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Sermon illustrations

Satan

The Adversary Majors in Three Things

In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. … Psychiatrist Carl Jung once remarked, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”

Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 3rd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1998, 15).

Bringing the Human Race to It’s Knees

In Cormac McCarthy’s modern classic, No Country for Old Men, sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones in the Major Motion Picture) pontificates on this rising evil that has infiltrated his until recently relatively peaceful existence as a lawman. The rising tide of violence has been caused by drug wars crossing over the southern border into his quaint West Texas town.

Bell begins to question whether or not he keep serving as a sheriff as the violence swells around him and his neighbors. His monologue, written in a west Texan vernacular, is filled with wisdom, with a recognition that the world he is a part of is not what he once knew. Where God and the devil play into all that is up for discussion.  And in the midst of this awful scene, he has this to say about just how destructive drugs are to the communities they impact:

I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics. Maybe he did.

I told that to somebody at breakfast the other mornin and they asked me if I believed in Satan. I said Well that aint the point. And they said I know but do you? I had to think about that. I guess as a boy I did. Come the middle years my belief I reckon had waned somewhat. Now I’m startin to lean back the other way. He explains a lot of things that otherwise dont have no explanation. Or not to me they dont.

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (Vintage International), Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Defeated by Satan

Many Christians . . . find themselves defeated by the most powerful psychological weapon that Satan uses against Christians. This weapon has the effectiveness of a deadly missile. Its name? Low self-esteem. Satan’s greatest psychological weapon is a gut-level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, and low self-worth.

This feeling shackles many Christians, in spite of wonderful spiritual experiences…and knowledge of God’s Word. Although they understand their position as sons and daughters of God, they are tied up in knots, bound by a terrible feeling of inferiority, and chained to a deep sense of worthlessness.

David Seamands, Healing for Damaged Emotions, David C. Cook.

Opening Our Eyes to Deception

It’s important, then, to have our eyes open to this deception. How is it that so many modern promises sound true but in the end lead to our deception, or even our destruction? A long, long time ago, the English Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote:

“Now the best way to deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan is, to discover them in their colours, that so, being known, poor souls may shun them, and fly from them as from hell itself.”

In other words, the best thing to do is to expose the lies, examine how they work, explore why they’re so compelling, and explain how to overcome them with the truth. We must “discover them in their colours.”

Jared C. Wilson, The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like the Truth, Nelson Books, 2020.

The Perversion of Pleasure

In his classic fictional work on spiritual warfare, The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis imagined a senior demon (Screwtape) corresponding with one of his protégés (his nephew Wormwood) as the latter seeks to tempt and afflict his Christian subject. The book is brilliant for its insights into satanic wiles and applications for the Christian’s alertness against them.

In one of the letters, Uncle Screwtape coaches his pupil on the perversion of pleasure, reminding him that the sin they hold out is tantalizing in part because it corresponds to something their Enemy (God) has actually made for good:

I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.

All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

Jared C. Wilson, The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like the Truth, Nelson Books, 2020.

Snake Bitten

According to doctors at the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, rattlesnakes thought to be dead can still strike, bite, and kill you. Doctors in Phoenix said they have a large number of patients admitted each year suffering from bites from rattlers thought to be dead. Sometimes the snakes were shot and their heads cut off; but the snake head retains a reflex action, and one study showed that snake heads could still make striking-type motions for up to sixty minutes after decapitation.

Satan, that old serpent, was defeated at Calvary. His head was cut off. Hebrews 2 says that our High Priest, by his death, destroyed him who holds the power of death. But for a season he can still strike and wound us. He can still hurt us and poison our relationships and spread his deadly venom into our homes and lives.

Robert G. Morgan, Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, Thomas Nelson.

The Strategy of the Enemy

In the first book of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien tells the tale of a small, diverse group who go on a mission to destroy the power of an evil Dark Lord. The Fellowship of the Ring is a band of two men, a dwarf, an elf, four hobbits and a wizard. Though they represent different races, they are united by their opposition to the Dark Lord.

Yet their unity is tested. In one scene, which didn’t make the movie, an intense conflict breaks out between the members. Harsh words fly. Axes are raised. Bows are bent. The mission is almost lost just as it is starting. When peace is restored, one member of the party says, in essence, ‘The Dark Lord shows his greatest power when he can divide those who oppose him.’ Satan is most effective if he can get us to waste our energy fighting each other instead of him.

Bob Clanton, Monroe, Louisiana quoted by The Rev. Douglas C. Hoglund

Taking Satan Seriously?

In his Christian Doctrine for Everyman: An Introduction to Baptist Beliefs, Jimmy Millikin says, “We know they [demons] are real personalities. They are capable of intelligent, voluntary actions.…We know also that they are spiritual beings…with great power. Demons are ‘unclean spirits,’ which means they are depraved and wicked in their nature.…The work of demons is essentially the same as that of Satan. Their main occupation is…opposing the will and purposes of God” (134).

Davis Britton in his Historical Dictionary of Mormonism says Satan is a “real spirit personage who leads the forces of evil and tries to defeat God’s purpose. In the pre-mortal existence this spirit, also a child of God, rebelled and took with him a portion of the host of Heaven.…Since then Satan has tried to frustrate the Plan of Salvation” (214).

The web site catholic.com says that the “Catholic Church has always held that the devil is real, not a mythical personification of evil.” The site then quotes a 1975 Vatican document, Christian Faith and Demonology: “It is a departure from the picture painted by the Bible and Church teaching to refuse to acknowledge the devil’s existence.”

The fundamentalist web site christcenteredmall.com teaches that “Satan and his cohorts have lied, sinned, murdered, persecuted, and made war against God’s creation since the Garden of Eden,” and “one of the reasons the devil exists is so the children of God can grow up into the full stature of Jesus Christ.”

Clearly the people behind these statements believe in the devil and take him very seriously. Yet in heavily Catholic northern New Jersey, the local professional hockey team is named the Devils. In conservative-Protestant North Carolina, college sports fans can root for the Duke University Blue Devils and the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons.

In very conservative-Protestant Mississippi, fans can root for the Mississippi Valley State University women’s athletic teams, which are called the Devilettes! This lack of concern about taking Satan lightly extends beyond the range of sports. Consider the San Antonio, Texas, firm, Lucifer Lighting Company. If you need heat as well as light, you can call Lucifer Furnaces, Inc., of Warrington, Pennsylvania. You can even eat demonically because the Food Network can teach you how to make Satanic Fudge Brownies.

What is going on here? How can people believe that the devil is a thoroughly evil being, roaming about the world seeking the destruction of souls, and simultaneously believe there is nothing wrong with naming athletic teams and business companies after him? Would people name teams or companies after people or groups that they truly loathe and fear? Can anyone seriously picture a team named the Tacoma Terrorists or a food company named Nazi Nachos?

Joseph F. Kelly, Who Is Satan? According to the Scriptures, Liturgical Press, 2013.

See also Illustrations on The Devil, EvilSin

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Satan. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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