A Devil of a Time: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
(April 24 & 25)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
april 24, 2021
It’s safe to say, at one time or another, most of us have wrestled with the notion of evil. Sometimes we wonder, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” as though evil gets unleashed in ways which bring about unfortunate calamity. Still, other times, we consider our own actions and words, asking, ”What made me do that?” Or, “Whatever possessed me to say that?” Maybe you remember the comedian Flip Wilson. Years ago, he developed a routine that coined the phrase, “The devil made me do it.” In Wilson’s comedic take, the idea that the devil, evil personified, can influence our actions in such a way drew great laughs. One of the characters he played, Geraldine, would go so far as to say, “The devil made me buy that dress.” Beneath the laughter, though, is an awareness that God’s created goodness does not preclude the possibility of evil, that which disrupts God’s goodness. Sometimes evil, aka the devil or Satan, comes into our lives uninvited. Then, there are those times in which we make decisions that stand outside of God’s ways, as though, “The devil made me do that.” What’s your take on evil personified as Satan, the devil? In your construct of God and this world, is there such a thing as Satan?
You need not read too far into the Bible to find the goodness of God’s creation being disrupted by an outside force. Right there in Genesis 3, evil is personified as the serpent. And this serpent, who can talk, tricks the woman into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. Maybe Flip Wilson knew what he was talking about when he said, “The devil made me do it.” Soon, in Genesis 3, the woman and man realize they have fallen into the web of evil, as in, “Their eyes were opened.” Set aside, for a moment, any need to believe this story in a literal sense. Instead, believe what this story intends you to believe: it’s not good to step outside of God’s good ways. And, whether they were tricked or not, both the woman and the man become co-participants in the “crafty ways” of the serpent. With that, the story of scripture introduces evil to its readers. What do you make of the relationship between stepping outside of God’s ways and evil? Have you ever been tempted to place aside the good ways of God? If so, what happened?
In Luke 4, the devil makes an appearance, this time returning to tempt Jesus to step outside of God’s good ways. One thing you can say about the devil - he’s consistent! “If you are the Son of Man,” the devil says to Jesus, “Command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus places the devil aside and is soon filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and begins his earthly ministry. Later in Luke (22.3), Satan “enters into Judas” offering the encouragement and power Judas will need to betray Jesus. The Book of Revelation depicts a world at conflict with Satan. Eventually, though, the conflict is resolved in Revelation 20 when Satan loses all power and a “new Jerusalem,” a “new heaven and earth” emerges. What are we to make of this story of the devil, Satan, evil, call “him” what you will, a story that weaves its ways through scripture, from beginning to end? At the very least, it’s good to remember how it ends! What does the end of the story in Revelation say to you – especially today, after a year that has been full of temptations?
Genesis 3:1-7; Revelation 20:7-10
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Saturday, April 24 at 5:00 pm
"Enter my heart, O God."