Satan is powerful. He hates you. And we know of two main strategies through which he cleverly—and often effectively—seeks to destroy Christians: deception and isolation.
This semester, every Wednesday chapel at BJU is focused on the local church. And when it comes to the issue of isolation in the life of a Christian, nothing could be more relevant than understanding the place of the local church in combatting that danger.
“Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
THE DANGER OF DRIFT
It’s probably fair to say that the main group that Satan tries to ostracize individual believers from is the local church. The drift often comes through distraction, as other responsibilities, values or temptations continue to pull someone further and further away.
This happens to those who are studying for ministry. With a desire to focus on their studies (or on a job that can pay the tuition bill), they end up pushing off their relationship with a local church in order to better prepare for full-time ministry down the road when the educational piece is finished.
Those demands and deadlines will always be there, of course. But we need to remember that (1) the best ministry training is going to happen through a close relationship with the church and (2) pushing that relationship with the local church down the road overlooks our need—now—for the Body. This isolation can be spiritually destructive.
THERE, BUT NOT THERE
There’s another twist to this idea of being isolated from the local church. Isolation doesn’t just happen through a lack of attendance; it can actually happen to someone who is sitting the the pews, consistently “gathering” with a local assembly of believers.
The strength of a body of believers isn’t found as much in attendance as it is in the level of acceptance and support.
In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul mentions an erring believer that had to be disciplined. This discipline was necessary and justified, but with the discipline over and having served its purposes, Paul knew that what was most needed was for the church to reaffirm their love for him so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7). Paul was conscious of that danger because he was aware of how Satan works (2 Cor. 2:11). He knew that if Satan can’t get believers out of the church, he’ll try to make them feel distant inside of it.
Without tangible, affirming acts of love for each other, it’s easy for a family to grow apart while under the same roof. There is a constant need to come alongside each other to avoid being overwhelmed with discouragement or driven out of the church.
- To individual believers: don’t neglect assembling with a local body of believers. Be especially cautious as you make decisions to lessen your involvement in the church, even for short spans of time. Satan is a greater threat to those on the fringe.
- To corporate bodies of believers: don’t just assemble, but also bear each other’s burdens and build each other up in love. It’s much like the image of a lion moving in to attack a member of the pack; Satan can’t sneak up from behind if you surround each other with support.
SATAN CAN’T STEAL FROM THE FATHER’S FOLD
An important and deeply comforting caveat is that Satan can never separate a true believer from the love of Christ. He cannot remove the Spirit that now lives inside of us as a guarantee of our inheritance. Satan may be aiming for wandering sheep, but no one can pluck a sheep from the Father’s fold.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)
We certainly need to avoid carelessness because we truly are in a spiritual battle and there truly is a power enemy. But we can rest, assured in one powerful truth—we can give over all our fears and cares to God because he is more powerful and He deeply cares for us.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
This article was first posted on seminary.bju.edu/viewpoint