************ Sermon on 1 John 3:8b ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 22, 2019

1 John 3:7-10
1 John 3:8b
"Jesus Came to Destroy the Devil's Work"

Why did Jesus come? John uses the word "appear." Why did Jesus appear? What was the divine purpose for Christmas? We looked at one answer last week. John tells us Jesus appeared "so that he might take away our sins" (1 Jn 3:5). By sin John means lawlessness, rebellion. To say Jesus takes away sin, then, means Jesus sanctifies us; He makes us holy and pure. Jesus came to separate us from all the sins in our life. One of my commentaries mentions the story of little Judy.
Little Judy was riding in the car with her father. She decided to stand up. Her father commanded her to sit down and put on the seat belt, but she refused. He told her a second time, and she refused again. "If you don't sit down immediately, I will pull over to the side of the road and spank you." This time the little girl obeyed. But in a few minutes she quietly said, "Daddy, I am still standing up inside."
Lawlessness! Rebellion. On the outside she looked obedient but on the inside there was rebellion. Jesus came to put an end to that. Jesus came at Christmas so we would be holy and pure just like Him.

Why did Jesus come? John tells us another reason today. "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). The reason for Christmas was to destroy the devil's work.

I The Devil
A The existence of the devil is like the existence of God: many people don't believe he is real, that this is an old-fashioned idea, a relic of the medieval world, a belief that comes from pre-scientific times. So they dismiss belief in the devil just like we dismiss stories about Bigfoot. This is nothing new. In Jesus' day the Sadducees did not accept the existence of the devil. The Lord Jesus sternly rebuked them, saying, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Mt 22:29).

John accepts the reality of the devil. He doesn't question or doubt or deny his existence.

B "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). The reason for Christmas was to destroy the devil's work. Who is the devil? What do we know about him? Let's start with his many different names. His personal name, "Satan," means "adversary, enemy." This name indicates Satan’s basic nature: he is the enemy of God, of all God does, and of all God loves. His chief activity is to oppose Christ, the church, and the Gospel.

He is also called "the devil." The word "devil" means "false accuser, slanderer." Satan plays this role in Job 1-2 when he attacks Job’s righteous character.

In Matthew 12:24, the Jews refer to Satan as "Beelzebul," a false god of the Philistines (2 Kings 1:2-3, 6).

In Revelation 9:11, he is called Abaddon or Apollyon -- which means destroyer.

In Revelation 12:9, Satan is the "great dragon ... that ancient serpent" -- obviously, a reference to the serpent who deceived Eve (Gen 3:1).

Other titles of Satan include the tempter (1 Thess 3:5), the wicked one (Matt 13:19, 38), and the accuser of the brothers (Rev 12:10).

He also has three titles that point to his authority in this world: the prince of this world (John 12:31), the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4), and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph 2:2).

C We know Satan was made as one of God's angels. He was one of the highest angels, placed by God over the earth and over the other angels. But then he rebelled against God. Why? What happened? Instead of serving God and praising Him forever, Satan desired to rule over heaven and earth in the place of God. He wanted supreme authority. Isaiah 14:13-14 records his five "I wills":
I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.
(Cf Ezek 28:17)
Pride, jealousy. Wanting to take God's place. Wanting to be God. That's what we see.

Satan got one third of God's angels to side with him and revolt against God. Satan was defeated and was cast down to the earth (Isaiah 14:12; Ezek 28:16-17).

But don't think Satan is weak and powerless. He is dangerous. Jesus, in the parable of the four soils, likens Satan to the birds that snatch the seed off the hardened ground (Matt 13:4, 19). In another parable, Satan appears as the sower of weeds among the wheat (Matt 13:25, 28). Satan is compared to a wolf in John 10:12 and a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8. Second Corinthians 11:14 says Satan masquerades as "an angel of light," a description that highlights his capacity and inclination to deceive.

D "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). The reason for Christmas was to destroy the devil's work. What is the devil's work? His first and primary work is sin. In our Bible reading we are told "the devil has been sinning from the beginning" (1 Jn 3:8). Remember what sin is? Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4). Sin is rebellion. Sin is disobedience.

John loves to use contrasts. He contrasts Satan to Jesus. Jesus has no sin (1 Jn 3:5); the devil can do nothing but sin. Satan is a rebel but Jesus is the obedient Son of God -- obedient to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Christ is God, but was willing to be a servant; Satan was a servant, but wanted to be God.

One of the clearest and most concise descriptions of the devil's work is found in John 8:44. There Jesus confronts the Pharisees:
(Jn 8:44) You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
According to Jesus, the works of the devil include murder and lying. He works to see people destroyed and go to hell. And he deceives them about the truth. These works of the devil show up in the Garden of Eden, where Satan deceived Eve and led her into disobedience. They show up again in the sad, sad story of Cain and Abel. So John can warn us,
(1 Jn 3:12) Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous.

Those who are of this world suffer under the works of the devil. Listen to how Paul describes this:
(Eph 2:1-3) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
The devil works to bring death. So that there is nothing good in us. So that we don't seek God. So that our mouths are full of cursing and bitterness and our feet are swift to shed blood. So that there is no fear of God before our eyes. Dead people are unable. Unwilling. Theirs is a total inability and unwillingness to seek God, Christ, the Gospel, the church, goodness, love, purity.

The works of the devil affect humanity morally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Morally, the devil entices people to sin, making evil seem appealing so that people choose evil over obedience to God (James 1:14). Physically, the devil can inflict disease, and he seeks to use physical trials to cause people to curse God (Job 2:4-5; Luke 13:11). Intellectually, the devil seduces people into error, teaching false doctrines (1 Tim 4:1); he casts doubt and keeps unbelievers intellectually blind to spiritual truth and the gospel (2 Cor 4:3-4). Spiritually, he takes every opportunity to snatch away the Word of God sown in a person’s heart (Matt 13:19).

The devil attacks believers too (Luke 22:31-32). He wants to keep us from following Christ so we don't bring glory to God and further God's purposes and plans. If Satan can cause our love for Christ to cool (Rev 2:4) or cause us to stop loving each other (John 13:34-35), then we lose our testimony before the world and displease our heavenly Father. If Satan can entice us into addictions such as entertainment, sex, porn, or alcohol, then he entraps us in bondage to sin so that we cannot commune with God.

To sum up, the works of the devil are to counter the work of God. As a murderer, Satan works against God, who is Life. As a liar, Satan works against God, who is Truth. In the lives of unbelievers, the work of the devil is to keep them from coming to saving faith in Christ, with the result that they experience the second death (Rev 20:14-15). In the lives of believers, the work of the devil is to tempt them to sin and thus blunt their effectiveness for Christ in this world.

Behind every sin, behind every opposition to the Word of God, behind every evil thought, behind every unkind word we are to see the hand of Satan. Even in the church we are not to be blind to the work of the devil.

The devil is not someone we can ignore. His presence we cannot deny. His work we cannot avoid. He is real. He is dangerous. So Peter says,
(1 Pet 5:8) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
You need to arm yourself against the devil. Says Paul,
(Eph 6:11) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Resist the devil so he will flee from you (James 4:7).

II The Son of God
A "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). The reason for Christmas was to destroy the devil's work. John uses the word "appear" to describe the coming of Jesus. This word is used often and it can refer to either the first or second coming of the Lord. It refers to a physical, seeable, describable appearance. On Christmas Day, Jesus appeared. On the Judgment Day, Jesus will appear again.

B "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). The Son of God appeared. The eternal Son of God. Which means Satan tried to take Jesus' place. Which means Jesus was there, in heaven, when Satan rebelled. Jesus was there, in heaven, when Satan was cast down to the earth. Jesus knows who Satan is. Jesus knows what Satan does. Jesus is fully aware of Satan's work and strategies and cunning and deceit.

C "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). Destroy. Annihilate, wipe out, decimate, eliminate, eradicate, extinguish. But not yet, not in this life, because we all know and experience that Satan is still at work today. He is still alive. But he is not well. He is on his last legs. He is making his last stand. His power has been reduced. His weapons have been impaired. He is still a mighty foe, but he is no match for the power of God.
For many months and even years after the end of World War II, Japanese troops were discovered hiding in the caves and jungles of the Pacific islands. Though the war was over they kept on fighting.
That's a picture of Satan. The war is over. Satan is a defeated enemy. He may still win a few battles here and there, but he has already lost the war.

Jesus compares this world to a palace that contains many valuable goods. A strong man is guarding the palace (Lk 11:14-23). Satan is the strong man and his "goods" are lost men and women. The only way to seize his goods is to overpower the strong man. That's what Jesus has done to Satan -- He has overpowered the strong man.

D "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (1 Jn 3:8). So how did Jesus do this? At the time of His arrest and crucifixion approached, Jesus said,
(Jn 12:31) Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
At the cross and at the grave Jesus defeated the devil (Col 2:15). At the cross and grave of Christ, Satan's power has been broken.

We are privileged to see this today -- that Satan's power has been broken. We are privileged to participate in Christ's victory. Do you remember what was said by the seventy-two when they returned from their mission trip? "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Lk10:18). Jesus replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Lk 10:18). Every time a lost sinner repents of his sin and believes in Christ, more of Satan's goods are taken from him. Satan's defeat is shown every time someone is baptized in the name of Jesus. Satan's defeat is shown every time faith is professed before the elders. Satan's defeat is shown in the heart of every person who runs from sin rather than after sin.

Why did Jesus come? So that He might take away our sins. But also to deal with him who is behind all sin; Jesus appeared at Christmas to destroy the devil's work.
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