Some time back, I was reading part of a work by 16th century theologian, Ignatius of Loyola. The quote below gave me pause and prompted the question: Would you recognize the devil is you saw him? I believe many Christians do not.
“The enemy…makes a tour of inspection of our virtues…Where he finds us *weakest and most defective*…he attacks at that point…little by little, he tries to achieve his own purposes, by dragging the soul down to his secret designs and corrupt purposes.” (Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556; writing of the subtle, systematic, almost unnoticed wiles of the devil)
In his book, Peace With God, Billy Graham writes in response to the erroneous impression that the devil is some sort of fiendish imp with horns, a pitchfork and a pointed tail.
“The truth is that the devil is a creature of vastly superior intelligence, a mighty gifted spirit of [vast] resources… His reasoning is brilliant, his plans ingenious, his logic well-nigh irrefutable. God’s mighty adversary is no bungling creature with horns and a tail – he is a prince of lofty stature, [possessing] craft and cunning, able to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, able to turn every situation to his own advantage.”
The truth of these quotes notwithstanding, the devil is not merely a defeated foe – he is a soundly defeated foe. (The margin of victory wasn’t even close.) “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us,” Paul wrote. Likewise, John (the disciple and eye-witness of Christ) wrote, “You are from God and have overcome [the devil], for [Christ] who is in you is greater than [the devil] who is in the world.”
I could go on and quote numerous other scriptural references regarding the defeat of, and the impending doom of satan, but the primary purpose of this brief blog is to simply remind believers that the enemy doesn’t usually approach us by surprise, startling us. No, instead, he comes disguised as “an angel of light,” making himself appear attractive, safe & harmless. The former atheist, and author of the brilliant Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, described the tactics of the enemy as a “gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Case in point, when Genesis, chapter 3, begins we pick up with what appears to be mid-conversation between Eve and the serpent. I speculate that the serpent has been cultivating Eve’s trust and companionship for some time, earning her ear and trust. I heard a preacher once say, “Satan will take years, if necessary, to bring a believer down.”
As believers, not once are we instructed to walk in fear (“God did not give us a spirit of fear”), looking for a demon behind every door. Instead, we’re instructed to boldly walk in the truth of our victory in Christ’s death and resurrection while in a continual state of awareness: “Be alert and of sober mind,” Peter warned. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Why? So that we might not be “unaware of the devil’s schemes.”
One last sobering thought…
There are two accounts of the wilderness temptation recorded in the Gospels: Matthew and Luke both record the story. However, only Luke adds this statement, “And when the devil had ended every temptation [to Jesus], he departed from him until an opportune time.”
If satan had no plans of leaving Jesus alone, what makes us think we are any different?
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick