If not for the Bible’s testimony, Satan would operate with near impunity under a cloak of myths and caricatures.
The Rolling Stones nailed it when they penned the chorus of “Sympathy for the Devil”:
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
Though God is supremely concerned with manifesting Himself and His Son to mankind in truth, Satan conceals himself in subterfuge. If he exposed even for a moment his full aspirations to this world, he would perhaps risk losing even his stoutest rank-and-file.
For a time, he encourages a glut of misinformation about his methods, including the belief that he does not exist at all. As Jesus said, “He has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
Every global culture portrays Satan as only trafficking in the mean and the filthy. This is a gross oversimplification, since the enemy of God actually aspires to lofty goals, and encourages others unto them as well.
The devil’s own fall was precipitated by a desire to “make myself like the most high” (Isa. 14:14).¹ In effect, he said, I want the glory of God, but not as a gift. I want to achieve it through my own craft, so that in the end I will be admired, not only for the glory itself, but for the genius and might that it took to get there. Worshipful adoration therefore, is his goal, further evidenced in his failed wilderness temptation of Christ, where he offered Jesus the whole world in exchange for a moment of worship.
And so the very first of the devil’s temptations reflected his own lust, as he promised Adam and Eve, “You will be like God” (Gen 3:5). He presented a pathway independent of their Creator that would enable them to reach their own god-like potential. This “gospel” of self-actualization was unfortunately believed and it turned ruinous. Adam became unlike God, and our race has over the millennia fallen into progressively worse, more freakish distortions. Now the good primal image of the Almighty that belongs to every human, lies submerged and defaced within us.
Yet the most stubborn resistance to the gospel comes not, as we suppose, from the gutter, but “every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). The devil and his legions of demonic spirits find a welcome home among the educated, the moral, the upright, the social crusader. He employs stunning adaptability. The higher the cultural form, the more sophisticated his message.
It is no surprise that we find him most comfortable in the midst of the noble, and so-called enlightened. This is where human beings are the least likely to reject his influence, because when our powers of intellect and virtue develop, it makes us feel we are improving, that we have “slipped the surly bonds of earth,” on our way to becoming the ideal us. Satan need not employ any brutish tactics here. He can enlist any belief system to inspire men into self-reliance, and according to his encounter with Jesus in the wilderness, he can quote Scripture.
Apparently, he can also teach it.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim. 4:2).
Thus, the satanic agenda manages to flow even through religious instruction, and the willing cooperation of teachers who have become numb to the true gospel of Christ. As a result, many will listen to them, embracing “an appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).
The devil makes extravagant concessions in order to promote his self-styled “be like God” campaign. He is willing to hawk brotherhood and unity, compassion and acceptance, tolerance, virtues, and the fact that Jesus is a great example, that God is good, and many other things, which are, on the face of them, true to a certain extent, but cannot in themselves grant eternal life.
He will never, though, advise faith in Christ as crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior.
Concerning this, Lewis Sperry Chafer writes,
“A system of doctrine may then, be formed, which includes every truth of Scripture save one; exalting the Person of Christ, but not His atoning work, and emphasizing one secondary truth as its central value. This system will be readily accepted by blinded humanity, although the real power of God unto salvation has been carefully withdrawn.”²
The wiles of Satan lie not in creating an original system of thought, but borrowing and editing the one given by God. Sadly, books and preachers espousing such cherry picked theology correspond to the description provided by Richard Niebuhr:
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
This vacuous, politically correct gospel is Satanic in origin, but easily fulfilled by human energy. In contrast, the Bible warns against trusting our own works of good. “We shall be like Him” says the Bible, but not by self-rehabilitation and forces of social evolution. The secret is then given—“we shall see Him” (1 John 3:2). It is a look that began when we were drawn to the cross that first day, as we beheld and believed in Him, and it is a look that continues throughout our whole lives as we are
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2)
At long last, that same look of faith will secure for you what the devil wanted, but with all his considerable resources, couldn’t touch.
God gave it to you, instead.
It’s probably a good idea for people to read your playbook.
¹Some theologians have questioned whether Isaiah 14 addresses anything more than a human ruler, and have called into doubt whether the devil was in any way described there. However, I am in agreement with Chafer, as well as a number of other theologians that the application is dual—the passage speaks to the excessive vanity of the Babylonian king, while simultaneously looking beyond him to the very template and inspiration of all destructive pride, Satan.
²The Biblical Doctrine of Satan, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Exegetica Publishing, 1909, 2012, p.