You have a desperate fight on your hands. Satan is your sworn adversary, obsessively working to exterminate you! You must learn to recognize your enemy and expose his tactics, Here's how you can success fully recognize, combat and thwart Satan.
WE live in a rapidly changing world. Each day brings out another advocate of a new morality or understanding coupled with the rejection of the established ideals and principles. The truths of yesterday are the jokes and myths of today. The world is polluted with an avalanche of contradictory information, conflicting ideas and opposing opinions. Confusion abounds. People are perplexed and frustrated. Is this the way God designed the world? No, God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33) but Satan the devil is — and God warns us not to be ignorant of his devices (II Cor. 2:11). Before God opened our minds, most of us thought "Satan and his demons" were the superstitious figments of primitive imaginations. Even today, many in God's Church are still unwittingly duped by the years of materialistic propaganda absorbed from our pseudo-sophisticated society. Brethren, we tend to discount the terrifying reality of Satan — and he is quick to take advantage.
Satan Is Real
The myth that Satan does not exist was maliciously foisted off on a gullible populace by Satan himself. He knew that man would easily swallow any doctrine exalting man himself as the must supreme being. Satan has deceived much of the world into believing that he is a fictional character. Not only does this facilitate Satan's work but it also gives him a perverted chuckle. Satan realizes that every puny, insignificant human being — "stupid and ugly" — has been given the opportunity to literally become God while he — "brilliant and beautiful" — will be banished forever. Twisted and vindictively malicious, Satan is thus desperately striving to destroy all men — it is his all-encompassing, compulsive passion! Who would Satan most like to destroy? Some ignorant child in Asia? Some Bantu in Africa? Some politician in Europe? No, brethren — it's us — YOU! Our eternal destruction is Satan's most fervent goal — because we will be the firstfruits in God's Family, qualifying for the high ranking jobs for all eternity. As we draw nearer to Christ's return, Satan will apply even more pressure "for the devil is come down unto you having great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12). Satan is going to bolster his churches with great wonders — his ministers will be able to perform tremendous miracles. God warns us that we could fall prey to Satan's tricks — we can be swept away from life! "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt. 24:24). Ponder the power of Satan and his multiple millions of demons: spirit, immortal, invisible, supernatural, indestructible, mobile, potent, able to manipulate objects, events, animals, people. And what about us? — physical, mortal, visible, natural, fragile, sedentary, weak, able to manipulate nothing. Sitting ducks!
Surrounded by Lions
Project yourself into the African jungle. You are alone. Lions are prowling about on all sides. Their ferociously hungry snarls pierce the jungle night. Your eyes are blindfolded, your ears are stopped, your hands are bound. As you timorously shuffle forward, a foreboding realization possesses you: at any instant, without any warning, a lion could pounce on you and dismember your utterly helpless body! Your pulse has become rapid, your breaths are shallow and quick, your wobbly knees are ready to buckle; cold sweat beads along your forehead and moistens your palms, your mouth has dried out and your tongue now sticks to your palate. Brethren, this is neither melodramatic nor simple-minded. We are as a blind, deaf, bound body — helplessly vulnerable to Satan. God Almighty warns us that "the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). Do you fear that scripture? Do you act as though you believe it? Or do you non-chalantly go about your daily routine, relegating "Satan" to exhortative sermons and speculative bull sessions? Don't you believe God? You had better — your salvation depends upon it! Many of us have assumed that our only battle is against our own human nature. Satan is naively discarded. "He is the deceiver of the world — not God's Church" is how we like to reason. We couldn't be more wrong. Paul was writing to God's Church when he admonished: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits] in high places" (Eph. 6:12). Satan and human nature work hand-in-hand; they are kindred spirits. God patterned man's mind after the mind of Satan — saturating it with vanity, rebellion, covetousness, jealousy, selfishness. Satan knows every facet and nuance of human nature — and can subtly exploit it.
But We Can Fight Back
Now, let's not immediately jump to the opposite extreme and clench our teeth, stoop over in a corner and brace ourselves for imminent destruction. Surely God has not created and then called us merely to be the "game" for Satan's hunt. Would our loving Father give Satan complete freedom and absolute authority to do whatever his perverted mind desires? Of course not. But Satan can gain control over your life! That's entirely up to you whether you will let him. Notice the word "MAY" in I Peter 3:8. Satan seeks whom he MAY devour. Who MAY Satan devour? This is an important question — MAY he devour you? That is your most important question. We can best know who Satan MAY devour by first learning who Satan can NOT devour. "But he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (I John 5:18). The wicked one (Satan) cannot touch a begotten son of God (you) who "KEEPETH HIMSELF." Do you get the point? Can you believe this absolute guarantee from your Creator? God states that Satan cannot even touch us — so long as we "keep ourselves." If we do not "keep ourselves" — if we are not vigilant and sincerely dedicated to God — if we "open ourselves," then Satan will have his cherished opportunity to devour us. Satan cannot attack any converted individual unless that individual "opens himself." Ephesians 4:27 warns us: "neither give place to the devil," or in other words, don't give Satan an opportunity or a "base of operations" to launch his attack. Remember how Fidel Castro used his "base of operations" in the Cuban mountains to conquer the entire country? It's the same with Satan. Even the smallest "base of operations" is sufficient to give him the wedge to pry us away from eternal life. Satan will search our minds to find any opening — to ferret out any "loophole" in our character by which he can take advantage of us. Once he finds the weak spot — and he only needs one — his work begins. Satan broods over our weaknesses like a mother hen over her young — protecting, encouraging and nourishing them. In His mercy, God has given us ample ammunition to ward off Satan's attacks. But we must do the fighting. We are told to "keep ourselves" not giving Satan his coveted "base of operations." But how does Satan establish his "outpost of death" in our minds? He has many "devices" and we must unmask and expose them.
Sin and Satan
You have heard that God hates sin but loves the sinners. Well, Satan is diametrically the opposite — be hates the sinner but loves the sin! Satan is the personified embodiment of all sin. Therefore every one of our sins becomes an "outpost of Satan's mind" intruding into our mind (which must now be Christ's mind). "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning" (I John 3:8). As we harbor that sin, Satan establishes and solidifies ail effective base of operations for expanding his corrupting influence — and this outpost does not remain idle! The longer any sin is left festering in our lives, Satan's base of operations becomes progressively more fortified, more powerful and more active. The longer we wait to eliminate the sin, the harder it will become to destroy these outposts of Satan in our minds. We are not trying to cleverly develop some cute analogy. This is reality! God tells us that every time we're disobedient Satan's spirit "works" in us — it is actually invigorated by our sin. (Eph. 2:2, last part). Every time we disobey God — whether it be in the letter or in our minds — we open ourselves to Satan. Do you realize that Satan may not want you to continuously sin. All he requests is that you conscientiously harbor one consistent sin — no matter how small. Satan is perfectly happy to let you delude yourself into believing that you are obeying God by keeping the Sabbath, not eating unclean foods, disciplining your children, etc. He knows that if you habitually protect just one sin, you might as well be breaking every commandment of God's Law; you are guilty of all (James 2:10) and you will be exterminated. This would make Satan extremely happy. Ponder that!
Satan's Favorite Sins
Although any sin opens you to the wiles of Satan, there are certain varieties of sin that are particularly attractive to him. Satan surely rejoices in all sin, but he is especially fond of those sins of which he himself is guilty: lying, an unforgiving nature, being discouraged, self-righteousness, accusing the brethren. When we even start to consider to commit such sins, a beacon radiates out from us, heralding an open invitation for Satanic incursions. Satan is quite personally familiar with these sins; he enjoys working with them and has had much experience. Will your gullible human nature fall prey to Satan? God is warning! Hear and fear! Let's carefully examine each of "Satan's favorite sins" — and learn how we can avoid them in our daily lives. Remember, brethren, this is neither an academic exercise nor some pseudo-spiritual sentimentality. Your eternal life — as a vibrant member of God's Family — is at stake. These words mean nothing in themselves — nor do the scriptures. It is the attitude of your mind which is critical. Meditate about these sins. On every point, level the accusing finger at yourself. Realize that to some degree you are guilty — and "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).
Human nature hates the truth. Lying is a reflex as natural as self-preservation. We are constantly striving to present ourselves in the best possible light, so "naturally" we must "shade" the truth. What is a lie? Is it solely the pronouncement of a false statement? NO! The most diabolical "lies" are actually 100 percent true! Did you realize that? Whenever you slant the truth, that's a lie. Whenever you hold back part of the truth to make yourself look better, even though what you actually do say is precisely true, you are guilty of lying. Has a minister ever had to extract the whole truth from you — or have YOU always freely told him everything, starting with your most obnoxious sins? Be honest! Do you attempt to feed your minister "bits and pieces" of the story, hoping to satisfy him before the entire rancid truth would have to embarrassingly come out? Or have you even connived to subtly change the subject on ministerial visits in order to alleviate the pressure generated from the possible exposure of sin? Brethren, let's not deceive ourselves: these "half truths" ARE malicious, fiendish lies — hurting no one but you. When you lie, you are literally giving your mind over to Satan, transforming yourself into a child of the devil. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).
An Unforgiving Nature
II Corinthians 2:11 directly warns us: "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not [must not be) ignorant of his devices." Let's not pull this verse out of context and only apply it generally. What is Paul specifically cautioning us about? The first part of II Corinthians 2 explains why Paul had written that extremely corrective letter, now called I Corinthians. Recall in I Corinthians 5, Paul commands them to put the fornicator out of the Church. Well, it worked — disfellowship brought this man to Godly repentance. But some of the Corinthians refused to forgive him and would not allow him back into the Church. Paul instructed the Corinthians that an unforgiving attitude — maintaining grudges and rehashing old sins — was fertile ground for Satan's inroads. What about you? Do you find it hard to forgive and forget sin? When you see "that certain person" in Church, do his old sins immediately flash into your mind? Does your unforgiveness of sin taint your attitude toward that individual? God longs to utterly blot out even the faintest memory of our sins (Psalm 103:11-12). Are you more "just" than God? Brethren, when we rehash and harp on the bygone sins of another, we ale not punishing that person — he has been totally forgiven by God — but we are severely damaging ourselves, opening our minds to Satan. Human nature is sick: it forgets what it should remember and remembers what it should forget. Just think about this: for every sin and grudge that you forgive and forget, another avenue of possible demoniacal advancement into your mind is blocked.
We are always affected by what we see. When severe personal trials close in on us, we quickly become disheartened and dismayed. Paul knew that the discouragement resulting from afflictions and tribulations laid the ground-work for the tempter to tempt us. (I Thes. 3:3-5.) We are commanded to live by faith (Romans 1:17). Faith ignores the "around." The worse the trial, the greater the potential for developing faith. Brethren, don't give Satan an opening by becoming discouraged by trials. Rather, give thanks to God for this golden opportunity to enlarge your faith. Prove this approach by putting it to the test. (I Thes. 5:21; Luke 14:19; Mal. 3:10.) It really works.
Self-righteousness is perhaps the most cunningly insidious of all sins. It's real easy for thieves, prostitutes or Sabbath-breakers to emotionally and intellectually acknowledge their sins. But the self-righteous — by definition — do not even recognize the existence of their sins — and therefore come perilously close to eternal death. The Book of Job was included in the Bible to teach us the lesson of self-righteousness. Job, in his heart, accused God of both being wrong and dealing unfairly with him. "I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, he [God] findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy" (Job 33:9-10). Job felt more righteous than God. Have you ever accused God and felt He had dealt with you unfairly? Perhaps you did not outwardly sin with your lips (Job 2:10), but yet did sin in your heart by feeling bitter and resentful toward God because of some circumstance (which you probably caused yourself). There is another common type of self-righteousness. The individual so infected, smugly thinks that he diligently searched for, and found God's Truth. Apparently he has never read Romans 9:16: "It is obviously not a question of human will or human effort, but of divine mercy" (Phillips translation). He also feels condescendingly proud that he gave up "a lot" to come into God's Church, perhaps a lucrative job, friends, relatives, etc., not realizing that all he gave up was death-driving sin! Obviously Philippians 3:8 has escaped his study: "For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I consider it [all] useless rubbish [dung] compared with being able to win Christ. (Phillips translation.) This self-righteous individual now exudes the air of self-confident self-satisfaction because of his supposed ability to keep God's Laws. Sadly, both Isaiah 64:6 "All our righteousnesses are as filthy [menstruous] rags" and Romans 10:3: "They do not know God's righteousness, and all the while they are going about trying to prove their own righteousness" (Phillips translation) are applied to others. The self-righteous are not alone; they have a great champion — consoling, sympathizing, encouraging and sustaining them IN their self-righteousness. Most — if not all — of the recalcitrants, about to be cast into the Lake of Fire, will be sneeringly self-righteous, condemning God for His inhumane ruthlessness — just as their father Satan has always done.
Accusing the Brethren
Have you ever wondered why a particular individual was still attending Church? You "knew" (we won't ask how) that he or she had been committing some obvious sins. "Was God blind?" you wondered. "Why hasn't God punished that person?" Weren't you despising the riches of God's goodness and longsuffering? Didn't you realize that the goodness of God leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4)? We love to judge others — especially those in God's Church. Somehow, we feel that when a brother stumbles, our status rises! In actual fact just the opposite is true (I Cor. 12:26). We are commanded "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. 7:1) and then warned: "For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself" (Rom. 2:1 — Phillips translation). Now, "Judge not" does not mean that we can never tell whether or not something is a sin. A man selling cars on the Sabbath is obviously sinning — that's a fact, not a "judgment." "Judge not" means don't impute motives, don't malign the underlying attitude, don't condemn. Only God can look on the heart, and pass that final judgment, condemnation. All too many of us are quick to question the sincerity, the intent, or even the conversion of others in God's Church at the slightest provocation. We never fail to give ourselves all the benefits of any doubt. Let's give a little bit to each other also. Satan reaches the apex of his hysterical gloating when the brethren of God's Church accuse each other. Satan himself is busy accusing the brethren day and night before God. "The Accuser of the Brethren" is actually one of Satan's names (Rev. 12:10) ! So, when begotten sons of God criticize and condemn one another, Satan is overjoyed — nothing could satisfy him more, nothing is so in tune with his thinking! You can be sure that he immediately rushes up to God (Job 1:6) and yells: "Look God, you condemn me for my supposed 'accusing of the brethren' — but observe that your own so-called sons are heatedly engaged in hurling vicious invective back and forth — explain, if you can." Brethren, how do you think our loving Father feels when we accuse each other? Satan is very clever. If you have uncovered certain scurrilous information about another member of God's Church and then used it to "judge" him (imputing evil motivations), Satan will subsequently enable you to receive additional dirty information; he will station you in just the "right place." The more you judge the brethren, the more filthy opportunities will be given to you; the closer your mind draws to Satan's mind, the greater his control over you. Accusing the brethren is the fastest way to open yourself to Satan. Don't risk learning this fact the hard way — by experience!
Our God is not a negative God. He goes beyond telling us what not to do and instructs us what we should do in order to thwart Satan's devices. He doesn't leave us bound, blind and helpless against Satan's evil devices. In this regard, Ephesians 4:21-32 is an excellent section for study. The key verse (for the present purpose) is verse 27: "Neither give place to the devil." The other eleven verses explain exactly how this can be successfully accomplished. We must "put off" the old man (verse 22) by "putting on" the new (converted) man (verse 23); this shows that an active process is involved, energy must be expended. We put away lying by speaking the truth (verse 25). Our anger must be God-oriented, called into action when another (not self) is hurt. Verse 28 admonishes a repentant thief to go completely in the opposite direction: work hard and then give to the poor. The application of this principle is a strategic weapon in our epic encounter with Satan: whatever your character flaw, overcome it by driving yourself to do the exact opposite. Don't just read these words, nod your head and say, "that sure is right; I hope Mr. So and So does this." Ephesians 4 is for all of us. Right now, list your own major character flaws and determine specifically how you can go the opposite way. Gossip — or rotten, corrupt communication (verse 29) — is another fine way to give Satan a base of operations. Gossip is not only the spreading of false information about other people. It may be 100 percent true — but it is always unauthorized, consistently derogatory and viciously cutting. Gossip is the most underhanded technique for accusing the brethren. Sounds all too familiar! But how do we know whether some specific information is indeed "gossip"? The latter part of verse 29 gives the basic "rule of thumb": speak only "that which is good to edify profitably, that it may minister grace unto the hearers [which God can use to help other people — Phillips]." Whenever you feel the "urge" to tell, pass on, or listen to some questionable material, ask yourself: "Would God use this information to help other people?" If you can't positively answer "yes" forget it! Ephesians 4:30 states: "And grieve not the Holy Spirit." Here is an all-encompassing method for counteracting Satan. But how do we "grieve not" God's Spirit? Let's see. God's Spirit does not pull or coerce; it leads and suggests by triggering thoughts in our minds. This constantly happens to everyone in God's Church. Whenever we ignore these triggered suggestions, and proceed to carry out our pre-arranged actions, we grieve God's Spirit — and do indeed give place to Satan. Finally, verses 31-32 inform us how to quickly eliminate all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking and malice: "Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 6:11-18 is the classic section describing our defenses against Satan's kingdom. God exhorts us to "put on" (verse 11) and "take" (verse 13) "the whole armour of God" so that we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Notice three points. 1) "Putting on" and "taking" are both active processes. We must consciously struggle to wholeheartedly do our part. 2) We need the whole armor of Cod, nothing less than full protection is necessary to repel Satan, since he will exploit any and every weakness. 3) We have no alternative but to stand against Satan; we dare not turn and run, or we will surely be slaughtered. The two most essential parts of armor are the movable pieces — the defensive shield and the offensive sword. Our shield is faith: "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the darts of the wicked [one]." (Eph. 6:16.) The wicked one is Satan. What are his fiery darts? They may come in various guises and forms from persecution and tribulation to discouragement and despondency. But so long as we have the faith of Christ (Gal. 2:16) as our shield, Satan's fiery darts will be rendered harmless. The sword is the only offensive weapon in our arsenal, the sword is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Military strategists have long agreed that the best defense is a powerfully sudden offense. In any situation, at any time, when we are threatened, tried, or tempted, a blistering offensive thrust of the appropriate scriptures will irrevocably turn the tide. In each of the three recorded Satanic temptations of Christ (Matt. 4), the immediate counterattack of the opportune verses stopped Satan cold. God promises to bring the appropriate areas of scripture to mind in time of need (Matt. 10:19-20). However, God will not do our work for us; we must do what we can do: continuously study the Bible, diligently building up our scriptural vocabulary and understanding. Finally, Ephesians 6:18 shows us how to integrate and vivify all the divergent pieces of armor into one, vibrantly cogent, united team: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (in accordance with God's will).
Satan's Sorest Spot
We have seen that the easiest way to open oneself to Satan is to engage in the same repugnant mental contortions which permeate Satan's mind: lying, unforgiveness, discouragement, self-righteousness, accusation. Conversely, it stands to reason that the surest method of completely thwarting Satan is to immerse oneself in whatever activity or work is most repulsively hostile to Satan — the very antithesis of his desires. That work is GOD'S WORK! Satan hates God's Work with an immeasurable, seething, fiendish disgust. Indeed, he has two good reasons: 1) God's Work is heralding the triumphal return of Jesus Christ to take the kingdoms of this world away from Satan; 2) God's Work is proclaiming the mystery of God — that every person can qualify to become God, far overshadowing Satan. Here then is the best way to decimate and disintegrate Satan's attempts to penetrate your mental defenses. Participate in God's Work! Throw your whole being into God's Work. How? Get off yourself. Get on to God's Work. This was the prevailing theme set by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong in his long years in the service of God. When you pray, how much time do you devote to God's Work — the plans, progress, income, top leaders, ministers, foreign offices, departments, broadcasts, co-workers, magazines, and on and on? Are you spending more efforts on your own personally petty "spiritual problems"? Surely don't ignore your problems, but put them where they belong — after God's Work. Are the financial dilemmas of the Work your personal worry? Do you financially sacrifice as a consistent rule, or only "when you can" or "when you feel like it"? The whole issue is really very simple: "Who comes first, you or God?" Satan is very interested in your day-to-day answer to this question. He knows that it is utterly impossible to even confront a mind solidly committed to God's Work, much less puncture it. Yes, we have an arch-enemy, but if we are wholeheartedly committed to God's Work, Satan will have no choice but to "tuck his tail in" and, in a frustrated spasm, slink away. Let's paraphrase James 4:7: Dedicate yourselves therefore to God's Work; this will effectively resist the devil and he will flee from you!