Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil,
 as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”
–1 Peter 5:8 

      One of the things I dearly loved to indulge in before I became gluten intolerant was Devil’s Food cake. How could anything so rich and delicious have anything to do with the devil? Then again, the temptation that accompanies a luxury such as Devil’s Food cake with its rich, dark chocolate frosting and all of its sugary calories and moist, mouthwatering deep flavor is enough to dissolve the resolve of the most resolute resister.

      Of course not everybody is a “chocoholic.” (What’s wrong with those people?) Some folks would much prefer to snack on deviled eggs. We had a friend years ago who used to protest the name “deviled eggs” and called them “angel eggs.” Either way, they are what they are, and one thing is for certain, they aren’t chocolate!

      All kidding aside, we can call our food whatever we choose to call it, and I’ve taken some creative liberties in that area myself, but when it comes to the real devil (which I wrote about in the May newsletter) we Christians are his “favorite dish.” If the devil had a recipe book it would be all about the many ways to tempt, trip up, trap, and toast Christians, subtlety turning their hearts from Jesus, destroying their testimony and bringing a reproach on the Gospel. If temptation is his bait, then lies are his hook, and once a person takes the “bait” and gets “hooked,” the next step is—you guessed it–being “cooked.”

      The word sober in 1 Peter 5:8 means to be discreet, and to watch. The meaning of the word devour in the Greek is chilling. It means “to drink down, to gulp entire, drown, swallow up.” (Remember Jonah?) In other words, when a nominal Christian through negligence, disobedience, unbelief, double-mindedness, insincerity, foolishness, flippancy, compromise, worldliness, idolatry, pride, sin, and rebellion becomes the devil’s food it is a total descent into a deep, dark pit of captivity from top to bottom.

      “But,” someone protests, “I’m a Christian. The devil can’t touch me.” That’s a sentimental statement, a popular platitude, a coy copout; however, it’s only one side of the coin—a half-truth. The truth is the devil can’t swallow a truly born again Christian who is sober, actively vigilant and watchful, alert while standing and withstanding the enemy’s advances and temptations, and walking close to the Lord in faith and obedience. 1 Peter 5:9 is written to Christians, not unbelievers, and concerning the enemy warns, “Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” One of the damaging doctrines “easy believism” promotes is that once you have “accepted” Jesus and repeated after someone “the sinner’s prayer” that you are immediately exempt from becoming “devil’s food” because now you are “saved.” Bottom line, saved or unsaved, a person never gives up their free will. A Christian can sail on the church ship for decades, and still choose to “jump ship” for whatever reason suits their unregenerate agendas or causes. This is why the Apostle Paul said, “I die daily” 1 Corinthians 31:15b, and contended with the churches to become rooted, grounded and grow up into Christ.

      Suffering, afflictions, and temptations are big topics of discussion and debate, and we need to be wise concerning certain facts and problematic experiences we are going to go through simply because we are in these mortal bodies of clay in a fallen world. Suffering can be brought on because we reap what we sow; some afflictions are for the sake of Christ and for God’s glory. Suffering works compassion in us which enables us to enter in with others. There are times when we simply have to let go of our dependency on worldly options and fall into the loving hands of our merciful God, believing in faith that He will take care of us, trusting Him through it all.

      Patient Job teaches us that suffering and affliction can also be caused by a direct attack from Satan, even upon a dedicated servant of God. Job 1:8 says, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” The attack Job experienced was not because he had ceased to be vigilant, ceased to watch, or carelessly opened up a door through lack of faith or sin by which Satan gained an entrance. God allowed Satan to afflict Job because He knew that His servant Job would stand and never falsely accuse or blaspheme His name. In the end God was exalted, Job was restored, his friends were shamed, the devil defeated, and for generations to come God’s servants and suffering saints were given the powerful recorded message of the reality of Satan, the sovereignty of God, and overcoming faith.      Job was not the “devil’s food” because he deliberately refused to cast off his faith, refused to falsely accuse God, and refused to delude himself so he could find an excuse to live in unbelief, sin, and debauchery. He was proof to Satan that God had a man who would never give up his integrity before the Lord, even if it meant his destruction. Can you honestly say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” Job 12:15?

      Christians don’t like to think that God would allow Satan to touch their lives in such a fearful way; rather, it’s much more positive to blame Job for his experience (which is not what the Bible teaches) and conclude that after Jesus died on the cross the devil crawled under a rock somewhere in the Middle East and hasn’t been seen since. Another view is that he really doesn’t exist at all, and everything in the Bible about him is just a metaphor. Of course, such thinking can easily be challenged by asking questions such as the following: “If the devil doesn’t exist, then who tempted Adam and Eve?”  “Who was God talking to in Genesis 3:14, 15? and Job 1 and 2?” “Why does the Bible say ‘And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel’ in 1 Chronicles 21:1 if Satan is just a symbol?” “How do you explain away Matthew 4:1 that says, ‘Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil’ and the temptation of Jesus in verses 3-11?” “Who was Jesus talking to, Himself?”

      The question is why is the Church today so nonchalant and unconcerned when it comes to Satan and his wiles? Perhaps one answer is that belief in the existence of Satan by Protestant churches has dropped to less than 50% according to Barna Research. This is a strong indication that professing Christians are failing to search the Scriptures, believe what is written, and direct their lives accordingly. This is a dangerous place to be, and just as America has been (and still is) vulnerable to attack by committed Moslems who remain the “unnamed enemy” because their true goal specified in the Quran has not yet been publicly defined and revealed, so too failure to identify our enemy as revealed in God’s Word makes us vulnerable “devil’s food.”

      We are not saved to sit. Every believer is saved to preach (or share) the Gospel to all the world, saved to be the salt and the light of the world while making disciples, saved to grow in Christ, walking out what God works in us, and saved to run the race, and saved to glorify God. All of that means overcoming. Overcome what? The answer is we are commanded to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, “the god of this world”. We are not saved to remain baby Christians, tender, weak little lambs that must be bottle-fed milk for the rest of our lives! We are to grow into an army of strong soldiers of the cross! We have an enemy to fight and overcome! “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” 2 Timothy 2:3, 4.

      If you are one who has ignored what the Bible reveals about our enemy through a lack of proper discipleship, or willful ignorance and unbelief, here is a list of Scriptures for your convenience to prayerfully read, study and meditate upon:

1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1 John 3:8 – He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 2 Corinthians 11:14 – And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. John 8:44 – Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. John 10:10 – The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.

2 Corinthians 11:3 – But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Romans 16:20 – And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen.

Revelation 12:9 – And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Ephesians 4:27 – Neither give place to the devil.

Ephesians 6:11 – Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil

Revelation 12:9-12 – And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Matthew 16:23 – But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Ephesians 6:12 – For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. 2 Corinthians 4:4 – In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Luke 10:18 – And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

1 John 5:19 – [And] we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

     God is explicit about our enemy, Satan, the father of lies, from the first book in the Bible to the last. If God didn’t want us to know about our enemy, He wouldn’t have exposed him, described him, and warned us about him in the Scriptures. This is just another indication of the apostasy of our time—people want to pick and choose what they want to believe out of the Word of God instead of taking to heart and believing what Jesus, the Living Word, said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” It is natural for people to only want to hear and believe what appeals to their “itching ears” regardless of what the Bible proclaims is “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” Anything that is not positive, entertaining, flattering or downright funny is dismissed as old-fashioned, gloom and doom, depressing, outdated, or irrelevant. The truth is the Bible (not a watered down perverted version) is more up to date than tomorrow’s news. And, we have a very real, powerful, active enemy to overcome through Christ.

      Temptation in and of itself doesn’t make us the “devil’s food.” What can make us the “devil’s food” is our decision, through pride, rebellion, and unbelief to refuse to take the way of escape God has provided; that is, His Word and Jesus Christ, which puts us in danger of being devoured. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.) Being watchful and vigilant of not only Satan’s devices towards us outwardly, but also being watchful and vigilant inwardly of our own heart condition, and innermost thoughts and tendencies, whether they be evil imaginations, anger, secret sins, attitudes, lust, perversion, fornication, covetousness, unforgiveness, lack of love, self-exaltation, bitterness, or unthankfulness, etc. We need to guard against the lie that our “hang-ups,” “mistakes,” or “errors” are trite compared to the sins of others as we conveniently forget that our God is a holy God, and no sin whatsoever is acceptable in His sight. As soon as we allow the Holy Spirit to shed His light on anything that displeases the Lord, bringing conviction to our hearts in brokenness and true repentance, forsaking all that comes between us and our Lord, clinging to the old rugged cross, surrendering all to Jesus, then the devil has to flee.

      Rayola and I have had the privilege and honor of discipling countless people through the years through Bible Studies, books, articles, newsletters, art, seminars, Internet, radio, television, in churches large and small, through personal investment, and the Discipleship Course which has gone to hundreds of pastors in Africa, and used by missionaries in several other countries. We take our commission very seriously, knowing that greater damnation is awaiting those who teach anything contrary to God’s Holy Word. (See James 3:1.) We have seen true, not counterfeit, salvations, deliverances, healings, and the power of God touch lives in ways that are becoming unheard of and unexperienced in most of the Church today. This deeply grieves our spirits, along with the sad fact that, as exemplified in the parable of the sower and the seed, only a small percentage (25 %) truly takes root, grows and bears fruit. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” Matthew 7:14.

      God’s servants are touched by the sorrow that touches His heart, and one of the greatest heartbreaks that takes place is when a professing Christian becomes “devil’s food”—not just tripped up in some way and quickly repenting—but completely ensnared and overcome by sin such as lust, delusion, rebellion, and insane self-gratification that brings a reproach on the Gospel, and has the potential of destroying other lives. Such Christians have yet to obey Colossians 3:1-4, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (The rest of chapter 3 specifies how to walk this out.) We have agonized in prayer while watching certain precious souls, because their affections were set on this world and consumed with youthful lust, delude themselves that it’s okay to walk in the ways of Balaam (fornication and idolatry) and still be on their way to heaven. Such people have bought the devil’s lie that God “wants them to be happy” and so therefore they are an “exception” to God’s Word which gives them the “right” to pursue Satan’s bait, swallow it hook, line and sinker as God gives them over to their depraved desires. Such people find themselves ensnared in a life of regret and misery, learning too late that nothing will end right that starts out wrong. Too late they realize that they have become the “devil’s food.”

          The “way of escape” is ignored in such cases along with Scriptures such as 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Flee lust, and follow Jesus! It’s a lot easier to flee a burning building from the outside than from the inside! For those of us watching and praying for such a soul, God instruct us, And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” 2 Timothy 24:-26. [Emphasis added.]

      Will the Church of these end times take to heart the examples and warnings given by the Spirit to the seven churches in Revelation, which applies to the Church of today as well? Will the “Ephesus church” return to her first love, and abolish the Nicolaitane system that Jesus hates, and submit to Jesus as the sole Head of His church? Will they overcome? Will the “Smyrna church” be aware of what the devil is going to do to them and remain faithful unto death in tribulation? Will they overcome? Will the “Pergamos church” resist Satan, the doctrine of Balaam (fornication and idolatry) and the Nicolaitanes? Will she overcome?  Will the “Thyatira church” stand against false prophets, heresy and spiritual fornication, and the depths of Satan? Will they overcome? Will the “Sardis church” remember to watch, and remember how she “received and heard, and hold fast, and repent”? Will she overcome? Will the “Philadelphia church” continue to keep Jesus’ word, and not deny His name? Will they overcome, and watch for His coming? Will the lukewarm “Laodicean church” ever wake up, embrace God’s refining process, repent and overcome? These seven churches were not only individual churches, but together they are the embodiment of the Church in these end days. (How do we overcome Satan? See Revelation 12:11.)

     Jesus’ warning to the seven churches is the same today, yet topics such as the devil, hell, cross-carrying, self-denial, overcoming (the world, the flesh, and the devil) and the judgment to come are not palatable to the average church goer. As fallen human beings, we all have a natural bent towards gaining the world, satisfying the appetites of the flesh, and either ignoring, denying or playing footsies with the devil. After all, this is considered to be “normal” these days, but as Rayola said, “The Christian who lives a normal life is a nominal Christian.”

      Think about that for a while, and then ask yourself if you are “normal” in the eyes of both the world and the worldly church, but “nominal” in the eyes of God, and if so, realize that you are a prime candidate to become the “devil’s food.”