Sermon video here
So last week we looked at the end of our series on evil, and who was defeated on the cross and resurrection Sunday. The week before that we looked at how evil likes to subvert, pervert and twist, and how the main way the devil does this is by twisting and subverting the word of God.
We looked at some really important examples of this from history. We looked at Darwinism, commonly called evolution., which seeks to replace God as creator. Also Marxism, which is the worst form of socialism, which replaces God and the Church, with the worship of and dependence on the state. And feminism, which was masterfully designed to pull apart the family. The argument of the feminists was, essentially, they should not need their husband’s permission to engage in politics. I know that is the basic norm for society today, but it was a radical and anti-biblical change in that day and age.
What does the Bible say, “5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:5-6). It also says that husbands should not treat their wives poorly, “7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). If you treat your wife poorly God is against you Peter says. The bible would put bad husbands in the category of Nabal, the fool, who refused to pay David.
It is very clear when you compare the Bible’s position to the feminist position that the feminist position was designed to rip apart the most powerful part of Western Culture, the Christian family, and set wives against their husbands. The most powerful force in society is the Christian home led by gentle, but strong husbands, followed by their submissive, but noble wives, who dedicate their resources to raising their children. In essence, feminists convinced the government to tell their husbands that they did not have to obey the Bible’s teaching about wives and husbands. Equality was the edge issue which was used to undermine the scriptures, and we live in the downflow effects of this.
Once you see this, you cannot unsee it, and that was the purpose of our sermon two weeks ago to look at some of the ways the devil has fooled people and ask ourselves if we have been conned by some of his tricks. We are all in danger of being fooled by the devil, and more so if we are not dedicated to shaping our worldview by the scriptures. If you believe the world was created in the chaotic, blood soaked, and violent process of evolution, you have been fooled by the devil. If you believe that the state, the government, has the right to replace God, and many of the roles of the Church, you have been conned by the devil. If you believe wives do not have to obey their husbands in righteous acts, you have been conned by the devil. And he has conned most of our society. You have to give him credit, the devil has conned people into saying that what the Bible says is good is actually bad.
None of us here would deny that the devil is a master con artist. But most of us here would find it hard to admit that we have been conned by the devil in some of these ways, and others. But we all have to be humble enough to admit that we can be conned by his schemes, if we want to learn how to avoid his schemes. This is why the word of God is a lamp unto our feet. It highlights where we have gone wrong, so that we can walk right again.
But the Bible is not the only light we are offered in this world. People don’t always fall for evil, because they want to do bad. They sometimes fall for evil because they convince themselves, or are convinced, that it is good. So, it follows from a couple of weeks ago looking at how the devil casts doubt about God’s word, that we need to talk about how the devil presents himself as liberator, saviour, enlightener, or as Paul puts it, an angel of light.
1. The False Liberator (Genesis 3) – Let’s again, as we have done nearly every week of this series so far, look at Genesis 3, because we see this angel of light routine there in its first act – “3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Now we have looked at this from many directions already. But I want us to notice something else here. Look at how he addresses the woman:
1.1 As an ally - Genesis 3:4-5 - “4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” What he is doing here is pretty clear, he is not just saying “did God really say”, he is not just framing God as the bad guy, he is framing himself as the good guy. This is the devil, quite literally saying, “I’ve got the real deal here, listen to me, and you’ll go well.”
1.1.1 He is offering the woman “divine secrets” that he is trying to convince her were kept from her. Effectively he is telling the woman that God is holding her back, and he knows how she can be liberated to be equal with God.
1.1.2 We often hear criticism that maybe Adam had not taught his wife properly, because she slightly misquotes what God says in Genesis 2. But think about this: this is the garden of God. This is probably not the first time this woman has seen a remarkable being like this serpent. Why is she not shocked by a talking Dragon like this? Because she may have, and probably has already, seen other incredible things like this.
1.1.3 And the Devil is presenting himself as friendly to her. He’s just trying to show her where her and Adam had been ripped off. In other words, he is presenting himself as her liberator.
1.2 This is exactly how many ancients saw it as well. Indeed, this is why in medieval times witchcraft was viewed more as a feminine act, than a masculine one. Not because it was exclusive to women, because it wasn’t, but because the medieval Christians saw this ancient connection between the woman and the serpent, and magic, and more. But it is also clear that Adam here also viewed it in the same way, as he also took and ate.
1.3 Effectively, the Devil conned the man and the woman, because he convinced them that he was right, and God was wrong – “6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
1.3.1 Notice that she saw that it “was good for food”. There is a sense in which Eve here thought she was doing the right thing, because she had been conned, as Paul tells us, 1 Timothy 2:13-14 - “13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” She had become convinced, in her own eyes, that it was right to do this.
1.3.2 I mean what could be so bad about eating this amazing looking fruit? What type of fruit it was I have no idea, but apparently it looked great. And what could be so bad about getting wisdom, after all “the tree was to be desired to make one wise”? And here was this helpful dragon guy telling her all about this wonderful knowledge she could have. What could be so wrong about this all? And why are people so harsh on this woman and man just wanting a little bit more knowledge. See how the devil spins things?
1.4 This is how the devil works as the angel of light, he represents himself as liberator, rather than oppressor. Think about Communism. Marx targeted his message at the poor because he said he wanted to “liberate them”. “Workers of the world, unite!” What more positive message could you offer to people slumming in an 1860’s coal mine? You will all be equal, you will all own nothing, but you will all be equal. Many people don’t want to get out of the pit, they want to drag others into the pit. The Marxist message is attractive to people like this.
1.4.1 The Devil cons people, because he takes a small element of truth, and he gets us fallen people to go along with it. His trick is to get us to do what Eve did: determining for ourselves what is good.
1.4.2 The Devil’s trick doesn’t work because people think doing evil is good. The Devil’s trick works, because many people are convinced evil IS good, and good IS evil: Isaiah 5:20-21 - “20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” Woe to those who copy Eve, like Adam, the first to copy Eve.
1.4.3 This little trick of the evil has reaped, and is reaping, untold damage on the world, and a lot of it comes from sources, you would not expect.
2. The Angel of Light (2 Corinthians 11) – We all know this phrase that the devil presents himself as an angel of light. But what is the original context of that verse? Let’s have a look, 2 Corinthians 11: 1-3, 12-15 – “11 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ… 12 And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
2.1 Paul is having some trouble with these so called “super apostles” (vs 5). They are preaching a false gospel, leading people away from Christ, causing all sorts of issues. And where does he hark back to? Back to Genesis 3 and Eve’s encounter with the devil:
2.1.1 “3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ…13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
2.2 Paul saw, exactly what we talked about: the devil pretending to be a good guy, a liberator. Isaiah 14 tells us this, “12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Now this is the King James translation.
2.2.1 You will hear people object to calling the Devil Lucifer, because they point out two things: 1) This passage in verse 4 is addressed to the King of Babylon, 2) The Hebrew words translated “Lucifer” here just means “Day Star” or “Morning Star”, from the bright star that is still visible in the morning.
2.2.2 But Isaiah here is using an ancient understanding of the Devil’s fall from heaven to talk about the king of Babylon here. Think about this, we are to interpret the Old Testament through the new, and who is the real king of Babylon in Revelation? The Dragon. The Devil. He is behind it all.
188.8.131.52 In fact Isaiah says this to the Philistines about Babylon: Isaiah 14:29 - “Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.” In some sense, Isaiah is saying, the spirit of Babylon is not finished, and the dragon shall rise again from her. I don’t know how you can’t see a connection to the devil here.
184.108.40.206 “Lucifer” is a very fitting name for the Devil, because it means “light bringer”, or “light source”, and that is what he claims to be. The giver of “divine light”, or divine knowledge.
2.3 And this is exactly how his servants work themselves into the church. “13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
2.3.1 Judas was the “son of perdition”, destined to betray Jesus, and possessed by the Devil when he did so, Luke 22:3 – “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.” But he presented himself as someone caring about the poor: “4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:4-6).
2.3.2 We can talk about communism, and feminism and Marxism and how much these wicked things attacked and pulled apart the Church in the West. But the biggest assault that comes on the Church, comes from the people who stand behind pulpits and twist God’s word to say all sorts of heresies and lies, while pretending to be God’s people.
2.3.3 These men, and women, don’t present themselves as the enemy. They present themselves as liberators, promoters of equality, advocates for social justice, and human rights, they pretend to care about the poor, the environment, all sorts of things, “it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness”.
220.127.116.11 Some of them will seem like solid advocates of the truth, noble men, who teach the truth about Jesus, but abuse women in the background.
18.104.22.168 Some of them will seem like they are really solid, but are really all about themselves, and are abusive to those under them.
2.3.4 I read a book a year or so ago, called, “He Came To Set The Captives Free” and the author, who was a doctor that uncovered a Satanic coven had taken over parts of the hospital she worked in, said that every Satanist and Witch, etc, etc, is encouraged to join a church, become a faithful member, and work division from within.
2.3.5 Jezebel is a good example of this in the Bible: Revelation 2:18-21 – “18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.”
22.214.171.124 Satan’s agents will go to church, if they can find a way to cause harm.
2.3.6 Jesus told us, that in his Church would be sheep and goats, and servants of Satan. Indeed, we read in John 8 that this had happened to his own people – John 8:43-44 - “43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
126.96.36.199 Why do you think Jesus cast out so many demons in Israel? By worshipping false gods many Israelites had given themselves over to demons. Baal. Beelzebub. Satan. The Devil.
188.8.131.52 His people were led astray by many such servants among Israel. And if the Church is not careful, the same thing can happen today. It has happened to many churches. I remember once seeing a Pastrix (female pastor) take a bunch of purity rings that young women had, melt them down, and turn them into a statue of a female body part, all to mock the purity ring culture. That isn’t a church, that isn’t a servant of God.
2.4 The Church has not been wise to this danger for a long time. So many false teachers, apostles, anointed ones, servants of the devil have been running circles around Christians in the Church for a long time now. Unless we are very grounded in God’s word, we too can fall for his tricks.
2.4.1 Paul tells us this: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – “3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
2.4.2 How do you take every thought captive to obey Christ? In the power of the Spirit of God, you soak yourself in his word.
2.4.3 There is a reason why I bring my Bible to Church, and put the passages I am preaching from, up on the screen: I want you to judge everything I say according to God’s word. So, you know, there is no guile in me. I am not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. But really, you need to soak in God’s word every day. Maybe just this week, look up the word Satan, the Devil, and demons and see everything God’s word says about them.
2.4.4 Their way of operating is to try and make themselves look like the ally of men, when really they are the ally of destruction.
184.108.40.206 Baal, pretended to be the provider of rain, and storms and life-giving water.
220.127.116.11 Asherah, said those who sacrificed to her in her sacred groves, under the trees, would be blessed with fertility.
18.104.22.168 Molech, offered blessings, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessing, nothing was a greater sacrifice than offering their children to the fires.
22.214.171.124 The Devil says worship him, and you can have the world. Which is a sucky trade as he knows it will be destroyed with fire.
2.5 The devil and his servants will work this way, right up until the end.
3. The Second Beast (Revelation 13:11-14) – There is something really interesting said about the second beast in Revelation 13. Now there are so many interpretations about the identity of these beasts, I do not intend to even try to solve it all this morning. Some say the first beast is the corrupt world system, and the second beast the anti-Christ. Some say, the first beast is the anti-Christ, the second his right-hand man. There are many interpretations. But there is only two things I want to hone in on: “11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.”
3.1 He has “two horns like a lamb” – why is this important? Because we know the actual lamb is Christ, and this beast here is a poor, twisted, imitation of that. He can even do signs and wonders like Jesus did.
3.1.1 In other words, he is a false-Christ, a Christ impersonator. Whether you see this guy as the main bad guy, THE Anti-Christ, or just the anti-Christ’s henchman, one of the key aspects of the anti-Christ system is that it will present itself as the saviour of the people, a false saviour.
3.1.2 This could work out in many different ways, but why would people follow the beast’s system, unless they thought that in it there was something for them? The anti-Christ system will present itself as the saviour of the people, probably saving the world from a great crisis. Sound familiar?
3.1.3 Marxism does that. Feminism does that. Most modern politicians frame themselves this way today. So many industries do that same.
3.1.4 However, we interpret this passage – and I bet that many of you have different interpretations here this morning – we can all agree, that we should be wary of anyone who points to salvation outside of Christ. Even if he is an amazing miracle worker.
3.2 Many people think the book of Revelation is about the future, and I am one of them. I think much of it is. But it is about more than that. It reveals to us Jesus Christ, in his amazing glory, and it also shows us how the enemies of Jesus work.
3.2.1 Many generations have thought they were in the end times, because so much of this book applied to their situation. Are we the final generation? Maybe. I don’t know. But whether we are or not, it feels like the beast’s system is rising all around us doesn’t it?
3.2.2 And how can we spot the devil’s work in any era, time, or place? He presents himself as the good guy, a saviour, a healer, a liberator, but when you look at his fruit, it points away from God, not towards God.
4. So how can we apply this? Well, what does Jesus say, “16 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men…” (Matthew 10:16-17).
4.1 “Beware of men” – Do not make the mistake of thinking because you have good intentions, everyone has good intentions. The devil makes a playground of people who are naïve like that.
4.1.1 Be wary. Be innocent, but smart like a serpent. Serpents are careful about who they go near.
4.1.2 Predators, like wolves, go where the prey is. To the wolves, we are prey. Let’s be difficult prey.
4.2 Be wary of “public Christians” who say they are on your side – Many politicians, preachers, media personalities, and others have said they are Christian, or conservative, or this or the other to sucker in people into supporting them. Be careful, be hard to win over.
4.3 Be Berean – We Baptists like to pride ourselves on being Berean-like. This is what Berean is: Acts 17:11 - “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” If that is not you, then you are not Berean. It is noble to search the scriptures daily. But it is only truly noble if it brings you more and more to Jesus.
4.4 Be suspicious of anyone, or anything, that is too good to be true. “The angel of light” remember. Satan seems like one of the good ones, until you follow him, and see the result of his advice. Eve thought the tree was good for knowledge, but it destroyed her. This is what the devil is like.
4.5 Be humble about your ability to be deceived. We all need to do this. I was once influenced in my early ministry by a preacher, that turned out to be a disaster. I praise God, that he alerted me to the danger before I followed that guy’s model too much.
4.5.1 But I had a senior minister warn me about him earlier, and I did not agree with him. He turned out to be right. I now model my ministry more on that senior minister that I used to.
4.5.2 We can all be deceived, because like Eve, we all think we know better too often.
5. Conclusion – I think we have about one or two more sermons in our theology of the evil one mini-series, from Hebrews 2:14, because the Bible tells us so much about the evil one. But today we have learnt this vital truth: the devil presents himself as an angel of light, but all he really has is dodgy little torch. Be wary of it, but don’t be afraid of him, he has lost, as we spoke about last week, cling to Jesus and the devil will flee from you. Let’s pray.