(Friends: because of the nature of the subject, the messages of this series are a bit longer than usual. Thanks for your patience.)
The first appearance of Satan in Scripture occurs in Genesis 3. Embodied in the form of a serpent (possibly because the devil may require earthly forms and means in order to communicate with humanity, a point we will address in further considerations), the devil is introduced as being "more subtle than any beast of the field" (Genesis 3:1).
The Hebrew word for "subtle" is "aruwm," meaning crafty, cunning, and shrewd. Thus, the Bible establishes our foe as a deceiver, a skillful manipulator, and a falsifier. He primarily tempts and attacks humanity by seeking to mislead us, usually in such subtle ways that we do not know we have detoured from truth and reality. Indeed, by definition, one deceived does not know he is deceived. This is the story of Adam's fallen race, that we were spiritually felled by a malevolent enemy who continues his attack upon us by clouding or distorting his existence and nefarious working against us.
"The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (II Corinthians 4:4). The Apostle Paul's statement references every human being ever born, including Christians before we trust in the Lord Jesus. The devil tempts us with lies, innuendo, half truths, and notions appealing to our flesh. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Left to ourselves, we will either ignore Satan's existence, or wrongly perceive his nature and activities against us. Our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and convictions will contain devilish influence, as well as human and worldly deception.
When we believe in the Lord Jesus, we become "the children of light" (I Thessalonians 5:5). We begin to see God, ourselves, and other people according to Truth, with primary emphasis on our Lord. "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9). The Bible, however, also calls us to see our enemies in accordance with Truth. "We are not ignorant of his devices" wrote Paul to the Corinthians, "lest Satan should get an advantage of us" (II Corinthians 2:11). Would that we could all include ourselves in the Apostle's affirmation of the the nature of our enemy. Most believers, however, including the one who writes these words, would confess that too often we have lived as if God, ourselves, and other people comprise the entire population and environment of our world.
This is not the case. We also live among angelic populations, both faithful and fallen. The latter seek our harm, and the harm of those in our sphere of influence. Failure to understand this plainly declared fact of Scripture invites our enemies to "get an advantage of us." Thus, we must arise, rub the spiritual sleep from our eyes, as it were, and seek God's light in this vital matter. What does Scripture teach about how the deceivers deceive? What are the consequences if they are successful? How do we "fight the good fight of faith?" How do we respond if we realize that advantage has already been gained by our foes because of our neglect or misunderstanding of "the wiles of the devil?" (Ephesians 6:11).
Can spiritual ground lost be retaken? Can strongholds established by torn down? Can venues of darkness be flooded with the light of the Lord Jesus? The Biblical answer is surely a resounding "Yes!" "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:4). The Lord Jesus is a redeemer, and works of the world, the devil, and the flesh can be overcome.
Paul's statement, however, includes a caveat. "Having a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled" (II Corinthians 10:6). We must decisively respond to God's truth if the Holy Spirit convicts us of neglect or error concerning inroads already paved by our enemies. We must take this vital matter seriously, repenting in godly sorrow, and acknowledging that unnecessary losses have resulted in our own lives and the lives of those for whom we have spiritual responsibility. From this altar of our contrition and God's forgiveness, we then arise with the determination to discover as precisely as possible what the Bible teaches about putting on "the whole armor of God" in order that we may "fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12). There are a host of liars in the world, deceivers who cannot be seen or heard physically, but who nonetheless foment darkness upon both the masses and upon believers. It is against these enemies that we "wrestle" (Ephesians 6:12). Someone has to stand against them after having knelt before the crucified and risen Christ. That someone is us, the time is now, and may our Lord lead and enable us to walk as the children of light we are.
"Watch ye; stand fast in the faith."
(I Corinthians 16:13)
Wednesday: The liar's lies