Life As a Vapor: Thirty-one Meditations for Your FaithLife As a Vapor: Thirty-one Meditations for Your Faith
John Piper
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The apostle James tells us that we are like vapors---clouds that appear for a time and then vanish. But as Christians, we have hold of something that will stand forever. Best-selling author Piper offers 31 meditations that express a heart-longing for Christ---our anchor through all our moments and days. 192 pages, hardcover from Multnomah.
     

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Fourteen

Why Satan Is Left on Earth
Incentives to Battle for Joy in Jesus

    Part of the problem of evil is the problem of why Satan is given so much freedom to harm the world, when God has the right and power to throw him in the pit. God will one day do away with Satan altogether (Revelation 20:3, 10). That will be no injustice to Satan. Nor would it be unjust for God to do it today. So why doesn't He, in view of how much misery Satan causes?

    Satan roams around like a devouring lion seeking to destroy faith (1 Peter 5:8); he makes people sick and diseased (Acts 10:38); he tempts to sin (Luke 22:3–4); he blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4); he takes people captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26); he kills (Revelation 2:10). One day God will stop him from doing this. Why doesn't He stop him now?
    Could it be that there is a chance the devil and his angels will repent? Is God giving them time? No. The Bible teaches they are irredeemable. Jesus said that "the eternal fire...has been prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Jude confirms this when he says that the fallen angels are being "kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6).

    Why then does God tolerate Satan? The key is that God aims to defeat Satan in a way that glorifies not only His power, but also by the superior beauty and worth and desirability of His Son over Satan. God could simply exert raw power and snuff Satan out. That would glorify God's power. But it would not display so clearly the superior worth of Jesus over Satan. That will be displayed as Christ defeats Satan by His death and then by winning allegiance from the saints because of His superior truth and beauty above the ugliness and lies of Satan.
    Central to this plan is that God defeats Satan in stages through the work of Christ. First, we were forgiven all our trespasses by Christ's death on the cross. Paul said that in doing this God "disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:15).

    This was the first stage of Satan's defeat. The lethal weapon of soul-destroying sin and guilt is taken out of Satan's hand. He is disarmed of the single weapon that can condemn us—unforgiven sin. We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:55–57, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." What makes the sting of death powerful, that is, eternally lethal, is sin. The law sees to it that sin gets a just condemnation: eternal judgment. That is Satan's weapon: unforgiven sin, reinforced by the sanctions of the law. But if our sins could be forgiven, Satan could not condemn us. And, indeed, they are forgiven through faith in God's grace bought by the blood of Jesus.
    Without sin and law to condemn us, Satan is a defeated foe. He is disarmed. Christ has triumphed over him, not yet by casting him into hell and nullifying his influence on earth, but by letting him live and watch while millions of saints find forgiveness for their sins and turn their back on Satan because of the greater glory of Christ.

    That is the second stage of defeat: not only what happened on the cross for sinners, but what happens in the hearts of those who are saved—the conversion of people by the power of the gospel of the cross. Jesus says to Paul that his mission to the Gentiles is "to open their eyes, so that they may turn from...the power of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). This is what happens when God removes the blindness caused by the devil and gives us the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4–6). This enables people to see the ugliness of Satan and the beauty of Christ, so that their choosing Christ glorifies not only God's power, but Christ's superior beauty and worth over Satan.

    This way of defeating Satan is more costly than just snuffing him out. Christ suffered for this triumph and the world suffers. But God's values are not so easily reckoned. If Christ obliterated all demons now (which He could do), His sheer power would be seen as glorious, but His superior beauty and worth would not shine so brightly as when God's people renounce the promises of Satan, trust in Christ's blood and righteousness, and take pleasure in the greater glory of Jesus over Satan.
    This means that our treasuring Christ above all the promises of sin and Satan is part of the triumph that God designs for this age. Therefore, take up arms and defeat the devil by being bold and glad in the superior glory of the Son of God! I do not say it is easy. It is very costly. The path of love that leads from the cross of Christ to the glory of Christ is a road of sacrifice. Christ's superior beauty over Satan and sin is seen best when we are willing to suffer because we have tasted it and want to share it. One of the greatest blows against the power of darkness comes from the blood of martyrs. "They have conquered him [Satan!] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death."

O Lord, Your ways are not our ways,

and Your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Yours are unsearchable and often baffling to our finite minds.

You have chosen to give Satan freedom to do great damage,

when it would be no injustice to him to destroy him now.

We bow before Your wisdom. We embrace

with Jesus the cross that saves our souls

and sends us into battle with faith

in the superior beauty and worth of Christ.

Go with us. Help us.

In His great name,

Amen.


 
Excerpted from Life as a Vapor (c) 2004 by Desiring God Foundation. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.