“Seeing is believing” is an old and often used saying that is believed to have originated from 17th century English clergyman, Thomas Fuller, but that is not the full quote. The full quote is “Seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth”.  Some interpret this to mean that believing and truth are two very separate matters altogether. Unfortunately, this is a quote without context. If Thomas Fuller elaborated on its meaning, I can’t find it. While the first part of the quote is pretty straight forward, the last part is abstract. Feelings are almost impossible to quantify or trust completely, so just having a feeling about something doesn’t necessarily make it true. However, some of our faith and relationship with God in Christ is an experience, so there are feelings associated with it. But our faith is primarily based on the “truth” of God’s word and what God has made, His creation.

While creation or what has been made by God provides visual evidence of God’s existence (Romans 1:20), there are still obstacles as we struggle with feelings, doubts, and unbelief. So much of our faith journey and what we “experience” in life like love for example goes beyond the physical world. Even science can’t fix this problem or explain everything. Max Plank, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who developed Quantum Theory, said this: “Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science, are written these words: ‘Ye must have faith.’”

29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 NIV

Even those who had seen Jesus or experienced God’s power firsthand struggled to believe beyond a shadow or hint of doubt. In some cases, they found it hard to believe what they were actually seeing God do right in front of them. As we’ve discovered, even fear can play a huge role in our ability to believe. Of course, the greatest threat to our beliefs comes from within, what we’re willing to believe or accept, but a close second comes from others. And by “others” I don’t just mean other humans.

Adam, Eve, and those who followed Jesus had a unique privilege of communing with God in a way that very few get to experience. It all started with Adam and Eve. They talked to God audibly and had conversations. There was a tangible relationship. I’m not sure what physical form God inhabited but it was clear that He was physically present in their reality. He walked among them, told them to name the animals, take care of the garden, reproduce, etc. There didn’t seem to be any confusion, doubts, disbelief, or communication breakdowns until after they were told they couldn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At the time there was only one thing they couldn’t do, only one thing that was forbidden according to what we read in Genesis.

16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 NIV

Pretty straight forward, right? Can He make it any clearer than this? There is no messenger or middleman. God gives this command in person. He is speaking directly to Adam and Eve. They are told exactly what will happen. If they eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, they will die. Of course, their physical death would take time, but a kind of spiritual death would be immediate. Things like purity and innocence would be lost forever, and their relationship with God would never be the same.

For Adam and Eve, the truth of God’s command seems to be understood and undisputed until God’s truth and commands are challenged and questioned by “an-other” This “other” is who we are mainly going to talk about today.

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 NIV

For those who aren’t familiar, this serpent represents satan, lucifer, or the devil. Satan is in fact a fallen angel, an archangel like Michael or Gabriel that we read about in the Bible. We don’t have an exact account or timeline of lucifers downfall and expulsion from heaven except for what is recorded in passages like Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, and Revelation 12. While the passages from Ezekiel and Isaiah are difficult to navigate because it seems the devil’s story is intertwined with earthly kings who appear to be under the influence of “another” someone, we do get some idea of why he was expelled from heaven. In addition we get a huge clue into his identity from Ezekiel 28:13 when it says, “You were in Eden, the garden of God.” Since these earthly kings could not possibly have existed in Eden or the Garden of God, we can therefore assume that this is referring to the serpent or the devil. Revelation 12:9 also refers to the devil or Satan as a “great dragon” and “that ancient serpent” who “leads the whole world astray”.

Hey Robby, are you trying to scare us to death?! No, but the amount of coverage the devil gets from Genesis to Revelation in the Bible is considerable so we shouldn’t ignore him. He is mentioned in all four Gospels and by the Apostle Paul. Jesus had several direct encounters not only with the devil, but demons as well, so he can’t be easily dismissed, even though many do.

The Hebrew term Satan (Hebrew: שָׂטָן) is a generic noun meaning “accuser” or adversary” and is derived from a verb meaning primarily “to obstruct, oppose”. 1 Peter 5:8 tells to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” In John 10:10 it says “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy”. While it’s impossible to understand or explain why God allows him to prowl around or roam throughout the earth (Job 1:7) wreaking havoc, it is clear from scripture that he does exist and he is a legitimate threat.

The devil’s primary method of “obstruction” or adversarial role is spiritual and/or psychological. However, in Job’s case it was physical against his family. Jesus, the disciples, and Paul cast out demons on several occasions. But Satan’s main objective is to destroy our faith and relationship with God. His favorite tools of destruction include lies, deception, misdirection, accusations, temptation, etc. He used deception successfully in the Genesis 3 challenging the truth of God’s commands to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3:1 he asks Eve, “Did God really say that?” This simple but effective challenge of God’s command is used to plant small seeds of doubt and confusion in Eve’s mind that led to disaster. In Luke 22:31 Jesus tells Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Unfortunately, Peter is unable to resist Satan’s first attack or temptation to disown Jesus. But through Jesus’ preemptive prayer Peter is able to “turn back” or rebound from this failure. He is eventually restored to faith so he can “strengthen his brothers”.

Jesus faced off against the devil in Matthew 4 where He is tempted and tested in the wilderness. Just like with Adam and Eve, Satan twists the meaning of what “is written” or what God has said in His word to influence or persuade Jesus to do things that were not a part of God’s will, even promising Jesus the world if He would just bow down and worship him.

This is spiritual warfare. An ongoing never-ending battle for the soul, mind, and body. According to Paul in Ephesians 6:12 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. This threat according to Paul is literal not metaphorical. When he speaks of spiritual forces in heavenly realms, he’s talking about Satan and demons of which he has witnessed firsthand in Acts16:16-18. Therefore, he tells us in verse 13 to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…” which is followed by a detailed description of our defensive armaments and a powerful offensive weapon, the word of God or “sword of the spirit”, which Jesus shows us how to use in Matthew 4.

Fortunately, the devil has no power over us accept what we give him. James tells us to “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The devil is not God. He is limited to only what God allows. He is not omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), or omnipresent (everywhere at the same time) like God. God has given us everything we need to stand against him, so we need to take courage and comfort in that.

While the devil continues to be a significant threat to our ability to believe, he is not the only “other” that we need to prepare for. Besides playing a huge role in our own willful disobedience to God like Adam and Eve, there are other “others” that can get us off track. When Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world”, he’s talking about human behavioral patterns, ideologies, customs, mores, peer pressure, etc. The pressure to conform to the world or ungodliness is nothing new. It’s been a part of the devil’s strategy from the beginning. He’s still active and having a field day with our current culture. Personally, I think this may be the most difficult time in history to hold on to an authentic Biblical faith because of the sheer magnitude of information or misinformation that is available. More on that next week as we close out this series.

Have a great weekend! Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC