Are You Willing To Rebuke Satan?
On Thursday of this past week, my family and I were reading of Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness. (Specifically, we read Matthew 4:1-11. However, Luke 4:1-13 is a parallel record of Jesus’ time in the wilderness.) During this study, we learned three great lessons about one’s willingness to rebuke the devil. I would like to use this opportunity to share with you these lessons.
According to Matthew’s account, the Spirit led Jesus into the “wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” After fasting forty days and forty nights Jesus was hungry. Luke records,
“And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.” (Luke 4:2)
At this point, when Jesus hungered, the devil tempted Jesus. Consider Jesus’ response to all three temptations. In Matthew 4:4, in response to the first temptation, Jesus said,
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
In reply to the second temptation, Jesus said,
“Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Matthew 4:8)
In response to the third temptation, Jesus replied,
“It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Matthew 4:12)
In all three responses, Jesus quoted or referred to scriptures. Twice Jesus said, “It is written . . .,” and once, “It has been said . . .” Jesus was able and willing to rebuke the devil.
In order for us to be able to follow Jesus’ example, there are three goals that we must obtain. The first goal is this: We must know what is considered sinful. As Christians, we have the responsibility to turn away from sin. As a matter of fact, this attitude of repentance was a necessary step in our conversion. However, while one may have the willingness to change, that person must know the specifics of what they are to put away from their life. For instance, Paul told saints in Colosse that they were to put off “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth,” and lying. (Colossians 3:8-9) In what some call a parallel epistle, the apostle Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to put away lying, to “’be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil,” to no longer steal, and to “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.” (Ephesians 4:25-29) Both of the aforementioned passages contain a clear list of deeds which God considers sinful. In order to rebuke the devil, one must have the knowledge of what God considers sinful. Studying one’s Bible, as well as listening to knowledgeable Bible teachers, will help equip a Christian to have a better knowledge of what is and what is not sinful. (Before I move on to the second goal, I must point out the fact that ignorance is not an excuse. Whether or not a Christian chooses to grow in knowledge of what is or what is not sinful, does not change the fact that a given deed may or may not be a sinful deed. Remember the words of the apostle Paul when he said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30))
Our second goal in our lessons from the temptations of Jesus is this: We must desire to say no to the sins. We may know that a given deed is sinful, however, unless we desire to overcome the temptation, we will not say no. Knowledge of what is sinful is useless if we lack the willingness to overcome the sin. Let us consider the examples as seen earlier in Paul’s letters to the church in Colosse and the church in Ephesus. In the two references, we saw that it is sinful to allow our anger to produce sin. We also saw that we are to put off anger, wrath, malice, as well as stealing and lying. If we face a temptation to tell a lie, we must detest lying so much that we are willing to say no to the temptation. Likewise, when tempted to use corrupt language, or filthy communication, if we despise the sin, then we will say no to the temptation. Sadly, far too many Christians find themselves facing these various temptations while lacking the willingness to say no. Within their minds they have the knowledge that these sins are wrong and sinful. However, they lack to desire to overcome. Once you have knowledge of what is sinful, you must then strive to desire to say no to the temptations to sin.
Our third goal as seen in the story of Jesus’ temptations is this: Be willing to rebuke the devil. In response to one of the temptations, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Away with you, Satan! . . .” (Matthew 4:10) Luke records Jesus’ response with a bit of variation. According to Luke’s account, Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan! . . .” (Luke 4:8) As both records reveal, Jesus was speaking directly to Satan. He directly rebuked Satan. In a different situation, we see Jesus using the same rebuke in relation to a statement which Peter made. Jesus, talking to Peter, said,
“Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
Clearly, Jesus did not hesitate to rebuke Satan. Vocally rebuking the devil would help us greatly to overcome temptations. The keys to accomplishing such a vocal rebuke is to know what is sinful in the eyes of God, thereby recognizing a temptation, and being willing to say, “No!” to the temptation. If both of these goals are in place, then the third step, vocally expressing our rebuke of the devil, would then follow in the steps of Jesus.
Give it a try. The next time you are faced with a temptation to sin, with the will to say no, vocally rebuke the devil, saying, “Away with you, Satan!” Such a vocal response will surely help remind both you and me of our resolve to overcome all temptations to sin.