Satan is so anti-God that Satan must be the champion of the atheist movement, right? Well, no, Satan actually loves religion.
What is religion? The Oxford dictionary defines it as “a system of beliefs in a superhuman power.” Webster says, “belief in a god or group of gods.”
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”’” (Matthew 4: 8-10).
Ancient people had no concept of atheism. Their question was not “Does God/do gods exist?” Their question was, “Which God/gods do you serve?”
When Satan tempted Jesus, he did not dispute the existence of the one true God. Instead, Satan simply tried to convince Jesus to change his loyalty.
The deceiver tried to entice Jesus into desiring human power and dominant control. All Satan asked of Jesus was to put himself at the center and to turn from God’s ways to embrace the evil one.
The deceiver has a mission. Since the time in Eden, his singular mission has remained the same: deceive humans into any religion that separates them from God. Satan loves religion; Satan hates the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
Satan’s mission manifests itself in preferred worldviews that have gone by many names. In the time of Jesus it was Hellenism. Today we know it by many variations: humanism, secularism, atheism, any religion that draws humans away from the one true God.
Hellenism was the dominant worldview among the pagans of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Its god was “me” – myself, my pleasure, my happiness: me, me, me. Its great missionary was Alexander the Great. His strategy was to win hearts and minds by creating enticing pleasure centers. His tactic was to build magnificent cities across the region. In those cities he strategically placed worship centers at main intersections. Pagan worship most often included pleasurable sexual immorality. He built arenas (sports complexes), gymnasiums (schools), theatres, and agoras (shopping malls).
Satan loves the religion of Hellenism. The deceiver has used it to advance his mission. Hellenism and the children it birthed, which go by those more familiar names of humanism, secularism, and atheism, have drawn people in every generation away from God and to self-worship.
The school year is well under way. In the words of the ancients to each of our Christian schools, “Who will be the God/god of your place?”
I am not suggesting that our schools should cancel all sports and eliminate their athletic programs. I am not suggesting that there should be no plays or musicals in our Christian schools. I am not suggesting that the school book store’s clothing line be cancelled and students prohibited from shopping at the local mall.
It is God who created the human body, and athletics can be a means to celebrate his gift of human strength and athleticism. It is God who created voices and beautiful body movements, and his creation is gloriously artistic in its beauty and splendor. In our society we must have stores where people are employed, clothes can be purchased, and provisions provided.
When Satan took Jesus to the mountain, he didn’t ask him to dispute the existence of the Father. He tried to entice him to replace the Father with something else. “Worship me,” Satan asked, and if that doesn’t work, “I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the earth and you can be god.”
That is the enticement that each and every one of us faces daily. It is the temptation for each of our schools each day of every year. Who is the God/god of your place?
God will only be the God of your place if you and your school intentionally put God at your center and his Word as your foundation.
When God is our center, our athletes will perform to glorify him. Our schools must ask themselves, is God at our center, or are athletics at our center and God’s on the sideline? Individually and as families, we must ask that question, too. The deceiver is constantly lurking and ready to lure us from our center.
When God is our center, our arts are performed and created to glorify him. The enticement of our culture is to elevate performers to god-like status. If you don’t believe it, watch the Oscars or attend an idol concert.
When God is our center, the mall and stores are a source to meet the needs of life. When God is not, they entice us to crave material goods which suck our resources dry. There is little left for the things of God.
When God is our center, all of life is worship as we seek to glorify God in all that we do and say. When God is not at our center, we chase after the temporal pleasures of this world. Our priorities are messed up. His kingdom is not advanced.
Satan indeed loves religion. The deceiver has used any means in his bag of tricks to entice humanity away from God.
Satan hates Jesus. Jesus said, “Love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Satan hates Jesus, because Jesus taught us to put and keep God at our center.
May each of us who are called to lead be God-centered disciples. May each of our schools always be and remain Christ-centered lights in our world and salt in our communities.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services