Chapter 9: ~ “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you.”

I doubt that will ever be your favorite passage, but I assure you: it’s an important one.

Truly those are some solemn and scary words. But just as truly, since Jesus spoke them, and God saw fit to make them part of the Bible, then we need to be aware of them. And while I would admit that there’s probably a certain percentage of Christians who think about the devil too much, I’m convinced there’s a much larger percentage that go way too far the other direction. In spite of what the Bible says, and unfortunately far too many people aren’t really aware of what it says, they really seem to believe that when it comes to the devil, “ignorance is bliss.” But they’re greatly mistaken:

“I did it for your sakes…lest Satan should gain an advantage over us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  {2 Corinthians 2:10, 11 NASB, KJV}

Take it from someone who knew: when we’re “ignorant of Satan’s devices” we allow him to “gain an advantage over us;” and that’s something we can’t afford to let happen.

Did you know that every single New Testament writer speaks of the devil? That certainly ought to tell us something; not the least of which is that God doesn’t want us to be ignorant of him. It also ought to tell us that God knows the devil is a very real foe who’s out to get us; and while God doesn’t want us to live in constant fear of him, He does want us to know what we’re up against.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your great enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.”  {1 Peter 5:8 KJV, NLT}

Lest this chapter start out too negative, let me stop for a second and share with you another passage before I comment on that last one:

“God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world.”  {1 John 4:4 NCV}

I think God would approve of me going a step further: “God’s Spirit is far greater than the devil;” and that’s something we need to ever remind ourselves of. So let me say it again, only this time going even further: Not only “God’s Spirit,” but God’s word, God’s angels, God’s Son, and last, but certainly not least, God Himself, are all far “greater than the devil.” But God never intended that that great truth should cause us to ignore the warnings and instructions He’s given us in His word concerning the devil and his devices.

Having said that let me go back to that 1 Peter passage for a minute and say a couple things about it. First, if there’s one fundamental truth about the devil that we need to learn more than any other, it’s that he truly is “our great enemy”—and that applies to everyone, not just to Christians—and I can’t stress enough how absolutely critical it is that we learn that truth to the very depths of our being. But I have to warn you: not only is that the last thing the devil wants people to learn, but he’s incredibly good at keeping people from learning it. (Unfortunately by nature we tend to be inclined to lean his way, which makes the problem worse. But thankfully God has a solution for that.) Second, I realize that those words of Peter are no more pleasant to dwell on than are those words of Christ in our title passage, but I promise you, God gave us that passage for a very real reason, and we make one of the greatest mistakes of our life if we put it out of our mind because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

So, since the devil is our great our great enemy, and since God doesn’t want us to be ignorant of his devices, I think we would do well to consider a few of those devices.

First and foremost, and this is something that comes in to play in an endless variety of ways: he’s a liar and a deceiver—an extremely skillful one:

“…that ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world.”  {Revelation 12:9 NLT}

And more than any other lie, and behind the great majority of all the other lies—and it comes in all different shades, and to all different degrees—is the lie that in some way, for some reason, God’s ways aren’t the ways of happiness and fulfillment, and that his are. And let me assure you, it isn’t only the non-Christian world that falls for that lie. (Remember those “disciples” in chapter one.) He’s used this method from the very beginning—with incredible success:

“The LORD God commanded… If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die… Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD God had made. He said to the woman… “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will become just like God…” The woman was convinced… So she ate of the fruit.”  {Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-6 NLT, NIV}

That story is so clear, and so well-known, that I’m only going to say a couple quick things about it. #1—We would do well to ponder those words, “the serpent (the devil) was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD God had made.” #2—I didn’t include it, but after we read about the devil’s success with Eve, we don’t read about him then going to tempt Adam. That’s because he was “shrewd” enough to know that Eve would probably have better success tempting her husband than he would. And he was right: “she gave some to her husband…and he ate it.” So we see that Satan is more than happy to let others do his bidding. We also see that when we yield ourselves to the devil we place ourselves in a position where it’s much more likely that he’ll be able to work through us to influence others in a wrong direction. (We should absolutely dread that thought.)

Now I want to look at another story, one that’s not nearly so well known, but one that in my mind is even more enlightening than the one we just looked at as to just how “shrewd” an enemy we’re up against. We’re given a glimpse of it in that Revelation passage I quoted from a few paragraphs back:

“There was war in heaven. Michael and the angels under his command fought the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle and was forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with his angels.”  {Revelation 12:7-9 NLT}

While much of the book of Revelation is symbolic, I don’t believe that part is. There was actually a time—long, long ago—when the devil was a beloved and respected resident of heaven, only then he wasn’t called the Devil, or Satan, but Lucifer:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer? …You have been thrown down to the earth… I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian… Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, until the day evil was found in you… So I banished you… I expelled you… I threw you to the earth.”  {Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:14-17 KJV, NLT}

We’re told in those passages that Lucifer, now called the devil, was created perfect. We’re also told, immediately after God created the world: “God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.” (Gen. 1:31 NLT) I point out those two facts as a prelude to considering that we’re told, not once, but twice in that Revelation passage that Satan had “his angels.” Surely since everything God made was excellent in every way, and since we’re told that Satan himself, then Lucifer, was created as a perfect angel, surely we can’t then come to the conclusion that those angels who joined with Satan to war against God started out that way. So the obvious question that then confronts us is: How did all those angels end up on Satan’s side instead of on God’s side?

In my mind there can only be one answer: just as with Eve in Eden, the devil somehow convinced those angels that God really wasn’t working for their highest good and happiness; that God couldn’t be trusted; or that God’s ways, and God’s rules, were less than perfect, and that he, Lucifer, had something better to offer them. To me, that’s an incredibly solemn warning as to just how convincing a deceiver the devil really is. Think about if for a minute: All those holy, unfallen angels—that lived for who knows how long in the very presence of God—convinced by the devil to turn from God and His ways; convinced by the devil that he had something better to offer them than God did.

But take courage, for though we who are living today are greatly inferior to unfallen angels, and even to unfallen Eve, we have something none of them had: we have four thousand years of history written out for us in the Bible revealing to us in an almost endless number of ways, the unmistakably clear lesson of both the folly and the ruin of thinking that anyone—least of all the devil—has something better to offer us than God does. All we really need to do is to become fully convinced of that. And we would be wise to fill our hearts and minds with Bible passages that will help steer us in that direction—passages like the following:

“Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above.”  {James 1:17 NLT}

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.”  {Daniel 4:37 NIV}

“You alone have the words that give eternal life.”  {John 6:68 NLT}

And on the other side of the coin, we have the words of Christ Himself declaring to us the true character of the devil—a “murderer” and a “liar.” (And take note: he “hates the truth.”)

“He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  {John 8:44 NLT}

In both of those stories—Eve and then Adam in the first one, and those angels in the second one—the devil succeeded in getting all of them to walk in a course that they knew was contrary to God’s clearly expressed will; and that’s certainly one of the devil’s prime objectives and what he’s all about. But that’s not the only way he works. He’s just as happy, and I dare say oftentimes even happier, when he can get God’s people to walk in a path that’s contrary to what God says while at the same time deceiving them into believing that they’re walking in a path that’s in harmony with what God says. And because that’s something that happens far more often than most people realize that’s what I want to consider next.

I’ll start by quoting for you a small portion of a very well-known story:

“He… said unto him… it is written.”  {KJV}

What we have there is someone quoting the Bible to someone else. Do you know who’s doing the quoting and who it is he’s quoting it to?

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, where the Devil tempted him… Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He orders his angels to protect and guard you.’”  {Luke 4:1, 2, 9, 10 NLT}

Once again, think about it for a minute: the Devil came to Him who he knew was “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16) and used the Bible—I should say misused the Bible—as the means with which to lead Jesus down a wrong path, as the means with which to cause Jesus to do something contrary to his Father’s will, as the means with which to get Jesus to sin!!! (Jumping off the top of a building isn’t the way to show your faith in God.)

Now, the devil’s not stupid. (I suppose one could make the case that to war against the Almighty God in heaven wasn’t exactly the smartest thing to do, but that’s another subject.) I’ll word it another way: the devil was certainly no novice when it came to tempting men to sin. He had been practicing and perfecting it for thousands of years, and he knew what worked. And we can be absolutely certain that he came to Jesus in the wilderness with what he felt had the best chance of succeeding.

With that in mind can you have any doubt that the devil still uses that same tactic today? Only today there’s one major difference. And that major difference, along with that same tactic, is going to be the main theme of our next chapter.
But before we go to that, I’d like to share few more things with you. First, a simple little parable:

“Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as everyone slept, his enemy came and planted weeds…” His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” “All right,” he said. “I, the Son of Man, am the farmer who plants the good seed… The enemy who planted the weeds is the devil.”  {Matthew 13:24, 25, 36-39 NIV, NLT}

It really is as simple as believing what Jesus says there: He plants good seeds, and the devil plants weeds. Jesus is our friend, and the devil is our “enemy.” And as I said earlier, we can never learn that too well:

“You know how Jesus went everywhere doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil.”  {Acts 10:38 NCV, NLT}

Next, two verses showing the importance of God’s word in overcoming the devil; and going along with them, a passage showing that the devil also knows the importance of God’s word and isn’t just sitting idly by:

“You are strong with God’s word living in your hearts, and you have overcome the wicked one.”  {1 John 2:14 NLT, KJV}

“By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.”  {Psalms 17:4 KJV}

“When any one hears the word… and understands it not, then the evil one comes and snatches the seed away from their hearts… the seed is the word of God.”  {Matthew 13:19; Luke 8:11 KJV, NLT}

Next, a classic passage that can be memorized in almost no time:

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  {James 4:7 KJV}

And finally, another classic passage; one that’s probably too big for most of us to memorize, but certainly not too big to read occasionally:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood… We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world. Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm… Above all, you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.”  {Ephesians 6:10-16 NLT, NCV, KJV}

Since “above all you will need faith,” I’d like to share with you the great Biblical example of what true faith is:

“[Abraham] was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do.”  {James 2:22 NLT}

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Since finishing this chapter something else came to mind; something far too important to be left out.

It’s certainly true and Biblical that God can do miracles. But as you’ll soon see, it’s equally true and Biblical that the devil can also do them. And while it’s a very bad thing to attribute God’s miracles to the devil, it’s equally bad to attribute the devil’s miracles to God. And the time is coming when it’s going to be absolutely critical that we know how to tell the difference.

“They are the spirits of devils, working miracles.”  {Revelation 16:14 KJV}

“He did astounding miracles… And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world.”  {Revelation 13:13, 14 NLT}

“The beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast.”  {Revelation 19:20 NLT}

“False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.”  {Matthew 24:24 NIV, NLT}

“Test everything.”  {1 Thessalonians 5:21 NLT}

If you weren’t already aware of it: all of those Revelation passages apply to the last days. And as that final passage said, we need to “test everything;” and that certainly includes miracles. And do you know how it is that we’re supposed to test them? Not by our feelings, and not by seeing them—such as “seeing is believing”—but by God’s word. We need to know what God’s word says and be absolutely convinced that anything that contradicts it, even the greatest and most convincing miracle, is not from God—and therefore must be rejected.