The following post is adapted from “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy” by John Piper.
The Word of God Enables Us to Defeat the Devil
The devil is real and terrible. He is much stronger than we are, and he aims to deceive and destroy. Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Yet he has been decisively defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Christ took on himself human nature so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). The destruction was decisive, though not final. Because of Christ’s shed blood for our sins, the devil cannot destroy those who are in Christ. The reason is that his accusations are no longer valid. The only thing that could sentence us to eternal destruction is unforgiven sin. But the cross obtained complete forgiveness. Therefore, the devil can only kill us, but not damn us.
Yes, he has that much power. Jesus said to the church in Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Where is the victory in that? John tells us in Revelation 12:11: “And they have conquered [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” By trusting Jesus’ blood to cover all their sins, and by holding on to their faith even to death, they conquered the devil.
The devil is conquered wherever his design to devour faith is defeated. That defeat is by the cross of Christ and the Word of God. John, who knew the devil’s workings so well, said in his first letter, “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14). The Word of God is the power that overcomes the devil. So it was with Jesus in the wilderness. To every temptation thrown at him by the devil, he quoted Scripture (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). If Jesus was himself the Word of God, and could command demons so that they obey him (Mark 1:27), and yet he depended on Scripture to deflect the temptations of the devil, so should we.
It’s true, Paul says: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). So faith is the great devil-defeater. “Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). But faith in what? The Word of God. The promises of God. Therefore Paul instructs Timothy, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but . . . able to teach . . . correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Teaching is the most common instrument that God uses to deliver “from the snare of the devil.” Teaching what? “Knowledge of the truth”—the Word of God.
Therefore, if you would have power over the devil, and if you would escape the snare of his deceit and the destruction of your faith, then do what Jesus did and what all the triumphant saints have done: Treasure up the Word of God, and wield it like a sword against your foe.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
When the powers of darkness are arrayed against you, and aim to destroy your joy forever, nothing is more precious than to have the Word of God ready for the battle. The fight for joy is not for the unarmed.
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is teacher and founder of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. He served for 33 years as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and is author or editor of more than 50 books, including This Momentary Marriage, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, and Velvet Steel (excerpt).