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About this series
Satan's Agenda for Planet Earth (Including You)
God's agenda for your life and planet Earth is under constant attack by the enemy of your soul, who seeks to distract, derail, and destroy. It's the ultimate illustration of competing agendas, and eternity lies in the balance. Learn how to recognize and fortify yourself against Satan's schemes, even when you've taken a direct hit. Based on the book of Acts, Diabolical will equip you with biblical truth about your enemy and reveal the battle plan you need to thwart Satan's plans and fulfill God's agenda.More from this series
The roar of a lion can be heard for over five miles. That same roar thirty yards from your car or truck will rattle the metal. There are three reasons that lions roar. Number one, it’s territorial proclamation. They roar over what they rule. Second is to communicate with other lions, and third, they roar when they’re angry.
In my research, I found a person who had done studies on lions in Africa and he said, “His roar is an awesome message of power that he is lord and master of all that he surveys.”
And so, it seems fitting that the Holy Spirit would lead Peter to describe our enemy, the devil, Satan, as a roaring lion. He writes, “Be self-controlled and alert, your enemy, the devil prowls about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Your response: “Resist him, stand firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.”
By and large, Satan likes to be covert. He likes to be under the radar. He would rather use lies, deception, getting us divided with one another, tradition. He likes to get us moving in ways where we’re convinced things are right, we don’t even think he really exists. And all the while, subtly, having us completely off course.
But when a group of people or an individual begins to get in line with God’s will, and you begin to expose him for who he is, and you begin to take the Word of God into the lives of other people, and you begin to grow, and God begins to use your life or a group’s life, his tactics change.
Sometimes subtlety doesn’t work. And when subtlety doesn’t work, he uses intimidation and isolation. He goes frontal. Here’s intimidation. Webster says, “It’s to make fearful.” It’s what he wants to do. “To compel or deter by acts or threats.” Literally, the enemy wants to terrorize you. “Causing alarm, fright, or dread with the apprehension of violence, or injury, or death.”
“To intimidate means to cause to fear, to have a sense of inferiority. To bully, to cow, resulting in a broken spirit or a loss of courage.”
And sometimes he does that through a biopsy report, sometimes rejection in a relationship, sometimes you lose your job, or you’re in bankruptcy. Sometimes, you take a step and everything falls apart at work.
Sometimes, you’re just alone and you find yourself taking a step that you never dreamed you could take and you fail and all this fear and all this condemnation. And the fear is to immobilize, and then to paralyze, to isolate you.
Lions don’t roar when they attack. They roar to create fear. When a lion wants to attack, it’s stealth. In fact, a lion will not attack until it’s within ten to twenty meters of its prey. And unlike other animals who wait for the weak, or the sickly, and wait for that weak or sickly animal to get off to the side – that’s not how lions work.
They stealthily move and they go for that which is unaware. It can be strong, it can be sick, it can be weak, it doesn’t matter. But when they get within about ten meters, they’re extremely fast for ten to twenty to forty meters but they have very little endurance.
And when God’s Word says your enemy is a roaring lion, he wants to create tremendous fear to get you isolated, and in your isolation and self-condemnation, and withdrawal from people, and withdrawal from God’s Word, no matter how weak or how strong a Christian, the attack will come when you’re alone, and when you’re vulnerable.
And he wants to isolate. That means to cut off, to seclude, to get you away in order to kill, and steal, and destroy your life, your relationships, the work of God in you, and the work of God through you. And it’s real and it is serious.
But Peter gives us two things. One, he gives us a warning. The devil is a roaring lion. But notice at the bottom of the page, he finishes with a promise. “And the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little,” there are wounds, you’re in a real battle. Tough things happen to people who love God. “After you have suffered for a little, He will Himself restore you, make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever.”
His roar is fearful and certain. His attack is predictable. And the only question is: how do you respond? What’s God’s answer to the tactic of intimidation and isolation? And the answer is in Acts chapter 8.
Open your Bibles, if you will, to Acts chapter 8 or open up your mobile device. Remember? It started out subtle. They tried to divide the church, chapter 6.
Chapter 7 they were wrapped in this tradition. Well now, chapter 7, at the end ends with the martyring of Stephen; they stone him. And if you’re a follower of Jesus now, it is a bad person to be. And they’re fleeing for their life. They’re leaving their homes, they’re leaving their businesses, they’re fleeing to Samaria, some are hunkered down in Jerusalem.
And we pick up the story in the beginning of chapter 8. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the Church at Jerusalem. All except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned for him deeply.
“But Saul began to destroy the Church going from house to house he dragged them off and put them in jail.”
You might circle that little word, the word “destroy” here? Used nowhere else in the New Testament. It means “with hatred or cruelty.” It’s used in other Greek literature for when boars come in and if you’ve ever seen a wild boar root up things and completely destroy things, it’s with a vengeance.
Paul is somewhere between twenty-four to forty years old. He’s probably late twenties at this point in his life. And he is a zealous, over-the-top, thinking he’s doing God’s will to kill all these Christians.
I mean, that’s the environment. It’s frontal. It’s intimidation. He’s going from house to house, dragging them out of the house, throwing them in prison.
But God often does what I call “spiritual judo.” He takes the evil that comes at you and by grace, if you cooperate with Him, He flips it. And He brings something really good out of things that were designed to be really bad.
Look at verse 4: “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.” Remember one of the seven? “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and he proclaimed Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs that he did they all paid close attention to what he said.”
And then notice the results: “With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
Now, to get the context, to really get what’s going on, you need to understand that, remember Jews hate Samaritans. It goes back hundreds of years. The Samaritans were in mixed marriages so they’re part Jewish and part other people.
And the Jews in Jerusalem were one hundred percent Jewish, not only in culture, but in genetics. And these were the half-breeds. But now they’re running for their life. And as they’re running for their life all of a sudden, they are the people are being rejected.
And the Samaritans, “What do you need?” “Well, I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost this, I’ve lost that, I’m running for my life.” And in the midst of their worst time they begin to share with them, “I found life.” And the story of Jesus, and the love of Christ, and Philip says, “There’s power here. We don’t have to be afraid of death anymore.”
And he begins to preach, and God begins to work, and miracles occur, and people were healed, and all of a sudden, amazing things are happening.
The year of Acts chapter 2 is about A.D. 33. Acts chapter 8 is two years later, A.D. 35. This is two years, all the Christians that you’re reading about are two years old in the Lord.
Now, if you’ll look at your notes, let’s summarize: Satan’s strategy is to destroy through intimidation and isolation. You see that in the first eight verses. Hey, it’s true here. It’s true for you, it’s true for me.
He wants to take the issues in your life and make you fearful. This marriage will never work out. My son or daughter will never come around. This health issue will never go away. I’ll never find a job. I’ll never break this addiction. And there’s fear. I’ll always be single.
Notice, however, God’s purpose is to deploy through suffering and proclamation. You’re not immune to suffer, I’m not immune to suffer. It’s a fallen world. He never promised, in fact, He said, “In the world we’ll have tribulation or suffering.” But He takes the suffering and as we suffer, He can use it to do really, really great things. It’s not a wasted suffering.
The truth is, sometimes our worst times are God’s best times to use our lives. It’s hard to think about, isn’t it? Sometimes, when you’re going through the bankruptcy, when you’re reeling from losing your job, when your house is upside down, and you just think, “Oh God.” And you’re so fearful.
He says, “I want to come close to you, and I don’t promise to wave a magic wand and make everything wonderful overnight, but I’ll go through whatever the most difficult, painful issue is in your life and I will be with you. And let me tell you this: as I’m with you it is how you respond and My grace in you, in the midst of that, maybe the greatest platform for Me using you that has ever happened in your life.”
You can go all the way back to the Old Testament, the principle shows up early in Joseph’s life. He’s what? Rejected by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, left in prison.
I mean, for thirteen years, suffering, suffering, suffering, suffering. And all the while, God had a plan. And at the end of that plan he becomes the head of all of Egypt and he would say to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring about this present result.” He saved the entire nation.
You may have a boss, you may have an ex-mate, you may have that health issue, you may have a rebellious child, you may have out-to-lunch parents. They actually may mean it for evil, but God means it for good if you cooperate with Him.
And here’s the application. The application is: fear not; preach the Word. See, did you notice that, who is preaching? It’s not the apostles, it’s not the pros, it’s not the professionals. These are two-year-old Christians. You know who they were? Regular people just like us.
I mean, if persecution happened on Christians and we were running for our lives, and going for other countries, and your homes are gone, and your money is gone, your bank account, 401ks are, I mean, they’re zero-one-ks. You’ve got nothing going.
And how you respond, and you cling to God. And as you went, you preached, and told people about your hope in Christ. That’s what’s happening here.
And a revolution is occurring. Remember, Jesus said that this Gospel will go, it’ll begin, right? “You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.”
Well, after two years, guess how far the Church made it – they never got out of Jerusalem. God actually allows this persecution to occur, to begin to fulfill and break the cultural barriers, and now here’s what we see. Amazing things happening with the group that they used to hate. Now they’ve come to Christ.
Now, I’ve got to tell you. What I just shared is really true, it’s right theology, and I’ve known it in my head a long time. But now and then God gives you a little opportunity to get it from your head to your heart. And I think he brings fear in the areas that you’re most vulnerable.
I was a younger pastor in Santa Cruz. We’d been there about five or six years, and all I can tell you is it was one of those windows in your life where it was just the hand of God. There was a movement of God. We saw hundreds of people come to Christ and the churches were working together.
And all of a sudden, we had to build some buildings, and there was times where people would line up after every service, ten or fifteen or twenty that all were brand-new Christians, and all this Satanic worship and weird stuff was happening.
And there was this movement of God and every Sunday afternoon, sort of, to blow off steam I’d get out and play basketball with some friends. And it was a little bit rainy one day so I thought, “Well, if we play outside I might slip and get hurt.” So we went up to Bethany College to play and had a good buddy there.
And so I can still remember driving down the middle and a guy was cutting to the corner and I was going to throw an off the ball pass like this and then out of the corner of my eye I realized, this guy sees it. So I reared back to give it a bunch and I went, well, you notice where my body is? I, you ever turn your ankle? I twisted my knee like this with all my weight and I tore my ACL, my MCL, and all the cartilage. And it just went, whoo.
Now, to know the personality, as warped as I am, I mean, my knee is kind of dangling. And I get up and I say, “You know, I think I can play one more game.” You know? And there was a football coach there and he looked at me and he goes, “Stupid. Just sit down.”
Well, you know, when you get refreshed by something that’s physical like that and just with my make up, putting me on crutches and having to go to physical therapy three days a week. We’re in the middle of a capital campaign, all these things are happening, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m under incredible pressure.
The one little window was working out a couple times like that. So, I go to the physical therapist and it’s a young gal, who has a small child, and is divorced, was abandoned, and was pretty bitter.
And she let me know early on her father was an atheist, that she’s in line with her father and what he believes, and the only people that she’s really more mad at than God are people from church. “By the way, what do you do?”
And I thought, Yi, yi, yi, yi, yi, yi, yi. Make a very long story short, little by little, she began to share her story and I began to share mine. And she was not open to hearing from me. And I said, “Well, have you ever, you know, have you ever just even explored who Jesus is?” “And, no, I really haven’t.”
And I said, “Well, just, I mean, you’re killing my body three times a week here. Would you just, like, read John chapter 1 and maybe just, I mean, just…” “I don’t believe in the Bible.” I said, “You don’t have to believe in it. It’s okay. Just, you ought to be educated just to know what it says.” “Well, okay.”
God’s Word never returns void, and it was a long rehab, and God miraculously brought that young woman to Christ. And then she began to grow, and it was a neat story, but the story gets better.
Then we moved to Atlanta, and then about a year after that or two years, they asked me to come back and speak at Santa Cruz, which was kind of cool, and let them know what was going on.
And so I came back and I’ll never forget, I can’t even remember what I spoke on. But she was in the second row. And now that little girl when I first met her, five, six years ago or more, was a bigger girl. And I’ll never forget. I came down the steps and she just came right around, tears flowing down her face. And her arms were out like this with her little girl. She gave me a big hug. And she just said, “Jesus is so real. I’m so glad. Thank you so much. And I want you to meet my little girl. And I’m reading Bible stories to her.”
And I thought, you know what? I walked out the side door and I thought, “That’s worth a knee.” That’s worth a knee! Isn’t it? That’s worth a bankruptcy. That’s worth an unfair getting fired. That’s worth someone walks out on you.
What difficult situation do you have in your life right now that makes you just want to get focused, and isolated, and fearful that could be the greatest opportunity that God ever gives you to preach the Word? And I don’t mean just with your life. We’ve got to get beyond that.
Hebrews 4:12. I put it in your notes. It says, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as the far division of soul and spirit and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
It wasn’t that I was convincing with this woman. It was that she, for the first time, explored the living Word of God. Your neighbors don’t have to believe it. People in your hobbies, the people in your carpools, they don’t have to believe it.
But God calls us regular, normal people to preach the Word. Not judgmentally, not “we’re better than.” But winsomely, lovingly, sharing our life, our testimony, and inviting them to explore what it says.
Now this revival occurs. And after this, now there’s sort of a battle between good and evil. Because these Samaritans had been hoodwinked by some demonic activity.
We pick up the story in verse 9. In verse 9 it says, “Now for some time a man named Simon practiced sorcery in the city and he amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great. And all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is the divine power known as the great power.’” He actually was claiming deity.
“They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic.” The word “magic” and the word “sorcery”, same root words, it has the idea of the manifestation of supernatural things through demonic power.
And then look at verse 12. “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized and he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles that he saw.
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them. They’d simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Now this big confrontation of good and evil, if you summarized it, Simon is intimidating through demonic sorcery. People were scared.
We experienced a lot of this in Santa Cruz. I’ve seen it in Haiti. When I was in India and parts of Africa. I mean, there are people all around the world, you know, we kind of think we’re a little more sophisticated. I mean, I’ve seen people in South Africa pull up in Mercedes, who have great jobs, that live in a first world country, and with the demonic issues they have, put money and food on an open grave so the demons, representing their dead parents, don’t terrify them at home.
I mean, the world is in the lap of the Evil One. This is real stuff. But Philip liberates. How? Through the Word of God.
And so, what you need to understand is the Gospel goes from the Jews, then it goes to the Samaritans, and then it goes to the Gentiles. And every time that happens the Spirit of God, and the wisdom of God the Father and Jesus is He wants to make sure these groups stay unified.
Remember, when they were just all Jews but they spoke two different languages, remember the division? The Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrew-speaking? I mean, that was a problem.
Well, now you’ve got Samaritans. Well what are most of the people in Jerusalem going to think if you say, “Oh, the Samaritans are now Christ-followers.” “Oh, no way.”
And so God doesn’t baptize them in the Holy Spirit. In other words, that external manifestation. It doesn’t say it here. But I would assume, because it’s visible and you can see it as probably the same as Acts 2. They spoke in other languages. There was a manifestation of God’s power and God’s Spirit when Peter and John came.
And so, what they did is they wanted to authenticate, to keep the unity of the Church, you know, it happens different ways through Acts. And so, they go and they say, “Oh, it’s for real. They have received the Word.” I mean, all of Peter’s and John’s prejudices are going out the window. They pray for them and then, boom, now they’re brought into the body of Christ. You’ll see the same thing happen in Acts 10 a little bit later.
And so, God keeps the preservation of the unity. But the real issue going on here is between evil and good. The people following after Simon or now it’s the truth of the Word of God.
Here’s the truth I want you to get: the power is in the message, not in the messenger. The power is in the message, not in the messenger.
These people, they’ve only been Christians two years. Philip has only been a Christian two years or less. If you would go through, it would be interesting, in my Bible every time “preach” or “proclaim,” I highlighted it.
This is normal, ordinary, regular people running for their life and every time you see the yellow, what it is is the word of God is going out. See, the power – it’s not “you don’t know enough.” It’s not, “you’re not bold enough.” It’s not that no one would ever believe you. It’s not that they’re going to ask questions you can’t respond.
The power is in the message, not in us messengers. But here’s the deal. When you begin to share that message, Satan’s tactics will go from division and subtlety to, often, frontal.
We saw that in Santa Cruz. I mean, it was crazy. The first couple years there, we experienced things that I thought only happened in books. But we saw hundreds of people come to Christ, and there was all these Satan worshippers and all this weird stuff, and it got frontal.
And what I want you to know is you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to be afraid. But I will tell you, there’s all kind of Christians that, you know, you start growing, you start sharing, and you start living. As you press against things, you will experience some frontal attack and guess what the goal is – to get you to isolate and say, “Oh, well, that’s for someone else.”
Here’s the application: “Fear not. Greater is He that is in you than he that’s in the world.” And but see, we say that and it’s up here but it’s not in here. There’s not a boldness, there’s not a power, and these people had conviction. They knew that there’s nothing more powerful than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just let it loose. God works through His Word.
But we know that, greater is He that is in me, but down deep I don’t think we believe it a lot.