Saturday, October 27, 2012

Don't Be Dazzled by the Devil!

"Discipline yourselves; keep alert. 
Like a roaring lion 
your adversary the devil prowls around, 
looking for someone to devour."
- 1 Peter 5:8

Back in 2000, Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley starred in Bedazzled, a remake of the 1967 British comedy by the same name. Elliott (Fraser) is a computer nerd who wants to be popular and win the girl of his dreams. He sells his soul to the Devil (Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes. But each time he makes a wish, something happens to keep him from happiness and he inches a little bit closer to eternal damnation.

Seeing the Devil's true colors © 2000, 20th Century Fox
Elliott is Bedazzled until he sees the Devil's true colors!
The amount of language and sexual innuendo, along with the final message of this PG-13 flick, make it something you would probably never want to show in a church setting. but the Biblical truths below the surface are still worth our consideration.

This movie actually has a lot to say about the nature of the Devil and of temptation.

At the beginning and through most of the movie, the Devil appears in the form of a beautiful woman, sexually teasing Elliott and pretending to be vulnerable in order to entice him to go along with her evil plan. She appears to be attractive and to offer good things like pleasure and love and the respect of others, but all of this is just a disguise. By the end of the film, though, Elliott still says he sees the Devil as his friend, despite the terrible things she has repeatedly put him through!

Most people wouldn't choose to serve the Devil willingly if they knew what they were getting into, but Satan often disguises himself. He tries to make his ways attractive to us. He plays on our weaknesses in order to get us to focus on things that make us happy instead of thinking about serving God or others. "If it feels good, do it," Satan says. "If you want it, take it." "You deserve what you desire - you've earned it!" And like Elizabeth Hurley in the movie, the Devil can come in many forms, even appearing "as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14) - trying to make us think that what we're doing is good when it's really not.

The Devil in disguise © 2000, 20th Century Fox
"Don't get too excited - it's only a Halloween costume!" - Elizabeth Hurley is the Devil in disguise

It reminds me of some TV preachers, who preach motivational messages, but shy away from talking about sin or our need to repent and follow Jesus. Or I think of some who even preach the Gospel, yet they seem to only be in it for the money or the fame. If you do something good, but you deny Christ or you only do it so others will see and think highly of you, this is not serving God (1 John 4:1-3; Matthew 6:1-6). Yes, there is a measure of pride in all of us - and God can still use what we do to accomplish his will even when we're in the wrong (Philippians 1:15-18; Romans 8:28) - but if we want to please God, we need to make him first in our hearts. We must humble ourselves to do what he says is right, even if we think no one else will ever notice or care.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with accepting a compliment if someone notices you doing something good. There's nothing wrong with being rewarded for good work (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Even seeking pleasure in and of itself is not a bad thing. God created the Sabbath as a day of rest, knowing that we all need some time to relax and recharge. But when pleasure keeps us from doing the right thing - or when we seek our own pleasure at the expense of others, neglecting their feelings or needs - this is not God's plan (Philippians 3:18-19).

It's that drive for selfish pleasure that makes the Devil's job so easy. We must remember, though, that  selfishness ultimately only leads to destruction. It kills relationships. It kills our ability to love like we should. It kills our ability to do what God tells us. And left unchecked, it dooms our souls!

"But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 
then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, 
and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death."
- James 1:14-15

This is illustrated well in the film. Every time Elliott makes a wish, the Devil gives him what he asks for, and it SEEMS to be good at first, but it always turns out bad in the end. He asks to be rich and married to the girl he loves, and the Devil makes him a Columbian drug lord whose wife is in love with another man! He asks to be President of the United States, and the Devil turns him into President Lincoln on the night of his assassination! They're comical situations, but the underlying truth is solid.

Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He whispers, "I can give you what you want," but it's just a lie! Without too much work, he can make our selfish ambitions seem appealing and even rewarding, but the end result is nothing like what we expect.

"There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way to death."
- Proverbs 14:12

He whispers, "I'm your friend," but it's just a lie! As I said a couple weeks ago, evil has no friends!

Sometimes he even tries to intimidate us into doing wrong by peer pressure, or by making us think we don't have a choice. At one point in the movie, Hurley's Devil whispers into Elliott's ear:
"There's no point fighting about this. You have to learn to accept the inevitable. We're all doomed anyway, so you might as well just get with the program.."
Lies again! There is always a choice! We just don't always look for it or like it!

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond 
what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also 
provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

The worst lies in the movie, however, come at the end, when the Devil frees Elliott from Hell, claiming, "If you commit one true, benevolent act, it voids the contract." She goes on to say, basically, that now that he's done something good, he has nothing to worry about - she'll leave him alone from now on - and Heaven and Hell are just a state of mind on Earth.

This stands in stark contrast with the Bible. First, the Bible tells us that we can never be good enough to save ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Devil continues to attack even the best of Christians because he wants to see us fail, and you don't need a special contract with the Devil to be in danger. That's why we need Jesus (whom the Devil in the movie conveniently leaves out of the picture!). The Bible also speaks of Heaven and Hell as eternal destinations - not just as part of this life (Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 20:10-21:8). By getting us to believe that this life is all that matters, the Devil can entice us to focus on pleasure and take our eyes off the prize.

The Devil may come in disguise. He may offer you things that seem attractive. He may try to feed you lies. But God's way is the only way that leads to life that is abundant and eternal (John 10:10; Romans 6:23).

Don't be dazzled by the Devil and what he has to offer. But allow yourself to be transformed every day by the grace and love of Jesus Christ! That little sin may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but your soul is at stake!

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