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Thursday 20 May 2021

The Devil - Subverter, Twister, and Perverter of the Truth (How The Evil One Works Part 3)


Sermon video here

Introduction –

This week it is very likely that you watched way more TV or YouTube than you read the Bible, theology, or listened to sermons. I am not seeking to guilt trip you. If you didn’t watch much TV and YouTube, but spent more time watching sermons, or reading your Bible, that is awesome. But most of us enjoy watching TV at different times. I don’t watch network TV much, but there is usually one or two shows that I am streaming to unwind, and I like my footy, as you all know, and movies. I tend to just buy the older movies I like on DVD or Blu-ray now, especially older action and adventure and Sci Fi movies. So, I am not seeking to guilt you at all.

I simply want to make an observation that there is a good chance that you are being more influenced by the world, than by the Word. I think this is true for most of us, a lot of the time. It is really unavoidable to one degree or another. We live in this world, and we cannot fully disconnect from it. Sure, some have tried with varying degrees of success, like monks in medieval monasteries. But if we are going to engage in this world we are going to be bombarded with its subverted, perverted, and twisted messages in one way or another. Even some of the messages we get from good sources are tainted by the world, to some degree. Even many Churches today are not safe from the world’s messages.   

This is simply because the god of this age is the ultimate propogandist. He has been since the beginning. He is not just a liar, he is a good liar, an experienced liar. He knows how to manipulate you, me, and everybody…if we let him. Even if we are aware of his schemes, he will still find ways to drive wedges between us and others. Think about how Paul and Barnabas split apart in their ministry, for example. The Devil specializes in dissension and even this powerful team was pulled apart. He truly is a twister, a subverter, and a perverter of the truth.

If we are going to be aware of his schemes we have to delve into this in some depth, and look at some examples of how he perverts truth in our world. So, let’s jump back into our series on what Hebrews means by the “one who has the power of death” and look at how the Devil is the Subverter, Twister, and Perverter of the Truth. 

1. Power Over Death?? (Hebrews 2:14) The First way in which we can see the Devil being the perverter of truth, is the way he claims to be the one who has power over death. We’ve read Hebrews 2:14 a few times, as it is the guiding passage for our theology of evil, but let’s read it again, “14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…” It is true that in some sense the Devil has power over death, but I think he over plays this, and makes himself seem like he is more powerful than he is.

1.1  1 Peter 5:8 tells us this: “8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is serious, we are not to be flippant about the kind of damage the Devil can do. But he has his limits, look what 1 Peter 5:9-11 goes on to say - “9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

1.1.1       No matter what the Devil does to us in this life, we have eternal glory in Jesus. It’s not a coincidence that in the midst of all of the judgement going on in the book Revelation that twice, as things are ramping up and evil has its most powerful influence in the world, that we read this:

1.1.2       Revelation 7:9-10 – “9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”...13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” We read the same thing in Revelation. God is showing us that even at his most powerful moment on the earth, in the tribulation itself, the Devil cannot take your soul if you cling to Christ.

1.2  I actually do believe it is possible for you to sell your soul to the evil one. I think this is an important part of how power works in our world. Remember, the Devil offered Jesus everything, if Jesus would just worship him, i.e. give the Devil his soul. But Jesus turned him down. It stands to reason that this offer has been made to others and they have taken it up.

1.2.1       But if people think this is a contract they cannot get out of, they have fallen for a lie. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:13-15 – “13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

1.2.2       Jesus proved the Devil’s power was limited by tricking him into killing him, allowing the Devil to think he had won, and then rose again humiliating him. If you are trusting in Jesus’s death and resurrection, the Devil’s power has no hold over you. 

1.2.3       I will not say that no matter how much you are given over to the Devil, you can still be saved, because Jesus said there is an unforgiveable sin. But I will say, that you can be so given over to the Devil, that you are a persecutor of Christians, like Paul, and you can still come back, if you come to repentance.

1.3  At the height of judgement in Revelation 18, God still invites people out of the beast’s system, Babylon, “4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues…”

1.3.1       I’ve heard people say that God cannot forgive them, because they have done too much wrong. The Devil has fooled too many people into thinking that he genuinely owns them, because he has power over death, but God has power over life, and look at this, Revelation 1:12-13, 17-18 – “12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest…17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The Devil might be able to kill, but Jesus has the power and the legal authority to unlock you from the Devil’s grasp, for eternity. Praise God!!

1.4  So, we can add to our theology of evil, that the evil one has convinced some people he is more powerful than he really is. This is directly related to what I really want to spend some time talking about now…

      2. Perverter, subverter of God’s truth – The Devil’s number one strategy is getting people to doubt God’s word, or question it, even while often pretending to be faithful to it. Again, we need to return to Genesis 3, and see how the Devil cast the world into destruction by casting a shadow over God’s word – Genesis 3:1-5 - “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.”

2.1  Now we have already noted that the Devil is a crafty general, and crafty generals attack the most vulnerable point in the defences, because it gives them the best chance of victory. This is why he attacked through the woman. But crafty generals also apply the craftiest strategies, to those vulnerable points. Look at what he did:

2.1.1       “Did God actually say, ‘You shall no eat of any tree in the garden?’” What is he doing here? This is a two-pronged attack: he is casting doubt on the word of God, and he is sowing the seed to the woman that God is holding her back. You could paraphrase it like this: “So are you really saying that God isn’t giving you complete freedom in YOUR garden?”

2.1.2       What does this do? It frames God as the bad guy, because he has placed boundaries, or limits on what the woman and man can do or be. Does this sound familiar to you at all? Is this not the underpinning attack of our culture on God and his word today? That God’s word restricts our freedoms, our liberties, our right to individual expression?  

2.2  He then proceeds to outright challenge God’s word, 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.” The Devil is a good liar, because he knew that on the day that they ate of the fruit they would die spiritually, with physical death coming some time later. He was also right that they would gain access to divine knowledge, look how God responds, Genesis 3:22 - “22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” This was knowledge that humans were not supposed to have. And now that they were corrupted, they needed to be protected from immortality, because an immortal corrupt being would be just like the Devil.

2.3  But our key purpose this morning is to observe his schemes: in this passage he causes doubt about God’s word by framing God as the bad guy, limiting the woman’s freedom, and by directly challenging the consequences God said would come from breaking his word.

2.3.1       So we can add to our theology of how the Devil works, that he cleverly twists God’s Word.

2.3.2       As I said last week, the Devil has no new tricks, he just plays the same one’s over and over again. I want to highlight some areas where he has been incredibly successful in sowing doubt about God’s word. But first, we need to recognize what the result of the Devil undermining God’s word is.  

           3. Bringer of death - In disobedience to God’s word there is death, in following his word is life, Psalm 119: 25 – “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” The number one way in which the devil has power over death, is by undermining our faith in the word of God.

3.1  This caused Adam and Eve to die. This caused humanity to fall into sin and die. This is the number one agent of death in our world today. I mean think about all the issues in our world today, which bring death, because people reject the word of God.

3.1.1       There is war – Where does way come from? “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1, KJV).

3.1.2       There is murder – “2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2, KJV). War comes from people lusting for what they do not have, and wanting to take it by force or seeking to control what you should not. Murder often comes from the same thing.

3.1.3       There is sexual sin, and sexual pain – Our world is full of this - 1 Thessalonains 4:3-6 – “3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.”

3.1.4       All of these things come about by ignoring God’s word and reap much death in the world.

3.2  The Devil doesn’t really need to kill directly, if he can just get people to believe lies that reap a harvest of death on the world. This is why we can say that the Devil has power over death, but not that the Devil made you do it. Because he convinces people to be willing participants.

3.2.1       Of course this is a bit different for those who are possessed, but we will get to that in a later message.

3.3  Let’s look at some of the famous ways the Devil has subverted, twisted, and perverted the truth

       4. 19th Century, The Century of the Rise of Lucifer – I know it’s not obvious to everyone yet, but I am a bit of a fan of history. One of the reasons why I love history, is because 1) God’s word is mostly history. History is a powerful tool for helping us know who we are, and shape who we are. 2) So many fascinating things happen in history. 3) By reading history you can put together patterns. Patterns of God working, the Devil destroying, and what does and doesn’t benefit us humans. History is the combined catalogue of humanity learning what happens if you put your hand in the fire, without having to put it in the fie. And it is obvious to me, and to many others who read history that there is an evil hand at work, guiding those who attack God’s people. Think about this, in the middle of the 19th century multiple forces converged on Western society, all relying on each other, to undermine the Western world: Darwinism, Marxist Socialism, Materialism or Naturalism, Feminism, Psychology and more. And all of these were offering to replace the Christian worldview.

4.1  Darwinism - is the dominant creation theology of our day. It was partly inspired by a man who was angry at God for the loss of his daughter, and who thought the world was much older than it is. Evolution by natural selection was an attempt to explain away the need for a creator and give a naturalist, materialist, answer to how life came to where it is today.

4.1.1       Effectively Darwinism’s roles was simple: did God really say the earth was created in six days, a few thousand years ago, and all of us descend from one man and one woman created in God’s image?

4.1.2       And it was successful. Getting people to doubt that God was the creator smashed a plank out of the faith of many, and a plank out of the Christian nature of the West.

4.1.3       The irony is Darwin was arguing against something the Bible never said. He was arguing against a creation science view that said God created every different species and subspecies of creature. But the Bible just said that God created kinds. The Church’s misinterpretation of what God has said, allowed the Devil’s servant to undermine successfully. Sound familiar?

4.2  Marxism – What Darwinism did to the idea of creation, Marxism did to the idea of society. The Reformation leaders argued over what place the Church had with the state. Karl Marx went a step further, he said get rid of the Church altogether.

4.2.1       Why? Because he saw religion, really Christianity, as a false hope for the people, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.”

4.2.2       What would replace it? The state. The state would be people’s saviour. We Aussies, and Americans, look at Marxism as crazy. But Marx has gotten the last laugh. People now demand the state raise their kids, heal their illnesses, pay for the welfare, protect them from every threat, instead of threats too big for them to do on their own, pay for their retirement, look after their aged, tell them when it’s safe to go outside. Marx’s vision is being enacted in our time, and because it has been slow and steady most people cannot see the water is starting to boil.

4.2.3       Marx’s vision was that the state would replace the Church in education, in other words raise our kids. And it has. He wanted the state to become provider, instead of the man. And that is happening. He wanted women released from the “oppression” of being able to stay home to raise their kids, so they could free to be at their bosses command. Are we not living in that world?  

4.3  Feminism – I will finish off with this one. I know some of you might think I talk about this one too much. But that is like criticizing Elijah and Elisha for talking about the Baals and Asherah’s too much. They spent most of their ministry calling out the false gods of their era, and this is still a preacher’s role today, and I call out many more than just this false goddess. With Darwinism the Devil replaced God as creator, with a Satanic, chaotic, random force: atoms colliding with atoms. With Marxism the Devil has replaced God as saviour of society and put the state in his place. With feminism the Devil has undermined the most powerful force that stood against him: discipleship in the home by butt-kicking, bible armed mothers.

4.3.1       He completely subverted the truth of God’s word to unleash the chaotic force of ancient pagan priestesses on society again.

4.3.2       Many Christians see early 19th century feminism as the good kind, the kind that was just about getting more rights for women. But it wasn’t. Early feminism had one goal: replace the husband in the home with the government. And the result has been the destruction of the family ever since. This is the 19th century feminist authoritative view on God’s word:  “Amid this vast discrepancy in regard to the truth of the Scriptures themselves; with no Hebrew manuscript older than the twelfth century; with no Greek one older than the fourth; with the acknowledgment by scholars of 7,000 errors in the Old Testament, and 150,000 in the New; with assurance that these interpolations and changes have been made by men in the interest of creeds, we may well believe that the portions of the Bible quoted against woman's equality are but interpolations of an unscrupulous priesthood, for the purpose of holding her in subjection to man.[i]

4.3.3       They recognized that the Bible teaches that wives should obey their husbands. But rather than change their actions to match God’s word, what did these feminists say instead: “Did God really say?” Sound familiar? This style of argument is not surprising when you see who these “evangelical” feminists were inspired by: “Freedom for the peasants was found alone at night. Known as the Birds of the Night, Foxes and Birds of Prey, it was only at these night assemblages they enjoyed the least happiness or security. Here, with wives and daughters, they met together to talk, of their gross outrages. Out of these foul wrongs grew the sacrifice of the "Black Mass," with woman as officiating priestess, in which the rites of the Church were travestied in solemn mockery, and defiance cast at that heaven which seemed to permit the priest and lord alike to trample upon all the sacred rights of womanhood in the names of religion and law. During this mocking service a true sacrifice of wheat was offered to the Spirit of the Earth who made wheat to grow, and loosened birds bore aloft to the God of Freedom the sighs and prayers of the serfs asking that their descendants might be free. We can not do otherwise than regard this sacrifice as the most acceptable offering made in that day of moral degradation, a sacrifice and prayer more holy than all the ceremonials of the Church.”[ii]

4.3.4       All of these philosophies were inspired by the same desire to “liberate” society from the word of God and God’s Church. Those who danced with Lucifer, the light bringer, the liberator, the supposed “god of freedom” learnt to employ his tactics well, and they were successful.

4.4  We can’t even begin to understand the Devil’s schemes if we do not understand his subversive, perverse, and twisted tendencies. This is what he does, to everything.

4.4.1       He didn’t get rid of the idea of creator. He just replaced it with a view of chaotic randomness being creator: who does that sound like?

4.4.2       He didn’t get rid of the idea of society’s needs for a saviour, a healer. He just replaced it with the view that the state, which is supposed to be God’s servant for good, is now the saviour itself.

4.4.3       He didn’t get rid of the idea of the dignity of women. He just perverted it by convincing women they had to become like men, to have their true dignity. In the process he ripped apart the Western home.

4.4.4       Once we understand just how much the Devil has perverted, twisted and subverted our culture, we can then look to how God’s word teaches us to address it, beginning in our own lives.  

4.5  Much more could be said and I have already said a lot. But I have called the 19th century the rise of Lucifer. How else do we explain such a targeted and successful series of attacks on western society that still reverberate to this day, effecting all of us in many aspects of our lives?

           5. Conclusion – We have not finished with our theology of evil. But how can we apply what we learnt today. Here’s a start: read Genesis 1-2 and ask does it fit with what society says about creation? Read Daniel or Revelation 13 or 18 and ask: does it fit with what society says about the state being our saviour? Read Titus 1 and 2 and ask yourself does this fit with how society says we should structure the home?

5.1  Recognizing the Devil’s schemes is important, so we can understand where we have fallen for them. You can’t stand against the Devil’s schemes unless you are armed with the sword of the spirit, God’s word. And you need to be better armed with that than you are the knowledge of the characters in your favourite TV show.

5.2  You can’t oppose him successfully, if you have been convinced by his lies, and live them out, without realizing it. And once you do realize what is happening…it is incumbent on you, and me, and all who know to change our lives in accordance with God’s word, not change God’s word in accordance with the world’s death dealing standards. Let’s pray.  

[i] Stanton, Elizabeth Cady; Anthony, Susan B.; Gage, Matilda; Blatch, Harriot Stanton; Harper, Ida H.. The Complete History of the Suffragette Movement - All 6 Books in One Edition): The Battle for the Equal Rights: 1848-1922 (p. 1108). Musaicum Books. Kindle Edition.    

[ii] Ibid.

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