Sunday, January 11, 2009

Understanding the Opposition

18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
19We know that we are from God, and
the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
20And we know that the Son of God has come and
has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:18-21, ESV)

Excerpt from “What Are We Up Against?” by John Piper

Satan's Opposition to Evangelism and Missions
The most compassionate and loving thing you can do for any person is to lead them into eternal life and joy through faith in Christ. To feed, clothe, heal, house, and educate a person without a view to their being converted to Christ is not truly loving, any more than merely giving a person pain killers for their fever is when you could offer them the antibiotic that would take the infection away. Therefore feeding, clothing, healing, housing, and educating are good, but they become truly loving as part of a call to repentance and faith in Christ. So evangelism and world missions are the centerpiece of the mission of a compassionate church.

And to be as effective in our compassion as we long to be, we need power, supernatural power. Why? Not only because human hearts are proud (John 5:44) and hard (Acts 28:26-28), but also because the whole world lies in the power of the evil one and he is actively engaged in opposing all we do in evangelism and world missions.

Some examples:

1. Satan Blinds the Minds of Unbelievers
2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers."
So even before we arrive on the scene with the gospel, Satan is exerting a stupefying, deadening, blinding effect on the minds of the world. We need power to overcome this supernatural effect of the evil one.

2. Satan Snatches the Word Away from People Who Hear
Matthew 13:4, 19, "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them . . . When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path."
Once the process of evangelism has begun, Satan increases his efforts. He is pictured as a flock of birds swooping down on seed that fell on a path. He tries his best to take away the Word that is preached so that no serious thought is given to it. He may use radio or TV or crying babies or squabbling spouses or broken cars or troubles at work or sexy billboards. Anything to take the Word out our memory and out of our consideration. Satan hates meditation.

3. Satan Does Deceptive Signs and Wonders
Matthew 24:24, "False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." 2 Thessalonians 2:9, "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with signs and wonders of falsehood, and with wicked deception for those who are to perish."

Satan has always been a great imitator. When the rod of Aaron turned into a snake as a sign of God's power, the Egyptian sorcerers turned their rods into snakes too by their secret arts (Exodus 7:11). One reason the new age fads are going to sweep so many away in our day is that they are not just fads: they have real satanic power behind them and there will be real signs and wonders worked not by God but by Satan, and people will be deceived. Revelation 12:9 says Satan is the deceiver of "the whole world."

4. Satan Uses People to Hinder Others from Believing
When Paul preached to the Roman proconsul on the Island of Cyprus in Acts 13, he was eager to hear the Word and was about to believe. But there was a Jewish false prophet and magician there named Elymas. Acts 13:8 says he resisted Paul and Barnabas and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But then Paul was filled with the Spirit and saw what was really happening in the spiritual realm and said,
You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time. [Notice the use of power!]
He calls Elymas a "son of the devil." That is what Jesus called the tares in the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:38. The tares are the sons of the evil one. So Elymas is a tare that Satan has sown in a strategic place to hinder the faith of a possible new convert. In this case Paul counter attacked with supernatural power: "You shall be blind for a time"!

5. Satan Hinders Mission Efforts in General
In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 Paul tells the church that he had endeavored eagerly to come to them "again and again, but Satan hindered us." Satan devotes significant energy to messing up missionary plans and hindering the advancement of the gospel.

6. Satan Throws Christians in Prison and Persecutes Them
Revelation 2:10 (to the church in Smyrna), "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
This is mainly what Peter has in mind in 1 Peter 5:8 when he says, "Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world." The jaws of the lion are the "experience of suffering" caused by Satan.

Knowing What We Are Up Against
All of this is simply to illustrate what it means that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." What we are up against is a global power that touches, and in some measure controls, all culture and society. This power is not opposed to most ordinary things of life that you do: eating, sleeping, working, as long as you just go along like the world, he is willing to live and let live. But he is extraordinarily opposed to the centerpiece of compassion: advancement of the gospel. He blinds; he snatches the Word; he deceives with signs and wonders; he uses people to hinder faith; he messes up missionary plans; and he persecutes and throws in prison. If we are going to make headway against the kingdom of Satan, it means war. It means a conflict of kingdoms. It means learning the meaning of the kingdom of God in the world and how to exercise its power.

[This article can be read in its entirety as]

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

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