Recently our Bible study started studying Satan and his methods and the biblical responses we should adopt to defeat him. This has opened my eyes to a number of places where I have made assumptions concerning him and his activities. Those of you who know me realize how much I dislike “assuming” in our spiritual lives. To find myself grossly negligent in this area is a real humbling experience. It is my belief that I have never in my life actually studied scripture to comprehensively understand my enemy.
What is so amazing is that some of the things that I’ve slid into believing throughout my life may not be true. Really that shouldn’t be amazing because he is the great deceiver!
So I now am learning what I should have known all along, and as is normal with me, writing it all out is the best way to crystallize my thinking and follow the trail God is leading me down.
We all have been taught that Lucifer (Satan before he fell) was an anointed Cherub in charge of a great host of angels. He was immensely powerful, intelligent, and beautiful. Lucifer was closer to having free will than lesser angels because he was a “top dog” as it were. We have no way of knowing how many millennia he served God honorably. It certainly could have been longer than our concept of time.
But at some point, he made the decision that he should be able to rule without God calling the shots. He wanted to be like God and run things his own way. So the initial sin that destroyed him was pride. Everything he has stood for since, in his rebellion to God, and his deceiving of us, is based on this basic sinful principle: Pride.
As Christians, we assume that Satan is behind all our sins, pushing us and whispering in our ears to tempt us. Because he is the embodiment of all evil, in one sense he is behind it all. But we assume that he, personally, is the one we are dealing with every time. Let’s examine that a little closer.
Satan is not “omnipresent” (everywhere at the same time) like God is. Otherwise it would not say in scripture that “Then the devil left him (Jesus), and angels came and attended him.” Matt 4:11. Logically then, it can’t be Satan himself who is bothering each of us at the same time.
That means that the fallen angels who joined in Lucifer’s rebellion against God (who were also sent to earth) are the ones assigned to us all to tempt, pervert and harass. These demons are working with Satan, following his orders, afflicted with the same degenerate spirit as their master. So without a scorecard (or named lapel pins !) we can’t tell them apart. We are unintentionally giving Satan more credit than he deserves.
Satan at the moment is not where you think he is!
Rev 12:10 For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (He is “hurled down” during the Tribulation … in our future.)
Satan is currently in heaven accusing us of every sin we commit, like a prosecuting attorney.
Job 16:19-21 Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Our Advocate (Lawyer) stands before God defending us from the accusations of the enemy. He says in our defense, that the sin being mentioned, though accurate, is powerless because He (our Advocate) has already paid the appropriate penalty for that particular sin and it is no longer capable of being revived. (No double jeopardy!)
Jesus said to His disciples:
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7-8
The reason that it was for our good that Jesus left the earth, was so he could do His job as our Advocate before the Father. Then the Holy Spirit could come and enter into each of us wherever we are. Instead of Jesus in one place, we have the Holy Spirit everywhere.
Repeating: Satan is before God accusing us. Jesus is before God defending us. It is the demons here that are causing the problem. The Holy Spirit is here to enable us to resist.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil (demon), and he will flee from you.
The question was asked, “Can Satan read our thoughts?” It is my belief that he cannot. Even more certainly, the demons that were lesser angels than Lucifer cannot read our thoughts. They are who we deal with on a continuing basis.
Then how do we get tempted? And it’s corollary … Can Satan, or more correctly the demons, put thoughts into our heads? This deserves a more thorough examination.
It is clear that some people hear directly from demons. This is evidenced by those possessed with demons. They always refer to the voice or voices in their head. The singer Beonce has recently stated that she becomes this alter-ego (a different person who lives inside her) when she performs. This person (demon) tells her what to do. Many examples in our world are available to confirm the fact that demon possession is on the rise.
Good news - a Christian cannot be possessed by a demon. We are possessed by the Holy Spirit … and He’s not sharing!!! We can however, be “Oppressed”. Oppression is when we either do not know how to, or refuse to resist the devil. Now he is always hanging around and defeating us or harassing us at every turn. Oppression can lead to all kinds of serious complications with health, emotional stability, our ability to understand and follow God, financial and social distress and more.
Many Christians who should be giants of faith because of how long they have been Christians, but who are still babies in Christ… are that way because they are oppressed by the enemy.
Those who are oppressed are much more capable of hearing clearly from a demon than a mature Christian - because of practice! Those who practice listening to God’s still small voice get better at hearing Him and poorer at hearing the enemy.
John 10:2-6 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."
So why is it that we always seem to be hearing stuff in our own heads that we know comes from the Devil?
We may not want to come to grips with this reality. We are hearing the old fleshly degenerate person we were trained to be by the filthy god of this world. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of us have learned Satan’s ways by just living in the world. Pride, revenge, jealousy, hatred, lust, lies, and all the rest is taught every minute of the day on TV, through radio, in movies and books, and by both our friends and enemies. Our lives have been one long schoolroom to teach us how NOT to do it!
Before we were saved, we lived in accordance with the standards of the enemy.
Eph 2:1-4 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Now that we are saved, we become new creatures in Christ, and for the first time EVER we are capable of pleasing God! But we are rookies at following Him and experts at following the Devil. Whatever happens in our lives (daily) a voice crops up in our head that tells us what to do … and it is usually wrong because it is the “old man” (that person we were before accepting Jesus).
Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So the response of a Christian, to evil thoughts and impulses is to consciously set his mind on God’s way of thinking. We need to learn two critical tasks that are very short and tied together in James 4:7. The first is a one word extremely effective prayer “help!” and the second is what we say to our thoughts … “shut-up!” Do these two things frequently and you can actually start hearing what God has to say about your situation.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
That final phrase was uttered in the imperative sense … it is an order - not a request!
We need to build our minds in the Word of God while putting to death the old thoughts and ways.
Col 3:9-11 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
So when we hear those bad things in our mind … we really can’t blame the devil … it is our old self trying to regain control. Satan does not have to deal directly with us very much because he can leave most of the dirty work up to us and our wicked training! Any demon available can certainly join in to push us toward evil, but mostly we have our old selves to blame.
James 1:13-15 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
1 Peter 1:13-15 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
James 1:22-25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
In summary, it is possible for demons to communicate with us in the spiritual realm, but their power is limited. Mostly what we have to deal with is the person we were without God. You can kick Satan out …
James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
But to get rid of our old self we have to train our minds through scripture, by the Spirit of God to grow up into Him and wrathfully reject those things that lead to death … in our own minds!
Gal 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified (put to death) the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
If you have to … stand in front of a mirror, point at your reflection and say out loud - “You are no longer in charge! My Lord, by His spirit in me, has been given control, so you just shut up and obey!” (Physically saying something out loud always helps! )
Now we come to a special circumstance that virtually always involves the devil (or more accurately - one of his henchmen - a demon). To introduce this subject I need to make a comparison. Where are you most likely to be hassled by a demon - in a bar? ... or in a church?
It is rarely ever in a bar! Demons already have those people pretty much under control and can trust them to promote evil in their words, attitudes, sexual conduct and more … why waste effort? But if a Christian is learning how to defeat Satan in his own life, it is vastly more dangerous to the devil and must be stopped at all costs.
So in church, our thoughts are much more likely to be influenced by evil if we are not prepared to say “help” and “shut-up”. Isn’t it easy to pick up on the faults of someone else in the church, or feel pride that we understand what the pastor is saying, but we sure wish our neighbor would catch on? … Maybe we feel jealousy over someone else’s gifts, financial standing, or any of a dozen other things. Maybe the pastor is wasting our time on some subject … yeah, right! God directs the pastor for the sheep in the pews … and we are the sheep!
Knowing that can help us to be vigilant over our minds in church … but it goes beyond that.
When we are about to do something that Satan considers a serious danger to him, he pulls out all the stops to get us to sin - hoping to prevent us from succeeding at what God has in store. If we are floating along not really challenging his kingdom of evil, the attacks on us are more general and nearly desultory. But if we are hearing from God, and are about to kick in the doors of some part of that nasty mess, the devil gets nervous and puts a lot of effort into stopping us.
Personally, I’ve discovered that if everything starts to fall apart at the same time in my circumstances, and my mind is continually dropping into an unacceptable mode of sinful thoughts … I stop and ask God to reveal to me where I’m going to be a thorn in Satan’s side. I specifically crank up my life to do what God wants. By prayer, reading the Word, and self-discipline by the Spirit of God, I try to set my faith in the importance of what God is telling me to do. If I don’t know what it is, I just keep on my spiritual toes, ready for what happens … knowing Satan isn’t going to like it! Hurray!!!
So when we really seem to be hearing from the enemy … rejoice, we are about to have the chance to do something good! Let’s not blow it!
The program for our lives in battling sin is clear. First, recognize the sinful thought.
Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Now follow this system daily:
1) Submit ourselves to God.
2) Resist the devil.
3) Train our minds through reading scripture.
4) Practice doing what the Word says.
1 Thess 5:16-18 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
So I guess …. The devil didn’t make me do it!