Robert Jeffress - The Purpose-Driven Strife
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. In the Bible, he's known by many names. The tempter. The serpent. The father of lies. The prince of this world. But most of us just know him as satan. Yes, the devil is a real being with very real power. And whether you realize it or not, he's doing everything he can to destroy your faith, your family and your future. Today, we're beginning a series called, the divine defense. And over the next few weeks, our goal will be to expose the invisible war that satan is waging on every follower of Jesus Christ. We'll start by discovering how it all began back when Lucifer was God's anointed cherub. My message today is titled, "The Purpose-Driven Strife" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
It was the legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock who once said, "There are no small parts, only small actors". I tried to comfort myself with those words many years ago when I had a bit part in the legendary television program "Dallas". Remember "Dallas" on television a number of years ago? Well they used to come to Dallas every summer to film some of the episodes and so one summer many years ago they put out a casting call. They were looking for extras, and so on a lark, I sent my picture in to the casting agent. And a few days later, he called me and said, "Well we want you to play a bit part in 'Dallas'" and he gave me instructions of where to show up the next day here at a local hotel.
My part was to be a businessman, a businessman seated at a table talking to another businessman in the background, while two of the main characters Bobby Ewing and Cliff Barnes were in the forefront carrying on a dialogue. And so, the next morning, I was excited and I went to the filming location and I immediately learned the difference between a major star and a bit player. When I walked in, I saw that the stars had these dressing rooms and these luxury trailers to change into their costumes, and those of us who were extras were told to go into the bathroom to change into our costume. Well, that's okay. I wasn't gonna let that diminish my excitement that morning.
And so we went into the restaurant where we were filming the scene and the assistant director had me and my dining companion seated and he said, "Now, when the director says 'action', you're to talk to your fellow businessman here". And here's the second difference between a major star and a bit player. They said, "Now when you start talking, don't actually talk. We don't want to hear anything you have to say, just mouth the words so you don't interfere with the filming". Well I said, "That's fine". So the director yells, "Action"! And about 20 seconds of dialogue goes on between Bobby and Cliff, and at the end of the 20 seconds, the director yells, "Cut! Print! Moving on".
The assistant director comes up and says, "Thank you very much for your part and we'll send you a check in the mail. You're dismissed". And that was it. That was it. I come on, do a little bit of action, then I'm told, "Your part is finished, there's a reward coming later on". And I thought, you know, what a great metaphor of life itself that is. You know, the fact is, we're all in this great drama that began many years before and will continue many years after we die. And that day, I was part of a drama. It was an eternal conflict that had begun many years earlier between the Ewings and the Barnes family, and I played my bit part, the show would go on for years afterwards. I just had a bit part in that drama.
You and I are in a conflict as well. We're in a drama that began before we ever were born and it's a drama that will continue long after we're dead. But unlike the fictional drama that I was a part of, this drama is very real. It's the story of a conflict not between two families in Texas. It's the story of a conflict between the two most powerful beings in the universe, God and satan. And this conflict that began in eternity past and continues today and will into the future, this conflict is being played out on the front page of every newspaper and in the hidden recesses of every human heart. And you will never understand the problems you face every day until you understand this eternal conflict that is going on between God and his chief of staff satan.
And what we're going to do today is we're going to talk about the origin of this conflict that began many years ago. Who started it? How is it being played out today, and what is the enemy's goal in this conflict in your life? Let's talk for a moment about the protagonist in this drama. His name is satan. Sometimes satan is portrayed as this little guy in a red suit with horns and a tail who runs around with a pitchfork poking people in the backside. And we all laugh at those cartoons, we think they're hilarious. Or remember a few years ago on "Saturday Night Live", Dana Carvey had this memorable character, the church lady.
Remember the church lady? He was that bitter, elderly woman, sanctimonious and anytime a question or problem would come up, she would ask the question, "Could it be satan"? And everybody would howl in laughter anytime she would talk about satan. Not only did the audience laugh, I think satan laughs as well. He loves people to think of him in that way, as a comic book character. After all, who needs to be afraid of a comic book character? But the fact is satan is a very real, he's a very powerful adversary. That's why Peter said in 1 Peter 5:8 "Be on the alert, be of sober spirit for your adversary the devil prowls about". And not like a comic book figure, but "Like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour".
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Ezekiel 28 as we talk about the origin of satan. Now, in Ezekiel 28, the first ten verses are a warning, a message being delivered against a very real human leader, the king of Tyre. God told Ezekiel to go to the king of Tyre and to deliver this message of warning because the king of Tyre was acting in opposition to the will of God. But when we get to verse 12, it's very clear that God is addressing somebody beyond of the human leader of Tyre. He is addressing the power behind this human leader. He is addressing satan himself.
Look at verse 12. Ezekiel says, "You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty". Verse 13, "You were in Eden, the garden of God: every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond. You were the anointed cherub who covers", verse 14, "And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God". Verse 15, "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you". And verse 17, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground: I put you before the kings that they may see you".
Now from Ezekiel's words here, we can piece together something about satan's background that is important to understand if we're going to successfully do battle against him. Let me just mention four facts about satan that emerge out of Ezekiel 28. First of all, satan is a created being. Write that down. He is a created being. Go back to verse 15 for just a moment. God is talking to satan and twice he reminds satan you are not the Creator, you are the creature. You were created, that is you have both a beginning and an end. Kinda like a disgruntled deacon said to me one time in my first church, God can say to satan "I was here before you got here and I'm gonna be here long after you're gone". Well that's the truth about satan as well. God can say to satan, "Look I was here long before you ever arrived on the scene and I'm gonna be here long after you're gone". That's the downside of being the creature rather than the Creator.
Secondly, satan held an impressive office in God's kingdom. Look at verse 14. "You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God: you walked in the midst of the stones of fire". Now when he says "You were the anointed cherub", when he calls Lucifer a cherub, he's not referring to his plump pink cheeks, okay? When he talks about a cherub, he is referring to a special class of angels, the cherubim, who had the job of guarding, protecting the holiness of God. And the Bible says that Lucifer was not only a cherub, he was the anointed cherub, which means he was in charge of all of the other cherubim. In other words, satan was God's gatekeeper. He's the one who decided who got in to see God and those who could not get in to see God. It was a very high position.
Notice number three. Satan possessed incomparable wisdom and beauty. Look at verse 17. "Your heart was lifted up because of your", underline this, "beauty, you corrupted your wisdom", underline that, "by reason of your splendor". He possessed incomparable beauty, wisdom, and splendor. Listen to this, even though as we'll see in a moment Lucifer was cast out of heaven for his rebellion against God even though he gave up the perks and privileges of being God's gatekeeper when he landed on planet earth, he did not give up his attributes. Even though he is God's chief antagonist today, satan still possesses beauty, wisdom, and splendor, which makes him a very dangerous enemy. The fact that he is beautiful means that he is very, very appealing to people. He doesn't appear as that little figure in the red suit and the pitchfork. Who's going to follow after a clown like that? And he's also very smart. He is a crafty, scheming opponent. And that's why we better understand who he is and his plan to destroy our faith, our family, and our future.
Notice fourthly, satan's pride led to his downfall. Look again at verses 16 and 17. "By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned. Therefore I have cast you as profane from the holy mountain of God, I have destroyed you, oh covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire" and get this, "your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground: I put you before kings that they may see you". You see, satan forgot he was a creature. He began to think that he was responsible for his beauty, his splendor, his wisdom. Don't ever think that anything in your life that's good is because of something you've done.
Paul asked a question in 1 Corinthians 4:7 "What is it that you have that you did not first receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it"? You know what humility is? Humility is realizing that any good thing in your life is a result of either what God and/or other people have done for you. Satan forgot that. He thought he was responsible for his beauty, his splendor, and his wisdom and that pride metastasized into outright rebellion against God. That's always what happens to pride. Whenever we think we're responsible for the good things in our life, then we think we don't have to bow down to anyone including God himself. That's exactly what happened with satan.
Now here, we have a hint at his ouster from heaven, but in Isaiah 14 we find the blow by blow description of exactly that war that began in heaven. Turn there for a moment to Isaiah 14 as we look at the fall of satan. Now just like Ezekiel's prophecy, Isaiah was told to deliver a prophecy against a human king. In this case, it was the king of Babylon who was acting against the will of God. But now God goes beyond the king of Babylon and he again addresses satan, the power behind the king of Babylon. Look at what he says in verses 12-14 to satan. "How you have fallen from heaven, o star of the morning". Underline that. We get the term Lucifer from that. That's Latin for "Star of the morning".
"Son of the dawn! For you have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart", every time I say "I will" I want you to underline it in your Bible, this is what satan said in his heart. "I will ascend to heaven: I will raise my throne above the stars of God: and I will sit on the mount of the assembly, in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will make myself like the Most High". Perhaps these feelings had been building over a long period of time. Or maybe they erupted one day when Lucifer was attending a positive thinking seminar. We don't know exactly what happened, but apparently at some point in time, Lucifer began to close his eyes and ask himself the question, "What do I really want in life"?
And as he began doing some visioneering about what he would really like to have in life, as he began to let his imagination run wild, he began to think to himself "You know, here's what I'd really like. Instead of just visiting heaven occasionally, I'd like to live there permanently. Instead of ruling just over one class of angels, the cherubim, I'd like to be over all the angels. Instead of having to bow down and worship that spoiled Son of God, I'd like to sit on the throne and make him worship me. When I think about it, what I really want in life is to be God himself".
You see, up until that point in time, there had only been one will in the universe, the will of God. But now there were two wills, God's will and satan's will. The Bible doesn't explain how this second will came into being. We don't know how it is that a perfect creature like Lucifer suddenly had these thoughts of rebellion. It's a mystery. In theology, we call it the mystery of iniquity. But here's what I want you to see here. The very first sin was based on this thought. "I want something different than what God wants for my life". If you don't another thing I say, hear this. The basis for the first sin and every sin since that first sin is that insidious thought "I want something different than what God wants for my life". In your life right now, every sin against God is based on that foundational thought. "I want something different than what God wants for my life".
Now I know this is going to offend some people and I don't mean to be offensive, but I don't want you to dismiss this thought before you really think about it. Whenever we ask ourselves the question "What do I really want in life", we're asking ourself the same question Lucifer asked himself. And we are dangerously close into falling into the rebellion that Lucifer committed against God. Whenever we say, "You know, I'm going to close my eyes, and I'd just like to imagine what kind of income I'd like to have, what kind of home I would like to live in, the automobile I'd like to drive, the kind of kind of mate I would like to marry, what do I really want in life"? That is not the question for a Christian. The question is "What does God want for my life? What is his will for me"?
Now I know I've taught and preached that God can work through our desires. As Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart". If you're walking with the Lord, you're in his word, you're obeying his will, God many times gives his direction through that will, those desires he places into your heart. Philippians 2 says, "God is at work within you giving you both the power and the desire to fulfill his purpose". But even though God can work through our desires, we need to remember that in every human heart there is that cancer cell of rebellion that we'd inherited from our father and our father's father all the way back to Adam. It is that cancer cell of rebellion that says, "I want something different than what God wants for my life". And because of satan's sin, his rebellion against God, God cast him out of heaven.
Now people say, "Well wait a minute. Satan's not stupid. Hasn't he read the Bible? Doesn't he know he is not going to succeed in this effort"? You're right, satan's not stupid. He knows what the Book of Revelation says, but you know, when somebody is desperate and bitter at the same time like satan is, the ability for self-delusion is limitless. Even though intellectually he knows he can't succeed, his pride makes him think maybe God won't be able to pull off what he thought he was going to be able to do. And so right now, satan is trying to rebuild his kingdom, to build the shadow kingdom that will one day topple the Kingdom of God.
This morning while I was drinking my first cup of coffee, I had CNN turned on and they were recounting the story of a very very famous evangelist back in the 1980s. Everybody in this room knows his name. At the height of his career, he had a church that had 5,000 in attendance. He had a television program that pulled in one million dollars a day in income. People all over the world were following after him. But then he got involved in sexual immorality with prostitutes and immediately his kingdom ended. Now today he's trying to rebuild that empire. He is convinced he'll be able to regain his former glory, but right now, instead of running 5,000, his church runs about 200. Instead of being all around the world on television, he's on a few cable outlets and taking in a miniscule amount of money. But in his mind, the dream lives on even though reason says otherwise.
Now that's satan. Satan really believes that he is going to one day conquer the Kingdom of God. Again, hasn't he read the Book of Revelation? The Book of Revelation says God is sending his son Jesus Christ back to this earth to reclaim everything that has been lost. Now satan knows that. But he really doesn't believe it's going to happen. Just like many of us here today don't really believe it's going to happen. Oh we say we do.
Well let me ask you this morning. If we believe that Jesus Christ was really coming back again and one day we were really going to stand in front of him and give an account for our lives, wouldn't we live our lives differently than we're living them right now? Satan's desperation coupled with his bitterness has caused him right now to launch a full-frontal assault not only against God, but against those of us who are a part of his kingdom. And that war that satan has launched is being played out in three rounds. Three rounds that we're going to look at next week as we talk about the war of the worlds.