It may come as a surprise to many to know that Satan “loves” going to church today, just as he has throughout history following his great fall from heaven! I am most saddened to share that in many of the churches which he visits, he is actually invited to lead / run them through the open disobedience of its leaders and the church body - strong words, true reality! Many may ask, “Where do we find Satan in the church today?” Allow me to enlist the aid of noted theologian, Warren Wiersbe from his 1979 classic book, the Strategy of Satan, to aid in the answer of that excellent question. Although we see him in many places within churches, there are three specific areas which he often targets. First and foremost, he shows up in the pulpits. Satan, combined with the disobedience of many church bodies, has helped place many of “his servants” who “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:15) into pastorate positions in numerous churches across our nation and throughout our world. Simply because a pastor says that he is a Christian and perhaps went to seminary does not always mean that he is truly saved and is a genuine servant of Jesus Christ. The area which quickly reveals the spiritual condition of a pastor’s heart is centered on whether they “correctly handle the word of God” (2 Timothy 2:15). False teachers omit and add for the ultimate purpose of control – true preachers proclaim the full counsel of God’s living Word – from Genesis to Revelation, from Alpha to Omega (Revelation 22:13) - for the ultimate purpose of releasing God's people in the freedom of kingdom service. Matthew 7:15 accurately warns believers, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." This is perhaps one of the most selected targets by Satan of any church – her leaders – for if he achieves victory here, other victories are soon to follow and that particular church is left spiritually powerless to her God-appointed mission to spreading the Gospel and making new disciples for Christ. A second area where Satan and his agents of evil show up is in the sin-infected hearts of many in the pews. The scriptures clearly warns us that there are “false believers” (2 Corinthians 11:26) and “false apostles …who are false workers that masquerade as (genuine) apostle of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13, NLT). Whether in the pulpits or in the pews, Satan’s strategy is always founded upon his most effective weapon – his cloak of deception which is based upon a shifting foundation of lies and half-truths (John 8:44). How do we recognize these who are not truly of the faith (i.e. in the family of God)? His Holy Scriptures provides us that answer which is found in 1 John 3:10 – “We can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” (NLT) This does not give believers the license to run around as “Judgment Police” proclaiming “Citizens Arrests” like Barney Fife or Gomer Pyle of Mayberry! But it does serve to aid in our spiritual discernment / understanding of just how the enemy can affect the hearts of anyone who will give ear to his lies in lieu of the truth of God given to us through His inerrant Word. Thirdly, Satan loves to show up in Worship – not out of enjoyment for the praise and glory which is to be given unto our Lord; rather he desires to disrupt that praise and worship and center it upon the things of this fallen world, ultimately, himself! Worship is a foundational element to everything which a church is about and everything for which it undertakes to accomplish for the Lord. I believe worship is a common target by the enemy because Satan, known then as Lucifer, is believed to have held some degree of leadership in this area before his fall and subsequent expulsion from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15). The point here in today's devotion is not to debate Lucifer’s title and job description in heaven; rather it is to acknowledge that he has past experience in the realm of true worship (while he was in Heaven); thus he is intimately aware of the power it holds in the life of true believers and therefore seeks to do everything possible to disrupt any worship which takes place through any means / avenues which he is afforded (i.e. allowed to do so). Sadly, many Christians give Satan easy entranceways to worship by not “guarding their hearts” (Proverbs 4:23) against his tactics and assaults. We often allow circumstances, styles, personalities and selfish preferences to dictate the conditions of worship rather than coming before our righteous, holy Creator God. One thing to take close heed to – no matter the worship style or environment / place, true Christian worship is to always be tied to the unchanging Word of God and the leading of His Holy Spirit (John 4:23). When these truths are honored, then the Word of God serves as the anchor and the Spirit of God as the rudder for our worship experiences in our life journey. These twin pillars of truth afford us Biblical balance and spiritual discernment needed in worship – a spiritual condition which many often miss, resulting in worship that is often unbiblical and both man-made & man-led. Although there are many entranceways for Satan to enter the church, these three areas shared today serve as some of the highest target areas by our spiritual enemy and they should be guarded and defended against his assaults at all cost. So in conclusion, many may ask, "What are believers to do when (not 'if') Satan shows up in one or all of these areas in a church?" First, pray! Prayer aligns not God’s heart with our hearts, but our hearts with His heart! Prayer gives us spiritual discernment between what may be “misjudgments / misunderstandings” to “mishandlings / misrepresentations of the Holy Word/Truths of God!" Secondly, we must engage the enemy from a foundation a truth, not of self-willed ambition. The Apostle Paul teaches, “Speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) We need to address problems in the church from a foundation of truth AND love – to do so with one without the other assures us defeat at the hands (and strategies) of our enemy! But here me clearly – if these are true areas where the enemy has occupied hearts, then you must understand clearly the dynamics of spiritual warfare which is in play, and be prepared for a real fight (battle) for the enemy wants to never lose any kingdom ground that he has claimed through the occupation of the hearts which he has been given free assess. Every believer must take heed to the wisdom shared in Ephesians 6:10-12, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Understand that people are not our enemy – the spirit and work of Satan and his demons through people is to be our central focus for this spiritual battle which we are called to engage in for our Lord! These battles are never promised to be easy; nor are they promised to never arise along the journey home as some seem to incorrectly preach/teach. But know that when they do arise – and they will – we can address them in full confidence in the Lord (Jeremiah 17:7), knowing with absolute certainty that regardless of the circumstances before us, we can be thankful that true victory is assured/promised to us through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:57) …Selah!
Today's Spirit-led video is by CCM artists Casting Crowns and can be viewed by clicking on their new song, "If We've Ever Needed You."