Satan is real and has plagued mankind since the creation. The careful Christian will try and understand how Satan works of the devil is very powerful. However, he is not omnipotent that is; Satan does not have unlimited power but, he is very dangerous. Peter describes him as a roaring lion who walks around seeking people to devour (1 Peter 5:18). A cancel button man will take Satan very seriously. He will learn all he can about Satan’s methods and tactics, and he will prepare himself defensively to deal with Satan. In our study, we will focus on what the Bible says about Satan. We must not become distracted by the portrait of Satan painted by the entertainment industry. We will further reject any theological teaching that is at variance with the Scriptures.
Satan Is Inferior to God
Satan is not now, nor has he ever been, more powerful than God. This is an important point, because if we belong to God, then God is certainly able to protect us from Satan. This is not to say that a man cannot give himself Satan. If I choose, I am certainly able to serve Satan in this life. Just as Adam and Eve could choose to obey or disobey, we can choose to obey or disobey as well.
In Job chapters 1 and 2, we see Satan seeking permission from God to tempt Job. The devil’s power is limited. In the case of Job, God knew that this righteous man was able to withstand the attacks of Satan. The Christian has a great promise from God that he will never be tempted beyond his ability to withstand (1 Corinthians 10:13). In the Corinthians passage, Paul makes the point that “God is faithful.” By his great power, God will ensure that we cannot be overcome with temptation and he will ensure that we always have a way to escape whatever temptation comes our way. God’s power is far beyond the weakness of Satan and we may be sure that we can always escape Satan’s snares.
Satan Is Restricted
Clearly, there was a time when Satan enjoyed greater freedoms that he does today. The Bible is replete with stories of Satan’s power. We know that he could confront men and women directly (Genesis 3:1-7), he can bring false charges against people and bring those charges directly before God (Job 1, 2; Zechariah 3:1-10), and, he could cause people to be involuntarily possessed by demons (8:28, 9:32,12:22,15:22, 17:18, et al).
But Jesus said that he came to “bind the strong man” (Mark 3:23-30). Part of Jesus work during his earthly ministry was to bind Satan so that we could be free of him. John writes that Satan has been bound, but not destroyed, for 1000 years. It seems clear that this 1000-year period refers to the church age, that is, the time in which we now live (Revelation 20:1-3). Thus, Satan is now restricted but he has not yet been destroyed. He remains a most dangerous foe.
How Satan Works Today
New Testament writers spoke of the power of Satan. Paul spoke of his schemes or devices directed against mortal man (2 Corinthians 2:11) while Peter describes him “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). So, if he is restricted, but not destroyed, and he remains very dangerous, how exactly does he work?
Satan Works Through Influence
Satan works through influence. He can neither possess nor force a person to sin. He can, however, create powerful influences that may entice us to sin.
Satan Works Through Temptation
Temptation is not sin. Even Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11) but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Likewise, we face temptations too. Temptations are evidence of Satan’s work. He is even called “the tempter” in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5.
Sin arises from unchecked temptation. James gives a clear description of how temptation can grow into sin.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14, 15)
When the Christian is faced with temptation he must act quickly to quell the desires; else temptation grows into full blown sin and death (c.f. Romans 6:23).
Because temptation grows out of our desires, Satan will use those desires against us. In effect, he turns us on ourselves. Consider a hardworking couple trying to make ends meet. The desire for daily provisions is not bad. Work is good (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But what happens when that desire grows into a consuming lust for wealth? Trouble surely follows (1 Timothy 6:9, 10). Satan is an expert transforming good into evil.
Satan Works Through Associates
One of Satan’s heinous tools is the associates with whom we spend our days. These people are our fellow-students and co-workers. They are our confidants, neighbors and church friends. The devil will use these people to reach our weaknesses and exploit the soft points in our faith.
Some of the people we know are not good people. That is, they are kind and friendly to us but reject the basis of our faith and ignore the solid standards of the Bible. The discerning Christians will keep these people at a distance remembering that evil associations are corrupting (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The corrupting influence of associates is not always obvious and is almost never rapid. Instead, like a slowly festering sore, the effects are felt long into the future. The slow progression of such corruption goes unnoticed until we find ourselves fully in the grip of raw, debilitating sin.
Not all associates are bad. Some exert strong positive influences in our lives. These associates share similar values (and similar struggles) and thus help us achieve sound spiritual goals. It is the case that a Christian have friends of the world. However, the Christian must never fall in love with the world (James 4:4) nor should he seek to be “unequally yoked” with the worldly (2 Corinthians 6:14). Christians will have many friends, but his best friends ought to be those of the kingdom of Christ.
Sometimes one may be harmed by the actions of a Christian friend. When Jesus was arrested, he was taken to the High Priest. Peter and John followed. But because Peter was unknown to the gatekeeper he was left standing outside. John then spoke to the gatekeeper and Peter was allowed inside. It was in this courtyard where Peter denied Jesus three times. John, inadvertently, led his friend into temptation (John 18:15, 16). The lesson? Always remain alert and never let your guard down. Even good associations can be harmful.
Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at preachersstudyblog.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @J_Bryant_Evans.
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