The devil cannot attack God, so he attacks God’s people. At issue is whether God’s character will be defamed by God’s servants.
My character reflected on my father just as my sons’ character reflects on me. Consequently, one of Satan’s most effective ways to turn people from considering the love of Christ is to focus them instead on the failings of Christians.
Why does the devil love to use “secret” sins? Because he knows what they do to us: “desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). And he knows that any sins, known by others or not, are enough to grieve and “quench” the Holy Spirit’s work in and through our lives in the world (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
If I were Satan, I would try to convince all Americans to be atheists. The twentieth century saw firsthand the consequences of the denial of God, with one hundred million deaths due to atheistic communism around the world. Erwin Lutzer was right: “It is said that after God died in the nineteenth century, man died in the twentieth. For when God is dead, man becomes an untamed beast.”
A significant key to refusing temptation and strengthening our personal character is deciding before temptation strikes that God is always right and Satan is always wrong. It is choosing to believe that our Father knows better than we do and that he only wants what is best for us.
When we obey God, He strengthens us. When we humble ourselves, His grace is manifested more abundantly, “Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in” (Andrew Murray). Disobedience leads to desperation and despair.
“And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
One simple story illustrates an example of an opportune time, “Alexander was trying to save all the pennies that he could in order to buy a baseball bat. But he had a hard struggle. One night when he was saying his prayers, his mother heard him say fervently, ‘O Lord, please help me save my money for a baseball bat. And, God, don’t let the ice cream man come down this street anymore’!”
Isn’t that true of temptation? It takes from us, while at the same time, it looks so appealing. Commentator Klyne Snodgrass states it well, “Mention of the ‘schemes’ of the devil reminds us of the trickery by which evil and temptation present themselves in our lives. Evil rarely looks evil until it accomplishes its goal; it gains entrance by appearing attractive, desirable, and perfectly legitimate. It is a baited and camouflaged trap.” That’s important to note: we can miss evil for what it really is until after it has accomplished its purpose. Only by comparing thoughts and actions to God’s word can we have the insight to see beyond the circumstances.
Being tempted isn’t sin—surrendering to it is. Temptation is also an opportunity to do what is right by turning from it. I Corinthians 10:13 states, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” The door of temptation swings both ways—you can enter or exit. If we choose to enter, once inside, we may not see the exit sign so clearly again.