Dear Friends of Hope Biblical Counseling Center,
Rarely do I send out articles by other authors. However, my friend, Dr. Rick Carter, www.okcbaptistchurch.com has written an excellent article called, Discerning the Wiles of the Devil to Trap You. In Biblical Counseling one of the challenges for a Biblical Counselor is to get the Counselee to see and to learn how Satan works in their life and how to deal with their lusts. Dr. Carter has presented the issue very well.
Dr. Terry L. Coomer
Director of Hope Biblical Counseling Center
The Bible warns us that we are in a spiritual warfare; this battle covers a wide area of conflict, rang- ing from the old nature within us and our old carnal thinking, to an adversary who the Bible describes as an accuser and a roaring lion, the devil. While it is fair to say that you are often your own worst enemy, your old nature is definitely not your only enemy. Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the dark- ness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Any truly Biblical study on overcoming the pitfalls of sin in our lives must include getting an understanding of both of the enemies of righteousness the flesh and the devil. To understand this enemy you must know some things about him. The Bible teaches us all that we need to know about the devil, in showing us the way that he works, through naming him by his wicked actions.
The first thing we see about the devil in the Bible is that he is intent on deceiving people and luring them into sin. The account of the devil’s first interaction with people is found in Genesis 3:1-7. There we see the tactic of Satan as he twists the Word of God to bring confusion to Eve and deceive her. It says there, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
Notice how the first thing that Satan does is put a negative slant on the commandment of God. The commandment was for life. God said, “Don’t eat of this tree, or it will bring death”; yet the devil twisted it to be a limit to their happiness. If God would just allow you to do all the things that you want to do, you could be happy; but He has limited you, He has withheld true joy from you. The second thing that we see the devil do here is to straight up deny the truth. He told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” He lied to her! In her innocence, she believed the lie of the devil over the warning of God. Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:14, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
Adam sinned willfully to remain with Eve, but Eve was deceived into sin. The devil works relentlessly to deceive and pervert the minds of people to cause them to sin, because he knows that Romans 6:23 is true when it says, “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus identified the devil as a murderer and a liar in John 8:44 when He said, “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.”
Satan is a liar and uses his lies to draw people into sin and destruction, so that they reap the wages of sin in their lives, death, thus making him a murderer. In the end Satan will be defeated and his lies exposed for what they are. It says in Revelation 12:9-10, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” In this passage we see the devil identified as the one which deceiveth the whole world. The Devil has spread his lies to every person on the earth; there is no one who has not been infected and affected by the lies of Satan.
There is also another title given here that identifies the way that the Devil works; he is called the accuser. The devil works hard to bring accusation about believers continually, the Bible said here, day and night. He never rests from his disgusting work. The book of Job is an example of this accusatory work of Satan. It tells us in Job 1:6-11, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Satan is constantly on the prowl to find some believer who is faltering, whom he can bring accusations against.
Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” He is a liar, a murderer, an accuser, and without a doubt our adversary as he seeks to hinder our walk with God; and the way that he has found to be most effective is in this area of telling lies and affecting our thinking. For this cause, we are warned repeatedly to beware of the devil; yet I find that many times we are blindly walking around with no armor on to protect us from his dastardly designs.
We are warned in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The word wiles means “to lie in wait to trick.” It means the traps that he has set, the snares and nets that he has laid in our path, hoping to catch us not watching, so that we might stumble into sin. Several times this warning is given in the Scriptures concerning the snares of the devil. Paul said to Timothy concerning a pastor in 1 Timothy 3:7, “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Even pastors can be caught in the snare of the devil if they are not careful watching against his wiles. Paul said again in 2 Timothy 2:26, “And that they may recover them- selves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
We are to be constantly aware; the Bible uses the term watch to describe how we are to walk in this world, being attentive to the fact that we know Satan has laid snares to trap us. Jesus told His disciples in Mark 14:38, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” And Paul warned us in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” In many other places as well, we are cautioned to be watchful, knowing that the enemy is at work, trying to catch us in the trap of his lies. The great news is that we are told in Proverbs 1:17, “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” If we are watching, we are less likely to be caught up in the trap; if we are attentive, we have a greater chance of seeing the snare and avoiding the lies that the devil has been telling us. We do not have to allow Satan to have victory over us, because Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. We know how he works; we have been given the outline of his plan in the Bible. That doesn’t mean that we will never be caught in a snare; it means that we don’t have to be caught if we are attentive and obedient to the Word of God.
In addition to being a liar, murderer, accuser, and our adversary, the Bible shows us that the devil is a tempter. He knows the weaknesses of your flesh and seeks to exploit them. He even tried this with Jesus, and over an eleven verse passage, we see Jesus do spiritual battle with the tempter. Matthew 4:1- 11 says, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”
Three times the tempter tries to lure Jesus into sin, by tempting Him with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. John said this is the sum of all sin in 1 John 2:16: “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.” The answer to these temptations was the same each time, “It is written.” Satan doesn’t have to tempt the lost with these things, because they are wholly given over to fulfill the lust of the old man already. It is the believer that he tempts, to derail them from being useful to God. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” Paul knew the tempter well; he had been afflicted by him more than once. He had seen others drawn away, such as Demas, who forsook him because he loved this present world and was prey to the work of the tempter.
The devil works against people on three levels. The first is against the lost man, whom he can possess to do his work. Many times in the Gospels, we see Jesus doing spiritual battle with the devil over his possession of the lost. It says in Matthew 9:32, “As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.” The possession of an individual can affect their soul and their body. They will say and do what the devil bids them to do if they are possessed of him. One of the illustrations in the Bible of this is Mark 5:2-5: “And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.”
There are other illustrations of what the devil does to people when he possesses them; but the good news is that the Devil is subject to God, and when he is removed by Jesus Christ, the person is free from His bondage in their mind and body in this way. Matthew 17:18 illustrates this when it says, “And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.”
The next level that the devil can work is in oppression. Acts 10:38 says, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Now a believer cannot be possessed, because God will not share His glory. However, a believer can be oppressed, as seen in the account of Paul’s physical affliction in 2 Corinthians 12:7: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” The oppression of the enemy can be physical or on a spiritual level, as he attacks and seeks to hinder us from serving God. Many times in the book of Acts, the apostles faced the spiritual oppression of the devil as he used the rulers to seek to prohibit them from speaking of Jesus. They were cast into prison and beaten; they were abused in body, soul, and spirit to seek to turn them aside from preaching the truth. The oppressor was hard at work to try and hinder them from doing the work of God.
The final level that we see in the Bible concerning the work of Satan is that if he cannot possess or oppress, he will seek to obsess us with him, so that we stop doing what God has called us to do. This is very clearly seen in Acts 16:16-18: “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.” Here we see a woman who was possessed of the devil and was being used to try and get the attention of the apostles off what they were to do and onto her. He wanted to get them obsessed with what he could do. For many days he attempted this, until finally Paul said, “We will not allow you to divert our attention,” and through the name of Jesus Christ cast the devil out of the woman. There are some who become obsessed with seeing what the devil is doing. Rather than moving forward in the things that God has given them to do, they are constantly looking at what the devil is doing.
The enemy is shrewd and will use any tactic that he can to divert us from the work of God and from walking with God. Matthew 13:39 says, “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.” The devil has sown many people, even in churches, to hinder the work of God. There are people who claim to be believers but are not; they are deceivers and liars planted to hinder you from God’s work. One of the ways you can know the difference between a believer and a pretender is by their works. 1 John 3:8 says, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” That does not mean that a believer will be sinless, but a person who lives in sin and seeks to encourage others to do so while claiming to be a believer is a liar.
You need to know that, though the devil is a skilled and accomplished adversary, you don’t have to be in fear of him, only watchful for his attacks. We are told in 1 John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” We are more than conquerors thorough Jesus Christ who lives within us. The devil has a certain end awaiting him as it tells us in Matthew 25:41, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” There is a place prepared for the devil and all those who have followed his example of not being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. His end is already determined; and his fate is described in Revelation 20:10, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
In the meantime, we are given the commandment to watch. We are told in Ephesians 4:27, “Neither give place to the devil.” That means that we are not to allow ourselves to be caught up in his snares. If we find ourselves there, we have the weapons to be freed because the blood of Jesus Christ cleans- eth us from all sin. What we must do is follow the admonition of James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
The battle that you face against the flesh and your adversary the Devil is one that has already been won by the blood of Jesus Christ; yet daily we must apply the victory to our lives, through attentively watching for the snares and wiles of the Devil and avoiding them. The process of becoming attentive to the snares is not difficult. We have already seen in Proverbs 1:17, “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” I encourage you to begin what I call a trigger list to give you the practice of identifying the snares in your life. A trigger is something that activates the desire to commit sin. Often, the addict will seem to be doing well at maintaining freedom from their sin; and then seemingly out of nowhere their thinking is drawn into the abyss of destruction, and before they know it they are back involved in the sin. They are caught as a bird in a snare; they did not see it coming, and they are devastated about it but feel helpless. You are not helpless; you must however identify the process that is taking place.
A large part of this process of identifying the snares and wiles of the Devil is explained in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” The Scriptures here define a three-part process that is vital if we are going to gain victory over the thought snares of the devil; we are going to call them the 3 C’s.
The first step is casting down imaginations. The snares of the devil are often triggered in the thought life and incubate in our mind, the lust of the old man. If I am going to have victory over the sin that has beset me I must begin with stopping it at the imagination stage. There must be a firm commitment in your heart not to allow the thought to go forward, to grab it with a fervency and cast it out. To allow it to stay is tantamount to sitting on the couch and watching someone rob your house until you get the courage to stand up and say stop. The likelihood is that if you stay silent about it, he will steal you blind; the longer you sit in silence, the less likely you are to actually get up and stop the travesty. The second step is capturing the wrong thought and examining its source. The Scriptures say, “Bring that thought into captivity.”
I encourage you to keep a small note pad with you all the time; and as soon as your thinking starts to go astray, stop and ask yourself, “What just happened?” It may have been an event, it may have been a comment by someone, it may have been a place that you passed, or even a smell or color; it could be any number of things that you have allowed the devil to attach to your thinking, that bring back the memories of sin in your heart. They trigger the lie and plunge you into the wrong thinking again that will lead to the wrong action if it is followed. The trigger list is a way of watching and keeping yourself aware that the devil has laid snares for you. As soon as you are blindly walking along, you will be prey again to him. Determining the source of the errant thinking will help you to walk back out of the detrimental thinking process and move back into the right thinking. It is saying to Satan, “I will not let you grab control of my thinking and thus snare me in a trap of sin.”
A trigger list may look like this: 7/2/12
10:45 am – thought about how good a beer would taste right now – I just walked by the beer cooler in the store
11:20 am – remembered a party that I was at a few months ago – I saw someone wearing a corona shirt
11:50 am – started to think about drink mixes – smelled some citrus smell
When you have that imagination come into your thinking, stop! Say within yourself, “I will not indulge this; I reject this thought.” Then take out your trigger list and record it, along with the thing that happened which might have triggered you to think the damaging thought. The day and time are a good thing to record, because you might find that you have more trouble on certain days or at certain times as you develop your list more. You also might find that certain senses trigger more thoughts than others. A trigger may be anything around you – it could be sights, smells, sounds, songs, certain people, or people dressed a certain way. You may not be able to eliminate all these things from happening around you; but if you are aware of the link, you can begin to sever the tie that those things have on your thinking.
The third and final step in this process is correcting the thinking pattern that was leading down the road to sin. The Bible said we were to have a readiness to revenge all disobedience; thus we are looking for the things that we have done in our past that have laid the point of Satan’s snare. The wrong actions of our past have given him many places to tie us to. Proverbs 5:22 says, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” These cords are the triggers that Satan uses to lay the traps for our thinking. When you have taken the steps of casting down the sinful imagination and then capturing the sinful thinking to determine its sources, the third process of correcting the thinking pattern can be accomplished by following the process of Biblical fasting, assuming that you are already saved. You must cut the cords of iniquity that gave Satan the opportunity to set a snare for your thinking. You are taking back the ground that you have yielded to him in this way and cutting the cords of iniquity that are attached to the trigger. One by one you can cut the triggers and gain freedom, but every believer should maintain awareness of the fact that the adversary is busy day and night seeking whom he may devour. Your attention to your path is vital if you are going
Eliminating the triggers and avoiding the snares is an important step in gaining victory in your life, but it is not the only thing that you must do to win the battle over deceitful thinking and sinful actions. The process of putting on the new man and putting off the old man has just begun at this point.