Brisbane elder Drew Efimov exposes Satan's cunning tactics.
You may have heard of Sun Tzu and the book The Art of War – made famous in the ‘80s when it was being recommended to business leaders.
Wikipedia: “The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the 5th century BC. Attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu – "Master Sun", the text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly thought of as a definitive work on military strategy and tactics.”
There is some debate about whether there was such a person or if it is just written as words of A Master. The general conclusion is that he did live at one time. If so, he knew how to take on his enemy.
Some quotes from his book:
“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
“All warfare is based on deception.” - “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate.”
“If you know your enemy and you know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.”
How well do you know your enemy? We are informed that Satan exists; we know well how he developed from Lucifer, fell and became the enemy of God. My purpose is to focus on how he is active and raise our awareness and vigilance for preparation because we are in danger. The scriptures we’ll look at and refer to are familiar. The reminder is to make sure we’re at ‘Defence Condition 5’ – active warfare. To fight him well, we need to understand his strategies and how to meet them.
When I was a teen my father took us to see the film ‘Patton’ with George C Scott. In it the events of the Second World War are displayed, in particular the battles in North Africa against the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps. There’s a segment in it where the two armies meet, Patton is ready. He had read Rommel's book Infantry Attacks - a classic book on military tactics. Patton knew Rommel’s strategies, he was prepared and he won the day.
Those of you who play chess know how critical it is to think ahead, watch your opponent and predict where he is going. I used to play against my friend Arthur when we were young – wherever we would go, we were up for a game. Once we made up a board on a stump and used rocks for pieces. He had his preferred moves openings, his strategies, I had to prepare to respond with counter moves.
10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
It’s over, punishment has been sufficient, now it’s time to heal up. Why? Because this can be turned to Satan’s advantage. Paul is quite conscious of Satan's wiles – his cunning strategies, his schemes, designs, plans and purposes, his manoeuvring - Knox says 'how resourceful he is' – His malicious intent.
It is easy to lose awareness of him because part of his strategy is to stay hidden in background. Satan stays hidden from this world, most don’t know he’s there – in fact they don’t even realised they've already lost the war. We need to know his moves and be prepared for the warfare being waged on us.
During his ministry, Paul recognised what he was up against; he could discern spiritually when he was being hindered by Satan. He is our Adversary, he resists us – we need to recognise when it’s a spiritual force against us, not just circumstances that aren’t going our way.
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
He is very real, we should not minimise his work, nor should we be intimidated. Paul says, stand up against his trickery. To do this we need to put on armour first - before he comes at us.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints
He highlights each of the pieces and reminds us to first be prepared, not when he shows up. Make preparations for battle and know how to use each piece of the armour outlined.
When we resist we need to know Satan’s strategies and parry them to win.
As a teen my brother’s, sister and I learned Judo. We would go up in a summer evening each week with our ghee and belt to be taught moves, strategies of what to do. If an opponent came from one direction at you, use a throw to use that momentum against him. If he put a hold on you on a certain fashion, how to get out of it and put another hold on him. If thrown yourself, how to roll so that the energy dissipated and could recover. We would practice moves, holds, throws so that they became instinctive. You would match your strategies with theirs. We need to do the same with Satan.
Let’s look at a few of Satan’s strategies and the pieces of armour we use to resist him.
17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
Paul explains his calling – preaching the gospel was intended to release people from the power of Satan and the darkness to God and the truth.
How does he exercise this power?
In Matthew 13, in the parable of the Sower of the seed, Satan is pictured as stealing the truth. He doesn't want them to know the truth; if come in contact with it wants to separate them from it and keep it from even getting started.
2 Corinthians 4:4 talks about how he hides the gospel – blinds their minds so that they won’t turn to the truth.
For those who know the truth, he wants very badly to bring back the veil if he can. It does return to those who neglect their faith, and they end up back where they were, blind again.
In Ephesians 2:2 Paul talks about how those under Satan’s power are stirred up to disobedience, he actively leads them away from conversion; he knows that those who love darkness won't come to the light.
One of those pieces of armour we’re given is the belt of truth. It protects our vital organs with self-control; overcoming the darkness that gets brought on by self-indulgence, giving in to our lusts and slothfulness that doesn't want to study.
1 John 1:5-7
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Walking in the light is critical to staying in fellowship with Christ and the Father – this means practicing the truth.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
This is the conviction of the truth directing our daily walk in the Spirit in obedience to that truth. Holding onto it and staying wholehearted; with our eyes full of understanding from the light from that truth. We want the truth actively working in us, fighting against the darkness Satan controls with.
Revelation 12:9 identifies him that way. He not only takes away truth, he replaces it with error. As Christ said, he speaks a lie. Many lies are spread with half-truths, twisting even scripture – speaking to Christ himself, Satan twisted it to encourage sin.
2 Corinthians 11:3
3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Things are not what they seem. They are masquerades.
Already in the first century John said there are many deceivers in world - that hasn’t changed at all! Books, articles, pamphlets, lectures, and the internet are filled with misinformation, half-truths and lies; all kinds of pronouncements by people with absolute certainty in phrasing may sound very convincing. An inaccurate and incomplete gospel has an effect on its listeners. So much of the gospel is hidden by partial statements, it leaves out parts of God’s truth; the true gospel includes each of the aspects of the purpose of Christ's life and purpose for our life; the return of Christ to restore God's Kingdom; the hope that the deceiver will be driven out; repentance; conversion; walking in the spirit; staying the course; enduring to the end; becoming a member of God’s family in the resurrection. Satan leaves out elements and replaces them with half-truths and lies – such as you already have an immortal soul, no need to repent; once saved always saved; Christ has already come among you; the Kingdom is the Church; you go to heaven when you die.
Look at how Satan started with our mother Eve, the subtlety of his lies. He questions what God had actually commanded about eating of the fruit of the garden, suggesting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil isn’t really prohibited. She responded with tradition added, not the Word of God. Satan’s reply: You shall not surely die (today). It was a half truth, and she believed him.
We need to know the word of God intimately. Paul said we are to work with the sword 'the spirit wields', the Word of God. Recognise the lies through the Word; it identifies falsehood and half truths.
Christ responded to Satan’s half-truth with the intent of God’s word, the source of truth.
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
We need to discern what is beneficial and virtuous from what is injurious and useless and downright wicked. We overcome Satan by the word of God through the inspiration of Spirit, he will send all sorts of half truths and distortions, and we have to cut through it, maturely ingesting the word and making it part of us. The words we’re told – or tell ourselves – will be truth if from God’s word, or may be half-truths and lies if from Satan and his agents. We need to be actively on guard, to defend with the sword and be able to respond. It’s our only offensive weapon.
That is perhaps what he’s most famous for.
With Eve, it was the appeal he made with the forbidden fruit – to her senses, that she would want it, need it, it was desirable, that it was easy, all she had to do was reach out, take it and eat it. Of course, as part of this he hid the nasty side – the consequences that will bring of curses, pain and death. That of course was his intention in tempting. The fruit was his means to an end, to evoke sin and separation from God.
1 Chronicles 21:1
Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.
Satan provokes David to sin – why did David do this? He’s already conquered Ammon and the Philistines, so he knows God is working through his army and it is strong. He is not walking in darkness, he knows the truth. He’s not deceived, he knows the law tells him it’s wrong – don’t count your people. Holding the word close would have kept him away from sin. Even Joab his commander says it’s wrong and reminds David. He has access to a prophet, Gad, but doesn’t consult him. The temptation was too strong to know just how strong his army is, David wants reassurance. Satan wants to see God punish David; he knows God separates himself from sin and will deal with it, and wants to push God into doing this by tempting David – and succeeds.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
Trials can come and dissuade us, making the Christian walk difficult. The temptation to leave their faith is strong, it can make us turn aside and tempt us to quit. Paul here was concerned for those in Macedonia, eager to know that they stuck with the truth. Satan’s desire is to get us off track, to put the pressure on and make it feel like you can’t continue, or lead us away with temptation.
In the parable of the Sower of the seed, who is planting those thorns that spring up and choke the seed? This is what Paul’s concerned about - the snares of the devil that come from cares of life. He leads this world into temptation all the time; one sin after another because of the Tempter. He scatters temptation on every side and lures to see which one we'll grab onto.
Once we see the truth and know the light, we should recognise traps for what they are. Scripture calls them the ‘snares of the devil’ – he’s setting them up with bait to lure us into them. The temptation is real, but we also understand his motivation is to kill us.
Proverbs 1 says it is futile to set up a net to catch a bird where he sees the trap – he stays away. God gives us the wisdom to know better. He also provides the means for overcoming the temptation.
Prayer is the key weapon we are given. What should we pray for? Christ instructs us - Lead me not into temptation, deliver me from the hand of the tempter when he’s around by letting me see the temptation for what it is, help me resist the temptations that I find myself in, make way of escape for me to get away from temptation.
In James 4 & 5, after describing resisting the devil, he talks about humbling ourselves to God, then highlights temptations around us, snares of riches, sin that can be the root of it, temptations in trials and need for patient endurance, temptation to think we can do things by our own power rather than acknowledging God’s will, trials of ill-treatment, trials of health. He sums up that the answer to each of these is prayer. Earnest, heartfelt, continuous prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available. Amplified adds dynamic in its working.
In addition, we are given the armour of the shield of faith to combat these temptations - a faith in God’s power to enable us to overcome.
Portia Nelson has written a piece titled: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters. It reads:
Chapter 1 - I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost... I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2 - I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3 - I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in... It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter 4 - I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Chapter 5 - I walk down another street.
When we walk in faith, we are walking down a different street. We overcome temptation by believing what God says instead is the better way. We are avoiding doubts that it won’t be worthwhile; working in confidence in the promises He holds out for us.
These are weapons designed for combatting Satan’s temptations.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. 4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
Here Joshua has sinned. Satan accuses him. An angel is sent to show forgiveness provided, and Satan is silenced.
This is the spirit clearly behind those who regularly sought to accuse Christ. They were always looking for something that He did that they could accuse Him with. It was just to justify their own attitudes, trying to find fault and to cause Him to do more which would be wrong and escalate guilt.
The story of Job is a classic in this way - Satan starts off accusing Job to God, then works through physical elements to tempt Job to sin, goes back and accuses him again, then works directly on Job’s body to tempt him to sin. Job’s wife gives in to the temptation and urges him to curse God, but he doesn’t. Then the references to Satan stop. Where is he after Chapter 2? I would suggest in Job’s friends – accusing Job that he must have sinned, and tempting him to defend himself by accusation. The same spirit is at work, and this is what truly gets Job angry and defensive; it gets through Job's patience to where he even blames God and accuses Him of injustice. Accusation is very powerful; it causes hard feelings and separates friends.
Which weapon do we turn to for countering this strategy of Satan? I would suggest it’s the breastplate of righteousness.
10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.
The accuser of the brethren here is named for who he is. We are able to overcome him.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
The blood of the Lamb brings forgiveness, then we demonstrate in our lives a faithful witness of our change and desire to obey His will.
Satan thinks he can get the upper hand by knowing our sins, and use our guilt to separate us from God. He also wants to have a hold over us by the threat that we’ll be found out, like someone who is being extorted by someone who will tell all.
The breastplate of righteousness is our being declared righteous by the covering of our sin with Christ’s blood. We have been forgiven when we have confessed our sin and repented and it is our only defence to Satan's charges.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Again, it's that courtroom scene. This time our defence attorney is Christ, and He is speaking on our behalf.
If we then act blamelessly, and do the best we can in the spirit, then false accusation is all that can be brought against us. Then we leave our defence to God.
In addition, we’re given the shield of faith which repels the fiery darts of doubts of our standing with God. We have to believe that the accuser has been overcome, and has no power over us. We have been translated into power of the Kingdom of His Son, and we are no longer under Satan's control.
The shield of faith also helps us to not believe everything we’re told – we know Satan is going to lie, we can't believe accusations, secrets and stories people may tell us about others in his accusations - he will sow doubt.
Paul highlights that the source of these attitudes and motives is Satan. Folks get captured by him and are used as his agents to divide.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus[d] Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
A friend of mine introduced me to Shogi - Chinese chess, which has a different style of play and different powers of the pieces to our western chess. One of the key differences is in its strategic use of captured pieces. Rather than just removing them from the board, as in western chess, as if destroyed, you can reintroduce them onto the board as part of your forces. They are turned against their original team and now fighting as agents for you. Satan loves to do this with us. He wants to co-opt us for furthering his purposes.
Simon Magus in Acts 8 is an example of this, he became a pawn for Satan. Had been baptised by Phillip when he went up to Samaria, and appeared to have repented and believed. Peter discerned the spirit which was really behind him, and Peter's instruction on how to deal with it by repentance went unheeded and Simon went on to be a powerful force against the church, leading many astray.
Gossip, or slander, turn us into destroyers who are dividing others and we participate in sowing the division Satan wants. 'Devil' means slanderer, a false accuser. He uses lies and half-truths (which are common in the rumour mill) to separate.
14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
Joseph's brother's had these hallmarks – envy and jealousy of their younger brother. They allowed it to seethe in them, they wanted to be the leader who would head the clan after their father’s death – ambition was driving them. They also wanted to cover up what they had done, and didn’t want to acknowledge their sin. It grew to be a murderous attitude, even willing to kill him. Instead they sold him into slavery, where he ends up in prisoned under wrongful accusation of rape – a convicted criminal wasting away in an Egyptian jail. Satan isn’t mentioned at all, but his fingerprints are all over the crime scene of a divided family.
The weapon to overcome this is the gospel of peace.
In Genesis 50, Joseph's brothers are afraid, fearing reprisal and payback and they ask for forgiveness. Joseph’s response was forgiveness, he recognised God as the judge, he saw God's purpose in it all and was generous in taking care of them. He restores the relationship as a result.
Matthew 5 talks about how blessed are those who make and maintain peace, they are the sons of God. They are agents of righteousness, reflecting our Father’s will; they are practicing forgiveness and reconciliation, promoting a ministry of reconciliation to the world. They are not a source of conflict but a point of healing discord; they bring together those who are arguing.
Paul said in Ephesians 6 to shod your feet in preparation, to have a readiness produced by the gospel. When division, discord, envy, jealousy and ambition emerge, be prepared with a view of the peace God is looking for. That is the leadership style of His kingdom, and what the gospel urges us to counter Satan’s attacks.
In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13), the enemy sows darnel, or wild wheat, which looks good but bears no fruit. It’s a counterfeit gospel, that doesn’t produce the good works of the good seed. Satan knows the result - that those that are taken in by it will be burned up because they have not borne good fruit.
2 Timothy 3 describes the end time and the way the world will be, part of it is those that have a form of godliness (look good, but deny its power) don’t change with true repentance, Satan knows they won't see God without holiness.
He also uses emotions of hopelessness and depression, and introduces doubt which makes you think you can't make it. He brings on trials and puts us under pressure to rely on ourselves and depart from God. That also can make God seem distant and induce feelings that I'm not important, God doesn't care about me. We looked at Job 1 and Satan's intention was clear - let me at him, and he'll curse You. He was seeking to bring spiritual death to Job.
Satan started in Christ's temptation with a question of who he was – do You know Your identity? Are you really the Son of God? In hope of generating a question of doubt or generating pride, both of which would bring sin. Christ responded with neither.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
We can counter with the helmet of salvation protecting our mind. Our identity is being a son of God; this is our whole life, and nothing he can do can take us away from it, unless we let him. We value the eternal life that is before us, we see our rescue from death as the new start that it is and prize it by bearing fruit. We recognise that there is nothing we can go through which would make it not worthwhile. Salvation has been given as a gift, glory awaits us, and we want to hang onto that identity as God's son or daughter.
Christ spoke often of Satan - more about him in the gospels than in most of the Old Testament; Satan goes from an occasional character to the front and centre opponent. Straight away he’s involved after Christ’s baptism.
23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.
Satan’s reality was known to the Jewish leaders of Christ’s time. Whether he’s there wasn’t a question, it was how he worked and which side Christ was on. Christ reminds them of what it takes to go against an enemy to be able to beat him. The implication from having cast out the demon was both that Christ was not of Satan’s kingdom and that He is stronger – as Amplified puts it: 'he may [thoroughly] plunder his house’. Christ is going to plunder Satan's kingdom.
Christ’s sacrifice provided the assurance of our salvation. When we are raised up out of the water of baptism it parallels Christ’s resurrection – He is there, ready to help us gain salvation.
Christ was completely conscious of Satan and how he works, and provides the confidence to us that he has already won victory over him. This is reassuring as we watch for Satan’s moves against us.
I'd like to finish with this thought on Christ's model prayer. It is an outline for strategic preparation for each day of battle.
It arms us with Prayer: Our Father who is in heaven - focuses on God as supreme authority and praising Him, humbling ourselves.
It focuses on putting on the Helmet of salvation: Your Kingdom come – the desire for salvation we have been offered now, and that awaits for all mankind.
It equips us with the Belt of Truth: Your will be done - the desire for God's will to be done on earth today. It starts in my life and will one day grow to cover the whole world.
It adds the Sword of the Spirit: Give us this day, our daily bread - the Word of God or spiritual bread that we need to live by every day.
It sets in place the Breastplate of righteousness: Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven – we repent from sin, and release others from their debts to us with forgiveness and no longer make claims on them.
It supplies the Shield of Faith: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one - recognising our weaknesses and the traps the devil lays out for us, conscious of the evil one's capacity and asking God for deliverance, overcoming or escaping from temptation and remaining unstained in this world.
Puts on the shoes the gospel of peace: For thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever – the hope of the gospel, the call to entry into the kingdom all mankind through reconciliation, making peace with God.
This is a call to arms! Prepare, put on the Armour! Your enemy is coming.