1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by brotherhood in the world.”
Peter tells us about the identity and characteristics of the Christian’s great enemy. His identity, he is the devil. His relationship to us, he is our adversary. And his characteristics or what he is like, he is like a roaring lion walking about seeking whom he may devour. The second main category of thought is what Peter tells us concerning how we, as God’s people, are to respond to this. He says that we are to resist him steadfast in the faith.
However if we’re going to resist the devil, part of what is involved is having some awareness of what precisely, with respect to the devil, we are to resist. What is it the devil does we are to resist? How is it the devil attacks God’s people? If we would resist Him we need to be able to give an answer to that question, otherwise the devil may attack us without us even knowing it. And if we don’t recognize his attacks, how can we possibly resist those attacks? So the focus of this series of posts is upon this question, “How does the Devil attack the people of God?”
Now the simple most basic answer is by temptation. His object is to draw us to sin and to draw our hearts away from God and, ultimately, to destroy our souls and the cause of Christ. Or if he can’t succeed in that he wants to make us gloomy, depressed Christians who present a poor testimony for the gospel. This he seeks to do by means of temptation; sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. But the ways in which Satan and his emissaries tempt us, together with the remaining corruption of our own hearts, may vary greatly. There are many different ways in which Satan tempts the people of God. I’d like to try to give a general overview of some of those ways. Let me emphasize two words in that purpose statement. The first word is “some.” I don’t intend or pretend to be exhaustive. I’m simply hoping to set forth in an orderly way “some” of the ways Satan does this. The other word is “general”. This is a general overview. If you would like a more detailed treatment of this the Puritans wrote many treatises on this subject. I would recommend as one of the best Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. A paperback copy of this book has been available now for some years as published by The Banner of Truth Trust.
I believe almost all of Satan’s temptations can be summarized and then subdivided under three major headings. There are: 1) pleasing seductions, 2) deceiving delusions and 3) frightening intimidations. First of all, Satan and his evil spirits sometimes attack us by means of…..
By pleasing seductions I’m referring to those temptations of the devil with which he seeks to draw us to sin by the promise of pleasure and the satisfaction of our appetites. Those temptations by which he seeks to rouse our lusts, our passions and our desires. There are at least three avenues through which Satan comes at us with these pleasing seductions. They are what the Bible calls the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
John speaks of these three avenues in 1 Jn. 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” In this passage John describes that worldliness which is in opposition to the love of the Father. And here we learn that the worldliness that is condemned in scripture does not so much lie in the things we do, or the clothes we wear or the place we go. It lies in the human heart, in the human affections and attitudes. Worldliness is whenever the heart is supremely set upon the passing things of earth instead of being supremely devoted to the God of the Bible. Worldliness is when anything that is purely material or temporal is the supreme object of our desires, affections and pursuits. And John tells us that this worldliness has three avenues to which it makes its appeal and seeks to stir up excessive cravings that draw the heart away from God and draw us to sin. They are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
The lust of the flesh seems to refer to a desire after those things that promise sensual pleasure and delight to the body. The lust of the eyes seems to refer to those temptations that appeal to our visual perception; those things which draw out the heart after them because they are beautiful, or pleasing, to look at. And then the pride of life seems to refer to that itch in the natural human heart for the honors of this world. Things like position, power, prestige and the desire to make a name for yourself among men. These are three main avenues through which temptation makes its appeal. And I would argue, these are the three main categories of desire Satan seeks to stir up in our hearts by his pleasing seductions and, thereby, to draw us to sin.
We first see this in the Garden of Eden with reference to the very first sin ever committed. Now in v.3 of Genesis three Satan first attacks Eve from another direction. He tells her a lie. “You shall not surely die.” I hope to come back to that later. But then in v.5 he both continues his lie and also by it seeks to stir up the same three desires referred to in 1 John 2. We read, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food”; the lust of the flesh. There’s the prospect of sensual pleasure to the body if she eats it. She also saw, “that it was pleasant to the eyes”; the lust of the eyes. Her heart was also drawn out after it because it was pleasing to look at. And she saw that it was “a tree desirable to make one wise.” There we have the pride of life. Satan had accused God in v.5 of having an ulterior motive by not letting her eat from the tree. God is trying to hold you down and keep you from being all that you could be. He is confining you, and restricting you, because He knows if you eat of the fruit of this tree you will be like a god, knowing good and evil. So she saw it as a tree to be desired to make her wise, to make her like a god. In this way Satan seduced her by stirring up within her heart the pride of life.
So it was through all three of these avenues Eve’s heart was drawn away from her love, trust and devotion to God and led into sin. There is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. So this is the first way Satan attacks us. He tempts us by means of pleasing seductions. In the posts that follow we will look in much more detail at two other ways which will be further subdivided and give some practical applications. The other two are what I’m calling deceiving delusions and frightening intimidations.