Thursday, July 20, 2017

Contact With The Enemy: Matthew's Gospel (Part XIV)

Our next encounter in Matthew is:  

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matt. 9:32-34 NIV)

Don’t you just hear Satan laughing in the remarks of the Pharisees?  Remember how Satan waits to attack Jesus “until the next opportunity came”? Here is one of the many opportunities where Satan uses human beings as mouthpieces to snarl at and mock Jesus. So, here’s something to think about:  Satan uses others to get to you. Jesus was down range of Satan using others to attack Him on many occasions and it will be no different with you. The Pharisees here are being completely illogical (Why would Satan destroy his own works?) and in grave peril (attributing to Satan what God is doing is the “unpardonable sin”) so it makes no sense from a human perspective. 

But in the spiritual realm, it fits.  Anytime Satan can demean, belittle, question, cast doubt, or sabotage you and your calling with another person’s mouth, he’ll do it.  Pride, anger, envy, fear in the other person is the perfect open door that Satan comes through and uses to his advantage.  Let’s look at one time where Satan used one of Jesus’ closest followers: 

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt. 16:21-23 NIV)

 Peter was well-intentioned with Jesus.  Who wouldn’t want to dissuade your best Friend from pursuing such a horrible end?  But Peter missed the part about Jesus being raised to life, and the fear of His death opened up a door for Satan to enter and insinuate that Jesus did not need to go to the cross to fulfill His mission.  But Jesus had clearly stated, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

Let’s examine another follower whom Satan used:

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:1-6 NIV)

There’s that word “opportunity” again.  This time, Satan did not use fear but doubt in the heart of Judas to get what he wanted: Jesus arrested and killed. Judas has begun to doubt Jesus’ mission. Jesus had not used His mighty power to destroy the Roman oppression of Israel; all Judas saw was Jesus using His power to raise the dead, heal the sick and drive out demons. 

Judas may have thought to himself:  Fine use of your power there Jesus, but what about using it against those Romans?  They are the greater evil!  Use Your mighty power to conquer them!  The crowds are always clamoring for your attention.  You need to turn your attention to the Romans and their abuses.  I would love to see you wipe their arrogant smiles right off their faces once and for all.

Satan entered Judas, perhaps deceiving Judas into thinking that he could force Jesus’ hand.  Judas may have reasoned that when He was finally handed over to the Romans, Jesus would demonstrate all of His power to benefit the oppressed Jewish people.  Jesus would free Himself from His captors and then free His fellow Jews.  This, as we know, did not happen. Jesus’ mission was to impart a new heart, not a new government.  Judas’ remorse over what he did drove him to suicide.  His guilt and shame were just too much when he found out Jesus was not going to deliver the Jews from the Romans, but had delivered Himself to be crucified. Satan laughed many times in those final days, as Judas was swinging in the trees and Jesus bled on that cross. 

On that Sunday morning, however, the laughter stopped. 
Satan can use friends, family, disgruntled strangers and anyone to go after you.  Most of the time, the person doesn’t even know he or she is being used by Satan to get to you. But your reaction should be the same: Pray for wisdom as to where those hurtful words or actions are coming from. Remember Satan’s endgame: to destroy you and anyone he can along the way.  He will use any means necessary. Reclaim your heritage as a child of God and move forward.  Then, PRAY:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36 NIV)

Prayer softens your heart, opens you up to God’s healing and consoling presence, and allows you to have compassion on those who have hurt you.  Besides, Satan hates it when we show mercy and see others as ourselves.  

We all need prayer, a Savior and infinite patience with one another.

We will continue looking in Matthew as to how Jesus dealt with the enemy in upcoming blogs. May His Word comfort, guide and direct you!

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

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