What do you think the most overlooked obstacle in your life is as a believer? Let me narrow that question a little bit: Who do you think is the most overlooked obstacle in your life as a believer? Now some of you may look in the mirror and say ‘I am the biggest obstacle’…and that may be true. Some may acknowledge the influence of the world, and say that it has you in a toehold, a foothold, a stranglehold…and that may be true. I would suggest that most of us do not consider the enemy of our souls: Satan himself.
Ephesians 2:2-3 talks about the influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I’d suggest that because of your church background, you may focus less on the devil. Some churches encourage each other to flee from the influence of the world, and we know why we’re told to do that because it’s a pretty big, bad ol place. Some churches and pastors really emphasize spiritual disciplines, like prayer and Bible reading, because they know that in this lifetime we will constantly be trying to beat down our fleshly desires…and that’s not bad. And some churches have seen Satan behind every rock, tree, and bush. I came to faith in an environment that didn’t really focus on our Enemy too much and maybe you did too…and there needs to be a stronger emphasis. Ephesians 6 and Job 1-2 are both key to helping us understanding our enemy better.
So let me give you a fly by on what Satan does. We know that Satan is on God’s short lease but with that in mind, God allows him some slack. This is not a complete list in how Satan operates, but its a good list.
Satan works in opposition of the good news of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Satan can be the source of sickness (Job 1,2, Acts 10:38)
Satan can bring death and fear (John 10:10a)
Satan plants sinful plans and purposes (Acts 5)
Satan sets traps for people (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Satan can infiltrate the church (Matthew 13:38-39)
Satan tests believers (Job 1,2, Luke 22:31, 32)
Satan persecutes the believer (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Satan accuses believers (Revelation 12:10)
Satan performs signs and wonders to deceive (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)
Satan wants to divide and disunify (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Satan sells false doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
Satan can manipulate the weather (Job 1:18-19)
Satan can influence the thoughts and actions of unbelievers (Ephesians 2:1-2)
Satan can attack the sex lives of married couples (1 Corinthians 7:5)
Satan can exploit our sinful decisions (Ephesians 4:26-27)
That’s a pretty good list. He does a lot of his work through lies and deception. How do you know Satan is lying? His lips are moving! In the Garden of Eden, he sold Eve a half truth and you know what happened there. (A half truth parading as a full truth is a complete untruth – J.I. Packer)
So what’s a believer to do in light of our Enemy? Pray that we would know the truth so well that we would be able to discern big errors and slight errors in much of Christianity today. Pray that we would be discerning to his lies. Pray that churches would remain unified on the truth. Pray that we would be aware that we may be accused but that we would be able to wield the Sword with truths at our accuser like There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)
We have an enemy who won’t be muzzled of his lying…one day he will be but until then we will be up against his frontal assaults of falsehood. And sometimes his assaults are more subtle, less notable, and these bits of blarney come through the backdoor. To quote an old Petra song, ‘he puts some truth in every lie to tickle itching ears.’ Let’s pray that we’d be alert and discerning enough to see it….and that we would swing the Sword of truth like a master swordsman. That’s what Jesus did in Matthew 4:1-11 and that sent Satan away with his tail between his legs…until a better time came. And like Jesus, we can do the same.