“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” – Verbal Kint, “The Usual Suspects”
The seed plot of the entire Bible centers around a war between those who support God’s plan, (and the redemption of man from the effects of Original Sin), and those who oppose it.
The Bible takes for granted that we accept the existence of God. This is because God’s existence is self-evident. But there is another supernatural personage whose existence the Bible also expects us to take for granted: man’s adversary; the personal, intelligent, powerful, and malevolent spiritual being called the Devil and Satan.
The man in the black hat (and red suit)
The very idea of “the devil” usually elicits eye rolling, and condescending smirks. Many people put him in the same category as Big Foot, unicorns, The Loch Ness Monster, and Scientology – an insignificant figment of myth and legend embraced mostly by the lunatic fringe.
And even when Satan is acknowledged publicly, it’s often in a satirical manner such as the depiction of a guy in a red suit with a goatee and pitchfork. Or he’s simply dismissed as a psychological boogeyman for weak-minded people.
Looking at the matter objectively, Satan’s place in the Biblical narrative appears to be that of a character necessary to complete the dramatis personæ of the story – the villainous plot device needed to create the drama – he’s the Bible’s arch villain, he’s the perpetual boogeyman; the Darth Vader, the Moriarty, the Svengali, the Vodemort, the Hannibal Lecter, the Dick Cheney.
The Bible’s arch-villain
One could argue that with the inclusion of Satan, the writers of the Bible merely utilized the classic story telling components that have existed since man first tried to get his kids to go to sleep at night. You have:
The protagonist (God)
The antagonist (Satan)
The theme (the viability of God’s Plan)
The journey (the Dispensations)
The conflict (Original Sin, and Justification)
The resolution (Redemption)
The prize (Heaven and Earth)
The MacGuffin (Us)
(However, I would contend that it is not the Bible that is mimicking man’s story, but rather all of man’s stories mimic THE story of God’s plan that began with the creation – the classic story telling elements that are present in every epic narrative we’ve ever told or heard appeal to our hearts and spirits on such a deep and fundamental level BECAUSE they reflect the story of our existence and destiny. This is something I plan to explore in more detail after we finish with the Dispensations.)
So then, should we really give significant attention to the idea Satan?
I would say yes. Why? First of all, the Bible makes it clear that he IS real, and since we’ve already shown the validity of the Bible, then it would be safe to say that if it says he’s real, then we should take his existence seriously!
Secondly, we should pay attention to Satan because if you choose God, you are at war with him!
And even if you are not on God’s side, you’re not off the hook. As we’ll see in upcoming posts, Satan hates humanity. ALL of us. Depending on your level of antipathy towards God, Satan either considers you a pawn, a spoil, or a useful idiot.
The Bible clearly expects us to pay careful attention to Satan, and our understanding of his identity is the key to deciding our success or failure in our encounters with him.
We are expected to know that Satan is real and is the source of our struggles
Sin entered this world when Satan tempted the first man and woman to disobey God. Since then, he has continually been the catalyst for spreading evil throughout the earth. We must understand that our EXTERNAL temptation to do evil comes from satanic influence on our fallen flesh. But we have the will and the authority to resist.
We are expected to know that Satan is our enemy
The temptations that we receive from Satan are appealing. They seem to be beneficial and pleasurable in the short term, but we have to understand that any temptation of our flesh will lead to negative consequences.
We are expected to know Satan’s methods
We are all unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. We need to be mindful of our vulnerable areas because these are the places that Satan attacks. He has a specific and effective plan of attack tailored to our weak points. We know Satan’s method of attack in these areas of our lives because he assaults us the same way over and over again! How often do we find ourselves asking “Why do I keep making the same mistake again and again?” The areas where we continually fall are our points of vulnerability. We have to make the conscious effort to protect ourselves. Speaking of which…
We are expected to resist Satan
Whether we like it or not, we are not passive participants in spiritual affairs. God expects us to take an active role in defending ourselves and having victory over our adversary. God gives us the authority, and the Bible tells us how.
Satan employs one of two deceptive strategies when it comes to our direct confrontation with him. His primary strategy is the “I’m not really here” approach. He tries to get us to think that ALL the negative thoughts and actions he uses to influence us are really coming from us instead of him! The result is that we blame and condemn ourselves while ignoring him.
If the first strategy does not work, then he goes in the opposite direction. He leads us to obsess on him and give him an undue amount of attention. He tries to convince us that he is responsible for EVERYTHING that goes wrong in our lives, including things we have caused ourselves, events that are merely happenstance, and even things that God initiates in our lives for the long term good. The result is that we feel that Satan has more power over us than he really does. We become fearful of him and think that we have no hope of overcoming him.
Why does Satan try to deceive us in these specific ways? Because if he is successful in getting us to believe either of his strategies, then we will fail to do the one thing the Bible tells us will defeat him – fight! (this is a war remember?)
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. – James 4:7
If we don’t acknowledge Satan, or feel that he is invincible, we won’t fight against him as the Bible command us to do and we will not have the victory over his machinations through God.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
The only way to lose the battle against our adversary is to not fight him. Satan goes though great pains to make sure that he can execute his schemes without resistance because he knows that believers have the ability to be victorious over him through the authority that God has given us.
Who is this guy anyway?
But if everything I wrote in this post is true, it just leads to many more questions. Where does Satan come from? What does he want? Why does he hate humanity? Why does God allow him to exist? How powerful is he?
The next few posts will further explore the origin, identity, and methodology of Satan as well as how to overcome him.