Previous article in this series: December 15, 2016, p. 133.
In 2003 the U.S. Defense Department created a special deck of “Iraqi Most Wanted” playing cards. Each of the 52 cards gave a profile, in order of rank, of the henchmen of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Saddam was the Ace of Spades and the top card in the deck. The American soldiers invading Iraq were each given a deck of cards. By thumbing through his cards, either while on active duty or during some down-time of recreation in the barracks, the soldier could quickly familiarize himself with his most important enemies.
In our spiritual warfare we need a profile of our enemies. This article and the next two are our profile cards. Our Reformed Confessions (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 52; Canons of Dordt, V, 4) identify our three principal enemies. On one card is “Satan.” On another is “The World.” On a third is “Our Sinful Flesh.”
We begin with a profile of Satan. He is our foe. Some people question whether all of the enemies on the “Iraqi Most Wanted” cards were legitimately the real and present threats they were portrayed to be. Make no mistake about it, Satan is a real and present threat. He is not a symbol of evil or a figure of speech. Satan is real, as real as you are. The Bible says so.
Satan is that perdition-bound, God-hating, powerful, fallen angel, who, under the sovereignty of God, seeks through temptation to influence souls to hate and disobey God. The information on his card is alarming and makes a battle against the likes of Saddam Hussein, “Chemical Ali” and “Mrs. Anthrax” look like mere sport.
While the list is not exhaustive, here are six profile descriptions of Satan that every soldier in the army of Christ should know.
1. Satan is not physical but spiritual
2. Satan is not God, but a creature
3. Satan is so depraved
4. Satan’s craft and power are great
5. Satan is my constant foe
6. Christ is Satan’s Lord
Let’s take a moment to illustrate one of Satan’s battle campaigns in order to see all these characteristics of his in play, and to acknowledge how awful he is. It is a campaign waged on the field of a young woman’s soul.2
Imagine a nineteen-year-old woman who goes to the first class of her sophomore year in college. Satan also attends. This Reformed young lady, while not recklessly craving attention, is somewhat vulnerable because she is having a hard time being content, yearning for the emotional rush of a relationship with a man. She wants a boyfriend. Satan will play on that yearning. In that first class she meets a handsome fellow. By the end of the week over 100 text-messages have been exchanged.
He is an unchurched unbeliever and she knows it. They begin dating—secretly. Her guilty conscience is overridden by the excitement she feels as he continually tells her how attractive she is and how lucky he is to talk with her. Satan is taking her captive at his will. When her parents and mature friends find out what is going on, they compassionately but sharply admonish and warn her, insisting she cut off her relationship with this fellow. She tries to justify her actions and temper their concerns, “He is such a good guy. Honestly. Give him a chance. He wants to come to church with me and talk with our pastor. We talk together about the Bible, about what it means to be Reformed. Besides, we are not dating, we’re just friends.” Her parents repeat, “You may not be friends with the enemies of God. God is not mocked.” Her immature friends keep cheering, “You two are adorable!” Her mature friends say, “Dear, does this advance your relationship with God?”
She feels less and less guilt. Through the Adversary and Slanderer’s working she feels more and more vindication for standing up to “narrow-minded and judgmental” family and friends. Meanwhile, she and the young man are secretly breaking boundaries because they really do “love” (that’s Satan’s lie; lust is not love) each other and want to demonstrate their “love” through intimacy. Through the emotional rush this “amazing man” gives her, she is ready to sell her inheritance and even her soul for a life with him. She has never felt better about herself. Her heart pounds to see him. He makes her feel like a princess. Her obsession is unbreakable. And on top of it all, he’s coming with her to a catechism class.
Three years later they have a ten-month-old daughter and are divorced. He was manipulative, abusive, and repeatedly sexually unfaithful.
Satan has his sights on bigger things—her family. Two years after the divorce she is engaged to another man and planning her second wedding. Most in her family are overwhelmed with grief. Her father collapses to his knees to pray every night and just sobs uncontrollably. Thinking about the whole situation is all-consuming; “What happened to our sweetheart—the baby of our family? Did I fail as a father? How could this happen? Divorce? And now remarriage? In our family? How? Why? And our 3-year-old granddaughter… how can we help her in all of this?”
The divorced woman is angry because no one—with the exception of two older brothers—comes or gives their blessing to her wedding. “What!?” she bitingly retorts, “You all think I’m going to hell!?” Influenced by Satan (his craft is great), she, and two of her older brothers, are convinced this remarriage is not the adultery God calls it, but God’s tender mercy to a suffering saint who cannot be expected to live the single life at 24 years of age. Now there is conflict in the family. Will it escalate? Satan’s goal is attitudes, words, and actions that dishonor God. Then there is the new husband and his family. They go to a Reformed church and are appalled that the family of their new daughter-in-law does not come to the wedding and calls this beautiful marriage adulterous. “How unbelievably unchristian, hyper-radical, and judgmental can folks be?” they wonder.
What a tragedy is the whole mess.
This happens. I’m a father. Just writing this puts a knot in my stomach.
Don’t you see how the bloody battles of history are mere sport, compared to the campaigns waged by Satan? Don’t you hate Satan with all your heart and long for his complete destruction in hell? Don’t you long for heaven? Don’t you see how desperately we all need armor—God’s armor? Don’t you want to pray right now?
Do it. Pray. Pray in adoration of your good and sovereign God who is in control of these heart-rending happenings in testing and proving His saints; who will never allow Satan to pluck one elect child out of His hands, so that even if a believer is drawn into great and heinous sins by Satan, faithful Jehovah will graciously bring that believer to confession of sin and amendment of life.
Humble yourself before His sovereignty and reverence Him as He does not always incorporate all of our physical seed into His everlasting covenant. Not knowing who are elect and who are reprobate, pray that those who have been taken captive by Satan be freed. Free them, O God! Pray for wisdom in hard situations, and for charity that rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. And thank God for that precious blood of His Lamb by whom we overcome our great enemy Satan and love not our lives unto death (Rev. 12:11).