Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long long year stolen many man's soul and faith
I was around when Jesus Christ had His moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed His fate
Pleased to meet you hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game...
Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners, Saints
as heads is tails, just call me Lucifer 'cause I'm in need
of some restraint
So if you meet me, have some courtesy have some sympathy
and some taste
Use all your well learned politesse or I'll lay your soul to waste
Pleased to meet you hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game
What I’ve just read out to you is some of the lyrics of a song called “Sympathy for the Devil”, by the 60s Rock band “The Rolling Stones”.
It’s a song that meanders through history, pointing out that the devil is quite active in all sorts of atrocities.
But of course, The Rolling Stones could hardly be considered Christians,
so their view of Satan seems to reflect more of the world’s thinking rather than the truth.
According to the Rolling Stones, the devil was there when Jesus had a moment of doubt.
More than that, if we should meet him,
we should approach him with respect and courtesy or he will “lay our souls to waste”.
Of course, these assertions are quite ridiculous.
One phrase, however, stands out from this song:
“What’s puzzling you is the nature of my game”.
And that is a good phrase.
When Satan in our society has been reduced to a comical red figure with horns,
a pointed tail
and a pitchfork,
we can understand why he is dismissed so easily.
So our world is confused.
What is puzzling them is the nature of the devil’s game.
But, of course, what is also puzzling to them is the nature of Jesus’ Christ’s mission.
If the world is confused at who the devil is and what he does,
they are even more confused about who Jesus Christ is and what he does.
It is fair to say that when people follow someone, that person informs and shapes the belief and behaviour of his or her followers.
So what is the devil like?
And what are his followers like?
And of course, we need to work out what it is about Jesus Christ
that gives us an idea of what his followers are like as well.
The passage we’re looking at today answers these questions fully for us.
The verses we’re looking at focus upon what it is to be a follower of Christ,
and what it is to be a follower of the devil.
And what we’ll be looking at today is btoh the character of both Christ and the devil,
and how to work out how people follow the,.
Now just a word on the way we’re going to approach this passage today.
As you know, the normal way I preach is by breaking up the talk into various sections
- with each section looking at particular verses.
What I’ve done today is slightly different
- I’m looking at the themes that run through the whole passage
rather than in particular verses.
So what you’ll find is that I won’t be examining the passage one verse after another,
but moving here and there between verses.
Now I’ve broken up the talk today into three sections.
The first examines who the devil is and who his followers are.
The second point looks at who the Son of God is, and who his followers are.
And the third point looks at how we as Christians are to live a transformed life.
So let’s move onto my first point - the devil and his followers.
1. The Devil and his followers.
As I’ve pointed out, our society today has no real idea of who the devil is or what he is doing.
The Bible gives us some information,
but not enough for most people to feel satisfied.
We see the devil in the Garden of Eden as a snake,
successfully tempting Adam and Eve into disobeying God.
We also see him in the book of Job having a debate with God,
and even convincing God to let him hurt Job.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus being tempted by him in the wilderness
- but in this case his work is unsuccessful.
Let me read to you from verse 8 of 1 John 3:
“He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinful from the beginning”.
So what we have here is the simple fact that the devil
- the one who is responsible for bringing sin into the world
- has been sinning from the very beginning.
The devil is the father of all sin in the world.
The devil’s reason for being is very simple
- he exists to ensure that people reject God.
This is very clear in 2 Corinthians 4.4, which says
“The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”.
In many respects, Satan is the perfect businessman.
He doesn’t care about style,
he doesn’t care about image
- all he cares about are results.
At the end of the day, it is all about keeping people from hearing the gospel.
And of course this is done in many different ways according to the time and culture we live in.
Missionaries I know have many weird and wonderful stories of satan manifesting his power through magical means
- but of course he does this because it is effective in those particular tribal cultures.
In Australia, Satan prefers to work through apathy and wealth.
Different methods - same result.
That’s how satan works.
Now what about Satan’s followers.
Who are they?
John is very clear about this.
Look at verse 8 again.
“He who does what is sinful is of the devil”.
So who are Satan’s followers?
Everyone who sins.
Which means everyone doesn’t it?
It’s not just the satanists, it’s everyone who sins.
The devil is the father of all sin,
which means that everyone who sins is a follower of Satan.
1 John 3.10 gives us more information about those who follow the devil.
Let me read it to you:
“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
It might appear that John is being a bit vague here.
He is saying that those “who don’t do what is right” are not children of God.
So what does that mean?
We need to remember in context that John is having a go at false teachers operating in the church at the time
- teachers that were teaching wrong things about God
and leading people away from the truth.
So what John is saying is that those who “don’t do what is right” are those false teachers who have been leading people away from God
- which is, of course, Satan’s prime mission
- so it is quite obvious that behind these false teachers is Satan.
The other thing we notice about the followers of the devil is that they do not love their brothers and sisters in the faith.
This is again a reference to those false teachers
-one way you can tell whether a person is a Christian or not within the church is by the way they relate to their fellow Christians.
If they do not love them, then they are actually followers of the devil.
The final thing we learn from these verses is that the followers of the devil have been led astray.
Verse 7 starts with “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray”
- obviously the warning here is that Christians have not been led astray,
while unbelievers have.
And the devil, the perfect businessman, has a multitude of ways in which people can be led away from the truth.
As many of you know, I’m a casual teacher and I teach in many different schools
- so I get to see a variety of different students and teachers as a result.
One of the schools I teach at is St Joseph’s at Lochinvar
- a Catholic school for year 7-10 students.
Now in each of the classrooms is something called a “sacred space”
where people place icons or pictures or whatever.
In the staffroom there is one of these spaces,
and it is filled with little statues of Jesus on the cross, or pictures of Mary or whatever.
But what was strange about this particular sacred space was that it also contained
a little statue of Buddha,
a statue of a Hindu goddess
and, best of all and towering above all the pictures and icons and statues,
a bright red and blue garden gnome!
And remember - this is the sacred space in the teacher’s staffroom,
so it reflects the attitudes and beliefs of the staff in this Catholic school.
What this indicated was a confusion of faith
- people not knowing what to believe.
And the reason why is because they have been led astray.
They have been led into sin.
Those who follow Satan are people who sin.
What is sin?
I’ve described it a few times in the last year or so, but let me give you a little bit more detail.
Of course the Bible is full of different words for sin,
and one of them is translated as “missing the mark”.
This refers to a willing and concious decision not to do what is right.
Another word is translated as “impiety’ or “irreligion”,
which refers to an absence of righteousness and a decision not to worship or honour God.
Another word in the Bible can be translated as “rebellion”
- that is, to reject the rule of God as king.
So the devil is sinful - along with all those who follow him.
Sin and the devil are always together
- sin is what the devil sells, and he is very good at it.
From a business perspective, satan has market penetration of 99.999%.
But one person has sucessfully resisted him
1- one person has refused to buy the sin that satan offers.
2. The Son of God and his followers.
So let’s move on to the second point - the Son of God and his followers.
The first thing we notice about the Son of God is that he is righteous.
Verse 7 says “He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous”.
That last phrase “just as he is righteous” refers to Jesus.
So what we have here is a link between the righteousness of Jesus and those who follow him.
Jesus is righteous
- this means that he is without sin,
he has not missed the mark,
he has not failed to worship and honour God,
he has not rebelled against God’s rule.
Jesus is the only person who has chosen not to buy the sin offered by satan.
Jesus is perfect
- there is nothing in him that can be considered wrong or flawed.
In “Sympathy for the Devil” The Rolling Stones said that the devil was there when Jesus “had his moment of doubt and pain”
- Jesus was perfect, he did not doubt his heavenly father.
Of course I started off talking about the devil today,
and that is obviously in stark contrast with talking about Christ.
However, strange as it may seem, John has decided to describe Jesus’ mission in relation to that of Satan’s.
Let me read to you the second half of 1 John 3.8:
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
What is the devil’s work?
Remember 2 Corinthians 4.4.
It is to “blind the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
What is Christ’s work?
To destroy the devil’s work
- by making the minds of unbelievers see the truth and become Christians.
He destroys the devil’s work by dying on the cross for our sins,
to ensure that those who trust in him are forgiven
and spend eternity in paradise rather than in torment with the devil.
He destroys the devil’s work by defeating death and rising from the grave,
taking away the power and finality of death away with it.
As the Apostle Peter says:
We have a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
And of course Jesus will finally and permanently destroy the devil’s work
when he returns in glory to judge the living and dead.
The idea that God and Satan are simply equal but opposite in power is ridiculous in this context.
Satan is powerful, yes,
but his power cannot compare with that of our heavenly father,
nor of Jesus Christ.
Satan may be alive and well, but his days are numbered.
The devil has been defeated by Christ on the cross,
he has been defeated by Christ’s resurrection,
and he will be finally defeated when Jesus returns.
So that is what John tells us about the Son of God.
Now what about his followers?
What we learn about those who follow the Son of God is that they no longer sin.
Verse 9 says
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin.”
Now we touched on this issue in the verses 1-6 of chapter 3,
but let me touch on it again.
John is not saying here that Christians have to be perfect
- what he is saying is that Christians no longer live in rebellion against God.
So although they may sin, Christians do not reject God’s authority the way that non-Christians do.
In Chapter 1 verses 8-10 John is commanding Christians to confess their sins to God
- which of course they could only do if they sinned.
But there’s a little bit more in verse 9.
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin” says John.
Why? “Because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God”.
The picture we have here is of human reproduction.
The word “seed” is the greek word “sperma”,
and rather than being born normally, we are “born of God”.
This idea fits in neatly with John 3.3, where Jesus says to Nicodemus
“No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again”.
Think of it this way.
Can a human being lay eggs? No.
Can a chicken do push-ups? No.
Why? Because the way a living thing is designed by God makes it impossible to do certain things.
This is what John is talking about here.
We are born of God,
we have God’s seed in us
- therefore it is impossible for us to sin.
Is there such a thing as a Christian who has rejected God as ruler and king?
You might as well try to lay eggs.
So a Christian does not sin
- he does not reject God as ruler and king.
So what does he do?
Look at verse 7 again.
“He who does what is right is righteous, just as he (Jesus) is righteous”.
The idea here is that we live righeous lives
- we are not believing the lies of false teachers
and we are not behaving in the way that unbelievers do.
Because our nature is God’s, we live holy and righteous lives to the glory of our Father in heaven.
And of course the final way that John describes those who follow the Son of God is that such people are not led astray.
Verse 7 again:
“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray”.
Those who follow the Son are not led down the garden path by false teaching.
Those who follow the Son do not listen or are influenced by those antichrists who are attempting to subvert and destroy the church from within.
We need to remember that while Christians may sin, the reason why they are different to the world is because of what has happened to them.
In the Old Testament prophets, God commands his people to repent or else he will bring judgement upon them.
King Solomon himself prayed to God that if and when Israel sins and is suffering God’s judgement,
that if they repent,
Solomon asks God to be merciful to them and forgive them their sins.
So the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the Christian repents of his sins and trusts in Jesus for his salvation
- a non Christian does not repent,
nor does he trust in Jesus.
To not repent of sin is, in fact, a sin itself.
To not take God’s offer of salvation is, in fact, a sin itself.
So if we were to synthesize these points together, what would come to?
On the one hand we have the devil - the father of all sin who ensalves those who reject God and follow him.
On the other hand we have the Son of God - the bringer of our salvation, the defeater of satan, the righteous perfect one and whose followers are similarly righteous.
This being the case,
what difference should it make to us?
What message is God giving us today about our lives?
3. Living the Transformed life.
Well obviously we should live transformed lives, and this is my third and final point.
A transformed life requires us to know what is right.
As you know, John spends a great deal of time in this book being highly critical of false teachers
- teachers who do not speak the true gospel.
To John, these teachers are unbelievers within the church,
antichrists who are the devil’s tool for destroying the church from within.
To live a transformed life, we need to know the truth.
Some people think that theology is boring.
The reality is that theology is sometimes hard to understand fully
- and the process of understanding it, or the way people teach it, can be quite boring.
What is theology?
It is the study of God and God’s truth as revealed by the Bible.
How can that be boring?
How can that be useless?
As Christians we are all theologians, and we need to know God’s word
because it is so easy to be influenced and informed by what the world has to say.
And we need to realise that when one area of Christian theology is changed, it affects all others.
Christian Theology is built on some pretty solid pillars,
but when one of those pillars is removed or changed,
it is no longer considered Christian Theology.
Over the centuries, Christianity has been afflicted by a great many different teachings and heresies.
The reason why it continues to survive is because God has used faithful men and women to preach the gospel
and remain on the side of truth,
refusing to be influenced by all the strange teachings and ideas from inside and outside the church.
A transformed life also requires us to know what is wrong.
By this I am saying that we need to recognise the works of the devil and realise that he is trying to lead us away from Christ
or, at the very least, render us ineffective as Christians.
So while we should be careful with our theology,
we should also be informed about all the false teaching around that is influencing the church.
Knowing the truth is important,
but it is also important to recognise error and ring the alarm bells when it is discovered.
This is because our thinking and our actions are linked
- when we compromise on one issue of Biblical truth it will inevitably lead to compromise in our actions.
Being concerned about God’s truth is not some boring intellectual activity that is only interesting to professors and PhDs.
It is something that concerns us all.
Many years ago when I was a young Christian,
I was talking to a Christian brother from my youth fellowship about his quiet times.
During the discussion he informed me that he never opened his bible during his Quiet Times,
he just prayed and waited on God for direct guidance through feelings and visions.
At the time, I thought that was okay.
Had I been more informed, I would have realised that this sort of activity was bound to lead to disaster - and it did.
I haven’t seen this person for many years,
but I do know that he eventually embraced teaching that was contrary to scripture.
A transformed life requires us to speak what is right.
Why is it so difficult for Christians to speak to each other about their faith?
Many times after church I have had conversations with my Christian brothers and sisters that revolve around everything but being a Christian.
It’s not just something we do when we listen to a sermon or contribute in a Bible study.
What we need to do is somehow move into a situation where we are more likely to talk to one another about God and the gospel.
Now I don’t think that this is something that can be legislated from on high by ministers or elders,
it is something that has to start with us.
And of course if we are to speak to one another about God and the gospel,
we also need to speak to unbelievers about it as well.
The fact is that God is the most important thing in our lives,
and it is the gospel which is the key to knowing and loving God.
So obviously if we are to share ourselves with unbelievers,
the gospel must be the most important thing that they notice about us.
Now I’m not talking about any sort of shallow, forced discussion at church
or buttonholing strangers in the street about their eternal destiny.
I’m talking here about a natural communication that comes as a result of our love for God
and for one another.
And again this is not something that can be legislated from above,
it has to start with each one of us.
A transformed life requires us to act what is right.
Specifically I’m talking about love here.
While it is important to talk in a Christian way,
it is also important for our actions to be determined by love.
John makes it clear in these verses that you can tell who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are
- if you don’t love your brother in the Lord you aren’t a Christian.
Now why do we love?
We love not just because we’re told to,
we love because God loved us.
It is in the character of being a Christian that we love one another.
Again - this is not something that can be legislated by ministers or elders.
A presbytery can’t get together and order a church to love.
So how are we to love?
We are to start with prayer - we ask God to show us how to love each other.
We should pray that God gives us the wisdom to love others more effectively
- obviously because each person is different and has many different needs.
We should constantly uphold each other in prayer, and when one of us is suffering,
we should take time to be with them and encourage them in an appropriate way.
Now over the years many different people have come to this church,
and many are now too sick or frail to continue coming here
- one day you might get to that situation.
A visit would be great wouldn’t it?
And that’s what some of you are doing
- which is a good way to display your Christian love.
Finally, A transformed life requires us to be what is right.
By this I mean we are to trust in the salvation that Jesus has brought us.
John says that we have been born of God
- what a wonderful thing to hold onto!
When John tells us that we should do what is right,
that we should stop sinning and be righteous,
he isn’t doing this in isolation to the gospel that saves us.
Doing what is right means that we have turned from our rebellion against God and trust in Jesus to forgive our sins through his death and resurrection.
And because we have done this,
and because we have been born of God and have God’s seed in us,
we know that we have salvation.
As Jesus said to Nicodemus, we cannot see the kingdom of heaven unless we have been born again.
If we have turned from our rebellion and trust in Christ for forgiveness,
then we have been born again, which means we can see the kingdom of heaven.
We are not lost - God has found us, he has opened our eyes.
We are in the kingdom of heaven now!
Whatever life may throw at you, whatever pain and sufferings we go through,
we should always be eternally thankful for the salvation we have through Christ.
Well let’s finish up.
I started today with a Rolling Stone song.
Some of you might remember that the Rolling Stones were not the only famous musicians around the period.
Bob Dylan became a Christian in the mid 1970s and released a famous album called “Slow Train Coming”, which is full of Christian songs.
One of my favourite Dylan Songs from this album goes
“You’re gonna hafta serve somebody - it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna hafta serve somebody”.
The Apostle John would have totally agreed with Bob Dylan on that count.
There are two types of people in the world
- those who are servants of the devil,
and those who are servants of the Son of God.
The servants of the devil are everywhere
- anyone who rejects God as their king is an unbeliever and is a servant of the devil.
The servants of the Son of God are thin on the ground,
but they are people who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and King
and live transformed lives as a result.
But the difference is that the devil and his followers are headed for eternal judgement,
whereas those who are servants of the Son are headed for eternal life.
But remember that this is not a result of anything we have done
- it is God who has rescued us.
Remember that we were once sinful as well
- we have rejected God as king and ruler.
But now God has rescued us,
we who were once sinners are now friends and servants of our heavenly father.
Thank you our heavenly father for giving us new life and hope. Thank you that you have taken us out of death and rebellion and brought us to life and salvation. Give us strength to love and obey you and to live lives worthy of the calling we have received. We pray these things through Jesus Christ, without whom we’d be nothing. Amen
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.