Kennedy at Seminary

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When you're a celebrity

My dog and my mom's legs were on the front page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week. I would have told you sooner, but I couldn't get my blog to pull up on the computer for a few days. My mom was walking him in the rain with a doggie raincoat and a photographer came by and snapped their picture. Ironic since I just had a post about dogs in Halloween costumes.

Speaking of costumes, I went with church friends to buy Halloween costumes last night. Our young adult Bible study is participating in Trunk or Treat. You decorate your car in the church parking lot. Kids come around and get candy instead of (or in addition to) going door to door. Our group's theme is Noah's Ark. We're going to make the car look like an ark somehow. I bought a long gray beard so I could be Noah. Everyone else is going to dress as an animal. We'll have stuffed animals all over the place, including hanging out the windows. It has been a while since I dressed up for Halloween.

Which brings me to my final point. I preached a sermon Sunday in which I used a picture of me dressed as the devil when I was 3 or 4. But I can't get it to upload onto this blog! Oh well. Here's the sermon.

"Deliver Us from the Evil One"

Halloween is coming up. I don’t know if this is a holiday you care about or what your level of involvement is for Halloween. You might have kids or grandkids dressing up. You might be buying candy to hand out or participating in Trunk or Treat up here at church. Halloween might simply bring back memories of when you were the trick or treating age.
It did for me. I asked my mom to e-mail pictures of me in Halloween costumes. There was one picture I had in mind that I wanted to show you this morning. But, being a good mom, she sent me every picture in existence of me in Halloween costumes. So, I thought we’d look at a few.
(Show and comment on pictures.)

We’ve domesticated Satan
OK, here’s the one I had in mind. That’s me, the devil!
Is this really what the devil is like? That’s not scary. Pointy red ears on top of his head. A red suit. A pointy tail. Pitchfork. Oooh, I’m scared.
The devil really is the ultimate evil, but it seems that we’ve domesticated him in our minds. This Halloween costume is evidence of that. We don’t seem to take the devil very seriously.
In fact, most Americans don’t believe Satan is a real being. A survey by the Barna Group – a company that researches church-related statistics among other things – says that two of three American adults believe that Satan is nothing more than a religious symbol of evil, not an actual being.

Satan is really a dangerous foe
But as Christians, we know different. We know from God’s Word that Satan is a dangerous enemy, out to pull us away from God. Today, as we explore the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says “Deliver us from the evil one,” let’s look briefly at what God’s Word has to say about Satan so we know who we’re dealing with.
1 Peter 5:8-9 says: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Satan is not a kitty cat. He’s a lion. He’s looking to devour, meaning he’s looking to kill your faith or to snuff out any opportunity for a person to know God.
Jesus says of Satan in John 8:44: “When he (Satan) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and father of lies.”
Satan would have us believe lies about God, about ourselves, about whatever it takes to pull us away from God. I bet Satan is thrilled with the fact that most Americans don’t think he’s an actual being. Satan would have you believe the lie that he doesn’t exist, that he’s not a factor in our lives.
Ephesians 6:12 says: “For 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.”
You might say on occasion: “Oh, I’m just having a bad day.” Maybe so, but there’s a battle of spiritual forces taking place that involves your life. You’ve got to admit that there’s something else at work, something else contributing to your bad day. Your bad day is also Satan working against you, trying to pull you away from God.

What Satan does
Now that know who Satan is, we can ask: What does he do? I’d say bottom line is this: Satan does whatever it takes to pull you away from God.
We all have circumstances or issues in our lives that Satan would want to use for evil. Satan’s intent is that he wants to use our circumstances to move us to a position of doubt, while God wants to move us to a position of trust.
That’s Satan’s big goal. Sure, he’s eager to make your life miserable in the little things – you spill coffee on yourself, the alarm doesn’t go off and you’re late for work, you can’t get the jar open and you’re about to scream. Satan loves it when you’re miserable. But his big plan is to snuff out your faith by having you doubt God’s love instead of trusting in God.
In this sense, “Deliver us from the evil one” means more than “Don’t let bad things happen to me.” It becomes a prayer that no matter what happens – good or bad – God would not allow Satan to move us to a position of doubt. Instead, we want God to move us to a position of trust so that even in the bad times, we have faith in Him. “Deliver us from evil” becomes a plea to God to not let the devil pull us away from Him.
You might realize that we usually say “Deliver us from evil” instead of the evil one. Both are legitimate translations of the Greek that the New Testament was written in. I like the message that we have from “Deliver us from the evil one.” It reminds me that no matter what evil or bad things happen in my life, I can trust that God will keep the greater evil from happening by delivering me from Satan’s schemes to pull me away from Him.

Biblical examples
The classic biblical example of Satan pulling someone to the side of doubt took place in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lived in paradise. They had everything they could every need. And yet Satan came in and caused them to doubt God.
Satan asked the question: “Did God really say?” And all of a sudden, God’s trustworthiness was under question. Satan moved Adam and Eve to a position of doubt. They ate the forbidden fruit. All because Satan got in there and caused them to doubt God.
Constrast that with the classic story of resisting Satan’s attempts. This is our Scripture reading today. The situation is really the opposite of the garden. Jesus is in a terrible situation, not paradise. He’s in the desert. He hasn’t had food for 40 days. He probably hasn’t had a good night’s sleep or any meaningful human contact in that amount of time, too.
Seems like the perfect opportunity for Satan to move Jesus into a position of doubt about His mission and His identity as the One sent to save the world. But Jesus operated from a position of trust, using God’s Word as His anchor.
Satan came with three temptations. And Jesus responded with “It is written” and a verse to combat the devil. Satan tried to use Jesus’ situation for evil, but Jesus resisted the devil in the desert and all the way to the cross, where He paid for our sins once and for all.

What about for you?
Where would Satan seek to create doubt in your heart in place of trust? Where is there a crossroads in your life, where you can make a choice either to let Satan get the best of you or you can cling even tighter to God in trust? Remember, “Deliver us from the evil one” doesn’t always mean that everything will go smoothly in life. But it means that we can trust that God will not allow Satan to pull us away from Him.
Has there been a tragedy in your family? Satan would love to use this opportunity to cause you to doubt God’s love. Satan would love to move you from trust to doubt.
Is the stress of life getting to you? Do you feel inadequate? Is there a particular sin in your life that you’re ashamed of? Are you going through illness in your life or is someone close to you sick? Satan would love to use each of these circumstances to pull you from God.
But we can each make a choice today that we’ve going to seek God. We’re going to ask God to “Deliver me from the evil one” so that the devil will not be able to pull us from God.

Here’s how one family has handled this dangerous enemy
I saw a powerful example of how God has met a family at a crossroads and moved from away from doubt and into an even more trusting relationship with Him. It was really one of the most touching examples of deliverance from the evil one that I have ever seen.
First, some background.
Eight years ago, I’m sure Satan jumped up and down with delight. We watched as Rick and Alicia, members of our church, reacted to news that their youngest child had diabetes. This condition would require constant attention and cause their son, Miles, to become ill frequently.
“Here’s my chance to pull this faithful family away from God,” Satan must have thought. “Here’s a way for me to make them doubt God’s love for them.”
After the diagnosis, Rick prayed: “God, let this disease have some redeeming value.”
Alicia later said: “We had to make a choice about how we were going to take this. It could either tear us apart, or we could trust God and make something good happen.”
Over the years, God has used Rick and Alicia in powerful ways to raise money for diabetes. He has used Miles as an inspiration to others and as a face people can attach to the cause of finding cure for diabetes.
Last week, I saw first-hand how God is fighting the influence of the devil in Rick and Alicia’s life. I went over to Creekwood Middle School, next door to Christ the King. I saw kids crowding around a table, giving their own money to support the search for a cure for diabetes. For every dollar donated, the kid could write their name on a paper shoe and hang it on the glass outside the cafeteria. Kids were packed around the table, excited about the difference they could make.
One girl bought more than $30 worth of shoes. As I helped her hang some up, I asked why she wanted to donate so much money. She said: “My cousin has diabetes. She’s a lot older than Miles, but I know what it’s like. It makes me feel good to know that I’m making a difference.”
It was one of the most moving scenes I’ve ever witnessed. I saw God providing deliverance from the evil one. God was not allowing Satan to pull Rick and Alicia away from Him. God was using a tragedy called diabetes to unite middle schoolers in a common cause. God was taking Rick and Alicia’s trust in Him and using it to work marvelous things.
I bet Satan sees all this going on and thinks: “This is not what I had in mind! This diabetes thing was supposed to tear this family to pieces. This was my grand scheme to take these people and pull them away from God. And here is God ruining my plans again, taking a bad situation and using it for good.”
Satan struck this family with a wicked scheme. Diabetes is bad. But did God deliver the family from evil, from the influence of the evil one? You bet He did. As Alicia said, they had a choice: Would this event pull them away from God, or would they allow God to work good in their situation?
God has taken that trust and worked marvelous things out of it.

Our prayer should be: Don’t let Satan pull me away from You
We all have situations Satan could use to pull us away from God. But as we pray “Deliver us from the evil one,” we’re asking God to protect us from Satan and pull us closer to our Savior. No matter what happens in your life, Satan does not have to win.
Look at your life and ask: “Where is Satan trying to pull me away from God? Where is Satan testing my faith? What situation in my life would Satan use to cause me to doubt God’s love?”
And you can pray “Deliver us from the evil one,” knowing you can trust that God’s love for you is constant. He is ready and willing to work good in your life, even in difficult times.
Amen.

1 Comments:

  • Thank you for your message.

    By Anonymous Sideman, at 9:17 AM  

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