A Spiritual War Zone (Part 1)
It was in the Garden of Eden that sin first entered God’s creation. Throughout history Satan has repeatedly used this identical pattern of deception that he used against Adam and Eve. The same temptations we face and the choices we make every day are displayed for us in this tragic story.
As the account unfolds in Genesis, we notice that at first everything was good. There is no hint of rebellion. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). Here is a picture of perfect fellowship between God and His created beings. God and man walked together in happy communion.
God’s Word to Adam and Eve was short and simple. “‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16,17). There was just one command to keep! You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard!
Satan knew if he could cause Adam and Eve to exercise their independence and disobey, it would break the bonds of their fellowship, and God would lose something precious to Him. The enemy cared nothing about all the suffering that would follow.
To accomplish his goal, the devil employed several tactics. His methods remain basically the same to this day. “Now the serpent [Satan] was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the Garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and was also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:1-6).
Satan’s first attack technique was to plant a seed of doubt, and then outright deny the meaning of God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-4).
We must be careful to stay alert, because it is easy for the enemy to influence us through the many avenues of the world. We are constantly being confronted with spiritual issues that challenge the standards of God as given in Scripture. The enemy will try to raise doubts in our minds about the importance of following God’s Word. Satan will use anything and everything he can to draw us away from the truths of Scripture.
If we are not careful, we too will begin to rationalize situations in our minds. There will always be a temptation to serve our desires rather than remain obedient to what is taught in the Bible. Our subconscious plays tricks on us. This can’t really make that much difference to God. Or, God’s Word doesn’t actually mean this, does it? Satan’s next step is to turn the doubt into outright denial. God understands; He doesn’t mind. He wants me to have what I think is best.
If we ignore God’s Word, as Adam and Eve did, we too break our communion with God, and like them we will suffer spiritual defeat. Not only that, but the next time a similar situation occurs, it will be much easier for Satan to get us to fall again. Before long, our conscience has lost its sensitivity, and we no longer obey that particular standard. Doubt first, then denial. That’s how Satan’s deceptions work.
Please note that I am not talking about the times when we make a mistake and fall; we all make mistakes. And, of course, we all begin our Christian lives as spiritual babies. But God desires that we quickly mature as we grow in the knowledge of His Word and the workings of His Holy Spirit. As this happens, we come under conviction as the Spirit reminds us of the Word. But if the enemy gets us to a point where the Holy Spirit can no longer bring about conviction concerning something addressed in the Bible, we have fallen into deception. This will not necessarily happen immediately; this changing of our thinking can take place gradually.
Satan’s next attack technique was to deceive Adam and Eve into elevating themselves, to be like God, so that they made their own decisions about right and wrong. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh] and pleasing to the eye [lust of the eyes], and also desirable for gaining wisdom [pride of life], she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6). Knowing what Eve had done, God said to her, “‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Genesis 3:13).
By tempting her to use human wisdom to decide right and wrong, Satan deceived Eve into rebelling against God’s command. It is no different today. If we don’t follow God’s Word as our standard, by default we will accept the standards of society. However, this should not be true of those who have been reborn spiritually. Members of God’s Kingdom look to Scripture to establish our standards of good and evil. We are no longer members of the kingdom of the world. This means, as 1 Peter 5:8 warns, that we must constantly be on the alert, because Satan will try to deceive us. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Another point to observe is how freely Satan used the name of God. He didn’t ask Eve to deny God or to quit walking with Him. In fact, he told her that following his advice would make her more like God. He just encouraged her to disregard God’s Word, to doubt that God was serious about the one command He had given them.
When attacking through deception, Satan’s temptations could reference the name of God or something that appears to be godly. But if the inner motivation is to serve the desires of our flesh, be on guard.
SATAN’S TEMPTATION OF JESUS
In similar fashion, Satan did not lure Jesus with the sensual vices of the world to deceive Him. Nor did he suggest that He deny God. He tempted our Lord with self-serving attractions. He encouraged Jesus to step out on His own, to become independent and make His own decisions rather than following the words of His Father.
It is worthy to note that just as Satan used “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes,” and “the pride of life” to deceive Adam and Eve, he used these same three self-serving techniques in his attempt to deceive and cause Jesus to disobey the Word of God. This account is recorded in both Matthew (chapter 4:1-10) and Luke (chapter 4:1-12). Jesus answered all three temptations by what is written in Scripture.
Satan also tempted Jesus through a friend of His. In Matthew 16, Jesus had asked His disciples, “‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘…this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’” (Matthew 16:15-17). Peter had received a revelation from God. But notice what happened immediately following:
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’” (Matthew 16:21-23). Peter’s motivating force was self-preservation for Jesus over and above the will of God.
Learning how Satan attempts to deceive us by using “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes,” and “the pride of life” is an important biblical lesson. It is even more so in these last days as the world now has so many ways to tempt us in these three areas.
At various times we have all fallen victim to deception. And when we do, it can cause a multitude of personal problems and require that we understand another important biblical principle—repentance. We must quickly turn from what deceived us, and confess it to the Lord. Without repentance, our position of living in victory through the power of the Holy Spirit is seriously affected.
Watch for Part 2 of “A Spiritual War Zone” on August 2nd, 2010.Tags: alert, communion with God, deception, denial, disobedience, doubt, fellowship, Holy Spirit, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, rebellion, satan, temptation, the pride of life, world influence