INTRODUCTION: We first meet the devil in Genesis 3. There, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and the father of lies (John 8:44) appears to our first parents as a talking serpent, creating doubt about the goodness of God and about the truth of His word, and eventually tempting Adam and Eve to disobey the LORD and to eat the forbidden fruit.
But even though he was cursed because of his wickedness in Eden (Gen. 3:14-15), the devil has continued to tempt people to sin throughout human history, even down to our day. The devil hates God and hates His Christ and so hates the followers of Christ. The devil hates believers and he hates the church, and his ambition is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).
As God’s word to His people, the Bible clearly reveals the devil and tells us about his schemes. In fact, the believer would be wise to become familiar with how the devil operates so that we are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).
In this third post in this series, we will continue our study about the devil and about how the disciple of Jesus can avoid becoming a victim of his devices.
A brief review of the last post is in order. We determined that, for the disciple of Jesus, there are definite limits on the devil’s threats. First, the Lord is the defender of every follower of Christ, so any activity of Satan must first be allowed by the Lord. The devil can do nothing unless it is allowed by our sovereign Lord. But beyond that, we also saw that the devil can bring material loss, physical distress, and even death on the disciple of Jesus, but that these events of suffering and testing are not to be received as a threat to the believer. That is, material and physical loss are of no spiritual consequence. The believer’s standing with the Lord and his eternal destiny are unaffected by these changes in circumstances.
Further, we saw that there is nothing that the devil can do to take away our salvation. Once the disciple passes from death to life (John 5:24) and is secure in Jesus’ hands (John 10:28) as a result of their faith in Jesus, the devil is powerless to threaten them with condemnation.
THE REAL THREAT
We did discover, however, that the devil is a very real threat in causing spiritual shipwreck. “Shipwreck” is the term we use to describe a disciple of Jesus who has ruined their testimony and who has squandered their usefulness to Christ because of their sin. This is the realm where the devil thrives. Satan spends most of his time scheming how to damage the testimonies and ruin the usefulness of the followers of Jesus by tempting them to sin. For this reason, the disciple of Jesus must be alert for the devil and his “schemes.” The Lord allows the devil to “prowl about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and careless disciples may be devoured.
DEFENSE STRATEGIES – PART 1
So, how does the disciple of Jesus defend themselves from the devil’s threat of shipwreck? I am going to suggest two main strategies.
In sports, the saying goes that, “the best defense is a good offense.” A modification of this idea will serve the disciple well in his battle against the devil. The strategy is this: Build the walls of your defenses so high and so thick that the enemy has great difficulty in breaking in. How do we build high, thick spiritual walls? The continual use of Christian disciplines will make you an unlikely target for the devil’s attacks. He will seek out easier prey.
HIGH, THICK WALLS
What are these disciplines? There is nothing novel about them. First, read and meditate on the Bible. There is no better defense against the devil than a well-worn Bible. A disciple who has a solid foundation in the Scriptures will prosper (Psalm 1:2-3). Also, times of prayer. Genuine, deep fellowship with other believers. Regular corporate worship. Times of thanksgiving. Praising the Lord. Proclaiming the gospel to others. Recording and reviewing times of His great faithfulness. Being careful to obey the commands of the Scriptures and avoid sin. The one who does these things will have thick walls indeed.
But the devil also seeks those times when you are especially vulnerable to attack. Our adversary will wait a long time to spring his temptation trap, and he usually strikes when we are vulnerable. Paul says that we should not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11), and part of that is being aware when we are vulnerable to attack.
When are we more vulnerable? When we are tired. When you are physically or mentally more tired than normal, you are not as alert to attack. In seasons of extended effort where you feel depleted or exhausted, you will be more vulnerable.
In a season or period of stress, you can become vulnerable. Maybe your situation at work is difficult. Perhaps there are financial pressures. There could be relational stresses at home or in your extended family. If these go on for a while, they can wear you down and distract you from normal alertness. Then you are vulnerable.
Other situations are when you are discouraged or depressed for whatever reason, when you feel isolated or alone, or when you experience the letdown that comes right after a significant victory or accomplishment (remember Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19). The disciple of Jesus needs to be aware of these vulnerable situations so that they can avoid shipwreck.
DEFENSE STRATEGIES – PART 2
How, then, is the disciple to defend themselves?
- Make it a habit to always be on the alert for enemy attack (1 Peter 5:8; Eph. 6:10-13). Remember, we are in enemy territory and the devil’s goal is to render us useless for Christ.
- Develop the discipline to regularly evaluate your spiritual vulnerability. Are you tired, stressed, feeling alone and isolated, depressed or discouraged? Be aware of these things!
- In times of greater vulnerability, increase your alertness to spiritual attack and sharpen your readiness. Seek reinforcements from others in the body of Christ. Refuse to be shipwrecked or sidelined by the devil’s schemes.
SDG rmb 11/26/2021 #460