Seeing the ongoing fascination with dragons and battle scenes in everything from movies to video games reminds me a lot of the storyline of the Bible. Despite the fact that he is a doomed, limping enemy, the old dragon the devil remains crafty, as Scripture says.
How does the old dragon attack people? To fool you, Satan will use various tactics that Scripture warns us about. I want to tell you about some of these tactics because 2 Corinthians 2:11 says that Satan cannot trick us if we become familiar with the tactics he uses against us. Here are nine of his tactics.
Question 5: What specific tactics does Satan employ against us today?
1. Satan will lie to you because he is a liar. If you believe him, your life will be destroyed, because you will be trusting the person Jesus calls the “father of lies” (John 8:44b). Your response to lies must be reading your Bible and listening to Jesus, who throughout John’s Gospel repeatedly says, “I tell you the truth.” Furthermore, when you hear the lies, speak honestly about them with godly friends so that Jesus can speak truth into your life through them. Remember, you never have to persuade the liar that he is wrong and you are right. Instead, be like Jesus, who, in Matthew 4:8–10, ignored the liar’s lies and remained devoted to the truth of Scripture. The world is filled with lies, and every single one is evil.
2. Satan will come to you when you are weak and tempt you to sin just as he did Jesus, because he is the tempter (Matt. 4:1–11).
As a finite being, your energy is limited. It’s a simple truth that you need to eat, exercise, sleep, and take time off, or eventually you will find the limits of your humanity. One thing that I learned about the demonic in all of this is that Satan and demons do not share our human limitations. They do not get the flu, need to sleep at night, get hungry, or face any of the human energy depletions that we do. When the Bible says that holy angels worship and serve the Lord day and night it means that they are not limited as we are. The same goes for unholy angels (demons) who wait for us to reach the end of our tether mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally to attack. This explains why satan unleashed his war on Jesus after forty days of fasting – because in his humanity our Lord was depleted in every way and therefore most vulnerable. Make no mistake, Kingdom work is war and there is an enemy who has more energy than you do and he patiently waits to H.I.T you when you are Hungry, Isolated, and Tired.
The goal of his temptation is to draw you near to him and away from Jesus in rebellion. Your response to sinful temptation must be to resist the devil so that he will flee from you (James 4:7–8). When you do sin, you must keep short accounts with God by repenting of your sin to Jesus and anyone else you have sinned against. When we have done wrong, the right thing to do is run to God.
3. Satan will come to you as your accuser (Rev. 12:10). Satan’s accusations often come in the form of a second-person speaker. Some people have brutally negative self-talk that in some instances may in fact be spiritual demonic opposition in addition to a host of other physical and mental factors. For example, people all the time report thinking or hearing such things as “You’re worthless,” “God could never forgive you,” “You deserve what was done to you,” and “You should just kill yourself to end your pain.” When we think or hear such things we must realize that Jesus would never say such things to God’s children, and if you are hearing accusations like this in the second person, then it may be a spiritual attack.
4. Satan will come to you, often during a season of God’s grace being poured out, to rob you of joy by condemning you. He will remind you of past sins that Christ died for and that you have earnestly stopped doing. In doing so, he will attempt to get you to disbelieve in the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the cross for you to be totally forgiven and freed to a new life. If you believe the devil, you will either doubt God’s forgiveness or seek to do something in addition to Jesus’ work to merit your own forgiveness. Either way, if you disbelieve in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for your sin, and you will be compelled toward either despair or pride but not toward Jesus. In these seasons, you will find an anchor for your soul by meditating on Romans 8:1, which says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
5. Satan will use your sincere heart to heap upon you a very vague, general conviction that, if not recognized, will propel you into deep introspection as you frantically search for some wrongdoing. This is because Satan mimics God and perverts his work. God convicts you of specific sins so that, with his compassionate help, you can change and move on to freedom and joy. Satan, however, will seek to defeat and discourage you through guilt that is so general that you never know exactly what to repent of and are thereby left in paralyzing bondage and despair. In John 8 we are told that satan is basically like an abusive parent and, like all abusive parents, his intent is not to correct you but to harm you, causing suffering and grief so that you feel destroyed without any clue as to what you have done or how to fix it.
6. Because so many sins of both omission and commission have been committed against you, Satan will also seek to gain ground in your life through bitterness (Eph. 4:17–32). The sad truth is that there is virtually no way that everyone who has ever sinned against you will come forward to repent and ask your forgiveness. If you wait for the people who have sinned against you to repent before you can forgive them, you will be prone to bitterness, which Hebrews 12:15 describes as a root that will feed other demonic weeds in your life and choke out your fruitfulness. Therefore, as God brings to mind the people who have sinned against you, you must forgive them. This does not mean minimizing or accepting what they have done, but rather entrusting them to God for his justice through Jesus’ suffering on the cross or their deserved torment in hell. Your part in forgiveness is giving up your just right to hurt them for the hurt they did to you. God may also ask you to confront some of them in order to give them an opportunity to repent, and if they do not, you must trust Jesus to judge and sentence them justly on the day of final judgment.
Satan and demons are never forgiven for anything and never forgive anyone for anything. God travels on the path of forgiveness, Satan and demons travel on the path of unforgiveness.
To refuse to forgive is to open oneself to the realm of the demonic. I am convinced that a bitter believer is potentially empowered by the demonic realm to create chaos in the church. They become more emboldened, more powerful, and more unrelenting because they are accessing a power that is supernatural.
This connection explains why the Bible often speaks of the demonic in the same places that it speaks of forgiveness and unforgiveness.
• Colossians 2:13-15 says, that through Jesus cross God has “forgiven us all our trespasses” and “disarmed the rulers and authorities”.
• 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 says, “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
• Ephesians 4: 27-32 says, “give no opportunity to the devil” and. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
• James 3:14-17 says, “…if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
Those who are forgiven by God but refuse to be forgiving of others end up in a prison of demonic torment. Jesus tells this very story in Matthew 18. His point is that when we allow our hurt to turn into hate, we find ourselves trapped in a bitter prison of torment. It’s the same thing Acts 8:23 speaks of as, “…the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
The question is, who has the key to get us out. Does the other person have the key and if they would only insert it in the lock by repenting after agreeing with us and apologizing to us? If so, they hold all the power over our life and future and we must beg and beat them to apologize so we can exit our cell. Or, do we hold the key to our deliverance in our own hand and place it in the lock through forgiveness?
If you are bitter, you are being tormented by demonic torment and living in a jail cell of misery believing a lie that anyone other than you holds the key. Because I love you, I need you to forgive them as God has forgiven you. And, in so doing you are simply passing their case on to God’s higher court and giving up the constant attempt to convene a jury (even online), sit on a bench, try the entire case, and bang your gavel with your verdict for their punishment. Leave that to Jesus, forgive them, put the key in the lock, open the cell, and walk in the Spirit away from the demonic.
7. Satan will seek to get your eyes off of Jesus. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis writes, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them,” (New York: HarperCollins, 2001, ix). To be sure, we can err in one way by diminishing or even denying what the Bible teaches about Satan and demons. The Bible exhorts us to fix our eyes on Jesus, and not Satan or demons. Even though they are real, real problems occur when we obsess over them, hunt for them, or blame everything on them.
8. Satan will seek to use your unbelief in him. Satan has great freedom in his work with you, to the extent that you have functionally disbelieved in his existence and as a result overlooked his active work in your life. As you grow in your understanding of how the devil and demons work, however, my caution to you would be not to blame everything on them as Eve did, but rather continue to take responsibility for your own shortcomings and entrust the punishment of those who sinned against you to the Lord.
9. Satan will seek to use your pride. Because the root of the devil’s work is pride, you must also continually speak, think, and act in humility, as God’s grace to you requires. As Jesus said in Luke 10:20, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Humility is a weapon that you can use to walk in victory over your Enemy.
Portions of this blog post were adapted from Who Do You Think You Are? (2013, Thomas Nelson), by Mark Driscoll, Death By Love (2008, Crossway), by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, and Doctrine (2010, Crossway), by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.