Friday, 4 May 2012

Satan - The Deceiver

Warren Wiersbe starts his helpful book, The Strategy of Satan, by concentrating on four roles that the devil assumes, four ways in which Satan tries to attack believers.  In each of those four areas he discusses (a) his target (b) his weapon (c) his purpose and (d) the Christian's defence.  This is a summary of the first chapter.

A The Deceiver

In several passages, the Bible describes the devil as the deceiver.

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"  The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"  "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:1-7)

1 Satan's target – your mind

When Satan wanted to lead the first man and woman into sin, he started by attacking the woman's mind.  This is made clear in 2 Corinthians: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Why would Satan want to attack your mind?  Because it is through your mind that God communicates with you and reveals his will to you.

Several New Testament passages emphasize the importance of the mind. For example:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.  You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

God renews our lives by renewing our minds, and he renews our minds through his truth.

This truth is the word of God.  Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. (John 17:17)

If Satan can get you to believe a lie, then he can begin to work in your life to lead you into sin.  This is why he attacks the mind, and this is why we must protect our minds from the devil's attacks.

2 Satan's weapon – lies

It is important to notice the steps Satan took in getting Eve to believe his lie.

  • He questioned God's word.  Indeed, has God said ...  He did not deny that God had spoken; he simply questioned whether God had really said what Eve thought he had said.  Perhaps you misunderstood what God spoke.
  • He denied God's word.  You surely shall not die!  It's a small step from questioning God's word to denying it.  Of course, neither Adam nor Eve had ever seen death.  All they had to go on was the word of God, but this was all they needed.
  • He substituted his own lie.  You will be like God!  Adam and Eve were already made in the image of God, but Satan tempted them with an even greater privilege: to be like God!
How did Eve respond to Satan's approach?  We get the impression that she wasn't very sure of what God had said and so was open to Satan's suggestion that God was keeping something good back from mankind.

3 Satan's purpose – to make you ignorant of God's will

Satan attacks God's word because God's word reveals God's will.  Apart from the word of God, we have no sure understanding of the will of God.  The will of God is the expression of God's love for us.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

God wants us to know his will and to understand it.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

For the Christian, God's will is not a duty; it is a delight.  He delights to discover the will of God and then obey from the heart.

If Satan can make you ignorant of God's will, he will rob you of all the glorious blessings God has planned for your life.  You will make bad decisions, get involved in sinful activities, and build the wrong kind of life.  You will also influence others to go wrong!

4 Our defence – the inspired word of God

Only the word of God can reveal and defeat the devil's lies.  You cannot reason with Satan, nor (as Eve discovered) can you even safely converse with him.  Man's wisdom is no match for Satan's cunning.  Our only defence is the inspired word of God.  Our Lord made good use of this weapon when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

If you and I are going to defeat Satan's lies, we must depend on the word of God, which presents us with several challenges:

Do we take the time to get to know God's word?  The word of God is available to us in many translations.  We have the Holy Spirit within us to teach us the truths of the word.  There is a multitude of Bible study helps available.  In local churches, there are pastors and teachers who preach and explain the word.

Do we try to memorize God's word?  Jesus didn't have a concordance with him in the wilderness!  He reached back into the books of Moses, selected Deuteronomy, and quoted three verses from that book to silence Satan.

Do we meditate on God's word? Is our attitude anything like that of the author of Psalm 119:
  • How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)
  • I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.  My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. (Psalm 119:147-148)
  • The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. (Psalm 119:72)
Here is someone who would rather have God's word than food, sleep, or money!  He took time to meditate on the word of God and enrich his soul.  It is this kind of a Christian who is able to use the word of God to defeat Satan and his lies.

Do we use God's word?  We should aim to be so saturated with Scripture that when we face a decision or a temptation, with the help of the Holy Spirit we automatically remember the Scriptures that relate to that particular situation and know how to apply them.