Deliver us from evil - Luke 10:17-22

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 21st December 2008.

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One of the things we were never trained for back in Bible College was exorcisms.   So I’ve had to have some on-the-job training so to speak.  And a few months ago, I was called on to go and visit another family living in a supposedly haunted house.    And I wonder what image has immediately sprung into your mind?  Ghostbusters, or maybe a child dressed up in devil’s outfit, compete with red tights, a pair of horns, a pointed tail and a pitch fork. In my experience, most people who think their house is haunted are either mistaken or deluded.  If you leave a window open, then the door might bang.  It’s not a ghost, it the wind. 

But this most recent visit was very different.  The family seemed to have a deep fear of evil and Satanic attack.  ‘Have you ever been involved with the occult’ I asked?  ‘Oh no’ came the reply.  ‘What about tarot cards or witchcraft’ I probed.  Oh yes; we’ve had loads of readings and I do tonnes of spells; would you like to see my spell folder.   It appeared that the family had invited satanic oppression of their household;  and it seemed that Satan was especially focusing his attack on their little daughter.  And so we prayed for the Lord’s protection of that whole family and especially the little girl.  Or as the next line in the LP puts it:  Dear Heavenly Father, deliver or protect, or rescue us from the Evil One, and from all his evil schemes and attacks.

Recap

But before that, let’s just remind ourselves of what we’ve learnt so far.  So you might want to turn back to it in Mt 6 on p [902/  1504].  And we’ve seen that the first half of the Lord’s prayer is all about God:  it begins by addressing God properly;  our Father in Heaven.   

And then it moves onto asking that God’s name would be glorified:  Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name.  Next it asks for God’s kingdom to come and then for His will to be done.  And we saw that first 3 petitions, God’s glory, His coming Kingdom and His will, were all wrapped up with J’s second coming.

And then we saw that the second half of the prayer moves on from God to us and our needs:  Give us this day our daily bread, spiritual bread as well as material bread that it.  Next we pray for the forgiveness of our sins.  And then last week we looked at temptation, or perhaps as Melvin explained for us, our trials:  lead us not through a time of trial, or maybe ever better:  when O Lord you do allow us to be tried and tested in the fires of life, please keep your promise not to test us more than we can bare;  please keep us strong and bring us safely through the time of trial.    Please O Lord don’t allow us stumble in the temptations and trials of life;  and please deliver us from all the attacks of the Evil One.    This week’s line in the LP is simply the flip side to last week’s.  Because behind all the evil in the world is the Evil One. And so even if we’ve never dabbled with the occult, when we’re going through the mill, it could be that we’re under satanic attack.  And if you’re a Christian, and especially if you’re in Christian leadership of any kind, then you will be subject to satanic attack at some point in your life.

1.      Satan is Real

Which bring us to the first main heading this morning:  Satan is real;  Satan is real.  But he doesn’t want you to know that or to live as if you know it.  Satan is real, but one of his greatest tactics is to persuade us not to take him seriously.  

Even if you’ve not read it yourself, you might have heard of C S Lewis’ famous book ‘The Screwtape Letters’ [hold up] which is in the genre of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress;  a fictional story that teaches us Biblical truth to help us in our Christian lives.  The Screwtape letters are a series of letters from a Senior devil called Screwtape, to a junior devil, called Wormwood.    It’s a sort of devil’s training manual in techniques to stop people following Jesus and to make sure they carry on following the ways of the evil one.  Listen to this extract from one of the letters:  “If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that…he therefore cannot believe in you.”

Satan loves it when we fall for Hollywood caricatures of the devil;  why?  Because if we fall for the caricatures then we won’t take him seriously, and we doubt whether he exists at all;  if we doubt his existence, then we won’t pray against him.  If we don’t take him seriously, then we won’t pray for protection against him will we?  And when that happens, we’re being sucked into the Devil’s trap;  he’s winning. 

But in the Bible, Satan is real.  From Genesis to Revelation, Satan’s really there.  As we saw last week, Satan makes his first crafty appearance in Gen 3 where he temps Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.    And he’s there at the end of the Bible in Rev 20.    Listen to the advice of the Apostle Peter in 1 Pet chapter 5:

8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Satan is real and to ignore him or treat him as a joke is a dangerous game.  Why?    Because whether we acknowledge it or not, we’re engaged in a spiritual battle.  A battle for the souls of men, women & children.  Even amongst all the joy of getting ready for Christmas, there’s a fierce battle going on all around us.  And Satan’s top 2 priorities are to prevent people becoming Christians, and to get Christians to stumble;  to get Christians to stop growing, or to give into temptation and sin, or to fall away from the faith altogether.    On our own, we’re all vulnerable and we need protection.    But just like the toddler who walked out into Beverley road so he could see the Christmas lights, if we don’t take the danger seriously, then we won’t ask for protection will we?  Dear HF, deliver us or protect us from the evil one.  

Satan is real and the stronger we get as Christians and the more we aim to serve the Lord, the more Satan is going to attack us.  If you’re not really going for it as a Christian, if you’ve decided to just to come to church whenever it’s convenient and you’ve given up reading your Bible and praying, then Satan’s not going to bother much with you is he?  He doesn’t need to – you’re on a downward spiral without his help.  But if you’re really trying to serve the Lord and follow His ways, then you’ll be attacked again and again;  because as Peter puts it:  the Devil is like a roaring lion looking for some tasty Christian to devour.  Satan is real.  And as we’ve begun to see, Satan is also powerful. 

2.      Satan is Powerful

And that’s our second main heading:  Satan is powerful.  And so see this clearly, pl turn back with me to that passage I read earlier in Daniel 7 on p[ 830/  1383].

The context is that we’re in the year 553BC Daniel and his friends have been taken into exile in Babylon.  Daniel is a senior Civil Servant in the new King Belshazzar’s government.  King Belshazzar was the son of the mighty Nebuchadnezzar who’s ransacked Jerusalem.  And in Dan 7, we’re in the first year of King Belshazzar’s reign when Daniel has another vision.  Look with me at v2: 

 2 Daniel said: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 4 "The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.

 5 "And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, 'Get up and eat your fill of flesh!'

 6 "After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 7 "After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

In its original context, the 4 terrifying beasts represented fours successive superpowers:  in Daniel’s day the reigning power was Babylon, the first beast which was later taken over by the Persian, who were eventually overthrown by the Greeks;  and the Greeks were in turn replaced by the Romans;  a power so efficiently ruthless, they’re described symbolically in v7 as having iron teeth;  and as it conquered a vast proportion the known world at the time, it devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.  The Romans did not tolerate dissent, as the Jews found out in AD70 when the Romans came in and destroyed the temple. 

This was the original context of the vision, but the main point is that each of these kingdoms are a godless and frightening picture of the Evil One at work.  They are grotesque monsters with what seems like overwhelming power.    And what the next vision in chapter 8 makes clear is this:  one of their key aims is the destruction of God’s people.  Flip over to 8:9 to see the point:

Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host; it took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. 12 Because of rebellion, the host of the saints [a] and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

Behind every godless ruler, empire or philosophy, likes the Evil One.  And as these visions show, Satan’s not only real, he’s powerful;  very powerful indeed.  And Satan’s top priority as we’ve seen is the destruction of Christians; the demolition of the church.  And as we look back to the 20C, we see exactly the same pattern being repeated in Communist Russia and Nazi Germany:  the effective destruction of the church under both regimes through a process of extreme control & censorship was a clearly stated policy goal.  Indeed, Hitler even once boasted about how easy it’d been to neutralise the clergy;  he derided them for being more concerned about keeping their pathetic stipends than for standing up for what they said they were supposed to believe in.    And as history tells us, few clergy and other Christians did stand up to the Nazis;  and the few that did, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, were hanged or gassed along with millions of others. 

And the same pattern of godless dictators seeking to silence critics and get rid of those who oppose them continues in our own century with men like Robert Mugabe.    But it’s not just kings, presidents and Prime Minsters that Satan can use.  He can also use MPs, local councillors, charities, company directors, Head Teachers, members of our own families and even church leaders.    It’s easy from the safe distance of history to point the finger at the spineless vicars who appeased Hitler, but what would you have done?  What would I have done?  And who knows what plans Satan’s dreaming up to throw at us - at you and me?  As Jesus said to the Apostle Peter on the first Maundy Thursday [in Luke 22]: 

 31"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Satan is real.  And Satan is powerful, which means he’s very dangerous and so we need God’s protection;  we need God to strengthen us to help us stand firm under Satanic attack; we need God’s help to come through the time of trial stronger, more godly and better equipped to serve our Lord.  Dear HF, deliver us or protect us from the Evil One and his schemes to make us fall. 

3.      Satan is Defeated

 

Satan is real.  Satan is powerful.   And Satan wants to create all kinds of evil and havoc in our world.    And speaking of evil, there was a Clergyman in Orchard Park who used to get burgled at least once a week over an extended period. He got so scared that that he barricaded himself into his bedroom on the first floor and eventually the Diocese moved him.  I don’t know whether he ever rang the police, but even if he did, they evidently couldn’t stop the burglaries.

And the same applies to God.  What’s the point in praying to our Heavenly Father for protection if He can’t deliver us from evil?   Or to put another way:  is God more powerful than the raging monsters in Dan 7?    Or are God and Satan like the forces of Good and Evil in Star Wars:  both powerful but we don’t know which one will win in the end?     Well look back to Daniel 7:9:

9 "As I looked,  “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.  His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.   10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him;  ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  The court was seated, and the books were opened.   11 "Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

Here we’ve got the mightily Creator God , the Ancient of Days, sitting on the throne in Heaven.  We’ve got lots of symbolism telling us about the Lord’s absolute power, authority and sovereignty.    And v12 reminds us that nothing happens in God’s universe without the Lord, at the very least, permitting it.  As Melvin explained for us last week from the book of Job, even Satan and his monsters are constrained to operate within limits set by God.    Any power and authority they have is derived from God himself. 

And so the Lord in his infinite power, love and wisdom, has permitted Satan and his monsters the freedom to wreak their havoc because somehow it’s all part of God’s overall good and perfect plan.    As the readers of the book of Job, we’re let into God’s perspective.  But Job wasn’t.  All he could see was Satan’s relentless attacks.  And yet Job resisted Satan and passed the test.    Dear Heavenly Father, keep us strong though the time of trial, and deliver us from the Evil One. 

We can pray this prayer with confidence because God’s got more power than the police in Orchard Park.  In fact, God’s ultimately in control of everything in His universe;  nothing happens in God’s universe that's beyond His control;  and so when we pray for the Lord's protection, we’re accessing the throne room of heaven;  the control room of the universe.  And we’re asking for protection from the One who’s got the power to deliver.  We’re praying to the One who can indeed deliver us from evil, if we only get down on our knees and ask Him.    Satan is real;  Satan is powerful, but God’s in a different league.    And as v12 shows us, God’s got the power to strip Satan of all authority at a moment’s notice.     

Which raises another question doesn't it?  If God’s got that absolute power and authority over Evil, why doesn’t he do something about the evil and mess in our world.    Why is it when Christians pray for protection they still sometimes get thrown to the lions, hanged by Hitler, starved to death by Mugabe or bullied and persecuted by rogue church leaders? 

Well look onto v13:

 13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

God has done something about evil.  God sent his Son, the Son of man, into the world at the first Christmas.  In Jesus, God the Son became a human being, the Son of Man that is.    And while he was on earth, Jesus the Son of man defeated Satan;  how?  By his death on the cross.  As the Apostle Paul put it in Col 2:

14having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

J has already won the victory.  Satan is real.  Satan is powerful.  But Satan is defeated, and that’s the 3rd main point this morning.  Satan is defeated.  He’s been defeated by J’s death on the cross.  But there’s more.  Come back to Dan 7 and let’s focus on the coming of the son of Man.    And we know from the Gospels that this is talking about J’s second coming;  J's victory parade after Satan and his monsters have been finally thrown into the blazing fire of v11.   Satan’s like a convicted criminal on death row.    Like a caged lion.  So if you stick your head through the bars of his cell, you’re going to get a mauling.  So don’t flirt with temptation.  And if you need to go into his cell for any other reason, you’ll need armour-plated protection.  Dear Heavenly Father, deliver us from the Evil One - ultimately as we enjoy the heavenly new creation, but also here and now as we live in a world affected and corrupted by Satan and His schemes.  But always remember, God’s more powerful than Satan.  And Satan’s already defeated.  All that remains are the mopping up operations;  the ongoing spiritual battle against the Evil One. 

Suffering and satanic attacks will either make us better or bitter;  true Christians, like Job, trust their Lord, seek His protection and come through the trials and attacks better Christians;  stronger and more godly that is.  But if your relationship with God is weak and you’re not praying the LP with understanding and meaning, then Satan’s attacks will make you bitter;  and they’ll drag you down;  and eventually you’ll be in danger of falling away from the Lord altogether.  We’re all seen it haven’t we, people who’ve been really going for it as Christians, even as Christian leaders, but who are now nowhere with the Lord.  

If we’re truly His, if we’re genuine Christians that is, then the Lord has promised to keep us to the end and never let us fall.  But He’s has also chosen to work through the prayers of His people. And so if we’re genuinely one of His children, then we’ll pray for His protection against the evil one;  we’ll be praying that no matter what happens in this life, the Lord bring us safely home to heaven. 

Satan is real;  Satan is powerful but Satan is defeated.  And so the question is, are you praying for protection?  Will Satan’s attacks make you better or bitter.  Is your Christian faith genuine, or will the times of trial reveal your faith to be a sham?   Sobering stuff isn’t it?  Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Our Father in Heaven, forgive us when we live in a fantast world and treat Satan as a joke.  Help is to remember that he’s real and powerful and so a great danger to our spiritual health.  But help us to trust in your ultimate power and sovereignty and so we pray for your protection against Satan and ask that you being each of us safely home to heaven, making us stronger and more faithful each step of the way.  For our eternal comfort, but your ultimate glory we pray, Amen.


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But Satan is also a defeated enemy, which is our third main point this morning:  Satan is defeated.  If Satan’s first tactic is to make us not take him seriously, the minute we sit up and start to take him seriously, he changes tack:  For the Christian who does acknowledge Satan’s existence and power, he will try to get us to forget that his power’s limited and his fate’s fixed:  or in short:  Satan is defeated.  

Whether you translate the phrase ‘deliver us from Evil’ or ‘deliver us from the Evil One’ doesn’t matter, because behind all the evil in the world is the Evil One;  or as he’s more often called:  Satan.  Dear Heavenly Father, deliver or protect, or rescue us from the Evil One, and from all his evil schemes and attacks.  And to help us pray this penultimate line of the LP with understanding and meaning, we’re going to see that:

Satan is real;  Satan is powerful but that Satan is defeated. 

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