Thursday, August 13, 2009

Resisting the Devil

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

Something I heard recently has bearing on my last post, Pray Hard. I am very familiar with this verse, and I've quoted it to a lot of people. Unfortunately, my understanding of this verse (and I'm not alone) has been somewhat inadequate. It all stems from translation and not knowing the culture in which this was originally written. Thanks to Patrick Mead for pointing this out to me in one of his recent lessons.

There are a lot of sporting terms in the New Testament. That's hardly surprising. The Greeks, if you remember, started the Olympics, and they had conquered everything from the Adriatic to India. Greek was the language of trade and literature, and Greek social customs and terms had filtered out into all the cultures they touched.

When James speaks of resisting the devil, he is using a sporting term. It is from a type of wrestling where the participants wrestle to the death. It had a specific meaning to James' readers, but over the intervening years and through translation we have lost that meaning.

That kind of puts a different slant on "Resist the devil," doesn't it. We have had this idea of just saying, "get away, Satan", and he heads for the hills, screaming like a little girl. That couldn't be further from the truth. What James is saying is that we have to fight hard against Satan, resisting him even to the death, and he will flee. We have to be willing to give everything, even our lives, in the battle against him.

Really, this should not be shocking to us. Look at 1 Peter 5:8-9:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

I don't know about you, but I've never lived in a place where lions roam. We think of lions as those big, placid cats at the zoo. Those who live with lions know to fear them. An adult lion can be over 450 pounds, and can kill and carry off a grown man with as little trouble as a cat playing with a mouse. Does it make any sense that you can just resist a lion with a glance or a word and it will leave you alone? In addition, look at the last part of those verses. Do you think those folks being persecuted could just say, "leave me alone, Devil," and their persecution stopped?

Look also at Hebrews 12:4:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Umm . . . didn't that say something about shedding blood?

This is not a picnic day in the park we have signed up for. It's a battle. God is at war, and we are soldiers in the line. Nobody said it would be easy. There will be casualties. Our leader and savior was crucified. He told us that we needed to pick up a cross to follow him. I think that might be a hint.

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