Understanding Satan, Part 3

"Satan is not only real, but he is on the prowl."    

Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Over the past two weeks we have looked at the reality of Satan as well as our means of protection against him. This week we’re going to look at two passages that further teach us how to engage in spiritual warfare by resisting Satan. Last week we looked Paul’s most developed treatment of spiritual warfare, and now we have an opportunity to look at Peter’s take on the subject.

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." 1 Peter 5:5-10

Satan is not only real, but he is on the prowl. He is actively searching for ways he can inflict damage on the kingdom of God. But, we have been given the ability to resist his attacks. We do not have to be caught off guard, and we have not been left helpless. We can resist him.

It’s in passages like this that context provides such helpful insight. How do we resist Satan? By humbling ourselves before God and before others, and trusting in his perfect loving care for us. You see, humility and love for others completely extinguishes the fire set by Satan. He lends a spark which gladly turns into flame when it comes into contact with the fuel of our pride and self-centeredness. But a humble and trusting heart is like large pool of water, to which a spark is a laughable threat.

How do we resist Satan? Not through incantations or specially worded prayers, but through the pursuit of humility and love.

James also echoes this call to resist Satan in his epistle (again, the context is the most helpful):

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." James 3:13-4:10

Just like Peter, James equates the prideful attitude of jealousy, selfishness, and boasting with the “demonic.” As a result, he calls on us to pursue and submit to God. To trust him and rest in the confidence that he knows best; to be humble. When we cling to God and not ourselves we resist Satan. When we draw near to God instead of our precious idols, we resist Satan.

It’s as if you were in a boat in a stream. The current of the stream represents the world that pushing you toward sin. The rowing of the oars represents your flesh pushing you toward sin. The tiny propeller engine on the back represents Satan pushing you toward sin. So what is causing your sin, the world, the flesh, or the devil? All three! So then, how do you resist the devil? The same way you resist the flesh and the world, by turning around and heading up stream through repentance and clinging to God’s grace.

And here James adds one tiny piece of life-changing information. When you resist Satan, “he will flee from you.” What a truth! As you confess, repent, and pursue humility before a glorious and loving God, you don’t have to preoccupy yourself with what Satan’s doing, or how he’s doing it, or how you’re going to get rid of him. As you resist, he will flee. Satan may have some significant power or authority in our world, but it’s still nothing compared to the Spirit of God that continually dwells in you.