Satan’s greatest ploys regarding the believer’s understanding of him involve overemphasis and under-emphasis.
We can make more of him than the Bible teaches, causing either a grotesque fixation as suggested by literary and entertainment vehicles (and even certain spiritual teachings and teachers). Overemphasis may also tempt us to excuse ourselves for our own failings as we assign a power to the devil that he doesn’t have (namely, to forcesin rather than to tempt us to sin). Both errors lead to fear, and ultimately, to irresponsibility as we chase ghosts or escape the reality of personal accountability. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).
Conversely, minimizing the devil and his host of spiritual minions leads to failure to recognize the truth that we “wrestle not again flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our spiritual enemies possess the capability and potential, as allowed by God, to tempt, deceive, distract, and hinder our experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot force the believer to fall into such traps, but they can certainly set them for us. Indeed, the Christian life in our present existence involves not only God and ourselves, but also a host of spiritual enemies who seek our utmost harm no less than the Lord seeks our utmost benefit. “There are many adversaries” (I Corinthians 16:9).
To this point in my life, I find myself to be far more susceptible to failure regarding the latter challenge than the former. I too easily forget that we awaken every morning on a spiritual battlefield. I tend to view many human problems and pathologies only in terms of God and the response of people to Him, forgetting that the father of lies bears responsibility for much of the spiritual and moral deficit we confront in our own lives and the lives of others. Satan and his forces seek to foist untruths and halftruths on believers, suggesting notions, attitudes, opinions, perspectives, and ways that lead to ruin of every type. Having done so, they lie yet again about how to deal with the problems they have caused. Deceive, distract, discourage - born again believers in the Lord Jesus must realize and face the fact that somebody (many somebodys, actually) seek to cloud and enshroud our walk with God. It’s not just Him and us as we presently journey along the path of righteousness. I too often forget this plainly declared Biblical truth, always to my spiritual detriment. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
We fight from victory rather than for it as we remember the cross, the empty tomb, and the occupied heavenly throne of the Lord Jesus. We fight nevertheless, “the good fight of faith,” as Paul termed our privilege and responsibility to engage ourselves in the conflict of Light and darkness (I Timothy 6:12). May the Lord grant much wisdom and grace so that we do not make too much or too little of the spiritual enemies whom He presently allows to confront us in battles that primarily concern truth, God’s Truth. The liars lie, subtly and too often effectively about themselves and about everything else. Let us then engage, as equipped and enabled by the Captain of our salvation…
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”