October 25, 2015
In six days, the world will celebrate Halloween, which means different things to different people. For children it might mean nothing more than a big bag full of candy they collected by going door to door dressed as their favorite storybook character or superhero. They might have to go to a few houses that are really into scary decorations, but they know that they are just that - nothing more than decorations. The skeletons aren't real. And neither are the zombies, ghosts, and other monsters of the night. Our local volunteer fire department has even capitalized on the lure of 'safe' scares by raising money through a haunted house. No one is really harmed when they walk through, and it is all done in fun.
But in real life it isn't always as easy to separate the real from the pretend. Sometimes people let their guard down completely in regards to the 'dark side' thinking it is ALL harmless 'pretend'. In fact, one of the devil's biggest tools is leading people to believe he doesn't exist at all. Too many people view him as nothing more than a fictional holiday character, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But non-existence is just one of his many disguises.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, he also can lead people to believe he is MORE than what he actually is. While satan is nothing more than a fallen angel, desperate to drag souls to hell with him when he finally is locked away forever, he can seduce some vulnerable souls into thinking he can give them power, money, or anything else they desire. He even tried to use that on our Lord, as we read in Matthew chapter 4 (vs 8-9), "the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.'" Practitioners of idolatry and witchcraft, even if not outright pledging allegiance to satan, are doing so in their hearts, to their own destruction. As it says in Mark chapter 8 (vs 36), "what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"
But the one disguise that we as Christians must be the most aware of, is that which the Bible refers to as "an angel of light". (2 Corinthians 11:14) And not only does satan himself use this disguise, it is one of his favorites to use with all of the spirits, and humans, that he manipulates to deceive and entrap. They go so far as to actually pretend to be serving Christ - to be one of us! Sometimes satan even has them fooled into believing it themselves. Matthew chapter 7 (vs 21-23) warns us that there are those that even perform miracles in the name of Jesus, who are merely being sucked into, and sucking others into, satan's deception. Remember that satan can mimic God up to a certain point. Pharoah's magicians copied some of the miracles that Moses performed. But in the end, they could not save their firstborn from the angel of death (Exodus 12:29), nor could they save their armies that drowned in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:28). So how can you tell if someone is truly a servant of Christ, or just pretending? "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." (Matthew 7:16-17) For "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23) But, "the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (vs 20-22) Yes, the works of satan are evident in the spirit of immorality, jealousy, and the like. But by far the biggest telltale mark of satan is the lie. To the most upright religious leaders of the day, Jesus said the following, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) These weren't hardened criminals locked away in a jail cell he was saying this to. These were considered the holiest men of society at the time! And yet they were the very ones that wanted Jesus crucified, and Jesus could already see it in their hearts.
So be careful out there. It's not the pretend ghosts and goblins you need look out for. It is the disguises you don't recognize as easily. 'Image is everything' seems to be today's motto. Your 'friends' on facebook might not be who they appear to be on the internet. Remember the commercial about the French model? Bonjour... We can be easily fooled, especially when we really want to believe something. Deborah Okopski recently shared a video on facebook that claimed to be amazing. It first shows you 6 playing cards, that consist of 2 Jacks, 2 Queens, and 2 Kings of varying suits. You are asked to concentrate on one card of your choice. "Think on one", it says. "Just think on it. I will find the card on your mind. Got your card?" The next screen shows Ian Velicaria claiming to know which card you picked. "Look!" it says, as the screen now shows 5 cards, and claims YOUR card is gone! You notice that it is indeed missing. You are amazed! But wait - maybe it isn't so amazing after all¦ That last screen only stays up long enough for you to realize that your card isn't among them. What you don't notice is that NONE of the cards in that last screen are in the original 6. They are jacks, queens, and kings - but the suits are all different than the originals. So all 6 of the original cards are gone, yet you only notice that YOUR card is gone. This just goes to show you how easily we can be fooled into thinking someone is more powerful than they actually are. Satan would love for us to think HE has more power than he does. But he has already been defeated! He may use his costumes to try to fool people, or try to scare them, but as Christians we should neither be fooled, nor scared. As we heard in our Epistle Reading (1 John 4:1-6), "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." We who have faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, have the Holy Spirit within us, who not only gives us discernment to be able to tell good from evil, but gives us power over evil as well!