(Note: this is an updated version of an essay first posted in 2019)
"I believe...in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit [and] born of the Virgin Mary." We confessed that truth recently as part of the Apostles' Creed. As soon as the birth of Jesus happened in history over 2,000 years ago, the Devil and his demons have been on the attack. Satan tried to kill the young Jesus at the hands of King Herod. In the desert, he tried to get him to sin and become unsuitable as our redeemer. During his earthly ministry, they attacked over and over again...continuing on to this very day with their wily schemes. But their days are numbered!
The traditional Gospel reading for today comes from Luke 11.14-28 where Jesus cast out a demon that was making a man mute and famously remarked, “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed. And a house divided against itself falls" (Luke 11.17 EHV). He said that in response to the accusation that he was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, Satan's right hand man. Just as Satan's very first tactic in the Garden of Eden was to create doubt through a lie, so he continues here in an attempt to spread lies about the true work of God.
Today, nearly two thousand years later, there are tons of other lies Satan uses against us.
Satan lies about our sinfulness, trying to convince us that we really aren't that bad. The trouble is, as I pointed out on Ash Wednesday, we really are that bad. Our society has taken the bait on this lie and wants us to believe that sin and guilt are relics of the past. The trouble is, Scripture won't let the devil or our culture get away with this lie. Even more, if we'll stop and listen to our conscience and the Spirit's whisper we understand that we are sinful and are in need of cleansing, forgiveness, and redemption.
Satan lies about God's forgiveness and tries to convince us that we aren't really, completely, entirely forgiven...that some things are beyond God's ability or desire to forgive, that some things we've done are too bad, that some things we've said are unforgivable. To this lie, hear and believe the words of the liturgy we hear after our time of confession, "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God's love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!"
Satan lies about grace and working our way to heaven. This may be the favorite lie for American Christians with our 'can-do' spirit and individualistic nature. Here the lie is that, despite receiving forgiveness and the grace of Christ, there is something (no matter how small) that we must do or not do to keep or cement our salvation. That's the mindset of the 'old Adam' in us--thinking there must be something for us to take responsibility for. But the gospel of grace tells us that everything is done for us by Christ. There is nothing left to do to 'seal the deal.'
Though we are sinful, in Christ and by his work, we can rest assured that we are forgiven and saved completely. Nothing to add. Nothing to do. No "terms and conditions apply" but that we reach our in faith with our empty hands and grasp hold of what Christ has already done for us!
Photo by Razvan Mirel on Unsplash