“Where God is on one side, you may be sure to find the devil on the other.”
William Gurnall, 1655
This is the second post on the topic on the Biblical topic of Satan and demons. This post will look at the tactics and goals Satan uses against us. In the last post we looked at the origins of Satan and demons and discovered the reality that they are real created personal beings with spiritual existence. As we study the tactics of Satan, the first thing we need to realize is that there are multiple passages that teach us that we must realize that this is war. Satan has declared war on God and on any people who serve Jesus. This war was in full force in the life and ministry of Jesus, but it did not end there. He is still prowling like a roaring lion seeking to devour people (1 Peter 5:8). Paul warns followers of Jesus that our battle is not 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 6:10-17).” We are to put on armor and prepare for a battle as soldiers of God. In the passage Paul speaks of flaming arrows of the evil one. It is these flaming arrows of which we need to be aware and on guard against. Here are a few.
- Doctrine of demons (1 Timothy 4:1-5, 2 Peter 2:1-5) – One of the primary tactics Satan uses is theology. The stories of demonized people show that demons have incredible Christology. They know who Jesus is and what He is about, but they don’t want anyone else to worship Jesus or acknowledge Him. So they get people off track. They get people arguing over the trivial and debating things that ultimately don’t matter, while failing to believe and stand for important things.
- False teachers and false teaching (2 Corinthians 11:12-15) – We need to be careful about people who have a flashy message and magnetic personalities who come proclaiming the truth without appealing deeply to the Bible. One of the most despicable and horrible tactics Satan uses to keep people from Jesus is the use of amazingly gifted and articulate preachers who twist the Scriptures and teach false doctrines. Like Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light, false teachers have messages that sound so good and so right. But they deny the essentials of the faith or the true nature of the Gospel. The Bible is full of imperative warnings to the people of God to be careful not to get swept up by false teachers who are really wolves among the sheep (Acts 20:28-30)
- Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11, Genesis 3:1-8, James 1:14-15) – The picture in James is of a fish nibbling at bait, the hook inside, but the fish is completely ignorant of the hook because he is so consumed by his desires. By the time he realizes the hook is there it is too late. Satan threw the hook to Adam and Eve and they bit. He threw it to Jesus and He withstood temptation. He throws it to us, and we eat it all the time.
- Accusations and lies – Revelation 12:10 calls Satan the accuser of the brothers, John 8:44 calls him a liar, and 1 Peter 5:8 says he is the adversary. Satan uses false accusations to condemn us, and whispers lies into our lives. These include lies about God, lies about being forgiven, lies about other people, lies about theology, lies about relationships. Anything that does not line up with the truth of Scripture is a lie being propagated by Satan and demons. Often the tactic here is to get you believe things that are just off center, not crazy wild-haired beliefs, just a hair off the truth, but far enough that you miss the true Jesus of the Scriptures.
- Pride (James 4:6-10) – Pride led to the downfall of Satan, and God opposes it in us passionately. While pride is satanic and demonic, we don’t even recognize it.
- Sexual sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) – A man in the Corinthian church is having a sexual relationship with his step mom, totally horrible. But the church refuses to deal with the man and let him experience consequences. Paul tells the church they should deliver the man to Satan, an act that refers to his removal from the church, but also implies that the sin leads to Satan and the church should get out of the way and let the person experience the horror that Satan will bring. Our culture has such a lax attitude toward sexuality, with the majority of couples cohabitating before marriage, but this is clearly one of Satan’s tactics. Sexual sin will steal the joy of the believer, and render him ineffective in his witness and life.
- Marriage between a follower of Jesus and a non-believer (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) – A Christian girl meets a dude who gives her love and acceptance. A Christian guy meets a girl who respects him and wants to be close. In both cases the second person is not a follower of Jesus. A great chance to date, get married, and work on leading the other person to Christ, right? Not according to Paul, who says that Christ and demons have nothing in common. Sometimes God will intervene, save the unbelieving spouse and use this for his glory. But in most cases this is the path to unfruitfulness and heartache.
- Bad sex in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-5) – I know you can’t believe I am saying this, but it is one of the most subtle tactics the devil uses, and we are afraid to be honest about it. This passage commands husbands and wives to have an active and regular sex life which brings them together. A husband’s body is not his own, but his wife’s and likewise her body is not really her’s, it is his. The only reason two people can have a time of sexual abstinence or distance is if both parties agree to a time of prayer and fasting, but they are to come back together as soon as either burns. But oh how often the wife uses sex as a weapon, and the husband witholds intimacy and compassion. But look at verse five. He warns of this pulling away, because Satan will tempt because of your lack of self-control. Paul is saying that when sexual frustration enters a marriage, there is a third party in the bed, and he is not referring to a toddler who is afraid of a thunderstorm. Satan finds his place in the sheets between a husband and wife and drives a wedge.
- Anger and bitterness (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32) – Do you hear demons whisper in your ear, “That person was wrong.” “He did not forgive.” “How dare he cut you off in traffic!” Anger and bitterness are gateways Satan uses to enter the soul. We must be quick to repent and forgive, and slow to anger.
- Gossip (1 Timothy 5:11-15) – While the problem is not limited to women, in this passage the issue is caring for widows in the church. Paul commands Timothy that the character of the woman is part of the process in determining care, and that they should not help women who are gossips and busy-bodies, and only to help widows who “give the adversary no occasion for slander.” Gossip destroys people, destroys churches, and is like a grenade from the enemy in any people of God.
- Idolatry (1 John 5:18-21, 1 Corinthians 10:14-17) – The core tactic Satan uses is idolatry, which is replacing God as the center of life with anything and everything else. We make idols out of everything, money, houses, fame, popularity, approval, kids sports, cars… At the core of every idol is self as the object of my ultimate worship. And when I worship me, then I will pursue anything and everything that makes the the center of existence. Satan wants us to believe in self-esteem, dreaming big dreams, becoming all that I can be, achievement, and self-actualization. These are great ideas but they all lead to idolatry, which means we will create avenues to worship the things we exalt as ultimate in life. And there is no way we can keep sacrificing to our idols and worshiping the true God.