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Brave, Week 2 — The “What I Made The Devil Do” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message ….

  • Hinged on the Lord as “hurler” and Satan as “hurlee” in Revelation 12;
  • Suggested that many times when we claim “the devil made me do it” it is actually avoiding responsibility for things we got into all by ourselves;
  • Landed at a bottom line that was so heavy on wordplay it wasn’t as clear as I would have liked: The devil doesn’t make you because he’s made to.  

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Some of you remember comedian Flip Wilson, whose “Geraldine” character had her signature line: The Devil Made Me Do It. (AV) It got both laughs and ratings back in the day (and I mean back in the day!). Yet the phrase has stuck and I hear it in all kinds of ways from all kinds of people in all kinds of situations as folks offer their own versions of the original.
It’s the guilty husband: “Satan just got hold of me.”
It’s the woman who lost it in road rage: “I don’t know what came over me just then. Must have been the devil!”
It’s the 60 year old prodigal who says emphatically, “Satan’s had me for 50 years now and I realize he is nothing but a liar.”
It’s the observer of US culture who put it this way in a piece called “If I Were The Devil”:

IF I WERE THE DEVIL …
I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world;
I would delude their minds into thinking that their power had come from man’s effort instead of God’s blessings;
I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people instead of the other way around;
I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue;
I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation;
I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art;
I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date and for the naïve and the hateful;
I would dull the minds of Christians and make them believe that prayer is not important and that faithfulness and obedience are optional;
I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are ….

And what all those perspective share in common is the notion that Satan is a make-er, a do-er, an initiator of projects and a compeller of people.
Now: I’m not sure where you are when it comes to belief in a real Satan. I’m not sure what you’ve been taught or heard or believe. Some of you, I suspect, have no doubt that there is a real Satan – it’s not like we’re lacking for evidence of evil in the world, after all. Others, while you acknowledge real evil, you’re more apt to attribute it to “the way things are,” or an invisible, impersonal force, or even the product of the worst of human nature. And some of you believe in God but you’re agnostic about God … not sure. By the time we’re done today, I think you’ll see where I land on the matter and why I think making a decision on what you believe and how you approach actually, truthfully makes a difference.
Along those lines, it makes sense that if Revelation is a book about the end of all things (which it is, a little) and if it is the curtain pulled back on the behind the scenes spiritual world of now (which it is, a lot), then it’s gonna speak about Satan, the devil, and evil (which it most emphatically and colorfully does). And, predictably enough for a book written with a VR flair, it does so with mind blowing, head spinning imagery, told much more in patterns and whorls than with precise chronology. John gives new meaning to the term “mixing metaphors.” He takes Satan – a name that means above all, ACCUSER, as if he is perpetually before God’s throne, accusing you and me of all kinds of stuff Jesus already dealt with – and turns him into a dragon. Not komodo (AV) but even more terrifying.
See what I mean in 12:1-2:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Oh man. You KNOW John must have been like “why did have have that pepperoni pizza WITH ONIONS before I went to bed? You KNOW what that does to my dreams!” In any event, you’ve got an impending birth (COULD be a reference to Mary … Xmas in May! … but probably not) and then look at what awaits that baby in 12:3-4:

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.

Woah. The birth is greeted with immediate opposition. There’s a Messiah and then there is a concentrated effort at Messiah Snatching. Like Herod tried to do just after Jesus was born. There is little doubt here that the dragon stands in for Satan, so with the advent of Jesus, it’s GAME ON in the heavenlies and the hell-ies.
Then look at 12:5:

She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Wait. What?! Skips right over Jesus’ life, teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, and even ascension and just deposits him in heaven, missing all the drama before it? But remember: time in Revelation moves more in patterns than with precision, more cyclical than chronological. That’s why I believe the woman here with 12 STARTS is much more likely to make the original audience think of Israel with its 12 tribes than of Mary who we are pretty sure did not have 12 children. Reminds us that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah before he’s anything else; the fulfillment of God’s plan through his people. Check 12:6 – The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. – and even that flight seems to parallel Israel’s escape from Egypt and subsequent wandering in the desert.
So there we are: Jesus, Israel’s Messiah is safely in heaven, the people of God are in the wilderness, and you know John is like, “I am never having late night pizza again!” Look next at 12:7 and remember that time is not chronological, it’s more cyclical like in a dream:
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.

READ. See how the war gets described in 12:8-9:

But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.

I love this. The dragon gets hurled. Do you notice how Satan is not the actor, he is acted upon? He’s not in charge of, he’s at the mercy of. It gets better in 12:9:

He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Hurled is there AGAIN and twice in three verses is really supposed to make you notice how powerless this dragon really is.
The whole hurling piece makes me think of what we’d do in our house when Riley (AV pic of him on my back) was little. I would throw – hurl! – him on the bed the same # of times as his age. So: “you’re three … let me throw you on the bed three times!” He LOVED it. So, 4, 5, 6, 7 … easy peasy! Seventeen (AV Riley in football gear), not so much. These days, of course, he comes up to me and says, “Dad, time to throw you on the bed 57 times!” Minus all the love but filled with all the powerless of it. Satan the hurlee is at the mercy of the hurler.
Then skip to 12:12:

Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.”

His time is short. Hmmmm. Let’s list some of what this pepperoni-fueled, kaleidoscopic dream sequence tells us about the devil who so many of us say makes us do things. He’s the hurlee, not the hurler. He’s made to, he doesn’t make you. His weapons are deception and accusation, not real power. The actor, the hurler, the MAKER in all this is God. The one who is Alpha and Omega is the same one ensures that much to Satan’s frustration and fury, HIS time in short. So it’s pretty clear from the imagery here in Revelation 12 that every second you and I spend worrying about the devil could be better spend worshipping the King. Here’s why, and here’s what all of us on a Brave journey are about: The devil can’t make you because he is “made to.” He is much the actor in the story and much more the acted upon.
Good Shepherd: why tremble at the “power” of the hurled when you’re on the side of the hurler? Why obsess over what he might “make you do” when he’s the one who is “made to do”? Why worry when you can worship? Because here’s what I think: “the devil made me do it” is, by and large, an excuse we make to avoid accepting responsibility for things we get into without a lick of help from the outside. The married 40 year old father didn’t need any help from the outside to fall for that 24 year old at the pool. The prodigal didn’t need any help to choose booze over employment. You didn’t need any assistance to come up with your all those new swear words you combined together during your epic road rage.
The devil can’t make you because he is “made to.”

It’s why I love the perspective of a GS friend: “I don’t worry about that loser, but I acknowledge I am important to him.” (AV) Yep, you are important to him. But you’re not subject to him.
The devil can’t make you because he is “made to.”
Now: do not hear what I am not saying. I believe Satan is real. The two poles I want us as a church and you as individuals to avoid are these: 1) Those who see a Satan behind every corner and a devil behind every problem. I’ve already mentioned it is a not very sophisticated way of avoiding responsibility. And 2) those who fancy themselves SO SOPHISTICATED that they don’t believe he exists at all. Those smarter than smarty pants folks will find themselves so disbelieving in Satan’s existence that they are duped by his deceptions.
Yeah, his greatest tactic is flattery. Satan is your ally in your self-destruction because he tells you how great your plans are. Every self-destructive thought you have, every time you think your goal in life is to “be true to yourself” or “become your authentic self” or “be happy,” I firmly believe that Satan is there cheering you on. Pumping you up. Not making you do anything. Because he is hurlee not hurler! But convincing you, encouraging you, persuading you to do things that will destroy your life and those around you. Persuading you to believe things about yourself, our world, our bodies, even our faith that simply are not true.
And you know, don’t you, that in addition to this dragon imagery, Scripture often portrays him as a serpent, in the snake family. Did you know snakes don’t have eyelids? So they can’t blink. So their eye are always open. I take that to mean that limited Satan is always watching and he uses an ALL-TOO-WILLING CULTURE AS HIS ACCOMPLICE in seducing us towards self-destruction. He doesn’t make you because he can’t. He woos you because you let him.
The devil can’t make you because he is “made to.”
You know what is so cool as you really get in in your Brave mind how limited our accuser really is? If you were with us last week, we started Brave off with Jesus as Alpha & Omega – the beginning and the end. It’s in the beginning of Rev in chapter 1 and at the end of Rev. in chapter 22. The bookends of the book are about how Jesus is the bookend of time. Well, thinking of bookends, books, library, and time, guess what? Satan does not appear either in Genesis 1 and 2 or in Revelation 21 or 22. Done. Gone. Finis. He wasn’t there at the beginning and won’t be there at the end. The bookends are defined completely by the Lord, free of his adversary in the same way well be free of our accuser. And free to praise our Advocate. Which let’s do now …
Celebration song set at end …

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