December 11, 2017

The Devil’s Sermon

case04_Devil_coverRevelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

Jesus is the constant mediator. Jesus is the constant advocate.

Satan is the constant accuser.

The law of God also accuses our conscience. And the grace of God in the Gospel, Jesus himself, answers the law’s thunderings.

Satan has plenty to work with in the law, and in my life and yours. It is no wonder he accuses us “day and night” before God.

Have you thought what the devil would do if he took to the pulpit of a church?

Of course, there are dozens of possible manifestations of his schemes we could imagine in the pulpit. (Ephesians 6:11, II Corinthians 2:11) It would make an interesting series of messages.

But if Satan were true to his nature, he would be the “accuser” of the family of God.

He would accuse us of not being the children of God; of not being worthy or righteous; of having no right to call upon the Lord and no hope of standing before him in judgment. If he followed the script in the book of Job, he would say God has bribed us, and that we are really nothing more than self-centered mercenaries. If he followed the script he used with Jesus (and Adam/Eve), he would question what God had said and explore our doubts that God is worthy of trust and obedience.

In the end, he would accuse us of not loving God as we should, of loving other things more than God, of being false professors, of needing to examine ourselves to see what sin and hypocrisy are in us.

He would torment us with our inadequacies, torture us with our disobedience and trounce us with our sins.

Satan would, if true to his nature, revel in announcing that we are unjust, unholy, unloving, ungracious, uncaring, unworthy in every way.

But wait……

Doesn’t that sound a lot like the message many Christians hear all the time? From….other Christians?

Examine yourselves and see what fruit you see. A-ha! Not enough.

Look at your record this week. The prayerlessness. The sloth and the disobedience. How dare you call yourself a Christian. (Sound familiar?)

Here’s bound to be a Satanic favorite: What do you love more than God? Do you love ANYTHING or ANYONE more than God? Your family? Your children? Didn’t Jesus even say “if you love anything more than me- even family- you aren’t worthy of me?”

Didn’t God say give him first place in everything? All the time? Do you give God first place? In everything? All the time?

What do you take more joy in than God? Annnnything? Anyone? Does anything ever make you more happy than your salvation?

Why aren’t you happier and more joyous in church right now than you are any time of the week? Look at you at that football game…cheering for your team. You aren’t 10% that excited in the house of God.

Look how dull and insensitive you are to holy things. How much have you prayed? Or even wanted to pray? How much time have you spent with God this week? Was it more time than you spent in meaningless worldly pursuits?

When God looks at you, just think what he sees. Think of all the vile and dirty thoughts, the petty selfish thoughts, the unholy thoughts and feelings that have filled you this week. And then you come into the house of God, sitting there like you are a Christian.

Just who do you think you are? You are an embarrassment to God and the church. Only if you repent, and show your repentance by brokenness, is there any hope that God can change you from what you are to what he desires for you to be.

OK. Thanks Satan. Fine sermon. And yes, I know all those lines not because I have access to the devil’s sermon notebook, but because I know what Gospel-less preaching sounds like.

I remember several years ago a young preacher came to our school and literally was shouting this stuff from the moment he entered the door. He went after everything: music, drinking, porn, sleeping in church, not having Bibles, modesty, purity and on and on. He had the room full of students shaking in their shoes in 15 minutes. He then commanded everyone down to the altar to get saved, or resaved or really repentant or whatever it took.

He was violent in his methods, cruel in his message and utterly GOSPEL-LESS in his ministry. Of course, he’s a successful full-time evangelist these days. A lot of people love the devil’s sermons.

I want you to imagine the sheep who grow up with this, whether it’s in church, in their home or in some ministry group. These will be beaten, cowering sheep. Or they will be sheep who run away, and good for them in doing so.

They are sheep who only know the Good Shepherd as the lesser of two evils; the enforcer of the devil’s accusations.

When Satan would engage Luther with this kind of inner voice, Luther would say, “Let’s write it all down. All of my sins. And then at then end, write, PAID FOR, by the blood of Jesus Christ.”

The Holy Spirit convicts. Satan revels in torment of the conscience. The Spirit exposes our need of Christ. The accuser comes up with various comparisons and tests to brutalize us with personal applications of the law. (“If God said I can only save the world if one of your children is damned forever, would you still love God?”)

Jesus gives us the truth. Satan distorts the truth so that the Gospel is lost in the noise. Christ wants to bring the wandering sheep home. Satan wants the sheep to despair and jump off the cliff.

The Gospel is news that is too good for accusers. The law is exact and in the hand of the enemy of our souls, it is a brutal, soul-killing weapon. In the hands of the Spirit, it is a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. Leads. Not beats us to despair.

So this week, you may want to say. “You know pastor, I think I heard that sermon before. I believe I know where you got it.”

Comments

  1. Ran Vosler says:

    The law can be used to condemn…..or……

    ….the law can be a promise: this is how we’ll act/think/love/care/walk when we abide in the Spirit.

    Jesus declared the law to be too EASY: Aadultery…how about lust? Murder…how about anger toward others? etc (pardon my paraphrases.) In doing so, He showed us that we can never satisfy God apart from dying as Adamic human beings and living as “Spirit-beings” in Him. The Condemnationalists (new sect?) simply leave us holding a bag that no one and nothing short of death can rid us of.

    In the Spirit, the law becomes a description of how we can and will live…”from the inside out.”

    “I’ll put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts…” (Jer 31) The law ain’t bad, it’s simply yet another promise we cannot attain except through His supernatural grace.

  2. Jonathan Hunnicutt says:

    Can we preach in such a way that helps people see how dangerous sin is, how entraping, and imprisioning it is? Can we preach in such a way that helps people see that we are in a pig pin eating swinehusks? Can we help them come to that realization gently, without beating them up about it, and then deliver the gospel word?

    Ironically as well, I think we only start to have some measure of victory over sin by deeply trusting that God loves us. I’ve noticed in my own life that my own sins are less appealing when I am trusting that God loves me.

    However, beating up on myself only makes me want to sin more, so that I can numb my pain. Should we be too surprised if those devil sermons actually made people sin more, instead of less?

    Sometimes I wonder if we will be sinless in the New Creation, not because our sin natures have been removed, but because then we will know fully how much God loves us, and sin will have no appeal.

    • It shouldn’t surprise us that these sermons make us sin more because they feed our narcissism. After all, no matter how brutal and blunt these sermons are, they are all about us and I don’t really think the devil cares a whit whether we come out of church feeling good, bad or in between, so long as we are thinking about ourselves, worrying about ourselves, despairing of ourselves, rejoicing over ourselves, whatever.

      We should never be angry with ourselves over our sin. This only arises when we fail to achieve the aspirations of our prideful imagination. We imagine we are perfect when we have hardly begun to take the first step, then when we fail, we give up in despair, like the prophet Elias, who cried “Lord, this is enough, take my life”. Now Elias was only strengthened by the angelic bread, and so we too can only get back up with the strength of the Holy Eucharist, but it often takes us weeks or months to build up the resolve to receive it, so much are we obsessed and disturbed by our own weakness.

      • “I don’t really think the devil cares a whit whether we come out of church feeling good, bad or in between, so long as we are thinking about ourselves, worrying about ourselves, despairing of ourselves, rejoicing over ourselves, whatever.”

        I like that, Curtis. And I see you read or heard this Sunday’s readings. That was an interesting section about Elias.

      • “…we too can only get back up with the strength of the Holy Eucharist…”

        Good point. We talked about this very point last Sunday. Despite Elias’ attitude, God still fed him. The same is true for us. God is fatihful.

      • Very Lewis-esque observation, Curtis. Self-centeredness is such a subtle weapon in Satan’t arsenal.

  3. Here’s my take:

    ISTM that for preachers to harp on sin in our lives is to belabor the obvious… it’s beating the dead horse. Even if we will deny it to everyone we meet and try to deny it to God, deep down we know our lives are in the pit and our actions are killing us. We don’t need convinced of that fact.

    What we need convinced of–and convicted of–is the way out. The way out isn’t behavior modification… We’ve all tried that route.

  4. “And then at then end, write, PAID FOR, by the blood of Jesus Christ.”

    at the end

    Good piece.
    I have been writing some pieces my self on the issue of humans just following God because he pays us. I have a lot in common with the Virtue (Kant) character in C. S. Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress.

  5. Fob James says:

    Imonk re:

    “Jesus is the constant mediator. Jesus is the constant advocate.
    Satan is the constant accuser……The Gospel is news that is too good for accusers. The law is exact and in the hand of the enemy of our souls, it is a brutal, soul-killing weapon. In the hands of the Spirit, it is a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. Leads. Not beats us to despair.”

    Interesting subject, but I don’t know about your take, Imonk. Listen to the no. 1 youtube sermon by Paul Washer. His marshaling a litany of sins, like the “young preacher” in your example, and at least to my less than perfect discernment, seems to me to be a work of the flesh. That is, flesh pounding on other flesh.

    Although Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us, He is not described as the “constant” advocate and mediator in scripture. He is also the Judge of man, being man Himself. A sword proceeds from His mouth in the Revelation of John. (19:15)

    Your comments on the “law” as a weapon in the hands of the adversary remind me of the opening thesis of Rick Joyner’s book in the 1990’s, “There Were Two Trees in the Garden.” For Joyner, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the “law.” I don’t think satan ever tells the truth about much of anything, especially the law, which from Paul we know to be spiritual and good, and especially written for lawless men. And as I think you allude to, that which was meant to bring life brings death, due to the weakness of the flesh.

    Yet what actually “kills the soul” is the cross, not the law. “He who loses his life (soul) for My sake will find it.” The cross is the great offense, both to the legalist and the liberal. He who by the Spirit puts to death the deeds of the body, will live. May it be so in my life, Lord Jesus.

    • You’ll be interested to know that the phrase “the law kills” is new testament. The cross “kills” in a quite different way. We are crucified with Christ, but not in the way the law “kills” us. The cross is a death in and with Jesus. The law is a death totally about us.

      I find Washer’s stuff to be pretty much the most brutal and despairing sermons I’ve listened to recently. Destroys assurance in every message. I could see it once in a while. A diet of that would annihilate most Christians.

      I am not familiar with Joyner, but I disagree with what you cited from him.

      • Fob James says:

        you also stay up late in kentucky. shalom.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I find Washer’s stuff to be pretty much the most brutal and despairing sermons I’ve listened to recently. Destroys assurance in every message.

        Sure that’s not deliberate? Hammer away at any assurance they might have had until it’s all in ruins, then make the Altar Call so they can really really really get really really really saved this time. (And get the big spectacular Altar Call crowd with much crying and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Real power trip for the preacher-man, plus a LOT of sales figures for brownie points at the Bema.)

        I’ve seen similar one-on-one tactics in use to break down assurance so the breaker/evangelist can Save Another Soul (i.e. put another notch on his Bible). There it was an infinite-regression tactic called “The Ressegue Regression”:
        1) Evangelist asks the mark “Are You Saved?”
        2) If mark says “Yes”, start the high-pressure with “But how do you KNOW you’re Really Saved?”
        3) No matter what the mark answers, throw his reason back at him with “But how do you KNOW you’re Really Fill-in-the-Blank?”
        4) Repeat (3) in an infinite regression until the mark is beaten down and gives up, then pull out your Bible, lead him in The Magic Words, and pronounce him Truly Saved. Until the next evangelist pounces on him with another Ressegue Regression.

        As you said in one of your essays, IMonk “Are You Saved? Are You Sure? Are You Certain You’re Sure? Are You Sure You’re Certain You’re Sure?” etc…)

        And after you become a notch on half a dozen Bibles that way, you start wondering if it’s all BS from Day One.

      • Fob James says:

        Imonk, woke up with the verse, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

        You are right when speaking of the cross, the word “kill” is not used. “Put to death” is better. However, it’s also true, i think, that the Law (nomos, torah) does not “kill.” The “letter” (gramma) kills. “Sin” also kills. Death enters.

        Therefore while condemning the preaching of condemnation according to the flesh, don’t you think we must also uphold the preaching of the judgment now and to come, on account of sin, as an essential part of the gospel?

  6. In practical matters, people encased in their sins are like hermit crabs in their shells. You don’t get a hermit crab out of his shell by grabbing his toes and pulling, and making him sensible of how much danger he is in. You get him out by treating him kindly, making him feel safe enough to poke his feelers out, and then offering him a better shell.

  7. Michael,
    A very nice post that caused me to think. I like the way you set this up, with Satan preaching. Very, very good.

  8. I needed this today. Thanks!

  9. The danger of this kind of teaching is that it results in people giving up on their relationship with Christ. Ultimately, the gospel message is that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and defeat of death has cancelled our sin and justified us before God, which allows us to have fellowship with Him. A focus on the law without a gospel application leaves the believer thinking they have to clean themselves up before they can go to God in prayer and worship. The believer turns inward, attempting to improve themselves so that they can stand clean before God, not realizing that 1) it is the blood of Christ only that allows them to stand clean before God, and 2) it is only through an actual relationship with God that any moral progress can be made in the first place. It turns into a cycle of trying to pursue a relationship with God, failing to live up to His standards, feeling guilty, and giving up on the relationship b/c we’re not worthy. The cycle eventually ends with the believer giving up on the relationship and either going through religious motions to continue the appearance of an active spiritual life, or giving up on religion altogether. At least this was how it all played out in my life until I came to a complete undersanding of the gospel, beyond just that it “saved me” when I was 11 years old. The gospel allows me to stand righteous before God regardless of the sins in which I am entwined. It is up to Him to make me a better, more obedient, more faithful, more repentant person.

  10. Hey Guys—absolutely fascinating discussion. Thanks! One thing: Check out more on P. Washer. he’s so far removed from hell fire and brimstone and the caricature of him above is way off base. I happen to have met him and he’s preached in our church and I can say he’s nothing like the manipulative, flesh focused condemner he seems to be painted as above. I’ll assume the reference to the #1 YT video is the sermon to the SBC youth. Don’t forget the context there. He was preaching to a very specific audience and was trying to shake them up and help them realize that all their cute little mission trips, ice cream eating contests and baseball game outings with the youth group don’t assure them of anything salvific. He then went on to present the Gospel clearly and call them to repentance. I wholeheartedly agree that this could not be the regular diet for a local church, but he only recently has become a local church Pastor after having been a traveling evangelist/speaker for years. Just wanted to add some context, that’s all. Not trying to say he’s perfect, just round out what looks to be an unbalanced criticism of him above.

    iMonk—thank you for this blog, it’s fantastic. I heard about you on the Paul Edward’s program out of Detroit. Praise the Lord!

    • Amen Paul. Context rules. Scripture is often taken out of context to prove some doctrine that is not even there and the same applies to people. Clearly a pastor who gives a sermon like Jonathon Edwards did (sinners in the hands of an angry God) will be vilified by the purpose driven crowd. I mean isn’t the goal of the church to get happy folks packed into the church on Sunday so we can collect the tithes and offerings? The Bigger the better right? The pendulum is always swinging. We hear the complaints that the church is not doing enough. That the people are not sold out to Christ. They are not acting Righteous. And then we complain they are not loving and tolerant enough. That the church needs to be accepting and not judgmental about anything. “I would rather that you be hot or cold.” I disagree with RonP below. Most preachers don’t do #2. Most sermons don’t even have the gospel in them. Most sermons don’t mention the cross, the shed blood, the resurrection, or the return of Christ. [Mod edit]

  11. What kind of sermon would Jesus preach if He showed up Sunday morning as the guest speaker at First Church of Whatever? Judging from His teachings, sermons, and conversations in scripture, I would guess that He would:
    1. Proclaim what is good and true as good and true (the Kingdom).
    2. Identify sin and evil as what they are (without compromises or apologies).
    3. Offer forgiveness of sin and evil to any who seek it.
    4. Invite anyone who wants to come follow Him in the pursuit of what is good and true.
    Like you pointed out, imonk, most preachers lay real heavy on number 2 and then slip in some number 3 just before the alter call. But without number 1 and number 4, number two becomes a brutal instrument of condemnation and hopelessness, while number three becomes little more than the preacher offering to stop verbally abusing the congregation (at least until next Sunday) if enough of them cry “uncle” and submit to the alter call.
    As I see it, Jesus offers good news to repentant sinners and bad news to those who refuse to repent or don’t think they need to. I think Satan (and far too many clergymen) are in the business of either delivering bad news when good news is needed or ear candy when bitter herbs are in order.

  12. Thank you for this message. This whole week i’ve been feeling so down, so much in despair. I felt so utterly in despair about the sins I have committed after I became a Christian. I love the Lord and want to serve Him, but I feel so unworthy. I feel that I won’t bear it to stand before Him on Judgement day. But I do not want to stand before Him in fear and shame and trembling. I so desire to stand before Him in joy and peace and happiness!
    Your message has given me hope. Perhaps the Lord will forgive me and give me mercy, even if I do not deserve His forgiveness.
    Thank you again.
    May the Lord bless you, and may the Lord be merciful to me and thousands of others who might be in my situation.
    Roy

  13. Something caught my eye in this sermon. “Christ wants to bring the wandering sheep home.”
    This is not clear gospel, for if Christ or God ‘want’ to do something, what is withholding? Is not God’s will done?

    Both Law and Gospel must be preached clearly, each in its own office, for not all hearers are cognizant of their sinfulness. “By the law is the knowledge of sin…I had not known lust except the law said, Thou shalt not covet.” The purpose of the law is to reveal that not only the putting of our hand to sin is condemning, but rather the wrong desires within, whether or not acted upon, are condemning. Jesus said many things proceed out of the heart, including evil thoughts and said, “These are the things which defile a man.” The law is a hard word, for God said, “Is not my word like a hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces?” It can only reveal sin and the resulting eternal death due us, and leave us there under the judgment of God. The law offers no hope or remedy, but shuts Heaven against the sinner.

    The Gospel, on the other hand, reveals not what God wants to do, but what He has in fact done for us, the condemned sinner, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus does not only ‘want’ to gather the lost sheep, but has in fact come to “Seek and to save that which was lost”. He has in fact accomplished His mission. Jesus has sought the sinner, In a dark and cloudy day, by a bloody path which leads from Gethsemane unto the Cross of Calvary. He joyfully endured the eternal judgment which was rightfully ours, and in doing so has brought us forgiveness of all sins. His shed blood cleans us every whit, and with His stripes we are healed. It is not that He ‘wants’ to clean us, and ‘wants’ to heal us, but that we ‘are’, even now, cleansed and healed by faith in this gospel.

    What kind of sheep do we find in the fold of Jesus? Ez 34 describes them as, “Diseased, sick, broken, driven away, and lost.” Yet of such Jesus says, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” This is the gospel, which closes the gate of hell and opens the gate of heaven unto the sinner. It is not about what God ‘wants’ to do, but it is all about what He will do, has done, and has given unto us for the sake of His Son. We pray, “Thy will be done”, for God’s will is accomplished and is not left wanting.