On the Front Line (II): Know the Enemy
Adapted from lectures by Vuthy Nol-Mantia—Dallas, USA
To fight effectively on the front line, we must first understand our
role. Part one of this series focused on establishing our identity as soldiers
of Christ. In part two, we learn to understand our enemy.
IDENTITY OF THE ANCIENT FOE
It is human nature to treat
someone who has deeply offended or hurt us as our mortal enemy. People may also
have such extreme differences in opinions that they bear lifelong grudges. Such
conflicts happen at workplaces, within families and even in the church. However,
Paul urges us not to regard our brothers and sisters as our enemy. Our true and
terrifying enemy is an invisible being who cannot be defeated with physical
weapons and strategies.
Paul warned the Ephesians that
believers wrestle not against mere 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” (Eph
6:12). Our cruel and unrelenting enemy is Satan, the ruler of darkness in this
age. We must never underestimate the intensity of the battle we have to wage
with Satan. No matter how strong we are, we will not be able to withstand
Satan’s might without the Spirit of God.
Apart from knowing the identity of
the enemy, we must also understand his nature. This allows us to be
better-prepared to battle him.
NATURE OF THE ANCIENT FOE
In Ezekiel’s lamentation (Ezek
28:12–15), the king of Tyre is an allegorical reference to Satan. Satan, or
Lucifer, was described as the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in
beauty. This is a stark contrast to the descriptions of other angels in the
Bible; the archangel Michael and the angel Gabriel are defined less by their
appearance and more by their duty.
In Lucifer, God had created a
cherub who was perfect and beautiful. However, God gives free will to His
creatures; i.e., God allows us to think and decide for ourselves. Lucifer
became Satan when iniquity stemming from pride was found in him.
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’ ”
Isaiah’s record reveals the
thoughts and motivations of Satan. These were all centered upon himself, as can
be seen from the number of times he said “I”. Satan’s thoughts also highlight
his pride—the critical weakness that led to his literal downfall. He had the recklessness
to think he could usurp the position of the Most High God. God then
demonstrated His infinite superiority—He knew exactly what Satan was thinking.
God took decisive and punitive action. As Jesus recounted: “I saw Satan fall
like lightning from heaven” (Lk 10:18). Like a flash of lightning, Satan’s fall
was very quick.
Satan’s plummet from Son of
Morning to Father of Lies, from anointed cherub to the evil one, teaches us two
things about pride. First, pride will bring us down very quickly. Second, pride
works from within. Like an undetected hemorrhage, it may kill us before we even
realize it! Hence, we must always be wary of pride, lest we fall as Satan did.
Paul understood that status and position may turn men’s heads. Thus Paul
advised Timothy that a bishop should “not [be] a novice, lest being puffed up
with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim 3:6).
History—both biblical and secular—is
replete with examples of downfall caused by hubris. But why does pride persist
in us? This is because man is often unable to detect his own flaws, especially
pride (cf. Lk 6:42; 18:11–12). We are often complacent and numb to these
warnings, thinking that they apply to other people. Nebuchadnezzar had been
warned by God through Daniel not to think too highly of himself but still ended
up suffering the consequences of pride (Dan 4). Hence, we must always examine
ourselves and quickly root out the smallest weed of pride from the garden of
our hearts. Our intelligence is a gift of God, and our knowledge is acquired
through opportunities given by Him. These should not make us exalt ourselves
above others. The more we know, the more alert we should be to pride in our
hearts (1 Cor 8:1). The branch that bears more fruits should hang lower. We may
claim to be abundant in fruit but if our branches are pointing upward, we are
clearly bearing no fruits at all.
Elder John warns us that when
Satan is released, he will use his full power to deceive (Rev 12:9). In
addition, he will go out to the four corners of the earth to create his army,
Gog and Magog, to wage war with the army of God (Rev 20:7–8). So as we approach
the last day, we must be on the front line, ready to fight. When that day
arrives, there will be no more time for us to prepare ourselves, and those who
are unprepared will be deceived and lost.
What are some of Satan’s weapons
of mass deception?
Weapon #1: Re-interpreting the Bible
Jesus described Satan as the
father of lies (Jn 8:44). Right at the beginning in the Garden of Eden, from
the serpent’s conversation with Eve, we can see how brilliantly he could twist
God’s word and instructions. Satan subtly suggests re-interpretations, and the
potency of these lies in their apparent reasonableness and resemblance to God’s
teachings. Satan’s lies will be so close to the teachings of God that it will
be difficult to discern right from wrong, unless we have good spiritual
For example, the Bible has very
clear injunctions against homosexuality. Romans 1:26–32 talks about men who
lust after other men, and women who lust after other women, leaving us with no
doubt that homosexuality is wrong and is an act “deserving of death.” But
Christians are increasingly persuaded to accept that a loving God loves
everyone regardless of sexual orientation. The implicit suggestion is thus:
whatever mankind does “in the name of love” will be tolerated by the Father. As
homosexuality becomes socially and globally acceptable, we too may become more
ambivalent towards it. We may not accept it but we do not unequivocally reject
it. We ought not to be deceived into such “neutrality.”
In His love, God forgives sin. But
a just and holy God does not declare sin to be righteousness. So while we
continue to love people around us, we must boldly reject their deliberately
sinful acts. If we are asked whether the practice of homosexuality should be
allowed, good soldiers of Christ must be ready to step forward to the front
line to say, “No.” Do not be deceived by Satan whispering, “Are you sure that
God would not allow two people who truly loved each other to be together?” Our
answer may hurt the listener or get us branded as narrow-minded and unloving
but doing otherwise would jeopardize the salvation of both our listener and
ourselves (Rom 1:32). Do not allow Satan to persuade us to risk salvation for
the sake of feelings or human relationships.
Weapon #2: Leveraging Neutrality
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast
of the field which the LORD God had made.
And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every
tree of the garden’?” (Gen 3:1)
Satan used the serpent to tempt
Eve because the serpent was “more cunning than any beast of the field which the
LORD God had made” (Gen 3:1). The serpent
was a neutral party, but he allowed Satan to use him as a mouthpiece to deceive
Adam and Eve. Likewise for us, we may accept all that is said to us with a
neutral mind, but this may give Satan the opportunity to deceive us, turning us
against our brothers and sisters in church and making us a child of Satan.
Therefore, whenever we listen to a speaker on the pulpit, even if they were
ordained ministers, we must discern if the message is according to the Bible.
We must not simply accept any teachings concerning God without checking it
against the Bible. The truth must act as a spiritual filter for everything we
hear from anyone, otherwise we risk our own spiritual lives.
Weapon #3: Stirring Pride
Satan fell on account of his
pride. Hence he will seek to stir up our pride and cause us to fall.
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will
not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be
opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw
that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to
the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its
fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
This passage shows what drove the woman
to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The
fruit was good for food and pleasant to the eyes but there were other trees in
the Garden which surely had fruits pleasant to the sight and appealing to the
palate. The unique selling proposition that Satan dangled and which persuaded
Eve was that eating the fruit could make one wise; appealing to her vanity and
We also see that Satan does not
just restrict himself to the deployment of single weapons of deception. In the
Garden of Eden, he had started off by subtly insinuating that there could be
another meaning of God’s command—“has God indeed said?” (Gen 3:1b) He then
blurs the boundaries between right and wrong—“you will not surely die” (Gen
3:4a). Eve was no match for the combined assault of Satan's weapons of re-interpreting
the Bible and stirring of one’s pride. Like Satan, she desired to be like God.
She ate the fruit and convinced Adam to do the same. They were driven out of
the Garden of Eden. Sin and death entered the world. This familiar incident
should be a constant reminder—the minute we feel pride in our hearts, it is
imperative that we kill it, lest we sin and suffer the same condemnation as
COUNTERING THE ANCIENT FOE
As soldiers of Christ on the front
line, we are under constant attack from our enemy. He will use every weapon in
his arsenal to do this – deception, pride and temptation – and if we fall into
his trap, he will seek to recruit us to his side. Therefore, we should be ever
vigilant against Satan’s schemes. The Prince of Darkness is a
master manipulator so we must safeguard both our hearts and minds. We protect
our hearts by ridding our hearts of pride. We shield our minds by pursuing the
mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) and holding fast to the pattern of sound words (2
Tim 1:13). Then, Satan will hold no sway over us.
[To be continued …]