In the preface of his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote:
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. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
I agree with Clive Staples Lewis, and I believe that Satan is effective at tricking us into following one of two patterns.
- To underestimate him – so that he can lure us into a hidden snare.
- To overestimate him – so that we may be so intimidated by him that we are paralyzed by his threatening power.
As we have seen from Isaiah’s prophecy Satan…
- Desires to Be like God
- Desires to Sit on God’s Throne
- Desires to Be Worshipped as God
That is what Satan wants for himself (goals he knows he’ll never attain), but what does Satan want from mankind? He desires for humanity to reject God’s authority just as he did. This is his desire because he wants us to share his fate. Satan hates God, and he delights in the destruction and degradation of man because man is the only being created in God’s image.
- He wants our souls to be separated from God.
- He wants to prevent your practice from matching your profession.
- He wants to divide the family and corrupt the society. That has been his desire from the beginning.
He tempted Eve in the Garden, and he fanned the flames of jealousy in Cain’s heart (Genesis 4:6-7; 1 John 3:10-12); a jealousy which culminated in the first human blood being spilt on the earth. The family is God’s design not only for procreation but for the propagation of the faith from one generation to the next, and the family is beleaguered by dysfunction, disobedience, abuse, immorality, materialism, and addictions. Satan would utterly destroy the family if he could. Of course, any society or organization will only be as strong as the families of which they are constituted. Kill them or corrupt them, Satan’s design is to wreck havoc on God’s creation.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
The story of Job’s life certainly verifies the veracity of Peter’s warning.
We know from Hebrews 4:15 that Christ was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” This doesn’t mean that He was tempted to visit illicit Internet sites or falsify His income tax report. It does mean that he was tempted in the core areas of life just as we are. What 1 John 2:16 calls the “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
The strategy of the adversary may be clearly observed by examining his temptation of Christ in the Judean wilderness. Before I list the three-pronged attack, please notice that Satan will furiously attack during times of stress, hunger, and fatigue. That is what he did to Jesus, and he will do the same to us.
#1 – Turn Away from the Will of God
Matthew 4:3-4 – And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Turning stones into bread was no problem for Christ. In a matter of months He would feed a massive crowd with five loaves and two fish. He would do that twice during his ministry. Christ met the needs of other people. What would be wrong with meeting his needs?
Nothing; except for this: it was not Christ’s time to eat. To have done this would have been acting independently of God. That would have interfered with the divine timetable. Christ was to endure 40 days and nights of fasting and then the temptation of the Devil. Jesus lived by a set of priorities, and His top priority was doing the will of the Father (John 4:34).
As always, the enemy tempted one to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. The temptation’s essence was that the needs of the body are more important than the needs of the soul; that physical needs should take priority over spiritual needs.
We may guard against Satan by doing what Jesus did, using the Word of God! “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We would do well to cultivate a Job-like appetite. Job says, in 23:12: “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” Even through hunger pangs that I cannot imagine Christ saw through the temptation. The bread that satisfies the soul is more important than the bread that satisfies the body.
#2 – Turn Away from the Word of God
Matthew 4:5-7 – Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in [their] hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Satan is no easily defeated. He immediately pressed the Lord in another area, and this time he quoted scripture. After taking the Lord to the pinnacle of the Temple he tempts the Lord to throw Himself down, and quotes Psalm 91:11-12 as evidence that Jesus will be supernaturally protected from harm. Again, this was not something which Jesus was powerless to do. Christ calmed storms with a word. He walked on water. He could have leapt from the Temple and floated to the ground, but that was not the Father’s will. Jesus was not a circus performer who did miracles on demand!
In his use of scripture, the enemy used one scripture passage against another, instead of putting passages beside one another so that they might be rightly understood. His error was not in omitting a line from the Psalm, but in misinterpreting the lines he actually quoted. His desire is to get us to sin even while pointing to a Bible verse. Don’t be fooled. Satan is able and more than willing to say right things. He can mouth sound doctrine, but his intentions are always evil. Satan deliberately misused God’s Word to tempt Christ to ignore God’s Word. Jesus knew that it was important to not only know what scripture says but also what it means. He resisted the temptation of using one verse of scripture to nullify another.
#3 – Turn Away from the Cross of Christ
Matthew 4:8-11 – Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
A person can be measured by how much he will pay or give up to gain power. Satan offered Christ a shortcut to the kingdom – instant power. He offered a crown without the cross – painless power. This was an offer to wear the crown with no need to bear the cross. Satan, as Lucifer, once worshipped Christ in heaven. Now he attempts to have Christ worship him on earth, but Christ would not turn aside from the Father’s will. He went to the cross.
Satan can no longer tempt Christ to avoid the cross, but he does tempt us to be ashamed of it, to belittle it, to lack confidence in it, to minimize it, or just plain forget it. Satan desires for you to believe that a crown is possible without a cross; that salvation is attainable without the Substitute.
We must be obedient to God’s will by rightly dividing the word of truth and glorying in nothing but the cross.