The idea of serving the devil is something that does not appeal to most people. Few people actually set out to serve Satan, but Satan knows this as well. If you look at Satan in Scripture, and if you listen to the church of Satan today, the message is not “serve the devil.” Rather the message is, and has always been, “serve yourself.” Serving ourselves is something that appeals to us. After all, it was pride that brought sin into this world, and it is pride that puts us on a direct collision course with God. The Bible tells us, “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6).
In the Garden of Eden Satan did not say “Follow me!” to Adam and Eve. He simply offered them personal gain, a chance to be like God, and they jumped at it. The Bible tells us their sin brought a curse on all creation. The Apostle Paul writes “…through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).
Simply put, we are born rebels. It’s in our genes to desire to be like God, to live as if there is no God. We are born in the grasp of Satan, imprisoned by our pride, lost in our sin and destined for hell. So, what hope do we have?
Jesus, after his baptism by John in the Jordan River, was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. There he was tempted by Satan, in order that he might pass the test Adam and Eve had failed. After he cast Satan away, Jesus began his public ministry preaching a message of repentance.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Repentance is something we talk about, but the word is often misunderstood. The Greek word used in Matthew’s Gospel is far richer than just feeling remorse or regret for what we’ve done. It literally means to think differently, to come to a new mind. Jesus is not just asking us to regret our sin; he is also challenging us to see things differently—to see things from God’s perspective.
I think God opposes the proud because the proud are the least likely to admit that they are wrong. The proud will hang on as long as they can to the illusion that they are like God. It reminds me of an old western where the outlaws are surrounded with no chance of escape. Think, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Legend has it they were hiding out in South America when they robbed the courier of a silver mine. They took refuge at a boarding house along the way and soon found themselves surrounded by members of the Bolivian Army. A gunfight ensued. Reality is often less exciting than fiction. In reality, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were both wounded in the gunfight and are thought to have committed suicide to avoid capture. But Hollywood’s version is much more exciting. In the movie, the outlaws realize they are surrounded, load their pistols, burst out the front door side by side with their guns blazing, and they are shot down in a moment of glory.
That’s an option for the proud. You can do that! You can refuse the free gift of salvation and you can burst into eternity with your guns blazing, believing you are like God. The original rebel, Satan, will be right by your side, and your fate will be the same as his.
Or you can humbly surrender, and receive the salvation won for you by Jesus Christ at the cross. Surrender is terrifying for the proud, for the rebel, because surrender means you will stand before the judge. But I can promise you this: Jesus Christ, the one who came to serve and not to be served, will be standing by your side. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). Simply put, repent, believe, and by the power of Christ you will be saved.