Spiritual Warfare and our Enemy – Part 2, The Devil’s Schemes

in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. – 2 Cor 2:11 (NIV)

    [3:1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
    He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [2] And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, [3] but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” [4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. [7] Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
    [8] And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. [9] But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” [10] And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
(Genesis 3:1-10 ESV)

As I continue the blog on warfare, I turn now to the schemes or methods of Satan.  The attacks against God’s people are not random, coincidental, or disorganized.  Rather, the Bible shows us over and over that Satan is at war with God, and his battle plans are tactical, well planned, and destructive.  We saw that he is a liar, he tempts, he deceives, and he kills.  He will approach each of us according to our greatest weaknesses and in our times of greatest struggle and need.  When he arrives he will promise much and deliver nothing but pain and brokenness.  While his approach to each of us will differ, the core of his methods are displayed in the first temptation of Adam and Eve.  So I am going to focus on some ideas here as I show the methods of Satan, even as he seeks to do battle in your life.  Notice how this text begins, “The serpent was more crafty than any other beast…”  Revelation reminds us that the serpent here is Satan, and he is more crafty than any other created being.  So how does he approach?

1. He will teach you false doctrines, false things about God, and false things about His Word – The first words out of his mouth are, “God didn’t actually tell you not to eat from all his trees (my paraphrase).”  He is misquoting God first of all, but he is also calling God’s motives into question.  It was as if he was saying that God doesn’t really love you, he loathes your fun, and he is selfish to withhold his good fruit.  As Eve responds, she corrects some of Satan’s words, but she still misquotes God, and Satan has implanted a seed of doubt into Eve.  For us, Satan is so sneaky.  He doesn’t try to get us to believe out and out lies (if he showed up trying to get you to believe that Goofy from Mickey Mouse is God, we would laugh), but he is subtle at getting us to fudge just a little on the truth.  But a 1 degree change in course may seem small at the outset, but in a hundred miles you will be in a totally different place.  To combat this we need to make sure we know the Scriptures and put ourselves under them as our authority.

2. He convinces us of our invincibility.  “You won’t die.”  For Eve, this lie led directly to her spiritual death.  How many times have we idolized rich, famous people whose lives are crashing, thinking, “If I was in that position, I would be happy.  I wouldn’t get divorced.  I would make it work.”  We see ourselves unclearly when we allow Satan to shape our view of self and sin, and somehow we begin to believe we can disobey God’s purpose and somehow still be OK.

3. Get you to believe that God is not for you.  “God knows that when you eat of it…”  Satan is convincing Eve that God is a cosmic killjoy who is really against her.  Often, we will hear these lies and this tactic will work against us when we are hurting, depressed, or struggling with our faith.  We will believe God does not hear our prayers, he doesn’t really care, or that he is not concerned with our despair.

4. Get us focused on our self and our own desire.  One of the most effective schemes the forces of darkness use is our own narcissism, convincing us that we really are the center of the universe and that all should revolve around me.  Look how many times Satan uses the word “you” with Eve.  We were made to be Christocentric – having Christ at the center of our being and our lives lived in worship to Him.  Satan is always attacking that in us.

5. He convinces us of our own godhood and calls us to be the arbiter of our own truth.  The core lie here is also the one he believed that got him kicked out of heaven.  His pride led him to try to dethrone God.  He also plays on our pride, telling us we don’t really need a God, we can be god, and decide our own truth.  How many times have we heard the battle cry of tolerance, “What’s true for me is true for me, and what is true for you is true for you.”  That statement is a regurgitation of Satan’s words about knowing right from wrong.  It is not that they will know what is right and wrong, he convinces then they will get to decide what is right and wrong.

6. He tempts with things that get our attention. Some things are just flat out evil and against God’s purpose.  But Satan makes these things look so wonderful and life-fulfilling.  Sex outside the context of marriage is a great example.  Other things are created by God for our enjoyment and worship, but Satan’s temptation is to overemphasize these things and place too much value, so that good things become god things in our lives.

7. He convinces us we can fix ourselves. Adam and Eve make fig leaf boxer shorts to cover their nakedness, thinking this is sufficient for their newly discovered shame.  But they cannot fix the problem they have made, and there is no way out if they are left alone.  Still, one of the craftiest ploys of Satan is the use of religion to convince sinners that they are OK with God because they do their religion.  We get convinced that God is a good God who is surrounded by good people, and so we try to be good people who are alright with the good God.  He blinds the eyes of those who do not know Christ, convincing them that they do not need the Gospel.  But he also pushes believers into places of self-sufficiency rather than Gospel dependance when they sin.

8. He drives us to despair.  Adam and Eve feel hopeless, knowing they have lost and surrendered everything to Satan.  They are out of control of their lives, and feel defeated.  Later in this passages (Genesis 3:15), God tells Satan that he will send Jesus to crush the old serpent’s head.  But when we struggle in life, fail, hurt, and wrestle with sinful habits we often run away from God rather than to him, and we sink into despair.

9. He gives us hiding places to hide from God. This is one of the most ironic passages in the Scriptures (v. 8-10).  Adam and Eve hide from the presence of the Lord.  Did you catch that.  They hid from the omnipresent (He is everywhere and sees everything) God.  God calls to them, not because He does not know where they are, but because they really do not know where they are.  This is one of the sneakiest but harmful approaches of Satan.  When we sin, we have a God of grace who receives  repentant sinners and offers hope and forgiveness.  But our shame is heavy.  So we hide.  We stop reading Scripture, or if we read it we don’t let it speak to our lives.  We avoid church, or at the very least we put on our mask and act like everything is alright.  Either we flee from God’s people and God Himself and next thing you know we are completely disconnected from our church and our relationship with God.  Or we go to church, C-Group, Bible studies, but we won’t let it convict us.  The outcome is that we become dead, religious, legalistic, and cold to the things of God, even as the Gospel is proclaimed all around us.  This is why it is so important to confess our sin, to repent, to speak honestly about our sin to other believers (James 5:16).

So think about it.  Which of these schemes are being used against you now?  Which have wrecked your faith in the past?  And which methods are most effective? Become aware of the battle plan of your enemy.

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