Spiritual Warfare: Satan, Our Enemy (Pt 2)

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Here is the continuation of our survey of Satan’s role as our enemy in spiritual warfare.

3. Satan’s Tactics

As I try to look at all the various passages about Satan’s demonic work, it seems to me that his attack against God’s people can be categorized into four approaches –

3.1. Accusation

Rev. 12:10 says, And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

Again we can look to Job 1-2 and see how Satan falsely accused Job of a faith in God conditioned on God’s physical blessing (Job. 1:9-11; 2:4-5). But that’s not the extent of his accusations.  Satan likes to remind us of our past and make us feel unworthy of the love ands grace shown to us by God.

In the Scriptures, we see him slandering God (Gen. 3:1; Job 1-2), Christ (Luke 22:3-4), the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3), the church (Rev 12:10), the Bible and true doctrine (1 Tim 4:1), and the character of Christians (1 Tim 3:7).

Nevertheless, Christ is our advocate (1 John 2:1). But Romans 8:33 tells us that no one can lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect.  Because of his ministry towards his people, we have already been declared righteous in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we have nothing to fear from Satan’s accusations.

3.2. Deception

John 8:44 says, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

From the very beginning, Satan revealed himself to be a deceiver – one who twisted the truth (even God’s own Word!) to manipulate God’s people into sin. The very form he decided to take in the garden – that of the serpent – is said to evoke a sense of craftiness.

Likewise, even today, Paul reminds us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).  Rarely will Satan come at you with horns and pitchfork, dressed in a read suit!  Instead, he likes to twist the reality of things and come in guise of goodness and beauty.  Remember how he presented the fruit to Eve?  By the time she was done listening to him, she moved from seeing the fruit as something forbidden by a loving Creator-God to that which was “good for food . . . a delight to the eyes, and . . .  [something] to make one wise” (Gen 3:6).  Jesus encountered the same thing in his wilderness temptation, where Satan again used a twisted version of God’s word.  Not misquoting them (the words were accurate!), but giving a twisted meaning and application of the words (Matthew 4).

Satan will even perform miracles to deceive: 2 Thess 2:9, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.”

3.3. Temptation

Of course, in many ways Satan employs accusation and deception for the purposes of temptation.  Nevertheless, it is important to understand that beyond our own hearts, Satan’s greatest desire is to throw temptation after temptation before you, to get you to sin.

In 1 Chronicles 21, we are told that “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.”

In Matthew 4, it is the tempter [who] came and said to [Jesus], “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (4:3).

1 Thessalonians 3:5 says, “For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.”

3.4. Tribulation

When all else fails, he tries to bully God’s people away from the faith, or even incite others to kill us.   I don’t think it is coincidence that Jesus calls Satan a ‘murder from the beginning’ in John 8. Remember Genesis 4?  Already you have the battle of the seed – of the godly offspring that will produce Christ and the ungodly that will follow Satan instead of God.  And what does Satan try to do?  Wipe out the godly line by inciting Cain to kill Abel.

Sometimes it is physical illness like that of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, or a direct opposition to ministry like he experienced with the possessed girl in Philippi (Acts 16:16).

Other times it is stirring up others to do more widespread and serious harm. In Rev. 2:9-10 Jesus says to the church in Smyrna, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  [10] Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Was it not Satan himself who entered into Judas heart to lead him to betray Christ and ultimately have him crucified?

Certainly, he is at work in similar ways with non-Christians, but for them the attack is much different.  There his whole goal to prevent conversion.  Again, we are reminded of 2 Corinthians 3, where Paul says that Satan seeks to blind the lost.  In Jesus’ parable of sower, Satan sneaks into to steal away the seed of the gospel before it can take root (Mark 4:15).  He also seeks to lead people astray by having them worship false gods and idols (Ps 96:5; Col 2:18).

And in all of this, we cannot simply say ‘the devil made them do it.’  So, we all have a sin nature and Satan is simply pushing the right buttons, dangling the right bait, and we – of our own volition – are following our sinful desires (Eph 2:1-3).

Conclusion

As bad as it sounds, keep things in perspective.  Though we are fighting a powerful, dangerous, evil enemy, he is also a defeated enemy.

In Matthew 12, Jesus says, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  [29] Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house” (28-29). Jesus is the one who has bound Satan.

In 1 John 3, we are told, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (3:8). Through Jesus, then, we also have ultimate victory over the devil.

So we read in Hebrews 2:14-15 – “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Christ] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Finally, in Romans 16:2, Paul pictures Christians as victorious over the devil by the power of God, echoing the promise of Genesis 3:15 – “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

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Recommended Resources:

Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation (edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor)

David Powlison, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare

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