Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. That’s His purpose. He doesn’t intend that they remain to torment us. If we make the choice to turn away from them, He will annihilate them completely. He does supernaturally what we cannot, giving us perfect liberty.
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
I came to a screeching halt when I read this verse today, as it kind of slapped me upside the head as made to move on. Yes, I’ve read it countless times and taken great encouragement from it. But today, the word ‘destroy’ leapt out and grabbed hold of me. Out of curiosity, I trotted off to refresh my editor-brain: end the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it; ruin (someone) emotionally or spiritually; defeat (someone) utterly. Well, that’s destroy, and it’s a pretty final and complete annihilation, whichever way we look at it. Again, it’s not really a surprise. We all know this on some level. But I have to admit that I haven’t previously really considered the full magnitude of what this verse says. It brings in a whole new perspective to us as believers and the works of the devil.
Sin and the works of the devil.
The context of this verse is sin, no doubt about that. We also can’t argue the fact that sin is a work of the devil – the Bible reveals this clearly. At this point, most of us are a little uncomfortable about the ‘he who sins is of the devil’ part because we don’t like to be reminded of that. We may be born again, Spirit-filled, and all that, but when we sin, that’s of the devil. Which means he still has a hold over at least a part of us. The Bible does teach that we don’t have to live like that, but the reality is that it’s an ongoing struggle for every believer. Some days are better than others, but sin remains an ever-present torment nipping at our heels. The works of the devil remain because He is still the prince of this world and we’re still in it.
But to simply define the works of the devil as sin and leave it there is simplistic. Not because it isn’t true, but because sin has all kinds of ramifications. Satan’s purpose with sin is captivity. He wants to own us, to bind us to him and keep us from Christ. Every sin has consequences. Some may be literal – we rob a bank, we go to jail if we’re caught. But there are also spiritual consequences that come about as a result of our sins and those of others. An obvious example is the sin of abuse, which puts the victim in bondage as well and triggers a chain of reactions and counter-reactions that often result in further sin and further bondage. Strongholds are also built from the small building blocks of sin, but they have the power to imprison and crush us at a very deep spiritual level.
The works of the devil in spiritual context.
From the very beginning, Satan wanted what God had. It started with the worship of the angels in heaven and then turned to mankind, whom God created personally and intimately and for His glory. The devil doesn’t want us for who we are. He wants us because we belong to God. Free will is an incidental, a God-given gift enabling us to choose Him of our own free will. We belong to God by right of creation, by right of conquest, and by right of redemption. We may not know this – and this applies especially to the unsaved – but Satan knows it very well. All the works of the devil are designed to steal God’s rightful possession – mankind – and keep us separated from Him. It’s a supernatural power struggle between the prince of this world and the King of heaven, and sin happens to be Satan’s most powerful weapon.
With sin, we do his work for him. Without Jesus, these pile up and generate all kinds of other curses, bondages, and strongholds. These enable Satan to retain a hold over us, even once we are saved, because He knows which buttons to push, when, and how. Each time we make a wrong choice, we play into his hands. When we make a right choice, we slip a little further away from him. For most of us, it’s a cat and mouse game that continues ad nauseum. We know the cross brings complete freedom from the works of the devil. All curses, bondages, and strongholds are already broken. Jesus has done it, and it’s finished. Faith reminds us of this and we hold onto it through each struggle. But Satan is persistent and we’re weak, and so it goes on, and we assume lack of faith is our problem.
The works of the devil and the cross.
The Gospel teaches a complete and perfect salvation. Jesus took our sins to the cross, and we gratefully confess and receive forgiveness. There is absolutely no doubt that the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus covered every single possible human need – many of which stem directly from the works of the devil in our lives. The Bible tells us unequivocally that Jesus defeated Satan at the cross. Satan thought he had it in the bag and had successfully dealt with any threat to his dominion while the Son of God was on earth as a man. He couldn’t face Christ otherwise and win. A human Jesus was his only chance. When he failed to tempt Him to sin in the desert, he stirred up the people to crucify Him. Satan loves to have us do his dirty work for him – without us realising, half the time.
Jesus may have died as the Son of Man, but He rose as the Son of God. The message contained in this powerful truth is very clear. The natural will never defeat the supernatural. It’s a simple but valuable truth for every believer for those times when we struggle against the works of the devil in our lives. Satan’s greatest deception is to convince us that we need to deal with sin. He confuses us into overlook the real truth, which is that the cross has already dealt with sin. This is easily done because the evidence of sin is still present. The truth, however, is that it’s rather like spraying with weed killer. For a while, the weeds are still visible, and seemingly as healthy as ever. But if we’ve applied the right stuff, it’ll get absorbed and those weeds will die without any further help from us.
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.
Our weed analogy still has merit. No self-respecting gardener prunes the weeds or tries to make them look like something else. They go in with a seek and destroy attitude. That’s the same approach Christ has to the works of the devil. Yes, He wants us to exercise our choice and turn away from them. That’s part of our spiritual growth because He won’t act unless we willingly let go of something. He won’t bulldoze in and wrench our sin from us. Free will is His gift, and He’ll respect it because it’s from Him. But today’s verse highlights a powerful, liberating truth. Jesus does not want to stop at the point we turn away. That’s His signal to go in for the kill. He wants to utterly annihilate every single trace of the works of the devil in our lives. This is a real ‘hallelujah’ moment.
We can look back to our definition and that grand word ‘annihilate’ that seems to resonate within me. To completely remove from existence. Utterly defeat. Gone. Finished. But if that’s His purpose, why doesn’t it happen? Why do sins keep popping up to torment us? Because we haven’t fully applied the weed killer. We spray the watered-down version that says Jesus did the work, but we have to work it out for ourselves. Those old weeds take a beating, but they’re soon sprouting anew. The natural cannot defeat the supernatural. When we apply the cross, it has to be in the sure and certain knowledge that it brings destruction and annihilation to the works of the devil. All of them. The sin and the consequences and ramifications that spread like sinister roots hidden below the surface. Weed killer is systemic. It spreads through the whole system.
A new approach to the works of the devil.
If we the right mixture, we can look at those weeds and remind them they’re dead, gone, destroyed, annihilated. Jesus accomplished what He came to do. It is finished. It may be that the devil uses the truth of the love and mercy of Christ to lull us into a sense that this is universal. Jesus may love us but He hates the work of the devil so much that He was willing to endure the cross to destroy them. Our suffering Saviour is also the Lion of Judah, the Captain of heaven’s armies, the Conquering King, and the Eternal High Judge. The passion of Christ extends to His attitude to the works of the devil, and it’s an all or nothing passion. If we can hold fast to the truth that Jesus intends to destroy them and remove them entirely from existence, our approach to them should radically change.
Whatever it is that holds us back, our Saviour waits only for us to turn aside, willingly let go, and let Him work. His supernatural power will accomplish what our natural power cannot.
Jesus, we thank You for the revelation of Your purpose regarding the works of the devil. Forgive us for believing his lies and for apply a watered-down version of the truth. Show us the things we need to yield this morning, and help us to make the right choice. Thank You, Lord, that You desire to do what we cannot. Thank You that Your solution is radical and supernatural, a permanent solution rather than a temporary fix that leaves us vulnerable. We rejoice in Your power and glory, and celebrate Your victory in our lives.