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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 30 November 2015

1 John 5:18-19 – Recognise the limits of the enemy

John has provided three remedies that will help each Christian deal with the problem of indwelling sin. We have already considered two of them – (1) the doctrine of regeneration and (2) the activity of Jesus. Today we will think about the third, which is that each Christian should recognise the limitations of the devil’s power.

John here writes that the devil ‘does not touch him’, that is, the Christian. By ‘touch’, John does not mean a minor contact. We get an idea of what is meant here when we observe that the word is used of Mary Magdalene in John 20 when she clung to the body of Jesus on the resurrection morning. It is a word that contains a lot of force, energy and power, here used with the aim of assaulting a believer.

We can see that John makes a contrast between the control the devil has over the world and the way he attempts to deal with the children of God. The world is content to be under the devil’s power whereas the devil is not content that the Christians are not under his power. Therefore, he will attack them, usually by temptation. An obvious example from the Bible is the experience of Simon Peter whom the devil wanted to assault badly, but for whom Jesus prayed effectively when he denied his Master.

The reality is that we need the intercession of Jesus in order to obtain victory over the temptations and other assaults of the devil. His aim is to get us to live a life of sin, to make us like the world over which he has power. In contrast, Jesus works in order to preserve us from such a tragedy.

Of course, we have to ask how Jesus does this. Does it happen without our participation? The answer is that in order to have victory we have to follow the instructions of Jesus in the Bible. We can briefly mention three requirements for dealing with the devil.

The first is specific, regular prayer and this requirement was taught by Jesus when he gave what is called the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples; ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil [the evil one]’ (Matt. 6:13). The Lord’s Prayer is a picture of daily prayer and if we want to avoid defeat we need to pray.

The second is the putting on of the spiritual armour listed by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18. It would be wise for us, as Christian soldiers, to make sure we have on the right pieces and that we are ready for the onslaught.

A third requirement is mentioned in James 4:7: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ How long do we resist for? Until he flees, and that description is a reminder that a believer can have victory over the enemy. Peter uses the same word ‘resist’ with regard to the devil in 1 Peter 5:8-9. There, Peter says that the attacks of persecution, instigated by the devil, are the common lot of believers and the task of each is to resist him.

So we have to use the helps that Jesus has instructed us to use. When we do we should remind ourselves that power will come from Jesus in heaven to make them effective in our spiritual conflicts. Perhaps the first readers of this letter were concerned that the false teaching would destroy the church. John assures them that Jesus is always ready to help them and he gives the same assurance to us, no matter what new strategies the devil may be using.

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