The devil’s Attacks…
C.S. Lewis said it well (as usual!), “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (The Screwtape Letters 1941, p. 3)
We do not want to “study” the devil/evil but should spend the majority of our time studying/getting to know God/righteousness, just as bankers do not study counterfeit money but instead learn all the details of genuine bills (this helps them to better spot counterfeit currency).
Nevertheless, we are called by God to be aware of the devil’s schemes to lead us astray (2 Corinthians 2:11). Typing in the words “devil,” “satan,” and “evil one” into the online concordance at www.biblegateway.com, the Bible reveals the following truths about the ways that the devil attacks human beings in general and God’s people in particular:
(please click on the Bible books/chapter/verses below to read the actual Scriptural text)
The devil Tempts People To Have Sinful (Untrue) Beliefs
A. Genesis 3:1-5: “Didn’t God say…?” The devil knew what God said but played on the fact that Adam & Eve didn’t and successfully attempted to trick them into believing something that God did NOT say. Beliefs matter for many reasons; one of these reasons is that beliefs directly lead to actions:
-In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s, it was the belief that Jews were not actually human that helped many Nazis to justify the killing of millions of people.
-If people believe that they are just mammals, just a bunch of cells/molecules, just a blob of flesh without any inherent value, it is easier for them to mistreat others and allow themselves to be mistreated.
-We wear heavy coats when we believe it will be cold outside.
-We take medicine when we believe that we are sick.
-What you put INTO a car’s gas tank (beliefs) will determine how far the car will travel (actions)…etc. etc.
-Beliefs lead to actions! This is why God tells us to fill our minds with what is pure, holy, good, noble, praiseworthy, etc. (Philippians 4:8).
-Beliefs lead to actions! This is why God tells us over and over again to “watch our doctrine closely” (i.e. what we believe) (1 Timothy 4:16). Beliefs & actions are inseparably linked–what we do shows what we believe and what we believe shows what we will do.
-Beliefs lead to actions! This is why Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
B. Luke 4:3,9: The devil tempted Jesus to disbelieve that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son. “IF you are the Son of God…” The devil realized that if he could somehow get Jesus to disbelieve the Truth of His identity it could cause Jesus to make a sinful choice. That is why the devil followed up his temptation of Jesus’ belief with a temptation of Jesus’ actions…the devil knows that beliefs and actions are connected. We need to know this as well.
The devil Tempts People To Make Sinful Choices
A. Genesis 3: The devil tried to get Adam & Eve to eat the specific fruit from the specific tree that God commanded them NOT to eat from.
B. Matthew 4:1-11: The devil tried to get Jesus to make three sinful choices:
-Turn stones into bread (i.e. using Jesus’ power as God to cut short His testing/training as a human)
-Jump off the roof of the Temple (i.e. test God’s promises by doing something foolish)
-Bown down and worship the devil
The devil will try to tempt us as well to make sinful choices.
The devil Cannot FORCE Us To Sin…he Can Only Tempt
A. John 13:2: The devil didn’t FORCE Judas to betray Jesus, but the devil “prompted” (reminded) Judas to do so…Judas still had to choose.
B. Job 1:9-11, 20-22: The devil didn’t have the power to FORCE Job to curse God, but the devil did what he could to tempt Job to do so by causing Job intense pain. Keep in mind, though, that even in this situation the devil is STILL on God’s leash; the devil had to get permission from God to afflict Job. God is still in control—and working EVERYTHING out for our GOOD!–when we suffer.
What a powerful truth! We are NOT helpless! This is why God tells us:
-God Who is in us is greater than the devil who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
-God will always provide a way to avoid/resist temptation! (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The devil Is NOT Behind Every Hard/Painful Thing That Happens To Us
A. There is no Biblical evidence to suggest that demons cause us to have flat-tires while we are driving to church or cause us to forget to call a friend who is hurting, etc.
C. The devil is a created being, cannot be everywhere at once, is NOT all-powerful (we can resist Him with God’s help and God’s tools [James 4:7; Ephesians 6:12-18]), is NOT under every rock and behind every bush (Job 1:7, 2:2), and while powerful is not even CLOSE to being as powerful as God. NOT EVEN CLOSE.
D. In the long run, our own sinful hearts/desires are perhaps more dangerous to us than the devil (James 1:13-15). This is why it is so amazing that God wants to live in us through His Holy Spirit when we receive Jesus as our Savior—He wants to give us heaven; He ALSO wants to transform us (our beliefs, thoughts, actions, plans, and desires) from the inside-out to be more and more like Jesus! God knows that as He changes our desires we will make less and less sinful choices.
And Yet The devil Is Active
A. The devil foolishly believes that he can actually thwart God’s plan/de-throne God (the only time the Bible records God laughing is in Psalm 2:1-6 when evil gathers to try and destroy God. With the combined forces of evil—earthly and spiritual—joined against God, God literally laughs at the preposterousness of their impossible efforts).
B. 1 Chronicles 21:1: The devil incited (stirred up) David to take a census of Israel (which God has specifically told David NOT to do), just as sometimes a child incites Mom or Dad to snap/be mean when the child keeps tapping the parent to get their attention.
C. Matthew 13:38-39: The devil sows (mixes/adds) his followers in with God’s followers to try and choke out our fruitfulness to God by changing our beliefs and actions.
D. Matthew 16:23: Jesus calls Peter “satan” when Peter tried to convince Jesus NOT to die on a cross, that is, to NOT fulfill the purpose/mission for which Jesus was sent to earth. Jesus teaches us that part of satan’s work is tempting people to focus on what matters to US instead of what matters to GOD (in the temple as a 12 year old Jesus said to Mary and Joseph–”Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” [Luke 2:49]).
F. John 8:44: The devil spreads lies and people can “belong” to him when they choose to believe his lies instead of the Truth of Jesus.
G. Acts 5:3; 2 Corinthians 2:11: We can allow satan to fill our hearts when we believe his lies. This does not seem to mean being “possessed” by satan but rather being influenced by him the way Judas was.
H. Acts 10:38: People can be under the power of the devil when they believe his lies—when we disbelieve Jesus’s Truth and believe the devil’s lies, we can be taken captive to do the devil’s will (2 Timothy 2:25-26); this is why Jesus said the “Truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
I. 2 Corinthians 11:14: The devil masquerades as an angel of light—he pretends to be something/someone he is not (another form of lying). We often think of the devil as a hideously ugly being with horns and a pitchfork but he just might be beautiful/dazzling on the outside to hide his evil on the inside. Some people who claim to have seen a bright “angel” during a near- death experience may have actually seen the devil, especially when that same “angel” comforts them that EVERYONE they love is in heaven whether they have received Jesus as Savior or not. This is exactly why God tells us to “test the spirits” to see if what we hear from others lines up with a correct interpretation of the Bible (1 John 4:1).
J. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10: Before Jesus returns, the devil will even have the limited power to do some spectacular “miracles” (wonders and signs) that will serve to greatly tempt people to believe the devil’s lies and follow him and the anti-christ.
K. 1 Timothy 3:7: The devil sets traps for people, traps of poor choices (sin) leading to a Christian’s diminished reputation among non-Christians.
L. 1 Peter 5:8: The devil is busy trying to destroy people with his lies and half-truths.
M. 1 John 5:19: The devil is not all-powerful but does have considerable power on earth, and this verse reveals that the whole world is influenced by and in control of the evil one (kind of like being in a river with a current; with the sails down the boat will be carried in the direction of the current, but with the sails up the wind gives the boat power to move against the current. We are the boat, the sails our our beliefs, the wind is the Holy Spirit, and the direction we move when blown by the wind are our obedient actions to God.).
N. Revelation 2:10: In the end times, the devil will have the limited power to put some of God’s people in jail to test their faith in Jesus just as the devil had the limited power to bring certain suffering into Job’s life to test his faith in God.
O. Revelation 2:24: The devil tries to get people interested in the occult through a search for “deep secrets” of life (e.g. what will happen to you in the future, interpreting “signs” in your life, etc.). God wants us to go to GOD and the BIBLE to learn the Truth God has revealed to us—we are not to go wandering off using tarot cards, fortune tellers, palm readers, seances, ouija boards, horoscopes, etc. trying to learn things that God doesn’t want us to know (Deuteronomy 18:9-11; Deuteronomy 29:29).
P. Hebrews 2:14: The devil holds the power of death in the sense that he enjoys holding condemnation and eternal punishment over the heads of sinful humans—that is why another of the devil’s names is “the accuser.” The devil traps people into seasons or even LIFETIMES of self-destructive actions because he convinces them in their thoughts that they are hopeless, unlovable, unforgivable, unwanted, alone, unimportant, etc. The devil is the “prosecuting attorney” that uses the Bible to show God that God HAS to punish sinners…but now that Jesus became fully human while remaining fully God, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and came back to life three days later, for those who believe in Jesus He is now our all-powerful “defense attorney” Who hands to God the Father a sheet of paper with the words “Paid In Full” (John 19:30) when the devil accuses each Christian of the sins we have committed. WHAT AMAZING GRACE FROM JESUS!
So How Can We Resist the devil?
A. Don’t let your anger against God and/or others fester, to go untreated and un-dealt with (Ephesians 4:26-27)–this gives the devil an opening/or foothold to cause further trouble in our lives (kind of like using your credit card on an unsecured website–it makes it easier for hackers to steal your identity/credit card information).
-ask God for help when you are angry against Him/others,
-ask God to help you perform tangible actions of love/kindness to those who have hurt you,
-make the choice to perform tangible actions of love/kindness to those who have hurt you,
-pray for those with whom you are angry,
-lovingly and gently talk to those with whom you are angry—do NOT sweep it under the rug!
B. Use the tools God has given us (Ephesians 6:12-18):
-FULL armor (not partial armor; and it’s ARMOR for a reason—our enemies weapons are not Nerf or squirt guns but are spiritually POWERFUL);
-Stand FIRM (do not let our victories OR defeats [our circumstances] change our accurate beliefs and loving actions);
-Wear the belt of truth (belts on soldiers’ uniforms held the armor up/kept it all together); we wear the belt of truth when we believe what the Bible teaches (allowing the Bible to change our opinions/beliefs and not vice versa) and lovingly/faithfully act on what the Bible teaches (James 1:22);
-Breastplate of righteousness in place (guards our heart—we MUST always remember that we cannot earn heaven but Jesus has given His forgiveness as a free gift to all who will receive it; especially after we have committed a sin but other times too, the devil will try to tempt us to believe that we are not forgiven, that God will throw us into hell. We wear the breastplate of JESUS’ righteousness each day when we constantly block the devil’s accusations with the Truth of God’s Word—there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1);
-Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace (we will be READY to do the good works that God has prepared for us [Ephesians 2:10] when we constantly remind ourselves that we obey Jesus NOT to try to afford His love but rather to thank Him for His love that we cannot afford to pass up. It is SO EASY for Christians to slip back into a works-based friendship with God; when this happens our “feet” become sluggish and tired because our good deeds are done out of obligation and not out of grace and freedom);
-Shield of faith that extinguishes the flaming arrows of the evil one (please click HERE for some of the devil’s flaming arrows and how we use the shield of faith to block/extinguish them. We use the shield of faith when we choose to believe what the Bible says about God, ourselves, others instead of believing lies and then choose to ACT on those true Biblical beliefs);
-Helmet of salvation (guards our minds; we wear the helmet of salvation when we allow the fact that we are completely and forever forgiven by Jesus to guide the thoughts we think, what we believe, and the choices we make. We wear the helmet of salvation when we allow our minds to be changed/healed to believe what the Bible says. We wear the helmet of salvation when we learn to “take every thought captive to Christ”, that is, to submit our thoughts/beliefs to the Truth of the Bible.);
-Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (we use this Sword when we read, believe, act on, and remember the Bible, applying it in all areas of our lives and viewing all areas of our lives through its lense).
C. Don’t allow yourself to hate the devil…just trust GOD to deal with the devil, to destroy and judge and condemn the devil forever (Jude 1:9).
D. Submit to God (James 4:7): The ultimate submission to God is believing Jesus is His only Son and receiving Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness! Once we do that, God lives in us through His Holy Spirit and will begin teaching us to use the tools He has provided for us to resist the devil! Then, after being forgiven by Jesus for all the sins we have ever committed or will ever commit, the Holy Spirit teaches us over time to submit the specific details of our lives to God’s approval and control: how we treat others, what we believe, how we spend our free time and money, what our goals/dreams are, etc. The more we learn to submit the individual details of our lives to God, the less power the devil will have over us! This is similar to a contractor/building submitting his/her methods of building to “best practices” and procedures; the more the contractor adheres to the principles of sound building, the stronger the created structure will be and the more likely to survive the elements like storms, earthquakes, etc.
E. As loud as the devil roars, his condemnation by God is GUARANTEED! The devil will not roam the earth forever but eventually, on God’s timing, God will throw the devil and his demons into the Lake of Fire FOREVER where he will NEVER have power again to tempt (Matthew 25:41). WHAT A GREAT PROMISE!
It is not easy to use these powerful tools of God, but He will train us over time to use them consistently and expertly to resist the devil. It reminds me of how Mr. Miyagi trained Daniel throughout the movie “The Karate Kid”–Miyagi’s lessons didn’t make sense to Daniel until the very end of the movie when the lessons Daniel learned helped him to win his karate matches. Don’t give up! Trust the Teacher! You are NEVER alone…when you resist the devil, God promises that eventually the devil MUST flee from you, beloved of God! (James 4:7)
“The God of peace will soon crush satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (Romans 16:20).
“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
“I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).