Ways Satan Attacks Us, Part 4: Frightening Intimidations (1), by Jeffery Smith

I’ve been seeking in these posts to give an overview of the many ways that Satan attacks God’s people. So far we’ve considered pleasing seductions and deceiving delusions. Now a third category of temptations; what I’m calling…

Frightening Intimidations

Satan does not always try to entice us or to deceive us into sinning. Sometimes he tries to scare us into sinning. He tries to so intimidate us as to make us fearful and discouraged and depressed so that we are unfit for the service of God. There are at least four ways Satan attacks God’s people I see in scripture that could be lined up under this heading of frightening intimidations.

First of all, the scriptures indicate that Satan sometimes has a hand in the afflictions that befall God’s people. So affliction is the first of Satan’s frightening intimidations. Now we have to be very careful here. I am not saying that affliction is always the work of the devil, whether bodily afflictions or material afflictions of any kind. I am not saying, nor does the bible teach, that all the afflictions that befall God’s people in this life are the work of the devil. But at the same time it simply cannot be denied that the bible indicates that Satan sometimes does have a hand in the afflictions that come upon the children of God. I’m not referring now to persecution. I’ll address that later. I’m referring to physical or material afflictions in general.

Do we not have a very clear example of this in the book of Job? We read in Job 2:7 that Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job. Now, of course, Satan was, and always is, under the control of God’s Sovereign providence. God gave Satan permission to strike Job for God’s own holy, wise and, ultimately, good purposes. But it was Satan who struck him. First, he brought destruction upon Job’s possessions and he afflicted Job’s family. But Job stood the test. So Satan came back to God and he said let me touch Job himself. Let me touch his body and then he’ll begin to squeal. Then he’ll curse you God and you’ll see that Job only serves you for what he can get out of you. So God said, “Alright you can touch his body but you can’t kill him.” And the scripture says, “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. “ “Ah”, someone says, “you’re trying to teach now that boils are always the work of the devil.” No, not at all; I’m simply saying that sometimes they may be. Of course, most diseases are due to secondary causes but they may sometimes be directly due to the activity of the devil.

What was Satan’s aim in afflicting Job the way he did? He was trying to intimidate Job into sinning and to cause him to turn away from God. He was also attacking God Himself. He argued that Job only served God because everything was great in his life. “Let me touch him, God, and then you’ll see that Job doesn’t really love you. Job, and by implication, all who serve you only do so with mercenary motives. It’s only for what they can get out of you, that’s it.” Well most of us know the story and what happened. The point is there were things going on behind the scenes in the spiritual world that Job couldn’t see and didn’t know about and in this case Satan had a hand in the afflictions that Job suffered.

Now we see this element of Satan’s activity in several places in the gospels. We learn there that the devil can cause dumbness; he can cause blindness. There’s the woman in Lk.13 of whom we read that, “She had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years and was bent over and could in no way raise herself.” And after Jesus healed her, what did He say about her? The ruler of the synagogue began to complain because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Then Jesus said, “Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” Her condition, He says, was the work of the devil.

We find the Apostle Paul speaking about himself in 2 Cor. 12:7 with reference to what he calls his thorn in the flesh; apparently some kind of physical weakness or ailment he suffered. And he says, “Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.” This thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, is said to be the result of a messenger of Satan that buffeted him. Now God allowed this in order to keep Paul humble but certainly that was not Satan’s purpose in it. Satan afflicted Paul in order to hurt him spiritually not to help him. But God was overruling and allowing Satan’s activity for Paul’s good. But the point is, whatever Paul’s particular affliction was, Satan had a hand in it.

So weaknesses, sicknesses and diseases, or any other kind of affliction, may sometimes be the result of the devil’s activity. Again, I’m not saying always by any means but, obviously, the scriptures indicate that sometimes they may be.

But now here is another important point regarding this matter. Even if, or when, the direct activity of Satan is not in anyway, or to any degree, the source of our affliction we still need to realize that our afflictions do always provide the occasion for Satan to come along side and to tempt us to sin and to turn away from the faith. Very often severe affliction and severe temptation go hand in hand. This is one of the reasons the Apostles write so much about this subject of afflictions and trials in their epistles. When times of difficulty, pain, or hardship come into our lives, often the temptation becomes very strong to doubt God, or to throw in the towel, as it were, to quit, to cast off our faith in God and His goodness; to become bitter; to neglect the means of grace. And, therefore, it is Satan’s manner especially to come after the child of God who is in the furnace of affliction. Satan is like a wolf that preys on the wounded sheep in the flock. So the N.T. writers often write about this subject of affliction to encourage the people of God not be thrown out off by it.

Brothers and sisters, whenever you find yourself in the midst of sickness, or painful disappointment, or pressured circumstances you need to realize that this is when you especially need to be on guard against the wiles of the devil. Affliction is a call to be watchful and to spend time on your knees crying to God for grace to resist the devil and crying to God, “Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from the evil one.”

This speaks a word to pastors as well, and really to all of us. We all have the responsibility to look out after one another’s souls and this tells us that we especially need to encourage and keep a caring eye upon those of our brothers and sisters who are suffering affliction. They are peculiarly vulnerable to the attacks of the devil.

There’s a passage that very powerfully illustrates the sensitivity of the Apostle Paul to this very reality and danger. In 1 Thess. 3:1 the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith.” Now what was the context in which Paul wrote these words? Well up in vv.17-18 of ch.2 Paul says that he was very eager to revisit these brethren in Thessalonica and that he attempted to do so time and again but Satan hindered him. 1 Thess. 2:1-8, “But we, brethren, having been taken away from your for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you-even I, Paul, time and again- but Satan hindered us.” Exactly how Satan hindered him he doesn’t say but it’s clear that Paul was very eager to be with these brethren. And now in ch.3 he says, “When I could no longer endure it..”; that is when my suspense and concern for you was so great I could hardly bear it..

“I sent Timothy to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith.” Now why was Paul so anxious about these people? Well he says, “I sent Timothy to establish and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for your yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (vv.3-5).

You see, Paul knew that these people were suffering affliction. And he was greatly concerned lest Satan, the tempter, might use their affliction as an occasion of tempting them to turn away from Christ and go back to the world which would, therefore, prove Paul’s previous labors on their behalf to have been in vain. So we need to imitate Paul’s example in taking special care of, and being especially concerned to encourage, our brothers and sisters who are going through difficult times.

Ways Satan Attacks Us, Part Three: Deceiving Delusions (2), by Jeffery Smith

In this series of posts we have been considering some of the ways Satan attacks us. I’ve been putting these into broad categories beginning first with pleasing seductions. Then in the last post we began to consider what I’m calling deceiving delusions. The first one we’ve already considered. We’ve seen from Scripture that one way Satan does this is by insinuating doubts into our minds about the truth.

Moving on now consider , secondly,  that Satan attacks us with deceiving delusions by inspiring false teaching and heresy. In reading your Bible have you ever noticed how often false teaching is associated with the activity of evil spirits? For example, Paul writes in 2 Cor. 11:3-4, “But I fear lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Notice, Paul seems to join together here the preaching of another Jesus and the receiving of another gospel with the receiving of another spirit. Notice what he says in vv.13-15 of that same chapter, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore is it no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” Paul speaks here of the deceitfulness of false teachers who seek to present themselves as apostles of Christ and he refers to these false teachers as the ministers of Satan.

There are many other passages in the N.T. where we find heretical teaching associated with the activity of Satan and evil spirits. In 1 Tim. 4:1, Paul says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” Heretical teaching is referred to as the doctrines of demons and as being instigated by deceiving spirits. The apostle John speaks of this often in his epistles and in the book of the Revelation. For example, in 1 Jn.4:1 he says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but, test the spirits, whether they are of God. “ What does he mean by these spirits? Well he tells us, “test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Certainly we are living in a time in which Satan has been very active in this area of instigating and propagating false teaching. This  happens by means of television, through the internet, through the printed page, in seminaries and even in professing Christian pulpits. We need to learn to look beyond and behind false teachers to the one who is the source and mastermind of the confusion and deception they promote. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

There is at least one other way Satan promotes deceptive delusions. He does so, thirdly, by sometimes enabling false teachers to perform, what the Bible calls, lying wonders. In other words, the Bible indicates that sometimes false prophets are enabled by the power of the Devil to perform miracles by which they deceive both themselves and others.

Jesus said in Mt. 7:22ff that on the day of judgment, “Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name.’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Notice, Jesus never disputes their claims to have cast out demons and to have done wonders in His name. He never disputes that but he says, “I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness.” In Mt. 24:24 our Lord gives us this very solemn warning, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

Let us learn from this that there is nothing more foolish than to believe that a man must be a true man of God, and to accept what he teaches, simply because supernatural phenomena seem to accompany his ministry. To do that is to play right into the hands of the devil. I fear there are many in our day who are being deceived by lying wonders. The real test of anyone who professes to be a man of God is how does his personal life and how does the doctrine he teaches, line up with God’s Word.

When, for example, you see a man like Benny Hinn on television, the question is not whether people are really healed under his ministry. That’s not the question. Of course, many times with  “faith-healers” the so-called miracles performed are nothing but hoaxes and fakes. But that may not always be the case. There is such a thing as the power of Satan! There is what Paul refers to in 2 Thess. 2:9, as that which is, “according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders”; not necessarily lying in the sense of being fake wonders, but wonders by which men are seduced into believing lies. So even if people are really healed, and even if miracles and wonders are really performed, that doesn’t mean the man is a true man of God. Our Lord has warned us not to be deceived by this kind of thing for there will arise false prophets in sheep’s clothing who show great signs and wonders and deceive many into embracing damning heresies.

I’m simply seeking at this point to give an overview of the many ways Satan seeks to attack us. So far we have considered two categories: pleasing seductions and deceiving delusions. In the next post on this subject we’ll take up a third category of temptations.

Some Ways Satan Attacks Us, Part Two: Deceiving Delusions (1), by Jeffery Smith

By deceiving delusions I’m referring to lies by which Satan seeks to draw us to sin and away from God. Jesus speaking of the devil in Jn. 8:44 says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks lies, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Satan is a liar and one of the primary ways in which he attacks us, and attacks the cause of Christ, is by the promotion of lies. He deceives men by lying delusions. Let me mention some of the ways Satan does this.

First of all, he does this by insinuating doubts into our minds about the truth. The Bible indicates that Satan and his evil spirits, in some mysterious and unexplained way, have the power at times to make suggestions, or to interject thoughts, into the minds of men. It was said of the betrayal of Christ by Judas that, “the devil put it into his heart” (Jn.13:2). The same is said of Ananias in Acts 5:3 where Peter said to him, “Why has Satan put it into your heart to lie.” There are what the Apostle Paul calls in Eph. 6:16 the fiery darts of the wicked one that he shoots at us. And the scriptures indicate that one of those fiery darts…one of the things that Satan or his evil spirits sometimes do, is insinuate doubts into our minds about the truth.

Now this is something else we see at the very beginning when Satan tempted Eve. I noted it in the previous post. Gen.3:1, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed, said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” God never said that, at least not in that way. What did God say? Gen. 2:16, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.’” The emphasis of God’s words was upon all of the trees from which they could eat freely, with just one exception. v.17, “’But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Satan, in a very subtle way, turns it around and puts the emphasis upon what God would not allow Adam and Eve to do. He distorts what God actually said about the trees of the garden. But notice at this point, he doesn’t openly contradict God. He just makes the suggestion, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” He was seeking to insinuate doubts into Eve’s mind about the goodness of God.

Initially Eve met the first attack with truth. Gen.3:2-3, “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” You’ll notice she does add something though to what God said. She adds, “nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” Now that may simply be an expression of the full import of the command as she genuinely understood it, or it could indicate that already Eve is willing to play loose with God’s Word.

But now Satan comes back and he insinuates another doubt about what God said and this time more bluntly. v.4, “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’” You see, Eve had never once doubted or questioned God before. But the serpent comes in with his fiery darts and he begins to insinuate doubts about what God had said and doubts about God’s goodness.

Brothers and sisters, have you not found that to be so at times in your own experience? Here you are in a perfectly happy mood when suddenly this thought comes to you unexpectedly; this doubt about God or about some aspect of God’s truth. Or maybe you’re reading something, or you hear something, and this awful doubt is suggested to you. Well remember from the beginning the devil has been tempting men with these fiery darts of doubt. Doubts about God and his ordering of the affairs of your life or doubts about various things God has said in his word. He shoots at the saints his fiery darts of doubt.

Satan even attacked our Lord in this way. At his baptism in the Jordan, the Father spoke to Jesus from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But then immediately after that, when He was driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, Satan insinuated to our Lord that He might not really be the Son of God after all. He said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” You claim to be the Son of God, you think you’re the Son of God, well if you really are, why are you starving out here in the desert? If you’re really God’s Son turn these stones into bread. You see, there was a mixture there of seeking to draw our Lord to sin by a pleasing seduction or enticement…the appeal to his appetite and hunger…and then also by the subtle attempt to insinuate doubt and to challenge his awareness of his unique identity as God’s Son.

There is a very striking and dramatic example of this in the case of Peter when he tells Jesus, “Lord. you’re not going to die.” Do you remember? In Mt.16 Jesus asked His disciples “Who do men say that I am?, and various answers were given. “But who do you say that I am?, Jesus replied.” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Wonderful, so far so good but then Jesus began to tell his disciples about His upcoming sufferings and death. Jesus knew that the commission given to Him by the Father was to lay down his life for the sheep. He knew that the primary purpose for which He came was to suffer and to die on the cross for sinners. But when he began telling his disciples about his death we read that, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord, this shall not happen to You.” And immediately Jesus rebuked Peter but in a very strange way. Do you remember what he said? He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Now was Jesus saying that Peter was really Satan in disguise? No, but at that moment Satan was making use of Peter’s words to seek to insinuate doubts into our Lord’s mind about his mission. Jesus had come to die, but Peter questions it and says, “This shall not happen to You!” And it was the devil who was using this to tempt Christ. But our Lord immediately resisted his suggestion and said, “Get behind me, Satan!”

So this one of the ways Satan sometimes attacks the people of God: he insinuates doubts into our minds. It may be directly or indirectly through the words of other people. All of this should remind us that you must never conclude when you’re sometimes attacked by these doubts this means that you’re not a Christian. When Satan throws his fiery darts of doubt at you, those doubts can only hurt you if you embrace them and welcome them and nurture them. If you hate them and resist them and fight them, don’t let them shake your assurance. This is something Satan sometimes seeks to do.

There are at least two other ways Satan tempts us which fit under this category of deceiving delusions. These will have to wait for the next post.

Some Ways Satan Attacks Us (part one: pleasing seductions), by Jeffery Smith

1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by brotherhood in the world.”

Peter tells us about the identity and characteristics of the Christian’s great enemy. His identity, he is the devil. His relationship to us, he is our adversary. And his characteristics or what he is like, he is like a roaring lion walking about seeking whom he may devour. The second main category of thought is what Peter tells us concerning how we, as God’s people, are to respond to this. He says that we are to resist him steadfast in the faith.

However if we’re going to resist the devil, part of what is involved  is having some awareness of what  precisely, with respect to the devil, we are to resist. What is it the devil does we are to resist? How is it the devil attacks God’s people? If we would resist Him we need to be able to give an answer to that question, otherwise the devil may attack us without us even knowing it. And if we don’t recognize his attacks, how can we possibly resist those attacks? So the focus of this series of posts is upon this question, “How does the Devil attack the people of God?”

Now the simple most basic answer is by temptation. His object is to draw us to sin and to draw our hearts away from God and, ultimately, to destroy our souls and the cause of Christ. Or if he can’t succeed in that he wants to make us gloomy, depressed Christians who present a poor testimony for the gospel. This he seeks to do by means of temptation; sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. But the ways in which Satan and his emissaries tempt us, together with the remaining corruption of our own hearts, may vary greatly. There are many different ways in which Satan tempts the people of God. I’d like to try to give a general overview of some of those ways. Let me emphasize two words in that purpose statement. The first word is “some.” I don’t intend or pretend to be exhaustive. I’m simply hoping to set forth in an orderly way “some” of the ways Satan does this. The other word is “general”. This is a general overview. If you would like a more detailed treatment of this the Puritans wrote many treatises on this subject. I would recommend as one of the best Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. A paperback copy of this book has been available now for some years as published by The Banner of Truth Trust.

I believe almost all of Satan’s temptations can be summarized and then subdivided under three major headings. There are: 1) pleasing seductions, 2) deceiving delusions and 3) frightening intimidations. First of all, Satan and his evil spirits sometimes attack us by means of…..

Pleasing Seductions

By pleasing seductions I’m referring to those temptations of the devil with which he seeks to draw us to sin by the promise of pleasure and the satisfaction of our appetites. Those temptations by which he seeks to rouse our lusts, our passions and our desires. There are at least three avenues through which Satan comes at us with these pleasing seductions. They are what the Bible calls the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

John speaks of these three avenues in 1 Jn. 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” In this passage John describes that worldliness which is in opposition to the love of the Father. And here we learn that the worldliness that is condemned in scripture does not so much lie in the things we do, or the clothes we wear or the place we go. It lies in the human heart, in the human affections and attitudes. Worldliness is whenever the heart is supremely set upon the passing things of earth instead of being supremely devoted to the God of the Bible. Worldliness is when anything that is purely material or temporal is the supreme object of our desires, affections and pursuits. And John tells us that this worldliness has three avenues to which it makes its appeal and seeks to stir up excessive cravings that draw the heart away from God and draw us to sin. They are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The lust of the flesh seems to refer to a desire after those things that promise sensual pleasure and delight to the body. The lust of the eyes seems to refer to those temptations that appeal to our visual perception; those things which draw out the heart after them because they are beautiful, or pleasing, to look at. And then the pride of life seems to refer to that itch in the natural human heart for the honors of this world. Things like position, power, prestige and the desire to make a name for yourself among men. These are three main avenues through which temptation makes its appeal. And I would argue, these are the three main categories of desire Satan seeks to stir up in our hearts by his pleasing seductions and, thereby, to draw us to sin.

We first see this in the Garden of Eden with reference to the very first sin ever committed. Now in v.3 of Genesis three Satan first attacks Eve from another direction. He tells her a lie. “You shall not surely die.” I hope to come back to that later. But then in v.5 he both continues his lie and also by it seeks to stir up the same three desires referred to in 1 John 2. We read, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food”; the lust of the flesh. There’s the prospect of sensual pleasure to the body if she eats it. She also saw, “that it was pleasant to the eyes”; the lust of the eyes. Her heart was also drawn out after it because it was pleasing to look at. And she saw that it was “a tree desirable to make one wise.” There we have the pride of life. Satan had accused God in v.5 of having an ulterior motive by not letting her eat from the tree. God is trying to hold you down and keep you from being all that you could be. He is confining you, and restricting you, because He knows if you eat of the fruit of this tree you will be like a god, knowing good and evil. So she saw it as a tree to be desired to make her wise, to make her like a god. In this way Satan seduced her by stirring up within her heart the pride of life.

So it was through all three of these avenues Eve’s heart was drawn away from her love, trust and devotion to God and led into sin. There is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. So this is the first way Satan attacks us. He tempts us by means of pleasing seductions. In the posts that follow we will look in much more detail at two other ways which will be further subdivided and give some practical applications. The other two are what I’m calling deceiving delusions and frightening intimidations.