04 Satan-The Accuser
Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
2Co 2:10-11 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (11) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
2Co 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
Suppose that the believer does not take advantage of his victorious position in Christ. Suppose he refuses to use the spiritual defenses provided. Suppose the believer sins. What then?
You would think that Satan, having led the person into sin, would then leave him to suffer the consequences; but this is not what happens. Satan has one more stratagem that can make the disobedient Christian doubly defeated. We read about it in Zechariah 3:1-7.
SATAN’S TARGET— YOUR HEART AND CONSCIENCE
This scene, unlike the other three we have examined, is in heaven. The setting is that of a courtroom: God is the Judge, Joshua the high priest is the defendant, and Satan is the prosecutor trying to prove Joshua guilty. Satan appears to have a case, because Joshua is wearing filthy garments and the high priest was always to wear clean clothes. The prophet Zechariah had this vision at a time when the nation of Israel had sinned against the Lord. The people had returned to Palestine after their Babylonian captivity, and there was hope that the nation would obey God and serve him. But sad to say, they had not learned their lesson. When you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the prophecies of Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi, you discover that the Jewish men were divorcing their wives and marrying heathen women; that Jewish merchants were charging their brethren exorbitant interest rates; and that even the priests were robbing God and keeping the best of the sacrifices for themselves.
This explains why Joshua’s priestly garments were dirty. He represented the people before God, and the people were sinful. Satan knew that they were sinful, and he protested to God that Israel should be judged. You can imagine Satan’s arguments:
“Have you considered your servants in Israel, that they are a rebellious and disobedient people? You chastened them in Babylon, hoping to teach them obedience. Now they have returned to their land by your goodness—and they are disobeying you again! You are a holy God, and Israel is supposed to be a holy people. If you are as holy and just as you claim, then you must judge Israel. If you do not judge them, then you are not true to your own nature or your own law. Israel is guilty!”
How do you think Joshua felt during all of this trial? Certainly his heart was broken, his conscience was smitten. What defense did he have?
When you and I have disobeyed God, Satan moves in for that finishing stroke. He attacks us in our heart and conscience. “So you are a Christian?” he sneers. “You are not a very good Christian! You go to church, you read your Bible, and you even seek to serve the Lord. And look what you have done! If your friends at church knew what kind of a person you really were, they would throw you out!”
See how subtle and merciless Satan really is. Before we sin—while he is tempting us—he whispers, “You can get away with this!” Then after we sin, he shouts at us, “You will never get away with this!”
Have you ever heard his hateful voice in your heart and conscience? It is enough to make a Christian give up in despair!
2. SATAN’S WEAPON—ACCUSATION
When Satan talks to you about God, he lies. But when he talks to God about you, he sometimes tells the truth! He is “the accuser of our brethren.” He has access to heaven, to the very throne of God; and there he reminds God of the condition of his saints. You and I know about this accusation because we feel it in our own heart and conscience.
“See what Abraham just did! He lied about his wife!”
“Did you see what David’ did! He committed adultery with his neighbor’s wife, and then killed her husband! Judge him! Judge him!”
“Were you listening, God? Did you just hear Peter curse and swear and deny your Son three times? Are you going to let him get away with that?”
It is important that we learn to distinguish between Satan’s accusations and the Spirit’s conviction. A feeling of guilt and shame is a good thing if it comes from the Spirit of God. If we listen to the devil, it will only lead to regret and remorse and defeat.
When the Spirit of God convicts you, he uses the Word of God in love and ‘seeks to bring you back into fellowship with your Father. When Satan accuses you, he uses your own sins in a hateful way, and he seeks to make you feel helpless and hopeless. Judas listened to the devil and went out and hanged himself. Peter looked at the face of Jesus and wept bitterly, but later came back into fellowship with Christ.
When you listen to the devil’s accusations (all of which may be true), you open yourself up to despair and spiritual paralysis. “My situation is hopeless!” I have heard more than one Christian exclaim, “I’m too far gone—the Lord could never take me back.” When you have that helpless, hopeless feeling, you can be sure Satan is accusing you.
3. SATAN’S PURPOSE— TO BRING AN INDICTMENT BY GOD’S WILL
Satan wants you to feel guilty. He wants you to experience regret and remorse, but not repentance. He wants to keep accusing you so that you focus your attention on yourself and your sins. If once you look away by faith to Jesus Christ, you will repent, confess your sins, and find cleansing and restoration of fellowship. As long as you are feeling guilty, you are under indictment and you are moving farther and farther from the Lord. True conviction from the Spirit will move you closer to the Lord.
This case is typical of many Christians.
How many Christians use these feelings of guilt and shame over past sin to keep them from claiming positions of service for which they are gifted and able?
Satan wants you to feel guilty. Your heavenly Father wants you to know that you are forgiven. Satan knows that if you live under a dark cloud of guilt, you will not be able to witness effectively or serve the Lord with power and blessing. Sad to say, there are some churches that major in guilt. They seem to feel that unless a Christian goes home from a service feeling like a failure, the services have not been a blessing. “Every time we go to church,” a lady wrote me, “the pastor spanks us. What should we do?” To be sure, there is a place for proper spiritual conviction; but we must not major on guilt. To do so is to play right into the devil’s hands.
Paul had a situation like that in the church at Corinth. One of the members had fallen into sin and had refused to repent and make things right with God and the church. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul told the church to discipline that man; and apparently they did, for Paul wrote,
2Co 2:6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
At first, when this sin was detected, the Corinthian believers were very complacent and refused to act. Paul’s letter shocked them into their senses; but then they went to the other extreme and made it so hard on the offender that they would not forgive him! So Paul had to counsel them,
2Co 2:7-11 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. (8) Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (9) For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. (10) To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (11) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Excessive guilt and sorrow can only lead to depression, despair, and defeat. Sometimes it leads to destruction; even Christians have been known to attempt suicide in order to escape Satanic accusation.
What, then, is your defense against Satan’s accusations?
4. YOUR DEFENSE— THE INTERCEDING SON OF GOD
It is true that Satan stands at our right hand to resist us and accuse us. But it is also true that Jesus Christ stands at God’s right hand to intercede for us!
1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Our Lord finished his work on earth and returned to heaven to take up his unfinished work. What is that work? Perfecting his children and preparing them for glory.
Heb 13:20-21 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, (21) Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
This perfecting ministry has two aspects to it. As our High Priest, Jesus Christ intercedes for us and provides the grace that we need when we are tested and tempted. If by faith we turn to him and come to the throne of grace, he will see us through to victory. But if we yield to temptation and sin, then he ministers as our Advocate to forgive us and restore us to fellowship once again.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Picture once again the courtroom scene in heaven. God the Judge is on his throne. Joshua the high priest stands before God and is dressed in filthy robes. He is guilty. Satan stands at Joshua’s right hand to resist him and accuse him. But Jesus Christ is at God’s right hand to represent Joshua and to restore him! This explains why Jesus returned to heaven with wounds (not scars) in his body.
Those wounds are the everlasting evidence that he died for us. God was merciful and gracious to save us when we first trusted Christ, but he is “faithful and righteous” to forgive us when we confess our sins to him. He is faithful to keep his promise, and he is righteous or just because Christ died for our sins and paid the price of our forgiveness. As sinners, we are saved from wrath by God’s grace and mercy.
As children of God who have disobeyed him, we are forgiven by God’s faithfulness and justice. Did God close his eyes to the reality of Joshua’s sins? Of course not! God will never defend his children’s sins—but he will defend his children.
When Abraham disobeyed and went down to Egypt, and there lied about his wife, God did not defend Abraham’s sins; but he did defend Abraham. He kept the ruler from defiling Sarah, and he helped Abraham get out of the land safely. Abraham suffered the consequences of that adventure; for Egypt gave Lot a taste of the world, and this led to Lot’s backsliding and downfall.
The Egyptian maid, Hagar, that Sarah brought along caused problems in the home and eventually had to be cast out. But God still ruled and overruled to accomplish his purposes with Abraham and Sarah.
When you listen to Satan’s accusations, you will focus your attention on yourself and your sins, and this will only lead to defeat and despair. But when you listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, you will look by faith to Jesus Christ in heaven, your Advocate at the throne of God. You will remember that he died for you and that God cannot reject you, because you belong to Christ. It is because of the heavenly intercession of the Son of God that you and I can defeat Satan’s accusations.
Note the stages in the experience of Joshua the high priest. First, there is Satan’s resistance. The accuser names Joshua’s sins at the throne of God and calls for a holy God to judge Joshua. Stage two is God’s rebuke of Satan.
And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Zechariah 3:2
Note that God’s rebuke of Satan is based on his grace toward his people. You and I have been saved by grace. God’s grace does not depend on human merit. Jesus Christ went through the fires of judgment that he might pluck us from the burning. Our relationship to God is not based on law or merit; it is based wholly on grace. Grace means that God accepts us in Jesus Christ, not in ourselves.
The third stage is Joshua’s restoration. God ordered them to remove the filthy clothes and put holy garments upon the high priest. He even put that “holy turban” on his head, the one with the gold plate at the front that read “Holy unto the Lord” (see Exodus 28:36). God did not even put Joshua on probation! He told him to return to the Temple and carry on his service for the Lord!
Resistance rebuke restoration
these are the stages in the experience of confessing sin and returning to fellowship with God.
Satan will accuse you, but do not listen to him. Turn by faith to Jesus Christ your Advocate, and confess your sins to him. Depend on what God’s Word says, not on how you feel. Rest on the grace of God—he has chosen you, and he will not forsake you. Charles Wesley has put all of this into a beautiful hymn.
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Lord, incline me to repent;
Let me now my sins lament;
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.
Still for me the Savior stands,
Holding forth His wounded hands;
God is love! I know, I feel,
Jesus weeps and loves me still.
Unconfessed sin in our lives is a foothold for Satan. He can use that sin as the basis for accusation. The longer he accuses, the greater that sin becomes in our own eyes. It becomes so big that it covers the face of God and hides his grace and his love. We do not experience feelings of conviction that bring us back to God, but feelings of condemnation that convince us that we cannot go back. Guilt becomes in Satan’s hands a terrible weapon that destroys our joy, our peace,, and our fellowship with God. Our hope fades. We are swallowed up by despair. Then Satan’s voice says to us, “Curse God and die!”
Do not listen to the voice of the devil! Instead, listen to the voice of God. Turn to the Word and believe what God says. Rest assured that your Advocate in heaven is waiting to forgive you and restore you. To delay admitting and confessing sin is only to give Satan a greater opportunity to damage your life and ministry.
Pro 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.