***Please note there were some audio troubles in the middle of this sermon recording***
John’s vision reveals not what things look like, but what they are like. We often see evil, both great and banal, in the world. But there is something behind it – a war in heaven between good and evil. In that war, we can see what to conquer, our need to conquer, and how we may conquer.
Some say there are only twelve basic plots, some say seven, some say three. I say one: Spiritual Warfare between good and evil in some form. Every story worth telling has three stages. A situation is first set up, then upset, then reset. Either happily or unhappily. First there is good, then there is evil, then there is warfare. With some resolution… Theologians know this three-fold scheme of the greatest story ever told. Creation, Fall, Redemption. Bilbo Baggins called it, there and back again.
I once asked a college philosophy class, “How many of you believe in God?” Out of thirty students, twenty-seven raised their hands in the affirmative; three abstained. Then I asked, “How many of you believe in Satan as a personal reality?” This time the vote was reversed. I pursued my inquiry. I asked, “Why do you believe in a supernatural being who has the capacity to influence us for good (God) and not in a supernatural personal being who has the capacity to influence us for evil (Satan)?” Their answers indicated that the Devil they were rejecting was what they perceived to be a nonexistent mythical caricature. Many qualified their positions by saying, “I do believe in the reality of an impersonal force of evil in the world.” I found this response fascinating. I asked them, “How can an impersonal force be evil?”
So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!
Martin Luther (1483-1546), On Christian Liberty
…For still our ancient foe,
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Martin Luther (1483-1546), A Mighty Fortress is Our God