Exposing the Enemy.
Just over two decades ago I started seminary classes, and to my great surprise the most heated discussion among students and professors was the existence of Satan.
Now, I’m no debater. In fact, I usually avoid the “hot topics” because I’m horrible at coming up with good reasons and words “in the moment.” But since 1997, I’ve had some time to investigate and study this idea of Satan’s existence. And I stand firm — evil is afoot. Not only does the Bible go into great detail describing our enemy and his tactics, but I’ve personally felt the presence of evil. I’ve watched it in action. I’ve prayed and stood against it’s prying fingers and powerful suggestions.
And, I have found great power in picking up the “sword of the Spirit” (see Ephesians 6), which is the Word of God.
I even agree with people like C.S. Lewis that it is a tactic of our conniving enemy to convince our generation of his non-existence. I mean, if you deny you have an enemy, you’re never working to fight him. That’s pretty brilliant on his part.
I Googled to see what famous quotes there were on “knowing your enemy,” and decisively Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military general and strategist, had the most. Here’s one to try on: “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”
It’s a basic military strategy — know your enemy. Because when you know how your enemy works and thinks, you can develop counter strategies.
And that’s just what Lysa is helping us do in this week’s chapter, “Exposing the Enemy.”
In Chapter 1, Lysa told us that if the enemy can “isolate us, he can influence us. And his favorite of all entry points is through disappointment” (page 150). She wants us to be aware up front that we do have an enemy so that well know he’s working hard and very strategically to keep us from the abundant life Jesus came to give us (see John 10:10).
I hear my pastor in my mind reminding us that what we don’t want to do when we talk about exposing our enemy is to give him more power than he deserves or has. He is not the root of all problems — remember from previous weeks that sometimes our problems derive from our own poor decisions or from others’ choices. Or maybe our pain finds its source in natural disasters or diseases.
But. Sometimes. It’s the enemy.
“Please don’t let any of this talk of our enemy stir up fear in you. This information about our enemy isn’t meant to scare us but to inform us. And, ultimately, protect us and free us” (page 150).
So, let’s be informed and made aware — we have an enemy. He has tactics. But we have a great power at our disposal. We can study exactly what the enemy wants to do to us SO THAT we can fight him. And when we’ve read God’s Word and better understand our enemy, we are equipped to counter his every attack (page 153).
Lysa lists three major categories of what the enemy wants to do to each of us:
While the enemy can’t read our minds, he can study our life’s patterns and hear us as we verbalize all our disappointments. He’ll take every opportunity we give him to try to tempt us with jealousy, division, distraction, doubt, destruction, discouragement, gossip, pride, desire, and lies…among other things.
Our enemy will put one or more of these before us at just the right moment, framed with just enough “justification” that we’ll take the bait. We’ll feel like we deserve what we want. We’ll tell ourselves that it feels right so it is right. We’ll rationalize an action because “it doesn’t hurt anyone.” And we’re hooked.
And before we blame God for these temptations…
James 1:13-22 tells us that God cannot tempt us with evil — in fact, He’s not in the business of tempting anyone with anything. Rather, we are tempted when our desire is enticed, and it’s when we give in to temptation that we sin. James says sin eventually gives birth to death.
The answer? James puts it simply — don’t be deceived in the first place. “Get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (verses 21-22).
“But, if my Bible is collecting dust and my conscience is being hushed, then my heart is in danger of being crushed.
That’s not a sing-song rhyme.
Temptation only works if our enemy keeps the consequences hidden from us” (page 156).
This truth — “it sheds light on healthy ways to process our disappointments and the good things God can bring from them. If we can remember this, we can see more clearly what a horrible trap Satan’s temptations really are” (page 157).
Let’s allow this truth to sink in. We need to know God’s Word. Our enemy does. And he knows how powerful it is, so he’ll want to keep us from knowing it, believing it, using it. We can take James’ advice and stop temptation before it starts by not being deceived. And that starts with knowing God’s Word.
Lysa explains that God is the author of truth — truth that empowers us — while Satan is the author of deception — deception that imprisons us. Perhaps not literal imprisonment, but remember…sin entangles us. It keeps us from being free, and that can feel like prison.
The progression of our enemy’s playbook might look something like this:
temptation — deception — isolation — imprisonment — destruction
When anything we’re tempted to think or do does not line up with God’s Word, we can know it’s a lie. And our enemy…he’s the father of lies (see John 8:44). “The longer he can keep someone deceived, the more their flesh will scream for pleasure, and soon they will become slaves to the most depraved versions of their desires” (page 158).
I’m a feeling person. I feel before I think or act. And my actions can be a quick second to my feelings. One time I had someone come at me very angry, words flying, arms flailing. I felt very quickly: alarm, panic, and fear. So I responded with a word or two then found myself walking away before I ever had an actual thought about what I should say or do. My feelings took over.
This is not always a healthy thing, and it has certainly been part of my spiritual journey. I want to learn what Lysa is trying to teach here. We need to be grounded in the truth we find in God’s Word so that we’re not always driven by our feelings.
The key here — know God’s Word.
Another key — know God. Know his character. That way when you read His Word, you can know His heart behind what He says. When we can trust God and His Word, then we can look within ourselves to admit our own motives that drive our desire (page 159).
Lysa gives us some questions we can stop and ask ourselves in that moment of decision to determine our motives:
- Will this make me more like Christ or less like Him?
- Will this help me get more healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically?
- Would the most spiritually mature person I know think this is a good choice?
I really love that last question, and it’s one I want to employ the next time I find myself in a place of possible deception — like that time I was tempted to share more about a relationship than was healthy or wise just because I wanted to prove myself right to someone. I was emotionally defensive, and the deception was that if I would establish myself as “right,” that person would quit assuming the worst about me.
The truth in that situation was that my motive was selfish. The reality — if I had shared confidences, I would have wrecked multiple relationships and proven myself untrustworthy. Just to be “right.”
So…we need to check our motives.
And, we need to “know what God offers in place of unhealthy desires” (page 160). Ultimately, we want God’s desires to be our desires. But as we live life between the two gardens, we live with the reality that “when our human desires are denied, they scream to be satisfied in the easiest and quickest way possible” (page 161). In those demanding moments of denied desires, it’s easy to give in — God’s truth escapes us or may not even seem very appealing.
“Desires gotten outside of God’s best for us are hollow solutions that will only increase our loneliness, our waistband, and our pain.
God isn’t shaking His finger at us; He’s planning something better for us. What we are all truly desiring is more of God; His best is the only source of true satisfaction. He is the only answer to our every desire” (page 161).
Keep this image of God at the forefront of your mind so that you won’t be deceived to think that God is just lording it over you, throwing a long list of “don’ts” your way because He’s “G.O.D.” (can you hear the thunder crack and see the lightning flash?) 🙂
The truth — God wants what is best for each of us.
The truth — God is “the only true fulfillment of our hearts’ longings” (page 162).
The truth — the “enemy wants [us] to be more enamored with the pleasures of created things than the pleasure of the Creator Himself” (page 162).
The truth — “the first step away from the enemy” is back toward God (page 162).
The truth — when we ignore the enemy’s tactics, we fall to old habits like “pride, self-reliance, and self-deception” (page 162).
And to fall to our old ways is to ignore God’s ways.
To follow our hearts, as we hear in almost every commercial out there, is to give ourselves over to a life dictated by emotions and desires. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” There’s our warning in black and white.
“Every single thing our emotions tell us must be held up to the Truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, we will be susceptible to the way our enemy twists our thoughts and feelings and uses them to deceive us” (page 165).
Oh, how the enemy paints his lies with pretty sparkles and shiny, inviting lights. But if we fall for his deceptions, we quickly discover what a liar he is. For all the “wooing” and enticing he does, “Satan doesn’t want to be your friend. He doesn’t want to help you find happiness. He wants to accuse you” (page 166).
Picture our enemy as the proverbial “mean girl” of high school, who smiles at you and invites you to be in “the” group. And when you step into her world of seeming beauty, you realize too late that she just wants to use you. She sets you up to take a horrible fall for her — she accuses you.
Some really good news, though, is that we can be wise to our enemy’s ways. In fact, “the worst thing that can ever happen to Satan is for us to believe that God loves us, has our best in mind, and forgives us of our sin” (page 166).
Being wise to our enemy’s ways means realizing what his motives are. When he entices us with things that look and feel good, we need to know that all he really wants us to experience is destruction, death, and defeat.
So before our enemy turns the tables on us and starts blasting us with the shame and the blame, we need to know all the enemy wants is for his accusations to deafen us to God’s promises of redemption (page 167). We need to know our enemy and that …
“His purpose all along [is] to crush [us] with his accusations” (page 167).
So, we are forewarned, friends. And, as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.
We know we have an enemy, and his desire is not for our good. His desire is for us to be so trapped by sin that we never look back to God, that we never grab hold of the redemption laid within our reach (thanks to Jesus).
We know that our enemy wants to tempt, deceive, and accuse us because…he’s evil. His motives are selfish and full of intended pain. And he really wants to keep us trapped in our sin and the consequences of our choices.
Because of Jesus, we have hope. Redemption is real, and it empowers us to take a stand against an enemy who, though vicious, is never victorious (page 170).
Praising our Redeemer, Shelley Johnson