Satan works in darkness and anonymity. Bringing to light and exposing his nature and tactics render him ineffective. A big part of claiming the victory in spiritual warfare is to be aware of the battle and understand his subtle schemes and strategy. The Bible reveals a great deal about his nature and methods and charges us to be vigilant and alert, always on guard that we might resist by recognizing and repelling his attacks.
Satan Is the Tempter
The Bible tells us that Satan is the tempter. This is a role with which we are probably most familiar as we are aware of what it means to be tempted. Since Satan is revealed as the source of temptation, we would be more than happy to relinquish any responsibility for yielding to his enticement to sin claiming, “The devil made me do it.” Although Satan is behind every temptation, blaming him does not absolve us of any responsibility for sin and doing that which is contrary to God’s will. In Christ we have been given power over sin, and Satan cannot make us do anything we do not choose to do!
However, Satan does tempt us to sinful behavior, actions, words, and attitudes because, obviously, God is not glorified when we sin. Satan attracts us to things of the world and tempts us to embrace carnal values. He persuades us to focus on ourselves, what we want, and our needs with a sense of entitlement that leads us to indulge selfish gratifications. First Thessalonians 3:5 says, “I also sent to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing.” As we will see later, Satan’s first step is to undercut our faith, for only then can we justify doing things contrary to God’s Word and what faith, or believing God, would lead us to do. Paul’s labor and witness in bringing the believers in Thessalonica to salvation would have been in vain were they to yield to Satan’s temptation and deny their faith.
James 1:13-15 says, “No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Sin appeals to that old nature, providing gratification and satisfaction in something that is desirable but does not honor God. Satan, who is familiar with that old sin nature, entices us. He is the tempter. He begins just as he did with Eve, tantalizing her with, “Did God really say… ?” Yes, God really did say she was not to eat the forbidden fruit, but like Eve we begin to doubt what God said or that He really meant that to apply to our particular situation or desire. We begin to rationalize and justify what we do, never realizing that our enemy was behind those lustful thoughts, unrighteous desires, and self-serving motives.
The Bible reveals three basic categories of temptation. First John 2:15-17 tells us this: “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.”
The lust of the flesh is that which is appealing to the gratification of our old sinful nature. It leads to adultery and unfaithfulness to one’s spouse, physical indulgence that results in pregnancy out of wedlock, and a general hedonistic attitude that if something feels good, it’s all right.
The lust of the eyes is the appeal to our aesthetic nature and leads to covetousness. Television ads are designed to stimulate this desire for something we do not have. The materialism that surrounds us at shopping malls creates the desire for things. Credit card appeals from financial institutions seek to convince us we can have it now and pay later, appealing to our lust for more and more possessions, comforts, and pleasures.
Then there is the pride of life, appealing to our innate desire not only to be liked but to be the center of attention. We compromise convictions and hurt others in order to get ahead, succeed in whatever we do for the sake of recognition and reputation. There is nothing wrong with leadership, recognition, and success if we give God credit for getting us where we are, remain faithful in living for Him, and humbly allow Him to receive the glory for our accomplishment.
Notice how this parallels the temptation of Eve in Genesis 3:6, “Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food”—the lust of the flesh, something her body needed and wanted—”and delightful to look at.” It was attractive, appealing and desirable. “It was desirable for obtaining wisdom,” the pride of life. To get her to doubt God, he proceeded to malign God’s motives; in verse 5, “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He made Eve believe that God was trying to deprive her of something. It is not Satan’s nature to reveal the whole truth. Eve would know the difference between good and evil only when she sinned and succumbed to Satan’s evil temptation to disobey God.
Jerry Rankin and Beth Moore, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for God’s Glory (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2009).
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