The Nature of Evil

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

John 16.1-4 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”

A System of Evil

These four verses are a continuation of what Jesus said to his disciples in John 15.18-27. He is continuing his message about the world’s system that is under the control of the “the ruler of this world” (John 14.30). He wants his followers to know that the hatred and persecution of Jesus’ very own will come from people who are so blinded by the world that they think they are doing God’s work.

Dr. Scott Peck is a psychiatrist who is an expert in two diametrically opposed topics, love and evil. He has written about both subjects in widely read books. When writing about evil, Peck notes that the greatest evil is done by people who also claim to have a connection with God.

In verses 1-4 Jesus reminds his followers that we can expect opposition and persecution, even from those who claim be God’s representatives.

Who is Satan and how does he work?

Satan or the devil is the source of all evil. Jesus says this about the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8.44).

The Accuser

Satan literally means, “the accuser.” John speak of Satan as the accuser of people in Revelation: “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God'” (Revelation 12.10).

Jesus tells us in John 16.1-4 that the “accuser” will use religious people to persecute his followers by accusing them of wrong beliefs or wrong actions.

Imagine strapping a woman to a board and submerging her in a stream until she almost drowns. When she comes up from the water, she is admonished to renounce the form of baptism she has undergone and to receive the “proper” rite of baptism. This is an actual account of how the “accuser” used Christians to perpetrate evil on fellow Christians years ago. One tragic note of Christian history is that this is not the only time Christians have persecuted each other.

What is the lesson for us here? Every time we are tempted to accuse someone, we run the risk of playing into the hands of Satan and join the “accuser” of fellow Christians.

If we can’t imitate Jesus’ kind of judgment, let’s refrain from it completely. Here is how Jesus exercised judgment: “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5.30). If we are going to judge anyone, we need to know it is not our opinion, but it is the revealed will of God.

As we stand with Jesus against the “accuser,” we can choose to live by the message of James. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (James 4.11).

Don’t let the “accuser” use your voice against you.

God has three enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil. The flesh is not our skin or our lust. It is our life that is lived apart from a relationship with Jesus. My AA friends have taught me the phrase, “my own best thinking.” That is a perfect description of the flesh.

One of Satan’s frequent tricks is to use our flesh to accuse us. When we tell ourselves that we are worthless, that our behavior is so awful, that we will never amount to anything worthwhile, and such, we are joining forces with the “accuser” against our very own selves.

Please use God’s word when the “accuser” wants to use your own thoughts and self-talk to condemn you. Declare Jesus’ words about you. Resist the accusations of the “accuser.” John 15 states Jesus’ opinion of you. Declare these statements about yourself. They are Jesus’ word about you to you.

(1) I am already clean because of Jesus’ word in my life and I resist the “accuser’s” condemnation of my life (John 15.3).

(2) I am loved by Jesus. He loves me the same way that the Father has loved him and I receive his love today (John 15.9).

(3) I am an actual friend of Jesus no matter what my head may tell me (John 15.14).

The Tempter

The devil is also identified as “the tempter.” After Jesus had fasted for forty days, the devil came to him. Matthew records the first of the three temptations with these words, “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread'” (Matthew 4.3).

My two grandsons are fascinated by bugs and worms. They pick them up and play with them, like they are pets. Suppose one of them saw a black widow spider and began to reach for it. You know what I would do. I would shout, “Don’t touch that!” and grab them for safety’s sake.

God feels the same way about the temptations the devil makes so attractive to us. The devil is a good fisherman. He baits the hook with what he knows is attractive to us. We may take the bait, thinking we are going to have a fun and delicious lunch. Instead, we become lunch for Satan’s plans.

Jesus always tells us the truth. He always lets us know what is really real. Concerning the temptations of the devil, Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10.10). That is the only business Satan is in and he is good at it.

Once again, James gives very helpful instruction concerning the “tempter.” He wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4.7-8). How do we best make James’ teaching a part of our lives?

(1) Most of the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel is focused on abiding in a friendship relationship with Jesus. The most effective weapon against the “tempter” is to live in an abiding relationship with Jesus. In James’ words, we “submit to God” and “draw near to God” as we live in a relationship with Jesus that is real and personal.

(2) James cautions against being “double-minded.” Suppose one of my grandsons says this about the black widow, “I don’t want to touch it. I just want to get close to it and look at it.” You can expect my response. I would shout a resounding, “NO!” The same is true of the bait that the “tempter” puts before us. We don’t need to look at it. Instead, we need hear Jesus’ “NO” and turn away from it.

(3) The “tempter” is relentless. He hates God and the only way he can harm God is by harming God’s children. He wants to suck us into sins that will ruin our lives and the people around us. The answer is to resist the devil. God’s word promises that he will flee from us.

Your Turn

Concerning “accuser,” let’s embrace the words of James and not speak against other people. Let’s also not use accusing words against our own selves. Let’s experience Jesus’ love and friendship and declare that this is the reality of who we actually are.

Concerning the “tempter,” let’s choose to abide in a friendship-relationship with Jesus. Let’s resist the temptations of the world’s system, our flesh, and the devil.

Today’s Prayer

Dear God, thank you that you have delivered us from the tyranny of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of your beloved Son. Please show us how to live free from the activity of the accuser and the tempter. May we also help others experience the freedom of life in you.

4 Comments

  1. I think I give Satan too much credit sometimes. Satan is not all knowing or all powerful like Jesus. He is however good at knowing what “looks good” to us. Its exactly true what you said Bob, “Jesus always tells us the truth”. Jesus is truth, He is the way, and He gives me life. Life to the fullest. Even as a Christian I’m still learning how to be better and do better. It might take me a lifetime, but Jesus I know is cheering me on. So are all my friends! Thank you all for your support.

    Liked by 1 person

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