Guess Who’s in Church Every Sunday?

church lady satanJesus was just beginning his ministry here on earth. He was in the fishing town of Capernaum on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. He had just called four fishermen – Andrew and Peter, James and John – to be his first disciples.

The very next Sabbath, they went together to the synagogue – to church. The custom in those days was that if a visiting rabbi was in town, he would be asked to teach. So during one of the seven Scripture readings, Jesus was handed a scroll. He was asked to read and comment on it. As he did, the people were amazed because he taught with such authority.

Just then, however, a demon-possessed man cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

Immediately Jesus scowled. “Be quiet!” he said sternly, “Come out of him!” The man shook violently. The spirit came out of him with a blood curdling shriek. The people sat stunned. (Mark 1:21-28)

Every time I read that story, one detail jumps of the page. Did you catch it?

The devil went to church that day in Capernaum.

Sometimes we can think the sacred walls of our church will keep the devil and his demons out. But no. The devil goes to church every Sunday.

If you ever have a chance, read C.S. Lewis’ short little book, The Screwtape Letters. It’s the fictional story about one demon instructing another demon how to tempt us. The sections about how to tempt us in church are particularly interesting.

Get them to think about what they have to do later that day. If they realize what you are doing, get them thinking, “I should be paying attention,” because if they are thinking, “I should be paying attention,” they still aren’t paying attention.

Get them looking at the people in church who are “worse” than they are to puff them up with pride. Get them looking at all the “good” people who seem to have their lives together to get them feeling like God couldn’t really love them. Point out all the failings of the preacher and how boring he is. Get them thinking about anything other than God speaking to them in his Word and Sacraments.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist. When we forget the devil goes to church, we leave ourselves open to his tricks and temptations.

Take the Lord’s Prayer for example. I firmly believe that more people sin while praying the Lord’s Prayer than doing just about any other activity on the planet. Think about it. How often do people pray the Lord’s Prayer? Yet how often do we actually think about what we are saying?

When I am watching TV at home, sometimes my wife will try to talk to me. In my guyhood, I often nod and respond without really listening to her or thinking about what I am saying. Let’s just say she doesn’t like that very much.

How do you think God feels? He has given us a perfect prayer. As we speak it, we are conversing with the King of the universe who fills all things – our Savior who suffered our hell in our place so we could live with him in heaven.

Yet so often we aren’t even thinking about what we are saying. We are thinking that pizza would be good for lunch or how that woman’s skirt is too short for church or how those parents should control their child. And the devil smiles.

Remember that next time you go to church. Watch out. Be on your guard. Pay attention. Never forget the devil goes to church.

 

  10 comments for “Guess Who’s in Church Every Sunday?

  1. Liz Koehlinger
    February 9, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Wow! Right on! Had not thought about it, but Satan sure is there at every worship service, board meeting . . .

  2. February 9, 2015 at 8:25 am

    This is so right on, and I am convicted! Thanks for the reminder to keep my focus on the Word and not those around me, or on myself!

  3. February 9, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Of all the times I was attending St. Paul’s services, I never thought of Satan and his fallen angels being there too. I did hear of this in a bible study at St. Paul’s some time ago. I always thought that I was safe from the devil and his demons when I was in church. I now realize that the devil is ruler of the earth and can try to get away with anything he desires. I don’t understand why God gave Satan all the power he has? Comment please.
    Sincerely,
    Larry Zielke
    St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
    Stevensville, Michigan

    • schroera
      February 9, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Great question, Larry! Sadly, it is a question which God does not answer for us fully in his Word. What he does tell us is that the devil and his demons are fallen angels and therefore are powerful spirits. God allows them to be here on earth to tempt and test us (because testing is good for faith). Yet, the demons can only do what God allows them to do. He is control. More than that, however, we cannot say. God has his reasons.

  4. vicki
    February 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Good reminder, indeed! Unfortunately, I’ve seen myself doing these exact things that you mention. Thank God I am also forgiven.

    • schroera
      February 9, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Amen. thankfully we are forgiven in Christ for all our failings, even our half-hearted worship.

  5. April 24, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    You write:

    “How do you think God feels? He has given us a perfect prayer. As we speak it, we are conversing with the King of the universe who fills all things – our Savior who suffered our hell in our place so we could live with him in heaven.”

    As the president of our congregation, I am sometimes deeply discouraged by the fact that Satan is so active in our midst. Just this week I was depressed by this fact. I pray for our pastor. (Who in their right mind would want to be a pastor? There are small-minded, hard-hearted jerks, and these pastor have to love and minister Law and gospel to them!) Heck, that’s the only reason I serve in this capacity. I want to be a BS deflector for him and support him. (Pray for your pastors, and don’t worry how God “feels” about it.)

    But how does God “feel” when my mind wanders as I pray the Lord’s prayer? Are God’s feelings for me dependent upon how little ADHD I have? Padre, I am sorry to say this, but you sound like Rick Warren who gave me a list of things I must do to “make God smile.” Here’s just one gem from from that Baptist heretic’s list of things I need to do to merit God’s favor:

    “God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly. That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation.” (Barf!)

    So I’m 53, a recovering Evangelical, and quite mindful of my sins, even those I commit when I try to say the Lord’s prayer. Life right now pretty much sucks. At this point, I firmly believe that there isn’t a prayer I utter that it not tainted by my sin. I’m an ass. A beggar. There is no “good work” that I try to muster that is not tainted by my sin. I am tired of pious bull shit, especially my own bull shit.

    The only comfort I find is the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer — “our Father: — that which reminds me that I can approach the throne of grace with confidence, even though my mind thinks of pizza or worse, because the Eternal Son of God died for me. Contrary to Rick Warren, that’s what makes God smile: “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” (That’s Jesus talking.)

    So please stop sounding like Rick Warren! You’re Lutheran for cryin’ out loud!

    • schroera
      April 24, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      Mr. Olson,
      First of all, thank you for your comment. As a pastor, I appreciate men like you for two reasons: 1) because you have your pastor’s back and 2) because you will speak your mind. I am sorry I reminded you of Rick Warren and I understand your concern about giving the impression that God’s feelings are dependent on us or even comparable to human emotions. That being said, however, the Bible describes God’s response to our sin in terms of human emotions: sadness and anger. He also speaks of God’s joy over our faith and our faithful service. God does smile on us in his grace. The benediction at the end of worship says as much. That’s what it means when it says, “Make his face shine on us…” As you say, God’s “feelings” are not dependent on us nor are his emotions comparable to ours, but he does use the human words for emotions to describe his response both to our sin and to our faith. So, it is proper (even for a Lutheran) to say our sins sadden or anger God and that our faith and faithful service make him smile. You might want to discuss this further with your pastor. Thanks for speaking your mind and I will try to not sound so Rick Warren-like next time. God bless!

  6. April 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Okay, I went back and re-read your post to be sure I was fair. I think I was. You point out that I sin when I pray the Lord’s prayer. I am guilty! Now aren’t you supposed to offer at least one word of Gospel? Instead, you just say “Watch out!” “Remember!”

    Great. My prayers make the devil smile.

    You are pointing me to myself and despair.

    • schroera
      April 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      Rob, I think you have a valid point here. If you read my other devotions, I always try to let the gospel predominate. I honestly didn’t realize that this devotion was all sanctification. Sorry about that. In my defense (if there is any), consider this like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In my mind, I was speaking to Christians who know the gospel. That is a poor excuse, though, and I will make sure to let the gospel shine in the future. If you have a chance, check out some of my other devotions and let me know if you feel I am not. Oh, and by the way, as a forgiven child of God, your prayers are sweet smelling incense to God. He loves to hear from you (even when your prayers are stained by sin). Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. Sorry I didn’t point you and others to it.

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