C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Screwtape Letters,” is fictional account of a demon-uncle writing his demon-nephew on the best way to deceive a man who’s just been saved. Jesus is referred to as “the Enemy,” which reads odd, but the unusual point of view is incredibly effective.
In 2 Corinthians 2:11, the apostle Paul says we are not to be ignorant of what Satan is thinking, of his plans and schemes, or else he will “get an advantage of us.” In other words, our ignorance gives the devil the upper hand. The apostle Peter made the same remark, “Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1Pe 5:8 ISV)
The devil is LOOKING FOR someone who ISN’T CLEAR-MINDED AND ALERT, and that person he will devour. He is looking for our IGNORANCE.
The majority of the church has put God on autopilot. We let God do all the work and explain away whatever goes wrong with phrases like, “It must be God’s will,” or “God is sovereign.” Rather than pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, picking up the sword of the spirit, which He gave us, and walking by faith (which requires effort), we pretend we’re in a video game with umpteen lives to waste.
I remember, years ago, my brother tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift. I am simply not coordinated enough to know when to press the clutch and change gear. Our one lesson ended in complete failure, and I returned to what was easiest for me – automatic transmission. I let the car make all the decisions.
What works for driving, however, does not work for life. Taking Paul’s and Peter’s statements into account, we have a role to play in not falling prey to the devil. He is constantly searching for someone lackadaisical, unaware, and uninformed, whose good, blessed life he can steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10)
In Ephesians 4:14, Paul calls this type of person a child. Now, obviously, he isn’t talking to actual children but people who are spiritually immature, those who have refused to grow in faith, those who haven’t made any effort to learn the things of God. These type of people will become victims of the devil’s plans.
The verse says, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4:14)
Now, we are not fighting flesh and blood but demonic powers. (Eph 6:12) It is a spiritual battle we are in. However, the devil uses people to do his work all the time, and the results of what these people do on his behalf is the childish man or woman of God being “tossed to and fro” and “carried about.” Both of these phrase definitions in the Greek imply mental agitation, hesitation, and uncertainty.
The word “agitation” is particularly revealing. It means “to move or force into violent irregular action, to shake.” I think of my washing machine which has an agitator to toss the clothes back and forth in the water. This is the picture painted of a childish, ignorant Christian, who is taken in by the devil’s schemes. They have no control over what happens to them.
“Wind” in the phrase “wind of doctrine” is, again, a violent picture. It means “a tempestuous wind.” In other words, storm-force or hurricane-force winds, blowing someone from one idea to another, almost out of their control. Having lived in Florida my entire life, I’ve seen the effect of violent winds, and it takes a strong, well-built structure to withstand them without damage. If you live in an RV or a mobile home, you are always urged to seek other shelter. (See Mt 7:26)
The phrases, “sleight of men,” “cunning craftiness,” and “lie in wait to deceive,” all describe cheating, trickery, deception, and fraud, and remember, these are things done by men against other men. Jesus faced this same demonic spirit many times from religious and political leaders. They’d pose questions, trying to trick Him into making some mistake they could use against Him. It never worked, and one time, He called them out on it.
“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)
The devil is a liar. Jesus was not ignorant of the devil’s plans. For that matter, He knew what the devil did not. Consider, for instance, the devil tried to kill him as a child and influenced Herod (a government leader) to murder all the children under two years old. The plan failed, though. (See Mt 2:13, 16) God had already spoken to Joseph and sent the family to Egypt. Consider also, the words of Caiaphas, the High Priest, who out of hatred prophesied Jesus’ death, “It is expedient for us that one man die for the people.” (See Jn 11:50-51) The devil didn’t even hear the truth of Caiaphas’ words but caused men to crucify the Son of God, not knowing that Jesus' death would mean his own ruin.
“Okay,” you say, “I see your point. How, then, do we begin to grow up? How do we become mature spiritual adults who aren’t ignorant of what the devil is trying to do to us?”
First, as I said, it requires our effort. We make the time to do it. This means, at some point in the day, we sit down, turn off the noise around us, and read the Bible. The Word of God is light to our feet. It is truth, and it is life. (See Ps 119:105; Jn 1:4; Jn 17:17) It is our foundation, our anchor. Greatest of all, it is God’s voice. It is the most important way God speaks to us. In order to hear Him and follow Him, we have to put His words in us. They must become our first actions under pressure. No longer will we react with worry and stress, but we speak what God said about us as powerful members of His church.
Second, we guard our heart. This means not putting into it the things that displease Him. I have learned what I don’t hear or see never bothers me. Now, I’m not talking about being ignorant. I am talking about changing your habits. Stop watching the news or programs that promote violence. Don’t read those books anymore or listen to that song artist. I have found after changing my watching and listening habits, I cannot tolerate what I used to enjoy, and as a result, I hear God much clearer. (See Pr 4:23)
Third, we guard our mouths. We speak right words, and conversely, we refuse to say wrong words. We don’t participate in gossip or strife. We refuse to take offense, and trust me, I know how hard that is. I have opportunities, temptations, to be upset with people all the time. But a temptation is just that, simply the opportunity to speak wrong. I only sin when I do it. Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, but He never sinned, and He is our example. (See Rm 10:10; Heb 4:15)
Fourth, pray continuously. This is making prayer a lifestyle. It means having a relationship with God where, at any time, we speak to Him and expect Him to answer. This expectation is faith, and a person of faith will see and hear God. Not simply see the results of his prayers but know God Himself. This is our goal, our deepest wish, because when we know Him, all our struggles seem light. (See 2Co 4:17; Php 3:10; Heb 11:6; 1Th 5:17)
Lastly, we spend time praying in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our contact with God and when we pray, He will speak to us. I have found more answers after praying with Him than I could ever dig up through study. But this is His role, as Jesus told us several times.
In John 14:26, He says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, HE SHALL TEACH you all things, and BRING ALL THINGS TO YOUR REMEMBRANCE, whatsoever I have said unto you.” A short time later, Jesus made another remark about the Holy Spirit, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, HE SHALL TESTIFY OF ME.” (Jn 15:26) Now, let’s read from John 16. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, HE WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL TRUTH: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and HE WILL SHEW YOU THINGS TO COME.” (Jn 16:13)
Read those again. Did you catch what He said?
First, know this—the Holy Spirit fell in the book of Acts AFTER Jesus had died and risen again. So, the words the Holy Spirit speaks about Jesus to us are words of victory. They are also words of comfort. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to strengthen us and fill us with the peace of God which can only be found in His presence.
But also, secondly, the Holy Spirit shows us “things to come.” This is both the good which will happen in our lives, but also, what the devil is up to. We can be one step ahead, at all times. We don’t need to be ignorant and weak. We don’t have to take everything he dishes out, but we can stand strong in faith and give glory to God for our complete deliverance. (See Rm 4:20) Deliverance doesn’t have to always mean we suffered in some manner. Sometimes, it’s that God protected us, and we didn’t suffer at all.
Most importantly, when we make the effort to become mature, God will be pleased with us. All He’s ever wanted, from the beginning of time, was to work through men to spread His righteousness throughout the earth. He wanted to speak and have us hear Him and see us obey as a result.
Why? Because heaven should be more real to us now than the world we live in. What a marvelous thought! If you can’t see that yet, then I encourage you to spend more time with Him until you do and refuse to be a weak, lazy Christian anymore, someone blown around violently by everything she hears and prey to all the tricks and fraudulent schemes the devil conjures up.
Jesus rose again to give us power over that. We should act like it.
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Suzanne D. Williams, Author