When you were a child, did you have any heroes that you enjoyed pretending to be? Did you have someone that you imitated? I did. When I was little I wanted to be just like Spiderman. For a couple years, I dressed like him at Halloween, and my neighborhood friends and I would have a lot of fun pretending to be superheroes. Typically, when we imitate someone we are showing approval of them--or at least approval of the characteristics we are imitating.
Today, I want to challenge you to imitate, not a superhero, but a villain. I'm not referring to just any bad guy, but to the worst one ever. We typically call him the devil or Satan. Stephen, do you mean to tell me that you are encouraging people to imitate the devil?! Yes, in a limited sense, of course! I am not saying that you should imitate all of Satan's attributes, but he does have some good qualities. Believe it or not, Satan actually has some positive characteristics that are worthy of our attention and study. He has some characteristics that are even worthy of our imitation!
Now that I've piqued your curiosity, let's consider seven characteristics of the devil that I believe are worthy of our imitation.
1. SATAN IS PATIENT AND NOT EASILY DISCOURAGED.
No matter how many times you turn him down, he doesn't give up. I'm reminded of Luke 4:13 which says - "Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him [i.e., Jesus] until an opportune time." Satan hammered away at Jesus with various temptations during our Lord's time fasting in the wilderness. Although the great deceiver was unsuccessful, he certainly didn't give up on Jesus. As the text indicates, he would be back when another opportunity presented itself. Satan doesn't quit when things don't go his way. It doesn't matter how many times you turn down his offers of temptation, he will give you another chance to join him in sin! As Christians, we need to be patient and strong so that we are not easily discouraged. We need to mature in Christ so we won't succumb to the temptation to give up when things aren't going well for us.
2. SATAN BELIEVES IN GOD, HEAVEN, AND HELL.
In the middle of a discussion on the relationship between faith and works, James wrote - "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!" (James 2:19). The demons, and certainly their leader, the devil, believe in God, heaven, and hell. They tremble because they know the suffering that awaits them in eternity! We too should fear God, and that reverence should affect the way we live our lives. Our faith should show and prove itself by our works.
3. SATAN WORKS DAY AND NIGHT.
Satan never takes a vacation from doing evil. He knows his time is limited and that he has much to accomplish. I have no doubt that he is always laboring diligently to see his wicked plans fulfilled. We may see some indication of this in Job 1:7, where Satan tells God that he has been "going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." The devil doesn't mention anything about him resting from his wickedness. Of course, as mortals, our bodies need time to heal, rest, and relax. I also understand that the amount of time needed for such will vary from person to person. Nevertheless, we need to realize the urgency of our mission for the Lord and maximize the use of our time for the kingdom of God. There is nothing wrong with taking a break or a vacation periodically, but may we never become lethargic or complacent about spiritual matters. May we never take a "vacation" from doing that which is right!
4. SATAN KNOWS GOD'S WORD.
He quoted it to Jesus in Luke 4. He is not ignorant of what the Scriptures teach (though this doesn't stop him from rebelling against Almighty God)! The devil knew God's words well enough in Genesis 3 to almost directly quote them to Eve as he tempted her (though he did add the little word "not" , as in, "You will not surely die" ). We can learn from Satan in this area. We too need to know the Bible. If we don't study the word, how can we know what the will of God is? How can we combat evil and false teachings if we don't know what the truth is? How can we know what God expects of us if we remain in ignorance? If we do not first learn the Scriptures, how can we truly obey God?
5. SATAN IS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO CONVERT.
I Peter 5:8 says - "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." The devil is always looking for a prospect, and he is unquestionably the world's most successful soul winner. Too bad he wins them for the wrong side! He never excludes anyone as a possibility. We too should not exclude people just because we don't think they'd be interested in Jesus and His church. After all, how many folks would have considered Saul of Tarsus (later known as the apostle Paul) to be a good prospect for Christianity?
6. SATAN ACCEPTS PEOPLE QUICKLY.
It does not matter how you've lived in the past. If you decide to do wrong, the devil will accept you immediately. He will embrace you, if you desire such, no matter how righteously you've lived in the past. Hymenaeus and Alexander are New Testament examples of this (I Tim. 1:19,20). Their faith had "suffered shipwreck" and Paul had "delivered" them to Satan, who certainly welcomed them gladly. In comparison, what about us? Do we accept those who give their lives to Christ no matter how they've lived in the past? We must accept them when God does!
7. SATAN USES ALL AVAILABLE METHODS.
Ephesians 6:11 speaks of "the wiles of the devil." If one approach doesn't work, he'll try another. For instance, if he can't get you drawn into sin through gambling or drinking, he'll try to get you with lust. If he can't get you there, he'll try something else. He uses any method he can to get you to sin! As we evangelize today, we should use any available means, assuming that such are both authorized by God's word and expedient. If there is an effective, Scriptural way to reach the lost, we need to be using it!
Well, there are the seven characteristics. Were you surprised that Satan has qualities worth imitating? Of course, it must be noted that when we imitate these characteristics the devil possesses, it is not out of flattery for him! God Himself has all of these same qualities! But, the important question is, do you? Do you have these positive qualities? Let's go through the list again, and try to make it even more personal this time.
1. Do you give up when things get tough or too demanding when it comes to living a pure life that is set apart for God (I Pet. 1:15,16)? Are you patient and longsuffering when challenges and difficulties arise, or do you easily get discouraged? Can you, with Paul, genuinely say: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13)?
2. Do you really believe in God (Heb. 11:6)? What about eternal life and eternal punishment? You should believe in those things, but does your life truly coincide with those beliefs? Do your speech and actions show others, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are a Christian?
3. Do you work all the time for the Lord and His kingdom? Or, are you a "Sunday Christian" ? What do you mean by that, Stephen? Well, some disciples seem to have very little time for God and the church--unless they need something. They might come to worship on Sunday morning with some degree of consistency, but that is about the extent of their spiritual walk. They live a worldly life most of the time and just pretend to be right with God on Sundays. I hope that such does not describe you, dear listeners. Be honest with yourself: Are you doing as much as you possibly can for the growth of God's kingdom? If not, why not? Is there anything more important than serving the Lord (Matt. 6:33)? Are you a part-time disciple or are you laboring full-time and putting in lots of overtime?
4. Do you know the Bible? Sadly, many Christians don't. Would you know where the book of Leviticus is if I asked you? What about Haggai? Could you show someone, from the Bible, what they need to do in order to be saved? Do you read God's word every day? If not, then what are you doing with your time and what are your priorities? If you don't think you have time for daily Bible study, then there is a problem somewhere. Either you are too busy earning or saving up earthly treasures or you are too busy fulfilling your own wants and desires. If knowing God's will and growing in knowledge is important to you (II Pet. 3:18), you will make time for daily Bible study. That is one of the purposes of Audio Evangelism--to encourage people to study God's word daily.
5. Are you always looking for a prospect; that is, someone you are trying to convert to Christ? Take some time to think of two people right now. These two people need to be non-Christians that you know somehow. Perhaps they are family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Within the next week, commit yourself to talking to them about their soul. Share the gospel with them. Try to set up a Bible study with them. It is easy to forget that we all have the responsibility to evangelize (Matt. 28:19,20). We all have the duty to share God's word with the lost and try to turn them from their sins. We all have the duty to try to make disciples for the Lord. Have you thought of two people yet? Write their names down and make sure you approach them with the gospel. You might have to take some time to plan how to best approach them, but you can do it. If you are a Christian, then you know the plan of salvation. Thus, you know enough to teach others how they too can be saved from their sins. Don't allow fear of rejection to hinder your evangelistic efforts. If you truly love these people and want them to enjoy the blessing of eternal life, you will do everything within your power to get them to believe and obey the truth. If you don't love them, you'll take the easy route and do nothing. Of course, once you have either converted these individuals or come to the point where it is clear that they are not willing to submit to the Lord at the present time, turn your evangelistic attention and efforts to others. We ought to always be looking for prospects for God's kingdom.
6. Do you accept people quickly? Do you genuinely welcome new converts who have turned from the ways of wickedness? Are you an encourager for such people like Barnabas was (e.g., Acts 9:26-28)? Are you hesitant to accept those members of the church who have fallen away and are later restored? You shouldn't be hesitant to embrace them fully. When God forgives, we must forgive also (Luke 17:3,4).
7. Finally, do you use all available methods to try to make disciples? The message never changes, but sometimes the method does. The apostle Paul approached different people in different ways, but he always preached the pure gospel message (cf. I Cor. 9:19-23). Our society and culture today is very different in many respects from those living in the first century. Technology has provided many more methods of sowing the seed today (e.g., the printing press, television, audio recordings, the internet, etc.). Are we taking full advantage of such opportunities? There are always new ways of trying to reach the lost, but ultimately, we must always bring the same message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the One crucified for our sins.
So, friends, do you have these qualities? If not, what are you waiting for? If we're smart, we'll learn from our mistakes. If we're smarter yet, we'll learn from the mistakes of others. I believe it is wise to learn what we can from the devil (cf. Matt. 10:16). Admittedly, Satan uses these noble characteristics for wickedness, but we can and must use these characteristics for good. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.