Yesterday I heard passages from two best selling books, both anti-religion, particularly anti-Christian. For example, one of the authors claims that teaching children about Christ is worse than child abuse.
My first thoughts about these and books like them is, This too shall pass. Attacks against Christ have come and gone, and He said that He would "build His church and even the gates of hell would not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). However, this morning’s reading is a reminder of the source of accusations against us, and how we need to respond.
In Revelation 12, John experiences vision upon vision. He sees war in heaven, a battle between Michael and his angels and the ‘dragon’ or Satan and his angels. Satan cannot win and verse 9 says, “The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
It can be debated if this is about a past or future event, but I’m more interested in what it says about the power of Satan. The word ‘Devil’ comes from a Greek verb that means ‘to slander’ or ‘to falsely accuse.’ This comes out in verse 10: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’”
The main accuser of Christians is Satan. He stands before the throne of God (we know he has this access to God from this verse and the book of Job) and points at Christians with slanderous statements. He is a liar so what he says is totally not true, but he makes strong efforts to overthrow the work of Christ.
A long time ago I realized that I need to be very cautious about taking up a case against other Christians. If my accusations were false, then I was in league with the Devil, and that is not where I want to be. I also realized that when anyone goes after Christians without any truth in what they are saying, the source of their ranting is also our spiritual enemy. The Bible even says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The people who write these books are not the enemy. Our battle is with our accuser, Satan, who wants to overthrow us. Rather than attack authors or books with a verbal defense, we need to fight this spiritual battle with spiritual weapons.
Yet there is another side to this. What if someone makes an accusation against a Christian or Christians and it is true? It is not slander, not a false report, or a misunderstanding, but a believer or the church has actually done something they should not? Then what?
Scripture and experience have taught me that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin. When I mess up, God is quick to let me know by a deep conviction in my heart. However, the Bible and experience have also taught me that I don’t always listen to Him. What then? God has an answer for that also. In Matthew 18, He explains how sinful believers are to be approached by one other Christian, then two or three, then the whole church. We are to make a strong effort to gain confession and repentance, and restore the one who has sinned.
What if the church does not do it’s job of keeping God’s people on track? Does that give the rest of the world the right to do it? At first I would say no, that is not a biblical option, but we are hearing a series of sermons on the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. In it, the prophet is perplexed. How come the Babylonians are successful in their aggressive military acts? They are the enemies of God and His people. Why isn’t God doing something about it?
God answers the prophet by saying that He is using their enemy to teach them to obey. His people have been lax, disobedient, living as if God was not their Lord, so He is using an attack against them to teach them to take Him seriously.
The New Testament principle is that we are not to retaliate against those who attack us. We are supposed to do good to our enemies (Romans 12). That means I’ve added some author names to my prayer list. However, it also says we are to “overcome evil with good.”
If Christians, myself included, have done anything to add fuel to the hatred spilling out of these anti-Christian books, then we cannot claim ‘false accusation’ and retaliate in our own defense, or passively wait until their books go out of print. We need to smarten up and take God seriously. What do we need to confess? Where do we need repentance? What can we do to come back to the godliness God wants in lives?
On the other hand, if what is said in these books is entirely groundless, then no defense is necessary. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:18-20).
“God is our refuge and our strength,” and when we find ourselves attacked, we can run to Him . . . as long as we are fighting the enemy’s accusations and not the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Actually, that is not quite right. Conviction requires that we run to Him also, not with our worries and wounds, but with confession and repentance!