Does God Love Satan? (1 of 2)

John 8 44 a

Q. Does God love Satan? Some say He does because God is Love and loves everyone. Others say God is just so He cannot love Satan who is evil? What does the Bible say?

A. A slogan is good in capturing the essence of one’s beliefs, but can’t contain all the nuances. To know what the Bible said on this subject we need to examine the relevant passages on “Satan” and “the devil”. My position is that God loved “Lucifer” before he fell, but does not love Satan after the “star of the morning” sinned and became the devil. Here’s why:

Before:
Ezk 28:11 You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
• Ezk 28:15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.

God loved this anointed cherub and made him beautiful and wise (Ezk 28:17).

However, after Satan’s fall all description of him are negative. There is not a single assessment of him in positive terms:

1. His nature or character:
• Enemy Mt 13:39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, …
• Murderer and liar Jn 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
• Deceitful and fraudulent Acts 13:10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?
• Adversary 1 Pet 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, …
• Sin 1 Jn 3:8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. …
• Does not practice righteousness 1 Jn 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

Satan is God’s enemy and adversary, always sinning and never practicing righteousness, a deceitful and fraudulent murderer and liar. There is not a single redeeming virtue in him.

2. His work
• Stumble people Mt 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; … (Also Mk 8:33)
• Incite lies Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit …
• Tempt people 1 Co 7:5 … so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (Also Mt 4:1, Lk 4:2)
• Torment people 2 Co 12:7 there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—…
• Hinder people 1 Thes 2:18 For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.
• Oppress people Acts 10:38 … and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, …
• Cast Christians to prison Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.
• Deceive the world Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; …

The devil is always trying to stumble and tempt people by deceiving them and filling their hearts to lie. Those he can’t trip by the soft approach, he uses the hard approach to hinder, oppress, imprison and torment. All his works are vile.

(To be continued)

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Who Can Serve?

women at crucifixion 1

Some Christians think that to be effective in ministry, you need to be a “somebody”, someone who is known, an expert in their specialty. Otherwise they will be just wasting time, putting in the effort but not having much results to show for it. The world works that way, but not with God’s Kingdom, which is upside-down compared to the world. Let’s take a look at the women at the cross:

* Mt 27:55-56 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
* Mk 15:40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
* Jn 19:25 But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Six are named, including:
1. Mary Magdalene,
2. Mary the mother of James and Joseph,
3. Mary the mother of James the Less (James Alphaeus) and Joses,
4. Salome,
5. Mary the Lord’s mother,
6. Mary the wife of Clopas,
Two are identified but not named:
7. Mother of the sons of Zebedee (# 3?),
8. The Lord’s mother’s sister.

Since Matthew, Mark and John may call the same person by different names, some of the above may in fact be the same person. However, all of them were women, who did not enjoy equal status to men in Jesus’ days. Except for John, none of the apostles were at the Lord’s crucifixion. They were hiding for fear of the Jews and the Roman soldiers. There were no VIPs at the cross.

And besides Mary the Lord’s mother, what we know about some of them are unflattering. For example, Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2). She had a checkered past. The wife of Zebedee requested Jesus to let her two sons sit on His right and left (Mt 20:20-21). She had selfish ambition. The others are unknowns, nobodies in this world. None is perfect or a big shot.

For that matter, there were many women who weren’t even identified, except that they all followed Jesus and ministered to Him. As a matter of fact, the qualification for ministering to Him was that they followed Him. Nothing more, nothing less. You do not need to be a “somebody”, just a humble heart willing to learn, and to serve in whatever way you can.

nothing is wasted 6

You may think you have no skills to offer, but in our Lord’s hands nothing is wasted. He will take our spiritual gifts, our heart desires, abilities, personality and experiences and custom fit a ministry where we can serve Him, provided we are willing and make ourselves available. So put yourself in His hands, and see what God has in wait for you. You’ll be glad you did.

Sharing Rewards

1 Sam 30 24 b

When we share our mission trips with brothers and sisters, sometimes the seniors would tell us, “We love to go too, but we are old and can’t do anything now.” Others say “We like to join you, but we have a full-time job and just can’t get away.” Besides asking them to pray, which is a most vital part of short-term missions, often our response is “If you can’t go yourself, send someone who can. Support them as your representatives. The LORD rewards GOERS and SENDERS alike.”

There is a principle in the OT. While David and his men were away, the Amalekites attacked Ziglag and took their families captive. David pursued until some of his men were too exhausted and remained behind. The others pressed on, rescued their wives and children, and recovered everything, in addition to taking spoils from the enemy. When they distributed the loot, those who fought did not want to share with those who stayed with the baggage. But David said:
1 Sam 30:24 For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.

This principle is repeated in the NT. The Lord Himself taught:
Mt 10:41-42 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Matthew 10 42 c

Usually we focus only on the ones who go, but not the Lord. He rewards GOERS and RECEIVERS alike. By extension we believe He rewards SENDERS as well as GOERS. So if you can’t go this time, support others who can. Next time they may support you. All will share in the joy and the reward in serving Kingdom ministry.

Wanted: Team Players

team player 3

We are always on the lookout for good coworkers, whether full-time, part-time, or volunteers. Besides loving God and people, both fellow Christians and non-believers, one of the criteria we use is that they be team-players. What does that mean? While people have different definitions, to us it means at least 5 things:

1. He must be honest and trustworthy. Of course being able or smart is good, but what good is his ability if you can’t trust him. In fact, the smarter an untrustworthy person is, the more cautious you need to become.

2. He must appreciate others work styles, and not insists his way is the only way. Some people consider his way is the best and all others are not good. That may be true sometimes, but it puts down all his colleagues and won’t enhance relationships.

3. He avoids politics. Some promote only themselves, self-aggrandizement at others’ expense. Others put their own interest ahead of the well-being of the community. That’s a no-no. They need to put others ahead of themselves.

4. He adapts quickly. Some are stubborn but label themselves as having strong convictions. But names don’t fool those who are discerning. We need people strong on principles but flexible in methods. Rigidity does not help anyone.

5. He meets deadline. Team members depend on each other doing their part on time. We don’t want people who are always the bottleneck and hold everybody up. Good team players do that.

Others believe a team player must be a Teachable, Energetic, Achiever and Mission-focused. These are good leadership qualities but the above should be minimum requirements.

Mission Trips

mission trips 3

One of the things we encourage Christians to do to widen their horizon and learn about God’s work worldwide is to take a mission trip and experience it for themselves. For some, it’s an eye-opening and heart-opening experience that they will not learn even if they have been Christians for years, had they stayed within the confines of their own church. For others, it changed the direction of their life mission such that they become outward instead of inward focused. At the very least, many become more supportive of missions, both in terms of prayer and finances.

Yet some remain hesitant, feeling that they are not gifted evangelistically, nor are they bible teachers, so what could they offer? This is a common misunderstanding about the nature of mission trips, about what they can give as opposed to what they can learn from such an experience. True, if you know how to share the gospel and can nurture young believers, that would be a great contribution toward a mission team. However, what the participant receive from the trip is just as important. We expect team members to be learners, not experts who are there to solve all the problems their hosts are facing. Expertise is good, but not essential to the success of the endeavor.

Mark 4 26-27 a

In the Parable of the seed:
* Mk 4:26-29 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

All the man did was to cast seeds and put in the sickle, presumably watering in between. But how the crop grows, he did not know. It grew by itself. Similarly our job is to sow and harvest, we don’t need to know everything. God grows the harvest naturally.

1 Corinthians 3 7-9

Within the Church:
* 1 Co 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Some sow, some nurture, but God causes the growth. What each individual member does is not the most important thing. What’s important is that we are God’s fellow workers, and God will cause the growth. So don’t get too hung up about your particular ministry. As all of us do our part, the work will get done collectively.

ability availability 4

Let me conclude by quoting Neil Maxwell, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” Are you available? If you are, He is able. Prove yourself dependable. He will make you capable.

Testing Faith

fundamentals of faith 1

Recently we had occasion to evaluate a potential coworker’s beliefs to see whether they are compatible to ours. Since he had not written out his “statement of faith” or “philosophy of ministry“, we had to ask his position on various “fundamentals of the faith” and what his practice would be under different scenarios. Some tools we had found useful in situations like these are the five fundamentals, plus the three main historical creeds:

1. Apostles’ Creed – AD 390, based on the Roman Symbol (Creed) of the first to second century. It was not written by the apostles but contained a summary of their teachings.

Apostles' Creed 2

2. Nicene Creed – AD 325, which emphasized the divinity of Jesus.

Nicene 1

3. Chalcedonian Creed – AD 451, which stressed the two natures (divine and human) of Christ unified in one person.

Chalcedonian 1

There are others, such as Athanasian Creed (AD 500) which defended the Trinity, and subsequent confessions of faith during the Reformation, but these were the main one we referred to as a checklist to quickly assess whether a person’s beliefs are orthodox.

Satan’s Schemes

As we visited mission fields in three continents, we noticed that while the missionaries worked very hard to advance God’s kingdom, Satan worked just as hard to tear their work down.

* 2 Co 2:11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
* Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

divide conquer 6

One of the schemes he used very effectively is to spread strife, to divide and conquer:
* Prov 6:14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife.
* Prov 6:19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
* Prov 16:28 A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.

There is a Chinese proverb (鹬蚌相争,渔翁得利) which tells a story about a clam sunning himself on the beach. A sandpiper comes along, sees the open clam and a big meal waiting, tries to pick her fleshy dinner. The clam quickly closes his shell to protect himself, with the sandpiper’s beak caught in between. Neither side wants to give in, until a fisherman comes along, sees them engaged in a bitter tussle, and easily captures both of them. The moral of the parable? When two parties fight, a third-party benefits.

third party benefits 1

The devil utters lies to sow discord among brothers, separating even intimate friends. When brothers and sisters fight among themselves, Satan can just fold his arms and watch the church fall apart. She will waste her time and energy arguing over trivial issues, while important matters like evangelism, making disciples and loving one another get ignored.

house divided 7

The Lord Himself taught:
* Mk 3:25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mt 12:25, Lk 11:17)

Yet Christians everywhere fall into Satan’s trap. Be warned. Watch and pray:
* Jn 13:35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”