Christ, Our Defender
Satan is not match for our Savior.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand I plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”— Zechariah 3:1-4
Many of us downplay the reality of Satan, but the Scriptures emphatically teach that Satan is not only real but also powerful. He’s like “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) and diabolically "disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan is powerful enough that Jesus tells Peter that he would “sift him like wheat” if permitted (Luke 22:31). In other words, Satan is real, he is crafty (think of the serpent in Genesis 3:1), and he is powerful.
The main weapon that Satan uses, however, is accusation. In fact, the word “Satan” means “accuser.” The passage above in Zechariah 3 gives us a glimpse into how Satan goes about his work. Notice that Joshua the high priest was standing before God with filthy garments, which, by implication, is what Satan concentrates his accusations on. How could the high priest stand before holy God so dirty, so unrighteously?
Here we see that Satan wants to paralyze the people of God with moral guilt. Note that Joshua overhears Satan’s accusation. It’s not just a dialogue between God and Satan, but also with Joshua and the whole company of heaven. At least part of Satan’s aim is to crush Joshua with guilt and shame by pointing out his uncleanness and unworthiness in front of everyone.
R.C. Sproul once said: ”There are two people who know about all the skeletons in your closet: God and Satan. And Satan is a skeleton-rattler. His aim is to constantly remind you of your sins and regrets.” In other words, Satan wants to deflate your spirit, keeping you from resting in the assurance of God’s grace. While the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, leading us to repentance and rest in the gospel, Satan keeps us focused on guilt in order to weaken us.
Satan is also subtle. In fact, the word from which we get “devil” means “diabolical.” Satan will ever so subtly fill you with anxiety and insecurity, reminding you of past mistakes and regrets, causing you to doubt God’s love or plan for your life. Satan is so subtle that he can even turn Christianity, who’s central message is grace, into moralism. Ever so slightly he would have us believe that our primary identity is our works and not our salvation. Ever so slightly he would have us condemning, excluding, and judging others. Ever so slightly he would have us become little devils ourselves.
Let me ask you to do a little self-evaluation: Are there regrets from your past that you still struggle to resolve? Do you struggle with your self-image? Do you often feel guilty? Unworthy? Unlovable? Do you often compare yourself to others? That’s how Satan wants you to feel. He wants to deflate your spirit with terrible but polished accusations. He doesn’t want you to enter into God’s rest, but to keep you bent down with guilt and shame. He wants to destroy your self-esteem and self-image. He wants to keep you desperately seeking to justify yourself, leading you to compare yourself to others. He wants to make you an ineffective, moralistic, miserable Christian. This is the work of the devil.
However, if some of us underestimate the reality and power of Satan, an equally wrong response is to overestimate his power. Because the Bible also tells us that Christ defends us from our accuser. Like the angel of the Lord who clothed Joshua, so Jesus has taken our iniquity away and replaced our filthy garments with pure vestments. As Paul says, “The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
In Acts 7:54-60, when Stephen was judged, condemned, and stoned to death by the Sanhedrin, we are told that he looked up to heaven and saw Jesus standing before the throne of God to receive him. Not sitting, but standing. Though Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God the Father” (which implies his role as the one who judges the world), he stood up to receive Stephen.
The judge of the world comes to the defense of his people. He does not leave us defenseless, but rushes to our side. With this in mind, whenever Satan accuses us, weighing us down with guilt and shame, we can sing with confidence that great hymn:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Satan is no match for our Savior. Satan is real, he is crafty, and he is powerful. But Christ, our defender, is greater. Because of Christ, you can rest with assurance knowing that you are truly forgiven, loved, and accepted. Don’t allow Satan in his many disguises to tell you otherwise.
Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.