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The Barna Group, which is a research organisation, asked a sample of American Christians if they believe Satan is a real being. Even though this was a group of declared Christians almost 60% agreed Satan is not a living, spirit being, but only a symbol of evil.
The Bible teaches Satan is a real, very powerful, evil spirit being, who confronted and tempted Jesus Christ when He was on earth (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). The Apostle John also tells us he “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
Satan is the master of deception and even if you believe he exists, most are not aware of the extent to which he influences us in the course of our daily lives. The Apostle Paul makes two revealing statements about him. One is that the devil appears as “an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14), and the other is that he is the “god of this age” (II Corinthians 4:4).
The influence of Satan’s on humanity can be summarised by focussing on four of his great deceptions.
The first one, as already mentioned, is that Satan wants us to believe he is not real and doesn’t exist. Satan was one of the great archangels created by God. He was at that time called Lucifer and like all the angels, he had free will. He could choose to follow God’s way or reject it. The Bible reveals how this great archangel chose to rebel and become the adversary of God (Isaiah 14: 12-14, Ezekiel 28: 12-19).
The second deception of Satan follows on from the belief that this evil being does not exist. As a result, humanity is duped into ignoring the way Satan influences us to sin and turn our backs on God. Satan affects all human beings, not just terrible criminals and obviously evil people. Notice what the Apostle Paul tells the Christians in the Church at Ephesus: “Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. And were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:3).
The third of Satan’s great deceptions is the belief that faith replaces obedience. In other words, our thoughts and actions don’t matter as long as we believe in Christ. James had to deal with this problem in the early Church when he stated in James 2:19-20: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” What James is saying here is the belief that God exists without striving to obey Him is pointless.
The fourth of Satan’s great deceptions is that God loves everyone….and this is true! God does love everyone, but God does not accept everybody. Jesus Christ died for us because we are not acceptable to God. If we were acceptable to God, Christ would not have had to die for the sins of humanity. Once we have received the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the help of God’s Holy Spirit, there needs to be a change in our nature as we move away from the influence of Satan.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us: “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of Heaven...but he who does the will of God my Father in Heaven, that is the one that becomes acceptable” (Matthew 7:21). Christ goes on to explain why some will be rejected: “And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (verse 23).
Salvation comes through the life, blood, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in Jesus’ own words, He tells us if we believe in Him and then don’t respond to what He plainly teaches He will deny us. We should not be deceived into believing God accepts us and wants us to stay just the way we are. Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount make this very clear (Matthew 5, 6, and 7).
We also need to remember we can’t defeat Satan on our own and in Ephesians 6:12-13 we are reminded of our battle against Satan and how much we need God’s help: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”