You know you grew up in the Bible Belt if your favorite Bible story is the one where the devil got beat in a fiddle contest by this kid named Johnny.
I grew up hearing Charlie Daniels sing The Devil Went Down to Georgia every summer when I went to the laser show in Stone Mountain, Georgia. If you’ve never been, Stone Mountain is a giant rock protruding a mile up out of the ground just outside of Atlanta. Every night during the summer, hundreds of people sit out on the lawn in front of the mountain to watch light beams shoot images onto the side of the mountain where Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are depicted while music plays and fireworks go off. Imagine if Pink Floyd was touring during the Civil War and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the laser show at Stone Mountain is all about.
I took my two sons to their very first laser show a few weeks ago. They weren’t sure what to make of seeing a laser image kid named Johnny out-fiddling the laser image devil. I’ve graduated from a Bible college and a fine seminary but there’s still a part of me that acts as though I’ve just heard a beautiful sermon whenever that song is played. On the way home, my wife asked, “What was that Devil Went Down to Georgia thing about?”
I was almost offended.
I think one reason why I connect with the song so much is that I think I am Johnny. I think I can take care of the devil on my own. And to the degree that I do think of the devil, I tend to see him as a computer generated buffoon that can’t seem to get out of his own way. With my superior spirituality, I too can take the devil’s bet and send him packing with his pointed tail tucked between his legs.
This is a very dangerous mindset.
When his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus emphasized the reality of the evil one as well as our need to be protected from him.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13 ESV)
One of the disciples who listened to Jesus’ lesson on prayer would soon know firsthand that he cannot beat the devil on his own.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV)
As Christians, we should not live in fear of Satan but we should be alert (1 Peter 5:8), remembering that we can resist him but not on our own (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9-10). Prayer should be our most frequently used weapon in this resistance. We can be sure that our Savior still prays for us, just like he did for Peter (Romans 8:34; John 17). But we can also be sure that every day that goes by without praying for protection from the evil one is a day of unparalleled arrogance.
And that leads to one more thing of which we can be sure.
That kind of arrogance always leads to a win for the devil.
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 ESV)