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Resist the Devil and he will flee from you

On two occasions in the NT we are told in almost identical terms to resist Satan. The promise appended to this command is that if we obey it, he will flee from us (see James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). Continue reading . . . 

On two occasions in the NT we are told in almost identical terms to resist Satan. The promise appended to this command is that if we obey it, he will flee from us (see James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).

Let it be said right up front that “the devil” or Satan is a very real and very cunning and very powerful enemy. This is not a figure of speech, although Satan would love nothing better than for you to dismiss him as such.

Satan is a fallen angel. All angels were created (Col. 1:16; Jn. 1:1-3). Therefore, Satan was created. He is, therefore, God's Devil. Satan is not the equal and opposite power of God (contra dualism). He is not eternal. His power is not infinite. He does not possess divine attributes. In sum, he is no match for God! The word of God is clear that whereas Satan is powerful, he is not omnipotent. Whereas he is intelligent, he is not omniscient. Whereas he is active, he is not omnipresent.

Immediately before issuing this command to resist the Devil is the exhortation that we “submit . . . to God” (James 4:7a). Clearly, then, to place ourselves under God’s authority necessarily entails resisting and turning from Satan’s. “Resist” means to stand against or oppose. Here we are assured that whatever power Satan may have, ours in Christ is greater. Never forget that spiritual warfare is not a horizontal tug of war; it is a vertical chain of command.

So what does it mean to “resist” or to “stand against” Satan? I don’t think he’s suggesting we go outside and shout loudly: “Satan, get the hell out of our lives!” Forgive my French! Rather, we resist Satan by submitting to God. We stand against Satan by aligning our hearts and minds with the truth of what God has revealed in his Word. We resist Satan by living in obedience to all that God has commanded. We resist Satan when we worship and adore Christ more than anything Satan brings before us. We resist him when we love God above all else, when we prize Jesus as our supreme treasure.

Are there other specific things we can do to “resist” the Devil? Yes.

We must be faithful to put on the armor of God as outlined in Ephesians 6.
We must pray (both our own and that of others on our behalf).
Worship. Satan hates to hear your songs of adoration and exultation.
Study and meditation on God’s Word.
Verbal rebuke.
Obedience and purity of life.
Standing firm in the faith.

I take this last point from 1 Peter 5:9 where we are told to resist Satan, remaining “firm in your faith” (v. 9a). What Peter has in mind is our on-going confidence and trust in the greatness and power and faithfulness and goodness of God to do all for us that he has promised he will do. It is faith in the truth of the gospel!

In Colossians 1:23 Paul speaks of “not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” What Satan wants more than anything else is to shake your confidence in God, to instill doubt in your heart about whether the gospel of God’s saving grace in Jesus is really true or not.

The solution, the response that will send him running from your presence, is unshakeable faith in the gospel! Unyielding confidence that Christ’s atoning death for your sins has forever secured your acceptance with the Father. Persevering trust that all God has accomplished for you in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus will forever keep you safe in the loving arms of your heavenly Father. When this grips your soul and warms your heart and energizes your mind and spirit, Satan doesn’t stand a chance!

By the way, never forget that you can successfully and faithfully “resist” the Devil and he might still kill you (see Rev. 2:10)! Think for a moment about all the martyrs in church history who have lost their lives but never lost their faith. What the Scriptures tell us is that Satan can do no ultimate or eternal harm to us, though he may inflict physical harm. And even then, he can’t do it without God’s permission.


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