Pastor Jeff Struecker

I’m going to show you a series of pictures of superheroes. What I want you to do is say out loud, who the enemy of this superhero is. I know most of you are very familiar with all of the Marvel movies and the DC movies that have come out over the last 20 years. 

So tell me, who is the enemy? Just go ahead and shout it out loud if you know the enemy, the arch enemy of these superheroes. We’re going to start with the greatest superhero of all time. Tell me who the enemy of Captain America is…. It’s Red Skull. You know, the guy from the first movie. That’s the arch enemy of Captain America. And somehow, some way, he fights the little minions of Red Skull. Okay, next one. Tell me who the arch enemy of Wonder Woman is… Cheetah (or sometimes her name is Minerva). The next superhero, in no particular order: Spiderman. Who’s his arch enemy? The Green Goblin.

Okay. Number four on the list, one of my favorites, the Black Panther. Who’s his arch enemy? His name is Claw, the guy who steals the technology. This one’s going to be easy for you. Who’s the arch enemy of Superman? Yes, Lex Luther is the famous arch enemy of Superman. And again, one of my other favorites: Batman. Tell me who his arch enemy is. That’s right. He has about 20 of them because there have been about 50 Batman movies over the last 50 years. But the big one is, of course, Joker.

I’m going to do one more. But before I do that, I want you to think very, very carefully. And then I want you to say out loud who this one’s arch enemy is. Are you ready? Last one, who is the arch enemy the God of the Bible? …He doesn’t have an arch enemy. You see, what the superhero comic books and movies do is, they pose somebody who is kind of similar in power and similar in abilities. And now you have this big battle going on in the cosmic realm between Red Skull and Captain America, between Superman and Lex Luther.

But when we get to God (I need you to hear this from me right out of the gate), when we get to God, there is no rival. Therefore, there is no enemy. In fact, the Scriptures are abundantly clear about this. God is the creator of all things to include the angels, to include the prince of the angels. His name is Lucifer, sometimes called the Devil or Satan. God is his creator and is not at all threatened by Satan.

Here’s what I want you to understand. If you miss everything else that I say today, I want you to go away from this sermon today remembering one simple statement: Satan still serves God. Even though he rebelled, even though he has been kicked out of God’s eternal presence in Heaven, even though he is ruling this world, he is still every bit under the control of God. And he doesn’t pose a threat, not one bit, to God. 

Satan still serves God!

If you really want to know where this comes from, it all stems from a passage in the Bible. In fact, what we’re going to use to set up the questions that I’m going to try to answer for you today comes out of the Bible, and it comes out of 2 Corinthians:4. 

2 Cor 4:3-4 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

This is the apostle Paul speaking. He’s describing how people refuse to understand the truth and refuse to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Lord (We call him King). You want to know what God looks like? You don’t need to go any further than to look at Jesus.

The reason why some people are unwilling to believe is because their minds have been deceived and the Gospel has been veiled. The Bible makes it very clear. The god (little G) of this age, which is a reference to Lucifer or to Satan, is the reason why their Gospel is veiled.

I’m going to ask everybody to make a promise to me. Will you go back and read two chapters from the Bible? It will take you less than 10 minutes. Sometime today, before you go to bed, will you read Job chapters one and two? Everything that you need to know about God and Satan can really be found in these two chapters. And what you’re going to see is God’s absolute control over Satan.

Here’s my goal: I’m going to answer a few questions for you. My goal is that you are aware of Satan’s power, but you’re not afraid of him. That you respect him, but you don’t give him reverence that he doesn’t deserve. Because the reason why I believe he is the most misunderstood person in the Bible is, there are a lot of people that give Satan way too much authority, way too much control over the circumstances of the world. And then there are a lot of other people who give him not enough authority and not enough control.

And somewhere in the middle is a healthy balance. That’s what we’re going to try to do today: come up with a healthy understanding of who he is and how much power he has. We’re going to do this by answering questions for you. 

How did Lucifer have the choice to rebel against God with pride?

You’ve asked a lot of questions about Lucifer. I’ve selected a couple of questions that will help us understand the big picture about Lucifer. Here’s question number one. Someone asked, “How is it possible (this is Jeff’s interpretation of this question), how is it possible that Lucifer had the ability, the choice to rebel against God? And they already add in the phrase “with pride”, meaning the person who submitted this question understands that it is by his pride that Lucifer chose to rebel. What the question is asking is, how is that even possible? And I think it’s a really, really important question.

In fact, somebody else asked it another way. They said, “Why would Lucifer think that he could attempt to take over Heaven? If he saw God’s glory, why would he even think about rebelling against God?”

Well, this gets to the essence of why Lucifer would do what he would do. There’s an interesting phrase found in the New Testament, 1 Timothy:3. This passage from 1 Timothy is telling the church, if you want to know whether or not somebody is ready to be a pastor, let me tell you the things that you should be looking for in a person’s life. If they’re ready to be a pastor, if you want to know if God is at work inside their soul, calling them to be a pastor, I’m going to tell you some of the things to look for. This is the list in 1 Timothy:3. We’re going to read just a few parts of this list, and right in the middle of this list is a fascinating statement about the devil.

1 Timothy 3:6-7 He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap.

Now,  it didn’t say that he must not be a young dude. You can be a young dude. You just can’t be new to the faith, because if you’re new to the faith, this is a recipe for disaster. You can be really old, really young, or somewhere in the middle. But you cannot be brand new as a Christian. 

If you want to know what was going on in Lucifer’s heart, when the prince of angels, the crown jewel of the angel realm that God created, decided, “I think I’m going to try to take over Heaven. I think I’m going to take over God’s very throne in his very presence. And I’m going to try to kick him off of his throne; I’m going to sit on the throne in Heaven…”, If you want to know what was going on in his heart, 1Timothy 3 tells you exactly what was going on in his heart.

He became conceited and thought he was a pretty important dude. And because he thought he was so important, the creature started to think he was more important than the creator. And then the creature, Lucifer (and by the way, all humans are creatures, too) decided, “You know what? I’m going to be in charge. I’m going to make the decisions, not God.”

Isn’t it interesting? This is the exact temptation that Lucifer used with our first parents in the Garden of Eden. “God’s holding something back from you, and he doesn’t want you to have all of his power and all of his knowledge. And so the reason why he won’t let you eat the forbidden fruit is because God is holding something back.”

And the very thing that tempted Lucifer, he’s using to tempt our first parents. I’m telling you, it happens to people all over the planet. They decide, “I don’t want God to call the shots in my life. I want to call the shots. And so God, you sit in a box, and you only come out when I rubbed the lamp. I’m going to make the decisions in my life.”

That’s the temptation that Lucifer fell to in Heaven. And the Bible is warning all of us, to include the guy who feels the spirit of God calling him out of whatever walk of life it is and into some pastoral ministry, “Be careful, because your pride can make you conceited, and you will fall into the same sin that Lucifer did.”

It is a great question. And if you really want to know the one word answer to, how could this possibly happen? It’s because God created the conditions that made it possible for it to happen. God didn’t make it happen, but he at least made the conditions where Lucifer could try to rebel, not he would, but that he could try to rebel against God.

If Satan is not omnipresent, is it more likely the work of demons that brings about our temptation?

All right, second question: If Satan is not omnipresent… (now I need to explain this word to those of you who didn’t grow up in church). That word simply means “in all places at all times”. If Satan is not omnipresent, is it more likely the work of demons that brings about my temptation?

What the Bible teaches us about God is that he is all over the planet, in all places at the same time, but it does not ascribe this to God’s creation. So you and I can only be in one place on the planet at a time. And because Satan is not omnipresent, in all places at all times, the question is asking, can he really tempt me and tempt somebody on the other side of the planet at the same time? Is that how things are going?

And the person who asked this question, by the way, is pretty intelligent. So they’ve already rationalized in their mind, “Well, he can’t be in two places on the planet at the same time. I can’t be in two places on the planet. So, I wonder if my temptation is not coming directly from Satan, but coming from one of Satan’s followers, one of the fallen angels.” That’s what the question is asking.

Pretty important question, right? -‘cause you were tempted this week. I hope you didn’t give into that temptation. Maybe you did, but I guarantee you were tempted this past week. Did that temptation come from Satan personally or from one of his demons? Or is there something more at play here?

Let me tell you why this is such an important question: two things about your heart collide at this question. One is the vulnerability for temptation. You see, you and I would have to admit, “Man, I’ve got a heart that could easily go down the wrong road. I have to be careful or else I can make some really stupid decisions and ruin my life, because I am susceptible to temptation.” That’s one principle that’s happening here.

But the other principle, that’s very important in this question is, there somebody out there that is trying to wreck my life, and is this the work of Satan personally, or is this the work of demons? I’ve been talking with some of our brothers from South Africa about this question and the last one. In fact, we had a really detailed discussion about it. And I want you to understand that when the Bible ascribes power to Satan, it gives him very real power. For example, Ephesians chapter two refers to him as “the prince (or the ruler) of the power of the air”, meaning he has some kind of rule over the earth.

1 Corinthians: 4 refers to him as the “god of this age”. We just read it a moment ago, but a very real example of his power shows up most vividly in Jesus’s temptation, Matthew chapter four, starting in verse eight:

Matthew 4:8-11 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Then the devil left him, and angels came and began to serve him.

I need you to understand at this point, Jesus has been baptized. He’s about to start his public ministry. But before that happens, the Bible says he goes into the desert for 40 days and nights of relentless temptation by the devil. And not once does he give in to that temptation.

Now we have three of the specific temptations that the devil tempts Jesus with while he’s in the desert for 40 days. We have three of those recorded for us in the Bible. I am convinced when Hebrews tells us he is tempted in every way that you will ever be tempted, he’s saying that that stuff happened one after another, after another, for 40 days in the desert, this is the point where Jesus is tired. He’s hungry. And if there is a point where his guard is down, this is it. Satan has already tried to tempt Jesus by distorting God’s truth two other times. And on both of those occasions, Jesus has corrected Satan’s bad theology by using the Bible.

But that’s not how Jesus answers Satan this time. So Satan says, “Jesus, I’m going to give you a free pass. You don’t have to go to the cross. You don’t have to go through the pain and the suffering that is laid out in front of you. I will give you all of the kingdoms of the world.” What Satan is saying is, “They’re mine to give, and I will give them to you. I will give you all of the kingdoms of the world, and here’s all it’s going to take, Jesus. Just fall down and worship me.”

I want you to notice in Jesus’s response next, he doesn’t argue with Satan about whether or not he has all of the kingdoms of the world to give. Jesus just deals straight with the temptation. 

What we have been arguing about in some of the groups that I’m in is, is this a real offer? Is this a legitimate offer from Satan? “Jesus, I’ll give them all to you, because God has given them to me. At least right now, he’s given them to me, and I’ll give them to you, if you’ll just fall down and worship me.”

You can see Satan’s pride and conceit in this temptation alone. But I’m going to tell you, there is a degree of truth. Now, remember Satan is a liar, the father of all lies. In fact, there’s really nothing that comes out of his mouth that isn’t somehow a lie. But there is a degree of truth to the offer. “The kingdoms of the world are mine to offer, Jesus, and I’ll give him to you if you’ll worship me.” And Jesus’s answer to Satan is, “I worship the Father alone, and my people will worship the Father alone.”

The Bible is telling us in Matthew chapter four, Jesus is vulnerable, and Satan’s power is very real. And if his power to tempt Jesus is this real, then certainly his power to tempt you is this real. And I don’t want you to ever dismiss outright the temptation that comes from evil, evil forces at work, trying to undermine your life, trying to cause you to make monumentally bad decisions.

I’m telling you this because sometimes we as Christians, sometimes people that are not Christians like to flippantly throw Satan’s power around like, “The devil made me do it” statements. And when those statements come up, I want us to be real and honest about what we mean by that statement.

When I stub my toe after doing something bad, and my mom says, “The devil made you do it,” is that true?

-which brings up the third and final question that I’m going to try to answer for you today. I love this question because of the way that it’s worded. Listen to this: “When I stub my toe after doing something bad and my mom says ‘The devil made you do that.’ Is that true?” Notice, it’s not a temptation, necessarily. It is a stubbing of my toe, but my mom said, “It’s because of the devil that you just stubbed your toe.”

Here’s my quick answer to your question. You can go back and tell your mother that I said this, your mom is crazy. It is not because of Satan that you stubbed your toe. But by the way, Everybody, I want you to notice what I’m wearing on my feet today, because just yesterday, I was walking through my bedroom, looking down and not paying attention and ran into the furniture. And I’m certain I broke my toe yesterday. And I was thinking, “I am going to have to answer this question that I’ve been preparing an answer for since Monday, and I think I just broke my toe yesterday. I’m wearing these because if I were to wear tennis shoes right now, I’d be in terrible pain.”

For those of you who know me, yes, I’m going to get up and go running tomorrow anyway, even though I think I broke my toe. But is it Satan’s fault that I broke my toe? Well, let me let the Bible answer this one for you. James chapter one says this:

James 1:13-14 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.

It’s not temptation, but a difficulty in life like a stubbed your toe or cancer or anything in the middle, loss of a loved one… Do you know what makes the temptation of your enemy, the evil one, so effective? He presses a raw nerve. It’s already raw. And by pressing it, now I can get you highly susceptible to make a mistake because it’s already a huge vulnerability. And what James is telling us is, it’s in your heart. You have this in your heart, and I have it in my heart, too. You have some evil desires that are already in there. It’s part of being born with the sin nature. And when the enemies of your soul, when Satan and his followers, when they press that evil desire, it’s really, really hard to say no. But it’s not impossible.

You see, what the Bible tells us when we study who Satan is, and when we learn from Job chapters one and two, from 2 Corinthians chapter four, when we see from other places in the Bible, that he is a created being and still under the control or under the influence of God, you have a way out, the Bible tells you. 

And no temptation is so great that you can’t call on the Holy Spirit of the living God, and say, “I need your help right now, God, because I’m about to make a really bad decision.” Ask the Holy Spirit of the living God to give you the power not to give in to your own evil desires, not to give into your own temptations and to do something that you know will honor God, instead of doing something that’s going to wreck your life or the life of people around you.

If I were to summarize everything that you’ve heard from me today, I would tell you this: that you and I need a sovereign savior. We call him King Jesus. You need a sovereign savior that is bigger than your problems. You need somebody that is greater than your adversary. You need somebody who is worthy of your worship, who cannot be tempted to evil and will help you out when you’re tempted to do evil. 

Do you believe that? You need somebody who is truly loving, a loving Lord who cares enough about you, who will step in and who will do everything necessary to help you rise above evil, so much so that he would be willing to die himself just to make it possible for you to live above evil. You need a God who is bigger than Satan.

Now, if you’re still with me, and if you agree with everything that I just said, you just walked into a theological ambush because you need a God who is more than a Facebook Jesus, who’s going to show up when things are okay, who will be there to make the problems go away, but when everything is going right in your life, you just shove him back in the corner and tell him to “Get out of my life. Let me live my life, and let me do my thing.”

You see, he’s not willing to just show up and help out when problems arise and then leave you to figure the rest of it out on your own. He’s the kind of God who says, “I will take control over every area of your life if you’ll give it to me. But if you’re only going to give me a little bit of it and you want to hold the rest of it for yourself, that’s exactly what Satan did. And I will not be that kind of God for you.”

That’s why I refer to him as the Facebook Jesus that shows up and he makes your page look awesome. But in reality, the rest of the time, you just put him back in a corner and stuff them out of your life. Now he’s the kind of God who says, “If you’ll turn it over to me (and I mean turn it all over to me), I’ll take it all, and I will do in your life what you couldn’t do in a million years. But you’ve got to give it all to me, and not just a little bit.”

If you want a God who is bigger than your enemy, you have to be willing to surrender everything to him.

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