"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices."- 2Corinthians 2:1 1.
It is, according to the Apostle, possible for Satan to get an advantage over the Christian. It is one of the duties of the Christian to thwart that effort, and to do so, he must be aware of Satan's devices. Many of the perplexities and difficulties of the Christian arise from his ignorance of Satan's devices. The word translated " devices " seldom occurs in the New Testament outside of this epistle. It is not to be found in the Septuagint. In the next chapter, verse 14, the same Greek word is translated, " minds," and similarly in chapters 4, verses 4, and chapter 11 verse 3. In chapter 10, verse 5, the English word is " thought." We are not ignorant of the Satanic mind and thought and plot! Touching the life of every believer without exception is a Satanic strategy, an unceasing plotting and planning, carefully directed by supernatural intelligence, and all related step by step, incident to incident, occasion to occasion, with a view to bringing the believer right down to complete and utter defeat. The idea that one day we may be tempted in one direction and on the next day in another direction, in a somewhat whimsical fashion, is an illusion. Every attack upon the believer is part of a master strategy designed in the ultimate to wrest from us all the privileges of grace that are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is most important that every believer should recognise that he or she is certainly the subject of this strategy, and that the less we are conscious of it the more hopelessly involved in it we may be. Indeed, I think that this third class of problems arises from a greater or less degree of ignorance of Satan's devices. Let me suggest three directions in which every believer should exercise the greatest care.
1) IN PERSONAL GUIDANCE
One of the great assurances of the believer is that his life can and should be guided by God in the common as well as the extraordinary ways of life as surely as the cloud by day and the fire by night led the Israelites through the wilderness. It is a truth never to be doubted that in the providence of God all things work together for good to them that love God. If Christians were to make an honest confession, they would have to say that they could now see that in the past where they have deliberately chosen their own way against the way of God, they have been led to regret it. But there is much more in it than that. In every situation of perplexity the believer may be well assured that the strategic operations of Satan are in action. It is not merely that he wants to come to a right conclusion and that careful thought must be given to the matter, but that Satan and his numerous satellites will be active to confuse his mind. Confusion of the mind can come by impatience when the believer is " rushed" to a decision, by impetuosity when, having asked for guidance, the first thought that enters the mind is acted upon. Or it may come by a leisurely putting off of a difficult decision until time makes its own decision against us.
Let the believer know very definitely that times of decision are always, and without exception times when he or she will be beset in the mind by every kind of Satanic propaganda designed to deprive the individual of a true and right conclusion. There are two important considerations that must never be forgotten. First, the believer must really and earnestly, and without any affectation, desire the will of the Lord, and that alone. The hands must be off the scales, prejudice, preconception, subtle leanings and predispositions must be rigorously confessed to the Lord as weakness and sin, and deliverance from them truly desired. The slightest hesitation in this matter will prove to be the point from which the Satanic strategy will work, magnifying one consideration and minimising another, and leading to a wrong conclusion or such deep and impenetrable confusion of mind as will bring the individual concerned into muddle, doubt and despair. This usually eventuates in opening the heart to someone else not necessarily a believer taught of God, and "advice" is given and taken that time alone will reveal how foolish it was.
Make it your business first to bare the heart before the Lord until, as far as you know, as God is your witness, you desire nothing but the pure guidance of the Throne of heaven. Secondly you can never have guidance on any particular and specific issue if you are already going your own way in some other matter. If life is to be guided particularly, it must first be guided generally. If there is a prior matter on which the will of the Lord has knowingly been refused, and is still being refused, then this will provide the opportunity Satan desires, and restless uncertainty and miserable perplexity, will inevitably overwhelm the heart. If we desire definite guidance in a particular issue, the whole life must be based on the guidance of God in general. Intellectual guidance in a specific issue depends upon a conscience void of offence toward God in general. The believer will prove to his or her cost, that if the heart is not generally right with God, any looking to Him in a particular issue, which may not obviously be moral or spiritual, will be attended with perplexity.
Satan has power over the mind through that wrong thing in the life known to the conscience, but steadily persisted in, and unconfessed and renounced as sin. Perfect love casts out fear and, therefore, where these matters are right before the Lord, the believer may look up to Him with sure confidence that He will definitely overrule. Because the child of God is standing with God, so far as he knows, God will guide and reveal His will, and blessing will be in the heart with the peace which passes all understanding. Where this is not experienced, the believer may be certain Satan is working from ground knowingly given by the believer. The second direction in which the believer must exercise the greatest care is in
This will be seen vividly illustrated in the chapter. In this new Christian company at Corinth there was one, there may have been more, who was violating what they had already learned from Paul of Christ. It was one of the reasons for the first letter and the case is really the occasion, if not the cause of the present epistle. To Paul's sorrow the sin had been largely condoned by the Church, and this in itself was a grief to the Apostle. It is a serious matter when the Church itself is not perturbed about the spiritual life and walk of its individual members. We are therefore, moving to a fresh position concerning Satanic strategy. If, in the matter of our own hearts, there is known sin continued and permitted, we shall be led into a strange and perplexing paralysis. For it is obvious that if we are permitting known sin, then either we must be hypocrites in condemning others or else, what is far more likely, we must consent to similar standards for others; and so the whole fellowship is dragged down to a low spiritual level. That means that every new member who joins senses the pulse of the Church from within, and may be easily tempted to accept the same standard for himself. Let me give you an illustration not precisely of what I would call sin, and yet what is it? For many years now, every person making application for Church membership is asked whether he or she will make every effort to attend the weekly prayer meeting, either at the Chapel or the Missions. Invariably the answer is " Yes, " or some honest explanation of the difficulty, but in the great majority of cases the answer is in the affirmative. But what happens? Those who do come soon notice that the matter of the Monday night prayer meeting is not taken seriously by the members as a whole, and so they never come either. The Church as a whole has thus lowered the standard, and for that every member who, able to come to the prayer meeting, neglects to come must be held responsible
Personal relationships, however, are deeper than that. Sin must never be condoned, it must never be overlooked. On the other hand, if it be confessed, it needs must have forgiveness. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than forgiveness. It requires, as between persons, such a yielding to the Lord on both sides as probably will not be known in any other way. On the one hand the heart must be truly humbled to confession and repentance; and on the other, a heart must be so filled with the Spirit as in the same way to give forgiveness lovingly and unstintingly. Actually, even in churches, such operations of grace seldom obtain. There is too much pride to permit confession and there is too much resentment to grant forgiveness in any measure like that which is of the Spirit of Calvary. So that in the hearts of believers Satan has an extraordinary power and influence. If we could take our eyes off the individual with whom we are concerned and could see the supernatural situation involved, we would praise the Lord afresh for the undeserved pardon and forgiveness we have ourselves received. We should then begin to resist the enemy effectively and a great opportunity, so frequently in the hands of the enemy, would be snatched from him. Once we recognise that it is part of Satanic strategy to inveigle one Christian into a wrong position with his fellow believer, and then to stir up the feelings of the other to their mutual undoing we shall be armed against his dark and foul plots. The third issue for the believer is
3) PERSONAL FEELINGS
. It is in this realm that many believers are personally foiled by Satanic strategy. The attacks vary, and are adapted to our spiritual condition. In our desire to draw people to the Saviour, and to encourage their support of Christian institutions, we are apt to leave the impression that what is desired is their support and approval. Provided we can offer sufficient attraction, they are prepared to give support, but the results are often unsatisfactory. Once the believer is off the plane of the "spirit" and prone to judge by feelings, Satanic strategy will work havoc with him. If he is not a true believer or if, being a believer he is in a state of backsliding, then feelings will be found to be all in one direction. He will feel disposed to read his Bible, to pray, and because he does not so feel, he will not do so. His attendance at the means of grace may be dependent on his feelings. Whereas, whatever the weather may be, he must arise and get to the daily round yet when it comes to Sunday, swayed by feelings, which feelings are no less swayed by Satanic influence, he will not be disposed to attend worship and fellowship. Quite imperceptibly the switch over of feeling will be an apathy concerning spiritual matters and a growing enthusiasm over carnal concerns. Only if the Spirit of God unveils his true position will he come through like the prodigal to contrast the pleasant home he once enjoyed and from which he was tempted by his feelings with that sore condition into which feelings have brought him.
Unless the believer is prepared to exercise discipline and give God and His rights as much respect as he is compelled to yield to those who employ him, he will never get back the real joy of the Lord, which emerges out of faithfulness and loyalty. There is, however, the other side. The child of God may be pressing on with the Lord and yet find that feelings are strangely in operation. It is difficult to read the Word of God, it is difficult to pray, it is almost impossible to share in prayer at a prayer meeting. What is the explanation? And the answer is Satanic strategy!
The soldier in battle is serving his country, but it is most uncomfortable. On the other hand, the deserter who has sought refuge behind the lines is quite safe, as far as the enemy is concerned. Loyalty and obedience, as we press forward in the will of God, must bring us into conflict. If we pay heed to our feelings, we shall be overcome, if we pay heed to our Commander, we shall conquer. It is quite possible to be right in the will of God, and for the emotions to be in a state of distress. Surely that is clear from the experience of our Lord at Calvary! Therefore we must pay no heed to feelings, but to the condition of the redeemed spirit which is all-important. Any reluctance concerning our devotions must be dealt with decisively. That we feel we cannot fulfil a certain duty must not be permitted to decide the issue, the duty must be done. We come to a prayer meeting and find we cannot pray, then let us, by the grace of God, do what we cannot do. Only so shall we really step out into the liberty of the children of God. The miracles of the New Testament declare the truth that there are things the carnal man cannot do, but which are possible in the power of Him Who calls upon us to rise up and walk. Satan seeks to work through our feelings, but the Lord is waiting to work through our faith. And this is the victory, which overcometh the world.
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