I was listening to a sermon about spiritual warfare and had a thought about what kind of motive and opportunity the deceiver has to try and derail the walk of God’s children as they sojourn in a world where they are not made to walk. Our dependence on God, to lead us in this foreign place, leaves us vulnerable and leaves the enemy salivating as he prowls looking to devour. As believers we can accept that our Father loves us. He made that clear through His son, our savior, on the cross. He makes it clear again with His grace and mercy. I see the patience of my Heavenly Father as I stumble through this journey. At the same time, we have to recognize that the enemy opposes God in all things. He hates us because we are loved by our Creator. When God blesses us, the deceiver grows frustrated. When we turn our voice and heart to God in prayer, the deceiver is angry in his helplessness against the name of Jesus. A name that will force the devil to flee as we resist his attacks on us because of who we are in Christ.
Have you ever met a person that opposes instruction or advice just because of who said it? They want to cause trouble and make the person giving instruction seem ignorant or wrong. We can benefit when we see this motive in the deceiver, God’s adversary. We have to remember that he is our adversary too, because we are children of God. He doesn’t want to see God’s plan prosper in this family, His kingdom. The devil wants to steal God’s word when He gives it to us. If it can’t be stolen, he wants to manipulate it in order to make us struggle. If the word finds its place, the deceiver will manipulate the things around us to reduce the effectiveness of the word in us. When the Lord is working in us and through us, we will get the attention of the opposition. Count your alliance with God as joy along with the trials that will come in the process.
When we see the method and intent of satan, we can become more effective at receiving God’s word through the bible and through His Spirit. We can develop discernment and become tuned to God’s voice over the deceiver and even over our own. Not only do we need to get better at receiving the word but also more effective at walking in that word. We have to walk in trust with God, growing our faith. We have to rely on God as our refuge and strength. Walking with God creates opposition in our lives. If the deceiver is not against us, we haven’t gotten his attention with our walk and its effectiveness in the kingdom. When we wake each morning with new mercy to face the battle with the devil, find comfort in your certain victory in Christ and in the alliance that brings the adversary of your Father against you His child, His prized possession.
“Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. The [evil] angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13).
This piece of scripture points out that there existed an angel over Persia that was in opposition to the angel of God. We must see the significance of the evil angel that opposed the work of God accomplished through His angels from Heaven. This concept is huge. We know from Ephesians that: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
Imagine with me that for every blessing God has for His children the deceiver has the ability to send one of his demons (fallen angels) to oppose that blessing, resulting in a spiritual battle. This battle exists around believers constantly. We walk in the peace and joy of the Lord and then find ourselves beat down by worry and doubt that results in depression and despair. We start to question God’s involvement when in fact it’s the actions of the deceiver through suggestion that cause us trouble. We are called to have faith in our Lord so that we can combat the seeds planted by the deceiver. We are called to put on the full armor of God to protect ourselves for his flaming arrows and then fight against him with God’s word as Jesus did in the wilderness.
Don’t lose heart when you struggle. Those struggles only exist because the deceiver sees you as a threat worthy enough to require attention. If God wasn’t using you for an important purpose the devil would have no need to concern himself with you. Always reassure yourself that the troubles that attack you as you walk in faith are attacks from the enemy and not an absence of God. Use these attacks as a opportunity to ‘fine tune’ your armor and grow closer to God. As your faith matures along with your relationship to God, the deceiver will see that attacks on you become fruitless because the fruits of God’s Spirit abound in your life.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (Revelation 12:7)
It is rare that we are exposed to preaching and writings that focus on the schemes of the deceiver. I agree that the love of God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the most important message by far; but the enemy of God’s love must be acknowledged. Thinking about an entity and his army trying to draw you away from God can be terrifying. As with all things, perspective makes all the difference. It is inevitable that a walk with the Lord will be met with equal opposition. If you don’t feel the opposition of the devil you might be walking in the direction he wants for you. If you don’t feel his opposition you may not pose a threat to his plan to destroy God’s reconciliation with His creation.
The closer you get to God the more the deceiver looks for a way to hinder your progress. You could get discouraged by this, or be prepared and wear his attacks as a badge of honor. You can know ahead of time that the deceiver wants you to fail and use the power you have in your Savior to walk in victory. Better than that, you can use satan’s prideful attempts to trip you to grow!
The deceiver will use earthly desires and pride to tempt you to settle for something far less than what God has for you. When he shoots the flaming arrows of Ephesians 6, use your shield to defend yourself and acknowledge where the devil was trying to hurt you.
Let his attempts to hurt you reveal the weakness he perceives in you. When you are attacked stand secure in what God has promised you and let the deceiver point out the weak points in your armor. If he continues to aim at a certain place, he is just showing you wear your armor might be weak. Let your walk with God strengthen that part of your armor. Most of the time the deceiver will use your pride to draw you away. Not a chest pounding pride but the pride that makes you feel that you can do anything without God, the pride of self-sufficiency or self-focus.
When you feel drawn away or beat down in your walk with the Lord, identify what weakness the deceiver is looking to exploit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that weakness. Ask God to give you His power to grow in that area, closer to His grace and love. After having God’s view of the deceiver’s feeble attempts to hurt you, you will gain experience and get better at seeing the new ways he comes against you. Each new angle gives you another chance to grow closer to God and stronger in His Spirit.
As satan’s pride causes him to battle in vain to win a battle we know He loses in the end, use his pride to destroy yours. As the devil’s pride attacks, yours will fall away when you draw closer to God. Your self-reliance will fall to pieces and God’s indwelling Spirit will shine through in your maturity. Use the devil as a stepping stone. Each new stone lets you raise higher. As long as the hatred of the devil comes against us, we have another way to perceive our weaknesses. Now we can let the Holy Spirit work in us so that we are stronger in battle and closer to our Father.
Many times, in the reading of the Psalms, there is a distance between our hearts and the heart of the psalmists. We read these words where someone is in anguish over their persecution. They have enemies that are actually pursuing and attacking them. It is rare in our modern lives to have the same kinds of situations occurring around us that drove the words of the Psalms to be penned. I see where this can cause a separation in what the message has the ability to convey to us.
What if we had an enemy that was pursuing us day and night with the intention to defeat and kill us? Their sole motive was to take all that what was given to us by God. They existed to destroy a relationship with God that leads to sanctification. They found pleasure in our misery, depression, hopelessness, defeat, etc. They were willing to battle us until we turned away from God and too the comforts of the world. That enemy exists! That enemy is the devil and his army of fallen angels. We can read the Psalms and know that every word of desperation would be the crying out of our hearts if the deceiver were to make himself as clear as a physical enemy. Our biggest battle is with the spiritual realm and not the earthly realm that seeks to hold our attention. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) The deceiver is constantly looking for a foot hold in which to attack the hedge of protection God places around those who follow Him. The devil himself acknowledges this hedge when he complains of God’s protection of Job. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. (Job 1:10)
Don’t wait until the spiritual battle is manifest in the flesh. Read the Psalms and know the power of God against an enemy that attacks you in your mind and in ways you can’t always see immediately. Let your relationship grow with God as well as His hedge of protection from your enemy. Let the Psalms draw you closer to the nature of your Protector, Shelter, Sustainer, Rock, and Fortress against all enemies. Draw close to the hope found in the Psalms. Draw close to hope found in God.
Following His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted after 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:1). I heard a sermon where the speaker said that Jesus could not be tempted due to the lack of indwelling sin that we carry from birth. It’s an interesting thought. He prefers to say that the deceiver was testing The Son of God, sizing up his adversary. I like the thought of the deceiver being clueless to what God in the flesh had come to do. He would eventually cause a disciple to betray Jesus, leading to the death that defeated his own power over those who choose to believe in salvation through Jesus.
However we see the time spent in the wilderness, it is clear that the deceiver was on a mission to try and change what God was doing. If we look at the temptations Jesus was presented we can see that the Book of Hebrews presents a truth described here in the Gospels. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) When I see the ways Jesus was tempted, I see that all three cover the majority, if not all, of the temptations we face. I want to examine how these three temptations encompass more than what might be scanned over as we read. Let’s break down each and see what larger truths exist beyond three attempts by satan.
He tempted toward the good parts of being human without the bad: to savor the taste of bread without being subject to the fixed rules of hunger and of agriculture, to confront risk with no real danger, to enjoy fame and power without the prospect of painful rejection- in short, to wear a crown but not a cross. – Philip Yancey
Jesus forfeited the three greatest powers at his disposal, “miracles, mystery, and authority.” – The Brothers Karamazov
Jesus was not willing to trade away our freedom for control, safety, protection, ambition, or comfort.
As we move through scripture we should take notice of the names given to the deceiver. We must look into his purpose and realize that our battle is not with the flesh but with the spirit. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) The deceiver uses the fallenness of people to do his bidding and cover his involvement. We get so focused on the person we see, we forget the spiritual battle that is at work. Know your enemy! Know your Savior! Focus on God and His promises. Be the victor in the battle for your spirit!
The Accuser, The Enemy, The Tempter, The Evil one, The Murderer from the beginning, The Father of lies, The Prince of this world, The Serpent
The deceiver looks to accuse us. Not only to God but between ourselves. The worse we feel about ourselves the further redemption seems. When sin clouds redemption among brothers they attach that characteristic to God. Accusations taken to The Father are met with forgiveness and cleansing if partnered with repentance. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. (Zechariah 3:1-5) The Lord stands by waiting for His children to return. The saddest thing for us, and pleasurable for the devil is when we feel unworthy. We forget out identity and turn away, again to the pleasure of the deceiver. Do not let accusation take you away from God or His purpose in you. The devil will seek to destroy your reputation, but God will always seek to establish your character which cannot be changed by anyone but you.
Beelzebub-”lord of the house”
It’s clear that the deceiver is the ruler of this fallen world. It falls further into chaos every day. This is also translated as the “lord of dung” or “lord of flies”. We need to realize that this house called earth is outside of Heaven, it is fallen. Sin has taken what God created and made it a shadow of its original design. We were meant to be in fellowship with God as Adam and Eve were. That was God’s desire and original intention. Then the lord of this earth, banished from Heaven and adversary of God, stepped in to darken the hearts of man. He wanted to taint this world with idols that suit man’s fallen sense of satisfaction. He allows people to prosper so that they have no physical need for God. He blankets their hearts with lesser things and causes them to grow hard. He lets other people see what prospering in his house looks like and they miss that we are meant for so much more. They become blind to what is on God’s table, and settle for the scraps left to the deceiver. Choose to be a child of the God of Heaven and not a servant to the lord of this fallen, ugly world.
How many times have you wondered as a believer how people who deny and defy God seem to somehow never fall? We see wealthy people who go to any means to increase their financial position. We see bosses who treat people terribly and still get promoted. This should never detour us. We should focus on what the Lord has for us and not compare ourselves to others. They are meant to walk a path far different from ours. The thought does leave us curious though. I was always of the opinion that some people need a bigger fall in order to submit to God. They needed to take a bigger loss to lose dependence on earthly things and seek the eternal. I still believe that is true for many but another thought came to me. What if the deceiver bestows earthly gifts to create the sense of dependence that drives people from God? What if the deceiver provides so many earthly things that people accept idols over God? Maybe an atheist billionaire is the deceiver’s way of convincing those who are weak in faith that they don’t need God, that this world is enough to satisfy the yearnings of our hearts. God leaves the emptiness in our hearts in order that it might be filled by Him. It makes sense that the deceiver would use this common trait to attack with false fulfillment. Is the deceiver clever enough to try and use the finite things of this earth to draw us away from the eternal fulfillment of God? Is it possible that satan would try and bless us away from our Savior? When we examine the extent at which he tempts man in defiance of the true God I don’t see why this clever tactic wouldn’t also be used. Don’t be drawn away by earthly idols and this darkened world. Let the light of God light the path that He created for you before the beginning of time and find your life in the eternal things that will last as sin and the gifts of the devil fade into nothingness when Christ comes to take us home.