We are not ignorant of his devices. (II Corinthians 2:11)
We actually know a good bit about Satan. More than we think, I expect. His history, his driving force, and his game plan are spelled out all through Scripture. We are left with tons of unanswered questions, but we know enough to understand how he works and what to do about him.
His devices. We know his maneuvers, his designs, his schemings, his wiles, and how resourceful he is. (Those are all different ways the Greek for “devices” is translated in various versions.)
Look at it this way. Satan is no fool. He has been studying human nature from the early days of the human race. He knows human psychology to a degree that any university in the land can only imagine. If they gave doctorates to serpents, he would have degrees out the kazoo. He is one smart dude.
He knows you.
The question before us, today, though, class, is this: do you know him? Do you pay attention to how he works?
There are two extremes to avoid: going to seed on Satan and seeing him in every thing, everywhere, is one extreme; and completely ignoring him is the other. There’s a balance somewhere in the middle where God’s people should take our stand.
If you are trying to do right, to live for God, to resist the encroaching infiltration of the world, then you are in his crosshairs. He has targeted you.
You’d better learn how he works and how to resist him.
Please note that I am not recommending that any of us specialize on the devil.
I’ve known a few ministers and a larger number of laypeople who seemed to focus on this archenemy. Every sermon they preached, every conversation they held, they talked about the devil far more than the Lord Jesus. Not a good thing. The Bible tells us to resist him (James 4:7), not to specialize on him.
We do far better by concentrating on the Lord Jesus Christ and obeying Him. However, if we do that effectively, we will soon encounter the adversary. From that moment on, we’ll be learning lessons about Satan whether we like it or not.
Here are some of the wicked works Scripture teaches that the devil is always engaged in.
1) Blinding the minds. (II Corinthians 4:3,4)
Someone says to you, “I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the Scriptures when I read them.”
Nothing unusual about that. Paul says the natural man does not “get it” (I Corinthians 2:14).
We remember how Peter asked the official from Ethiopia whether he understood what he was reading from the Scriptures. He answered, “How can I, unless someone teach me?” (Acts 8:31)
So, then, the work of the devil–blinding the minds of those who receive God’s word–turns into an opportunity for God’s children.
The next time you encounter someone who has been coming to church or reading Scripture or listening to preachers on television but who has not yet committed his/her life to Christ, ask, “Do you understand?” If they don’t, there is your opening. See if you can talk with them about it, or if they would like to attend a Bible study with you.
Their spiritual blindness is your opportunity.
2) Contending with the saints. (Ephesians 6:12)
This is a warfare we are engaged in with the devil. It’s not a scrimmage, not maneuvers, not a rehearsal for anything, and definitely not practice. The enemy is dead serious and we ought to be also. Too many of the Lord’s children approach spiritual warfare as though it were a fantasy game played on computers.
In America, we play so many games that we end up blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. In New Orleans–where I lived for three decades–the Saints play football, the Pelicans play basketball, the Zephyrs play baseball, and add to that all the colleges and high schools with their teams. And if that’s not enough, people play fantasy football and fantasy baseball.
As though the actual games themselves were not fantasy enough.
The warfare with Satan is the real thing. It’s not for statues or chips or awards or plaques or honors. It’s for eternity. The souls of men and women hang in the balance.
This is for keeps. It’s a wise person who knows what is real and what is make-believe and orders his life accordingly.
3) Inspiring false wonders. (II Thessalonians 2:9)
We recall from the time Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court that the servants of the devil could pull off miracles too. (See Exodus 7.) So, the presence of a miracle–even in answer to your prayer–does not guarantee the validity of anything.
Jesus said it was a wicked and adulterous people who would do nothing unless they received signs and wonders first. “Wicked” refers to their absence of faith; “Adulterous” refers to their lack of faithfulness. Unspiritual people demand a miracle before they will believe, but the effect is short-lived. Such proof has no staying power. They are without faith or faithfulness.
It helps to remember that “miracles do not produce faith.” The opposite is true: faith produces miracles.
I have known people who sought to impress others by their spirituality and godliness by telling of miracles they’d received in answer to their prayers. As much as we want to believe that these are evidence that God is with us and for us, they don’t prove a thing.
Jesus said on the last day, people will stand before Him and say, “But Lord–we preached in your name, we cast out demons in your name, and we worked miracles in your name.” He will say to them, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity and lawlessness. I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Knowing Jesus. There is no greater thing.
John the Baptist did no miracles, according to John 10:41. So, if miracles are the proof of anything, then what does this say about the man Jesus called “the greatest born of a woman” (Matthew 11:11)?
4) Tempting to disobedience. (Genesis 3:4,5)
Satan uses the same techniques on us that he originally did in the Garden with Eve. He questions whether God actually said what He did (implying the Bible does not say what it says) and then accuses God of not wanting what is best for us (slandering the Almighty).
He is a specialist on finding our soft places and playing to them. As a football coach studies game films to find the weaknesses of his next opponent, multiply that by a thousand and you’ll have the degree to which Satan studies his targets–you and me!–to find our weaknesses in order to attack us there.
Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. (James 1:14)
Satan has never tempted me with cocaine or marijuana or liquor. He has never tempted me with great success or millions of dollars or worldly acclaim. He knows there is nothing in me that responds to such. His methods for me are more subtle, more specialized. He does better by playing to my pride, certain fears, and certain appetites. He knows what he is doing, friend. Make no mistake.
You and I abide in Christ, or we are in big trouble. The hymn tells us to “take time to be holy,” for “temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.”
5) Slandering the saints. (Job 1:9-11)
Perhaps this is what Scripture has in mind when Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of the brethren.” In Job, Satan accuses Job before God, saying he was only serving the Lord out of selfish interests.
It’s worth turning this around, however, and based on the above Genesis 3 text, remembering that while Satan is the accuser of the brethren before God, he is the accuser of God before the brethren.
Read the Old Testament account of Moses’ delivering Israel through the wilderness into Canaan. Again and again, he and God are accused by the carnal people of not being able to keep their promises, of bringing them out of Egypt but being unable to get them into the Promised Land.
Accusations against God today are more subtle. People do not stand in church business meetings and accuse God of reneging on His Word. But they seem to have no hesitation in accusing the pastor and other ministers, the deacons and other leaders, of weakness, of failures, of dishonesty, of ungodliness.
When a leader of God’s people is accused unjustly, God takes it as an attack on Himself. Please don’t miss that. It’s all through Scripture, my friend.
I would not be surprised if the Almighty has penciled in on His calendar some of those who have slandered the Lord’s faithful leaders.
Jesus told Peter that in trying to dissuade Him from going to the cross, Peter was Satan, “an adversary.” Likewise, those who play into Satan’s hands today and accuse their brothers and sisters in the church are being adversaries to Christ.
6) Inflicting disease. (Job 2:7)
We must not say that all disease is of the devil. Some have done that, no doubt, for the simple reason that disease is bad and Jesus fought against it by healings throughout His earthly ministry. It’s taking the easy way out.
Now, I know nothing good thing to say about disease, don’t get me wrong. Diseases are a result of the Fall of Adam, and will not be found in Heaven. As one who has dealt with cancer, diabetes, hernias, and other maladies, I’m so relieved to know this!
However, if we violate sanitary laws and come down with a cold caught from someone else, let’s not blame that on the devil. We did that to ourselves, from laziness or neglect. Medical historians inform us that the Black Plagues of the Middle Ages (there were several such plagues, not just one) could have been prevented–and were eventually stopped–by the kind of proper hygiene that is taught in the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament.
But some sicknesses are from Satan. Whatever infirmity Paul had, in II Corinthians 12, he called it “a messenger from Satan.”
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me…. (II Corinthians 12:7)
Three times Paul asked God to remove it. Eventually, the message he received from Heaven was God’s assurance that His grace was sufficient, that His strength was perfected in our weakness.
Just because something comes from Satan did not mean God was looking the other way. God uses Satan sometimes for His own purposes.
7) Opposing the righteous. (Zechariah 3:1)
I love the little story in Acts 19 where the sons of a Jewish priest decided to emulate Paul and cast the devils out of someone. They found a fellow, then gathered around to lay hands on the poor guy. The leader of the group repeated the formula he had heard from Paul. And, he got it almost right.
We command you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches that you would come out of this man. (Acts 19:13)
To their shock, the demon responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” Then, the man jumped up and–empowered by the evil spirit–set upon the hapless youths, leaving them battered and bruised.
Old-time preachers used to deliver sermons on the subject “Known in Hell.” It was a compliment, they said, for you to be well-known by the forces of darkness. It proves you are effective for the Lord. But as to those who are either in the clutches of the devil or doing nothing for Jesus, the enemy leaves you alone.
That “known in hell” title isn’t exactly accurate, of course. The devil is not in hell. That is his eventual destination, but only as the ultimate prisoner, not as the warden of the inferno as so many jokes and stories and cartoons (and even bad sermons) have it. Satan is on earth, inflicting damage everywhere he can. (See Revelation 12:9,12.)
8) Sowing the tares (Matthew 13:38,39)
This parable from our Lord was given to explain the presence of hypocrites in the congregation of the faithful. That has always been a problem for believers as well as a stumblingblock for unbelievers.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’d go to church if there weren’t so many hypocrites there”?
There are many responses to that, and some of them rather clever. “If a hypocrite is standing between you and God, he’s closer to the Lord than you are.” “Well, come on to church anyway. We always have room for another one.”
Jesus did not make jokes, however. He told why the hypocrites were in church: Satan put them there for his own purposes. He sowed the tares (weeds) in the field where good seed had been planted.
Why would the devil insert “tares” into the field? Why would he want hypocrites in the church? For a thousand reasons. They discredit the work of the church, they disrupt the fellowship, they divert funds, they blur the message, they weaken the ministries, they discourage believers, they drive away the lost.
I remember from my days growing up on the Alabama farm how Johnson grass resembled corn when it first came up. However, after a few days, you could tell the difference. The corn grew high and produced several ears. Johnson grass was long and skinny and fiercesome to remove, but produced nothing but frustration for the farmer.
Counterfeits are a compliment to the real thing. No one counterfeits nickels or even dollar bills; it’s not worth the trouble. They counterfeit the more valuable stuff.
Leave them alone, Jesus said. The Father will do the separating at the end. (Matthew 13:30)
He is not empowering any of us, no matter how scrupulous or well-intentioned we may be, to wade in among church memberships to determine who is genuine and the real article and who are the pretenders and moles. Judging is His domain, and His alone.
9) Removing good seed. (Matthew 13:19)
Here is the corollary of Satan’s work of planting tares among the good seed; he takes away the good seed itself. Jesus said so; He knew.
And how would he go about doing that?
Here is a fellow who went to church and heard the Gospel. Or, he turned on the television and listened to a preacher give the Lord’s message. It touched his heart. It affected him. He wanted to know more. Perhaps he went forward during the invitation or dialed the number on the screen. He talked with a counselor. Someone prayed with him.
An hour later, back in the so-called “real world,” he blows it off. “Whatever was I thinking?” he wonders. He gets with his drinking buddies or delves back into his drugs or immorality or a thousand other worldly activities and soon that religious experience is a dim memory.
This is one of the dangers even of the Lord’s faithful walking outside church and immediately turning on a football game or playing music that overpowers the senses and diverts the mind. Soon, the word we heard from God is a distant memory.
10) Lying. (John 8:44)
Satan is a liar and the father of lies.
Each of us will have our own list of lies the enemy has tried to palm off on us. Here are some of Satan’s favorites. Unfortunately, a lot of people are buying them, too–
–God is not real. Or not loving. Or not interested.
–Jesus is a figment of the imagination.
–The Bible isn’t true.
–Obedience to God is denying yourself pleasure in life.
–All Christians are hypocrites.
–There is no eternal justice in the universe. Hitler got off scot-free.
–After death, that’s it. Nothing more.
Listen, friend. Satan is a liar. Don’t believe a word he whispers in your ear. Doubt your doubts.
11) Stealing, killing, and destroying. (John 10:10)
We said above that this is a real warfare Satan is conducting. He takes no prisoners. He wants to maim, destroy, and annihilate.
One of the most beloved lies of the devil–one which I’ve seen countless servants of the Lord fall prey to–is that we can have all the wonderful things the Lord has given us and the forbidden fruit too. And there will be no consequence.
Here is a minister doing a great work for the Lord. Lives are being changed, his church is growing, ministries are touching the community in ways never done before. At home, his wife adores him and his children are his delight. In the denomination, he is highly respected and those “in the know” predict a great future for him.
Then one day, temptation arrives. A lovely young woman sitting in his office pours out her grief to him. His heart is touched. He is a counselor, he has a pastor’s heart, so he comforts her. He moves out from behind the desk, pulls a chair up to hers, and lets her weep on his shoulder. Within days, his goose is cooked. He is a goner.
They have an affair.
At first, he’s happier than he has ever been in his life. Now, his work is still prospering, his wife is still happy, his home life remains great. Secretly, he is experiencing a pleasure he has only dreamed about or read about in illicit materials. It’s so overpowering, in fact, that at first he deludes himself into thinking this must be a God thing, that surely the Lord is blessing this illicit union.
Then, something happens.
His wife finds a note from the woman or overhears a phone conversation. Or, the woman’s husband follows her and walks in on the cozy arrangement. Or the pastor’s secretary gets suspicious and alerts the chairman of deacons.
Soon, the news is out. The pastor’s wife is devastated, the deacons order him out of the office immediately, and the denomination buzzes with the sad gossip. Church attendance drops by half. The congregation panics.
Two families divorce. A ministry is destroyed. Lives are shattered.
Only one “person” enjoys this scenario–the father of lies, the enemy of all that is good, the devil himself. He has a field day.
How we wish this story was a rarity. But it plays out somewhere every day of every year. People falling prey to Satan’s lies and learning what “steal, kill, and destroy” really means.
Knowing how the devil works does not guarantee we will respond to him wisely or effectively. But it’s the first step.
What is the best way to deal with Satan?
The answer is so simple some will not like it.
Resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7).
Resist him, steadfast in the faith (I Peter 5:9).
We are not told to meet the enemy with formulas, certain words or even scriptures. We are not instructed to argue with him, reason with the temptation, or even to try to justify it. We are told to run like the dickens.
Stick with the Lord. Hold fast to what you know. Be faithful to Jesus.