James 4:7 (NKJV)

7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Some years ago, I read biographies of three men who were instrumental in the foundation of monasticism: The Life of Antony written by the early church father Athanasius as well as the lives of Paul of Thebes and of Hilarion by another early church father Jerome. For all their faults, one thing shines bright and clear in the lives of these three men: they knew they were at war with the devil. They knew that Satan was out to destroy them, out to undermine virtue, out to corrupt and taint and distort whatever vestiges of righteousness he could find. And not only did these saints know they were at war – they knew which side they were on and fought zealously for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today in our sermon we consider the devil’s assault upon the saints. I fear that we are often complacent in this war with the devil; these men were not. Read The Life of Antony – here was a man who hungered and thirsted for righteousness. Read The Life of Paul of Thebes – here was a man who sought first the kingdom of God. Read The Life of Hilarion – here was a man who panted for the Triune God and for streams of living water. Years and years they wrestled and strove and fought. Why? To overcome sin and in so doing to overcome all the wiles of the devil. For all their faults, and there are many, they understood that the stakes were high; they understood that the war with the devil was raging constantly; they understood that vigilance was imperative. 

But what of us? I fear that we often fail to perceive the seriousness of our situation. Brothers and sisters, we are at war. The devil would like to destroy us. He would like to see us complacent and corrupted. Do you see it? When you are tempted to belittle your wife – that’s the battle. When you are tempted to be bitter toward your husband – that’s the battle. When you are tempted to yell at your kids – that’s the battle. When you are tempted to disrespect your parents – that’s the battle. When you are tempted to despise your sibling – that’s the battle. A war is raging and many of us are playing with tinker toys in the corner. A war is raging and many of us are cozying up to the enemy. A war is raging and many of us are consumed with our happiness rather than passionate about our holiness.

So listen – let us get to war. Let us put to death our selfishness, our greed, our bitterness, our lust, our covetousness, our idolatry, our anger, our spite. Let us heed the exhortation of James – Submit to God, resist the devil. And then listen to the promise of God: and he, the devil, will flee from you. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. So the Apostle John writes in his first epistle, “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (2:13). You have overcome the evil one. So have you?

Reminded that we are in a war and that many of us are playing with paper dolls rather than striving against the lies and temptations of the devil, let us confess our sin to God. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able.