself.
Satan is powerful, but he’s not all powerful or all-knowing or present everywhere like God is. He’s not God. And I doubt whether I’ve ever confronted him one on one. He’s got bigger fish to fry than me.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, claimed that he threw an inkwell at the devil while he was translating the Bible into German at Wartburg Castle. He felt his presence so strongly in the room. Satan goes after the big guns, but he does have helpers called demons and they can mess with us too.
Now, you might wonder, why in the world did God create Satan? That’s a great question. And let me answer it this way. God didn’t create Satan. God didn’t create an adversary. God can’t create evil. Instead, God created a good angel, a beautiful angel named Lucifer and gave that good angel a good thing called freedom. And with that good thing called freedom that good angel called Lucifer rebelled against a good God and evil entered into God’s good creation.
Ezekiel 28:12-14 puts it this way, You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13You were in Eden, the garden of God … 14You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
Lucifer was the zenith of God’s creation, the best of the best. But then we read in verse 17, Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth, I made a spectacle of you before kings.
God did not create an evil creature named Satan. He created a good creature named Lucifer who chose to become evil and God threw him out of heaven. That’s the character we’re up against. And he’s as real as evil is real. So how does he use fear in our lives?
How does Satan use fear in our lives?
One way he uses fear in our lives is by stealing our identity. You can make a strong case that identity theft was the original sin of Lucifer. He wanted to be God.
Listen to Isaiah 14:12-14, How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. 14I will ascend above the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High.”
Lucifer’s first crime was identity theft. He wanted to steal God’s identity and make God his first victim. He had a severe case of “eye trouble.” “I will ascend. I will raise. I will sit. I will ascend. I will make myself like God.” I. I. I. I. I. He wasn’t satisfied being number 2. He had to be number 1. He wanted to be God.
And in the garden he did the very same thing with the first man and the first woman. What did he say to Adam and Eve before they ate the forbidden fruit?
Listen to Genesis 3:4-5,”You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Sound familiar? Satan wanted Adam and Eve to think they could be God too. Let’s all be God. You be God. I be God. Then we can all do our own thing. Make our own rules. Not have to listen to anybody else.
And that’s what he wants you and me to do today. He wants us to think we can steal God’s identity and be our own gods, not needing God at all. He wants us to think we’re number one and that we don’t need to fear God. We don’t need to take God seriously. We can live just fine without him. That’s his lie.
Satan is a thief. He’s a liar. Jesus said in John 8 there’s no truth in him. None. When he lies, he speaks his native language. When he opens his mouth he’s lying. Like the Meghan Trainor song, “I know you lie cuz your lips are moving! Tell me do you think I’m dumb?”
But if Satan can’t get us to steal God’s identity because we’ve put our faith in Christ and submitted our lives to him, then you know what? He wants to steal our identity in Christ. He wants to discredit everything that God says about us.
Remember he’s the devil, the “false accuser” and that’s how he steals our identity in Christ. He doesn’t want us to believe what God says about us that we’re adopted children of God, beloved sons of the daughter of the King. He never wants us to feel forgiven by God, or by others, or even by ourselves. He wants us to live in guilt and shame our whole lives and keep us in bondage.
So he constantly attacks us with his accusations. He talks trash. That’s all he can talk. And Satan’s voice often sounds like thoughts that come into our heads, evil thoughts, destructive thoughts, fearful thoughts, anxious thoughts. And we all need to get better at identifying those thoughts and calling them out.
He was talking trash to me all week, not audibly, but trying to intimidate me with fearful thoughts about what he might do to me if I exposed him in this teaching which I’ve called Exposing the Enemy.
And so I needed to draw courage from passages in the Word of God like 1 John 4:4, Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. And James 4:7, Resist the devil and he will flee from you. And 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.
Church, we have resources to deal with the devil. We do not need to live in fear of him and his lies.
So what resources do we have?
Let me leave you three resources that we’ve been talking about throughout this whole series. This is nothing new.
First, we have the Word of God that tells us the truth about the evil one. And so we can confront him with Scripture when he tries to fill us with fear. That’s exactly what Jesus did when Satan came at him three times in the desert in Matthew 4. Three times Jesus quoted Scripture. “It is written. It is written. It is written.” Three passages from the book of Deuteronomy helped Jesus defeat the devil. Fill your mind with the Word of God.
My favorite passage is that Timothy passage. I often recite it in my head before I come up here to teach or do anything that I find intimidating. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. The Holy Spirit is not going to make us afraid. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit, not fear.
And the Holy Spirit is our second resource. When Jesus returned to heaven he told his disciples that he would not leave them orphaned, but he would send another comforter who would be with them and in them. And we have that comforter in us too which is why John writes in 1 John 4, greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. Don’t minimize the power of the Holy Spirit. He is much, much greater than our enemy.
The Word of God. The Holy Spirit. And prayer are our greatest resources against the evil one. And we’ve talked a lot about that in this series. I’d like to close by reading what the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 6 because he puts these three resources together using the imagery of armor.
Listen to Ephesians 6:10-18, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Wow. Prayer. The Spirit. The Word of God. Church, don’t listen to the lies of the evil one. Don’t let him steal your identity and paralyze you with fear. Learn to recognize the hiss of the serpent. Stand firm on the Word of God. Rely on the Spirit of God. And always keep on praying.
C. S. Lewis gave a lot of thought to the devil and the spiritual battle that we fight every day. And I want to close with a quote from his excellent little book called The Screwtape Letters. In it he writes, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which we can fall about the devil. One is to disbelieve in his existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in him. He is equally pleased by both errors and hails a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
Church, let’s not obsess over the devil, but let’s not ignore him either. Fear Not. Call out those fearful thoughts because greater is he who is us than he who is in the world.