John Wegter – Some Thoughts on Satan’s Tactics

Job 1:6, “One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.” Often we recognize that this scripture is still reality; when God’s own meet together with Him, there is frequently an uninvited presence in the meeting also: the enemy of our soul! From the beginning he has been an expert at intruding where he is not wanted and sowing seeds of deceit and destruction. A few years ago I read 2 Corinthians 2:11 and asked myself, “Can I really say that this verse is true for me?”

It says in part, “For we are not unaware of (Satan’s) schemes.” I had to answer truthfully that day, that many times in my experience I have been unaware even of his presence, let alone of his schemes. Yet we as God’s people cannot afford to be blissfully ignorant of our enemy. Because of his hatred for God and all that God loves, he has declared war on the human race, as we read in Revelation 12:12, “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

One of the devil’s most successful schemes is to convince people that he doesn’t exist. While the majority in our society would yet confess their belief in God, it is quite unfashionable to admit that we believe in Satan’s existence. One of the ways he goes about concealing his existence from us is by trying to undermine our faith in the Bible itself. Two of the books of scripture most commonly attacked by so-called scholars are Genesis and Revelation, the history of the earth’s creation and the prophecy of its eventual destruction at God’s hands. The world would have us believe these are nothing more than allegorical myths and fairy tales, and Satan eagerly tries to make us adopt such a viewpoint, since these books speak so clearly of him, his evil nature, and his eventual downfall at the hands of a righteous God. The apostle wrote and warned the Hebrew Christians of the need of constant exhortation “so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13) Satan would like nothing better than to harden God’s people and make them insensitive to sin. Constant exposure in the media contributes to his efforts. Every form of sin is being presented to the world as commonplace, normal, and acceptable. Those whose consciences are outraged by the moral decay around us are considered prudish, narrow-minded, and hopelessly outdated. Yet we cannot afford to feel otherwise. The scene portrayed in Ezekiel’s prophecy is a vivid one, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” He said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.” (Ezekiel 9:4-6) I believe the Lord yet looks down on the earth today and considers our attitude toward prevailing sin. As one brother has often reminded us, “In God’s sight, Jesus is normal.” All that deviates from Him grieves the heart of God. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5) The clutter and busyness of modern living fit in very well with Satan’s schemes. Life becomes increasingly full of activity that would crowd out our vital times of personal fellowship with God. We feel pressed to cram more and more into our schedules in order to meet our obligations, yet many of those “obligations” may be nothing more than Satan’s manipulation of our human greed. Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I fit this into my life?” Perhaps we should ask more, “Can I do without this?” The beauty of simplicity is outstanding in the life of the Lord Jesus. One item that comes to mind in connection with a life that is increasingly complicated is the modern dependence on computers. I use a computer often and appreciate its many applications; it is a helpful tool that has facilitated many aspects of our life. Yet at the same time I readily recognize its ability to enslave our minds. Its addictive powers are every bit as great to some individuals as other things that we have long since recognized as harmful vices. Even when using the computer solely in wholesome activities such as communication with the Lord’s people, we can find time slipping away from us to the extent that we’ve spent more time on email than we have on Bible reading and prayer. How Satan must delight in using “good” activities to rob us of the greater treasures we could have in God’s presence!

All of us seem to be born with a predisposition to certain types of thinking. Some are inclined to fret and worry, others to react hastily to outside provocations, still others to quickly despair in the face of adverse situations. At times we lump all of these tendencies together and call them “nerves.” How often we have excused un-Christlike reactions, words, and attitudes, justifying it all by saying, “I’m just a nervous person; I was born that way.” Satan loves to take our natural tendencies and magnify them into sin; we play right into his hands when we pass it off as something insignificant. Yes, we were born that way, but we weren’t born again that way! When we recognize him at work, we can take our lacks and weaknesses to the Lord in prayer and find His divine help to correct our thought patterns that would tend to lead us into sin. He can help us “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5) thus thwarting Satan’s schemes.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) Somehow Satan has succeeded in sowing the thought in many people’s minds that the Christian life should be free of problems. When opposition or criticism arises because of our faith, he makes us feel something must be wrong; perhaps we’ve been deceived all along and God really isn’t with us after all. On the contrary! The Lord Jesus made it very clear that the blessings of heaven’s kingdom would be accompanied by persecutions. To choose the narrow way of Christ is to invite the same misunderstanding of which He Himself was partaker. Rather than shun the scorning of those around us, we should welcome it as a sign of His word being fulfilled again in us. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Satan loves to sow suspicion among the brethren, causing us to question each other’s actions and motives. If we feed on our human thinking about each other, differences will be accentuated and divisions will be magnified. When we become aware of him sowing suspicion, we can counter his schemes by practicing what Malachi taught about communication between brothers in the faith. “Those who feared the LORD talked with each other.” (Malachi 3:16)

When we keep the lines of communication open and listen to one another with patience and understanding instead of jumping to our own conclusions, we can avoid falling into the enemy’s trap. At times there are genuine grievances among brothers and sisters in the faith. We recognize the truth of James’s observation, “We all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2) When this does occur and we become aware of a fault in a brother or sister, especially when it affects us, or those close to us, Satan loves to step in and create a hard spirit of unforgiveness. Few things give him an advantage like bitter resentment among brothers in the faith.

We realize so well that our standing with God has nothing to do with our own righteousness, everything to do with the mercy He has chosen to lavish on us. Yet, “if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) A spirit of unforgiveness will quickly affect our relationship with the Father, and if it is not dealt with, it will separate us from Him. Some who once walked so close to the Lord with such joy have found themselves far from Him because of allowing Satan to sow such a seed in their heart.

From the beginning of creation, God planned marriage as a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His people, a unity so complete that the two think as one, act as one, live as one. Yet we see marriages being dissolved at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. From my own standpoint, few actions cause as much personal suffering to God’s people as divorce among those who bear the name of the Lord Jesus. Surely Satan is behind the ever-increasing tendency to look upon marriage as a temporary arrangement that can be easily dissolved “if things don’t work out.” A major contributing factor in most divorces seems to be the insistence on personal independence at the expense of the common interest. People no longer consider themselves “one flesh” with their spouse, according to biblical teaching; in their misguided thinking, they feel they can hurt or neglect their partner without being affected themselves. When Satan succeeds in undermining the sanctity of the marriage vows that God has established, he has gained a great victory. I fear when I see people getting too taken up with the human aspects of this wonderful fellowship God has called us into.

We greatly appreciate the privilege of meeting together for prayer, Bible study, and special fellowship. We love gospel meetings, special meetings, and conventions. We thrive on hospitality and value the social interaction between those with whom we share a common faith, both those dedicated to the itinerant ministry and the saints in their homes. Yet Satan is subtle enough to take these very things we cherish and turn them into stumbling blocks for us when we begin to value the “structure” of our fellowship with each other more than the foundation of a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Himself. Indeed, many may be deceived into thinking they possess salvation through association with the body of believers (“church membership,” if you will) instead of coming to Christ through faith, repentance, and obedience. At all costs we must remain focused on Him instead of allowing Satan to divert our attention to secondary considerations. He alone is God’s final message to the world. A beloved hymn directs our thoughts to the glory due to Christ alone: “Gracious Redeemer, Thou art my salvation; Naught but Thy blood could for my sins atone.” Each of us has a very special calling from God Himself, a place He has given us in His infinite wisdom, and one for which He Himself prepares us through the work of His Holy Spirit. Satan would often tell people that they can still be useful to God in a different place from the one to which God has called them. He especially attacks the ministry in this way, knowing that the condition of the sheep depends in great part on the shepherds. I once visited with an old man in the mountains of northern New Mexico who told me that in his childhood that whole area had been dedicated to sheep raising. At the time he and I visited, however, there were no sheep to be seen for miles around. “What caused the change?” I asked him. The answer was simple, “No one today is willing for the sacrifices that being a shepherd calls for.” Satan would like nothing better than to see the sheep of God’s pasture dispersed for lack of shepherds!

From earliest days, the Lord Jesus taught people to pray for the coming of God’s eternal kingdom. Yet Satan manages to persuade some that they cannot pray according to the Lord’s will because they are not “ready.” I believe he is instrumental in convincing many people that “ready” means “perfect.” This basic misunderstanding regarding the Bible’s teaching about salvation is one we must continually combat. We are never citizens of the kingdom of heaven because of our perfection, but rather because the Lord Jesus paid redemption’s price completely when He went to the cross, the just man taking the place of the unjust. We will never be prepared to stand unashamed before the judgment seat because of any perfection on our part, but because of our faith in Him and our submission to His lordship. At the same time that Satan tries to convince people who have been justified through faith in Christ that they are not saved, not ready for His appearing, he tries to convince those who have never come to Christ through faith that they are good enough by their own merits. Both are typical of the “father of lies.” If – and only if – we have been born again by the Holy Spirit through obeying the gospel – repent, believe, confess – we can confidently lift up our heads and look forward to Christ’s return with joy and hope. “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur (He) will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) Whenever this great deceiver and tempter comes to us with his lies and schemes, we can confront him boldly, knowing that in God’s great plan his fate is already determined. He is fighting a lost cause. While he would like nothing better than for us to share his fate, we can be aware of his tactics and live in the sure victory that God has promised to those who are His own.