A message of Sunday, February 2, 2020 from Melvin Gaines:
For audio of this message, click here.
My wife and I were putting together a couple of small bookcases the other day. One thing that I often scuffle with when putting things like this together is to make sure that I have the proper tools to do it in a proper manner. I had recently purchased a small screwdriver tool kit and a little hammer that could double in a pinch as a screwdriver.
If you put together little pieces of unassembled furniture, you learn the importance of having a Phillips head screwdriver instead of a flat head screwdriver. You also see that sometimes you will need a hammer to drive in small nails. You can’t (and shouldn’t) use a sledge hammer to do that type of work.
The proper tools, along with a little elbow grease, will get the job done.
Here’s something for you to think about for today’s message: God uses a tool to ultimately show His power and authority, and His tool is Satan.
God uses Satan as a tool to expose us for who we are. He lays us bare in those moments where we would rather follow our flesh than follow Him. Now it’s time to dig deep and look at your own life to see where you stand. I’ll make an accurate prediction right now, and for myself included, where I declare that all of us are absolutely, positively naked before God the Father, and just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in our sin, we want to hide from God.
When Adam and Eve ate the apple and their eyes were opened, God asked, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11a) Well, we don’t read in Genesis where anyone told them, but the reality is that we recognize that we are laid bare before God in our sinful state of mind.
What causes us to sin? It’s our state of mind. It’s our desire to put ourselves first and put God behind us. The very moment that we should be telling Satan to get behind us, we are walking in stride with him.
David had to see this, as well. It is telling that God uses David as an example of his failure, who is a man after God’s own heart. Look at this and see how highly esteemed he was before God according to Paul:
Acts 13:22 ESV
And when he had removed him (Saul), he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
The key here is to recognize God’s declaration of David’s character—his faith and his level of obedience according to God’s will. This is what all of us are striving for. But even in David’s case, we see that our efforts to avoid sin can be woefully inconsistent, and it is because of pride.
Let’s look more closely at this. The usual go-to example with David’s transgression is when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), but here is an example that is, in my opinion, even more revealing as to what God was trying to accomplish with David and Israel. It was a stark lesson as to who God truly is.
In 2 Samuel 24, which reads almost as a footnote to David’s life (because in 2 Samuel 23 the last words of David’s life were recorded), David was incited to take a census of the armies of Israel and Judah:
2 Samuel 24:1-4 NIV
Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.” But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?” The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.
The parallel passage to this incident is in 1 Chronicles 21:1…
1 Chronicles 21:1 NIV
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
We need to see that this is a moment where it is apparent that God, in his sovereignty, permitted Satan to act on purpose.
The key word in this passage is incite. What does it mean?
Incite is a transitive verb. It means to provoke, to move to action, to stir up, to spur on, to instigate.1
Now, how does Satan incite (or provoke) someone to sin? What does he do? Let’s ask this another way. Does he really need to do anything? Is it more about what we are doing or thinking about at that very time when we are being incited?
Here’s a short answer. When it comes to sin, David was a willing participant. When it comes to sin, we are willing participants.
Remember what God’s Word says about temptation:
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Our issue, when it comes to sin, is that we avoid taking the way of escape. It’s like refusing to go through an open door to safety. It’s when we succumb to our fleshly desires. David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet it was his pride and self-minded behavior that put Israel under a great sin and kindled God’s anger.
Satan is God’s tool to incite you and me.
And do you know what can really be bad about this? Sometimes your sin is public before everyone, and someone must call you on it (because God sends someone to do it!). God had to make an example of David here, and it resulted in 70,000 men perishing from the effects of God’s plague on Israel.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not point out that we previously noted in 2 Samuel 24 that the Lord was angry with Israel, so his judgment against the 70,000 who perished from the plague was not just about coming down on innocent people. We serve a God of justice.
God hates sin. Sin is lawless behavior.
1 John 3:4 ESV
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
We should be down on our knees in thankfulness and gratefulness to God for what He has done to pay the eternal penalty of sin for us, because none of us our righteous…not one of us (Romans 3:10).
Romans 6:23 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 3:17 NIV
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
It was David’s census incident where God had to show David that he was not as reverent as he should have been. David greatly feared God because he was laid bare in his sin. He had to learn a lesson of the importance of sincere obedience and reverence for God.
Now…how about us? What are we to learn from this example? God has affirmed us repeatedly by esteeming us as His treasured creation, and yet we need to be reminded that we are still commanded to live for Jesus Christ with a consistent, Christlike example. We are often ill prepared for battle, and we are exposed by Satan’s provocation.
We have none other than the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that gives us strength, wisdom, discernment and endurance over Satan and the enemy (and often the enemy really is us).
Let’s summarize this message with our call to stand firm, stay the course and remain faithful:
Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Notice that this passage does not refer to any weaponry that you are carrying. The only weapon that you possess comes from God Himself…it’s His Word that is enabled in the very presence of the Holy Spirit. Your response against Satan, the tool, is God’s Word. When you are being incited by Satan, get away from Him:
James 4:7 NLT
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Notice the word resist. This is how we are to overcome the tool and learn from our mistakes. God is trying to teach us…not beat us. He wants us to learn to trust in Him and not in our own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5-6 HCSB
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Remember that Jesus was incited by Satan in Matthew 4, but it was the proper contextual use of the Word of God that effectively stopped Satan. (It was not just the utterance of Jesus’ name where Satan departed. It was a consistent use of God’s Word and standing firm in it that is effective in repelling Satan. See Acts 19:13-16.)
Satan has power and ability, but only as God allows (Job 1:12, 2:6). He is a tool of God.
Satan is only effective by your permission, and God is always trying to get your attention.
How do you overcome the tool? With the armor of God, that’s how. He wants you to rely more and more on the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:26-28 ESV
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
My goodness, what a revealing passage! God wants you to see that the Holy Spirit is there for when we are most vulnerable. He is our Helper that Jesus sent to us. He, in good times and bad, wants to teach us during our times of weakness to rely more upon Him.
You have more power and ability than you often realize. God wants you to tap into His power. He wants you to rely more and more upon Him in everything that you do, and in everything that you are all about.
Satan indeed has power and ability, but only as God allows. He is a tool of God. God uses him, and not the other way around.
Who is God trying to fix? In His own mysterious and wondrous way, He’s trying to fix you and me.
It’s because He loves us more than we can ever imagine. 1 John 3:1 mentions that we are to behold the kind of love that God has given us in that He refers to us as His children.
Romans 5:8 NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is an eternal love that leads to eternal life in Him for those who believe in Him.
1 The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
© 2020 Melvin Gaines