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Some Schemes of the Devil

September 5, 2006

(from a sermon on Eph 6:11) 

This word for methods or schemes occurs only one other place in the NT, and it is here in Eph 4:14.  False teachers, human teachers of false doctrine also employ deceitful schemes.  This suggests to me that demons may be behind false doctrine, and this is confirmed by 1 Timothy 4 “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…”  Now what do these demonized conscience-seared false teachers teach?…“men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

Demonized false teachers teach that people should abstain from the enjoyment of created pleasures.  Calvin prophetically warned that we must watch out for “cults of abstinence” and tragically there are many churches, especially in America, that have become cults of abstinence.  Why, you ask, would demons try to forbid you to enjoy created pleasures?  Because Satan would love to get your eyes off of Jesus by duping you into seeking a sham holiness.  Satan masquerades as an angel of light says Paul in 2 Cor 11 also referring to false teachers.  Satan laughs with delight when he deceives legalists into keeping rules that have an appearance of wisdom, but lack any power to change the heart from within because they keep peoples eyes on earthly things and not on things above, not on Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father.  (Col 2-3)

Another scheme of Satan is found also right here in Ephesians 4:26-27.  Notice it doesn’t say that the anger was caused by Satan, that should be ascribed to our own flesh.  We get angry when the desires of our flesh are frustrated.  So Satan’s not to blame for the anger, but unresolved anger creates an opportunity for the devil.  An opportunity to do what?  In the context of Ephesians 4, it’s an opportunity to undermine the unity of the body of Christ.  The devil is at work not just in our individual struggles with temptation, he is at work in our relationships with one another.  The word for devil, both the Hebrew Satan and the Greek diabolos, means accuser or slanderer.  In fact, when Paul tells us not to give in to gossip and slander, he uses the same word, diabolos.  When you gossip, you are being diabolical.  When you slander, you are being Satanic.  High on Satan’s list of priorities is to deceive us into biting and devouring one another.  He attacks us as a body, not just as individuals.

I’ve come to think that every time I do marriage counseling I should remind the couple that their struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.   Your spouse is not your enemy.  You have a common enemy and he has fooled you into turning on one another.

Paul uses a similar phrase for schemes of Satan in 2 Cor 2:11 and there the context is also relational sin, it’s the sin of unforgiveness. “But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”  You see how wily Satan is?  He tempts one brother to sin against another, and then he tempts the other brother to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness.   Satan’s playing both sides against the middle.

Another foothold for Satan in our lives is seen in 1 Peter 5:6-8 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,  casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  I think that Peter mentions our need to be on the alert against the devil right after telling us to cast our anxiety on the Lord because anxiety in our hearts can open a door for Satan to mislead us.  Anxiety is a very dangerous seminal sin that leads to many others.  Jesus puts anxiety top on the list in the parable of the sower of thorns that can choke our spiritual growth.

So anxiety, anger, and unforgiveness are attitudes explicitly mentioned in the Scripture that can be opportunities or footholds for the devil.  So let us be especially watchful over our hearts in these areas.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2006 3:24 pm

    Unforgiveness is a very difficult topic. Personally, there are quite a few people (mostly non-believers) who irritate me just to think about.

    One, in particular, became Catholic not long after deeply hurting me. She’s going into ministry, eventually, and it frustrates me that she had (pre-conversion) accused me of not being able to apologize for anything (possibly baseless, since the last time I spoke to her answering machine, it was to apologize), among other things (toxic, spoiled, etc.). And honestly, out of the three girls who all did pretty much the same thing to me over a six-month period, her words have stuck the longest, despite the fact that they were the shortest of the three diatribes.

    Now that she is a believer, and pursuing ministry, I find it very difficult not to be bitter and angry with her about these past events- I don’t want to bring them up, because I know my feelings are stupid, but at the same time, I really would like for her to acknowledge the pain she caused me. I think I find it hard to forgive her because she hasn’t asked for forgiveness (or acknowledged my feelings).

    What is your advice for that situation? Would you bring it up again only to possibly create more drama, or would you just let things slide and pretend to have a somewhat workable relationship while still inwardly hurting over these things? Is there some handy middle way where I can get rid of the hurt without going to her with it?

  2. September 5, 2006 9:48 pm

    Beth,

    Perhaps it’s a generation gap, but I think this is one of those situations where virtual community is no substitute for real community. We’ll have to get together in the real world and I’ll have to hear more before I can give good counsel. And I don’t want to give such counsel, good or bad, in front of a couple hundred onlookers, knowhutImean?

    Mike

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