I’ve written previously about the reasonable existence and reality of the personal being that we, as Christians, call “Satan”. You can examine the philosophical and Biblical evidence for his existence in prior articles. But once we are confident that Satan exists, it would be wise to try to understand how he operates, since evil often targets humans. In order to understand how Satan operates as he tries to impact our lives, let’s begin by summarizing his nature, for it is out of his nature that he acts to corrupt and ruin the lives of God’s children. A good place to start, as we examine what the Bible says about Satan, is simply with his name. Two words are commonly used to describe this being. The first name given to this being is “Satan”:
“Satan” = “Satanas” (GREEK) = “Adversary”
That’s an interesting name to give this fallen angel. He is God’s adversary, his opponent. This simple title tells us much about the nature of Satan. As an adversary to God, Satan opposes God; he is God’s opposite, and we already know who and what God is. God is truth:
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
God is light and truth, Satan is darkness and deception. The ‘other’ name typically given to Satan makes this clear:
“Devil” = “Diabolos” (GREEK) = “Slanderer” or “False Accuser”
Satan’s names say it all. From these two words, we already understand the nature of the Devil. He is God’s adversary because he is the opposite of God. Satan is all about darkness, deception and slander:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
According to this passage, the very nature of Satan is that of deceit. But look again at John 8:43-45. Did you notice that Satan is not only described as a liar, but also as a murderer? According to this passage, Satan is a murderer because he is a liar. He murders by lying. In essence, this means that it is our acceptance of Satan’s lies that causes us to die:
Accepting a Lie = Death
These two things are related. Interestingly, we also know from scripture that something else leads to death:
For the wages of sin is death
According to Paul (the author of Romans) it is sin that leads to death, and one way to describe sin is simply to understand it as a lie – told by Satan – that causes us to act against the nature and desires of God.
1 John 1:8-9
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
We sin when we accept a lie rather than the truth that God has given us in His Word. This is important reality for us to understand, because it illuminates the strategy that Satan employs when trying to cause us to sin. Let’s illustrate the relationship between accepting a lie and committing a sin with a few examples:
What is Adultery? It begins by believing the lie that sleeping with someone other than your wife is acceptable if it satisfies a need in your life or can be done without your spouse knowing. This sin is committed when we reject the truth that God has already given us about the nature of adultery.
What is Stealing? It begins by believing the lie that it is acceptable to take something that is not yours if your situation is bad enough or if the person who owns the property does not ‘deserve’ or ‘need’ it. This sin is committed when we reject the truth that God has already given us about the nature of theft.
What is Murder? It begins by believing the lie that it is acceptable to take the life of another if they have angered you enough or if you personally think they deserve it. This sin is committed when we reject the truth that God has already given us about the nature of murder.
Satan’s power is the power of deception. This is his tool. It is Satan’s goal to convince us that God’s Word is not as important as our fallen human nature and desire. As I’ve written elsewhere, all sin is motivated by one of three desires that Satan can pervert in an attempt to cause us to sin: financial gain, sexual lust, and the pursuit of power. Satan has attacked these three areas of desire from the very beginning. Let’s read, for example, a comparison between Satan’s temptation of Eve and Satan’s temptation of Jesus:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Did you notice what Satan did in these two passages? He tempted both Eve and Jesus by appealing to their physical needs. Food is a “cousin” of the first motive I’ve described.
Satan Lies to Tempt Us to Sin in the Area of
Satisfaction of PHYSICAL NEEDS
Satan appeals to a basic human desire. He still does this with us today. Maybe it will be a desire for food or for sex or something else that is basic to the physical needs of humans. Satan wants us to satisfy these basic human needs by perverting and circumventing the truth of God’s Word. He wants us to ignore the commands of God and ignore the limits and blessings that God offers us in these areas.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman…
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Once again Satan is acting within his nature and appealing to the second area of temptation that we previously discussed:
Satan Lies to Tempt Us to Sin in the Area of
Satisfaction of PERSONAL GAIN
There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting more than we have. It’s not morally wrong to want to be more comfortable or to have a better life than the one that we already have. But Satan tempts us to take short cuts. He tempts us to sin and violate even the simplest of commandments of God. He operates in the same way today. Is there some short cut I can take to have more money or more leisure or more property? Is there some way that I can have a better life, even if it might have to come at the expense of someone else? This is the way that Satan operates in our hearts and minds. Let’s finish the passage:
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Satan appeals here to the final area of temptation that we discussed at the very beginning of this comparison:
Satan Lies to Tempt Us to Sin in the Area of
Satisfaction of POWER AND GLORY
The Devil understands that all of us have been wired with a desire to know our purpose and understand our personal value as a part of the creation. All of us want to ‘matter’. We all want to be valuable and important to somebody. Satan perverts this by tempting us to satisfy this desire through our relationship to PEOPLE rather than through our relationship to God. He still does this today. How many times have you found yourself more concerned with what people think of you than with what GOD thinks of you?
Satan is truly a deceiver. And he knows that his deceptions have the final effect of separating us from the will of God. The lies of Satan truly do lead to death.
So, how are we to defend ourselves from the strategy of Satan? What, if anything can we do? Well, I hope you noticed a big difference between the way that Eve responded to Satan and the way that Jesus responded to Satan. Eve failed to resist the Devil’s temptation, while Jesus obviously succeeded. Jesus succeeded because he understood that the best defense one can have for any lie is to simply know the truth. The best defense is simply to have an answer at hand to respond to each lie of Satan.
We sin when we accept a lie rather than the truth that God has given us in His Word.
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And where are we going to find the truth? You guessed it, right in the Word of God. That’s why Jesus repeatedly returns to the Scripture as he responds to each lie of Satan:
…Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”…
…Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”…
…Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”…
Jesus has modeled for us the perfect defense for the strategy of Satan. We are simply to return to the truth. We are simply to return to the Scripture:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
When we do this, the result is crystal clear. The truth of God’s Word acts as a SWORD. It defends us. It protects us. It sends Satan running, just as it did when Satan tempted Jesus:
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.