Intro: Idioms are interesting. What is an idiom? An idiom is defined as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words”. You cannot define or understand the phrase by looking at the individual words, such as… rain cats and dogs, see the light, at the drop of a hat, beat around the bush, best of both worlds, cry over spilt milk, let sleeping dogs lie, etc. In fact, the words may point you in a completely wrong direction. You have to see how the phrase is used. Society defines the phrase by its usage, and it often develops over a period of time.
Here is one: “He drives like the devil…” I doubt that any of us have seen the devil drive a car. But we understand the phrase. It means he drives fast. The idiom, like the devil is used often to define something that is done with great energy, enthusiasm or speed.
But I want to suggest to you today that this phrase could also be used to define our actions toward God. Do you pray “like the devil”? Do you study the Bible like the devil? Do you worship God “like the devil”?
I. The Principle in the Idiom: Some have said that there is an exegetical principle contained in our idiom. The principle is: when you are seeking to discern the meaning and value of what you do toward God, you can ask yourself, how much of this duty is done by the devil – how much can, or does, he perform. If what you are doing is what he can, or does do, then you are not fulfilling the requirements of God.
• Every Christian duty taught in the Bible involves more than what the devil can do.
A. Even the demons believe… What does it mean to have faith? Do you believe in Jesus like the devil? Notice how James applies our idiom (exegetical principle) to the question in James 2 – James 2:18-19 – But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! James is making the point that saving faith goes beyond what the devil (demons) do. Do not settle for any definition that requires only what the devil can do. The devil believes that there is a God, and that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, they tremble at the certainty of it.
1. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” The context tells is that Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for the misuse of miraculous spiritual gifts. Some, who claimed to speak in tongues, had apparently blasphemed the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul’s point is that the word they speak can tell you if they are speaking under the direction of the Spirit. Negatively speaking, the Holy Spirit does not curse Jesus, and positively speaking, anyone who says Jesus is Lord, is speaking as the Holy Spirit would speak. So how does our principle apply here?
2. The devil (and the demons) have no doubt that Jesus is Lord. In fact, they are even willing to confess it. Notice what the demons say to Jesus in Matt 8:29-31 – “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” In Mark 1:24, a demon says to Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God.” These phrases “Son of God” and “Holy One of God” clearly ascribe lordship to Jesus. They clearly believe that Jesus has power (Lordship) over them. They beg Jesus not to “torment us” and “destroy us.” The devil knows and admits that Jesus is stronger than he is and that the devil’s days of freedom are numbered.
3. The Devil Believes Jesus Is Lord. He even says the words. So, Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 12:3 (“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”) means more than just believing it to be true, or even saying the words. The devil believes and says that.
B. Romans 10:9 – that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It is necessary for sinners to confess with their mouth and believe with their heart to be saved. [This is not the only passage that joins two coordinates toward salvation – believe and confess. Other passages tell us that one must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38); believe and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). The fact that Paul only joins these two here does not contradict or erase the teaching of the other passages.]
1. But doesn’t the devil believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Yes, he does. He is not an “unbeliever” in the sense of not knowing the facts. In fact, he exerts a lot of energy to blinding the minds of people to the facts. 2 Cor 4:3-4 – But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. The Devil knows that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today.
2. So, the duty of confessing Jesus as Lord, and believing that God raised him from the dead, must mean more than what the devil does. I cannot be satisfied (and God is not satisfied) with what the devil says and does. I must not do it like the devil. Let me point out a few necessary distinctions.
II. Do you believe and confess like the devil? How is the “faith” of demons different from saving faith? There is more than one answer to this question, but it is not difficult to see the difference.
A. The devil does not willingly obey the Lord, he reluctantly acknowledges.
1. Go back to James’ point in James 2 when he states that the demons believe and tremble. James describes such faith as dead (v. 20) and imperfect (incomplete) (v. 22). He says it is faith alone (by itself) – unaccompanied by obedient works, and that it could not justify a person (v. 24). James’ point is that saving faith includes more than just acknowledgement of facts or the affirmation of the mind. It includes willing submissive obedience. Saving faith works.
a. This is also evident in John 8. Jesus depicts the Jewish leaders who opposed Him as the children of the devil because they sought to kill Him. John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
1) Notice that Jesus does not associate them with the devil because they refused to say the words, Jesus is Lord. He depicts them as children of the devil for 3 reasons:
i. They did the deeds of their father, Satan. They were disobedient to God, and sought to commit murder.
ii. They did not love God (v. 42)
iii. and, like the devil, they did not stand in the truth (v. 44)
b. We might also notice how this corresponds to Paul’s words in Romans 10:9. He says “If you… believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (The reference to the “mouth” and “heart” here derive from Deut. 30:14 – in your mouth and in your heart – indicating that the word was not far from them.) But Paul’s modifying phrase “in your heart” may also point to a further distinction. To believe “in your heart” points to depth and attitude.
c. Saving faith is a willing embrace of the words we are confessing. Christians don’t just believe the same facts the devil believes. We love and embrace the truth about God. We joyfully express it and are willing to submit to it.
d. Earlier in Romans 6 Paul mentioned the exercise of this saving faith in these words… Rom 6:17-18 – But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. To believe and obey from the heart is more than the devil does, or ever will do. The faith and confession of the demons was out of trembling compulsion to the authority of Jesus. We cannot envision the devil ever obeying the gospel message, but he will submit to God eventually. Phil 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Although the devil will submit, it will not be joyfully or willingly. It will not flow from a transformed heart that loves God and the truth.
e. In 2 John 1:9, the apostle says “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son”. This makes abiding in the teachings of Christ very important. If I do not do it I do not have God – I will be lost eternally. If we apply our principle to this duty, we might ask, “In what sense the devil would abide in the teachings of Christ?”
1) Satan certainly can intellectually know the teaching of Christ. He is aware of God’s revelation and can recall the words of scripture. I might assume that he can abide in them in the sense that he knows what God has said and believes the words to be true. So, God must demand more of me than that when he tells me to abide in the teachings of Christ.
2) But when Satan recalls the words of God, he hates them. He does not love the truth. He does not treasure it of cherish it. The abiding that God expects of me includes a love of the truth and a desire to conform to it in every way. To obey. The word abide means to dwell with or live with; as one who lives in the same house with another person. Jesus told his disciples… John 14:23 – “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
III. Applying the “like the devil” principle: It might do us well to apply this exegetical principle to other duties or commands we find in the scriptures. How is my faith different from the devil’s? How is my attitude toward the truth different from the devil’s?
A. Do you pray like the devil? How are my prayers different from the kind the devil might offer to God. (He is mentioned as asking God for something in Luke 22:31). Do you think your prayers bother Satan?
1. Satan has no problem with people praying for food, clothing, good health, safety, and prosperity. Why not? Because you do not have to be born again to want these things or even ask for them. We all share these desires. God does tell us to pray for our daily bread, but if we stop there we might be praying a prayer the devil could pray.
2. But the devil would never pray, Hallowed be your name, your will be done… Let the name of the Lord be honored and magnified by all the earth… Lord, give me spiritual strength to fight against the desires of the flesh… The devil would never pray… I am sorry for my sin. I hate it, and I confess it, and I ask you, Father, for forgiveness in Jesus’ name.”
3. How would the devil do church? What would he be satisfied to see happen? He would be pleased to see people filling the seats and getting all the proper activities accomplished, as long as they did not love doing it, or viewed worship as a chore. As long as they did it without the application of their hearts. People worshipping like the devil is not necessarily devil-worship.
a. Matt 15:8-9 – “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” People praying to heard of others, fasting to be seen by men, giving out of compulsion, eating the bread and the fruit of the vine as a common meal or a sacramental ritual. Any of this will do – As long as it is not in spirit and truth.