3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4, NKJV).
We must keep our eyes open and our lives illuminated by the light of the gospel lest Satan (the “god of this age”) blind us with his deceptions, and we perish in sin and darkness. He has already blinded unbelievers with his lies. The devil is real and active in this world, seeking his prey (Job 1:7; 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8). Man has long ago mythologized Satan, turning him into merely a personification of evil. Sufficiently fictionalized and caricatured, the devil is undoubtedly pleased with being discounted as the figment of human imagination. For example, the Satanic Temple, sees “Satan as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression” (Tarkus Claypool, from “An After School Satan Club could be coming to your kid’s elementary school,” The Washington Post, 2016). (See “After School Satan Club” for more.) Satan (“adversary”) is opposed to God and man (Gen. 3:4-5; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Pet. 5:8). The devil (“accuser”) is a liar who deceives the whole world (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9). We can resist his enticements in faith (James 1:12-14; 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil (sin and death, 1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Christians overcome Satan in Christ by the blood of the Lamb, the word of God, and self-denial (Rev. 12:10-11). God crushes Satan under the feet of His faithful ones who walk in “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (Rom. 16:19-20; 2 Cor. 4:4).
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die (John 12:31–33, NKJV).
The purpose for which He came into the world was about to be fulfilled (John 12:27). Soon, Jesus would be crucified. His obedient death would glorify His Father (John 12:28; Heb. 5:8-9). Some thought they heard thunder or an angel when the Father spoke approvingly to Jesus from heaven (John 12:28-30). Note some crucial things accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross. (1) Christ’s death judged the world. The world judged Jesus worthy of death, yet His death would judge the world guilty of sinful injustice in need of salvation (Luke 23:39-41; Matt. 27:54; Acts 2:22-23). (2) Christ’s death cast out Satan. The devil lost his grip on holding men and women captive in sin when God accepted the death of Jesus as an offering for sin (1 Cor. 15:56-57; Heb. 10:10). By His death, Jesus destroyed the power of sin used by the devil to destroy souls (1 John 3:8). (3) The crucified Christ would draw sinners to salvation. The Son of Man was lifted onto an instrument of execution to die for all who are dead in sin so that we can live in Him (John 3:14-16; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus glorified the Father by obeying His will and dying on the cross. The gospel calls us to honor and glorify Jesus by hearing, receiving, and following His word (Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 3:17; Luke 6:46).
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:6–8, NKJV).
God gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34). The proud heart is not accepted or rewarded by the Lord. James says, “therefore,” and continues by giving practical guidance about what God expects us to do to receive His grace. (1) Submit to God (v. 7). Humility yields to the word and will of God, but the pride of life refuses to subject itself to God (Rom. 8:7). We must be humble servants of Christ and others for God’s grace to rest on us. (2) Resist the devil (v. 7). Our Adversary is crafty and powerful, but our strength to resist him comes from the Lord (1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 4:4). We overcome the wicked one by the power of God’s word living in us (1 John 2:14). (3) Draw near to God (v. 8). God’s prophet told king Asa, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Seek the Lord. You will find Him by following the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-8; 11:28-30; John 8:31-32). (4) Cleanse your hands (v. 8). We must purify our conduct to conform our actions to the “implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21, 25). (5) Purify your hearts (v. 8). The stability of singular faith in Christ (not divided loyalties) is required to receive God’s grace (James 1:6-8). Obeying the truth purifies hearts, so He receives our pleas for grace (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Tim. 2:22). Accepting God’s abundant grace requires our obedient faith.
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness 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.” (Ephesians 6:10–13, NKJV)
We need the Lord’s strength to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” We are in a battle over our souls. This fight calls for faith in the Lord’s power instead of ourselves as we struggle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” And so, let us equip ourselves with “the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:13-18). The Lord’s armor is tried and true, powerful to defeat our foe. But beware. Our adversary, the devil, will try to use our sense of self-reliance against us, tempting us to believe we can overcome the devil on our own. Do not attempt to go into this battle alone. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psa. 28:7).
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, NKJV)
Endurance is essential to resisting the temptations of sin. Our adversary, the devil, continually probes for openings and opportunities to entice us not to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; to sin against God (Mk. 12:30). Endurance is spiritual, mental, and emotional fortitude that perseveres through the moment of trial. James reminds us of some reasons why we endure temptations. 1) Because endurance brings God’s approval. The trials of life test our faith, and the devil seeks to exploit them. When we endure them, our faith grows stronger and has God’s approval (Jas. 1:3-4). 2) Because God has promised us a reward. The crown of life is promised to those who finish the course and keep the faith, not those who shrink back (2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 10:36-39). God will keep His word to us; We must keep our word to Him. 3) Because we love God. God has promised eternal life “to those who love Him.” We express our love for God over a love of this world when we endure temptation and do God’s will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Endurance means committing ourselves to love God with more than words, but also with our deeds (Jno. 14:15; 1 Jno. 3:16-19). Enduring temptations is not easy but possible. God gives us a means of escape, that we “may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, ESV).
18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 24:18–19, NKJV)
At first, Joash, the king of Judah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:2). Yet later, he listened to the leaders of Judah and fell away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Listening to the counsel of men rather than the prophets of God, Joash and Judah turned back to idol worship. Led by the king, they even killed the prophet, Zechariah, in the court of the temple, because he rebuked their sins (2 Chron. 24:20-21; Jesus referred to this in Matt. 23:34-36). Indeed, the prophets of God were “an example of suffering and patience” (Jas. 5:10). Now, God speaks to us “by His Son” through His apostles and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). The choice between listening to the will of men or to the word of God remains. Shall we join with those who cried, “Crucify Him!” and reject His word, or shall we stand with “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” who spoke Christ’s truth (2 Pet. 3:2)? Will you listen to the Lord or men? That depends on whether you want to fulfill the will of God or the devil (Jno. 8:43-44).
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3–4, NKJV)
The devil tempted Jesus to perform a self-serving miracle. After all, Jesus was hungry after a 40-day fast (Matt. 4:2). If He were the Son of God, turning the stones into bread would be within His power and solve his hunger. The devil used His hunger to tempt an unholy use of His power. But Jesus did not yield to the temptation of the flesh to misuse His power for temporal pleasure. That would not be the way He would reveal Himself to the world as the Son of God. He would live by the word of God first, even at the expense of temporary physical pain (Deut. 8:3). We should follow the example of Jesus when we are tempted to please the flesh instead of keeping the word of God. God promises to sustain and fill our lives with our necessities as we seek first His kingdom His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). With trust in God, let us live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” and reject the temptation to satisfy the urges of the flesh that violate the will of God.
Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13, NKJV)
Jesus was tempted far more than three times (Lk. 4:3-12). He was tempted forty days in the wilderness, and He was tempted throughout His work on earth (Lk. 4:2; 22:28). Satan continued looking for the proper time to entice Jesus to sin. The devil never stops looking for opportunities to tempt us to sin. Never think you are beyond temptation. If you do, then the devil has you exactly where he wants you. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). We must be sober, watchful, and steadfast in the faith to resist the devil (1 Pet. 5:8-9). We are commanded to resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). Jesus showed us how. He used God’s word to resist temptations (Lk. 4:4, 8, 12). Truth is our great way of escape when the father of lies entices us to sin against God (1 Cor. 10:13). You are not alone in your temptations. Jesus has been there. He resisted the devil, and so can you.
3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. (2 Thessalonians 3:3–4, NKJV)
Christians are urged to never doubt the faithfulness of the Lord. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). The Lord is always present to strengthen and preserve us from the devil and secure us in times of trial. However, this does not free us from our personal responsibility to watchfully “resist the devil” so that he will flee from us (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8). As verse 4 of today’s passage indicates, it is as we obey the commands of Christ’s apostles that our assurance of His strength and protection is realized. Standing fast in the Lord is inseparably connected to holding to the truth handed down to us by the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is precisely when we choose not to hold fast this pattern of sounds words that we falter and give the devil an opening to settle into our hearts, much like he did in the life of Judas (2 Timothy 1:13; John 13:2, 27). Although Judas was with Jesus, he fell because he chose defiance and betrayal over trusting obedience to Jesus. Put all your trust in Jesus by obeying His commands. The Lord is faithful to secure you, and all who do so.