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Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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 6:10-12)
In Paul’s letter the church of Ephesus, he tells his readers that behind every opponent in this world is a spiritual enemy, the devil, who is trying to steal, kill, and destroy God’s good works (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8). One of the classic books about the devil is Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, which was published in 1652. Brooks discusses some of the strategies Satan uses to tempt and accuse believers. In this week’s post, I will share four of the temptation strategies discussed by Brooks. Next week we will look at four accusation strategies.
1) Present the bait and hide the hook – Like an expert fisherman, Satan often dangles short-term pleasures in front of us while hiding the long-term misery. As Klyne Snodgrass wrote, “Evil rarely looks evil until it accomplishes its goal; it gains entrance by appearing attractive, desirable, and perfectly legitimate. It is a baited and camouflaged trap.” There are many things that feel good up front – the flirtation, the drink, the scrolling, the purchase, the yelling, the laziness, the food – but inevitably lead to long-term pain.
2) Tell you that sin is not a big deal, and that repentance is easy – In other words, just do whatever you want, because you can always confess later, and God will forgive, because that’s what God does. What Satan does not tell you is that sin hardens your heart and distances you from God, and there is no guarantee you will ever want to come back: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
3) Tell you that you’ve suffered enough, so you deserve what they want – Satan is a master at using our bitterness to make us feel entitled. Sometimes it is our suffering that makes us feel like we deserve to take what is not ours. Other times, we may feel like we have sacrificed so much that we should be allowed to do what we want for a while. Either way, we end up right in the devil’s lying hands. Better to listen to the words of Hebrews 12:4, which reminds us that our suffering and sacrifice does not compare to that of Christ’s for us: “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
4) Convince you that holiness is not worth it – This was the predicament of Asaph in Psalm 73: “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (Psalm 73:3-5). Satan knows that if he can show you people who do not care about God seemingly living a great life, then you will start question whether following God is really worth the sacrifice.
Whatever the strategy the devil uses, the key is to remember Jesus’ words in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Satan is a liar and a thief, and Jesus has your eternal best interest at heart. So, once again, let Paul’s words encourage you today: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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 6:10-12). Amen.
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