ARSatan's Age Old TricksThe devil, that old deceiver... How do you recognize and overcome his temptations?The devil disguised himself as a serpent when tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. As the evil snake tricked Eve into disobeying God, Satan deceives us in four devious ways: 1) Challenging God's authority. 2) Reducing sin's seriousness. 3) Questioning God's love. 4) Justifying the wrong. As we keep watch for Satan's deception we are drawing closer and closer to God. If the Lord is constantly present in our lives, Satan's temptations will become completely powerless.
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'?" And the woman said
to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but
of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has
said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
And 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. (Gen 3:1-5)
God commanded Adam
not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He also made it
clear that the consequence of eating from the tree was death. This command
established the proper relationship between God and man. As long as man
honored God's authority, he could live to enjoy the Lord's rich blessings.
All was going well
until the serpent came along and spoke with Eve. This short conversation
did enough damage to sever the loving relationship between God and man, as
it led Eve to choose to rebel against her Creator. Why was this
conversation so deadly? Where did things go wrong?
The serpent didn't
simply say to Eve, "you should disobey God and listen to me. Go ahead
and eat from the tree." Instead, the serpent played tricks with Eve's
mind and removed her reasons to obey God. Likewise, today, if the devil
just appeared to us and told us to break God's commandment, we would
surely rebuke him and drive him away in Jesus' name. If he tried to lure
us with attractive offers, we would also turn away in disgust. But Satan
has a much more effective tactic-deception. It has proven to work ever
since the beginning of human history, and he still uses it today. By his
crafty persuasion Satan has fooled many people into rebelling against God.
As believers, we must learn to perceive Satan's schemes, for only if we
have spiritual discernment can we remain faithful to God and withstand
The Genesis account
reveals to us the nature of Satan's cunning. It shows us how Satan tries
to set us off guard, damage our relationship with God, and convince us to
rebel against our Lord. By studying the four tricks that the serpent used
to lead Eve to contemplate sin, we can strengthen our own resistance to
Trick 1: Challenging God's Authority
The serpent started out with a question: "Has God indeed said, 'You
shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" By beginning with a
question, the serpent made the conversation seem harmless. After all, what
could be so harmful about such a simple yes-or-no question?
misquotation of God's command shows that his question was a test. God's
word was final-there was no need to bring it up for reexamination. But the
serpent hoped to "revisit" God's command in order to challenge
it. The tone of his question was sarcastic. Looking at the whole
conversation, we can see that the question itself implied that God's word
Likewise, Satan may
tempt us through our school, through our friends, and through the mass
media. God's commands often come under the attack of scoffers who
challenge the teachings of the Bible. By making fun of our beliefs, these
people encourage us to question God's word. More and more, believers have
to withstand the ridicule and slander of the godless for upholding God's
word. Concerning the insults that Christians would undergo, Peter wrote:
"They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same
flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (1 Pet 4:4).
These days, it is no
longer "politically correct" to believe that there is an
absolute moral standard. Your high school friends may laugh at you if you
are still a virgin, and people will protest if you say that abortion is
wrong. Satan tries to make believers look like fools for obeying God's
commands. He bombards us with secular ideologies and philosophies in order
to weaken our conviction in God's word.
Even more subtle is
how Satan works in religion. People will constantly challenge our belief
in salvation through Christ alone: "Would God really be so
narrow-minded to save only Christians?" "Has God indeed said
that there is only one gospel of salvation?" It is also more and more
difficult to preach that there is only one gospel and one true church.
More than ever, many people today are willing to condone false religions
and doctrines in the name of unity and Christian love.
In the apostolic
period, false teachings arose to challenge the true gospel. In the
epistles, time and again the apostles warned the believers against the
deception of false teachers. Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning the
threat of false doctrines: "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 Cor 11:3).
Notice that Paul
quoted the serpent's deception when warning against false doctrines. Satan
can lead us into misbeliefs in the same way that the serpent led Eve into
sin. Like the Corinthians, who faced the threat of heresy, we today are
also living in a time of great apostasy. Just as Satan is able to
transform himself into an angel of light, false teachers and prophets will
come in sheep's clothing, preaching misleading doctrines to believers. We
must remain steadfast to the true gospel in the midst of these great
Sometimes it is
tempting to try to enlarge the narrow gate of salvation, in order to let
more people in. It may appear more in line with the Christian spirit to
include people of different faiths. But when we think that we know better
than God's command, we are likely to disobey His word. God wants us to
obey Him with simple faith. We should preach only what the Bible preaches,
even if some people feel that it doesn't seem very logical or fair. We
have no authority to change God's standard. Our job is to bring people to
the narrow gate, not to widen it so that it looks more appealing. If we
remain faithful to God's word, we will not be led astray by Satan.
Trick 2: Reducing Sin's Seriousness
When the serpent spoke to Eve, instead of denying God's word outright by
saying, "You will not die," he reduced the seriousness of God's
warning by saying, "You will not surely die." This statement is
ambiguous, because it contradicts God's command in a subtle way. In other
words, "God said that you will surely die, but the fact is that you
probably won't die." The serpent offered Eve the false promise that
she might be able to eat from the tree and not suffer the consequences.
In a world where
evildoers and the ungodly prosper, it may seem as if the warnings of the
Bible are not all that serious. During the time of Malachi, when injustice
was rampant, the people said to themselves, "Everyone who does evil
is good in the sight of the LORD, And He delights in them." They also
asked, "Where is the God of justice?" (Mal 2:17). The line
between right and wrong was blurred. God's justice was scorned.
Today, Satan tries
to remove the seriousness of God's commands and imply that God's warnings
are just meant to scare us. He deceives believers into thinking that God
doesn't really mean what He says. "It won't be that bad. You are not
going to die. Why should you be scared?" Satan knows that if a person
no longer takes God's word seriously, he will much more readily choose to
In the end time,
when there seems to be no sign of impending judgment, mockers will taunt
believers who still hold to the true faith: "Scoffers will come in
the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is
the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things
continue as they were from the beginning of creation'" (2 Pet 3:3-4).
Satan hopes to make
us see God's word as a lie. He wants us to believe that no one will ever
suffer in the lake of fire. He gives people the false hope that they can
somehow escape God's terrible judgment, even if they live in sin. Such a
misleading message is very appealing. "You will not surely
die"-that's what people like to hear. They don't like to hear about
hell, or about God's just punishment. People like to be told that no
matter what they do, God will always accept them.
Paul warns us
against such deception: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for
whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Gal 6:7). God's word is
absolute. He means what He says. Let us take every word of God seriously
and not fall into Satan's trap.
Trick 3: Questioning God's Love
The serpent asked Eve: "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of
every tree of the garden?" It seems as if the serpent was quoting
God, but actually he was misrepresenting His words. God commanded:
"Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat." The serpent
changed God's word, portraying it negatively.
In the same way,
Satan today tries to make God's word seem unreasonable. He wants us to
question God's love for us. In today's society, God's command is often
twisted and misrepresented as nothing but rules. Many refuse to accept God
because they think that if they follow Him, then they will be deprived of
all pleasure with an endless list of do's and don't's.
The serpent also
deceived Eve into thinking that God is not as good as He appears to be:
"If God is good, why does He keep you from having knowledge? He is
afraid that you would be as wise as He." The serpent made it seem as
if God was keeping something good from her, and he challenged her to make
the decision for herself rather than listen to God. Likewise, Satan makes
us question God's intention. When we begin to doubt God's wisdom or the
good intentions behind His commandments, we begin to slip into sin.
If we suspect that
God is withholding something good from us when he tells us not to do
certain things, then we are all the more tempted to do them. For example,
God told the Israelites not to keep any extra manna overnight. Some didn't
listen. Perhaps these people thought that God wanted them to suffer by
making them go out every morning to gather food. They decided to keep some
food for the next day, but it spoiled. God also told them that they didn't
have to gather manna on the seventh day, but again, some didn't listen.
Perhaps they thought that God intended to starve them on the Sabbath. They
went out, but found nothing (Ex 16:19-30).
Because of our
rebellious nature, we tend to do the very things we are not supposed to
do, while refusing to do the things we are commanded to do. For example,
we know that we are to rest on the Sabbath. But we may think that by doing
so, we are losing out. So we may decide that it's all right to continue
with our business, personal plans, or studies on the Sabbath. But in the
end, like the Israelites who disobeyed God, we often find ourselves
wasting much time without getting anything accomplished.
When the Israelites
were in Egypt, they groaned in their slavery. So God delivered them out of
Egypt with His mighty arm. But in the journey through the wilderness, they
often complained and asked God why He had led them out to die in the
desert. Before they went into Canaan, they sent spies to find out about
the land, but the spies who were without faith reported bad news and
weakened the people's heart. Then the assembly complained against God and
demanded to go back to Egypt. They even wanted to stone the two faithful
spies who tried to dissuade them. These people exhausted God's patience.
If it wasn't for Moses' intercession, they would all have perished.
As punishment, God
swore that they would not enter the promised land. When the people
realized their great sin and its serious consequence, they mourned and
asked to go up to possess the land (Num 13:31-14:45). Moses disapproved of
their proposal, knowing that the Lord would not fight for them. But again,
they refused to listen to Moses and attempted to confront their enemy. The
Amalekites and Canaanites attacked them and utterly defeated them. What a
tragic end for that generation of Israelites! All of this happened to them
because they failed to believe and trust God.
When we grumble, we
show our suspicion of God's love, just as the Israelites did. Although
they could not trust God's love, we must be careful not to make the same
mistake (1 Cor 10:10). Even when we do not understand the purpose of God's
commands, we must first of all trust that God is good. He will not give us
commands for no reason, or to make our lives miserable. When we trust God,
we will not complain when adversity falls on us. Rather, we will always be
full of hope and thanks.
And now, Israel,
what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God,
to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the
Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deut10:12-13)
All of God's
commands are for our good. He does not withhold from us anything good (Ps 84:11).
Paul was fully
convinced of God's love for him. He trusted that God would surely give us
His best: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for
us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32). God demonstrated His ultimate love for us through the cross.
Why would He hold back anything good from us? Why should we try to seek
anything good beyond God's commands? Even when we suffer for the sake of
keeping God's word, we must learn to trust that "all things work
together for good to those who love God" (Rom 8:28). If we have
complete faith in God's love, Satan will never be able to come between us
Trick 4: Justifying the Wrong
By giving Eve a very logical reason to eat from the tree-to gain God's
wisdom-the serpent made it seem legitimate to disobey God. Justifying sin
is perhaps Satan's deadliest weapon. The devil knows the Scripture, but he
distorts it to tempt us. He gives seemingly "biblical" reasons
for breaking God's commands. For example, when Satan tempted Jesus, he
misused God's word as an opportunity for self-gratification. He asked the
Lord to turn stones into bread to show that He is the son of God. He
challenged Him to throw Himself down from the temple to demonstrate that
God would save Him. In both temptations, Satan offered some justification
for submitting to his demands.
people have done terrible things in the name of God, misusing His word to
support and justify their lusts. Why did the Pharisees slander the Lord
Jesus? They thought that they were keeping God's commands, but their
motive was selfishness. They were jealous of Jesus when they saw that He
was gaining popularity, and they often accused Him of breaking God's law.
They sought ways to entangle Jesus with His own words by asking Him
questions. In the end, they put him to death. They did all this evil, they
felt, in the name of God (cf. Mt 26:59-67).
Like the Pharisees,
if we are not careful, we may sometimes distort God's word to suit our own
needs. One warning sign is when we try to look for "loopholes"
in the Bible in order to satisfy our own desires. Believers with selfish
ambitions may sometimes use "doing it all for God" as a
justification for seeking after the things of the world. They may say,
"I will donate a million dollars when I become rich," or
"God's name will be glorified when I earn three PhD degrees."
But deep down inside, they are seeking vain glory and self-gratification.
Then there is the example of "missionary marriages." Believers
may sometimes claim that they are trying to win another soul to Christ by
marrying someone of a different faith, when their real intention is simply
to justify their own desires.
When we become
spiritually blind and believe that our wrongdoing is justified, there may
be no turning back. Sin's deceitfulness can harden our hearts (Heb 3:13).
By fooling ourselves with false justification, our ears become dull and
our eyes become blind. We will be guided by our lusts rather than God's
commands, and we will continue in the path of sin without feeling any
"For the time
will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their
own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for
themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim 4:3-4). Rather than looking to
God's word for instruction, people will listen to false teachers who tell
them what they want to hear. People enjoy listening to words that justify
their desires, because such false teachings remove the sense of guilt in
the listeners and encourage them to continue living in sin.
As true believers,
we must learn to approach God's word with the sole purpose of learning
from it and seeking God's will rather than our own. Instead of searching
for verses to justify our sin, we need to be taught, rebuked, and
corrected by God's word and let it act as a mirror to reflect our
shortcomings and blemishes (cf. 1 Tim 3:16). Only then will God's word
take its effect in our lives. Only then will we not be blinded by Satan's
The nature of Satan's deceptions has not changed since the days of Eden.
Our study of the Genesis story helps us recognize his age-old tricks.
Being aware of Satan's tactics enables us to guard ourselves against his
But as we keep a
constant watch for Satan's deception, we must also actively seek to draw
closer to God (Jas 4:7-8). The story of the serpent teaches us that
Satan's first line of attack is to weaken our relationship with God. Just
as the serpent planted doubt and error in Eve's mind to lure her away from
her Creator, Satan likewise hopes to pull our hearts away from God with
his deceptions. When our relationship with God is weak, we are vulnerable
to sin. When God's word loses its authority in our lives, we obey our own
desires rather than God's will. When we feel that God's commands are
burdensome, sin becomes more attractive.
Therefore, the best
immunity against sin is a strong relationship with God. Whoever abides in
the Lord does not sin (1 Jn 3:6). We need to spend more time with God's
word than in front of the TV, more time speaking with the Lord in prayer
than chatting with friends, and more time seeking to do God's will than
seeking for pleasure. We should be filled with God's word, His Spirit, and
His love. As the hymn goes, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in
His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In
the light of his glory and grace." If we are always deeply in love
with God, we will show no interest in sin. If the Lord is constantly
present in our lives, Satan's temptations will become completely
1. Helen H. Lemmel,
Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus