1 John 3:8 December 11, 2016
Sermon Series on I John Sermon # 10 “The Devil: His Works and His Defeat”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
3:7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
We are living between the first coming and the second coming of Jesus Christ. In two weeks we will celebrate the His first appearance, at His incarnation, when the God the Son became a human being, born of a virgin in humble circumstances on earth, in order to save us. One day in the future, we will behold his return to earth, but this time He will appear as the glorious King of kings and Lord of lords, in order to make us like Himself and to take us home to be with him forever!
In I John 3:4-10 we read that the Son of God came to earth the first time for two main reasons:
- “He appeared so that he might take away our sins.” (v. 5)
- “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (v. 8)
This morning I want us to focus on v. 8, namely, the works of the devil and Christ’s destruction of the devil’s work.
Now you might think that talking about the devil is not a very Christmas-like theme, but in reality, you cannot fully appreciate the meaning of Christmas if you leave out the spiritual warfare that was involved. Some years ago one of my Christmas sermons was taken from Revelation 12, where the story of Christmas is portrayed as a dramatic battle between a pregnant woman (the church), an enormous red dragon (Satan), and a male child who was born (Christ). Furthermore we can see the devil’s intention to stop the work of the incarnation as Satan influences Herod the Great to seek to kill the Christ child, in Matthew 2. So I would suggest to you that a full understanding of the Christmas story should include the devil’s opposition to the incarnation, as well as God’s plan to destroy the devil’s work. (We might say that Santa isn’t the only person at Christmas in a red outfit!)
I have two points today: (1) The works of the devil, and (2) the defeat of the devil.
- The Works of the Devil: What are the works of the devil which Jesus came to destroy?
We might think of the works of Satan and his demonic host under three categories:
The devil deceives; the devil destroys; and the devil distorts.
A. The devil deceives: he is a liar. John 8:44 “…there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Even when the devil tries to hide his intentions, his “accent” gives him away, and the same is true of his followers.) He is a tempter. He seduces people into error and lies. And he desires to get people to be like him and share his deceitful nature. John Stott comments: “Since sin is the devil’s characteristic activity, everyone who sins exhibits a character which must have been derived…from him.” Therefore: how is the devil deceiving you? What lies is he getting you to believe? That you should have certain rights? That you deserve a certain amount of peace and comfort? Remember: Jesus Christ appeared to destroy all wicked deceptions of the devil!
B. The devil destroys: he cannot create; he can only tear down and trash what God has built as good and beautiful. Satan opposes and seeks to bring down every good work of God. God gives life; the devil kills. John 8:44 “He was a murderer from the beginning.” He inflicts disease and causes chaos (Job 1-2). His work is constantly wicked because he is by nature “the evil one” and because “he has been sinning from the beginning.” (3:8) Therefore: where are you allowing Satan to destroy what God has made good? Your marriage? Your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do you realize that the devil loves the aborting of unborn babies and the murder of humans made in God’s image? Jesus came to destroy the destructive works of the devil.
C. The devil distorts: he is perverted. He corrupts what God has made as good. He twists and warps what is straight and solid and turns it into something crooked and devious. God creates male and female and sexual relations in marriage as something beautiful, but the devil seeks to distort the male/ female distinction, and bring perversion into all sexuality. God gives love; the devil offers lust. God ordains a religion/ worship of grace and truth, while the devil twists that into false ways of trying to reach and please God. Therefore: Where is the devil perverting God’s good designs in your life? How is Satan distorting your thinking and your feelings? He will use pornography; he uses certain songs, shows, and books to do so. But Jesus appeared to destroy the devil’s distortions.
So the devil deceives; the devil destroys; and the devil distorts. And make no mistake about it: The devil’s power is considerable. He is the prince or ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4. Eph. 6:12.) He rules from a throne (Rev. 2:13), and his dominion is so extensive that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). In fact, not only are the unredeemed under him, but they are of him. He is their father and they are his children, as we read in 1 John 3:10. This tells us of the awful influence and control which the evil one has over people’s lives, so much so, that outside of God’s power and grace, they will give in to his wicked desires. Their will is to do his will. That’s the bad news. But there is better good news!
- The Defeat of the Devil
1 John 3:8 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” As we sing in the Christmas carol, “Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.” Or, in the words of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”: “O come, thou Rod of Jesse free thine own from Satan’s tyranny; from depths of hell Thy people save, and give them victory over the grave. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.” Clearly, the message of Christmas should include Christ’s defeat of the devil and his works.
The devil’s overthrow began with the arrival of the Son of God, upon whom the devil has no hold on (John 14:30). Christ came to destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8), and he accomplished that by His death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. In that act of redemption, God demonstrated His power and wisdom over sin, over death, and over the devil.
Yet so far, we must acknowledge that the devil’s overthrow has been “a dethronement rather than a decisive destruction.” We still see him prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us! His final defeat will not take place until Christ returns. Still, for now, we are confident that even as the devil seeks to assault our souls, our bodies and our minds, we know that Christ came to destroy all of his works.
It might be helpful to consider two of the words that the NT uses to describe how Christ defeats the devil and destroys his deeds.
First, in 1 John 3:8, this destruction (in the Greek) is called a “loosening,” an “untying or releasing” as if these diabolical works were chains which bound us. It’s the word used in John 11:44, where Jesus tells the others to release Lazarus from his grave clothes that were binding him, after Jesus raised him from the dead. It’s the word used in Luke 13:16 to describe what Jesus did when he healed the woman who had been “bound” for 18 years by a crippling spirit, so that she could not straighten up at all. Satan had kept her “bound” for all that time, but Jesus came to release her from that awful bondage.
Second, Christ’s defeat of the devil is also portrayed as putting Satan’s works “out of order.” We read in Hebrews 2:14-15 “…He too shared in (our) humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who… were held in slavery by their fear of death.” That Greek word destroy means to make inoperative, to put out of order.
For many months at the Willow Grove Park Mall, there was a sign on one of the escalators, “out of order.” Now the escalator was still there. If you wanted to get into trouble you could jump the fence and run up and down the stationary steps, but it wasn’t working. It was out of order. And so it is with the devil.
So while the devil is still busy doing his wicked works, he has been decisively defeated, and in Christ we can escape from his oppressive tyranny. Think of how Jesus’s death and resurrection has destroyed death: we still die physically, but death has no power over us; we are already living forever, and our death is now the gateway to our glorious state. So too with the devil’s works: he still is working in this world, but now his works have no eternal significance.
What does this mean for you and me? If two main purposes of Christ’s first coming was to (1) remove sin and to (2) undo the works of the devil, then we must not compromise with either sin or the devil, or we will find ourselves working against God’s purposes. We must see sin’s absolute incompatibility with Christ in His sinless person and saving work. We need to recognize that being a child of God and having Christ as our conquering King means that we are free from bondage to the devil, and that in Christ, we can triumph over the evil one and his works. The more we grasp these truths, the more we will hate sin and be determined to rid ourselves of it.
Here is hope for the believer who struggles with besetting sins, addictions, or sinful habits that he or she cannot seem to shake. And here is also a wake-up call for any believer who is living with sin and is not alarmed by it! For either we are under the power of Christ or we belong to the devil. Only those who have been born again by the Spirit of God and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can know that they are the sons and daughters of God! All the rest belong to the devil, and have him as their father.
Jesus Christ came to earth to take away our sins, and He came to destroy the work of the devil. Let us believe and celebrate those wonderful Christmas truths!