Doing Satan’s job for him

I was struck recently by this line from the Puritan Simon Ford in Joel Beeke’s excellent little book Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption, Reformation Heritage Books, 2008 (available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.)

Ford identified several hindrances that keep us from relishing our Father’s adopting grace. Among them is this: “A kind of delight in complaining against thy self, and taking Satan’s part many time in bearing false witness against thy own soul.” (cited on page 99) It was the phrase “taking Satan’s part” that got me thinking.

It is common to find people who often bemoan their sin or feel unworthy as Christians. ‘I’m not as good a Christian as the rest of you,’ they say.

It is, of course, right that we confess our sin and grieve over it. But such confession and grief are always to be set in the context of grace so that they amplify our delight in grace. If they ever diminish our delight in grace then something has gone wrong.

So how about this as a pastoral response to such people – including of course, ourselves when we think this way.

The answers may require some prompting. (As Apple say in their adverts for the iPhone and iPad, “Some sequences have been shortened”!)

Question: “What does Satan think his job is?”

Answer: “He is the accuser. His ‘job’ is to accuse God’s people and take away their joy.”

Question: “What are you doing when you complain that you’re not a good Christian?”

Answer: “I’m doing Satan’s job for him. Or with him.”

Question: “What should your job be in these situations?”

Answer: “To highlight the merits of Christ that are mine through faith and delight in God’s gracious love to me.”

Question: “Shall we do that together now?”

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5 thoughts on “Doing Satan’s job for him

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Doing Satan’s job for him « Tim Chester -- Topsy.com

  2. Thanks Tim. This is fantastic, I am going to show this to some of the guys I meet with

    I have always liken this “I am such a bad person” with the Prodigal Son who on returning home comes back with his ‘compensation plan’ of how he is going to pay back the father and earn his way back into the family after squandering all the wealth. I imagine him trudging home with his head hung low reciting his atonement/redemption plan. He then starts to tell his father how he is going to pay the penalty himself and pay him back but is INTERRUPTED BY GRACE….he doesn’t get to finish his atonement/redemption plan because the father is too busy with a robe and a ring and a fattened calf and all the rest.

    Now here is my application point to guys I meet with (particularly after falling to the sexual sin of masturbation and pornography) – we all do a version of this story because

    (1) We punish ourselves (by feeling miserable for a week and full of guilt and shame etc). And so our misery and shame ends up being a form of punishment/atonement for what we have done. But after a week ‘the price is paid’ and we can hold our heads high again and sing with joy and approach God with boldness etc

    (2) We come up with a redemption plan – which starts with point (1) and feeling miserable for a week (or longer) but also involves all the things we are going to do to earn our way back to God – bible, pray, service, fasting, lots of ‘recommitments’ that we’ll do etc.

    So we do exactly the same as the Prodigal Son – we have (1) an atonement plan (to pay the punishment for our sin = feel miserable and beat yourself up) and (2) a redemption plan (to pay God back = works righteousness etc)

    What your little piece has highlighted is not just (1) and (2) but also (3) which is “we are partnering with Satan and doing his job for him!”

    May God’s grace continue to interrupt our atonement plan, our redemption plan and our partnership with Satan as we realise that we are Son’s with status and affection (from the father) beyond our wildest dreams.

  3. The late William Still of Aberdeen (mentor of Sinclair Ferguson) used the following illustration to show the folly of continually bemoaning our past sins.Imagine a clean respectable man after doing some gardening discovers his hands are full of muck. He will then go into his house and under the tap wash the muck away. During the rest of the day will he continually think about how dirty his hands were or does he forget about it the instant he has been washed away? Of course he will forget about it unless he has some sort of mental problem. Likewise we should also forget our sins once repented of and confessed.As far as the East lies from the West so far has he removed them from us!They are gone! So as you say we should not do the devil’d work for him by bringing them back to remembrance.

  4. I think generally this is really helpful, but I wonder if the illustration Andrew refers to goes too far. Ezekiel 36:31 says:

    “Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.”

    The surprise for me when looking at this was that this is what God says our response should be after we have been cleansed by him. So it seems that while we should be absolutely confident of being cleansed from our sins, we should still loathe ourselves for our sins. I guess the key is how to ensure that this self-loathing increases our joy in being forgiven rather than taking away from it.

    What do you think?

  5. ‘So it seems that while we should be absolutely confident of being cleansed from our sins, we should still loathe ourselves for our sin’
    Kevin do you really believe that our heavenly Father wants us once forgiven wants us to go about continually loathing ourselves over sins that he has foegiven. Jesus paid the price for our sins, taking the guilt and shame surely he wants us to think more of ‘Christ in us the hope of glory’ rather than ‘wretched man that I am’.

    I don’t think it would be good if our own children would be continually loathing their sins after we have forgiven them. They may well appreciate the fact that they had done wrong and will aim not to repeat it again but if we are always on their backs reminding them that we have a record of their wrongs it would not be good parenting. Or worse, if they were always loathing themselves, it would break the heart of any good parent and be a terrible witness before a watching world.

    I think that some of Puritans, godly as they were, could sometimes become almost obsessional about their sins. Bunyan’s autobiography: ‘Grace abounding to the chief of sinners’ traces his spiritual and psychological experiences while he was under a guilt trip from Satan, even to thinking he had committed the unforgivable sin. He came through in the end and was truly able to magnify the grace of Christ and rebuff the onslaughts of the accuser of the brethren.

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