Unmasking the Deceiver in Temptation
Satan is not a red monster with horns and a pitchfork...
Does that come as a surprise to you? Probably not. Though we often see him portrayed as such in movies, on the internet, in various art forms, etc… When people try and take what they know to be his evil and deceptive nature they naturally try and portray that evil in visible ways. It’s no different with proposed portraits of Jesus. We see the kind, gentle, good looking illustrations of Jesus and it’s an author’s tribute to what they know about the nature of Christ. Though we of course don’t know what Jesus looked like, we do know that “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). So I can only conclude that these portrayals of Jesus are far from accurate. But what’s interesting is that the portrayals of Satan are far from accurate as well, and I believe this is so important for us to understand. Why? Well what if Satan really looked like that? I mean think about the images you’ve seen… is that someone you’d ever want to get involved with? Of course not! He’s actually portrayed in quite a horrible and awful way that instills a natural sense of fear. We would never be involved with someone like that. So how is it that the world has become so involved with him that they have placed themselves in his control? And how is it that we, in the days before our entering into Christ and the new life, feel under his power as well? It’s because he never comes to us as someone to be feared. Rather he always comes to us as someone and something bearing the image more like that author’s portrayal of Jesus. We would trust someone like that wouldn’t we? We would be more likely to engage someone like that in conversation, to involve ourselves and our time with someone pleasing looking and gentle. Jesus talked about deceivers who would come in among the disciples and appear to be sheep but in fact were ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul is speaking about false apostles and their deceptiveness and how they “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (vs. 15). In the preceding verse though (14) he attributes this same characteristic to Satan himself saying “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” To come to us like the red devil with the pitchfork would be detrimental to his efforts. But he who is committing to schemes and luring away humanity seeks to gain our trust that he might find a foothold in our lives. This amplifies the great need we have as those who are seeking to cling to the Rock our God to expose him in his various forms. Our minds have to be trained to unmask Satan and his deceptive ways so that we can stand firm against him (Ephesians 6:11).
BEHIND EVERY TEMPTATION IS A LIE
Satan tempts in an effort to pull us away from God. When we think about temptation, temptation is essentially a trial/test of our fidelity. We see this in the old and powerful account of the righteous man Job. Satan figured that if the great hedge of wealth built around Job was taken away that Job would curse God. And though he struggled through it he came out faithful in the end. But Satan, and through Job’s closest companions (those he trusted), tried to convince Job of all kinds of lies… “you’ve sinned terribly… this is God’s fault… how could a loving God let this happen… you deserve to have God answer you in this!…”
Satan comes to us with all kinds of lies. We fall because we believe the lies he tells us. When Satan wants us to lie he tells us “this will fix everything; it’s just a little white lie; this is best because it will keep you from hurting their feelings;” etc… Lies when being tempted with lust or to look at pornography: “it doesn’t hurt just to look; a little bit can’t hurt; this is better than actually committing the act with someone.” When being tempted to adultery he tells us: “God just wants you to be happy; no one will ever know; your wife doesn’t respect you anyways… The lies he tells you to get you to neglect reading the Word: “you’re just too busy today; you can’t really understand it anyways.” Or consider the lies he tells us when trying to persuade us to stay home from worship or Bible study: “no one will miss you; it’s not like you ever get anything out of worship anyways; livestreaming is just as pleasing to God.” When being tempted to break the laws of the land and speed he whispers: “nobody drives the speed limit anyways; it’s really not that big of a deal; you’ll just make someone mad if you slow down and you wouldn’t want to tempt someone to anger”… And the list could go on and on and on. Let’s give Satan some credit - he’s great at what he does. He can be pretty convincing sometimes, which would explain why we so often have fallen at his feet to pay him homage by sinning.
OVERCOMING TEMPTATION MEANS EXPOSING THE LIE
Understanding these things about Satan should really emphasize with us that we need to be so training that we can expose the lies he throws at us. Again, we have to be so trained that we recognize falsehood even in the things/people closest to us. We have to be prepared to unmask the great wolf when he approaches us in sheep clothing. But how do we do that? How can we prepare to overcome this great enemy?
- Victory is only even possible when one is in Christ. Christ overcame sin and death and was resurrected to the eternal throne. And for those who will come to Him he offers freedom from sin and power over Satan and his influence. In Christ alone this hope is found.
- The discernment to know what is false comes from knowing the Truth. What the Bible shows us more than anything else is the nature of God Himself. The Old Testament teaches us about the holiness of God and the NT reaffirms that. And when we come to know the way of holiness then we are brought to a point where we have the power to discern, to know, to expose. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us of the powerful discerning nature of the Word of God and it’s ability to judge very accurately and precisely. What’s interesting about that is that when we are committed to the Word of God and use it we are able to judge and distinguish very accurately and precisely. In the context of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 it identifes the great weapon that we have as we are engaged in this spiritual war - the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (vs. 17). When we know God’s Word we are able to shut down the lies of Satan just like Jesus did in Matthew 4 where he repeatedly responded with “it is written.”
It is very possible to have the heart and will so trained by God’s Word that one can instantaneously turn and walk without a thought. Remember Joseph and his immediate fleeing from the tempting woman. I imagine the lies Satan would have told Joseph in that moment would have been “no one will ever know… you work hard you deserve this…” But Joseph wouldn’t have believed that for a moment. “How could I do this and sin against God?” he asked. It’s not just knowing truth but being so committed to that truth that the lie is unbelievable.
The great deceiver is at work among us. Only sometimes we don’t recognize him because he is disguised as an angel of light.
Be sober minded; be watchful (1 Peter 5:8). Resist him, firm in your faith (vs. 9).