“Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
Christians are fighting a war, but not like the wars fought between nations with earthly weapons to kill. We fight to bring life and eternal happiness, with the Word of God as our weapon. And as our ancient foe hated and sought to destroy Christ, he hates and seeks to destroy us. So, while our soul enjoys peace in Christ, a casual disregard of the dangers of the conflict invites injury to our spiritual and possibly our physical life, and great damage to the mission of the church to display and communicate the glory of God to a lost world. Rest from the struggle against evil awaits us in glory.
Nations spend billions to know their adversaries, while generals gain a battlefield advantage by access to the game plan of the enemy. In a similar way, it behooves every believer to know the nature and tactics of our great adversary. Ignorance of Satan’s schemes risks falling victim to them. Christ said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Paul, instructing the Corinthians about Satan, said, “We are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). And, as Peter warned, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We do well to know his goals and tactics.
At the same time, an undue focus on Satan and evil poses great danger to the believer. Sharing in God’s ultimate purpose to display and communicate His infinite excellence requires a laser-like focus on Christ to grow in our knowledge and love of God, while excessive attention to Satan and evil will not only distract us from our highest priority, it can spoil our walk with God and make us unfruitful. We don’t grow in the joy of knowing and serving Christ with Satan as the center of our gaze. What, then, are the goals and methods of our evil opponent, and how do we best understand them without harm to our spiritual life?
In short, the key to recognizing, understanding, and responding to Satan’s devices rests on knowing God’s ultimate purpose to display His infinite excellence through the person and saving work of Christ, and how God works to further His purpose. Everything God does, from creation to the consummation of all things, including every aspect of our individual lives, is geared to this glorious end. Thus, the essential and consistent nature of Satan’s opposition to God involves the discredit and destruction of anything that furthers the display and communication of God’s glory. If you understand this, then as you develop a more comprehensive understanding of the many ways God displays His excellence in the particulars of life, you will grow in your ability to recognize and resist the Devil’s work to destroy God’s purpose in them.
Consider a few examples from Satan’s playbook. The marvelous design and beauty of the universe and everything in it declare God’s power, genius, and goodness—call them an accident of time, chance, and evolution. The Word of God displays and explains God’s excellence—reduce its historical accounts to unhistorical moral lessons and its every truth to the mere opinions of men. Christ displays God’s perfections, while His saving work gives the greatest and clearest picture of God’s excellence—call Him a mere man, prophet, or martyr. Marriage displays the marvelous relationship of Christ to His church—destroy it. The different roles of men and women together comprise the image of God and the relationship of the person of the Trinity—confuse and pervert them. The fruits of the Spirit display God’s character—incite the fruits of the flesh. And so on. Satan’s ploys have remained consistent and predictable since his fall from glory in heaven, even as he adjusts the appearance and taste of his deadly poisons to entice different people in different circumstances.
Our need to understand the nature and tactics of the enemy is great, but greater still remains our need to know God. Thus, even as the intensity and frequency of attacks on faith in Christ increase, we dare not turn our gaze from the source of our strength and wisdom in the battle. We need not abandon our focus, for the better we know God, the more we will understand that which opposes and insults Him. The more deeply we love His beauty and excellence, the more we will discern and resist the ugliness of evil. The more we know truth, the more we discern error.
Thus, by growing in our knowledge of the infinite excellence of God, we not only grow in our faith, love, and joy in Christ, we better see and resist that which opposes God and the Gospel. And by the practice of applying what we know, we train our senses to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14), even as we put on the armor of God by which we may “stand firm” against the Devil’s designs. We need not turn our attention from God’s beauty; rather, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Thus, may “grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:2-3). By this we will see the evil of our enemy as it appears against the infinite excellence of our Savior and God. Amen.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission.
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