Satan sought to lead astray his fellow angels. Exhaustive details are not presented in scripture, and we are not sure what ploy he used or what bait he offered, but in the end, thrirty-three precent of God’s angelic ambassadors joined Satan’s cause. He proved to be the very successful tempter.
Some time later, Satan sought to lead away Adam and Eve. He approached them in the Garden of Eden, discounted God’s revelation, told them he knew best, and offered them divinity. If they followed him, they would be like God. First he was successful with Eve, then he added Adam to his team. And in the end, he again proved to be a very successful tempter. One-hundred percent of mankind joined his cause in opposition to their Sovereign Creator.
For the thousands of years before Christ, Lucifer stayed on mission. There was no tribe or culture left alone by the tempter. In the Hebrew scriptures we specifically see him active in Egypt, Palestine, Persia and Greece. And from these same texts we learn Satan was active in every nation, tribe, culture, and family. There was none unaffected by him. His wicked manner of thinking and living became a worldwide pandemic with no one escaping. Satan was a bad creature, a bad worshiper, and a bad leader, but he was a very, very good tempter.
With the coming of Jesus Christ, Lucifer has not altered his ways. He continues to be the Father of Lies seeking to bait, switch, maim, terrorize, and destroy. He is the devil, the Great Satan, the tempter of Jesus Christ, his elect, and all others. He is the murderer coming after all adults and their children. He cares not they be believers or unbelievers. He cares not if they are considered clergy or laity. Whether one is a novice in the faith or an aged veteran, he relents not. Lucifer hates the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and he hates all men and women created in their image. He continues to be manipulative and sly. He is a creative problem solver who constantly morphs his advances, and he never ever tires.
Therefore, there are only two questions for us today. First, in what ways will Satan tempt us? The world, the flesh, and the devil are surely coming our way. It is not a matter of “if,” but one of “how” and “when.” Secondly, how ought we to respond to Satan’s temptations?
In regards to the last question, the Apostle Paul gave inspired counsel to his young friend Timothy. In his last letter, he presented three ways his beloved disciple ought to respond to Satan’s advances:
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
“Flee youthful passions …”
When we are encouraged to sin, an honorable action is to separate ourselves from the tempting person, practice, location, or influence. Paul gives us good advice, “Flee!” There is a time to hit the road and put some distance between Satan’s bait and our mouth. Consider how awesome it would have been if Eve would have run from the serpent, into the arms of her Wonderful Counselor. Consider how good it was for Joseph to leave behind his coat in fleeing from Potipher’s wife. It is not a sign of weakness but of wisdom to scream, “Get thee behind me Satan,” turn our backs, plug our ears, and change environments. It is honorable to sacrifice Christian liberty in an effort to better obey and worship the Father. Friends, there is no need for us to sit at the fried chicken buffet and work on our diet. It is very good to know when Satan is calling and put down the phone. It is very good to know where Satan’s house is located and flee his neighborhood.
“Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace …”
Truth be known, we can run but we cannot hide. Oft times, Satan is like the yelping puppy or the pesky mosquito that will not leave us be. He is like the mentally unstable patient in the film “What About Bob?” Everywhere we go, regardless of the direction we take, there he is. For forty days Jesus walks in accordance with the Spirit in the desert, and on each of these days he is sorely tempted by the devil. It is probable that Satan is even in the Garden of Gethsemane seeking to again influence Jesus on his last night. Parents have long sought to isolate their children, but Satan finds them. Monks, nuns, and Fundamentalists have sought to remove themselves from Satan’s ploys, but they have found there is no Luciferian Safe Zone.
Therefore, we must all learn to fight. And how ought we to fight a spiritual enemy in a spiritual conflict? The answer is prayer. Let us talk with God about his good and wise Law. Let us remind ourselves of the painful consequences of sin. Then, let us rehearse the desires of Satan and contrast them with the unfathomable affection of our Lover, Savior, Wonderful Counselor and Friend. Let’s supplicate with passion; ask the Holy Spirit to not let our minds be conformed to this world, but transformed. With great affection and devotion, let us take Paul’s advise and pursue a heart that loves righteousness, faith, love, and peace. This is what it means to “walk in the Spirit.” Yes, let us confess our sinful actions; more than this let us confess your sinful affections. But always we must keep in mind the Gospel. It is Jesus who saves us from the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is Jesus who pays for all the uncountable times we have submitted to temptation. It is Jesus who provides his all-sufficient righteousness in our stead. And it is only our gracious Jesus who will fill us afresh with his Spirit and grant us any measure of success in progressive sanctification.
And … in the process … you might as well ask Jesus to provide a way of escape. As you fight in prayer, it is not foolish to look for an opportunity of flight to take with your feet.
Find a Friend
“Along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart …”
Yes, I know we who are Christians have the Lord on our side. And yes, I know Jesus is enough; he is all we need. However, listen to Paul. The Lord Jesus who is on our side would have us utilize fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters in our spiritual conflict. We are not to run the race alone, but in a pack. In the Bible, Moses and Joshua have each other. David finds help through his relationships with Jonathan, Samuel, and Nathan. Esther is encouraged and sent in the right direction by Mordecai. Ruth has Boaz and Gomer has Hosea. In the New Testament, Timothy has Paul, Paul has Luke, and Jesus has Peter, James, and John. Therefore friends, let us enter into and build relationships with fell priests — all who are in Christ Jesus. Let us utilize pastors, elders, and mature ladies. Let us take advantage of Christian counselors and doctors who specialize in applying the Gospel, God’s special revelation, and God’s general revelation to particular areas of life. Each of us should get involved in men’s groups, women’s groups, small groups, and support groups, and “getting involved” means much more than mere attendance. We should open our hearts and let people into our worlds. We should eagerly seek to work our way into the lives and hearts of our Christian family members. Children ought not forget the care of their parents. In addition, husbands and wives are intended to be shepherds and helpers; they are intended to be instruments of grace in the hands of the Redeemer.
Tempted brothers and sisters, listen to the sacred text:
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Today we will be tempted.
And today we will be more inclined to say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness as we run from sin, run to Jesus in prayer, and run to Jesus’ family for assistance and support.