Recognizing the Devil: Part II

Our Enemy: The Devil

For the past 6,000 years, commencing from the garden of Eden, mankind has been engaged in a continuous spiritual warfare. The enemy, also called the Devil and Satan, should not be taken for granted or be underestimated. A reflection of Biblical history will reveal the astounding fact that, apart from the Lord Jesus, no other human being has successfully withstood his onslaught — that is, by mere human strength. Whether it was the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Samson, the patience of Job or the unique perfection of Eve, human strength and genius has never been a match for this remarkable enemy of God’s work.

If the Devil was a corporal being and created with the appearance of a man then recognizing him would be a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This enemy to all of God’s creation can disguise himself by assuming the most unsuspecting identities. His plot is to deceive every facet of human existence. It matters little whether one is prince or pauper, saint or sinner, Satan has no limitation to his diabolic schemes. For us to comprehend the vastness and subtlety of his working is an unending task that must be divinely inspired. To put it in simple language, by ourselves we are no match for the Devil.

But, God is gracious and through the life and sacrificial death of His Son Jesus we can become more than conquerors. In the epistle of John, scripture encourages us by stating, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 Jn. 3:8). James exhorts us to, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Js. 4:7). In dealing with the same subject Peter wrote: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith… But the God of grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus…make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Pet. 5:8-10).

Fallen Nature: A Tool

In spite of the goodness of God that offers deliverance from the powers of darkness, our ultimate victory is often determined by our response to God’s word. Paul wrote, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God…Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey..?” (Rom. 6:12,13, 16).

It is normal for us as fallen human beings to blame the Devil for the great satanic onslaught on God’s work, but the truth is that the Devil cannot force us into any act that we are not willing to be engaged in. The greatest tool for satanic deception is man’s fallen nature. Be it blatant sin, public rebellion or the workings of iniquity, the success of the Devil depends heavily on our cooperation.

Scripture exposes three basic areas of man’s fallen nature that the Devil capitalizes on. They are, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (1 Jn. 2:16). These were the areas used in the temptations of Eve as well as our Lord Jesus. Let us briefly consider the temptations of our Lord. (Lk. 4).

The Lust of The Flesh: Being extremely hungry after 40 days of fasting, our Lord was told by Satan to turn stone into bread. Notice that there were no scriptures forbidding the changing of stone into bread. As a matter of fact, bread symbolized that which was needful for the natural human sustenance. There are many other things of similar importance such as a job, a car, a house or an education. These are useful in enhancing our quality of life, but none of these should ever hold priority to our spiritual development. True discipleship demands that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let us bear in mind that Satan will use our carnal desires to suffocate our spiritual growth.

The Lust of The Eyes: The most common external influence to sin is our eyes. Linked with the carnal mind, our eyes play an important part in enhancing lustful desires. How often do we get carried away by the lust of the eyes, resulting in the foolish mismanagement of our financial resources? Paul wrote to Timothy and warned, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Tim. 6:9). Also, in his letter to Titus he wrote, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…” (Tit. 2:11-12). In dealing with the lusts of the eyes, our Lord was not influenced by what He was shown or offered by the Devil seeing it would have compromised his commitment to God.

The Pride of Life: The most subtle of these three areas being examined is the pride of life. In listing the qualifications of a bishop, the Apostle Paul cautioned that he should not be “a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Although ambition and goals are needful in the proper development of every child of God, there is grave danger to those of us who are motivated by a perverted sense of accomplishment. Is it not strange that scripture admonishes us to strive to become like God the Father, yet it was Satan’s desire to become like God that brought about his downfall? (Mt. 5:48, Isa. 14:14).

The problem with Lucifer was his perverted ambition that generated a desire to leave the ordained will of God for his life and pursue that which was beyond his calling and office. His desire to become like God was not motivated by a sincere longing for more of the righteous attributes of a loving heavenly Father, but rather, a lust to forcefully and deceitfully obtain the power, authority and glory of Almighty God. It was this perverted ambition he imparted to Eve that resulted in her sin. She too would do anything — even if it meant blatantly disobeying the commandment of God in her lust for greater glory. It is this misguided ambition that has destroyed many sincere children of God — especially preachers.

History has documented many sad examples of good ministers whose ambition to be the ‘star of the show’ or the ‘mighty man of God’, has stagnated their process of discipleship and caused them to go spiritually blind.

Perverted ambition has also destroyed many good elders whose “vain imaginations” led them to believe there was greater glory to be achieved than being a simple and faithful elder. Like the Devil himself who “kept not [his] first estate but left [his] own habitation”, they too have lost out on what was God’s will for them. Some are even beyond recovery and are perpetually held in spiritual chains of darkness. (Jude 6).

Scripture cautions every man “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3).

Our Lord was aware that to presumptuously throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so as to create an impression on those witnessing this great miracle was not right. Not only would it be a promotion of one’s personal image but a defiant act of tempting God the Father.

Although we may fail to see a visible manifestation of satanic workings in these three areas of our lives, they are the greatest access to satanic infiltration.

The Battle — Not Carnal

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians should serve as a reminder to all of us that we are not engaged in combat with mere human beings but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world…” (Eph. 6:12). As such, “the weapons of our warfare [should not be] carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds…” (2 Cor. 10:4). We cannot win a battle over the enemy without assistance from God. We must therefore, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11).

To be engaged in a spiritual battle necessitates spiritual weaponry. Man’s genius, human psychology, and every other carnal substitute will never conquer the powers of darkness. The letter to the Romans described the futility of human wisdom and methods by stating: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:5-8).

I must emphasize again that a spiritual war cannot be fought in the flesh — even if the flesh puts on religious attire. The first requirement in a spiritual battle is to be ‘spiritually quickened.’ Everyone who is dead in trespasses and sins must be quickened by the spirit of God. (Eph. 2:1). The experience of receiving the Holy Ghost must be genuine and not faked in any way. This is good reason for every sincere child of God not to come under the influence of emotional Pentecostalism. We should carefully consider the fact that everyone whose Holy Ghost experience is not genuine is still “dead in trespasses and sins.” Such an individual may carry on the outward manifestations of being a Christian but, in reality, is still not converted. A reformed Christian is not a transformed Christian and unless genuinely converted one’s engagement in spiritual warfare will be an effort in futility.

Conversion: Genuine

True conversion starts a process of progressive change in the life of a child of God. The very term ‘conversion’ describes a ‘change of state.’ The heart, which is the seat of affection, is transformed and results in a change of lifestyle. As we examine the life of a true convert, we will witness a readjustment in priorities. While it is a fact that many unconverted individuals may put on an outward façade of religious motions, the deep seated desires of their hearts will remain evil. When confronted with negative circumstances, the response of their evil hearts will lend a shocking blow to their friends who thought otherwise. In religion it is common for individuals to ‘play the role’ of what is expected without genuinely living the life.

Looking back to the days of Christ, there was a display of apostate religion. 430 years had lapsed and although Israel was a “dry ground” in God’s eye (Isa. 53:2), religion was very active. Man-made principles and precepts had dominated the very fabric of religion in so much that the most renowned religious leaders were described as “blind.” (Mt. 15:14). In recognizing this extensive spiritual blindness and an absence of genuine conversion, our Lord quoted the prophecy of Isaiah saying, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…”

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Isa. 29:13, Mt. 15:9).

In Matthew 15:19, our Lord showed that an unconverted heart produces all manner of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…”

To fake our conversion is the greatest error we can make in our effort to serve the Lord. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Rom. 12:2). True conversion will bring under submission all our carnal drives. All actions of pretence that restricts the process of conversion is carnal and inspired by Satan.

In conclusion, may we never treat our conflict with the powers of darkness as a frivolous affair. To be engaged in spiritual warfare, we must be spiritual and eliminate our fleshly gimmicks and hypocrisies. Being approved of God should hold priority to receiving the accolades of men.

To establish a strong spiritual defence against the “wiles of the devil”, a Christian must be protected by the “whole armour of God.” (Eph. 6:11-19). We will address the details of all that constitutes the armour of God in our next issue. To summarize it, genuine salvation, faith, truth and a lifestyle of righteousness are essentials to victorious Christian living.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony…” (Rev. 12:11).