"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS        
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 10:17-20 SERMON                                            
October 19, 2008

(Note:  The festival of St. Michael and All Angels is designated for September 29th.  However due to some scheduling issues, this theme has been carried over into this Sunday.)

Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
166 "Blessing And Honor And Glory And Power"
172 "Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise"
167 "Holy God We Praise Thy Name"
195 "On Our Way Rejoicing"

"WHAT DOES THE DEVIL LOOK LIKE?"

TEXT:  "The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your Name."  And He said unto them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

            When I was a boy growing up, I remember there being a comic book character by the name of "Hot Stuff."  Hot Stuff was pictured as this cute, impish little boy, who was dressed all in red, with horns in his head, a pointy tail, and carrying a pitchfork.   Hot Stuff would then be involved with playing practical jokes or pranks on people, sort of in the context of having some innocent fun.  Hot Stuff's activities were pictured in terms that we would call simple mischievous behavior, probably no different than the usual mischievous actions kids normally do.

            Well of course there are problems with this.  First of all, I kind of take exception to the fact that a devil or a demon is pictured as a little boy. What about little girls?  Aren't little girls just as mischievous as little boys?  Why do the boys have to carry this bad rap all by themselves?  But of course, that's not the only problem.

            So I'd like to ask you this question this morning.  What does the devil look like?  What does he look like to you?  When I mention Satan, or Lucifer, or the devil, what kind of a picture do you get in your mind?

            We have all sorts of pictures in our minds.  When we mention Jesus for example, we might think of those many pictures of Jesus we've seen in our Sunday school classes, like Jesus standing at the door and knocking, Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and the children, Jesus the Good Shepherd, or even Jesus on the cross.  Now we don't know what Jesus looks like, but we have these pictures to help us focus our thoughts on Jesus Himself and various events in His life.  They serve as good reminders.

            But now what about the devil?  We don't know what he looks like either.  And so, we get pictures in our minds.  If I asked you to draw me a picture of the devil, a lot of you would probably draw some impish guy dressed in a red leotard with horns, a pointy tail, and a pitchfork.  If we were watching a play or a movie, and if some guy came out dressed this way, we'd automatically know this character to be the devil.  This is one of the pictures we have.

            Or, if you want to be more theological about it, and you think back to the story of how Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden, you might picture the devil in the form of a serpent, or snake.

            But most people like to picture the devil like that "Hot Stuff" character in the comics; as that impish guy dressed in red tights with a pointy tail, little horns sticking up out of his head, and a carrying around a pitchfork.  Somehow that seems more palatable, more innocent, more like some little mischievous kid who just wants to have a bit of fun.

            The apostle Peter though has a far different picture of the devil.  In I Peter 5,8 Peter gives us his picture:  "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 

            And in Revelation chapter 12, John's picture of the devil is a dragon.

            My goodness!  A roaring lion....a fire breathing dragon....certainly a much different picture than the little kid in the red tights, or even a snake.  This devil business is most serious business indeed.  Roaring lions and fire breathing dragons are definitely after more than just to play a few mischievous pranks on people.  These creatures are out to seek and maim and destroy.  The devil is out to get our very souls in whatever way he can, and he wants to destroy us.

            John's prophecy in the book of Revelation gives us quite a picture indeed of a heavenly event.  He says in Revelation 12, 7-9:  "Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."

            The picture we have here is a heavenly battle--a battle between the angel Michael and his angels; and he's fighting against the devil, the dragon and his angels.  From the context here, we can assume that this was not an easy battle by any stretch of the imagination.  There was a full-scale war going on, a battle that we can not even begin to imagine.  It was Michael against the devil; God against Satan, and ultimately good against evil.  And Satan was giving it everything he had.  This most certainly involved more than the impish pranks of some little demon boy.

            Perhaps we should paint ourselves a picture.  What does Satan look like?  If each one of us were to draw a picture of the devil, what would we come up with?  Would it be a little boy in red tights with horns and a tail and a pitchfork?  Would it be a snake?  Would it be a lion?  Would it be a fire breathing dragon?

            The picture of the devil in your life can be a variety of things.  It is highly subjective.  Since the devil attacks our weakest links, the devil will have a different picture for us all. 

            In Colossians 3, Paul gives us some characteristics that this picture could, and probably does have.  Here are some colors this picture of the devil has in his portrait:   "Sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lies."  In Galatians 5, we even have more: "sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies."

            Do you find something that fits into your personal picture of the devil?  Is there some thing or are there some things that attack your spirit like a roaring lion or a fire breathing dragon?  Is the devil doing more to you than some mischievous little boy playing pranks?

            I'm sure you'd have to agree that it is indeed far more serious than that.  The devil is most certainly like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

            The book of Revelation describes a war being fought.  However, when we look at our gospel text from Matthew, we see this war coming to an end.  Jesus had sent out a group of people to be his witnesses.  He sent them out, after people had rejected him and his ministry, even in his home town.  Jesus couldn't have been too happy with these sorts of results.

            So when this group returns, they were overjoyed.  And Jesus too was overjoyed.  They said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your Name!"  These were the demons, the angels of the devil.  They could not stand up under the name of Jesus Christ.

            Then Jesus shares with them the end of this heavenly battle.  Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."  The heavenly battle was over and done with.  Michael and his angels had won the war for God.  There was victory in the heavenly realms.

            If you think about it, this means something very important for us too.  If the demons were subject to these early followers in the name of Jesus, aren't they also subject to us here today?  Don't we also have the same power in our hands as those early followers had at their disposal?  Absolutely!

            Paul gives us a good description of this in Ephesians 6:  "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes...take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

            Now that's power, and it's power at our disposal.  Even though the devil will always battle on, Jesus has won the war.  And what's more, as his followers, we have all of the tools and weapons right at our disposal to take care of the devil and his attacks.

            The important thing though, is that we go forward with the knowledge that Jesus has defeated the devil.  He's not only defeated the devil in the heavenly realms, but in our lives as well. 

            And so we look at ourselves.  We see the devil's picture popping up in so many different places, painted with the different colors of sin.  It's a big problem in our lives.

            But here's where Jesus comes in.  He tells us that Satan has been defeated.  He tells us that He has won the war for us.  He says that Satan has fallen like lightning from heaven, and we need not fear his power any more. 

            Jesus won that war when He lived the perfect life for us, and then He died at the hands of sinful people.   He descended into hell, where he led a victory march.  This announced the devil's complete and total defeat.  Jesus had defeated the devil's biggest threat--that of death.  Jesus proved that He was more powerful than anything the devil could throw at him.

            Our relationship with Jesus makes this defeat a sure thing in our lives too.  With nothing more than our simple faith in Him, He comes and cleanses our lives of our sins.  He comes and replaces doubt with hope.  He comes and replaces the colors of the devil with His own colors. 

            So if we were to paint a picture of Jesus, what colors would we use?  Paul, when writing to the Galatians lists the following Godly attributes in chapter 5:  "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."  Those are the things we experience when our faith in Jesus is intact.  We are forgiven for our sins, and the colors of the devil are replaced with the colors of Christ.

            When I was writing this, I was interrupted by a conversation with a friend.  I decided that maybe I should "pick his brain" so-to-speak.  So I asked him the question I asked you this morning, "What does the devil look like?"  I don't know exactly what I expected him to say.  He did tell me about a painting he saw of the devil, which depicted an angel with bloody hands. 

            But then he stopped and thought a minute.  "What does the devil look like?" he repeated.  And then he answered, "You know, he looks an awful lot like the man I see in the mirror."

            If we look in the mirror and see someone painted with the colors of sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness and orgies, then we know what we have to do.  We need to come to Jesus who will paint our lives with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  That's the kind of colors we need in our lives.

            So rejoice.  Rejoice because the devil has been defeated.  Rejoice that Jesus has given us the tools to effectively fight the devil.  Rejoice that our Saviour has forgiven us and given us a new life.

            But Jesus goes on to tell us, "Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."  Our names are written there through faith in Christ our Saviour, who has defeated the devil, once and for all, and has covered over his colors of sin with the colors of his love, peace and righteousness.   May this joy be ours, now and forever.

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