August 2, 2009
INTRODUCTION – In the great hymn – “A Mighty Fortress” – Martin Luther – one of the men who stood against the unrighteous religious establishment of his day, and helped bring about the much needed Reformation, penned these words, “For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, And armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.”
Satan and his hordes of demons live to thwart the purposes of God on the earth by deceiving, causing, oppressing and intimidating the likes of us. They operate by supernatural power, though they are not all powerful as our God is. They have supernatural knowledge, though they are not all knowing as our God is. They have the ability to travel supernaturally, though they are not omnipresent as our God is.
Jesus Christ knows this enemy of our souls well. And today we are going to look at His command in the model prayer for disciples usually referred to as the Lord’s prayer – “Deliver us from evil” or in some versions – “Deliver us from the evil one.”
I. The Problem of Evil and the Reality of the Evil One in Matthew so far A. Matt. 1 – nothing – – genealogy of Jesus Christ; mention of the supernatural pregnancy of Mary; and angelic dream that Joseph – Mary’s husband received about her pregnancy and its origin and meaning. Matt. 2 – Herod’s slaughter of male children 2 yrs. and under Matt. 3 – Ministry of John the Baptist Matt. 4 – Jesus’s encounter with the tempter/devil; beginning of His ministry proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, which included healing demoniacs (vs. 24), which elsewhere is referred to as casting out demons. Matt. 5 – Jesus’s first of many references to the reality of hell (vs. 22); 2nd reference in vs. 29; 3rd reference in vs. 30; and our need to do whatever it takes to see transformation take place in our lives so we avoid that horrible destination for the wicked and rebellious. Matt. 6 – the disciple’s prayer & the command to pray, “Deliver us from ….”
B. “from evil” or “from the evil one”?? The New K.J., New RSV, NIV all translate it “the evil one”. Nasv translates it “evil” but has a note in the margin that says “or evil one”. It is both and. There is great danger to the believer from both; and all evil ultimately is a result of the evil one’s work. At least 19 references to the reality and dangers of evil in gospel of Matthew; and of course many more throughout the N.T. 1. Evil – our own corrupt nature is evil – Matt. 12:34,35 & 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
Three times in a short passage in Romans 12, Paul exhorts the believers in the church there to “abhor evil” in vs. 9; “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” in vs. 17; “Do not be overcome by evil” in vs. 21, which is in the context of dealing with one’s enemies.
Paul said to the believers in the church in Galatia in ch. 1 vs. 4 that Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins “so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.”
While various individuals in our nation who pride themselves in being their own person and being the captain of their own destiny say they do not believe in Satan or demons; many other professionals like some therapists who have had to work at Atascadero State Hospital or similar places; or policemen and detectives who have had to work on a number of hideous crimes with hideous criminals; or sociologists and psychologists who have sought to understand why humans do some of the horrible things they do to other humans – – – these professionals have no problem admitting there is an unseen force at work in our souls and in our culture that is frightened evil.
The cover story of Newsweek in May of 2001, before the horrors of 9/11 was entitled “Evil – What Makes People Go Wrong?” It was trying to make sense of senseless acts of evil done by some fairly normal looking people like Timothy McVeigh who seemed to have a normal childhood, and yet became our most notorious mass murderer until 9/11. One of the interesting quotes in this cover article reads, “In their search for the nature and roots of evil, scholars from fields as diverse as sociology, psychology, philosophy and theology are reaching a far more chilling conclusion. Most people do have the capacity for horrific evil, they say: the traits of temperament and character from which evil springs are as common as flies on carrion (road kill). The capacity for evil is human universal, says psychiatrist Robert I. Simon, director of the program in Psychiatry and Law at Georgetown University School of Medicine.”
2. The Evil One. Ten times Satan is referred to as the evil one in the N.T. Some interesting statements are made about his influence: – “The whole world likes in the power of the evil one” I John 5:19 – in the parable of the sower or the soils, Jesus says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” Matt. 13:19 Satan desperately does not want the seed of the word of God to get implanted in people’s hearts and minds.
This is why it is so important that we pray before we talk to someone about the Lord; or meet with someone for disciple;eship; so that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts and minds so that they can grasp the word, and God’s truth.
– the parable of the tares that Jesus explained grow up with the wheat – – refers to people who seem to be Christians, but are not, but will be amongst us from time to time as if they are – – Matt. 13:38, “the tares are the sons of the evil one.” – the evil one Paul says in Ephesians 6 sends “flaming arrows” in our direction – Cain, who slew his brother Abel, was “of the evil one” according to John 3:12
Were we to trace the passages where the evil one, whose paper name is Satan is mentioned we would find some interesting and sobering ways he has worked in and through individuals. For instance: – When Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross, Jesus said to him, “Get behind Me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.” – Luke in his gospel says in ch. 22 vs. 3 that “satan entered into Judas.” Who then went to the chief priest and officers and discussed with them how to betray Jesus. – Peter in Acts ch. 5, after he had assumed the leadership of the fast growing church in Jerusalem said to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land?” This is why when we start looking to the Lord for elders to lead this particular congregation, onto of the things we want to be certain of is that they have God’s heart and priorities when it comes to money and material things. Paul warns his protege Timothy in his first letter that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. – Paul warns spouses in his instruction about marriage in I Cor. ch. 7 about Satan’s ability and intent to inflame lusts in those who are neglecting their sexual responsibilities to one another. – Paul in his first letter to Timothy, exhorts him to lead the church in instructing young widows how to live, for some “have already turned aside to follow Satan.” – Paul told the church in Thessalonica in his first letter to them that Satan thwarted Paul and his missionary team.
II. God’s Wonderful Provision to resist evil and the evil one – “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” II Thess. 3:3 – “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one.” I John 2:13,14 – You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4
Please be aware of the danger of thinking this just happens automatically!
III. The Role of Prayer in Defeating the Devil and Overcoming Evil – Matt. 6:13 – The very fact that we are commanded by our Lord to pray regularly that He would deliver us implies: 1. That Satan has the power and the intent to mess with us.
2. That Jesus alone is the Deliverer or Rescuer.
3. And that prayer activates His deliverance. A. Knowing Jesus as our Deliverer and Rescuer II Cor. 1:8-11 Gal. 1:4 II Thess. 3:3 II Tim. 4:18 Hebrews 2:15
B. Individual prayer – Matt. 6:13
C. Corporate Prayer – Matt. 6:13
If this is so important, why did Paul not pray against evil or the evil one in his many recorded prayers?
Reasons: Tis a matter of priority and balance. These apostolic prayers help us see what are the most important things God is after in the life of a disciple. In general I think our prayers should be for the things God wills in the persons’ life we are praying for, more than they should be against the things Satan tempts or threatens. In other words, our prayers should be more proactive and offensive; than defensive.
But Paul did write the longest passage in the Bible on how to fight successfully this fierce spiritual battle we are in; and I find it very interesting how he closes or concludes that passage = Eph. 6:18 (context starts in vs. 10).
Numerous other times in Paul’s letters to the churches – he writes of his concern or fear about what the enemy might do to them, if they are not alert and vigilant.
And we know that he prayed day and night for the churches that he had relationship with. And we know that He closely imitated the life and ministry of Christ, who prayed against the evil one in the lives of his disciples
D. Intercessory Prayer Jesus in John 17:15 Paul in II Cor. 1:8-11 Paul in Philippians 1:19, 20
CONCLUSION – 1. I see no panic or fear or anxiety in the writings of the New Testament about Satan and his demons. Only Jesus’s is “the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.” 2. I see lots of sobriety and warnings about Satan and his demons’ ability to wreck our lives and relationships – left to our own devices. 3. A life of prayer lifts us from our own devices and enables us to overcome everything thrown at us by the evil one, and it enables us to discern and flee from evil at every turn.