I have a Puritan book on my bookshelf called, ‘Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,’ by Thomas Brooks. In this book, Brooks works his way through many of the ways Satan seeks to gain an advantage over Christians, and offers helpful remedies to overcome his attacks. Brooks advocates that we study Christ, the Bible, our own hearts, and Satan’s devices as a means of remaining useful in the Master’s hands and avoiding Satan’s traps.
Brooks considers how Satan seeks to draw us into sin, to keep us preoccupied with unimportant things while neglecting the important Christian Disciplines, to entrap us in snares that leave us spiritually impotent, and how he deceives, manipulates and tempts us to unbelief and worldliness instead of godliness. It is written in archaic language, but I heartily recommend it.
We live in an age when the prowling, roaring lion is incredibly busy. This article is a companion piece to the Blog ‘The Four Opponents’ which you can find here and can be read in conjunction with that one. In this article I am going to look at some Scriptures, reflect on them, and consider some helps for preventing Satan gaining the ascendency in our lives.
1 Peter 5:8-11, ‘Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Stand firm against Him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
10In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. 11All power to Him forever! Amen.’
Ephesians 4:25-27, ‘So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbours the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a foothold to the devil.’
2 Corinthians 2:5-11, ‘I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. 6Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. 7Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. 8So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.
9I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. 10When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.’
1 Thessalonians 2:17-18, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.’
The above passages all contain references to the battle with Satan. In the 1 Thessalonians reference, Paul desired earnestly to go to support and comfort the Thessalonian church as it suffered persecution and trouble. His will and heart drove him to try to get to them, but Satan hindered him.
There are times when the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from going where his heart wanted to take him in Christ’s service. There are times in all of our lives when our hearts want something earnestly, including in Christ’s service, and it doesn’t happen.
Paul knew it was Satan hindering him. How? It is possible that Paul was confronting Satan’s attacks elsewhere and he knew, generally, that there was a season of prolonged and intense attack on the Church and the believers. He also was guided by the Spirit and the counsel of his associates. He understood better than anyone that there were times when he had to stay put and stay engaged in the battle he was in; meaning in this case that he couldn’t go to support the Thessalonians in their hour of need.
Paul was Christ’s minister, a preacher of the Gospel and Satan didn’t like him. He confronted Paul on many fronts. He was not in a local battle – it was a great battle for the advance of the Gospel of Christ and His Kingdom, it encompassed a continent. God’s work is bigger than any individual or church, but He, unlike Satan, loves and cares for, and works for our good and Christ’s glory in each individual believer and each local church.
Paul knew that unforgiveness, telling lies and holding onto anger and bitterness give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4). Jesus said that the devil was a both a murder and liar from the beginning – lies align us with Satan’s evil nature, not with God’s righteousness. We don’t want to give Satan a foothold, but instead live a Spirit-filled and led life.
Unrighteous anger fights against the law of love. It breeds revenge, hatred and bitterness. Letting go of the anger and choosing the pathway of love is hard but stops the unclean water of unrighteous anger polluting our soul, and the souls of others through us, and releases the pure water of the love of God in and through our lives.
In 2 Corinthians 2, and also later in Ephesians 4 as he summarises the passage (4:32), Paul recognised that unforgiveness leads to bondage to the sin or hurt perpetrated against us – forgiveness releases us from its destructive power. The situation was difficult for the Corinthians and Church Discipline had been imposed on the man. Now Paul was urging them to forgive and restore the man to full fellowship in the church.
There was a godly point and benefit to the Church Discipline imposed on this man, but now was the time to forgive and comfort him. Paul knew that the point had come where if they didn’t forgive and restore him to full fellowship, it would give Satan a foothold in the man’s life and in the church. Forgiveness breaks Satan’s hold over people’s lives.
Satan is Unrelenting in His Hatred
In the 1 Peter passage – Peter warned his readers about the devil’s presence and his intent, to trap and devour believers. Peter saw Satan’s presence as a threat to the Church, and a cause of great suffering both in the temptations he brought, but also in the attacks he brought against the Church.
Peter reminded them that they were not alone in their great struggle against him; every family of believers faced the same attacks, although they sometimes came in different forms. Satan didn’t take holidays from attacking and seeking to gain a foothold – 24/7 committed to their destruction in one way or another.
Peter and James 4:7 (see the Blog article The Four Opponents) both tell us to resist Satan. James emphasises submitting to God as the priority in our resisting – Peter emphasises standing firm in our faith alongside our resisting – both offer wise counsel. God is also faithful to bless and guard us, and to set the boundaries or limits on Satan’s attacks.
It is important to recognise that the world doesn’t revolve around us, but that we are part of God’s Kingdom and, as members of Christ, are part of God’s mighty army. Satan wants to…
- rob of us the Higher Life in Christ
- kill off our effectiveness in God’s army
- destroy that which God would to build through us.
Christ has come that we may have life in all its fullness including…
- growing in faith and stepping into the Higher Life as we face and overcome trouble and testing
- giving us His Spirit and word to ensure that we are properly placed in His plan and fruitful in every good work
- empowering and equipping us to build that which He has purposed for us to build.
- There is a worldwide battle going on for the souls of men, women, young adults, young people and children. Satan wants to prevent the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom rule, and will do anything to stop it including sowing deceit, lies and hatred
- Where unforgiveness has a hold in a person’s life – Satan has a grip and seeks to use it to breed bitterness and death. Forgiveness is always subject to the proviso that we offer forgiveness for a sin, but all sin is first sin against God and then the person. It is God, in Christ, who is the only One able to releases the sinner from the entrapment of their sin. When we forgive, we are asking God to forgive and leaving that in His hands, but we are releasing ourselves from the bondage of the sin or hurt done to us. Forgiveness breaks Satan’s hold on our lives…
- Satan is always busy, always focussed on robbing, killing and destroying, and always hates us passionately and totally when we are in Christ. He is not content to see us distracted from giving our full attention to God’s way in Christ – he wants to
- tempt and entice us into sin to the impoverishment of our souls
- get us prioritising the wrong things that will eventually lead to worldly mindedness
- see us trapped and stuck in a lower form of life compared to God’s higher life that He has purposed for us
- and root us in unbelief and neglect of God’s word, the Spirit’s fullness and the Christian Disciplines to make us unfruitful, unholy, and ungodly
- God is committed to strengthening and guiding us through life – fully committed to our full and final salvation in Christ, to develop us as His worshippers who serve and are fruitful. God is cheering you on…
Father, in this great battle we are engaged in, thank You for the assistance and help You provide in Your word, through the Spirit, the Christian Disciplines and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Enable us to guard our hearts and pray effectively for each other as we face Satan’s temptations and attacks. Also enable and anoint Telford Elim, in person and online, so that the Gospel of true freedom in Christ is proclaimed, Your word taught and explained, and many men, women, young adults, young people and children equipped for a victorious, higher, very fruitful life in Christ. Amen