I love a good quote. I enjoy reading wise words from intelligent and brave men. I have several books of quotes from people like Lincoln, Franklin and Churchill. It is especially meaningful to read a good quote when you know the story behind it and you know the author to be wise and honorable. A good quote can be motivating.
I ran across a quote this week from the Roman poet Horace who lived just before Jesus did. Horace's quote goes like this, "Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country." That might bring patriotic goosebumps to your arms if you love your country. A swell of pride might come over you if you are a young man or woman about to enlist in the military. Those of you here this morning who have served honorably in the military, whatever branch, we are honored for you to be here this morning and your country will be forever in your debt.
When I saw this quote from Horace I did a quick Google search and found out that Horace did indeed join the army. He also saw combat in the Battle of Philippi. But what caught my attention after reading this great patriotic quote was the fact that in that battle Horace admits to throwing down his shield and turning around and fleeing for his life. Not exactly sweet nor fitting.
I also have to wonder how sweet and fitting it was for thousands upon thousands of mothers and fathers to get a letter from the War Department in WW II saying they regret to inform you your son will not be returning home. If you have ever lost a loved one in war you have to come to grips with the question, "Was it worth it?" I doubt many would actually say it was sweet and fitting.
Every good soldier hates war and will do anything necessary to keep from it but also does everything necessary to prepare for it. You might be wondering why I am bringing all this up today and it is because we are in Genesis chapter 3 where we find out that the war has begun for us. I would love to stand up here this morning and tell you that when you give your life to Jesus then all of your problems are going to melt away and now you can relax and live the easy life but that's not true.
In fact, the longer we live through this age the more intense the battles are going to be and the higher the stakes become. As horrible and deadly as the physical wars our country has fought have been, the stakes are even higher for us in our spiritual fight. If you don't think we are in the middle of a universal fight to the death I hope to show you the Bible says differently.
It is a battle that has been going on quite literally since the beginning of time as we will see in Genesis chapter 3 but I first want to read, for context, what God said about the tree in 2:16 and 17. Now skip over to 3:1-6.
An old cowboy went to his insurance agent and asked to get health insurance. The agent asked him if he had had any accidents the previous year. No sir. The agent said, "You didn't get sick or hurt or anything last year?" "Well, I got bit by a rattlesnake and that laid me up for a while." "You don't call that an accident?" "No sir. Pretty sure he did it on purpose."
When you tangle with a snake you can expect to get bitten and when you tangle with Satan you can expect to pay the price for that as well. And he does it on purpose. One more time, what is Satan's ultimate goal for you? To devour you. To kill you. And when he can't kill you what will he do? Distract you or confuse you. And if he can't distract you he will let you work real hard to try to be a good person.
All of that is a success for the devil. And he does it all on purpose just like he did with Eve in the garden. We talked about that last week. We don't see the serpent for a few verses after verse 6. I'm sure he went off to the side and had himself a real good laugh at what he had done. He had successfully destroyed God's plan for man to live in perfection and in a few verses we will see him again as God responds to what he has done.
I have another joke for you to illustrate something I want to talk about. A first grader was sitting in class as the teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs. She came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to acquire building materials for his home.
She said "...And so the pig went up to the man with a wheelbarrow full of straw and said 'Pardon me sir, but might I have some of that straw to build my house with?'"
Then the teacher asked the class, "And what do you think that man said?" and a little boy raised his hand and said "I know! I know! he said..... 'Holy smokes! A talking pig!'
I tell you that because no where in here does it specifically say that the serpent was Satan. All it says is that the serpent was crafty and that it could talk and that's the way the Hebrew people would have accepted this. I told you last week that they would just accept things at face value and so that is how I want us to read through Genesis as well. When it says the serpent talked, just say holy smokes a talking snake and go on.
Now I have some bad news, some good news and some eternal news and it all comes from God's response to all of this coming up in chapter 3 verses 14 and 15. Read.
I said I have some bad news, some good news and some eternal news. The bad news is for us today and for Satan as well. In fact, the bad news for Satan is that there is no good news. That word "cursed" in verse 14 is "katara" which means something that pays a price. The same word was used for Jesus himself in Galatians 3:13 where it talks of Jesus paying the price for our sin. It says He was cursed.
But here the serpent is cursed. He pays the price for his role in the fall of man. And whether that serpent was actually the devil or if it was a demon or just a really crafty legless, carnivorous reptile, it doesn't matter the really bad news comes in verse 15 where it says "I will bring enmity" which is a word that means basically "war" and in that war we as Christians are going to be bruised and bloodied. We are going to have lots of heel-strikes.
We will have heel-strikes at us as individuals, at our church, at our society and at the world as a whole. We see individual strikes when we as individuals allow it to happen. "Oh, Pastor Todd, I would never allow myself to be bitten by sin and Satan." You may not think you allow it but when we allow ourselves to be like the world instead of being holy, that's when Satan prepares to strike.
In 1 Peter 1:13-16, Peter writes to believers, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.
We allow ourselves to be struck when we start to debate about the temptation we are going through. Eve stood there and talked it out with Satan. You know what she should have done? She should have done what Joseph did in Genesis 39:12: when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, he ran away. He didn't try to talk her out of it or explain his side of the story. He didn't even try to witness to her. He ran.
That's what we need to do today. When we are tempted to gossip, just get away from that person. Say excuse me and leave. When the computer tempts you, turn it off and leave. When you are tempted to cheat on your taxes, turn 'em over to Jackie! God didn't tell you to be holy just for grins, He told you to be holy (set apart, different) because He knows we are easily tempted.
We also will see heel-strikes at our church. It's just part of the bad news and it should be expected. "Oh", you say. "our church is small and Satan has bigger fish to fry. He's not going to mess with us." I don't know about you but I'm already feeling it and I know that some of you are too whether you realize it or not. Satan hates this church and wants nothing more than for us as a church to die.
Do you remember a few months ago when we went through a series in Acts and we saw how the first church got started after Jesus left? I told you there was a cycle that you see the church go through. The cycle was obedience, blessings, attack. When the church was obedient to God, God blessed it and then Satan attacked it. Over and over again you see it in the book of Acts and you will and are seeing it in our church today.
The last part of the bad news is that we see these heel-strikes in our society and in our world today. Some real obvious heel-strikes that I see would be the acceptance of abortion, homosexuality, and divorce. These are accepted as "alternative lifestyles" in our society despite the Bible specifically teaching against them.
So, the bad news for us is that we are at war with Satan and his demons and we will suffer because of it. We will not get out of this battle unscathed. Job said "man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." We will have many heel-strikes and they will be painful.
The good news for us is that we have the power to crush the heads of Satan and his demons. In fact, we know how this story ends and we win the war. Satan will be crushed completely in the end but in the mean time he still has a lot of fight left in him and will continue to strike at the heels unless we continue to crush his head.
When I say "crushing his head" I don't mean just surviving the heel-strikes. It means taking the offensive and making inroads into the strongholds of Satan and we can do this individually and as a church. The battle referred to in our passage is framed in potentially mortal blows being exchanged and that means that poking it with a stick doesn't qualify. So, as individuals, what can we do to cause the enemy to retreat or reel back?
We can start by being the people God asks us to be instead of following our selfish, Adam and Eve-type selves.In November of 1994, Pastor Duane Willis, with his wife Janet and 6 kids were on their way from Chicago to visit realtives in Wisconsin. As they drove along I-94 near Milwaukee, a semi-truck lost part of it's taillight assembly. As the Willis's van ran over it, a sharp edge scraped a gash in the gas tank and the van caught on fire. Pastor Willis and his wife could only look on as the flames took the lives of their 6 children.
In the following days and weeks, the news coverage was massive. The Willis's didn't hide their grief or try to put on plastic smiles suggesting everything was ok. But they gave consistent and credible testimony in news program after news program of God's love and provision for them in their deepest distress. The simple trust of these godly people struck a significant blow as millions of onlookers were introduced to what faith on trial looks like. (John H. Walton, Genesis commentary)
We have no more power and no more opportunity to crush the head of Satan than we do as a church. When we as individuals put on the full armor of God as talked about in Ephesians 6 and join together as a family and as soldiers we can do serious damage to the cause of Satan and the best way to do that is to be obedient to the Great Commision in Matthew 28. Go and make disciples! Tell others! It's a command.
I'm excited about some opportunities our church is going to have next year to go on some genuine mission trips to other countries but right now we have several opportunities right here in our neighborhood. The mens' movie night or the chili cook-off might not sound like very good spiritual opportunities but that's on purpose. You see, we have to be intentional about everything we do. Just like that snake bit that cowboy on purpose, we have to purposefully go about our lives ready to strike a blow to Satan and hopefully every outreach opportunity we have will be succesful in that area.
You can poke at the snake with a stick or even throw down your shield and run or with God's power and authority you can be a warrior. What's it going to be? Will you enjoy the benefits of obedience or suffer the consequences of disobedience?