Almost three quarters of all Australians believe in God. But less than a third believe in the devil. Odd isn't it?

And even when we do believe in both, it can feel as though God and the devil are kind of two equal and opposite forces – God is good, the devil is evil and we’re caught in the middle. It goes something like this - I believe in God and so I want to be good. But no matter how hard I try, I always seem to fail. I feel like the devil’s winning.

Sound familiar?

But it’s just not like that. Come with me to the story of the Job in the Old Testament (In fact, if you have a Bible, can I suggest you read just Job 1.)

The devil has a conversation with God. And God points the devil to this man Job. 

He says “Have you considered my servant Job? A blameless and upright man who fears me and turns away from evil?”

And Satan responds "Is it any wonder? Haven’t you put a fence around him and his house and all that he has? You’ve blessed the work of his hands and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and take what he has and he’ll curse you to your face."

So the Lord says to Satan, "OK, all that he owns is in your power, only do not stretch out your hand against him!"

Do you see what’s happening here? Job is faithful to God so God puts a fence or literally a dense, impenetrable hedge around him, that Satan can’t breach. In fact, the devil can only go in and attack Job and his possessions when God gives him permission.

Does that sound "equal and opposite" to you?

And again we see the sovereign hand of God at play when Jesus is tempted by the devil. Straight after his baptism (a pretty spectacular affair by any measure), Jesus finds himself out in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Now it's easy to imagine that this was the devil’s doing. That this "equal and opposite" thing was playing itself out again.

Not at all. Luke tells us (Luke 4:1-2) that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned form Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

Who led Jesus into the desert to be tempted? God did!


In fact, God rounds out our understanding further in Mark 1:12 where He tells us that the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. Now the word that sits aback of our English translation "drove" literally means "to throw out." God threw Jesus out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. It was a deliberate, sovereign act of God. Just in the same way that God gave the devil permission to attack Job.

Think about it. If indeed all things came into being through Jesus and not one thing that came into being did so without Him (John 1:3) then the devil was created by God. And the devil is subject to the awesome power of God – just like the rest of His creation.

The more I read God’s Word, the more I come to the conclusion that the devil is simply a piece of sandpaper in the sovereign hand of God – a tool that ultimately will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity.

I think it helps to get things into perspective when it comes to the devil, don’t you?

Now let’s have a listen to what Jesus said about him (John 10:10):  The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you have life in all of its abundance! (literally “super-abundance” – we just don't have an English word for that!)

God wants what’s good for our lives. In spades! Abundantly! Superabundantly! And the devil wants to rob us of God’s plan.

And so what you and I try to do is the obvious, logical thing – we work away and work away and work away at being good.  And one day, after beating our heads up against that brick wall just one too many times, we come to the conclusion I’m losing the battle! It’s just not working! 

My hunch is that God let’s you and me do that – beat our head up against this brick wall – for one reason and one reason alone.  That way, we get to learn for ourselves it just doesn’t work that way!

Why? Well if you and I could defeat the devil on our own…who’d need Jesus? Why bother with the cross at all? Listen again to what Jesus said in sharp contrast to the thief... but I have come that you may have life in all it’s abundance. 

The abundant life comes through Jesus!

The Apostle Paul knew that. Have a read of the Romans 7:12-25 for yourself.  It goes something like this:

I don’t understand my own actions.  I don’t end up doing what I want, but instead I do the very thing I hate….I can will what’s right, I just can’t do it.…So I find it to be a law that whenever I want to do what’s good, evil lies close at hand. 

I love that!  Here’s the man who wrote almost half of the books in the New Testament telling us he has exactly the same problem as us.  Exactly! (God is such an encourager!)

And what’s his answer to the problem?


Wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The answer is Jesus! And Paul goes on in the very next chapter – Chapter 8 of the Book of Romans – to explain. Go on, have a read for yourself. The abbreviated version goes something like this:

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (there’s no need for guilt) …you want life in all it’s abundance?  Set your mind on the things of the Spirit.  Walk in the Spirit.  You’re one of God’s own Children – don’t be afraid.  Cry out to Dad.  When you do that, the Spirit of God will tell you Himself – you are one of His children.  One of His heirs!

That’s God’s answer in a nutshell. Jesus. Hang close to Him. Abide in Him.

When we wander off and try to defeat the devil on our own – we’re going to lose every time. That’s how God planned it. But when we spend that time with the Lord each day, we start seeing the victory. When we humble ourselves at His feet. When we spend time in His Word. When we close the door, open the book and wait on Him…. His Spirit changes us on the inside. His Spirit witnesses to our spirit that we’re one of His children. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead brings that resurrection power to life in us! (Ephesians 1:19-21)

And as we just hang close with Jesus day after day, that hedge that the devil was talking about grows thicker and more impenetrable.  And then there are only a couple of ways that the devil can get in.  The first is if God give him permission – to test us and prune us and refine us.  The second is if we give him permission.  When we give him a foothold in our thoughts or our actions.

But can I tell you something – the more we dwell in the presence of the Almighty, the more we worship Him and desire Him and weep at the foot of the cross, the less we want of the devil. And little by little, we end up looking more like Jesus.

Theologians call it "sanctification." I think of it more as rehabilitation – being restored back into the image of God... to live life in all of its superabundance. It's a Jesus thing.

Or, we can wander off on our own merry way and go it alone... until the pain of bashing our heads against that brick wall brings us to our senses.

It’s a simple choice between grace and works. Not much of a choice when you think about it.


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Original publication date: August 6, 2009