One of the most shocking moments in the ministry of Jesus Christ was the moment He turned to Peter, who had just made a wonderful confession of faith, and said to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matt. 16:20).
Was that possible? Had Peter turned into Satan? Of course not. Peter had not literally become Satan, but Peter had done something serious. Peter had done the work of the Devil. The work of the Devil is done when our own desires and ambitions are substituted for the known will of God.
Immediately, before Peter’s rebuke, Jesus had begun to show His disciples “how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt. 16:20). The idea of Jesus suffering at the hands of others was an abhorrent thought to Peter. Peter loved Jesus. He did not want Jesus to ever leave him, or to suffer. In misguided desperation Peter thought he should persuade the Lord to change His mind.
What Peter was doing was substituting his own preferences to the known will of God the Father. He was doing the work of the Devil, for time and again Satan tried to get Jesus to bypass the cross. One day Satan came to Jesus and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. The Devil said unto Jesus, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9). That was not going to happen, for Jesus was committed to doing the will of the Father.
A commitment to doing the will of the Father is the solution against Satan’s temptation. Others might do the will of Satan, but Jesus was going to do the will of the Father. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
There are Christians today who are doing the work of the Devil. They do not mean to. They are not even aware of doing it. Nevertheless, it is happening. Consider the evidence.
Christians do the work of the Devil when they prefer their own selfish desire instead of pleasing God, like Peter, and Christians do the work of the Devil when they try to do what only God the Holy Spirit can do.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify those in whom He lives, but first the Spirit must live in a person based on their repentance and conversion. In a desire to move the process along, the temptation comes for impatient evangelizing Christians to insist that an unconverted person be sanctified, before they are even saved. The result of this effort is predictable.
The person of concern is resentful. The unconverted do not want to be holy. They do not even understand holiness. Because they have not seen the splendor of worshipping God, or “the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9), they do not want to be different. If a person does not yet understand the gospel, how in the world can they be expected to understand sanctification?
There is another way Christians do the work of the Devil, and that is by allowing individuals to focus attention on their own personal problems instead of pointing them to Jesus. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.v3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:2-3).
Much Biblical counseling allows people to talk endlessly about themselves, their problems, and their woes. Year after year, month after month, hour after hour is consumed, when kind hearted pastors listen to people focus on themselves. Pastors mean well. Other Christians who listen in mean well. But the truth of the matter is that, after providing general Scriptural passages to help the particular situation, the conversation should be stopped, and the self-centered person simply be told, “You need Jesus. You need to look to Jesus, and seek greater sanctification yourself, not through works of righteousness which you can do, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Any other counsel is doing the work of the Devil, for it leaves people in their self-centeredness and sin. Pastors, Christians, tell those who are talking endlessly about themselves, but never solving any of their personal problems, if they wish to move towards spiritual maturity, they need to open the Bible, study the Scriptures, study the life of Christ, develop a prayer life, start helping others, stop thinking about themselves, and sing a song of exhortation.
“O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free! Refrain:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
By looking to Jesus, the problems of this world will be resolved. That is His promise. Christian, stop doing the work of the Devil, by allowing people to keep their eyes focused on what they want, as Satan focused the attention of Eve, and then forever talking about themselves, when they need to spend that time talking about Jesus.
Until Christians stop doing the work of the Devil, self, will continue to be frustrated, others will continue to be resentful and angry, the work of the ministry will remain ineffective, and spiritual discouragement will settle in, leading to hopelessness and despair.
None of this needs to happen. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
Christian, do the work of God, not the work of the Devil.