The Serpent of Paradise

I recently mooched a book called The Serpent of Paradise by Erwin W. Lutzer.  It’s really quite an interesting read!  The premise is to help the reader unravel a biblical understanding of Satan and how Satan’s rebellion serves God’s purposes.

One of the surprising aspects of the author’s writing style is that he throws in little personal applications here and there while narrating the history of Satan. It’s interesting how understanding Satan can help me see the greatness of God. And some of the analogies to my own heart and Satan’s have been startling.

Our pastor is also currently doing a series on Satan — specifically his tactics against the believer. I suppose it must be the time in my life to learn these things, so I may become a better-armed Christian.  I’m definitely learning a lot. 

Here are a few quotes from The Serpent of Paradise that struck me —

On the smallness of Satan and his capacity to seem more powerful to us than he really is:

“A single quarter lifted to the eye can obscure the blazing light of the sun, a star whose diameter is 865,000 miles. Just so, Satan, if we let him, can cause us to block out our vision of God. He can give us the terrifying optical illusion that, at least in this life, he is just about as big as God.”

On why Lucifer (Satan’s original name) decided to rebel against God:

“What we do know is that Lucifer was self-deceived, thinking that rebellion was necessary if he were to put his own interests first. He failed to grasp that even if he were motivated by self-interest, obedience to God would still be best. To put it differently, God’s best for him and his best for himself were actually one and the same.

“Lucifer’s bad judgment is a warning to us. We must never think that our obedience is best for God, but not best for us. When God commands us to obey Him, He not only has His best interest in mind but ours too. That is why we are never wiser than when we choose to follow God’s will, whatever the cost”

(While reading Lost in the Middle by Paul David Tripp last year, I became increasingly aware of how I actually “shoot myself in the foot” whenever I try find a “better” way than God’s way!)

On considering what way Lucifer desired to be “like God”:

“In what sense then can he be “like the Most High”? Only in this: He thought he would be independent. He knew that his accomplishments would always be but a shadow of what God can do. But the joy of knowing that he was now acting without God’s approval was worth the risk. He now would only give orders and supposedly not receive them. At least that was the plan.

“The irony is that Satan’s flaunted independence would in reality turn out to be another form of dependence on the will and purposes of God. True, he wouldn’t depend on God for guidance in the decisions he made, but every one of his rebellious acts would be under God’s careful direction and control. He could defy God, to be sure, but his activities would always be limited to what God allowed. His independence was hardly worthy of the word…he rebelled so that he would not have to be God’s servant, and yet today he still is!

“…Here, it is sufficient to point out that he cannot afflict Job without divine approval. He cannot harass Saul, except that he is sent to Saul by God. And he cannot give the apostle Paul a ‘thorn in the flesh’ without God determining both its time limitations and severity. This does not sound like independence! In fact…it is slavery.

“…He who hated servanthood would now become a servant of another sort. Rather than voluntary servanthood, his would be a reluctant servanthood, service with a different motive and toward a different end, but service nonetheless. In the end, he would still exist for God’s glory just as much as he did when he and God were in harmony.”

Do you see the connection between Satan’s sin and our own? When we try to be indpendent from God, we end up serving Him anyhow. All things will work together for God’s glory! This renews my love for the gospel. What a merciful God to give us human sinners a chance to serve Him as His dear children. All of us WILL serve Him, but isn’t it delightful to be able to serve Him as His child?

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