Sun Nov 18, 07 – Satan shall have you
(Important sermon – clean it up)
The Lectionary Reading for today is Lk 21.5-19, a doom and gloom passage if I ever heard one. I am not allowed to preach Doom and Gloom. So, what I want to do today is to move ahead in Luke to Chap 22.31-34.
Listen for the word of God.
 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."
 And Peter said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."
 Jesus said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me."
Here ends the reading from the Holy Scripture.
Satan Shall Have You
The theme of today’s sermon is from verse 31, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,”
The Church today doesn’t give much thought to Satan and his kingdom, but I think it should.
I think that this dark side of our faith deserves much study and contemplation.
Theodicy – The problem of why evil still exists when God is All-powerful, plagues many inquiring minds. That there is an ongoing struggle between Good and Evil seems to be one of the givens in this life. This sermon is an attempt to approach these questions and provide a biblical answer.
What does Jesus mean when he says, “He will sift you like wheat”?
What does it mean to sift wheat? It means, to take off the husk, the coating, and let it blow away in the wind. So what is Simon’s husk – his coating? It is not his faith. It is even more than that. Paul said (Eph 6.11), “Put on the whole armor of God.” Even if Simon ‘Puts on the whole armor of God’, Satan is going to brush them off and blow them away. What is left? Nothing but a naked, unprotected, soul.
Let us take a closer look at Paul’s ‘whole armor of God’.
Eph 6 11 “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. End of quote.
Note especially verse 12: ‘For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ Our struggle is against ‘the cosmic powers of this present darkness’. Even though Paul is in chains, in prison, he sees an even more frightening enemy in ‘the cosmic powers of this present darkness’. He sees ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’. He recognizes that the power of Satan is over our Spiritual Lives. And he knows that it is going to take some mighty armor to protect us from the ‘cosmic powers of this present darkness’.
Simon was trapped, just as Jesus said he would be. Is Simon any different from the rest of us? I doubt it. Look at the world today. Satan has many converts, and is gaining more every day. We always think of him as being sly and cunning; and that he is. But he is not always sly. In this case he didn’t ask politely – he ‘demanded’.
It is the teaching of the Christian Faith that Jesus has overcome sin and death. Jesus helps us in our struggle with Evil, but has he ‘overcome’ it? The world is still full of Evil. Jesus knows that; that is why we still pray ‘Deliver us from Evil”.
Every day I see more and more people reject the Faith and join the forces of Evil. Why do they do that? Remember that Satan took Jesus and put him on a mountain top, and showed him all the kingdoms of The World, and their splendor. “All of this has been given to me”, he said, “and I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” “If you will preach Materialism, and Military Conquest.” “If you will preach selfishness, and greed – preach satisfy the body, and starve the soul.”
Where is Satan today with his tempting offers? I see him every day on TV, in the Press, on the Net. I hear his hard sell: “Forget about the Spiritual Life – join us in the quest for more and more material things. Forget about your neighbor – look out for yourself.”
I see the pressure to Kill! Kill! I see the slogan, “War is Good – Peace is Evil.”
All this encouragement of violence comes from the Rational Brain, which has no conscience – no compassion – no concern for the planet – no concern for the future.
The Rational Brain says, “Worship things – use people.” When the Rational Brain sees millions of starving people out there, it sees resources. How can we use these people? How can we use them to make more money.
Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you. And when he wants you, he has a bag of tricks. Satan is not shy – he is not helpless. Satan is a power to be reckoned with.
Well, Christians are not powerless either, but we need to recognize that we face a formidable foe. We need to recognize that the forces of Evil are out there, and that they are working day and night to sabotage us.
When God asked Satan (Job 1:6) where he had been, Satan replied, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." 1 Peter 5:8 declares, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."
James says (4.27), ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’. More likely, he will slip away, waiting for a ‘more opportune time’ (Lk 4.13). God said to Cain (Gen 4.7), “Sin is couching at your door; its desire is for you.” It’s difficult for the devout Christian to believe that a perfectly normal, healthy person would commit such Evil acts. But you see it in the News every day.
News item: LOGAN, W.Va., Sept. 11 — A 20-year-old woman was held captive for more than a week in a mobile home, where she was raped, stabbed and tortured by at least a half-dozen people, the police said. Sheriff’s deputies rescued her on Saturday, and she remained hospitalized Tuesday in stable condition.
The police said the people charged, all of whom are white, yelled racial slurs at the woman, who is black, during some of the attacks. The woman endured horrific torture, according to court documents. She was raped by multiple men, some of whom poured scalding water on her during the assaults, according to the criminal complaints.
She was forced to lick up blood, eat animal feces, and drink water from a toilet, the documents said, and she was also stabbed repeatedly in the leg and was told that if she tried to leave, she would be killed. End of news item, but not the end of violence.
Sure we can say these people are sick; that they are psychotic, but is that all? Surely something entered into these people to cause them to do such Evil things. People are proud, greedy, and self-centered by nature, but are they ‘Evil by nature’? I am afraid Calvin was right – Total Depravity!
Jesus said to Paul (Acts 26.16), “I send you to the gentiles, so that they may turn from darkness, to light and from the power of Satan, to God”
Paul said (Rom 16.20), that “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Well, he hasn’t so far. In fact, it looks like it may be the other way around. I fear that Satan will crush the God of Peace.
John Cobb points out, in ‘Christianity and Empire’, that Scripture never did refer to God as ‘All-powerful’. This tradition comes from two faulty translations : In the Septuagint, the term ‘Shaddai’ was translated with the Greek word, Pantocrator, meaning ‘ruler of all.’ Secondly, Jerome translated the term ‘Shaddai’(in the Vulgate) as ‘omnipotent’. (As in God almighty). Cobb says that the term is simply a proper name for God.
Bonhoeffer said many times, “God is weak and powerless in the World; that is the way that he is with us, and helps us.” I think Bonhoeffer means that it is us, the Disciples of Jesus acting as his instruments in the world, who are God’s representatives – if we don’t do it, it won’t get done.
Nancy Levant, a public figure on the Net has written (and I quote), “The war between God and Lucifer, also known as good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, light vs. darkness, manifests on Earth in many ways. For people who hold to any kind of faith in a higher being, the earthly manifestation of the God/Luciferian war makes sense. The on-going struggle makes sense. The effort to remain morally inclined, and not to fall to immoral acts and deeds, is fundamentally understood. Most human beings realize that the struggle to remain good is just that — a life-long struggle. It is easier to live without morality. It is easier to let conscience slip beneath moral principles. It is easier to live degraded life styles, which, for instance, allow for entertainment corruptions of every make and measure. If you want to watch sick tell-a-visions, laugh and enjoy sick and violent human situations, you have to be morally desensitized. If you want to enjoy the degradation of women in visual and print media, you have to lower your moral expectations within yourselves. When morality becomes lessened on national scales, whole cultures ethically desensitize. And historically, those cultures tend to fail and fall. That much is obvious.” End of quote.
She claims that she is not a feminist, but she sees pornography as Evil – as degrading to women – in fact as degrading to humanity.
It must be stressed that both God and Satan are of the Spiritual World, though their presence and influence affect what happens in the Material World. We assume, so far, that Satan and God influence Homo sapiens only, whereas the other creatures are motivated solely by the instincts they need for survival. We study animal behavior so that we can become familiar with those instincts. We need to know how nature works. The biblical sins, Pride, Greed, and the Lust for Power, are rooted in these primitive instincts. Thus the biblical tradition that we inherit these sins from our ancient parents (our ancestors) is scientifically sound.
One ancient teaching that some modern theologians want to reject is the teaching that we are inherently sinful (or Evil). In a sense they are right, but in a deeper sense they are not. We did inherit that Selfish Gene that Richard Dawkins writes about. We inherited that gene from our ancestors, although the Calvin Doctrine of ‘Total Depravity’ sounds too extreme for us today. But is it? “The doctrine of total depravity teaches that people are by nature not inclined to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, as God requires, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Even religion and philanthropy are destructive to the extent that these originate from a human imagination, passions, and will.” Wikipedia
Consider what we know of Tyrants’ – Cruel dictators. Is the term ‘Total Depravity’ too extreme for them? I think not.
There is a big difference between the Schoolyard Bully, and the International Bully, though that difference is likely one of degree. Right now consider the Tyrants – cruel dictators – that we know of: Today we think of Adolph Hitler as the epitome of tyrants; we think of Stalin, of Pol Pot, and to a lesser extent of Idi Amin. The victims of these tyrants number in the millions. And is not the massive slaughter of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan as great an evil as any we know of? Remember that Jesus taught that there is no ‘Just War’ – there is never any ‘justification for violence’. So what is the bottom line?
All we know, and all we need to know, is that Satan was standing beside the crowds shouting, “Crucify him!” It was Satan standing beside Pontius Pilate as he washed his hands, and it was Satan standing beside the men who drove the nails into the hands and feet of our Lord.
And even today, we find all over the world, Satan at work. Sociologists may have other explanations, but this is ours.
A word of caution: America is full of false teachers. They are vociferous, and they are persuasive, but do not be misled. Most of them are disciples of Satan – preaching hate and division. And foremost among their targets is the PCUSA. They hate us because we are liberal – because we try to keep our theology 100% up to date. The sure test of any preaching is: Does it preach LOVE? If it preaches hate, in any of its many manifestations, you know that you are dealing with a False Prophet.
So what is our mission? What are we called to do? I think we are called to proclaim from the rooftops, that we are on God’s side – that we believe in Good – that we oppose Evil. We believe in the teachings of Jesus, our Lord, and Savior. We may not want to follow him to the cross, but we will do all in our power, short of sacrificing anything substantial, to promote the Gospel. We will encourage others to spread the Gospel far and wide, hoping that our dedication will inspire them to action.
May God add his blessings to this message.
TH Gaster, in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, under Satan, describes Satan as having the role of arch-enemy of God, and potentate of a rival kingdom, but, he says, this is more legend than scripture will support. He says that this legend was developed by the Rabbis during the long exile to account for their dire straits. They had to consider their condition only a temporary set-back. Furthermore Persian influences began to infiltrate their thoughts. The Persians, still being under the influence of Mani, and his teachings, that there was an on-going conflict between Good and Evil.
There has been no clear development of the character or role of Satan in scripture. It has been left to legend to do that. And that work continues to this day, as in the Faust legends.
Thus we will be inline with tradition if we build on some of these old legends.
Re: The Sermon ‘Satan Shall Have You’
One of the most difficult doctrines of the Christian Faith is that of the Atonement. It is just too much for the Rational Brain to accept.
While I was being interviewed by the Executive Presbyter of Santa Fe Presbytery for acceptance as a candidate for ministry, I told him that it did not make sense to me. Well, he about blew a gasket, but I reassured him that I would accept it on faith. Even so, I suspect that he was always a little suspicious of me.
Well, the more I know about the Faith, and about the objections to it, the more I realize that we do not need it, and that we must begin to get away from it as much as possible.
How do we do that? I hope it was divine guidance that led me to mention the crucifixion in the closing words of this sermon on Satan. That is, I say, ‘It was Satan who caused the Crucifixion, ie, it was not God.’
In Mark 9.43-4, it is said that ‘Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve.’ Mark then adds, in effect, ‘and in so doing, he gave his life as a ransom for many.’ That’s it! In no sense was the subsequent elaboration into the Doctrine of the Atonement justified. But it grew like Topsy, until it became the dominant Doctrine of the early Church. Built primarily on the teachings of the OT on sacrificial atonement, it has become a doctrine that flies in the face of common sense.
From the Net: Abelard lived and taught in the generation after Anselm. Abelard saw Anselm’s idea of salvation, that Christ’s death on the cross was a blood sacrifice required by God and caused by God in order to change God’s mind about humanity’s sinfulness, as so much illogical nonsense. For Abelard, Christ’s teachings of justice, compassion, and of the Creator’s love for imperfect, flawed humanity, and Christ’s ultimate expression of that love on the Cross, were sufficiently redemptive, without any mystical atonement taking place as a result. His is often called the “Moral” Theory of the Atonement. Abelard’s denial of the prevailing notion of the meaning of the cross was declared heresy, though he claimed to be purely orthodox until his death. Abelard thought that a God who would become incarnate for the purpose of reconciling the Creator with the Created, in order to change humanity’s behavior, made more rational sense than God sending his Only Begotten Son to change God’s own mind and appease God’s own desire for vengeance. This is the rational God that Abelard espoused, and this is the belief which won him the condemnation of the church.
Goto Chap 4)