Common themes in spiritual deceptions
Satan couldn’t command Adam and Eve to do anything. He simply used subtle suggestions and half-truths, to manipulate their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The enemy can only resort to subliminal suggestions and manipulation to deceive us today. Here are some common themes.
Genesis 3:1-5 ESV Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Common themes in the enemy’s deceptions
We can notice four main themes in how Satan works:
- Question God’s character – He placed doubt of God’s character into the hearts of Adam and Eve; he suggested God deceived them and didn’t really love them.
- Ignore the consequences – He deceived them outright, by telling them half the story; he only showed the possible short-term enjoyment but never let them see the eventual painful consequences of their actions.
- Man should be sovereign – He tempted both man and woman to blatantly sin against God; he convinced that they could be equal to God Himself and not be accountable to their Creator (something that he himself lusted after but was punished by God for).
- Condemnation and shame – His temptations led Adam and Eve to feel the darkness of shame for the first time: both tried to hide from God.
Satan hasn’t stopped this campaign against men and women today. He slips deceptions and temptations into our own consciousness on a constant basis. Today, the evil one does not appear as a serpent, but he still cunningly deceives us into turning away from God – without exposing his true identity.
Satan uses the same old tricks
As believers, we are to be watchful and alert to our enemy’s schemes. We can notice that Satan uses the same themes in his deceptions today.
1 Corinthians 6:13 ESV Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
1. Question God’s character
Satan continues to lure people into thinking that “God cannot be 100% good, 100% all-knowing, 100% of the time” because human beings aren’t that way. We end up limiting God according to our own human abilities. It is a real catastrophe when we try to re-create God in our own image.
Here are some of Satan’s deceptions behind our thoughts:
- “Why do bad things happen to me?” (Satan: God doesn’t have a higher purpose and plan in all this, God is bad and cruel.)
- “God remembers all my sins.” (Satan: God is not capable of completely forgiving because He is calculative.)
- “We are born to a meaningless life of suffering.” (Satan: God wants people to suffer for no reason. He is evil.)
- “This world (Satan: that God created) is an unfair place.”
- “No one loves me, I am all alone.” (Satan: God is not with you all the time. You can’t see Him or feel Him so don’t believe His Word that He is with you and will never forsake you. He must do more to prove Himself.)
God works in our lives to draw out holiness from our hearts. This is a vital source of godly joy, peace and freedom in Christ. He did not create man to be self-indulgent. He created each one of us with a purpose and a hope and the tenacity to overcome adversity in this world. Hardships help us to draw upon this supernatural strength and peace. We can instead thank God for trials and tests, and not be tempted by Satan to doubt His goodness.
1 John 5:4-5 ESV For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
2 Timothy 1:9 NLT For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
2. Not the consequences
Satan constantly tells us to be free from godly systems and conditions. Ironically, choosing to rebel against the system that our Creator set up for our own good only brings ruin.
Here are some of Satan’s manipulative deceptions:
- “Work hard, play hard.” (Satan: Ignore God who commands you to rest in Him.)
- “I live my life not worrying about what others think.” (Satan: Don’t even bother what God thinks.)
- “I can do whatever I want, as long as I don’t hurt someone.” (Satan: Don’t think about the spiritual costs or the consequences. Don’t care that your sin hurts your relationship with God.)
- “We only live once. So I will do what my heart desires.” (Satan: Ignore the fact that your spiritual life lasts for eternity and you will have to face the consequences one day.)
Ignoring or refusing to think about the consequences of our sins does not make the penalties for sin go away. In the same way, we are liable to answer for any traffic laws we break on earth, even if we were ignorant of them. We owe it to ourselves to understand the consequences of our sinful patterns and turn to God for help. He will provide a way out!
Galatians 6:7-8 ESV Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
3. Man to be sovereign
On top of all the knowledge and technology mankind has discovered and developed over the years, we have also developed an inflated ego. We have come to believe we can create and achieve anything we want. If we were to compare ourselves with our Creator, however, we will realise how ludicrous it is to be proud. We cannot speak a human into being. We cannot exist in time and space without limits. We cannot see all the universes at once. The list goes on.
Here are some of Satan’s manipulative deceptions:
- “I answer to no one about my life. I am my own boss.” (Satan: Be your own god.)
- “I will never rely on anyone.” (Satan: There is no need to rely on God.)
- “I don’t need to consider other people’s counsel and concern for me.” (Satan: Trust yourself, you have superior knowledge over everyone else.)
- “I will do what I think is best for me or others.” (Satan: Don’t bother about what God has planned for you. Don’t experience God’s infinite wisdom.)
- “I judge others based on my own views.” (Satan: Make the rules of your own world. Be your own judge.)
- “I will continue to sin because God will forgive me.” (Satan: Your desires are much more important than God’s. Your feelings and cravings are your true god.)
When we choose independence apart from God, we are essentially making ourselves our own feeble idols, with no power to determine our eternal destiny. Worshipping ourselves brings our own ruin.
Proverbs 28:26 ESV Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
2 Corinthians 3:5 ESV Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,
4. Condemnation and shame
Satan loves to create a world of discontentment for us. We are either tempted to look what we lack materially, socially and physically or to condemn ourselves when we fall short personally of worldly standards. There is always something we can have more of! We forget to thank God for what we have and seek His purpose for our lives.
Here are some of Satan’s manipulative deceptions:
- “I instinctively compare myself with others, and always feel like I am not content with who I am or what I have.” (Satan: Model your life after worldly standards, instead of what Jesus Christ has taught. You are not valuable until you achieve these worldly benchmarks. God’s benchmarks are far less important.)
- “One cannot relax. I need to keep working harder.” (Satan: You decide exactly what you need and don’t rest until you get it. Forget what God wants for you.)
- “I need more before I am secure.” (Satan: Your true security is in earthly treasures.)
- “I’m undeserving and unworthy of good things.” (Satan: Jesus’ death on the cross was not a good thing He did for you.)
- “I feel dirty, small and shameful.” (Satan: Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t powerful enough to free you completely from your sins.)
When we turn our focus to ourselves, we sadly blind ourselves to God’s truths about our identity.
Romans 8:1 ESV There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
Exodus 20:17 ESV “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The renewed mind
Growing in faith entails a lot of “un-learning” and “re-learning” with regards to how we see our world, ourselves, relationships and circumstances. We need to identify where we need to renew their minds according to God’s spiritual truths.
Scientists have found that this renewal that is mentioned in the Bible is a literal one. In the 1940’s, researchers discovered neuroplasticity, which refers to the ability of our brains to change throughout our lifetimes by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons).
God has given us the ability to learn new spiritual truths at any point in our lives, for both young and old. Praise God that it is absolutely possible to “teach an old dog new tricks”. There is nothing that cannot be redeemed and renewed by our powerful Creator. The one condition is that we let God’s glory and love to shine into every aspect of our thoughts.
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