Archives For Satan

The devil is a terrifying adversary. Though the world of fiction has given us some odious villains—think of the ones that make your skin crawl, like Sauron or Voldemort—these are but shadows of the true villain. Satan truly embodies everything that opposes God, goodness, and life. He is hell-bent on destroying anything and anyone he can, and history shows his remarkable success.

Satan’s greatest weapon is and always has been death. Not that he just goes around killing people. That would be too simple and far less effective. No, Satan leads us away from what is godly, pulls us away from our benevolent Father, destroys us from within and without to the greatest extent possible, and then leaves us in our furious race toward a death for which we are utterly unprepared.

The Bible calls Satan the one who “has the power of death” and refers to the human race as “those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14–15). Death is the problem from Genesis 3 through the end of Revelation, and it has a hold on all of us because our terror of Satan’s greatest weapon keeps us enslaved.

Terrible though it may seem, Satan’s greatest weapon is actually utterly worthless. Death is still a problem that we all face at every moment, but Jesus has transformed death into something entirely different. Jesus defeated death. How did he do this? Through death. (I’ve always loved the title of John Owen’s great work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.)

[Jesus became human] “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15)

Through death, Jesus dealt death the deathblow (say that 10 times fast).

“’Death is swallowed up in victory.’
‘O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54­–57)

In essence, Jesus took Satan’s terrifying WMD and turned it into a cap gun. Death still scares us, but only when we fail to understand what death now holds for us. For those who see Jesus as he truly is, death is nothing more than a transition into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Jesus has turned the weapon of death into a gracious gift that gives us the one thing we want more than any other (Phil. 1:21–23). Death is swallowed up in victory; its brutal claws have become cuddly paws.

Satan still roars, but Jesus has made us into those who call his bluff:

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15)

Satan still waves his orange-tipped cap gun furiously, like a four-year-old cowboy fighting a make-believe enemy. But those of us who know what death now holds can smile calmly and join in Paul’s taunt:

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” That’s not from the Bible, but it is good theology. It’s actually from the 1994 film The Usual Suspects, and it’s a line that has stuck with me.

I say it’s good theology because the biblical authors had to remind us that Satan is real. Paul warned:

“…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15)

Peter had to remind us that the devil is actively prowling around like a lion (1 Pet. 5:8), waiting to pick off those who are not on their guard.

I like writing about culture. I like seeing the ways that God is working in the “secular” world, the ways his glories are being proclaimed by even the most unlikely suspects. But I have to remind myself, as a coworker reminded me last week, that Satan is in the business of deception, and he’s active in our naïveté and ignorance.

I still believe that “secular” music, for example, often glorifies God. But I also need to heed the biblical warnings that those things that seem innocent, even those things that look like “light,” could be placed there for malevolent purposes. Mercifully, Satan’s worst tactics still end up accomplishing God’s greater purposes—like when Joseph was sold into slavery (see Gen. 50:20) or when Satan killed Jesus (see Acts 4:27–28). Even so, we need to keep Paul’s warning always in mind:

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Halloween is upon us, and even though our kids are young adults now, I am reminded of autumns past when we did not celebrate Halloween. It is an issue that every parent needs to consider, along with a multitude of other child-raising decisions. So I offer the following thoughts for your careful consideration. (To see the companion to this post, where Mark shares why he is okay with his kids trick-or-treating, click here).

Halloween MasksI am not going to reiterate the historical basis for Halloween, because while that may be important, it is not the critical issue for this blog. I am more interested in what Halloween has become than where it came from. A simple review of the newspaper ads, or a quick walk into any retail store, and the tone of Halloween is obvious: haunted houses, ghosts, witches, goblins, skeletons, grave stones, vampires, grim reaper, etc. Of course there are silly costumes, lots of candy, cider, and apples, too. But the themes of death and the evil spirit world are undeniably prominent.

Right off the bat, that should be troublesome, considering some pretty strong language in God’s word about such things:

“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ESV)

Manasseh, arguably one of the most wicked kings of Israel, practiced witchcraft and sorcery (2 Chron 33:6). Acts 19 records a great revival in Ephesus brought on by the Holy Spirit through Paul’s preaching. There was great repentance and turning to Jesus, and in the midst of that we read:

“Many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all… So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:18-20 ESV)

God hates witchcraft. Satan is the evil enemy of God and all that is good. Demons are the foot soldiers of Satan’s evil army, and ghosts and goblins are mankind’s’ best efforts at putting flesh and form on the spirit forms of the evil world. Witches and the like are the human conduits into this evil, spirit realm that is completely anti-God.

Little WitchSo why in the world would we dress our little girls up in witch costumes when God considers witches such an abomination? Why would we celebrate a satanic worldview represented by Halloween? Why would we honor Satan by glorifying witches and goblins and ghosts, all representatives of a satanic system? I am not suggesting we are worshipping Satan by wearing a witch costume, or that we are channeling demons by trick-or-treating, but why, as followers of Jesus, would we honor such a holiday that is dedicated to so much that is evil and wicked? Of course I readily acknowledge that many choose to celebrate Halloween without dressing up as ghost or witches, but choose instead to dress up as superheroes and ballerinas. But even so, we are still participating in a holiday that honors occultism in many and varied forms.

While I am not afraid of Satan and his forces, “…for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV), I do have a lot of respect for him. Peter calls him a roaring lion that prowls around looking for someone to devour and destroy. We must be vigilant and watchful. Let us never forget that we are at war, that Satan is the enemy, and we must be aware of his insidious schemes. Based on Ephesians 4:26-27, it appears that it is possible to give Satan a ‘foothold’ (NIV) or ‘opportunity’ (ESV) into our lives. As parents, seeking to raise godly kids to love Jesus and serve Him effectively, we did everything we could to prevent such a ‘foothold’ in our home. And so we chose not to participate in Halloween.

But is there anything about Halloween that can be redeemed? Are church-sponsored ‘Harvest Parties’ viable alternatives? Maybe. Satan loves to distort God’s good things, and God loves to redeem Satan’s evil things. So yea, maybe. But we need to think it through critically and prayerfully, and not simply fall into the Halloween world by default. We need to think it through in terms of scriptures such as Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” And may God grant incredible wisdom and discernment as we seek to navigate the dangerous waters of this worldly system!

Comedy Tragedy PumpkinsHalloween is one of those issues that leaves intelligent, godly people firmly disagreeing with one another. Some Christians will dress up their kids, walk the neighborhood, and come back with heart-stopping amounts of sugar. Others will dress up their kids and go to a church sponsored event, like a harvest party or “trunk-or-treat.” Still others refuse to do anything out of the ordinary on the last day of October aside from saying an extra prayer to combat the dark deeds taking place all around.

Let me be clear: each of these groups of people has valid points—points we all need to weigh—and each person has a responsibility to follow his or her convictions on this issue. But we all have an equal responsibility to ensure that our convictions align with biblical truth. And we have a responsibility to treat everyone—even those with whom we disagree—with respect and understanding.

So in an effort to help you think through the issues surrounding Halloween, we are going to use the next three posts to debate the Halloween issue. I will use this post to explain why I’m okay with my kids trick-or-treating, my friend and colleague Chris Hay will use the next post to explain why he didn’t let his now-grown kids trick-or-treat, and a third colleague, Matt Swaney, will fill in some of the gaps on Wednesday. Our prayer is that this models the right kind of disagreement and promotes the right kind of thought.

So here we go:

 

Why I Let My Kids Go Trick-or-Treating

Here’s what you shouldn’t do on October 31st: Don’t worship the devil. I mean it. Worshiping Satan is the heart of idolatry and must be avoided in every form.

I know that many Christians view trick-or-treating as a validation of the devil worship that some will engage in on Halloween night. But let me explain why I don’t think this is a necessary correlation.

Jack-O-LanternI see a number of beneficial points in celebrating Halloween with my children. First of all, we dress up in costumes (thus far just my girls, though I’m sure they’ll try to convince me to join in as they get older). Some see this as trivializing an act of deception, but I disagree. I think this is inherently imaginative, and I believe that our imaginations are good gifts given to us by God. Being able to see the world in a different light, to imagine the world as a different place, can be a powerful tool for the gospel and I believe that exercising our imaginations is a means of imitating the creator.

Secondly, we walk around our neighborhood and interact with our neighbors. This proves extremely difficult 364 days of the year, but for this one day everyone forgets their cultural propensity toward isolation and goes door to door.

Thirdly, we give gifts to each other’s children. I think this is a high point of the Christmas season, even when viewed from a consumeristic angle. Typically we buy things for ourselves. But at Christmas, we buy things and bless others with those things. Halloween gives us a sweet little taste (catch the double entendre there?) of that giving spirit, and I’m all for that.

Fourth, Halloween gives us a great teaching opportunity with our kids. My wife and I are not on board with dressing our girls up as witches or devils simply because we believe the spiritual realm is a reality, and we don’t want to give the impression that these things are fun or pretend. This is a big reason for people refusing to celebrate Halloween, but we think it makes a good teaching point. So when our girls see kids dressed as witches or devils, we can explain to them that these boys and girls are just having fun, but that we choose not to dress this way because we believe that these things are real and we don’t want to even pretend to be on the side of those who oppose God.

Here’s the thing. Many Christians choose to avoid celebrating Halloween and instead do a church sponsored event like a harvest party. There’s nothing wrong with dressing up and having fun, they say, we just don’t want our fun to be associated with devil worship. I agree. But I don’t think that trick-or-treating is associated with devil worship in the minds of anyone in my neighborhood. We all take our kids around because its fun for the kids. A harvest party basically maintains the celebration but changes its purpose. I think that’s what trick-or-treating is, so I don’t understand why a harvest party is considered a better option.

It seems to me that if any celebration on October 31st is associated with the devil, then all celebration on October 31st should be so associated. If I can’t change the purpose of Halloween from devil worship to neighborhood fun, then it shouldn’t be permissible to change the purpose from devil worship to church/harvest fun.

Here’s the key: If the Satanic worshipers have power enough to claim any celebration on that particular day as allegiance to their cause, then we ought to abstain from all out-of-the-ordinary goings-ons that day. But I don’t believe they have this type of power.

And having said all of that, I want to reaffirm that we all must follow our consciences on this issue. If it doesn’t feel right to you to dress up your child as a cowboy, then by all means, don’t. But we still have an obligation to love and understand one another. That’s why I’m looking forward to Chris’ post tomorrow.