Big Idea: Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.
Early on May 2, 2011, an elite team of Navy Seals flew secretly from Afghanistan to a small compound in Pakistan. A team landed in the compound, scaled the walls, and set off explosives to breach the walls and doors. As they entered, they found residents, including children, and secured them with zip ties and handcuffs. They cleared the first floor, and then the second floor, before finally reaching the third floor, where they found America’s most wanted fugitive: Osama bin Laden. When they encountered bin Laden, they shot and killed him on sight. The most wanted man on earth had been found and killed. The team was in and out in 38 minutes.
At 11:35 p.m., Obama appeared on major television networks and said:
Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children…
The incursion was complete. The force had landed on foreign soil with a mission to capture or kill, and they succeeded in their objective.
Today is Christmas. I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought of this before, but today we are celebrating the invasion of a force that landed on foreign soil with a mission to destroy.
In his classic science fiction trilogy, C.S. Lewis pictures the universe as a place where communication takes place among the planets, except for one: Thulcandra (the Silent Planet, or Earth). Long ago the chief angel of Earth went bad, and all communication was cut off, until Maleldil became a man and went down there (things which angels long to look into). He went to war against that chief angel to set things right again.
In other words, Christmas is about the arrival of a force that came to destroy in order to set things right again.
In the few minutes we have today, I want to look at Christmas through this lens, and then to talk about what this means for us today.
Jesus Came to Destroy
The passage we just read says this:
You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:5,8)
Here you have the heart of what it means for Christmas. Twice this passage explains why Jesus appeared. This encompasses his entire life, beginning with his birth, and including his life, death, and resurrection. This is the whole reason for Christmas.
What is the reason? Although this passage gives two reasons, they are really two ways of saying the same thing. First: Jesus came to take away sins. Second: Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. The reason that I say that they are the same thing is because Satan’s works are sins. The entire reason that Jesus came is to destroy Satan’s works, and Satan’s works are accomplished through sin and all of its effects in our lives and in the world.
I remember having one of those vivid dreams that seems real. In the dream I had killed someone. I don’t remember the details of who and how. I remember the feeling, though. I knew that I was guilty of premeditated murder. I knew that I was completely guilty, and that the rest of my life would be spent dealing with the consequences of this awful act. I remember waking up and feeling disoriented until I realized that it had only been a dream. It’s a horrible feeling to think that you are guilty of the most horrible crime, and that the rest of your life will be spent dealing with it.
According to the Bible, that’s exactly what our situation is. The entire human race is guilty of sin, high treason against the rightful ruler of the world. The original sin was committed by our original parents, but we’ve all been infected. We all share the same sin nature and guilt. The reality of our situation is so clear that even the philosopher Michael Ruse has written:
With respect to the main claims of Christianity … I am pretty atheistic … I prefer the term ‘skeptic’ to describe my position …. I am an ardent evolutionist …
And yet, surprisingly, Ruse also ardently defends the biblical doctrine of original sin. Ruse argues:
I think Christianity is spot on about original sin—how could one think otherwise, when the world’s most civilized and advanced people (the people of Beethoven, Goethe, Kant) embraced that slime-ball Hitler and participated in the Holocaust? I think Saint Paul and the great Christian philosophers had real insights into sin and freedom and responsibility, and I want to build on this rather than turn from it.
It’s clear, isn’t it, that we have a serious problem.
According to the passage that we just read, this is why Jesus came. Jesus came to deal with the works of Satan that are evident in our lives and in the world around us.
Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan. He lived the perfect life. At the cross, he died in our place and satisfied God’s rightful wrath for our sins. He removed the basis of Satan’s accusation’s against us. John Piper explains how this happened:
When Christ died for our sins, Satan was disarmed and defeated. The one eternally destructive weapon that he had was stripped from his hand — namely, his accusation before God that we are guilty and should perish with him. When Christ died that accusation was nullified. All those who entrust themselves to Christ will never perish. Satan cannot separate them from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).
This is the reason for Christmas. Jesus came to deal with our greatest problem. He came to destroy the mortal enemy of our souls, Satan himself, and all of his works.
What This Means
So let’s talk about what this means.
First, you can be completely changed. The whole message of this section, up to verse 10, is that once Jesus enters your life, you’re no longer stuck sinning. This obviously doesn’t mean that you will never sin again. There’s nobody perfect among us. But what it means is that Jesus changes us so that we’re no longer content to go on sinning. It’s remarkable. We used to enjoy sinning and making self-destructive changes. When God gets ahold of us he begins changing us. We become completely different people. That’s the great news of Christmas: God begins to change us from the inside-out. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already come to Jesus and surrendered to him, to do so today. He’ll begin to change you. We all need change, but we can’t change ourselves. Jesus came to set us free from sin so that we could be changed.
Second: we can know that Jesus is restoring all things. The invasion to kill Osama bin Laden couldn’t undo everything that he had done. There are still terrorists today. Evil still continues. It seems, at first glance, that the same is true of Jesus’ victory over Satan. His work still seems to stand. There is still evil all around us. But take a closer look. At the cross, Jesus not only defeated Satan but began to undo all of his works.
June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day. It’s the day that the Allies established a beachhead on the European mainland in Normandy, France. It’s really the day that the Allies won the war, at least in principle. But the victory wasn’t fully realized until VE Day 11 months later on May 8, 1945.
Christmas marks the day when the invasion began. Good Friday marks the day when Jesus engaged Satan in full-scale war. Easter Sunday marks the complete victory of Jesus over Satan. And his return will mark VE Day, when that victory will be fully realized, and, as the quote says, everything sad will become untrue. We live in the in-between. The victory has been won, but we’re still waiting for the victory to be fully realized. But make no mistake: Jesus is restoring all things. Everything that’s broken in your life can and will be restored by Jesus.
That’s what we celebrate today. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Christmas is the celebration of the arrival of an invading force that came with a mission to destroy our greatest enemy. And because Jesus came, we can be changed, and we can know that he’s restoring all things.
That’s the meaning of Christmas. Let’s celebrate it. Let’s anticipate the realization of the victory that he won. Let’s trust, him, and most of all let’s worship him with all of our beings.