The Elephant in the Room:
I’m just going to say it: every time I hear the story of Adam and Eve, I think that they were kind of—well, dumb. I confess I’ve pondered that I would have listened to God and not eaten the forbidden fruit. I’m generally a rule-follower, and it wasn’t that hard. And if a giant, talking snake doesn’t scream RED FLAG to hightail it away from a tree, I don’t know what does. Obviously the serpent was lying, and they fell for it.
This is all easy to think with the benefit of two millennia of hindsight. But let us keep in mind that Satan didn’t exactly tell Eve: “Eat this and you’ll be blamed for the fall of mankind forever.”
Instead, he is far craftier than that and masked the sin as an opportunity for wisdom, assuring her that she would be more like God if she ate it. He lied: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) That’s the moment when she ate the fruit, believing that it would be helpful, then sharing some with Adam.
The same moment they were tricked, allowing sin and suffering to triumphantly burst into the world beneath an ancient sun, still sneering at us beneath today’s fluorescent lights and back-lit screens.
Adam and Even believed the lie because it was disguised as something good, something true, something that seemed right. I can’t believe that they would make the same mistake if they knew the devastating consequences that would follow.
In my ignorance, I used to throw shade at Adam and Eve. Now I can only imagine just how many of Satan’s lies I have believed throughout my own life, lies disguised as something good or true but only meant to harm me. Not only would I have done the same thing as Eve, I am Eve.
The Prowling Enemy
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
To be honest, I don’t even like acknowledging Satan and instead prefer my faith to be pretty and happy, like a rustic sign adorned with the word HOPE in loopy letters, accented with cheerful painted daisies. Don’t even get me started on horror movies, which will leave me ripping open my shower curtain the moment I step into a bathroom to make sure the coast is clear. No and no. I can’t even read a somewhat-scary book before wanting to pull a Joey Tribiani and lock it in the freezer.
Instead, I prefer to surround myself with uplifting, positive influences, perhaps due to a subconscious fear that if I allow myself to fully recognize the darkness in the outer world, then it will snuff out the light in my inner world.
But as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense – and that only works if we recognize that we are competing against something. If we don’t check the weather, we won’t know storm clouds are rolling towards our horizon. If we deny our bodies are sick, we can’t seek treatment for healing. Ultimately, we can’t fight an enemy whom we refuse to acknowledge.
Perhaps this is best described in the 1995 movie The Usual Suspects:
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
This was another brilliant lie, often leaving God to get blamed for the havoc and despair that Satan delights in bringing to the world, second only to his delight when we turn our backs on God as a result.
The Broken Record
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
During his temporary residence in our midst, Satan stubbornly roams about, aware that his days are numbered until the day when Jesus returns and “every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11, repeated in Romans 14:11)
Like an unpleasant neighbor playing music too loud late at night, Satan’s biggest weapon is drowning out our peace with noise, infiltrating our thoughts with a nagging broken record relentlessly urging doubt, despair, and temptation, screeching things like:
“You’re not good enough.” “Why would anybody really love you?” “Don’t even try – you’ll just fail anyway.” “No one cares about you.” “You are unworthy of love.” “God doesn’t love you.” “You are ugly.” “Have another drink before you drive home.” “Try the drug – it won’t hurt you.” “It’s good to have an affair.” “That person deserves to get berated by you.” "It's good to marginalize them." 'Your race is superior and they are inferior, so treat them as such.“It’s your right to abuse her.”
Recognizing the enemy’s presence around us doesn’t make us possessed, reflect a lack of faith, or signify that we’re being punished for something.
Jesus himself was also a target of hissing lies, most famously when He was tempted repeatedly while fasting in the desert for 40 days. After the devil tempts a tired, hungry Jesus three times without succeeding, Jesus responds with:
“Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” (Matthew 4:10-11)
The Winning Team
It’s unnerving to think that a dark puppeteer wants to hover over our life’s stage. But although we may face a powerful sword, we have an even more powerful shield: an army of angels, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God Himself on the front lines, defending us against the enemy. Scripture is packed with promises like these:
"For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go." (Psalm 91:11)
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one." (2 Thessolonians 3:3)
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."
"But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness." (Revelation 12:14)
And while we have an army on our behalf, we can’t resist evil by just idly warming the bench as the Heavenly MVPs do their thing. We need to get in the game and fight back too, as scrappy and scrawny as we may be.
It doesn’t matter if we are picked last for the team – as long as we are on God’s team, we are victorious. Even a meager “Participation Award” is a divine badge of glory and honor.
Stomp the Snake
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
The night before his crucifixion and just before His arrest, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was incredibly distraught and anxious to the point of sweating blood, a rare phenomenon known as Hematohidrosis that can occur during “acute fear and intense mental contemplation.”[i]
Luke, who was also a doctor, wrote in his gospel: “He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44)
The movie The Passion of the Christ depicts Satan hissing in Jesus’s ear at this time, but perhaps this really happened and isn’t just a creative liberty. In the scene, Satan sneers to Jesus in the garden:
“Do you really believe that one man can bear the full burden of sin? No one man can carry this burden, I tell you. It is far too heavy. Saving their souls is too costly. No one. Ever. No. Never. Who is your father? Who are you?”
Once Jesus is done praying and asking—begging—God to take this cup from Him, Jesus looks at Satan, who has now sent a slithering snake around Jesus’s feet. Without a trace of fear or hesitation, Jesus defiantly and angrily STOMPS THE SNAKE.
Similar to Jesus’s fasting in the dessert, Satan relished in going after Jesus at a perceived moment of weakness-when Jesus was experiencing such anguish and fear. Remember, the devil delights in creating doubt in God, especially when we are most vulnerable.
This made me aware of where I needed to stomp the snake in my own life, to silence the hissing lies, the doubts, the negative voice in my ear that breeds self-doubt, chaos, and fear.
The voice labeling you unworthy of love? STOMP THE SNAKE.
The voice hissing that no one cares about you? STOMP THE SNAKE.
The voice whispering that God forget about you? STOMP THE SNAKE.
The voice sneering that you’re not good enough? STOMP THE SNAKE.
The voice encouraging reckless drugs and alcohol? STOMP THE SNAKE.
The voice urging you to snap at loved ones unfairly? STOMP THE SNAKE.
The voice delighting in racism, sexism, and discrimination? STOMP THE SNAKE.
STOMP THE FRICKEN SNAKE, YOU GUYS. And when you do, know this: Anyone who is a light for the kingdom of God is a dark liability to the devil. He is going to came after you louder and more insistent before he retreats. He is going to try to manipulate you and question your faith. KEEP STOMPING THE SNAKE. Like with Jesus, when the devil sees he can’t penetrate your faith, he will slink away.
“…and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26)
There is a song by Hillsong United called “Not Today” that pumps me up so much when I’m jogging, I completely and unapologetically become THAT person mouthing the lyrics. I may even pump up my arms a time or two, like a wannabe, sweaty preacher when I hope no one is watching but if so, you’re welcome neighbors.
A portion of the lyrics say:
Tell me did the enemy panic As You took up that cross Tell me did the darkness cry mercy As You rolled back that rock
‘Cause I know Your life is the life in mine I know Your love is the reason why
I’ll sing the night into the morning I’ll sing the fear into Your praise I’ll sing my soul into Your presence Whenever I say Your Name Let the devil know not today Whenever I say Your Name Jesus
Let the devil know NOT TODAY
I could benefit from this reminder every day. Now excuse me while I go put on some headphones and embarrass myself gallivanting around the 'hood.
The Strength Within Us
"The Holy Spirit is within us, forever bestowing “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Never forget that you are deserving of life, happiness, and flourishing. But sometimes this life is hard. And that’s okay. Whatever you are facing, no matter how far you’ve turned away, whenever you don’t feel strong enough or good enough know that you don’t have to be. God’s got this, and He’s got you, sending the Holy Spirit to help us in times of trouble like our own personal bodyguard. Jesus assures us:
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:16-18)
And whenever the enemy tries to make you doubt that and snatch your joy, fight back. Our participation awards can take out even the most towering, menacing Goliath. Not today, Satan. It's time to get stomped.