The Question That Remains
From Satan's Ten Most Believable Lies
After we have discussed the working of Satan and especially the doctrinal base from which he operates, we face the important question, What protection do we have against satanic activity? While living in this world, we are in the presence of great moral danger. Only fools will neglect to protect themselves from its consequences.
A number of courses of action are open to the person who is in the presence of a strong and deadly enemy. Some of these may be acceptable when we are talking about merely human opposition, but most of them are unacceptable when applied to the problem of coping with Satan. We shall consider two suggestions that are unacceptable but worth considering because they have been tried by some and have probably been contemplated by most of us at one time or another. The first course of action is to flee Satan in the hope of escaping him.
Christian history indicates that the route of escaping from satanic activity has been attempted by many. Unfortunately, their attempt to escape has been without success. Monks and nuns have retreated behind the walls of monasteries and convents. Others have become hermits in their own retreats in deserts or mountains. In this way, they hoped to escape the moral infections of a corrupt civilization. In their own published confessions, they have admitted that they were still pursued by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. They carried sinful hearts to their hermitage, and they were unable, by mere isolation from the world, to insure themselves against defeat by the attacks of the evil one.
John Milton, in his Areopagitica, commented on retreat from the world most perceptibly in saying, He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.
He continued, saying, Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world; we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue, therefore, which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue.
One of the most obvious facts of life is that we cannot say, Stop the word; I want to get off, We must not, therefore, seek to escape a confrontation with evil, because, of course, such physical escape is impossible. Paul touched on this subject when writing to the Corinthians in saying, I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).
For then must ye needs go out of the world is here stated as the obvious impossibility that it is. There is no sense in attempting to run away, for there is no place to run to. The devil will pursue us across the moat, through the gate, and into the last room of our locked castles. Escaping from the possibility of temptation in this life is a course that, being impossible, is unacceptable to a Christian. The Christian, however spiritual he may be, must still eat food, drink water, travel on roads, live under political authority; in a hundred ways, he is forced to interact with this world. It is impossible to depart physically from the presence of evil until this life is done. We must seek for an alternative.
But first we must note one exception, found in biblical advice to the young person. He is advised, Flee. . . youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22); fleshly lusts war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). While we cannot bodily flee Satan in most situations, youthful lusts are the exception. We are here being warned that youthful lusts especially sexual desires, are powerful forces in the young, immature heart. Dont rationalize, the Scripture teaches. Dont stay in its presence; get out! At times, even the courageous must run for their lives. Even some adults, flirting with their second childhood, are well advised in the same direction.
But, most of the time, when faced with the larger world of satanic temptation, we cannot flee. What then? Another tack that is practiced by many and is also unacceptable, is negotiation and compromise with evil.
If you cant fight em, join em is the way the saying goes. By this standard, the victory of evil is thought of as being so inevitable that we have no possibility except to go along with the course of this world. In each of our experiences, we come across this view stated in a thousand ways. Many believe, almost as an article of faith, that you cannot be a good politician without rising above your principles. The car dealer must turn the odometers back, and the policeman has to be on the take in order to make it. There is a little larceny in each of us, sthe cynics say; so, why fight it? The view of many, therefore, is that we have no alternative except to strike up a friendship with this world in order to succeed in the midst of the human scene.
This, of course, is an attractive but always unsuccessful game. This is why the Bible warns us, Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). The Christian is called upon to be a discerning person. He must live in the midst of a world that has the disease of original sin, but he must not become infected by it. The Christian must walk the tightrope between powerful political, moral, and spiritual alternatives. This is one of the aspects of the Christian life that makes it exciting, the challenge of walking between the forbidden alternatives of asceticism and concession.
What course of action is recommended, indeed commanded, to the Christian in this world? Resistance. We are clearly told, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). We are protagonists in a spiritual warfare, in which we are to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Pauls earnest admonition to the Christian soldier gives us most helpful instructions as to how to equip ourselves to resist the devil and to fight the good fight of faith. We are advised to put on the whole armour of God, that ye maybe able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:1).
In talking about the whole armor of God, Paul implies that there is adequate equipment available for us to function effectively in the military conflict called life. He offers several areas of provision, presented as pieces of armor, that the Christian has available to him, which will help him to battle adequately. If we are poorly equipped in any of these areas, we will be vulnerable to damaging satanic activity from an unguarded quarter. Only spiritual irresponsibility will ignore the provision that God has made for capability while campaigning in the treacherous warfare of this life.
And what a warfare it is! Each day that we live, without exception, we will operate in a no-mans land of angry guns and exploding rockets. Our courage will be ever tested and our strength taxed to the ninth degree. Our loves, loyalties, hopes, and fears are all components in the great battle of life. We must steel ourselves for the supreme test, allowing no shocking sight or sound to deter us from the only goal; victory. The enemy must be defeated. Christ must prevail. We must equip ourselves adequately for the struggle. Our equipment has been provided.
The first piece of equipment is the girdle of truth. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth (Ephesians 6:14a). So again, we are reminded that the first problem of the world is the problem of truth. Our worlds first need is to know truth. Men are asking as never before, What is truth? They are seeking, usually in vain, for a sure foundation on which a system of faith can be built.
The Christian has no such problem, for he holds within his hands the ultimate source of truth, the Bible. It follows that the greatest need of the Christian in our present age is to return to an intense and detailed study of the pages of sacred Scripture. This is the imperative for any Christian who would be equipped to live this life successfully. The man of God can be mature, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, only as he gives himself to a study of the Scripture that alone is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.
We see the positive and negative illustrations of this fact on every hand. The Christian who becomes strong and capable, characterized by spiritual growth and leadership, is the one who has an ever expanding knowledge of the Word of God. He moves from strength to strength, ever climbing from cowardice to capability, from vacillation to clear and purposeful courage. Fellowship, activity, and service may all be fine, but a knowledge of the Word of God is the absolute imperative, it is the source of Christian capability.
The converse is obvious. The Christian who is ignorant of sound doctrine is easily defeated. His faith flags and zeal fades. Why? He has slipped away from a daily study of Scripture. One can never find motivation or capability in mere service; he must find it in constant attention to the foundation of his life, the Word of God.
Our present religious scene gives us corporate illustrations of this as well. A new thing has happened in our time. Historically, true Christianity has usually been the little flock. The gospel seemed to embody itself in small, beleaguered groups of the faithful. Those who forsook the faith seemed to be the ones who prospered. Now, the disillusionment of our age has somewhat changed that. Churches and organizations that have stayed true to the fundamental teaching of Scripture are the ones that are prospering. They have experienced growth, financial success, and wide influence. The largest Sunday schools, the most sacrificially giving memberships, the greatest numbers of people are in the constituencies of those evangelists, pastors, and Christian leaders, who stand unashamedly for the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. The call to preach the Word is not only the basis of divine blessing, it becomes, when other foundations fail, the only method for producing lasting response. The individual or the organization that would stand against satanic opposition in a world like this is one that is first and always girded about with truth.
Note also that his passage admonishes us to have our loins girded about with truth. In the Scripture, the loins represent the emotions. Satanic temptation, whether toward indulgence, sexual lust, or mere aesthetic fulfillment, is basically an emotional temptation. Our present age is more emotionally oriented than most. It constantly falls for clever satanic appeals to the lust of the flesh, which are based on human emotion and can only be resisted with truth. The vulnerable loins of our present age are sadly in need of the protection of the girdle of truth.
It is obvious, then, that to deny truth, objective value, is to produce the destruction of mankind. A return to the truth of Holy Scripture is the only possible key to the survival of society.
We are also admonished to take to ourselves the breastplate of righteous (Ephesians 6:14b). The world was made by a God whose basic attribute is holiness. We each have violated that holiness. We have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We have violated the dictates of absolute truth. It is our individual moral faults that make it possible for Satan to gain the advantage of us. We will be unprotected from his fearful ravages unless we take to ourselves that blessed provision of the breastplate of righteousness.
And how shall we do this? Shall we achieve righteousness by our own works, our own doings, our own religion? The answer, of course, is no. We are disqualified from any kind of righteousness based on our own activity, our pathetic attempts to please God. From whence, then, comes righteousness that will be a source of our defense against the activity of Satan?
The answer to this imperative need is in the Christian doctrine of justification by faith. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works? (Romans 4:4-6).
Righteousness without works, apart from our own activitywhat a wonderful gift! This marvelous justification from God comes to us by faith in Jesus Christ who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
We must also note that the breastplate of righteousness as a present possession implies the necessity of us walking in righteous response to the will of God. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked (1 John 2:6). The happy course of the Christian life is that we are to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). No Christian can hope to be good soldier unless he is following the path of progressive sanctification. His progress in the perfecting of holiness in his life makes it decreasingly possible for Satan to gain the advantage of him. He will be protected from the devastating damage that the evil one can do when he is walking in the confidence before God, which comes from an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:21).
This passage also suggests that we have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We are to equip ourselves to become articulate witnesses for Christ. This form of warfare in which we interact with this world is that, as ambassadors for Christ, we press the message of the good news upon people who do not know God.
The adequate witness for Christ is the one who take to himself the highest possible degree of understanding that he can accumulate about the needs of other human beings and the answer that is found to those needs in the Word of God. The expression, He that winneth souls is wise may not only suggest the nature but also the preparation of the soul-winner. The person who witnesses unwisely may do a great deal of spiritual harm in the life of a person whom he attempts to reach for the Savior. Conversely, the prepared witness, who thoroughly understands the gospel of the grace of God, will experience the greater degree of success in his ambassadorship for the Savior.
That does not mean that we are simply used of God without respect to our degree of preparation. Rather, it clearly teaches us that we are to study, think, plan, analyze, and comprehend the needs of men, the gospel answer, and the place where we fit into that answer. No two people are alike. It is probably, therefore, that no two lost sinners will be won by the identical recitation of the gospel. Little books or short courses may be fine, but nothing takes the place of an adequate and scholarly preparation of the gospel.
The gospel of the grace of God is at once a simple and a profound message. It will never be adequately represented by those who leaf through a few quick pages in the hope of producing a considered and eternal decision. The good soldier is one who has prepared himself in the gospel of peace.
We must also take to ourselves the shield of faith. Faith is looking at the things that are not seen as against the things that are seen. Faith is believing, to the point of personal certainty, in the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is distinct from sight, from experience, from empirical proof. We will never retain the motivation to keep on keeping on for the Lord unless we are inspired by the perennial energy that issues from our faith. This provocative passage of scripture teaches us that is by faith that we are able to resist the fiery darts of the wicked.
Satan has many darts that he may hurl in our direction. The primary one is discouragement. Repeatedly in the Word of God, we are admonished not to be weary in well doing. We are told that we will reap if we faint not. The only defense against the discouragement that would cause us to faint and retire from the battle before we have effectively confronted the enemy is our faith. At a given point, we may not be able to prove that we are succeeding, or even surviving, but we know this to be the case by faith.
There is no external, human standard by which we can be sure that we are adequately serving God. The large crowds, the big buildings, the applause, the letters of commendation, the adequate financing, these are always helpful but constitute no final evidence of the blessing of God upon our work. We will be saved from discouragement, not by the presence of any of these human things, but by the possession of faith. At times, we will be abased; at times, we will abound. We must learn to be enriched; we must also learn to suffer loss. No proposition is more foolish, indeed more satanic, than to estimate that the blessing of God can be measured by money in the bank or the applause of the crowd. There is no human measure of success. There is only the measure of faith. We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
We can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked if we do not grow weary in the battle, if we do not succumb to the dart of discouragement. We will only prevail when protected by the shield of faith.
The helmet of salvation is the imperative armament. The soldier who is not really a Christian at all will quickly succumb to a blow on the head. The helmet of salvation, the sure knowledge that we ourselves are personally saved, is a most strategic armament indeed. In todays religious society, many wear the fancy trappings of ecclesiastical ornamentation, but they are unprotected by the helmet of salvation.
The whole story of being a successful soldier begins when one has the assurance with his heart that he knows Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. There are occasions when we must heed the admonition of Paul to the Corinthians, Examine yourself, whether ye be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Many a preacher and not a few other kinds of religious leaders have come to the place in their threadbare ministries where they realize that they have never really started the Christian life at all. They have not personally come to Christ. They have not exercised faith in the Son of God. Many also are the followers of the Christian religion who have never realized that Christianity is not religion at all but a relationship with the Son of God. Personal salvation has escaped them. How wonderful has been their testimony when they turned to Christ and believed the gospel. The helmet of salvation is the one protection from certain death at the hands of the evil one.
We are finally invited to take into our hands the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. This is a call to learn to use the Word of God as an offensive weapon against the wiles of the devil. To know the Bible to the place where it satisfies us is one thing. To be well versed enough in Scripture to use it as a weapon in a conflict against Satan is quite another. A small degree of understanding of the Bible, mixed with faith, will produce salvation. No such small understanding, however, will produce Christian capability in the great battle that we now face in our present age. The successful soldier, then, is the one who becomes knowledgeable to the point of mastery of Scripture. He is the one who is ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [him] a reason of the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). He is the one who can stand against a subtle foe and give place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you (Galatians 2:5). He is set for the defense and confirmation of the gospel (Philippians 1:7). He is skillful in the use of the Word of God.
The unfortunate problem of our present age is that these individuals are somewhat rare. Too many Christians have settled for the simple outline produced on their denominational mimeograph machine and have developed little knowledge beyond this. We must assure ourselves that there is no religious syndicate, no organization, that has a corner on the knowledge of Scripture. Each individual is called upon to know the Word of God for himself. Indeed, no ministry is doing its job unless it produces individual competence in Scripture. Too many organizations are merely producing a limp mass of spiritual dependents, saints who are not equipped to study the Bible for themselves. They must ever be propped up by their spiritual gurus, never coming to the place of personal doctrinal expertise.
No ministry is successful unless it produces independent capability in the lives of those whom it reaches. The individual who comes to the place of independent capability, who enjoys the blessing of God in spiritual growth to the extent that he is combat ready is the one who meditates day and night in the Scriptures.
While evangelical Christianity has grown commendably in these years, it still possesses a major problem, spiritual vulnerability. Dozens of well-promoted cults and sects are experiencing a field day, in that they are able to beguile thousands of immature and naive Christians into their simplistic and pseudo-authoritarian religions. Spiritual carnage has resulted in the lives of multiplied thousands of babes in Christ, for want of a development in the use of the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. They have been subverted by Satan into sweet-sounding but false religions, only because of their lack of biblical knowledge.
Indeed, this is becoming a most serious problem within the church. Ours has been a generation of evangelism. We must rejoice in the millions who have been won for Christ through the wide dissemination of the gospel. Todays media have made it possible for the eternal message to be brought to major segments of the population of the world. The seed has fallen on good ground; germinating, it has sprouted within promise of producing mature Christian lives. The problem is that the wide dissemination of seed-sowing evangelism has been but fractionally matched by an equally wide teaching of sound, biblical doctrine. The consequence is that among the masses who claim to know Christ, there are relative few who are able to give a reason for the hope that is in them.
The presence of spiritual quickening along with the absence of sound doctrine has created the great problem in the church of our present age, cultic vulnerability. Like the Galatians, who began well in the faith but soon became re-enslaved to the law of Moses. Christians today are in danger of being victimized by one of the many clever systems that claim to be the full or the complete version of Christianity. Only a solid program of Bible study can prevent the spiritually naive from being beguiled away from the simplicity that is in Christ. Satan, our tireless enemy, may yet have his way with many who are moving joyously now through the spiritual springtime of their lives. The heat of summer may quench the sparkling foundation of early faith because it did not renew itself with the water of the Word.
Having equipped ourselves as good soldiers of the cross, we are encouraged toward a final activity in this spiritual warfare that is our life. The soldier is called upon most earnestly to watch and to pray, Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18). Again, the call is that we must be sober and vigilant, because we daily face the adversary of our lives. Prayerful watching, or watchful prayer, must become our diligent and daily activity. No one ever develops the knowledge or human competence that brings him to the place that alleviates the need for prayer. No one ever reaches the spiritual cloister where he needs no longer to carefully watch. To watch is to constantly examine the world in the midst of which we walk. It is that horizontal wariness for want of which the Christian may receive a wound from an unsurveyed direction. Prayer is that vertical upreach by which we receive from our God the wisdom and the strength to walk and to watch.
The lesson is clear that neither necessity in the Christian life must be neglected. The pietists would have us only pray and the pragmatists would have us only watch. Be spiritual, says the one; be practical, says the other. The perceptive Christian believes neither view as the single course for him. Rather, he embraces both. The clouds as well as the cobblestones are familiar territory for him. He knows how to guardedly breathe the murk of the valleys as well as to exultantly inhale the purer drafts at the mountaintops. His oath of loyalty to his Commander includes the possibility of service on the snows of the mountains or in the fetid valley swamps.
In whatever circumstances, he watches and he prays, for he knows that he is being relentlessly stalked by Satan, his determined foe. Transforming himself into a roaring lion, an angel of light, a grievous wolf, or even a loving friend, his enemy is the fateful hunter so long as this human life shall lastwhich is not forever. We are taught that the day is coming in which Satan and his cohorts shall be cast into the lake of fire, forever banished from the presence of God and from the possibility of plaguing the steps of the Christian. It is then that the long and tortuous battles of time will be past. Then shall we understand, as we do not understand now, that the wounds and pains sustained in our mortal struggle against the power of his infernal majesty were indeed the allowances of a loving God.
We shall understand then that conflict, not isolation, was the best kind of life to live. We will comprehend then the reason God allowed the devil to do his worst against us.
Then we shall understand what faith alone teaches us now, that Satans worst was necessary to produce our best, and that for eternity.
Satan's Ten Most Believable Lies