Thanks to the technology of instantaneous media communication, we are made aware of developments from around the world and within our own neighbourhoods and circles of friends and relatives. Never is human history has such a communication network existed. But, like so many aspects of life it has negative consequences if, through ignorance or lack of awareness, we succumb to those consequences.
Anxiety and despair over the circumstances which beset our daily lives have been a reality since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The only difference is that modern technology enables us to experience the scandal, gossip and prejudiced comment of our polarised world in full colour, at full volume and in up-close-and-personal detail. Renowned American fiction writer, John Grisham, has remarked that America’s favourite pastime is the dissemination of hate. Chapter 5, verse 2 of Ecclesiastes warns: Do not be quick with your mouth; do not be hasty in your heart.
So: Whatever happened to “peace and goodwill amongst men?” How can that experience be enjoyed? In our polarised world, is that possible? It is, but only through an understanding of the foundation and origins of the circumstances that prevail.
How did our world become polarised? How is it that we are beset by a constant struggle between good and evil? Let’s rewind to the origins of life on our planet in order to understand the forces of darkness.
Origins of evil
Revelations (12:7-9) informs us as follows: “There was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
Jesus in Luke (10:18) accounted for that with the words: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Continuing, Revelations (12: 12) states: “But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short.” That statement is clarified in Revelations (20: 10) under the heading ‘Satan’s Doom.’ His fate is to be cast into the lake of burning sulphur where he “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” So in the struggle between good and evil, we are assured that Satan’s days are numbered and that God and goodwill triumph.
Isaiah (14: 12-15) records the expulsion of Satan from heaven as follows: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn. You have been cast down to the earth. You said in your heart ‘I will ascend to heaven, I will raise my throne above the stars of God…..I will make myself like the most high.’ But you were brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.”
In the following passage, (28: 14-15) the prophet Ezekiel is believed to be describing Satan’s evolution: “You were anointed as a garden cherub, for so I ordained you. You were the holy mount of God, you walked among the fiery stones, you were blameless in your ways….till wickedness was found in you.”
The issue that defies our understanding is how could wickedness have come about from God’s creation in heaven? After all, the account of creation in Genesis repeatedly states “And God saw that it was good.” God is faultless and perfect. Therefore, it is baffling to try to grasp that within the DNA chemistry of creation there was a fault that mutated into evil. The only response to that mystery I can offer is to await the answer in the next life.
Exploring the element of corruption further, one finds that within the harmony of the Garden of Eden, there were two exceptions: the tree of knowledge and the serpent. Thus, it would seem that by casting evil out of heaven, the sanctity of the earth was compromised. Why, one wonders, did God allow his creation to become inhabited by the evil one? Why from the very outset of Man’s existence was he cast as the battleground in the war between good and evil?
On pain of death, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. (Gen 2: 17). What is significant at that point was their ignorance of sin because they did not know evil. Yet it lurked and posed a threat.
But once they succumbed to the temptation of Satan in the form of the serpent, they became corrupted and open to the forces of evil. In his wrath, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and consigned them to a life of toil and hardship.
So, in that we are tempted by and subjected to evil while at the same time we recognise righteousness and are urged to practice and uphold it, our world is a polarised battleground. This is apparent from the extent to which evil and the processes of being healed and cleansed from it are major themes running through the Bible. If one combines the terms curse, darkness and evil, there are over 1,000 references to them in Nelson’s Concordance. The combination of the terms, healing, cleansed and light totals over 1,200references. Statistically, therefore, as those Biblical references indicate, we are hostages to an intense battle between good and evil.
As the chapters in Genesis after Adam, Eve, Cane and Abel indicate, humanity was captivated by rampant evil to the extent that God decided to destroy humanity with the exception of Noah and his family. Hence the Flood. Fast-forwarding beyond that event, humanity once again proved a weak and easy prey for evil. In seeking to provide order and guidelines as to how God wants Man to live, he handed down the Ten Commandments. But as we know, God’s chosen people, Israel, proved stubborn, “stiff-necked,” as God called them, and were punished in many ways for their backsliding and disobedience.
God’s ultimate effort to redeem humanity from its weak and wicked ways was to send His Son Jesus. By his selfless, faultless example, we are inspired to follow in his ways so as not to succumb to evil. But above all, in the greatest and most significant event in history, Jesus, the Son of God, sacrificed himself for our sakes to free us from sin and to reconcile man with God. His triumph over death was a triumph over the forces of darkness and a lasting victory for righteousness.
It has been said that in school one is taught a lesson and then given a test; whereas in life one faces tests from which one learns lessons. God is not above using or allowing evil to test us. Here are some examples: From 1 Samuel (16:14) we read: “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” Saul’s rejection of God’s ways earned God’s displeasure via an evil spirit. God allowed Satan to inflict terrible tragedy and personal suffering on Job to test his loyalty. But Job remained steadfast in the face of adversity and was richly rewarded. Throughout his life on earth, Jesus was tormented and persecuted by the agents of evil. The reproaches Jesus suffered illustrate not only the reality of our polarised world but the encompassing extent of the forces of evil. The most brazen occurred following his 40 day fast in the desert when Satan made three arrogant attempts to corrupt him. In response Jesus said: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Mt 4: 10). By his betrayal, suffering and death, God allowed Jesus to surrender to the forces of darkness. But by raising Jesus from the dead, God triumphed over evil.
Light and darkness are both practical and symbolic in indicating the struggle between good and evil. Nowhere was that more emphatically stated than when Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”(Jn 8:12). Light is associated with righteousness, joy, glory, upliftment, redemption.
The evil of Satan is associated with darkness. Paul in Colossians 1:13 states that Jesus has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness.” When Jesus was arrested on the night before his death, he described that as the “hour when darkness reigns” (Lk 22: 53). Jesus warned that those who paid lip service to God, would be “thrown into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 8: 12). When Jesus was crucified, the whole land was shrouded in darkness.
As noted in terms of the contrast between healing and cleansing on the one hand, and evil and darkness on the other, the Bible has many accounts of wrongdoing and the retribution which follows. In that connection, an expression that occurs frequently is: “He did evil in the sight of the Lord.” God wants us to appreciate that disobeying, disrespecting and forsaking him has consequences. In Deuteronomy chapter 11, verses 26 to 29, he said: “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord; the curse if you disobey and turn from the way I command you.”
Despite Satan having a fearsome stake in our world, God is the arbiter of destiny. At the end of time, God’s supremacy and control will be demonstrated in awesome fashion: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2: 20). So, Satan can tempt and corrupt but he cannot control destiny which, in any case, spells doom for him.
Our struggle with the polarised world is as much internal as it is external. Paul in Romans chapter 7 unpacks the struggle with good and evil that is waged within ourselves and the quandary which besets us:
When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law. But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members….. So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (verses 22-25).
In Matthew chapter 7, verses18-23, Jesus explained: “Nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean. For it does not go into his heart but into his stomach and then out of the body. What comes out of a man, is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts and folly. All these evils make a man unclean.”
Redemption from this liability was secured by Jesus. As Paul states in Romans chapter 8, (verses 1-2; 5-7): “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires. But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…..The sinful mind is hostile to God….”
Of course, this does not mean an instant fix. Our vulnerable human nature persists. Thus, as Paul hastens to add, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8: 26). In chapter 6 of his letter to the Ephesians, he exhorts us “put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (6: 11). He describes that armour as the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword which is the word of God (6:14-18).
Prayer, worship and scripture are the weapons to use in order to defend ourselves against the deception and snares of our polarised world. The fact that Satan was brazen enough to confront Jesus should be a salutary lesson for us as we are infinitely more vulnerable to Satan’s treachery and evil intent.
Paul in Ephesians chapter 6, verses 12 -16 warned that our fight is against the “spiritual forces of evil” which have infiltrated “authorities”; that we are locked in a battle “against the powers of this dark world.”
Promoting hostility to God is Satan’s full-time occupation. Jesus gives us the true perspective and context of what confronts the righteous in this life. Here are his words from John chapter 15, verses 18 to 21: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…..If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also….They will treat you in this way because of my name.
Jesus’s mission on earth was to reconcile Man to God. His teaching and his sacrifice on the cross for our redemption radically intensified the nature of the war between righteousness and evil. The very reference to Jesus as the ‘Saviour’ provoked Satan into redoubling his efforts to corrupt humanity and to sabotage Jesus’s mission. Jesus explained this very clearly when he said: “I have come to bring fire on the earth….Do you think I came to bring peace….No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other….” (Lk 12:49-52).
That quote is often troubling to Christians since it appears to contradict references to Jesus as “wonder counsellor” who brought peace and goodwill amongst men. The way to understand what Jesus meant is to see it in the context of the war between good and evil. The righteousness Jesus exemplifies is absolute anathema to Satan. Thus hatred of and hostility towards Christian values and beliefs has gone into overdrive as a result of Jesus’s mission on earth. Jesus was simply warning us of Satan’s reaction to what Jesus achieved and established. The shrill of that war bombards us daily. As an example, let’s look at a very topical controversy: Donald Trump in the context of understanding polarisation and how the forces of darkness manipulate and exploit it.
As stated at the outset of this sermon, the abuse of communication technology is a major weapon in polarising our lives. The volume and intensity of information and disinformation and their agendas promote the polarisation of opinions. If one follows major networks like CNN and NBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post, one might be convinced that President Trump is unworthy of the position he holds and should have been impeached. 50% of Americans polled actually believe that. But 50% also reject those views. Why is that?
The answer is because the other 50% are possibly less gullible and more discerning and consult other sources like Fox News, Breitbart News, Newsmax.com and the Washington Times which carry diverse and alternative views. How do we discern prejudice and slander? The answer is to find out who owns those sources, with whom they are aligned and what their agenda is.
As American poet Ezra Pound wrote: “Real knowledge is for the few who insist on pursuing it. For the rest, education is mere shepherding.” Whatever views on Trump one has, because he upholds Christian values he enjoys the support of millions of rank and file Christians. Because Trump challenges what is prescribed as politically correct thinking, he is maligned and scorned by those who are associated with humanism, secularism and moral decay.
Trump haters and detractors brand him as a “danger.” Arch-Trump hater and film-maker, Michael Moore said earlier this month that Trump was a greater danger to the US than the Corona virus. The Speaker of the House of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, has called Trump “the most dangerous man in American history.” But what is dangerous about Trump and why are his opponents so extremely hateful of him? To understand their vendetta, we need to know what their agenda is.
The anti-Trump forces advocate a melting pot of nations and a one-world government; they oppose national sovereignty which is why they want open borders and oppose Trump’s policy of building a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration. They favour bigger government and socialist welfare. They oppose school prayer and Christian values. Already several of those elected to Congress in 2018 refused to swear the oath of allegiance to the US constitution by placing their hands on the Bible.
- They have replaced God’s law with Man’s law.
- They have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
- They have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
- They oppose disciplining children and instead regard deviant behaviour as cultivating self-esteem.
- They ridicule time-honoured values in favour of what they call open-minded enlightenment.
- They advocate abortion as a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.
According to radical Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Trump’s pro-life legislation is – quote – “an all-out assault on women and an attempt to deprive women of moral freedom” [Feb 25, 2020]. Gillibrand’s sense of morality is clearly divorced from God’s morality. According to Gillibrand and her ilk, terminating the life of an unborn child is a decision that Christian morality has no business in condemning. They don’t believe that everyone deserves a birthday.
The anti-Trump forces, who call themselves progressives of the New Age, promote degenerative habits and lifestyles. They enjoy the support of New Age billionaire George Soros and his fellow travellers in the elite establishment which is backed by the mainstream mass media, Hollywood and figures such as Hillary Clinton.
When agendas disparage and disrespect Christian values and morals, you can be sure Satan is behind them. To those prejudiced against Trump because of his unsavoury past, the question to ask is: Was St Paul not far worse before his Damascan conversion?
Indeed, God’s way is not Man’s way. In liberating the Jews from Babylonian captivity, God chose a pagan warrior – Cyrus. In initiating the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, God chose that same pagan warrior, Cyrus. Therefore, it is helpful to see Trump as a modern-day Cyrus, a force attempting to restore and defend good. His presidency has re-established Christmas as a Christian event with nativity scenes in public places. He has officially reinstated the word ‘Christmas’ in public greetings rather than the trite quip ‘happy holidays.’ Trump has appointed two devout Christians to the nine-member US Supreme Court giving conservative Christian values a 5:4 majority. He has abolished the trans-gender toilets in schools that Obama instituted. He recognises that traditional American values are under siege in terms of the agendas driven by the godless and those who Satan exploits as useful idiots.
The relentless hate of Trump is promoted by the adherents of the new world order and their programme of humanism, socialism and secularism which, in practice means the marginalisation, persecution and suppression of Christian values.
In Europe, that programme is at an advanced stage. A report earlier this month by an American TV station noted that 85% of Europeans no longer profess an adherence to Christianity or have become indifferent towards its teachings. Europe is rapidly being de-Christianised as Man’s laws replace God’s laws. Few churches have congregations and many have been closed, commercialised and used as places of entertainment. There can be no doubt that that process is being facilitated and guided by the forces of darkness which pervade the world.
Paul in chapter 2 of his second letter to the Thessalonians (9- 10) wrote: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of signs and every sort of evil that deceives…”
The concluding verse of Psalm 12 states: “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honoured by men.” If we ponder the relevance of that verse in the world today, we can recognise how outlooks are universalised and deemed acceptable. The terms “The Conversation,” “trending” and “The Narrative,” in social media are tools in the management of mind control and the promotion of social acceptance.
On this issue, Paul in his letter to Titus advises as follows: “Avoid foolish controversies, arguments and quarrels because they are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once and then a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful…” (Titus 3: 9-11)
Let’s remind ourselves of what is stated in chapter 12 of Revelations: “woe to the earth because the devil has gone down to you.” When Jesus was before Pilate he said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But my kingdom is from another place” (Jn 18:36).
In the concluding remarks of chapters 11 and 12 of Hebrews we are reminded that “God has planned something better for us” and that “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”
Jesus’s warning cannot be over-emphasised: “I have come to bring fire on the earth….Do you think I came to bring peace….No, I tell you, but division.” (Lk 12:49-52).To survive in our polarised world one has to understand the warnings Jesus gave about it, to be wary and circumspect about developments, who promote them and what their objectives are. But above all, one must strive to uphold Christian values and teachings. As Paul exhorted in Ephesians (5: 8-11): “Live as children of the light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”