By Rick Ezell
During World War II General George C. Patton’s troops and tanks were engaged in a counterattack of German forces under General Erwin Rommel. Patton is reported to have shouted in the thick of the battle, “I read your book, Rommel! I read your book!” And that he had. In Rommel’s book Infantry Attacks, the famed “Desert Fox” carefully detailed his military strategy. And Patton, having read it and knowing what to expect, planned his moves accordingly.
Satan has authored no book, but God has fully exposed our enemy’s tactics in the Bible. Paul challenged the Christians in Corinth to practice forgiveness “So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11, English Standard Version). As Paul was aware of Satan’s tactics, so should we understand his ways.
Satan Is Real
Just as the Bible assumes the existence of God and sees no need to convince the readers of God’s existence, it assumes the existence of Satan. The devil is real! Satan is not a figure of speech, but a real, personal foe.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist,” wrote Charles Baudelaire. Isn’t concealment the perfect way to trap unsuspecting prey? That’s why duck hunters hide in a blind, waiting for the ducks to pass by, unaware of the concealed danger. And this is what the devil does. He hides, he lays in wait, he persuades us that there is no such thing as a real, personal devil; and that is the perfect setup for an ambush.
Satan Is a Deceiver
Satan is a master at making sin look appealing. He deceives us into justifying sinful, carnal attitudes and actions, thinking they are acceptable behavior. He can influence us to criticize and attack others, to create dissension and conflict under the guise of serving God. He delights in getting us busy doing good things that divert us from God’s will. He can cause us to waste hours and days in worldly entertainment and activity without a word of thankfulness and praise. He plants unclean thoughts in our minds and makes us believe there are no consequences since we are under grace.
Satan plays with our minds. He deceives us, convincing us to believe his lies and embrace worldly values instead of God’s Word. Through his subtle deceptions he places a high value on that which God says is worthless. He convinces us that right is wrong and wrong is right.
Satan Is Religious
Believe it or not, the devil is a believer. That’s what makes his warfare so deadly. The enemy actually agrees with us about the foundational truths of the faith that we fight to defend—even using the Scripture we believe against us.
James wrote, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19, ESV). Satan and his demonic legions believe in God, Christ, Hell, and judgment—so much so they tremble. Why? They know their doom is certain. Far from being a saving faith, Satan’s belief is an intellectual assent devoid of volitional surrender and personal commitment.
Satan believes in the Word of God. Satan has a thorough knowledge of the Bible. Yet the devil’s entire ministry is to oppose, twist, and pervert the Word of God. Satan believes the Bible, but he refuses to submit to its authority. Instead, he is busy undermining, denying, and diluting it.
Satan Is a Liar
Jesus was very clear about who Satan is. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, New International Version). Jesus stripped Satan of his disguises and revealed his true character as a liar and a murderer. Satan is a liar whose kingdom is advanced by distorted truths, half-truths, half-lies, and camouflaged error. He twists God’s Word and misrepresents the truth. This should serve as a warning to us. Satan may quote Scripture, but he does so out of context to suit his evil purpose.
Satan Is a Master Strategist
With diabolical brilliance Satan picks the right spot to attack his victims. The devil is far more intelligent than the smartest human being. He discerns the most opportune times, when he has the greatest advantage. Like a military general he determines his strategy—when and where and how to attack with greatest advantage. Satan knows when to attack and when to retreat. He knows when to speak and when to remain silent. He knows when to advance and when to withdraw.
Satan knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows where we are most vulnerable. He knows the weakest chink in our armor. He knows our vulnerabilities better than we do. A thoughtful opponent, he has studied us carefully.
Satan Is Restricted
Satan’s freedom does not mean he is free to do anything he wants. Satan does not have free access to us. God’s sovereignty means that Satan must obtain permission before he can act in a believer’s life. In reference to Satan’s attack on Job, G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The devil, full of subtlety, and malice, and determination to spoil the work of God in the human soul, could nevertheless not touch a single hair upon the back of a single camel belonging to Job until he had asked God’s leave.”
This means we are never at the mercy of Satan. He has limits he cannot cross. He cannot randomly access you or your family. God’s loving protection will always determine the boundaries of what he can and cannot do.
Satan Does Not Fight Fair
Like a terrorist he uses any tactic he can to bring us down. A Texas politician was asked why a certain candidate had lost an election. “It happened because he forgot the first rule of knife fighting: There are no rules.” With Satan there are no rules. He fights as a guerrilla, doing whatever it takes to gain the advantage and win the battle. He is a diabolical masquerader who comes to us in a thousand guises, tempting us to disobey the Lord.
We need to be knowledgeable and aware of how Satan operates. He is unremitting in his pursuit to destroy us. John Calvin observed,
We have been forewarned that an enemy relentlessly threatens us, an enemy who is the very embodiment of a rash boldness, of military prowess, of crafty wiles, of untiring zeal and haste, of every conceivable weapon and skill known to the science of warfare. We must then bend our every effort to this goal that we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed by carelessness and faintheartedness. But on the contrary, with courage rekindled we should stand our ground in combat.
Rick Ezell is a freelance writer in Greer, South Carolina.
Battling the Enemy
• Why is it important that we acknowledge that Satan is real, is a deceiver, yet is restricted by God? What importance is there for our daily lives to understand these truths?
• Consider: are there particular weaknesses in your life that Satan tries to take advantage of? How can you strengthen those areas to ward off an attack?
• How do you react when you face Satan’s temptation? How can you more fully lean on God’s strength rather than your own during these temptations?