Reformation Day 2014
October 30, 2014 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
A couple of weeks ago we sang as a congregation the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” This hymn was first penned by the Reformer, Martin Luther, in 1529. While I love this hymn, growing up I always found it odd to be singing about Satan. In the first verse we sing, “For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and pow’r are great; and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.” The hymn continues, though, turning our attention to one even greater, namely Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther did not shy away from acknowledging Satan and his work. There is a story of when Luther was hiding away in Wartburg Castle, translating the Bible into the vernacular German, that Satan came to torment him. Luther picked up his ink well and threw it at the head of Satan, leaving an ink stain on the wall by his desk. I have also heard stories that Luther argued with Satan on occasion over his sin. Luther’s final word was always Christ and his atoning blood (echoes of verse 3 of the hymn, “one little word shall fell him”).
Many modern scholars have explained away these “mystical” stories with psychological diagnoses for Luther. Even many of us, in the church, may down play or ignore such “spirituality.” This actually is to our detriment, as we often miss the true nature of our battle against “our ancient foe.” What is a healthy perspective on spiritual warfare?
1. Satan, with his demonic forces, is active every day, seeking to undermine our faith in Christ. When Paul speaks about standing “against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11) and extinguishing “all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16) he speaks in terms of either standing strong in the hope of our salvation or wilting in despair from our sin. Satan is not looking to cause us to sin in heinous ways; he simply wants us to lose sight of what Christ has done for us. When Christians forget their hope in Christ, they are weak against temptation and poor witnesses of the greatness of the gospel.
2. In facing such opposition, Christ’s blood speaks a better word (Heb. 12:24). Satan is a liar and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). He attacks by distorting the truth (consider the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3). Our battle with Satan is a battle to hold fast to the truth, and there is no greater truth than Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in our place to forgive our sin. In speaking about spiritual warfare, Paul mentions only one offensive weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). When we face doubt or despair or complacency or lethargy or distraction regarding our spiritual life with God, we must cut to the heart with God’s word in order to allow the truth to reinvigorate our hope in Christ.
3. It’s far too easy to talk about the importance of prayer and still not pray. As Paul wraps up his teaching on spiritual warfare, he concludes with an exhortation to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). He uses the word “all” four times in that verse! I don’t think Paul was prone to exaggeration when he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is not optional. Prayer brings us into the posture of humility and dependence before God, who is the only one able to “deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). May the reality of Satan compel us to be diligent in our prayers.
So, as we celebrate Reformation Day tomorrow, join Martin Luther in fighting against Satan and his schemes. Celebrate the Word of Christ, which proclaims you as forgiven of all your sin in Christ! Keep alert in prayer at all times.