October 23, 2014

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

A couple of reports about destruction in the national parks came to my attention recently, one from natural causes and the other due to humans behaving badly.

An example of the former is the recent fire at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania—the non-suspicious blaze wiped out three administrative buildings, a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2001, and some personal possessions of the 40 people killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed that day.

Then last month, someone damaged a fossilized bone at Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, taking a hunk out of a sauropod’s humerus, most likely as a souvenir. That, of course, is illegal.

Stealing and destroying don’t happen only in national parks, of course. Spiritual forces of evil are everywhere (Ephesians 6:12).

I don’t like to talk about the devil and demons too much, because people can get all weirded out about the subject, and some are especially prone to look for a demon behind every bush, so to speak. As C.S. Lewis writes in the preface to The Screwtape Letters, his humorous (but spot on) take on how Satan works in a Christian’s life, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

Along the lines of disbelief is making Satan into a joke. Believe me, I love Flip Wilson’s routines, and he weaves his catchphrase—“The devil made me do it”—into hilarious skits (find one of his best here—and wait for the punch line). But it’s much easier to laugh at the thought of the devil than to ponder his reality.

Because he certainly is real. Satan is mentioned in 7 Old Testament books and by every New Testament writer. Jesus acknowledged his existence (Matthew 13:39; Luke 10:18, 11:18); He even did battle with him (Matthew 4:1-11). The devil is called a liar and murderer (John 8:44), an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a deceiver (Revelation 20:3), a schemer (Ephesians 6:11) and an all-around adversary (1 Peter 5:8). He’s involved in all that is dark and evil (Ephesians 6:12), and works in opposition to God (Matthew 16:23), trying to prevent people from believing in God (Luke 8:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4). John 10:10 sums up the devil’s mission very well—steal, kill and destroy.

The good news is that Satan does not have ultimate power over those who profess Jesus as their Savior. He can be successfully resisted (James 4:7). We may be tempted to wrong and evil, but God limits just how far the devil can go (Mark 1:23-27, Job 1:12). God protects believers spiritually—and sometimes physically (John 17:15; 1 John 3:8, 5:18) and equips us with everything we need to fight back (Ephesians 6:13-18).

We only go around once, but Satan whispers in our ears that in order to make that trip worthwhile, we need to get what we can while we can, maybe even stealing, killing and destroying things and other people to do so.

But the only “souvenir” we can take from this life is our soul, and nothing we could gain in this world is ever worth destroying or losing that (Mark 8:36, 37).

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