For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
After the Babylonians conquered the kingdom of Judah in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar set up a Jew by the name of Gedaliah to be the governor of the land. Unfortunately for himself and the remnant in Judah, Gedaliah made three big mistakes that ended up costing him is life as described in Jeremiah 40:13 - 41:3. Gedaliah failed to believe in the existence of the enemy, he failed to properly estimate the situation, and consequently he failed to prepare himself against an attack. Sadly enough, many a Christian has made this same mistake when dealing with their greatest adversary - Satan. In this lesson let us learn a lesson from Gedaliah as we consider the normal Christian and the war with Satan.
A recent survey reported that 62% of adults believed that Satan was merely a symbol of evil and not a living person. This concept has been greatly promoted by television where Satan is portrayed as a two-horned, forked tail creature wearing red underwear and pitching coal into the furnaces of hell. The liberal preachers have furthered this misconception by denying the existence of Satan in the pulpit. These are the same preachers who leave out the 'd' in the word devil and spell "God" with two 'o's.
If I were the devil I would deny my existence in the world and downplay it in the local church, thus freeing me to go about my business unheeded, unhindered, and unchecked! (The Baptist Bulletin)
A Christian who believes this is as foolish as Gedaliah and no doubt will face the same result. It is imperative that the normal Christian be firmly convinced that Satan is truly a living person. Let us consider some proof from Scripture:
Satan is mentioned in 7 Old Testament books, 19 New Testament books, and at least 15 times by Jesus. He is given names and titles such as Lucifer, the Devil, the Dragon, the Serpent, and the Prince of this World. In addition, his personality is marked by the use of personal pronouns such as "thou" (Job 1:8), "himself" (Job 2:1), and "thee" (Zechariah 3:2).
2. Personal Characteristics
Satan is given characteristics of a person such as intelligence (Ephesians 6:11), memory (Matthew 4:6), will (2 Timothy 2:26), and emotions (1 Timothy 3:6, Revelation 12:12).
3. Personal Actions
Personal actions are also attributed to Satan such as speaking (Mathew 4:1-11), tempting (Matthew 4:3), accusing (Revelation 12:10), and performing signs (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Satan's personality is further amplified in the fact that he has an origin - he is a created being of God. His origin is described for us in Ezekiel 28:13-19.
Finally let us consider Satan's personality in light of his everlasting existence. Revelation 20:1-3 states that Satan will be bound and thrown into the Bottomless Pit for 1000 years, but in verse 10 we find him being cast into the lake of fire where he shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
If some Christians doubt the existence of Satan, even more have failed to esteem his power and intentions. Like Gedaliah they see no personal danger to themselves. Dear Christian, if you get nothing else from this lesson at least realize this, Satan is personally out to get you (1 Peter 5:8). It is not a mere possibility that Satan will attack you, it is guaranteed that he will. If Satan was not afraid to try to tempt Jesus (Matthew 4:1), who is God Himself, he will certainly not fear to go after you! So let us ensure that our estimation of our enemy lines up with the Bible, as Paul says, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Though God created Satan in an original state of exaltation and perfection, something happened to him between then and his first appearance as the enemy in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). The fall of Satan is described clearly in Isaiah 14:12-14 where his own selfish purpose is revealed in five "I will" statements. Satan wants to make his abode in the third heaven, he wants the worship and praise of creation, he wants the sovereign power of God, and in essence he wants to be God. This is clear from his statement to Eve, "ye shall be as gods"; from his request to Jesus, "if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9); and from his imitations of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3 - son of perdition, and Revelation 20:10 - unholy trinity).
If we understand Satan's purpose correctly, it will be clear that his plan is to oppose and undermine God (Zechariah 3:1). This is obvious from the first mention of Satan in the Bible in Genesis 3:1-5. With respect to a Christian, Satan cannot send one to hell nor is he likely to convince one to worship him. However, he can try to get us out of God's will or to keep us from properly worshipping God. Let us consider a few of his devices against the Christian.
Satan asked Eve, "Yea, hath God said". Satan would like to stir up doubt in our minds about the truth. Whereas the Holy Spirit convicts us that something is true, Satan tries to get us to question whether something is true.
Satan told Eve, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil", but he did not tell her what else would come with this sin. As Thomas Brooks said, "Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honor and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure and pays with pain; he promises profit and pays with loss; he promises life and pays with death". Satan is a great deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and is able to transform himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Satan was able to cause Eve to focus on the one thing she was forbidden to do rather than considering all of the wonderful blessings she enjoyed. Satan loves to get the Christian distracted from the real work of God. Creating discord and division in the church or getting Christians hooked on the pleasures of this world serve well this plan.
Satan wanted to hinder Adam and Eve from being righteous, desiring rather that they live like him: self willed and independent of God. So Satan tries to deter and impede us from doing the will of God. Paul told the Thessalonians that he had tried to come to them but had been hindered by Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
Satan tried to destroy the descendants of Eve all the way to the time of Christ, hoping to destroy the Messiah that was to bruise his head. As Peter said, Satan "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour". He succeeded with Ananias and Sapphira.
C. His Power
Since Satan is an angel, let us remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12); and let us realize that Satan is far more powerful than we are, though his power is checked by God (Job 1:12, 2:6). Many a Christian has boasted of his own strength to withstand this enemy, but we find that the forces of Satan were strong enough to withstand the angels of God for 21 days (Daniel 10:13). Only through God can we have the power necessary to battle Satan (1 John 4:4).
Some Christians profess to believe that Satan exists and that he is a great enemy, but they fail to properly prepare against his attacks just as Gedaliah did nothing to prepare for his adversary. The normal Christian should make the following preparations for the inevitable battles with Satan:
Paul warns the Christian to "Put on the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18). Here we find the necessary equipment for withstanding the wiles of the devil.
Peter says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). We should be wary and walk circumspectly.
James says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). This is a great promise from God that if we resist Satan, he will leave us alone for a season.
At the center of our preparation against Satan is the Word of God. Eve fell into sin because she doubted the Word of God. In contrast, Jesus was victorious against Satan because He used and stood firm upon the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus responded with Scripture to each temptation with which Satan assailed Him. When Satan comes against us, if we stand upon the truth found in the Word of God, he will soon have to retreat. Know the Word of God!
Satan's battlefield is the mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). As Paul says, "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not " (2 Corinthians 4:4). If Satan can place thoughts into your mind, he can surely cause you to also believe that those thoughts originated from within your own self. Therefore our thoughts must be tested against the truth - the Word of God. Our ideas and decisions must be compared against the truth before we settle on them.