As Christians, we are born into a war zone where our enemy rages against us, seeking to devour us. This intense spiritual conflict will continue as long as we remain in this world. God commands us to put on the whole armor of God and to stand against the schemes of the devil. Here’s how.
For more than two centuries, George Whitefield has been considered the most brilliant and popular preacher the modern world has ever known. He began preaching at an early age of twenty-two and his voice startled England like a trumpet blast. He boldly preached the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and was attacked by clergy, the press, and even mobs. Most of His preaching was in the open air to crowds of twenty to thirty thousand people. Yet for all his popularity and impact he remained a man of humility and deep spirituality. He died at the age of 55 and had preached an estimated 30,000 sermons. His penetrating comments are as wise and relevant today, as they were when he first preached them. His sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author’s own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today’s audience the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they were preached in the eighteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Whitefield’s meaning nor intent have been tampered with. – Tony Capoccia
SATAN’S SCHEMES BY GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770)
“In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” [2 Corinthians 2:11]
These words were spoken by the Apostle Paul to the church of Corinth. In that church there was an unhappy person, one who had committed the sin of incest, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: The man had taken his father’s wife; but either on account of his wealth, power, or for some other reason, like many notorious offenders today, he had not been exposed to the discipline of the church. The Apostle Paul, therefore, in his first epistle, severely reprimands the church for this neglect of discipline, and commands them, “When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord,” that is, they should solemnly excommunicate him; which back then was commonly followed with some bodily disease.
The Corinthians, being obedient to the Apostle, as soon as they received this reproof, like dear children, submitted to it, and cast the offending party out of the church. But while they were endeavoring to amend one fault, they unhappily ran into another; and as they formerly had been too mild and negligent, so now they behaved towards him with too much severity and resentment. The Apostle, therefore, in this chapter, reproves this, and tells them, that “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him:” that he had now suffered enough; and that, therefore, lest he should be tempted to say with Cain, “My punishment is more than I can bear;” therefore, “Forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”
Now that he had given proof of his repentance, you now needed to forgive him, to confirm your love towards him, and to restore him in the spirit of meekness; “In order that Satan, (who is trying to tempt him to despair) might not outwit you.” Satan wants the church to be unforgiving and to be the vehicle that drives the repentant sinner to despair, thereby representing you, the church, as being merciless and cruel, and to cause the Holy Name of Christ to be blasphemed, by which you are called; “for we are not unaware of his schemes:” we know very well how many subtle ways Satan has to distract and deceive unguarded and unthinking men.
Thus, as Satan has many schemes, and as his quiver is full of other poisonous darts, besides those which he shoots at us to drive us to despair, I shall, this morning, discuss the following,
I. First, I will briefly attempt to help you understand who Satan is.
II. Secondly, I will point out to you the principal schemes, he generally uses, to lead astray new converts to Christ, and also prescribe some remedies against them.
Joshua 10:25 “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”
When God says “fight” its sinful to be passive. When God says “rest” its sinful to strive.
When God gave the land by way of promise to Israel, other tribes and nations were already occupying it. To take possession of the land would be no “walk in the park.” Israel would need a trained army of fighters, and they would need to be employed. Israel also had to wait on God for the specific military strategies at every stage. It would be presumptive to just go out and fight without the Lord’s sanction, just as it would be to remain passive when the Lord said, “now is the time to engage the enemy.” Just because the land was promised to Israel, the enemies of God did not lay down, die, or just move away saying “well here it all is for you then.” There would be fierce hostility and fierce combat if Israel was to see the promises fulfilled.
As we read the Old Testament record we notice that it was actually EXTREMELY rare for God to say “You dont need to fight this battle. I will handle this all myself.” What was usual was for God to say, “You go fight the enemy and know that I will be with you.”
Many times, we as Christians assume the rare thing is the usual thing – that God will just do everything for us. While it is true that God does it all in regenerating us dead sinners and bring us to spiritual life, the rest of the Christian life is a working out of our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing it is God who is at work within us (Phil 2:12,13). The Christian life is a cooperative venture.
As a child of God, you have many great and precious promises. Yet in this life, to possess them may well mean the scary thought of leaving the known, the comfortable, the predictable and the familiar. God will fulfill His many promises and will make you and shape you in the process. Yet His greatest blessings are found outside of the comfort zone. Smooth seas never made a great sailor.
Here’s a sermon I preached called “Rest and Fight!”
I trust it will be a blessing.
[Photo credit: Smaug.tk]
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)
Picture your flesh—that old ego with the mentality of merit and craving for power and reputation and self-reliance—picture it as a dragon living in some cave of your soul.
Then you hear the gospel,
I will make you mine and take possession of the cave and slay the dragon. Will you yield to my possession? It will mean a whole new way of thinking and feeling and acting.
But that dragon is me. I will die.
And you will rise to newness of life, for I will take its plan; I will make my mind and my will and my heart your own.
What must I do?
Trust me and do as I say. As long as you trust me, we cannot lose.
Overcome by the beauty and power of Christ you bow and swear eternal loyalty and trust.
And as you rise, he puts a great sword in your hand and says,
He leads you to the mouth of the cave and says,
Go in, slay the dragon.
But you look at him bewildered,
I cannot. Not without you.
Well said. You learn quickly.
Never forget: my commands for you to do something are never commands to do it alone.
Then you enter the cave together.
A horrible battle follows and you feel Christ’s hand on yours.
At last the dragon lies limp.
Is it dead?
His answer is this:
I have come to give you new life. This you received when you yielded to my possession and swore faith and loyalty to me. And now with my sword and my hand you have felled the dragon of the flesh. It is a mortal wound. It will die. That is certain.
But it has not yet bled to death, and it may yet revive with violent convulsions and do much harm.
So you must treat it as dead and seal the cave as a tomb. The Lord of darkness may cause earthquakes in your soul to shake the stones loose, but you build them up again. And have this confidence: with my sword and my hand on yours this dragon’s doom is sure, he is finished, and your new life is secure.
Christ has taken possession of our soul.
Our old self has been dealt a mortal wound and stripped of its power to have dominion.
The Christian life, the fruit of the Spirit, is a constant reckoning of the flesh as dead (piling stones on its tomb) and a constant relying on the present Spirit of Christ to produce love, joy, and peace within.
There are two mistakes we often make when it comes to the devil. One is the make too much of our foe and attribute almost deity status to him. The devil is not omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all wise, all knowing) or omnipresent (everywhere present); so if he is bothering you, he cannot possibly be bothering me at the same time (though he does have many agents under his rule who work on his behalf). The other mistake though is to make too little of him, and not take his schemes against us seriously.
In the famous passage in Ephesians 6 which portrays the saints’ spiritual warfare, notice two things. Firstly, the Apostle Paul likens the conflict to wrestling, which is the closest form of fighting. The original words could be translated “our wrestling match is not against people with bodies…”
Secondly, although Paul could have used the word “against” just once to have easily made his point, he uses it over and over again – five times in all – illustrating the immensity and intensity of the battle each of us are engaged in. Like it or not, we are in a war.
“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Below is a sobering short video of quotes by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones: