I love going to zoos – and lions have been my favorite animals since as long as I can remember. So any time I can see a lion up close – particularly if he’s doing something other than sleeping – it’s a good trip.
But there’s a video I watched once of a trip like that, and maybe you’ve seen it, too. It was taken at one of the exhibits which allows you to walk into the enclosure behind a thick glass wall and see the animals up close. One of the families in attendance let their child wander over to the glass, and she ended up in a staring contest with a big male. It looked for all the world like a precious moment for everybody.
Then the lion started frantically pawing at the glass right where she was standing. Everyone laughed and smiled and got a great memory out of the experience. And whether they wanted to think about it or not, all of them probably knew what would have happened if that glass hadn’t been there.
Thick plate glass has a way of making us complacent about potential dangers. In the same way, the grace of God can make us complacent about very real dangers to our souls. Peter knew this as well as anyone, and he spent much of his epistle warning Christians about the need to remain vigilant.
Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1Pe 5:8
Why would Peter warn us of the dangers of an enemy who is powerless to harm us? After all, Satan has been “declawed”, hasn’t he?
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. – 1Jo 5:17-19
If the “sting of death” has been removed in Christ (I Cor. 15:48), and sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6:14), then what can a guy in a red devil suit with a pitchfork do to us, all locked away and powerless?
The answer is simply that Satan is not powerless, and even in I John, we read that he still controls this world. For now at least, Satan holds influence over anyone and anything that submits to his will. And all of those things are tools that he uses to try to lure us into his realm – not in some spooky, supernatural way as we might see in movies. I’m convinced Satan is thrilled when we spend all our time coming up with conspiracy theories about how this or that politician is a tool of evil bringing about some apocalyptic world event, when in reality, Satan is that friend who convinces you that there’s more to life than Christian morality. Or even that brother or sister in Christ that tells you that you really need to lighten up a little – “you’re forgiven! Don’t take sin so seriously. God will understand if you give in every now and then.”
Or maybe it’s the charismatic evangelist or spiritual leader who seems so sure of himself, so comfortable with the word of God, and even if what he says doesn’t completely match up with what you read in scripture, he just seems so convincing! And he’s such a nice man. Paul described that in II Corinthians 11:13-15.
Satan has one power left to him: the power to deceive us into thinking he’s not the roaring lion looking to devour you. He just wants you to have a good life, to enjoy yourself and to just leave the whole “Bible” thing to the preachers and the “goodie-goodies”. It reminds me of how Satan led Jesus up to the top of the temple and told him “If you’re the son of God, jump off the temple. God won’t let you hurt yourself.” He even had scripture to justify himself. (Mtt. 4:5-6)
But Satan selectively quotes the scripture, leaving out passages such as Hebrews 10:26-31, or I Corinthians 10:11-12, and numerous others which warn us very clearly that God’s grace is there for us – a wall of glass holding Satan at bay, as long as we don’t willfully decide to dangle our feet over the edge.
When we do that, we miss the advice of the apostles, as Paul wrote, “we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Co 2:11)
We ought not be ignorant, either.