Winning the War (against Satan)
In modern times many people are dabbling in witchcraft and resorting to fortune-tellers. These practices are strongly condemned in Scripture as recorded in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, “And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD.” Pastor Irwin Lutzer warns his fellow Americans, “Although at one time occultism existed on the fringe of society, today it is mainstream.” Similar warnings have been voiced by leaders in predominantly Muslim regions. Notice the following two quotes from online articles, “One need only walk down the streets of Pakistan or Egypt to see this ... on every other corner sits some fortune teller or other occultist.” (*) “We should not be deceived by the fact that they [occultists] may get things right sometimes, or by the fact that many people go to them ... they are ignorant and the people should not be deceived by them.” (*)
I've also noticed this in South Africa where we are seeing fortune tellers and occultists marketing their services more openly than ever before. It seems people all around the world are being ensnared by the occult and so the question begs an answer, “Where can people find sound spiritual advice to avoid being caught in this snare of the Devil?”
Let me explain how I intend to approach answering this question: Our world is a global village where multiculturalism has become a buzz word. This, in turn, has fostered a tolerant mindset to anything that may be loosely described as 'cultural.' This mindset is affecting interfaith dialog, especially between Christians and Muslims. Unfortunately, many become so focused on superficial similarities that they are glossing over basic underlying differences.
To begin with, it must be made clear: most Christian and Muslim preachers denounce occultists noting that they are in collusion with evil spirits. We all know that demons work under their leader, Satan, who is the avowed enemy of mankind.
There is another foundational commonality between followers of the world's two largest faiths: we both pray to God Almighty for protection from the evil one. For example, the prayer Jesus taught his followers resonates with Christians and Muslims. We read these words, “rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).
Since Satan is man’s avowed enemy, it is obvious that he is opposed to God’s Messiah. (The Qur'anic title for Christ is Al Masihu Isa.) We are not surprised, therefore, to find that the Injil – the Gospel – portrays Jesus as being in conflict with Satan from the very beginning of his ministry. Initially Satan tried tempting Jesus to sin. (Matthew 4:1-14) Then Satan showed his hostility more openly by trying to have Jesus killed. It is helpful to take a closer look at how the conflict deepened by reading an incident recorded in Matthew 12:22-29:
Then a demon possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see. The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”
But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has arrived among you. For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods. Only someone even stronger - someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.”
At this stage it is helpful to check whether our fellow traveller is keeping in step with us on the path of dialog. Does our Muslim friend accept, for example, that the prophet Isa could cast out demons? Most certainly. In fact, some thoughtful Muslims would agree that Jesus was more powerful than even the prince of demons. Muslim traditions allude to this, saying that Isa and Maryam were the only persons who weren't touched by Satan at birth. This is consistent with the fact that Jesus Christ never ever succumbed to Satan, although other prophets/apostles did.1
The exorcism of the blind, mute man shows that Jesus was more powerful than the leader of the demons by the fact that he evicted his agents. But demons were not the only Satanic agents who opposed Jesus. Some of the Jewish leaders were also emissaries of the evil one. Jesus sharply rebuked them, “you are children of your father the Devil ... He was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8:44) Mindful of the proverb, like father like son, Jesus called them 'children' of Satan because they were acting like him. They wanted to kill Jesus and thus were carrying out his evil plans.
As the story unfolds the Jewish leaders became more and more jealous and hateful. The remainder of the story is well known: how they eventually arrested Christ and put him on trial, using trumped up charges which they said deserved the death penalty.
We've traced another couple chapters of the story, so perhaps we ought to ask our Muslim friend if he is still feeling able to keep up the pace as we continue our journey? It seems he's been okay so far, but now, for some reason, he is dragging behind. Could there be something bothering him, making him hesitate? Could he perhaps intuitively sense there's a fork in the road just ahead?
Sure enough, there on the horizon is the silhouette of a cross, a symbol that evokes many objections and inner turmoil. Now he faces a dilemma: which fork in the road should he choose? Will he accept that Jesus died on the cross and rose again as the Scripture says or will he believe what his Qur'an says?
If you are a Muslim reader, I would like to ask you another question, “Are you aware that Jesus repeatedly predicted he would die and rise again?”
We read in Luke 18:31-33,
Jesus took his disciples aside and said to them, “Listen, we're going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Romans, and he will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon. They will flog him with a whip and kill him but on the third day he will rise again.”
This was not the first time Jesus predicted his death. (see Luke 9:22, 43-45) Moreover, Jesus linked his prediction to earlier “predictions of the prophets” saying that they “will come true.” One notable example is Isaiah 25:7-9 which identifies Jerusalem as the place where death will be swallowed up (i.e. destroyed). This confirms how Jesus identified Jerusalem as the place where he would clash with death and victoriously rise after three days. I trust that as you ponder these prophecies you will seriously re-evaluate your beliefs.
Not only so, you need to consider carefully how Jesus portrayed his pending death as a clash with Satan. His prophecy in John 12:31 is loaded with judicial and adversarial imagery, not unlike Isaiah's prophecy where death is “destroyed”. As Christ approached the end of his earthly life, he foretold Satan's doom, saying, “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.” (John 12:31) These ominous words were preceded by a statement foreshadowing his own death. He said, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” Furthermore, after Jesus spoke of Satan's pending judgment, he said, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. He said this to indicate how he was going to die.” (John 12:23-24, 32-33)
It is significant that Jesus predicted his death using the metaphor of a kernel of wheat. As a kernel 'dies' in the ground and produces many new kernels, so Jesus intimated his death would effect new life for many more people. His death would also be a gateway “to enter his glory.” It is understandable that the prospect of dying would evoke the feeling of being “deeply troubled.” Jesus was determined not to evade the cross, saying, “Should I pray, 'Father save me from this hour?' But this is the very reason I came! Father bring glory to your name.” (John 12:27-28)
In conclusion I would encourage you to reflect on another prophecy that sheds further light on the conflict between Christ and Satan – a conflict which has momentous ramifications: “So the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, you will be punished. … I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.’” (Genesis 3:14-15)
In closing, I quote an amazing statement that Jesus made to the apostle John, “Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
It is fitting that Christ is described as 'holding the keys of death and the grave.' Jesus overcame Satan, 'the murder from the beginning.' This title suits Satan because he deceived Adam and Eve, causing their downfall and death! Clearly Jesus viewed Satan as responsible for murdering them. He brought about their spiritual death and eventually their physical death, too. It was this serpent whose head was struck a mortal blow by the virgin-born son Jesus – the offspring of Eve. The Bible says God's Messiah was truly “flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Perhaps you find it perplexing that Christ has to die in order to break the Devil's grip over mankind? Certainly this is puzzling but remember that it isn't a bad thing to be perplexed so long as it stretches you to think outside the box. Don't quickly give up your search for a key to solve this riddle.
Jesus said something perplexing about immortality which would also be worth your while to mull over. I encourage you to read the whole chapter from which this quote comes. We read in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this Martha?” (emphasis added)
On another occasion Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24) In John 4 Jesus described eternal life as the gift of God. You may freely receive it if you repent of your sin and trust in the Lord Jesus as your Savior. Of course, you'll want to express your deep gratitude to him for dying on the cross to take away your sin.
You may like to read a relevant article entitled, Facing our Common Foe, which is available online. Vivienne Stacey has written an excellent online book about the occult entitled, Christ Supreme over Satan. Another relevant article is How Jesus and Muhammad Confronted Satan by James Arlandson.
All Bible quotes are taken from the New Living Translation.
If you have accepted the gift of eternal life I would be delighted to hear from you or if you have any questions please write me here.