When Clerow Wilson turned 16, he was ready to get out of foster homes and reform school, so he lied about his age and joined the U.S. Air Force. Blessed with a non-stop personality, he entertained fellow airmen with so many funny stories they claimed he was “flipped out.” The name stuck. Leaving the Air Force, “Flip” Wilson found work as a bellhop and started performing between paid acts at the hotel’s stage show. Before long he was a successful comedian. One of Flip’s most popular characters was Geraldine Jones, whom he portrayed in a dress, a copper-colored wig, and with exaggerated facial expressions. Geraldine was constantly misbehaving, crossing the line, and violating her conscience. But she had a one-sentence explanation for her behavior: “The devil made me do it.” The phrase, “The devil made me do it,” became part of entertainment lore.
I wonder why. On its surface, it’s not a particularly funny line. Perhaps it struck our funny bones because it struck a nerve. We know we’re sinners. We’re bewildered at how easily we do wrong and how hard it is to do right. We need a rationale for our evil habits, or at least an excuse. It’s as good an excuse as any. In some way, this tagline became an expression of national self-justification: “The devil made me do it.”
What the Devil Can Do
It’s true that we mustn’t underestimate the devil. His very title—devil—comes from the Greek word diabolos, from which we get our English word diabolical. The word literally means slanderer. He’s called Satan in the Bible, meaning Adversary. But he has more names and titles than a blue-blooded, upper-crusted British aristocrat. Seven books of the Old Testament speak of Satan, as does every single writer of the New Testament. He is referred to as a real person, not just an impersonal force or influence. He can do damage, for Jesus warned, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). He lays traps for us, attacks and accuses us, rejoices when we fall, and kicks us when we’re down. There’s no doubt Satan can tempt us to sin. Satan is cunning, cruel, deceptive, and dangerous. It’s foolish to underestimate his power in this world.
What the Devil Cannot Do
But let’s not give the devil too much due. He can tempt, but he can’t force us to sin. He can bring pressure to bear, but he can’t violate our will. The devil doesn’t make us do anything. We can resist him. Are you giving the devil a foothold in your life? There are many ways of letting Satan gain leverage in our heart and habits. Sexting. Pornography. Unkindness. Hurt. Consumption. Materialism. Apathy. Anxiety. Unbelief. Satan may tempt with these things, but he cannot triumph without our cooperation.
When we fall, the first step is to take responsibility. Repent. Confess your sin to the Lord as yours alone, then seek His help in turning from it. When we blame the devil, we’re giving him too much power. The devil is a created being. He can cause a lot of stress and trouble, and he’s a powerful creature who can attack us. But when it comes to measuring him up against God, there’s no contest. We already know who wins.
When Satan tried to tempt Christ in Matthew 4, Jesus knew what to do. He relied on the Holy Spirit (verse 1), devoted Himself to fasting and prayer (verse 2), chose to say “No” to Satan (verses 4, 7, and 10), and quoted Scripture in the moment of temptation (verses 4, 7, and 10). He outlasted the temptation. Satan finally gave up (verse 11).
That’s the winning strategy for us. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit, pray, say “No” to temptation, and use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And when we falter and fail, we must take responsibility. Don’t blame your sin on Satan. He didn’t make you do it.
Instead of blaming Satan, defeat him. He has no answer to sincere repentance and confession. He has no answer to the blood of Jesus Christ. When faced with the power of the cross, Satan is powerless. “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Our Adversary is no match for our Advocate.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God, and serves as
Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
Steve Jobs didn’t have a lot to say. He didn’t give a lot of speeches, except for a famous graduation address at Stanford University. He was a private man. He didn’t take to the podium to advance his causes except when unveiling his new products.
Yet Jobs changed the history of communication. He made the world accessible to us, and us to the world. He turned “I” into a lower-case phenomenon and squeezed all our bulky entertainment systems into portable devices. Jobs’ mission was delivering as much content possible, to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and as portably and affordably as possible.
Steve Jobs wasn’t a perfect man. But perhaps his commitment to his own mission will remind us of our commitment to ours. We’re to rededicate ourselves every day to deliver the Gospel to as many people possible, as quickly as possible, and as portably and affordably as possible.Bible Prophecy
The military operation that killed Osama bin Laden was dramatic but fairly typical: soldiers, helicopters, and guns. The Navy SEALs that carried out the mission represented centuries of military strategy: armed men, on the ground, seeking to take out the enemy.
But later, when another Al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed, the operation was one that armies of past decades wouldn’t have believed. Al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen, but there were no Americans or materials on the ground at the scene of the attack. An armed drone was flying silently thousands of feet above him. The pilot was thousands of miles away at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada using this small, computer-controlled plane deploying a laser-guided bomb.
Yesterday it was called “science fiction.” Today it’s called “technology.” But the Bible calls it “prophecy”!Is It Possible to Serve Two Masters?
Unlike some of you reading this article, I was around long before there were personal computers. That means I recall what some of the first personal computers were like—compared to the more powerful models now.
I’m not a computer genius by any means, but I think I have the following right: For many years, personal computers had only one processor. That means the earliest personal computers could do only one thing at a time. Eventually, the processors were able to handle more than one task at a time—multitasking, they called it. Still, if you were trying to do two tasks at once, both would be slowed down as the processor switched rapidly between the two tasks.
Today, it’s a different world. A college student can be typing up the notes from the video lecture he’s streaming online while listening to music while downloading a movie he plans to watch when the lecture is finished. In other words, there’s some serious multitasking power on today’s computers.
When your priorities are in alignment with God’s and you live in obedience to Him, you have all you need for a fulfilling life. Dr. David Jeremiah illustrates this truth in the Old Testament account of the rebuilding of the temple, as God’s people learn to stop making excuses and start living in obedience.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah