A Response to the Tragedy of September 11, 2001
[This is an edited transcription of our audio teaching, “Overcoming Evil with Good: A Response to the Tragedy of September 11, 2001” by John W. Schoenheit.]
It has been just about a month now since the terrorist’s acts that were perpetrated against the World Trade Center and our Pentagon. On behalf of myself and my family and those of us at Spirit & Truth Fellowship International, I would like to start by saying that our prayers are with the family of all those who were affected, not just directly in the tragedy, for I am also aware of people who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic impact of the terrorist attack on our country. Our prayers are also for them. Our prayers are also for unity of this country, for our country is one nation under God and indivisible. Right now is a time where we should be united and moving forward. I am aware from reading the newspapers and listening to what is happening on television that in many cases a divergence of opinion is occurring about what we should do and what direction we should take. I would like to say that this is a time for us to be united and move forward behind our President and behind what he is doing and the plans that he is making for our country and for our country’s freedom, and so we are certainly praying that we can be what we pledge to be, one nation under God, indivisible.
We appreciate your prayers for these things too, especially in light of the World Trade Center but also because tragedy is occurring every day in the world. We are doing this teaching on the subject of Don’t Blame God (which is also the title of a book we publish). There will be two “arms” to this teaching. The first is theological. What the Bible says about “who is behind evil, destruction, and death.” What is the cause of that? The second “arm” of this teaching is going to be “what can we as Christians do?”
It is devastating to be confused about what to do and where to go. The Word of God has answers and we need to be able to go to it and find those answers. Jesus Christ addressed the fact that we should go to the Word of God and find truth. That is really where I would like to start in this teaching.
Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago said, “The words that I speak unto you. They are spirit, and they are life.” Is that not the truth? Have you not read the Word of God and been comforted in your heart and thrilled in your soul? I cannot explain it, but something wonderful just happens as you let the Word of God come off the page through your eyes and into your heart. The Word of God is so powerful and so wonderful. God did such a magnificent job in giving it to us in a way that blesses us and gives us joy and peace even in troubled times.
I am very concerned for our country. I am very concerned when I hear that Muslim extremists want to cause more death and destruction. As you know, if you know me, you know that I run tours to Israel. I have been there a number of times. I have studied archeology in Israel with Hebrew Union College. I am no stranger to terror. I am no stranger to bombs and terrorist’s acts, which are very unsettling. They can rob the peace right out of your soul. In troubled times, the Word of God is such an incredible comfort, and to open it up and let it speak to you, and affect your soul is a fabulous thing.
In Luke 11:35, Jesus Christ is speaking to the crowd. How do we know that he is speaking to the crowd? We know this because of the context [Luke 11:29: As the crowds increased, Jesus said]. When we read the Word of God, we let it expound itself. We do not bring our ideas to the Word of God. We get our ideas from the Word of God.
Jesus was talking to the crowd. You can just imagine the crowd. Crowds are made of all different kinds of people. Some of the people in the crowd were disciples and very dedicated to him. Some of the people were fence sitters. They kind of liked what he said, but they were not sure about some other things. Some of the people in the crowd were basically his enemies coming to find ammunition to use against him.
See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
What does Jesus mean by this? In the biblical culture and actually even in the American culture, the word light stands for “truth, knowledge, good, or light”; for example, if someone is trying to explain something to you that is hard to understand and when you finally understand it, you say, “Ah, I see the light.” This means that you understand. Even in our culture, light stands for truth or understanding or knowledge. Darkness stands for evil or misunderstanding, so the Bible exhorts us not to have anything to do with the works of darkness, the works of evil. What is Christ saying?
See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
What is he teaching us? What Christ is saying is that we should make sure that the understanding that you have is not actually an error or misunderstanding. You see, God has made the truth available, and the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth, and it is up to us to do the work in the Word to bring out that truth. The Word of God is the truth. Right now it is a book on my desk from which I am reading. It is the Word of God. Now I have to take this Word of God, this great truth, and I have to put it in my mind and my heart. I have got to come to an understanding of it. So Christ, when he addresses the crowd, is addressing you; he is addressing me. He is saying, “Look here, make sure that what you know is not an error. Make sure that the truth that you know is not in reality not truth at all.” It is important for us to consider what Christ is saying.
I have a reason for opening up with this. Since it has been about a month since the terrorist attacks on the United States, I have read numerous articles. I have listened to talk radio. I have seen television shows in which confusion has been demonstrated about the cause of what happened. Some people have even said that God was behind it. I have heard some reports by some Christians where they would say, “God has done this. God is behind what is going on. God is responsible.” Sometimes Christians are saying this because they believe that God is in control. I think that you have probably heard that too of God being in control of what is going on here. Not associated with this particular terrorist attack, but some time ago, I passed a Christian woman who was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Relax, God is control.”
What I would like to do is to study that in this teaching. I think that we are going to see from God’s Word that God is not in control of the world, and He is not responsible for this evil in any way. That is very freeing and very delivering as we are going to see. If God is responsible for evil, then really, nothing is there that we can do about it. No answer can be found for evil if God is the cause because then if we fight against evil, we are fighting against God, and he who fights against God fights a losing fight. That is for sure!
Let us go to Scripture and find out what Scripture says. I will give the answer and then we will move through this teaching from the Word of God. What we are going to find is that the Devil, his demons, and evil people are behind evil in the world.
We are going to read something from the Word of God that is almost an axiom in our culture. It is so well known and so commonly spoken that I think that we would be hard pressed to find an American who has not heard that “God is Love.”
1 John 4:7 and 8
(7) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
(8) Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God is love! Can you think of anybody that has not heard of that? I cannot. I think that all of us would agree that it is almost an axiom of our culture that God is love. What I would like to do now is that I would like to take our theological “shoes” off and sit back in our chairs for a second and think about that. I am going to assert that “God is love” is not hard to understand—you know what love is and I know what love is. If you, for example, need help with a situation in which you are stuck, and people are there for you, you feel loved. You know when you are being loved and when you are not being loved. Let us say that you are invited to a party, and you go to this party. You find that you are among a bunch of people that you do not know. You know the person that invited you, but you do not know the other people. Maybe this might happen at a wedding reception where a lot of people are there that you do not know. You can tell very quickly whether you are being loved or not, whether people are treating you well or not. Love is something that we all understand. Every child, every pet, knows very well whether you are being loving or not. Love is something that we can all feel. We know it. Maybe we cannot even talk about it or articulate what it is, but if you meet two people, and one loves you and one of them does not, you know the difference. I want to assert that when the Bible says that God is love that this is not hard to figure out. It is not theological.
I want to contrast that to the faces that I have seen on television as I have watched family members of someone that was killed being interviewed. I have seen crying children, and I have seen crying fathers, and I have seen crying wives. I have looked at the anguish on their faces, and I have looked at the anguish on the faces of policemen and firefighters who lost comrades. I look at that anguish and hurt and pain, and I know that love did not cause that. I do not have to be theological about it. I know that love did not cause that pain. The Bible says that God is love, and it even says in verse 7 that we should love one another.
1 John 4:7
Dear friends, let us love one another,
I know that it is not loving to throw a hand grenade into a room full of school children and cause death and injury. I just could not ever say it was a loving thing to do. I look at Jesus Christ, and he said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” I look at what Jesus Christ did. He raised the dead; he healed the sick. When a leaper came to him and said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” he healed him. This was a leaper which meant no one in that society would even touch him. They would not even push him away with their hand. They physically would not touch him. Yet Jesus Christ touched him—the Greek text says, “held” him. The Lord Jesus Christ reached out to this man who probably had not had a hug in as long as he could remember, and yet Jesus reached out and wrapped that guy in his arms and said, “It is my will that you are clean.” That is love. That is what God does for people. God does not hurt people. He does not maim people. He does not cause death and destruction. God is love.
When we love, like 1 John 4:7 says, “Let us love one another,” people know it. When you are loved, you know it. That is going to be the essence of this. If we know what love is, then we know what God does and what He does not do. I look out in the world, and what do I see? Let’s start with this morning’s paper. I opened up the paper, and read that a rape occurred last night. To be very honest, I was kind of astounded because when I opened up the paper a couple of days ago, two other rapes had happened. They were done by a different guy. I am looking at three rapes in one week. Next, I read that in Vietnam a flood occurred, and more than 100 people have lost their lives. I read in this morning’s paper that because of a hurricane that is now stirring in the Caribbean Sea a diving ship turned over and more than a dozen people are dead. I read all this: people drowning in floods, people killed by tornadoes, women being raped, and four U.N. workers killed by friendly fire. I look at this and say, “So much death and destruction and hatred and carnage that if I did not know better I would say that the Devil ran the world. It sure looks like it, does it not? It shows the death, the destruction, the starvation, the torment, the anguish, and the pain of life.” If I did not know better, I would look out and say, “The Devil must be running this world,” but then I look in the Bible, and I find out, “Wait a minute.” That is exactly what the Bible says:
1 John 5:19
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
Amen to that. Do you know what? When I read that verse, something is released in my soul because the Bible says that the truth will make you free. I read 1 John 5:19, and I say, “Yes, I knew it. I knew that the world had to be controlled by the evil one. Just by looking around, I could see that. Of course, you have the question that would go, “Wait a minute. How did the Devil get control of the world?” The answer to that is found in Genesis.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
God in His love and kindness and goodness gave the rulership of the world as a gift to Adam and Eve. He put Adam and Eve in the world and said, “I want you to run the world. I want you to rule it.” I think that we all know that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned when they listened to the Devil and ate of the tree. When they did that, Adam and Eve lost the dominion of the world, and the one who got it from them was the Devil.
Luke 4:5 and 6
(5) The Devil led him [Jesus Christ] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
(6) And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me,
Who gave the world to the Devil? Who would do that? Adam did that when he disobeyed.
Luke 4:6 and 7
(6)…and I can give it to anyone I want to.
(7) So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
1 John is correct. The Devil is in control of the world, and we can back that up from Genesis and from Luke and from other verses as in:
2 Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age [the Devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The Devil is the god of this world because he is in control. This is freeing in many, many ways. Remember, Christ said that the truth will set you free. All of a sudden I realize that God is not my enemy when a rape, death, or drowning occurs. God does not do that; the Devil does that (John 10:10). It is also freeing because it helps me to focus on the goodness of God and the badness of the Devil. Even from an eternal perspective; for example, do you remember the verse in Malachi that says, “I am the LORD; I change not”? If God is in control of this world, and God is going to be in control of the next one, and God does not change, why would anybody believe that the next world is going to be a wonderful place? The same God who does not change would be in control of them both. Why would one of them be so horrible and one of them be great? Why do people think that their future life would be so wonderful if God was in control of both this life and the next one, and God does not change? That does not make any sense. Thankfully we know from 1 John that the Devil is in control of the world.
Now, if the Devil is in control of the world, then the Devil must be killing people. That is precisely what the Bible says.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus Christ] too shared in their Humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death– that is, the Devil–
According to this verse, the Devil holds the power of death. This is so freeing. When I was in Theological Seminary, a family who was going to the church that was associated with my theological school had a son who died in a car wreck; of course, their lives were absolutely devastated. They were torn all to pieces, and representatives of the school went to comfort them because the family had quit coming to church. The representatives of this school were trying to say to them, “Look, I know this is difficult, but God must have had a reason for taking your child. God must have had a reason that He would do this.” The family refused to believe that. They absolutely refused. The father and mother said, “No, we have been so faithful to God and if this is the way that God is going to treat us, then we do not want anything to do with Him.” They walked away from the church.
You know, I can understand their anguish. If God is behind death and destruction, then if you are doing your best to serve God, and death and destruction happens in your life, why would you serve a God like that? How freeing to know that Scripture says the Devil holds the power of death. The reason that death and destruction is there around us is because a war is going on between God and the Devil.
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
Think a minute about the theological implications of this if God is in control of evil. Sincere and well meaning people are out there who teach, “Well, yes, I know that the Devil does these things, but the Devil cannot move without God’s permission. The Devil is only doing the will of God.” That is what some people believe. That is a current theological teaching. I would like to assert that it is not true. I would like to assert that when the Bible is properly understood, it does not teach this. We are going to the book of Job later, which is the primary place from where that theological view point comes. For now though, take your theological “shoes” off; instead of going into a big theological argument, think for a second about the ramifications and implications of what that would mean.
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
If God was behind the Devil and behind Michael and his angels, then it would be kind of like one owner of two football teams. Where the football teams are going in and the owner is enjoying the entertainment. Now if that upsets you, well, that does upset me. The whole concept of that is so contrary to anything that we think about in Scripture. This is not a fake war. This is not where God is actually behind the Devil and the forces of evil and also behind the angels and the forces of good. God is not watching this thing play out like a football game, no. This is a real war! A war is going on between God and the Devil, and the Devil is in control of this present age (world). The Devil got this control from Adam and Eve.
Remember, the Bible says in Hebrews that the Adversary holds the power of death:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death– that is, the Devil–
Corinthians tells us that death is an enemy. If God were some how in control of people’s death or controlling the timing of people’s death or giving the Devil permission to kill people, then what about this verse.
1 Corinthians 15:26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Death would not be an enemy at all if God were in control of it because death would be what God was doing, but instead, the Bible says that death is an enemy. Death is an enemy because God is not doing it. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a war, and we need to get deadly serious about it. We have an enemy, and that enemy is the Devil. We are in a fight against the Devil, and on our side, we have God, the Lord Jesus Christ, a bunch of angels, and other Christians who stand with us. On the Adversary’s side are his angels and a bunch of people who are working evil for him. A real war is going on, and it is life and death. Recently, some very wonderful Christians were killed in that war, and we need to fight to make sure that we can promote safety and peace and love as much as we can in the world.
When Jesus Christ came along, he made war on the Devil—you bet he did.
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit [holy spirit] and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, because God was with him.
Jesus Christ did good works, and he healed those who were under the power of the Devil. Jesus Christ did not think that people’s affliction was due to God. He understood that it was due to the Devil, and he went right after it.
What we will read here is that Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil.
1 John 3:8
He who does what is sinful is of the Devil, because the Devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil’s work.
We need to read this verse again and think very clearly about it, for some very good truths are found here.
1 John 3:8
He who does what is sinful is of the Devil, because the Devil has been sinning from the beginning.
Sin is breaking the commands of God. We all know that. Many times we exhort people to stop sinning; for example, they are stealing or lying. They are living a life of sin, and you go to them and say, “You need to stop sinning and start obeying God.” We understand that sin and obedience are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. When it says that the Devil has been sinning “from the beginning,” then it tells you that the Devil has been breaking the commands of God “from the beginning.” Right away that tells us the Devil cannot be acting with the permission of God. If the Devil was getting God’s permission to hurt people, kill people, and cause problems, then what the Devil was doing would not be sin. Let us take your car. Say it is parked in your driveway. If I sneak over to your house and hotwire it and then drive off, I would be sinning against you and God. But if I ask if I could borrow your car and get the keys from you and then drive off, it is not sin. For Scripture to tell us that the Devil is sinning means automatically that the Devil and God are opposed. No permission is there.
1 John 3:8
…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil’s work.
This tells you that the Devil’s work must be against God. Some great insight can also be gained from Luke 11. Jesus Christ is casting out a demon to bless and help somebody. The crowds are going to speak up.
(14) Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.
(15) But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”
(16) Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
(17) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.
(18) If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub.
This is a very powerful and interesting argument because these people here are saying, “Jesus you are driving out demons by the prince of demons.” It is interesting that Jesus Christ did not simply contradict them. He did not say, “That is absurd. I am the Son of God. I am driving out demons by the power of God. I do not know why you cannot see that. You guys must be blind to the truth.” No, that is not what Jesus did at all. Look at the way that he attacked this logical problem, if you will, that he is driving out demons by the prince of demons. Christ said: “You know that cannot be true because if I am driving out demons by another demon, then the house of Satan is divided against itself. If the house of Satan is divided against itself, it will fall, so what you are saying cannot be true.”
Can we take this biblical model and bring it into the world? Let us take for example someone who is sick of cancer. You probably have heard of people that had cancer and a Christian would come over and lay hands on them, and that person was delivered. There have been some spectacular deliverances for people who have had cancer or have had other diseases. Christians laid hands on them and prayed, and those people were delivered from their sicknesses. Well, if God made the person sick or was in control of the person being sick, but then a Christian came and healed the person with the power of God that would be a house divided against itself. God would be making the person sick, and then God would turn around and make the person well. Look at what the people here accuse Jesus of doing, “Well, the Devil made this boy sick, and then Jesus used the Devil to make the boy well.” That is the same thing as saying, “God made the boy sick, but now by the power of God, we are going to make the boy well.” It will not work. A house divided against itself will not stand. It is Satan and this fallen world that is making the person sick, and it is the power of God that is making the person well. The two forces are completely opposed. God in His goodness and love gave the world to Adam. Adam through his selfishness sinned and gave control of the world to the Devil. Now, we have a world that is ruled by the Devil, and we know it because floods and drownings and starvation and rapes and murders and wars are occurring. We look out in the world and say, “That is how the world would look if it was run by the Devil.”
It is run by the Devil, and God is not in control of this world, but God will be one day when Jesus Christ rides down from heaven and conquers it. That is Revelation 19 in the Battle of Armageddon. God will be in control of the world some day in the future. That is why in the future the Bible promises that the world will be a wonderful place. The deserts will bloom, and have springs of water. More food will be available for us to eat, and everyone will be healed. Why are things going to be so wonderful? It will be wonderful because the Devil will not be in control any more, but right now, he is in control.
This section in Luke 11 about Satan not being against Satan and God not being against God, well, you can find religions that teach that God is in control of everything. The Muslim religion is one of those religions that teach this. That is one of the reasons that you hear the Muslims saying, “If it be God’s will.” An Arabic proverb says, “If you see a blind man, kick him, why should you be kinder than God.” The logic behind this is very clear. You are walking down the street and see a man that is blind. If God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and earth saw fit to make this person blind, then why would you be kinder than God? When you see somebody who is hurt or needs help, is there not something that wells up inside of you that has you wanting to help them or comfort them or love them? I would assert that it is God and Christ just welling up inside of you. What about the natural goodness of humanity that wells up to offer assistance? Why would that exist if God caused that disaster? Why would He put something inside of us that as soon as we saw the disaster that we all then want to help? You see, it is the Devil that causes the disaster and then it is God who tries to help and heal and bless.
At this point, we need to look theologically at Job because I know that a reason is out there that many people think that the Devil is behind this with God’s permission.
(6) One day the angels [sons of God—Hebrew text] came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan [accuser] also came with them.
(7) The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
(8) Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
(9) “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.
(10) “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.
(11) But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
(12) The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
This is the primary source in the Bible for the teaching that God is behind evil and what He does is give the Devil permission to act. I would like to point out a couple of things here as we examine the book of Job. The first is that you and I, if you are a Christian, reading the New Testament with 20 / 20 hindsight, know that Satan is the ruler of his demonic kingdom, and he is opposed to God and a power in his own right. Satan is even called the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), the prince of the power of the air, the Devil, the dragon, and the tempter. However, in the Old Testament, they did not know that. In the Old Testament, the word Satan simply means accuser. Job is here, and God is talking to his created spirit beings about Job, and a tempter is there who comes up and says, “Well now, wait a minute God, not so fast. Let us get it straight as to why Job is being so holy and righteous. It has nothing to do with his inner love for you. It is all because you have blessed him.” I assert that the whole thrust or idea behind the book of Job is a teaching that we should love God whether or not we are blessed. If you read the speeches that Job made, that is certainly the point he was making.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is still a very valid point today. I know that a lot of people are in the world who when things are going great, they bless God and praise God. They read their Bible, they pray, go to church, but let things turn sour and they begin to have a hard time paying their bills, the marriage is not going well, work is not going well, the car is breaking down, then all of a sudden, they stop going to church, stop praying, and no Bible studying. They get mad at God. They get huffy in their hearts and pull away from God. A point is there to the opening chapters of Job (an allegory), and I should also say that we have a book called Don’t Blame God. It goes into Job in much more detail than I am going to be able to go into here in this teaching. The point of the book of Job is that whether things are going well for you or whether things are not going well for you, your attitude and your love and your worship for God should be the same because He is God, and He has not changed. If that was true in the Old Testament when people actually thought that God caused harm, then how much more true it should be today for us that can see the Old Testament through the “eyes” of the New Testament.
What I would like to do is show you from Scripture that Jesus Christ revealed the Father in a different light. I want to repeat again that the teaching that God is in control of the world and the teaching that God is behind evil and that God gives permission to the Devil to do evil all comes from the Old Testament. It is very important to understand this. It is not a New Testament teaching and cannot be substantiated from the New Testament.
Why is it important to know that?
John 1:17 and 18 (KJV)
(17) For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
(18) No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [revealed, made him known] him.
What a tremendous truth. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. I read these verses, and I get excited. The truth came through Jesus Christ because anybody who knows me knows that I specialize in the Old Testament, and I taught Old Testament history at the college level for years, and I just love the Old Testament—to think that the Law of Moses is not truth?! Joshua, Judges, The Psalms of David, the writings of the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are these not truth? Well, they are truth, but a limit is there as to what they reveal. A limit is there that is so extreme that the Bible says that the truth came through Jesus Christ. In the context, it tells us what that truth is.
[Jesus Christ] who is at the Father’s side, has made him known
Jesus Christ revealed God in a way that the Old Testament never revealed God. The Old Testament revealed a God who was in charge of everything. God was in charge of good and God was in charge of bad. You see, the Devil was not revealed in the Old Testament. In fact, it is intriguing that many historians will make the case that the Devil was not really real; he was a late invention. If you want to see that for yourself, you can go to most encyclopedias and read articles on the Devil, and it will say, “Read the Old Testament. The Devil is not there. He is a late invention.” No, the Devil is not a late invention; he has been around a long time.
The Devil was hidden in the Old Testament because to fight the Devil, you need spiritual power. Swords, guns, knives, and whatever, do not scare the Devil at all. You can have the biggest canon on the planet. The Devil is completely unafraid. The Devil needs to be fought with spirit power, and Jesus Christ opened the way for all of God’s people to have that spirit power by way of the gift of holy spirit.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
With holy spirit, we wrestle on a spiritual level:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil. Why do we? We do because we now have holy spirit power, and Jesus Christ said that in Acts 1. This is what Jesus Christ told to his apostles and his disciples just before his ascension.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
That holy spirit power is what allows us to wrestle against spiritual forces. Now, I would challenge you to go back in the Old Testament and try to find any verse that talks about wrestling with spirits? No, you cannot find any verse like that. Can you find any verse where the people of God are told that you are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but you are wrestling against spiritual powers? No, in fact, they were told that they were wrestling against flesh and blood, over and over again. “Go get the Canaanites, the Gebeathites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Jebusites and the Amorites, and go wipe them out.” In the Old Testament, they were specifically told that they were wrestling against flesh and blood. Now in the New Testament, we have holy spirit power that will help us to wrestle against the Devil. Now that we have been empowered in that way, God can reveal the Devil. That is why Jesus Christ revealed the truth about the Devil. When he revealed the truth about the Devil, he also revealed the truth about God. For the first time, Jesus Christ could say, “You know those records about God doing this and God doing that, and God sending snakes and God hardening hearts? God did not do any of that. The Devil did that.” Jesus Christ brought truth about who God is. Jesus Christ revealed the Father and His love and His goodness. In order to do that, he contrasted it with the evil of the Devil. Jesus Christ equipped his disciples to fight the Adversary.
The seventy-two returned with joy…
Jesus Christ had sent out the 72 to heal the sick and to cleanse the leapers and preach the gospel of the kingdom, and they returned with joy.
Luke 10:17 and 18
(17) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
(18) He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
I love verse 23.
Luke 10:23 and 24
(23) Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
(24) For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Many prophets and kings wanted to know what you know now, and they did not. I will show you an example of one, but many other examples can be found. In 1 King 17:17 is the record of Elijah the prophet. Elijah was the one who walked into King Ahab and said, “It is not going to rain or have dew until I say so.” No rain or dew occurred for over three years. Of course, the food supply in Israel dried up. Elijah had to go up to what we know now as Lebanon, and live with a widow woman. This widow woman was very kind and gracious and opened her house to Elijah. She allowed him to stay there and hide from the authorities.
1 Kings 17:17-20
(17) Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.
(18) She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
(19) “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.
(20) Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”
Elijah was confused. He was hurt. He was mentally tormented. He understood that a consequence was going to happen against Israel for their sin, although that consequence was connected to the Adversary and the worship of the Adversary in Israel. It did not make any sense that a tragedy should occur in this household. This was the woman that was protecting him. This was the woman that was taking care of him. This was the woman who had offered him a meal when she knew that it was her and her son’s last meal. It made no sense that God would kill this little boy, and Elijah is tormented about it. Do you not think that he wanted to know why would you do this LORD? How can you allow this to happen?
Jesus Christ is here in Luke 10, and he explains about the Devil, God, and the two kingdoms.
Luke 10:23 and 24
(23) Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
(24) For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Absolutely, a lot of people in the Old Testament would have loved to have known what Jesus Christ revealed. When it comes to building our theology, we have to pay attention to the whole Word of God. Let us not go back and build our theology on Old Testament Scriptures. Let us not go back and build our theology from Scriptures before the truth was revealed. The Bible tells us very clearly that “the truth came with Jesus Christ.” If we start in Matthew and build our theology based on what the New Testament revealed, what does our theology say? Our theology says that God is love, and it says that two kingdoms exist. One is God’s kingdom, and the other is the Devil’s kingdom. It also says that those two kingdoms are at war. It says that the Adversary, the Devil:
1) controls the world 1 John 5:19
2) holds the power of death—Hebrews 2:14
3) death is an enemy—1 Corinthians 15:26
4) Jesus Christ came to destroy him—Acts 10:38
5) is a roaring lion walking about seeking whom he may devour—1 Peter 5:8
We can build this theology that then allows us to make sense of the role of the Devil. Jesus Christ is here teaching that the truth will set you free. As I read about the woman in the paper that was raped, I then understand that someone that was evil did that. Somebody who was working for the Devil or motivated by a demon did that. When I run these newsreels through my mind about the World Trade Center and the planes flying into the side of them and they collapse, I am not tormented by my thoughts thinking, “Gosh, God, why would you do that?” No, I am not thinking that because I know that He did not do that. I know that Romans 8:28 is right that God is always working for good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
Absolutely, He is always working for good! He did not do that because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. God is love, but we have an enemy, an adversary, the Devil, who we have to fight. That is one of the reasons why we need to pray because prayer is one of the things that we can do to engage in the fight, in the spiritual battle. We can pray against the Adversary. Other verses are there in the Bible that can help us and show us some of the things that we need to do.
To summarize this, we have just finished the theological “arm” of this teaching about who is in control of good and evil, and what does the Bible say about it. What we have seen from reading in the New Testament is that God is love and the Devil is evil, and the Devil is in control of this fallen world.
Now we will move on to the second “arm” of this teaching.
What do we do about God being love, and the Devil being the evil one and in control?
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Now, we will begin to formulate from the Word of God, “What does the Bible say to do with these situations?” What we are going to see as we begin to study the Word of God is that the Word of God says that we are to move powerfully against evil people so that our world can be protected. Some people have said, “But wait a minute. It says here that we are supposed to overcome evil with good, so does that not mean forgiveness and forgive and forget, that type of thing. Is that not what that means?” I would assert that is not what it means when it says to overcome evil with good.
What is good? Good is taking the commands of God and the ways of God and enforcing them in the world. That is what good is.
The terrorist attacks and what to do about world-wide terrorism can be very complex, so let us see if we can understand this on a micro level, so to speak. Once we understand how we overcome evil with good then it is easier to apply it in the world. Let us say that you go to visit your child at school. It is recess. Your child is in a lower grade like kindergarten. You and the teacher are standing and watching the children play on the playground, and your kindergartener is playing in the sandbox. A big third grader is also there. The third grader takes the kindergartener and shoves him down in the sand and throws sand on him. The kindergartener starts to cry and get up. The third grader then pushes him down again and throws more sand on him. The kindergartener is still trying to get up and is crying, and the third grader grabs him and throws him down in the sand again and throws even more sand on him.
Now you have the picture, right?
Now let us talk about overcoming evil with good. The way that you are going to overcome evil with good, if you are that teacher, is to walk over to the third grader and take him by his arm and make him do a “time out” along with a lecture, and maybe even a note to his parents. You do not overcome evil with good by allowing evil to continue. You do not overcome evil with good by ignoring it. You do not overcome evil with good by walking over and helping the kindergartener up and then walk away and not say anything to the third grader. You overcome evil with good by doing what is good. To accomplish good, it takes action against the evil. When we think about how we have the kindergartener and the third grader in the sandbox, how then do we overcome evil with good when it comes to the rapes that occurred last night?
Well, we find the man, and we arrest him. Now, I would prefer a death penalty according to biblical law—by the way, if you want to study the death penalty, we have a booklet that we posted online called The Death Penalty: Godly or Ungodly. It talks about the death penalty from the stand point of the Bible. We do not overcome evil with good by letting evil go or letting evil continue. You overcome evil with good by taking the forces of good and literally overcoming them. This is what the Bible says to do.
Very early on in Scripture God was telling people how to take control of their society.
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
It is our responsibility as a society to overcome evil with good by doing good against evil. It is not good to simply forgive or just ignore the evil that is happening. Why? Because the evil will continue. If the teacher watches the child pushing the little kid down in the sand and throwing sand on him and does nothing, he will continue to do it. If you do not stand against evil, it will continue.
In Genesis 9 it says that if someone “sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” We might say that we do not want to do it, but I assure you that God will not take back the path that He has give to us just because we do not want to do it. He will insist that we do it.
God continues with this vane in Exodus 21:12. This is specifically talking about murderers although if you read the whole law it covers many different situations.
Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.
That is as simple as it is. It does not say that if anyone kills a man, I, God, will put him to death. It says, “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.” That is the job of society, and actually, we know that. If God were putting murderers to death, then you would find every murderer dead next to the person they had just murdered. Absolutely, God knows the murder is happening. He is not blind. Sure, some murderer would mug and shoot some guy in an alley, and then the murderer would fall over dead. The police would show up and two dead bodies would be there—the body of the one who was murdered and the body of the murderer. God is not killing murderers. God is not killing rapists. God is not judging criminals in the world. God expects us to do that.
I encourage you to read Romans 12 and 13. It is about the civil authorities and their responsibilities and what they are supposed to do.
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
I have some personal experience with this. If I am driving down the road and I am doing the speed limit and I see a policeman on the side of the road with his radar gun, I just go driving by him and do not have a second thought about it. If I am pushing the accelerator a little bit and going 43 in a 35 zone and I pass a policeman, my heart thumps and I slow down. What is going on with this? What is happening is exactly what verse three says, “Rulers do not hold terror for those who do right but for those who do wrong.” When I am doing right, my heart does not thump. When I am doing wrong, terror will be there. If you want to be free of fear from the one in authority then do what is right. I know that. If I am not speeding, I have no fear
Romans 13:3 and 4
(3) Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
(4) For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
I want to apply that to the terrorist situation. The civil authority, in this case, the police and military, are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. That is what the Bible says. That is the way that it has to be. We can pray for God to judge the wrong doers, but I assure you that He has given us the job to do just like it says here in the Bible. If we do not take the responsibility and do it, it is not going to get done. If we do not have a police force that finds and prosecutes murderers, they will not get prosecuted. We know that is true because corrupt societies exist where all kinds of evil are perpetrated because no one is there who is good enough to actually do good.
I have heard people say to me, “Well, John I do not understand. What about the biblical admonition to turn the other cheek when somebody does something to you? Does the Bible not say to turn the other cheek?” Let’s look at that.
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.
It is important that we understand that this was a biblical custom. When the Bible talks about turning the other cheek, it does not mean at all anything about aggression against your body, state, nation, or society. In the Bible, slapping someone on the cheek was an insult. That is all that it was. This is very important for you to understand this. It was not that somebody walked up to a stranger and just gave them a punch in the face and knocked them to the sidewalk. That is not what is happening here in this verse. In the biblical culture, striking somebody on the cheek was a slap on the face that left the person burning and stinging. It was an insult, but it did not do any damage. I think for example, if you had been reading in the newspapers and have seen the pictures in Pakistan and in the Palestinian controlled areas of Israel, where people are burning American flags – that is an insult. We are not doing anything about that. We get insulted all the time as the United States of America, and we do nothing. That is a proper biblical response. In the Bible, when somebody slaps you on the face, it was an insult. Good evidence can be found within Scripture to show this.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
Now why is he filled with disgrace when somebody slaps his cheek? It is because he was insulted. Let’s look at Job. Job was a contemporary with Abraham. Job is one of the older books of the Bible and has more on the slapping of the face. The reason that I want to cover this in such depth is because people do get confused. Remember that Christ said “the truth would set you free.” Just like the truth will set you free, being confused and not knowing what to do and not knowing the will of God is enslaving. It is so difficult when you say, “God if I just knew your will, I would do it. You just have to reveal your will to me, and I would do it.” People are out there who are stuck and cannot move forward in their life. They cannot say, “Yes, I support the government moving and doing something about this terrorism. Yes, I support the death penalty for a murderer. Yes, I support doing what it takes to overcome evil with good and clean up society so that our streets and houses are safe.” They cannot do that with their whole heart because they are concerned about this “turning the other cheek and where the boundaries are.” If we get these things straightened up, then you will become single minded.
Remember that James said, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways,” but when you are convinced in your mind about what the Word of God is really saying, then you can move forward with power. Remember Job had lost all his wealth, health, children, and even his friends were now speaking against him.
Men open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me.
They were slapping Job on the cheek. They were insulting him. They were not knocking him to the ground and beating him up and mugging him. They were insulting him. Remember, he had been rich and powerful. Now, he had lost all of his wealth, and he had lost his health. In those times when you are down, people can be found who are willing to come around and give you a good kick. These people would come up and insult Job and strike his cheek.
Let’s look at one more here because I want you to see clearly from the Word of God that when the Bible says, “Turn the other cheek,” it is like saying if somebody insults you. If you are walking down the street, and somebody from the other side recognizes you and calls you a dirty name, do not go charging across the street and start a big fist fight. Just ignore it. That is what Christ is teaching us to do.
I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
He did not hide his face. He was being insulted because of his stand on the Word of God, but he did not hide his face from mocking and spitting. That is what it means when it says, “Turn the other cheek.”
We need to read the Word of God and think clearly about it. For those that would try to apply the admonition of “turn the other cheek” in criminal aggression, you would have to think through the fact that what you would actually be saying is that there is no penalty for the aggression at all. If Christ would say, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” Now imagine what they are saying, “If someone steals your car, let him steal your other car. If someone rapes your daughter, well, let him rape her again.” You see, the people who are advocating, “Well, we should let these people go because the Bible says ‘turn the other cheek,’” need to realize that if you apply it as Christ stated it, that if somebody does something bad to you, let him do it again; then no consequence at all would be there for evil. No jail terms would occur. No community service or fines or anything would occur. That is why it is so important to understand what Christ said in its biblical context.
I want to point out one more thing that has come up in association with going to war and in protecting our society.
In Matthew 26:52 the authorities were coming to arrest Jesus Christ, and Peter trying to protect Christ grabbed his sword, and he cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear. The servant of the high priest was named Malchus. Peter in his zeal just grabs his sword and cuts off Malchus’ ear. Bless God, Jesus Christ had grace and mercy and healed Malchus, or Peter would have found himself in a lot of trouble.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
I can just see Christ being pretty annoyed at Peter. “Peter, what are you doing? Put your sword back. All who draw the sword will die by the sword.” I have heard that used by people who say, “The policemen or soldiers will die by the sword or suffer the consequences.” What we need to understand is that what Christ is talking about here is self-willed aggression in an unlawful circumstance. What do I mean by this; what is going on here? To get an understanding of this let’s look at Luke.
Luke 22:7 and 8
(7) Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
(8) Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
If you read the context you find out that this is the Last Supper. What does Jesus Christ say in the Last Supper?
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
At the Last Supper, Christ says, “If you do not have a sword, go buy one.” He said that because he knew that he would die, and he thought that things would get pretty dicey, and the disciples might need to protect themselves in self defense. Christ then tells them to go buy a sword. Let us say it is six or seven o’clock at night, and he is arrested at midnight. Is Jesus going to tell somebody at six o’clock in the evening to go buy a sword and then at midnight tell them if they use it that they will die by it? No, what is Christ saying when he told Peter that “they that take the sword would die by the sword”? The circumstance is self-willed aggression. The authorities who came to arrest Christ were representing the state. They may have been wrong, but they had the authority to arrest Christ. Just like if you are driving down the road, and the policeman thinks that you are speeding, and you are not. When he pulls you over, you do not get out and beat him up because he made a mistake. Self-willed aggression is not allowed, and that is why Christ said, “If you take the sword, you die by the sword,” in this situation of self-willed aggression. It also could mean, by the way, that you die by the sword because you would be arrested for your self-willed aggression, which would have happened to Peter had Malchus’ ear not been healed, and had Peter been executed.
What we have seen from Scripture is that the Devil is in control of this fallen world and when we look at the world we see death, carnage, pain, and hurt. It should come up for us that “yes, the Devil is in control, and God is trying to help and bless and heal.” God is doing His best to absolutely make sure people are blessed in this life, and we need to stand for God and work hard to overcome evil with good, and stand against the works of the Devil. Ladies and gentlemen, let us overcome evil by being agents of good. Let us pray. Let us support our government. Let us not let criminals get away with their evil actions because when we stand firm against criminals the rest of society is safe also.
As we pray together for the success and the unity of our country, may God bless us all.