Would You Recognize the Devil if You Saw Him?

Some time back, I was reading part of a work by 16th century theologian, Ignatius of Loyola. The quote below gave me pause and prompted the question: Would you recognize the devil is you saw him?  I believe many Christians do not.

“The enemy…makes a tour of inspection of our virtues…Where he finds us *weakest and most defective*…he attacks at that point…little by little, he tries to achieve his own purposes, by dragging the soul down to his secret designs and corrupt purposes.” (Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556; writing of the subtle, systematic, almost unnoticed wiles of the devil)

In his book, Peace With God, Billy Graham writes in response to the erroneous impression that the devil is some sort of fiendish imp with horns, a pitchfork and a pointed tail.

“The truth is that the devil is a creature of vastly superior intelligence, a mighty gifted spirit of [vast] resources… His reasoning is brilliant, his plans ingenious, his logic well-nigh irrefutable.  God’s mighty adversary is no bungling creature with horns and a tail – he is a prince of lofty stature, [possessing] craft and cunning, able to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, able to turn every situation to his own advantage.”

The truth of these quotes notwithstanding, the devil is not merely a defeated foe – he is a soundly defeated foe. (The margin of victory wasn’t even close.)  “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us,” Paul wrote.  Likewise, John (the disciple and eye-witness of Christ) wrote, “You are from God and have overcome [the devil], for [Christ] who is in you is greater than [the devil] who is in the world.”

I could go on and quote numerous other scriptural references regarding the defeat of, and the impending doom of satan, but the primary purpose of this brief blog is to simply remind believers that the enemy doesn’t usually approach us by surprise, startling us.  No, instead, he comes disguised as “an angel of light,” making himself appear attractive, safe & harmless.  The former atheist, and author of the brilliant Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, described the tactics of the enemy as a “gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Case in point, when Genesis, chapter 3, begins we pick up with what appears to be mid-conversation between Eve and the serpent.  I speculate that the serpent has been cultivating Eve’s trust and companionship for some time, earning her ear and trust.  I heard a preacher once say, “Satan will take years, if necessary, to bring a believer down.”

As believers, not once are we instructed to walk in fear (“God did not give us a spirit of fear”), looking for a demon behind every door.  Instead, we’re instructed to boldly walk in the truth of our victory in Christ’s death and resurrection while in a continual state of awareness:  Be alert and of sober mind,” Peter warned. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   Why?  So that we might not be “unaware of the devil’s schemes.”

One last sobering thought…

There are two accounts of the wilderness temptation recorded in the Gospels:  Matthew and Luke both record the story.  However, only Luke adds this statement, “And when the devil had ended every temptation [to Jesus], he departed from him until an opportune time.”

If satan had no plans of leaving Jesus alone, what makes us think we are any different?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Stop Idolizing Christian Artists: A Letter from Keith Green

NOTE: I ran across this letter from the late Christian artist, Keith Green, recently. Thought it was worth publishing here. All Christian musicians & speakers are not driven by a hunger for fame or wealth. For instance, I had the joy of youth-pastoring Christian artist, Josh Wilson, for 6 years. He, in my opinion, embodies the humility and passion of Green. So, please don’t misinterpret this post as a “one broad stroke of the brush”, judgmental sort of thing. Green’s letter simply serves as an encouraging reminder for some, and a pointed, strong warning for others. Blessings, Nick 

It was 1978.  I was 15 years old and had only recently started attending church.  A 20-something guy walked up to me one Wednesday evening and said, “Hey man, I heard you like to play the piano.  You need to check this dude out.”  He then handed me a recording of Keith Green’s album, “For Him Who Has Ears to Hear.”  My life would never be the same.

keith-green

I cannot, in mere words, emphasize how much that moment impacted my life, both, as a Christian and as a musician.  (I play and sing his “Easter Song” every Easter Sunday morning to open our worship services.)  Green was unlike anyone I had ever before experienced.  Not since Green have I heard anything similar to his “Prodigal Son Suite” or his “Sheep and the Goats.” He was every bit as much of a theologian as he was an accomplished musician.  Further, he wrote with a rawness that was – and is – all too rare:  “My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold; and I know how I ought to be – alive to You, and dead to me.”

And his music was infectious.

The summer of that same year (1978), I worked at a Fireworks Stand to help supplement the income I received at my other part-time job.  My boss allowed me to play Green’s music as we worked.  Many folks would swing by between midnight and 2am to purchase fireworks.  They would ask, “Who is that playing the piano?”  I would tell them and then watch them dance their way back to their car. 🙂

I can still remember, after being given Green’s “For Him Who Has Ears to Hear” that day, visiting our local Christian music store and seeing a unique sticker on all of Green’s albums.  The sticker said, “If you cannot afford this album simply take it to the counter and you will receive it free of charge.”  After reading Green’s biography, “No Compromise,” I learned that when he stood up and informed the Christian music industry he wanted to give away his albums to those who could not pay they thought he was nuts.  But, Green had no interest in becoming a celebrity; rather, he wanted to be a servant and an evangelist.

While still living in southern California, Green and his wife, Melody, used the income from record sales to buy and rent homes in their neighborhood to house the homeless and help get them back on their feet.    Eventually, that led to the purchase of 140 acres just north of Tyler, TX, where Keith and Melody could expand their ministry which they called, Last Days Ministries.

And it’s there in East Texas that tragedy struck.

On July 28, 1982, Keith and two of his children, were flying in a small plane over the new property showing it to some friends.  Shortly after take-off the plane crashed and exploded upon impact.  Everyone on board perished.  Keith was 28.

There is so much more I could write about Keith Green, but I felt that this little bit of background might offer helpful insight into the following letter.  The letter, published in CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) Magazine’s 35th Anniversary Issue, was, according to CCM, “birthed out of Keith’s encounters with those who approached him, usually after a concert, to ask how they too could ‘make it big’ in Christian music.”

Here’s Green’s letter:

“My dearest family in Jesus, why are we so star struck?  Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers?  We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians.  It’s all idolatry!

“Can’t you see that you are hurting these ministers?  They try desperately to tell you that they don’t deserve to be praised, and because of this you squeal with delight and praise them all the more.  You’re smothering them, crushing their humility and grieving the Spirit that is trying to keep their eyes on Jesus.

“How come no one idolizes or praises the missionaries who give up everything?  How come no one exalts the ghetto and prison ministers who can never take up an offering, because if they did they would laugh or cry at what they’d receive..?

“Do you really believe we’re living in the very last times?  Then why do you spend more money on Gospel records and concerts than you give to organizations that feed the poor, or to missionaries out in the field?

“I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music – and more importantly my life – has not provoked you to sell out more completely to Jesus!

“Quit trying to make ‘gods’ out of [Christian artists], and quit desiring to become like them.  The only music minister to whom the Lord will say, ‘Well done, they good and faithful servant,’ is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying, and to whom music is the least important part of their life.

“Let’s all repent of the idolatry in our hearts and our desires for a comfortable, rewarding life when, really, the Bible tells us we are just passing through as strangers and pilgrims in this world, for our reward is in heaven.  Let us die graciously together and endure to the end like brave soldiers who give their lives, without hesitation, for our noble and glorious King of Light.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick