One thing all superhero stories have in common is a sinister supervillain. Batman needs criminals to conquer. Superman needs aliens to defeat. Without a villain, the hero has nothing or no one to overcome. Our enemies make us stronger and there is no victory without a battle. While Christians have many spiritual villains to overcome, consider five main ones:
Villain #1—Sin: Although sinful desires still tempt us, they don’t dominate us like they did prior to salvation (Rom. 6:12-14). Sin loses control over us as we yield to the Holy Spirit. Sin means “to miss the mark.” Ancient archers used the Hebrew word chattaah (translated sin) if they missed their target. The “mark” is total perfection and we all frequently miss the mark (Rom. 3:23). Another Bible word, “transgression,” means “to cross over a boundary.” When we cross over God’s boundaries (trespass—Mt. 6:14-15), it constitutes sin and requires repentance and forgiveness. Sin once reigned in our lives with our permission, but now we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to resist its corrosive influence. Before salvation, we were like marionettes manipulated by Satan. Christ cut the strings, delivered us from the penalty and power of sin and now His grace gives us the desire and ability to live above sin.
Villain #2—Satan: D. L. Moody claimed, “I believe Satan to exist for two reasons: first, the Bible says so, and second, I’ve done business with him.” Charles Finney said about the devil, “Why don’t you try opposing him sometime and you’ll find out whether he exists or not.” Peter warned, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Pt. 5:8-9). While Satan is real, we don’t have to fear him because he is a defeated foe. The Bible portrays him as a hideous red dragon who is on a short leash and has limited power and time (Rev. 12:9, 12). Ultimately, he will be bound in the abyss and then cast into the lake of fire where he will be punished and powerless (Rev. 20:1-3, 10).
Meanwhile, Christ authorized us to use the power of His name to conquer every Satanic force (Mk. 16:17, Lk. 10:19). We have an arsenal of spiritual weapons at our disposal to defeat every demon (2 Cor. 10:4-5, Rev. 12:11). Victory is a guaranteed fact for God’s people. We might lose a battle now and then, but Jesus has already won the war! A German proverb reads, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” Satan is a big bully who tries to intimidate God’s people. Smith Wigglesworth awoke in the middle of the night aware of a demonic presence in his room. He looked around and saw Satan in a visible form standing at the foot of his bed. Instead of being alarmed, Smith said, “Oh, it’s just you” and went back to sleep. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).
Villain #3—Evil: Evil is invading the world like termites on a wooden house. Things that were once hidden in the shadows on backstreets are now proudly paraded down main street. How much of mass media entertainment is wholesome and positive compared to the vast majority that is dark, violent, sensual or profane? Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ec. 1:9). So, there are no new sins just more sinners alive on the earth sinning. Plus, we are bombarded with it daily on our digital devices. As Jesus predicted, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold” (Mt. 24:12, NLT).
Paul warned Timothy, “In the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian” (2 Tim. 3:1, TLB). Why? Because of how pervasive evil is as we approach Christ’s coming. Satan is flooding the world with mass deception in a desperate attempt to destroy the church (Rev. 12:15-16). The gullible world is swallowing this tsunami of evil hook, line and sinker. The good news is the Holy Spirit gives us discernment to see through the fog of deception. While the world grows darker, God’s glory is shining brighter through His church (Is. 60:1-2). Edmund Burke cautioned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Instead of cursing the darkness, let’s shine the light of the glorious Gospel everywhere we go. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). Ultimately, good will triumph over evil. As Billy Graham noted, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”
Villain #4—The World: Figuratively, “the world” is an evil spiritual force controlled by Satan that lures people away from God and into evil (1 Jn. 4:4; 5:4-5). In fact, Jesus called the devil “the Prince of this world” three times (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11, KJV). It is synonymous with the spirit of the Antichrist (1 Jn. 4:3). It influences all sectors of society—governments, education, music, entertainment, mass media and even religion. It is anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-morality, anti-marriage and against all that is upright. It’s the spirit driving the abortion industry and behind evolution, a blatant attempt to replace the Creator. It motivates the efforts to remove “In God We Trust” from of our currency, ban the Bible from our classrooms and remove “One nation under God” from our national pledge. It is behind the revision of history to exclude any mention of God, the faith of our forefathers or our national Christian heritage. It spreads like a virus through false doctrine. It’s a force we must oppose and overcome—“Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jam. 4:4). A boat in water is fine, but if too much water gets in the boat, it will sink. We are in the world but not of it (Jn. 17:16, 18).
Villain #5—Self: As Walt Kelly said in his comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is US!” Our greatest nemesis stares back at us in the mirror every day. The inner tug-of-war against the flesh is a daily battle. The flesh is corrupt and contrary to God’s will and must be conquered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing” (Jn. 6:63). Paul realized, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Rom. 7:18). The flesh is like a wild, bucking bronco that wants its own way. It must be broken and controlled so it will do what the rider (our spirit) deems best. Paul compared the flesh to dragging around a corpse that hinders our spiritual progress (Rom. 7:19, 22-24). Then he told us the key to victory is in Jesus—“Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Rom. 7:25, TLB). The more we yield to Christ, the weaker the flesh becomes and the less control it has over us.
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside of me. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil. The other is good.” The grandson thought for a moment then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.” Jesus conquered every enemy of the human race so we too can enjoy victory over our villains.