Satan, Our Adversary

The devil is a formidable adversary. One of our great failings is that we don’t know it. Because we don’t see him, because we don’t deal with him directly, we are not as impressed with his adversarial powers as we ought to be.

The devil is subtle. He works in a covert manner as he tempts and lures through means that are disguised with all kinds of attractive wrappings. He is seldom ever obvious and bears little resemblance to the mountebank who almost coerces his audience into buying the product. He gently prods the subject toward self-justifying actions so that he can entice him toward sin. His devices are discernible (2 Cor. 2:11), though hardly so. His feline movements are calculated and quietly dangerous (1 Pet. 5:8), his appetite ravenous. His powers of disguise are subtle and pervading (2Cor. 11:14), and he is a non-tiring foe.

The devil works by telling lies (Jn. 8:44). Even in the paradise garden he told Eve a lie. “Thou shalt not surely die,” he said. Today his methods have not changed: he still tells lies–mostly the ones folks want to hear.

For instance, he tells folks that subjective religion is true religion. He tells them it is all right if you can’t explain your religion, that “it’s better felt than told,” anyhow. He inauspiciously nods his approval when the human creed is introduced to replace the Bible, and smiles in victory as religious division becomes its best product. He initiates all sorts of movements that make man’s religion a matter of his own subjective reasoning.

He tells society that human opinions can dictate morality. He doesn’t say it that way, of course; he dresses it up some. He says, “Everybody is doing it.” And when he gets folks to agree to that philosophy, he opens the door to all manner of evil–based on the “fact” that whatever the majority does is moral. Immodest apparel, pornography, filthy language, and literally dozens of other sins are tolerated on the basis of this fact. Divorce no longer wears any social stigma and has, in fact, come to be in vogue. Sexual suggestiveness is commonplace in movies, music, and other forms of public entertainment. Free sex among the unmarried and infidelity among the married is epidemic and not only wears no mark of infamy, but is rather approved by the masses. Some psychologists actually recommend an extra-marital affair to help hold together a faltering marriage.

The devil has an appealing presentation for all his temptations. With Madison Avenue tactics he shows his wares and advertises his products. His displays are immaculate designs which place the object of his ploys at center stage, making him–us–the star of the show. He dresses the stage before ever calling out the star. When he does call him there is already established a sense of belonging. It is as if this is the way it should be: the glitter of the stage, the thrill of playing the part, and at the end, the most exhilarating of all human experiences, the approving applause of the audience. By the time the first show is concluded the actor is so hooked that he will return again and again to play the part, oblivious to the lack of substance in what he is doing.

How appealing it is to have someone say, “there’s still time, don’t hurry”! Satan very effectively and surreptitiously steals away our sense of urgency. “There is ample time to change after you have played around awhile,” he will say. Such advice is particularly appealing to the young, possessed of the notion that youth assures a lease on life. Gradually Satan erodes away our zeal, retards our energy, and makes us indifferent to the things that matter and dedicated to the things that don’t.

The devil’s strategy is simple but effective. Many times he does not set out to tempt us to do evil; he merely seeks to cause us to do no good at all. Religion does not rest only in negative holiness, but in doing right things as well. “Relax,” he says, “You’ve done nothing wrong.” With such an assurance he enervates our determination to serve and causes us to stumble over our own self-righteousness.