We expect the devil to show up in costume, wearing red and holding a pitchfork. We’re prepared for that, having tucked five verses and stern rebukes beneath our spiritual belt. But this is exactly how he wants us to think and, in thinking that way, to be unprepared for his actual method.
Go back to the garden where Eve had a conversation with the devil in the guise of a snake, which is called “more subtil than any beast of the field.” (Ge 3:1) The word “subtil" means crafty, sly, cunning. (H6175) It implies the use of great deception toward a negative end.
We see this description of the devil in other places. In Ephesians 6:11, we are told to “put on” the armor of God in order to take a stand against the “wiles of the devil.” “Wiles” in the Greek means trickery and implies “lying in wait.” (G3180) It means he's planned this deception to cause you to fail and fail big.
Jesus also described the devil, calling him the “father of lies,” a murderer, and a thief. (Jn 8:44, Jn 10:10) It should not need to be said, but lies are meant to deceive. Their purpose is to draw someone into a behavior or way of thinking that will destroy them in some way, and it is their subtlety that we fail to recognize.
Back to the devil in costume. We expect him to appear repulsive. He’s the Gaderene demoniac, naked and cutting himself with stones. (Mk 5:2-5) That man we would know on sight and be able to resist. But more often and most always, the devil’s methods are APPEALING. We don’t like to admit this, but a lie must APPEAL to us in some way in order for us to accept it. It looks good, appears to taste good and feel good, and seems to advance us in some way. It appears to promise promotion and a “good time,” and in its appeal to our mind and emotions, has ready some good excuses for why it is the best route to take. We believe the lie.
Eve heard what the snake said and believed it. All he (the devil) did was take what was TRUTH and warp it. “You will be like gods,” he said. (Ge 3:5) They were already like God. They were made in God’s image, an exact representation of Elohim. (Ge 1:26) They walked in the fullness of God’s presence. He communed with them face-to-face.
“God knows your eyes will be opened and you’ll know good from evil,” the devil said, implying God was holding out on them. (Ge 3:5) In actuality, this was true. They would know evil because it would become a part of them, and death through sin would take hold of man, and also the earth. God was holding out on them, but it was to their benefit. He shielded them from evil so they could live in abundance, success, and great joy. What Eve heard and what Adam accepted (remember, he was not deceived) was a lie with far-reaching, destructive consequences. (1Ti 2:14)
TRUTH is the opposite of the lie.
John 8:32 states, “And ye shall KNOW THE TRUTH, and the truth shall make you free.” It came to me recently that the key to this verse is the word “know.” To “know” in the Greek means to know “absolutely.” (G1097) Something absolute is pure and unadulterated. It is complete and free from limitations. If we KNOW TRUTH, then we are aware of what isn’t truth. We recognize the lie.
What is truth, though? Jesus told us that the Word is truth. (Jn 17:17) Every Word that comes from the mouth of God in written or spoken form is true and is not a lie. If all else around us is speaking at once and we’re unsure of the voices we hear, we can always turn to the Scriptures and find TRUTH.
John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the Word, and Jesus said, “I am the TRUTH.” (Jn 14:6) So the actions of Jesus in the gospels are His ways of TRUTH. We can act and react as He did to our circumstances because He never at any point sinned or was deceived. (Heb 4:15) In fact, faced with the devil, hearing the Scriptures twisted into deception (and make note, the devil quoted the Torah to Jesus), Jesus recognized the lies and was not fooled by them. (Mt 4:1,4) But know this, Jesus did not recognize the lie because He was God. He was God but lived on earth as a man, to give us an example of how to live in the midst of all the temptations, all the lies and deceptions, around us. He overcame the devil because of His relationship to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Mt 3:16) We must know the written and spoken TRUTH of the Word of God, but we must also know HOLY SPIRIT as TRUTH. We must cultivate time with Him and learn who He is, and in response, He will guide us into TRUTH. This is His job description.
“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)
We must KNOW TRUTH isn’t always APPEALING. The lie looks good and feels good, but sometimes, TRUTH hurts.
1 John 2:16 gives us a list of what APPEALS to our body and mind. It says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Notice first, these are called things of the “world” and not things of the Father and the Spirit. Next, notice, they APPEAL to the flesh (the body’s appetite), to the eyes (the senses), and to our pride.
This does not mean TRUTH, although initially painful, will keep us from enjoying life. God wants us to have LIFE ABUNDANTLY. (Jn 10:10) But our enjoyment of life can never go against godly principles, and unless we know what these principles are, having spent time reading the Word and time praying in the Spirit, unless we know what things God has told us to think about (Php 4:8), how we are supposed to react when under pressure, and how we are to respond to people, then we will not recognize the lie when it APPEALS TO US nor hear TRUTHFULLY the excuses that the devil will give to substantiate it. And he has a book of them. He offered Jesus food when Jesus was hungry. He offered Him power, and he had power to give because of Adam and Eve’s sin. (Mt 4:3,9)
But TRUTH prevailed.
We look for the devil dressed as a demon-possessed person, but most often, he looks like us. He is the Pharisees and Sadducees, the townspeople who saw Jesus grow up and couldn’t accept His ministry, those in government elected fairly or forced upon us. He is offense in a formal gown, sporting diamonds and pearls, and bitterness and fear coated in a fragrant cream of excuses for why it’s okay to be like we are and to say what we’ve said. But all of that is deception, and if we indulge it, we drink of the cup the enemy offers, which tastes sweet, but is deadly poison.
In Ephesians 6, where we are told to wear the armor of God to resist the devil’s lies, one important part of the armor holds our righteousness in place—TRUTH! (Eph 6:14) Without TRUTH, our armor will fail. Unless we seek TRUTH and determine to walk in TRUTH, we will not see the lie for what it is, and the seed of the Word planted in us will fail to grow but be choked by cares and pleasures, by lies that have APPEALED to us. (Lk 8:14) Lies that are still lies, although they may taste good and look good and even give us a shortcut to success.
The TRUTH is, real success comes only through a continual relationship with God as Father, with Jesus as Lord and Master, and with the Holy Spirit. (Jos 1:8) TRUTH is obedience to the Word of God and the things of God, sometimes doing what we don’t want to do, but there, in that place of holiness, we will find peace and joy and healing and prosperity. There is clarity of thought, wisdom, and soundness of mind. (1Cor 2:16; 1Cor 1:30, 2Ti 1:7) There is the shield of faith. (Eph 6:16)
Only in our relationship with Christ will we KNOW TRUTH absolutely and without a doubt, so that the next time the devil offers up a lie, dolled up in ribbons and bows, yeah, it may smell great and be pretty and all, but we recognize it instantly and say as Jesus did, “No thanks, Satan.” (Mt 16:23)
Suzanne D. Williams, Author