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03 Satan-The Ruler

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 (Joh 12:31)  Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

(Joh 14:30)  Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

1Ti 3:6-7  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  (7)  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Pro 16:18  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

1Jn 5:19  And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of [literally “in the lap of”] the evil one.

If I were to ask you, “What was David’s great sin?” you would probably reply, “Committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed in battle.” Certainly the sins of adultery and murder (coupled with deceit) are great sins and must not be treated lightly. But David committed another sin that had even greater consequences. Because of David’s adultery, four persons died: Uriah, the baby that was born, Amnon, and Absalom. But because of David’s other sin, 70,000 people died! When David confessed his sins of adultery and murder, he said, “I have sinned.” But when he confessed this other sin, he said, “I have sinned greatly.”

What was David’s other sin? And what part did Satan play in it?

1 Chronicles 21:1, 2, 7, 8, 14-19


Satan’s goal is always to get to the will and control it. He may begin by deceiving the mind, as with Eve, or by attacking the body, as with Job, but ultimately he must get to the will. However, in David’s case, Satan bypassed the mind and the body and in a blitzkrieg action attacked his will and won. David’s mind was not deceived; he had his eyes wide open when he rebelled against God. David was not suffering; in fact, his kingdom was in great shape. He had won a number of notable victories and was enjoying a height of popularity and success. Had David been deceived, or had he been suffering, we might have had reason to sympathize with his decision; but this was not the case.

We must never underestimate the importance of the will in the Christian life. Too many believers have an intellectual religion that satisfies the mind but never changes the life. They can discuss the Bible and even argue about it; but when it comes to living it, they fail. Other Christians have an emotional religion that is made up of changing feelings. Unless they are on an emotional high, they feel God has forsaken them. God wants the whole of the inner man to be devoted to him: an intelligent mind, a fervent heart, and an obedient will. Our obedience ought to be intelligent, and it ought to be motivated from a warm and loving heart.

The Christian life is basically a matter of the will. We are to love the Lord with all our heart (the emotions) and our mind (the intellect) and our strength (the will). The Holy Spirit wants to instruct the mind through the Word, inspire the heart with true holy emotions, and then strengthen the will to do the will of God. A dedicated Christian prays whether he feels like it or not. He obeys the Word of God regardless of his own feelings. The believer who lives on his emotions is repeatedly up and down; he lives on a religious roller coaster. But the believer who lives on the basis of “spiritual willpower” has a consistent Christian life and a steady ministry that is not threatened by changing circumstances or feelings.

Your will is important because your will helps to determine your character. Decisions mold character, and decisions chart the directions of your life. You may want to blame circumstances or feelings, or even other people; but this is only an excuse. It is the will that must direct the life. You were saved by saying “I will!” as you responded to God’s gracious call; and you grow and serve God by saying “Thy will!”

Many Christians have the idea that Christian love is a feeling. It is not; it is a willing. We are commanded to love one another, and God cannot command your feelings. He has every right to command your will. Christian love simply means that we treat others the way God treats us, and this involves the will. I confess to you that there are believers whom I love as a Christian, but I do not like them, and I would not want to live with them or spend a two-week vacation with them. But with the Spirit’s help, I treat them the way God treats me, and I seek to show them Christian love. It is a matter of the will.

Satan’s original sin was a sin of the will. Five times in Isaiah 14:12-14 Satan says “I will!” He seeks to duplicate this sin in our lives, and he will if we are not careful.

Satan is “the ruler of this world,” and you and I are rebellious aliens living in his territory. Because we are citizens of heaven, we obey heaven’s laws and submit to heaven’s Lord. Satan wants us to worship and serve him; he wants our will submitted to his will. What weapon does he use to tempt us?


David was feeling important when Satan approached him with the suggestion that he number the people. First Chronicles 20 records a number of great victories, including the capture of a valuable crown that was placed upon David’s head. David won many victories, but he lost the war, because Satan used these victories to inflate David’s ego and entice him to rebel against God.

Two Insights:   1) 2 Samuel 24:1 tells us that the Lord incited David to take the census, which is not a contradiction because the Lord allowed Satan to tempt David for His own purpose, and 2) Sometimes, even unspiritual people like Joab can see the error of a particular action, when we are blinded by pride.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba was a sin of the flesh. But when he numbered the nation, he committed a sin of the spirit.

2Co 7:1  Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

    Believers should not get involved with either sins of the flesh or the spirit, but those who are not guilty of “fleshly sins” (such as adultery, gluttony, etc.) should not condemn others; for they themselves may be guilty of sins of the spirit. The prodigal son in Luke 15 was guilty of sins of the flesh, but his proud, critical, unbending older brother was guilty of sins of the spirit.

It is worth noting that David’s sin of numbering the people resulted in 70,000 people dying. His sin of adultery led to the death of four persons. Local churches are quick to judge and condemn those who fall into sins of the flesh, but they are not so quick to judge and discipline church members (especially officers) who are guilty of sins of the spirit: pride, stubbornness (which is passed off as “conviction”), gossip, jealousy, competition, bragging about results, etc.

To some degree, pride enters into all of Satan’s temptations. “You shall be as God!” was part of his offer to Eve. Job had to listen to the criticisms of his friends, and he wondered why God did not appear to vindicate him. When Satan tempted our Lord, he tried to appeal to human pride.

Mat 4:8-9  Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;  (9)  And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

This is one of the dangers of great success. Those to whom much is given fight intensive spiritual battles against pride. Pride glorifies man and robs God of the glory that only he deserves. Pride is a weapon that Satan wields with great skill. This explains why Peter writes,

1Pe 5:5-6  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  (6)  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

What was so wrong about David numbering the people? After all, in Exodus 30:11-16 didn’t Moses command an annual census? Yes, he did, as a reminder to the nation that it had been purchased by God. Each male twenty years of age or older had to give half a shekel for “ransom money.” It was his way of acknowledging God’s great redemption from Egypt. Note in verse 12 that Moses added a warning:”... that there may be no plague among them when you number them.”

When David numbered the people, he did it for his own glory and not for the glory of God. There is no record that the “redemption money” was collected. It was “the king’s word” and not the Word of God that directed the census; and even Joab (who was hardly a spiritual man) resisted the king’s commandment. It was pride that motivated David’s actions. Satan got hold of David’s will, inflated David’s ego, and led him into sin. Satan knew that David was feeling victorious and important, and he took advantage of the situation.

This explains why Paul admonished the early church not to put new Christians into places of spiritual leadership.

1Ti 3:6  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

In my years of pastoral ministry I have seen young Christians thrust into places of ministry for which they were not prepared, and the consequences have been ‘painful. Satan whispers to the new Christian who is given a place of leadership, “Now you are somebody important!” It is not long before his pride takes over and he becomes a problem to the pastor and the church. The Apostle John had this kind of problem with church leaders in his day.

3Jn 1:9  I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

Imagine! Refusing to accept the words of an apostle! Paul had something to say about this attitude:

1Ti 6:3-5  If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;  (4)  He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,  (5)  Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Satan’s desire is to work in the local church, to hinder its ministry; and to do this, he must work in and through Christians or professed Christians who are a part of that fellowship. Pride is one of his chief weapons. If he can get a pastor proud of his preaching, a Sunday school teacher proud of his class’s growth, or a church officer proud of his experience and leadership, then Satan has a foothold from which to launch his attack. King David brought death and sorrow to Israel simply because he was proud.


Man is a dependent creature~ He must depend on God (“for in Him we live and move and exist,”Acts 17:28) and on his fellowman in order to stay alive. The essence of sin is to seek to be independent of God. It is to make ourselves the Creator instead of the creatures (Romans 1:25). It is to believe Satan’s lie, “You will be like God.” If Satan can get you to act and think independently of God’s will, he can then control your will and control your life. You will think that you are acting freely, which is part of Satan’s deception; but actually you will be acting under orders from the ruler of this world.

As we have learned in previous chapters, the will of God is the most important thing in the believer’s life. As the deceiver, Satan seeks to make you ignorant of God’s will. As the destroyer, he seeks to make you impatient with God’s will. In both cases, the will of God will not be at work in your life. But even if Satan does not deceive your mind and make you ignorant or attack your body and make you impatient, he will try to control your will through pride so that you will think and act independently of the holy will of God.

I recall a young lady who consulted me about her wedding. I was her pastor, and I had cautioned her against marrying an unbeliever. The young man she was dating was not a Christian; in fact, he was not even much of a gentleman. I had pointed out to her verses such as 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18 and 1 Corinthians 7:39, but she was not interested. Finally she shouted to me as she left my office, “I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what the Bible says. I’m going to marry him!” And she did, and the last I heard she was not in fellowship with the church or serving the Lord. She acted independently of God’s will.

Whenever you and I act in direct disobedience to the will of God, we are displaying pride and independence. It may not be in a great matter such as marriage; it might be in connection with something we think is trivial and unimportant. But everything in our lives is important to God. There are in his Word precepts, principles, and promises that guide us as we seek to know his will. Of course, this does not mean that we should become fanatical about the matter and quit making our own decisions on the basis of common sense and the Spirit’s direction. I recall a fellow seminary student who almost lost his mind because he prayed about what breakfast food to eat, what corner to cross at, and what book to study next. There may be situations in our lives when praying about such matters would be vitally important, but not usually. As we walk with the Lord, we learn to discern his will in matters that are not too consequential.

God gave David nearly ten months in which to repent and call off the census, but he persisted in his stubborn way. This subtle sin of pride keeps feeding itself and getting stronger. David was not guilty of “the lust of the eyes” (as when he looked at Bathsheba), or “the lust of the flesh” (as when he committed adultery with her); but he was guilty of “the pride of life” (see 1 John 2:15-17). Pride means that we act independently of God, or worse yet that we try to use God to accomplish our own selfish purposes. God becomes our heavenly slave and we tell him what he must do!

A man phoned me long-distance to share his problem. He had heard me over the radio and thought perhaps I could help him. He had pulled a shady deal on the stock market, had lost a bundle of money, and wanted to know how to get out of the mess he was in. The only thing I could suggest was that he confess his sin to the Lord and to anybody else who was involved, and ask God to give him the grace he would need to start over again. He had acted independently of God’s will, ignored the Bible’s warnings against deceit and stealing, and now had to suffer the painful consequences. When we rebel against God and go it alone, we cannot expect him to run in and rescue us. God in his grace does forgive our sins; but God in his government must permit sin to run its course and produce its natural results. There is no way to escape the fact that we reap what we sow.

David knew this, and that explains why he did not try to sneak out of the mess he had created. Seventy thousand Israelites died! God’s hand of judgment was against his people! The higher a person is in spiritual position, the more his sins will affect others. David’s adultery affected his family and, to some degree, the nation; but his numbering of the people created a national crisis.

    One of the most important lessons the believer must learn is that he cannot be independent of God. He needs God’s provisions to sustain him physically, and he needs God’s will and God’s Word to sustain him spiritually. Success, the praise of men, and even the blessing of God can so inflate the ego that we think we can get along without God. Speaking of King Uzziah, the Bible says,

2Ch 26:15-16  And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.  (16)  But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

Moses gave this same warning to the people of Israel.

Deu 6:10-12  And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,  (11)  And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;  (12)  Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

No wonder the Apostle Paul was glad for his thorn in the flesh.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

Beware when you feel you have arrived! Beware when you feel you are very important and that God could not get along without you! Beware when you start to rob God of the glory that belongs only to him! What is your defense?



Pride is such a strong weapon, and Satan is such a strong adversary, that only a stronger power can give us victory. That power comes from the Holy Spirit of God.

Php 2:12-13  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  (13)  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Only God the Holy Spirit, working in you, can control your will and enable you to please God.

“Work out your own salvation” does not mean “work for your own salvation.” Salvation is a free gift, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. To “work out your own salvation” means to bring your Christian life to completion, to accomplish in character and conduct what God has planned for you. The Greek word means “to carry out to the goal, to bring to the ultimate conclusion” God has a definite plan for each life, and we must cooperate with him in fulfilling that plan. According to Ephesians 2:8-10, there are three “works” involved in the Christian life:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  (9)  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  (10)  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The first work that Paul names is salvation —the work that God does for you. This work was completed by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Joh 17:4  I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

Joh 19:30  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Heb 10:12  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

    Everything else that God does in your life is based on this finished work of Christ.

    The second work is sanctification —the work that God does in you. Salvation is but the beginning; it must be followed by spiritual growth and development.

2Pe 3:18  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

    This leads to the third work—service, the work that God does through you. God works in you that he might work through you and accomplish the tasks that he has already prepared for you. It is not necessary for us to manufacture things to do for God; he already has a perfect plan for our lives and special works that he wants us to fulfill for his glory.

    How does God work in us? Through his Holy Spirit. But what must we do to enable the Spirit of God to work in us? The answer to that question is found in two of the most familiar verses in the Bible—Romans 12:1, 2:

Rom 12:1-2  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  (2)  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

    The Holy Spirit can work in your life when your body, mind, and will are yielded to him.

    But these are the very areas which Satan wants to attack! He wants to attack your body with suffering to make you impatient with God’s will. He wants to attack your mind with lies to make you ignorant of God’s will. And be wants to attack your will with pride to make you independent of God’s will.

    If you yield these three areas of your life daily to the Spirit of God, then the Spirit will empower you to defeat the devil. As the Spirit of grace, he will give grace to your body so that you will be able to endure suffering to the glory of God. As the Spirit of wisdom, he will teach you God’s Word and bring it to your mind when Satan attacks with his lies. And as the Spirit of power, he will empower your will to say “No!” to pride. The Holy Spirit will work in you and through you to defeat the wicked one.

Remember:  in the battle against Satan, the only way to conquer is to surrender—surrender to God.

Jas 4:7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

    Let me be very practical about this matter of Christian surrender. The verb “present” in Romans 12:1 carries the meaning of “a once-for-all surrender.” It is not necessary for you to keep walking an aisle to be a yielded believer. Make a once-for-all presentation to God of your body, mind, and will. But it is good to reaffirm that surrender at the beginning of each day. When you first awaken, immediately give your body to God as an act of faith; and prove that you mean it by getting out of bed. The discipline of getting up in the morning is a part of spiritual victory.

The next step is to reach for your Bible and present your mind to God for spiritual renewal. It is the Word of God that renews the mind and transforms it. If you do not have a system for reading the Bible, get one. Personally, I like to read straight through the Bible regularly, but I do not give myself a time limit. I start in Genesis 1, Psalm 1, and Matthew 1, and I keep reading. There are some days when I read and meditate on only a few verses; on other days, I may read all three chapters. I am not in a hurry; I am not trying to set any records. My purpose is to meditate on the Word of God so that the Spirit of God will be able to transform my mind and make it more spiritual.

    After you have given God’ your body (and gotten out of bed) and your mind (and meditated on the Word), your next step is to give him your will; and this you do in prayer. The Word of God and prayer always go together.

Act 6:4  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Joh 15:7  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    If you have only the Word, without prayer, you will have light without heat; but if you have prayer without the Word, you will be in danger ‘of becoming a fanatic—heat without light or “zeal.., not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). The important thing in prayer is to yield your will to God’s will in the matters that you pray about.

    When you have taken these three steps, you will have surrendered yourself totally to the Lord—body, mind, and will. The Spirit of God will be able to work in you and give you victory. The Holy Spirit uses the Word.

1Th 2:13  For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Eph 3:20  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

    When God’s Spirit is at work in us, he produces humility and not pride. Humility is not thinking meanly of yourself (“I’m not worth anything! I can’t do anything!”); humility is simply not thinking of yourself at all! The Christian must be honest with himself and with God. That is why Romans 12:3 is in the Bible.

Rom 12:3  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

    When God called Moses to go to Egypt to deliver Israel, Moses argued with God. He protested that he was slow of speech and could not do the job. Was this humility on Moses’ part? Of course not! It was pride; in fact, it was the worst kind of pride: false humility. The person who is truly humble has these characteristics: (1) he knows himself; (2) he accepts himself; (3) he yields himself to God; (4) he seeks to better himself that he might serve God better. The humble man realizes that all that he has comes from God and must be given back to God. John the Baptist said:

Joh 3:27  John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

And Paul echoed this truth:

1Co 4:7  For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

    To boast of your gifts is a sin, because God gave them to you and you cannot take credit for them. But to deny your gifts is also a sin. We must accept our gifts and affirm our gifts to the glory of God. We must not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but neither should we think less of ourselves!

    So when Satan comes with pride to attack your will, surrender immediately to the Holy Spirit and let him work in you to produce humility and submission before God. Do not attempt to go beyond your gifts or the faith you have to exercise those gifts. Satan can use spiritual things to make you proud: your ability to teach or preach the Word; your prayer life; your success in witnessing and soul-winning.

    The story may be apocryphal, but it illustrates the point. A famous Christian businessman was visiting a church and was asked to give a word of greeting. He got carried away telling all that God had done for him. “I have a successful business; a large house, a lovely family, a famous name, enough money to do the things I want to do and be able to give to Christian ‘works. I have health and opportunities unnumbered. There are many people who would gladly exchange places with me. What more could God give me?” From the back of the auditorium a voice called, “A good dose of humility!”

            What do you do when you are guilty of pride? Follow David’s example:

1. He made a very penitent confession of his sin, and prayed earnestly for the pardon of it, v 8. Now he owned that he had sinned, had sinned greatly, had done foolishly, very foolishly; and he entreated that, however he might be corrected for it, the iniquity of it might be done away.

2. He accepted the punishment of his iniquity: “Let thy hand be on me, and on my father’s house, v . 17. I submit to the rod, only let me be the sufferer, for I am the sinner; mine is the guilty head at which the sword should be pointed.”

3. He cast himself upon the mercy of God (though he knew he was angry with him) and did not entertain any hard thoughts of him. However it be, Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great, v 13. Good men, even when God frowns upon them, think well of him. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.

4. He expressed a very tender concern for the people, and it went to his heart to see them plagued for his transgression: These sheep, what have they done? 19[1]

Jas 4:10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.


 19 (21:16, 17) Ibid.

[1]MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (1 Ch 21:16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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