The third and probably most famous enemy of the Christian is the devil. Who is the devil? Is he real or is it merely an abstract representation of evil? If he is real it is worth considering, where he came from. How powerful is he? And, what are his tactics? The answer to these questions can help us to better understand how we may be attacked.
Who is the Devil?
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the devil is a real, living being, not merely a “force” of evil. He is called by various names in Scripture – Satan (Job 1:6, Romans 16:20), the Devil(Matthew 4:1, 1 Peter 5:8), Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12), the prince of the power of the air(Ephesians 2:2), the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3), the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), the evil one (1 John 5:19) and the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). These titles should demonstrate to us that the devil is undoubtedly a real, living being.
Ezekiel 28:14 tells us that Satan was in fact the anointed cherub in Heaven. God created him perfect but then iniquity was found in him (vs. 15). Like us, the angelic beings have free will. They can decide to obey God or to rebel. Satan’s heart was lifted up because of his beauty verse 17 tells us. He is described as a beautiful creature in the Bible, but this fact is not in keeping with what many people imagine the devil is like. He corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendour so God cast him to the ground. Isaiah 14:12-15 describes Satan’s rebellion further –
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.”
In rebelling, he committed two notable sins which are very closely linked – pride and unbelief. He doubted God’s word. He did not truly believe that God was omnipotent, omniscient and eternal. He questioned God and essentially branded Him a liar by doing so. The obvious parallel with mankind cannot be ignored. When Adam took of the forbidden fruit he was in effect announcing his mistrust of God and His word. He was proudly proclaiming, “I know what God has said, but I don’t believe Him. I know better!” This is sin in its very essence – rebellion – Rebellion against a good, righteous, just, holy, loving, perfect, all knowing, all powerful, ever present, eternal God who is truth. Sometimes we do this in the simplest of ways, by ignoring God and instead, plotting our own course through life; maybe through prayerlessness or by ignoring His living word, the Bible.
How powerful is the Devil?
While we need to be aware that the devil is real and he has real power we must ever be mindful of 1 John 4:4 – “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Job 1:8-12 shows us that Satan’s power is restrained by God. Satan was permitted to take away Job’s house, family and livelihood but he was not permitted to take his life. This ought to plant confidence in us, knowing that God is sovereign, always. This story pulls back the curtain and gives us a view of the unseen realm. Maybe the devil has been permitted to take away your loved one, your health, your home, or your livelihood. This account should give you encouragement and assurance that all things work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose and that those who honour God, He will honour, always.
The devil is not a lone ranger. When he fell, he took with him one third of the angels of Heaven. Now he controls and commands an entire army of demons as Ephesians 6:10-12 explains. Not only does Satan control an army of demons, but he also rules everyone who is not a child of God. The Bible calls them children of wrath in Ephesians 2:1-3.
What are the devil’s tactics?
How exactly does the devil attack us as believers today? He does so using the same old tricks he always has. As it says in Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing new under the Sun. God Himself is the wonderful, master Inventor, Creator and Innovator. The Devil is nothing but an Imitator; A gimmick and a mimic. He is not original and can only twist, distort, change and manipulate whatever God does. He cannot create anything brand new by himself.
John 10:10 reminds us that some of Satan’s primary objectives are to steal, kill and destroy, however, whenever, wherever and whoever he can. Whenever a sincere, hurting and wounded soul asks, “Why did God do this terrible thing to me?” they fail to acknowledge the role of Satan and of mankind’s own exceeding sinfulness. Most of the time, the devil simply amplifies the problems we create for ourselves because of our sin. They also fail to believe that God is good, as He says He is.
The following are some of the ways in which the devil seeks to hurt God’s people.
The moment a person repents (turns form their sin) and puts their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, Satan has lost his grip on them. (John 10:2-15, Gal. 2:20, 1 John 4:4) They are no longer hell bound but Heaven bound and neither principality nor power can adjust that divine transaction. However, the Christian must realise that Satan is not done with them. Although he cannot dam them, he still seeks to cause them to doubt, and, in doing so reduce their peace and joy, and also their usefulness for the Lord. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Satan cannot dam a child of God but he can cause us to doubt. He can cause us to question God’s sovereignty, His infinite goodness, faithfulness and love. This can cause us worry, unnecessary anguish and frustration. We dare not let Satan have such a victory in our lives. Instead we ought to glorify our Lord with a childlike attitude towards His words concerning us by remembering and claiming His promises; by holding up the shield of faith that God has lovingly provided us with.
The devil can divert us from following the Lord Jesus as well as the unsaved. We can sometimes look at those who are unsaved and see that they are so taken up with alcohol, drugs, smoking, sex or gambling. It’s all too easy to see that these things make their world go round. These things are obviously giving them pleasure and make their lives worth living. However, it’s maybe not so easy to spot the things in our own lives that we are taken up with, instead of Christ. It may be our family, boyfriend/girlfriend, career, sports or entertainment. While there may be nothing intrinsically sinful with any of these, it is our idolatrous hearts that make them into something sinful. We can give them a higher place in our priorities than they deserve, diverting us from our Saviour. The devil of course will make anything and everything seem so much more attractive than it is, as long as it is a substitute for God Himself. If he can successfully occupy us with a good thing, which is not a God-thing, he has succeeded more than we realise.
As men and women of God, 1 Timothy 6:11 exhorts us to “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” If we are diligently pursuing God and all that is in Him, then our hearts will not be diverted by anything or anyone else, whether it is good, bad or indifferent.
The devil seeks to defeat God’s people on a daily and even momentary basis. If we fall into sin or fail in some way, we can be sure that the devil will seek to compound this in a desperate bid to keep us down and defeated. However, John 10:10 says that the Lord Jesus Christ came to give us life, and life more abundant at that. 1 John 1:9 gives us the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Therefore, we should not permit the devil to continue to batter us with the memory and guilt of our past sin. Christ said on the cross that it’s finished! It’s done with. He has paid for it with His own precious blood. Confess it to the Lord Jesus Himself and pay no heed to any attempts from the enemy to keep you down or put you out.
It’s a great place to be when we can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
1 Chronicles 28:20 “And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.” Although this passage was from David to his son Solomon for a distinct purpose, there is an application for us, because David’s God is our God. We can be sure that God will not leave us or forsake us until we finish all that God has planned for our lives, no matter how many trials, failings or defeats we encounter on the way to ultimate victory. God is with you.
The devil can attack the believer who earnestly and consistently seeking God, by delaying those answers to prayer. Daniel shows us that the enemy was battling hard in the unseen realm to prevent Daniel’s prayers from being answered. Is there any reason for us to believe that these same principalities and powers are not just as active today in attempting to stifle and delay the answers to our prayers for the souls of unsaved loved ones, for healing, restorations or other petitions? We are encouraged time and time again in the Bible to pray, to keep praying and never to stop praying. The incredible combination of God’s sovereignty, our prayers and the battles raging in the unseen realm are too much for any of us to grasp in our minds never mind a pen.
Despite the seeming delays that Satan attempts to assault Gods’ people with, God’s time is always perfect. No matter how the devil tries to attack us, God can always turn it round for our good and His glory. Delay forces our patience to grow in a way that it would not do otherwise. James 1:3-4 tells us that testing of true faith ultimately strengthens it in the end“…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Satan is out to demoralize: “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10). The devil is our great accuser. He attempts to slander us before God, on a 24/7 schedule. When we sin, fail, stumble or fall, we can be sure that the devil is attempting to publicise it in Heaven as loud as he can.
He seeks to discourage us in any way he can- Whether he keeps reminding us of past sin which we have repented of and have been forgiven, or a current struggle. Maybe you have been praying for the healing of a loved one who was unwell for some time, yet God decided in His sovereign wisdom to take them home. Your prayer went seemingly unanswered. The devil will no doubt try and emphasise this notion in your heart, making you doubt God’s goodness. But let us remember that God is good, regardless of what happens to us or our loved ones. Maybe we can’t explain the situation right now, but rest assured we will in a day to come. We must choose to trust God because He it is who knows the end from the beginning and beginning from the end. Presently we see very little of the entire spectrum.
The devil always looks for the most opportune time to attack us. After the Lord Jesus had been tempted in the desert it says in Luke 4:13, “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” While we are sleeping, we can be sure that the enemy is plotting against us, waiting for an opportune time to attack us, to bring us down. Do you ever wonder why you have “bad” days? There may be more than meets the eye. But we can be sure that God is in control.
Instead of being discouraged, we must choose to apply Philippians 4:6-7 to every disappointment, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Furthermore, we have the assurance of Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If you love God, and are following His will for your life, rest assured that “all things” are working for your good, no matter how depressing or hopeless circumstances may seem currently.
One of the most devastating attacks Satan can unleash in these days is through deception. Revelation 12:9 says that the devil deceives the whole world. As someone once said, the devil is at his most dangerous when he is in a church with a bible under his arm, singing hymns and smiling sweetly. When he is roaring like a lion, we are alerted to him and can prepare, but when he is in the guise of the serpent he is more difficult to defend against.
There are two striking examples where Satan twisted Scriptures to fit his own evil purposes. In the Garden of Eden when deceiving Eve, the devil told her truth mixed with a lie. He told Eve that she would not die if she disobeyed God. The falsehood of this is proved by the fact that Adam and Eve are dead. (Genesis 3:1-5)
Another example of the devil’s expertise at twisting God’s word was when he tempted our Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) He quoted part of Psalm 91:11 & 12but left out a crucial part. “For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.”The devil left out, “To keep you in all your ways.” Jumping off the top of the temple was not included in “all” of the Lord Jesus’ ways. Christ’s ways were the same as the ways of God the Father and taking part in spectacular yet pointless exhibition or showmanship was not included in this.
The devil relentlessly tries to hide the actual truth about our God as 2 Corinthians 4:3-4describes. “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” The devil does not mind which method is employed to deceive people. One of his most successful ploys is through religion. Satan loves religion more than we can imagine. Whether it is through the false teachings of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, the religion of atheism, or the teaching of another Jesus via Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses or Catholicism, the devil will use any such means to trick, trap and blind people.
In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Satan is described as “an angel of light,” which means that he uses apparently respectable means and people to deceive us. He tries to lure us away from the truth and towards the counterfeit. “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:4)
In John 8:44, Christ rebuked the religious leaders saying, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” The devil can do great damage using seemingly respectable people, yet they are in fact merely religious hypocrites. Maybe more damage can be done by such than even the most loud, hardened God hater.
While there are a million ways to hell there is only one way to Heaven. That way is through the Lord Jesus Christ. (Mark 14:6) Carefully think about the following questions; How many lies have you told? Have you ever stolen anything, irrespective of its value? Have you ever taken God’s name and used it as a swear word? Have you ever lusted for someone? If you answered yes to these, it makes you a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. When you stand before God, the Righteous Judge, He will find you guilty because you have violated God’s law. The punishment for this is hell. This should greatly alarm you; it alarms me. Remember, Hell has no exits.
The greatest news is that God is rich in mercy and is not willing that you or anyone should perish. He came to earth in the form of a man over 2000 years ago, lived a perfect sinless life, died on the cross, taking the punishment that you deserved. The Bible says His soul was made an offering for sin- your sin. He then rose again 3 days later, defeating death. You broke God’s law; Jesus Christ paid your fine. He took the wrath that you and I deserve. But you must repent (turn from your sin) and put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. God promises to give you a new heart and new desires.
As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we should not be too concerned about the many counterfeits in the world. In Mark 14:6 Jesus Christ said that He is the way (and the only way). We must look only to Him. Stick closely by Him because as we get to know the genuine article we will be able to spot the counterfeit from afar. We can do this by reading His word more paying attention to all it says, applying it to any given subject. God’s word is the final authority in all things.
Watch the Devil run
Despite the genuine threat which the devil poses to God’s people we need not fear. The devil has many plots, plans and schemes concerning our downfall but we do not need to have the slightest worry. James 4:7 commands us to “…submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The key is submitting to God- Yielding ourselves entirely to Him and denying the devil even a sniff of a foothold in our lives.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Of course, we have full armour provided by our loving Heavenly Father to fight and defend against the devil and his devices. We cannot afford to disregard any of these divine instruments or we leave ourselves vulnerable to the vile attacks of the enemy. We dare not be ignorant, arrogant or negligent with this responsibility. God has done and will do His part, but we must be attentive in doing our own.
Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “… come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” How amazing is it that the awesome God of the Universe, the Creator of all, invites us personally to His throne of grace; To think that He wants us to obtain mercy and to find the grace that will help us. We can be sure of one thing- the devil will attack us. Christ Himself said that in this world we would have many troubles. But we can take heart in the fact that He has overcome the world, the flesh and the devil and the effects of this victory will soon be applied. In the time we have between now and then, God has provided us with sufficient protection and ammunition in our fight against our dastardly threefold enemy; all of which is found in our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT, NOR DO I CLAIM TO BE PERFECT. THEREFORE, THE VIEWS I EXPRESS ALSO ARE NOT PERFECT. HOWEVER, I MAKE NO APOLOGY IN DECLARING THAT MY LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST IS ENTIRELY PERFECT.