It is almost axiomatic, it is certainly predicatable, that where the church is onfire for God, and the Spirit is moving, the devil will raise opposition. Opposition from Satan against the church and the kingdom of can God ranges from annoyances to severe persucution. In most churches in America mild to heavy annyoance is enough to disrupt the church, and to kill its vision. In other places the church is being persecuted. If we go on the principle that you don’t need a sledge hammer to crack a pecan, the fact that more often than not, the opposition we face ison the scale of annoyances, probably means that the church in America is not that big a threat to the kingdom of darkness right now.

Now we should not misunderstand this. After the persecution that began with Stephen being martyred, and ended with Saul’s conversion, the church in jerusalem enjoyed a period of peace and grew tremendously. It even jumped across ethnic and cultural boundaries to grow. It doesn’t take persecution to grow the church, as some have suggested, but opposition often arises when the church begins to get down to business with God. This is so true that we should learn to expect opposition to the work of God in Wilmington.

Saul of Tarsus was a young up and coming religious zealot in Judaism, who had been well placed and who enjoyed a reputation for his passion. We don’t really know why Saul was so pathologically opposed to the church, but his zeal for eradicating beleivers among the Jews of Palestine was described by Luke as murderous (Acts 9:1 ). Indeed , Paul himself says that he hounded the beleiversin Christ to death (Acts 22:4). Saul had been at the stoning of Stephen, “giving his consent” (Acts 7:57-58; 8:1). The result was that Saul set out on a brutal, passionate and viscious campaign to obliterate the sect called The Way. He saw their faith in Christ as Israel’s Messiah as blasphemous, and it raised an anger in him when he heard that a crucified man had been accepted as the Son of God. In his own Words Paul called the cross a stumbling blacok to the Jews (1 Cor. 1:23).

The opposition to the church began almost immediately. After Peter and John had healed the man at the temple gate, they were detained and warned to stop preaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). Later after a period of emboldened preaching, accompnaied by miracles and signs , they were again arrested and this time they were beaten (Acts 5:40). Annoyances also cropped up. Complaining began among some of the widows that they were being overlooked in the distribution of food (Acts 6:1). The result was God raised up new leaders in the church, who were full of the Holy Spirit, and who boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter was stoned to death and real persuction broke out in Jerusalem and Judea. The gospel moved north to Samaria, but the annoyance of a self serving magician sought to frustrate the visiting apostles (Acts 8:2). Even in the ministry of Paul, he had to face Judaizers who came in behind him to undermine his work, steal his converts, discourage their confidence in the cross and even to discredit Paul himself, to the churches he had planted.

The fact of opposition against the work of God, the people of God and espeically against kingdom of God, Paul called the schemes of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11). “‎Satan is still “the god of this age,” who blinds the minds of unbelievers from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4), and he is “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:2).” (Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (51). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.). His goal is to stop the gospel from bringing light to the unbelievers of this world, and often that is accomplished by disrupting the church in its mission.

Such disruptions are not hard ro accomplish either, when God’s people are not alert. For example, the two most obvious schemes of Satan are to create dsicoruagement (personal) and disunity (coporate). When we become personally discouraged we stop worshipping, praying, growing and reading the Word. We shut down in a fog of despair, and dsiengage from the work of the kingdom of God. Church often face periods of spiritual defeat because of a sense of defeate among a few key people, and leaders. Secondly, Satan dsirupts unity, bu sowing hardness and irritation into relationships. The church can’t grow and the vision cannot advanc when God’s people are not working together in faithfulness and harmony. It take a team to build the kngdom of God and to effectively accopliush God’s will. Relationships mostly do not breakdown because of big stuff, but because of small stuff… the over persistence of one person, the iritating mannerisms of another, the lazieness or unfaithful incosistency of someone, that makes their word unreliable. Misunderstadnings because based on a look or a word are favorite tools of the devil. A big disrupter of relationships are attitudes. Harsh, brittle, hardened attitudes, hurt relationships, where someone has bruised the friendship through carelessness or neglect.

There are two characteristic ways that Satan hinders Wilmington First Church. Suppression. He lays a heavy, stiffling, dark, stormy cloud on our joy, on our spirit, on our passion, on our determination, on our vision and on our prayer life. It smothers and kills life and vitality, and soon we settle back in to unthreatening, religious church routine, that has no power and little impact on the kingdom of darkness. Secondly, he creates disunity. Usually this comes in the form of strain to relationships. Satan doesn’t even have to destroy relationshiops, if he can create strain in them. In fact strain is better because, it means that two people never separate, they simply live in perpetual strain and that robs the ministry of its power, purpose, energy and vision.

But what if we belived the promise Paul made to the Roman’s, that God will soon crush Satan under our feet ‎(Rom. 16:20)? Does Paul mean ultimately? Or does he mean soon in time? Well, maybe he means both. Maybe he means that ultimartely we will crush Satan, he will be defeated. But what if God means that we are not to be defeated while we serve God and his kingdokm now. Did Jesus not say that we would walk on serpents? “‎18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
(The New International Version. 2011 (Lk 10:18–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan). The point Jeus made is that he has given us authority to crush the power of darkness and to overcome whatever opposes God in this world, in pursuit of doing his will and serving him. But ultimately the greatest victory of all is that our names are written in heaven, and Satan cannot erase them, or cause them tio be erased. So our greatest task is to see to it that through the gospel, as many names as possible are written down, and saved from eternal death, and defeat.

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