7 ways Satan devours those are not sober-minded
God’s Word warns us to be alert and sober-minded so that our minds do not succumb to attacks from Satan, who is likened to a prowling lion. The idea of being hunted down by a lion can seem frightening at first, until we understand how a lion hunts.
1 Peter 5:8 NIV Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Lions are not proficient hunters. They have inferior running capabilities and a poorer sense of smell than their prey, so lions target the weak and injured to order to increase their chances of a successful attack. (Even when hunting in groups, a lion’s success rate is only 30%.) Lions, therefore, have to wait until their prey are not “sober-minded” before they attack.
Evidently, this does not imply that lions wait until their prey are drunk with alcohol. To be sober-minded to have a sound conscious mind.
The Bible shows us several qualities that are related to being sober-minded. It shows that we will also be:
- Alert, self-aware | 1 Peter 5:8 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful…
- Self-controlled | 1 Peter 4:7 ESV The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
- Dignified | 1 Timothy 3:11 ESV Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
- Gentle, not quarrelsome | 1 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
- Not slanderous or gossipy | 1 Timothy 3:11 ESV Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
- Sound in faith, love and steadfastness | Titus 2:2 ESV Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
- Trusting God’s grace fully | 1 Peter 1:13 ESV Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
- Willing to endure suffering | 2 Timothy 4:5 ESV As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
It is hard for anyone to stay sober-minded if they are:
- not in control of their thoughts and emotions | Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
- not guarded against crooked ways | Proverbs 22:4-5 ESV The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
- afraid of pain, persecution and suffering | Proverbs 29:25 ESV The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
- easily distracted with the things of this world | Luke 21:34 ESV “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
- desiring to get rich | 1 Timothy 6:9 ESV But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
- deceived by others into worshiping idols and false gods | Psalm 106:35-36 ESV but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them.
Each one of these things lead us into a snare or a trap, which is a perfect opportunity for Satan, who prowls and waits in the shadows, to attack and devour us.
How do we prevent ourselves from being Satan’s next meal?
When our brains are not sober minded
Here is a quick look at seven ways we fail to be sober-minded, when our conscious sound mind is hampered by:
- Rejection and self-rejection
- Chronic stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Hypnotic states
The brain: Fear sets off a chain reaction starting with our thalamus, the part of the brain that receives signals from our senses. It then triggers the amygdala, the brain’s emotions centre, and/or the hypothalamus, the brain’s memory “data bank”, which then go on to activate a fight or flight mechanism. Such fear-reflexes kick into action within fractions of a second. Fear causes our brains to respond based mainly on how we feel or what we remember, unless we consciously take over control and become sober again.
If we don’t capture our thoughts to obey Jesus, Satan will fill our minds with arguments and opinions on how to react, without waiting to hear from God.
2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Satan constantly tempts us to fear. We receive a stream of anxious thoughts such as, “What can I do to secure my future?”, “How can I be safe from suffering?”, “What if something doesn’t work out the way I want it to?” and so forth. Our thoughts are constantly troubled. Our minds keep looping around in circles. We look for answers in many different places and still find no peace. We think about all our options — only to discover later that none of them was God’s plan for us.
Matthew 6:31-34 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:34 ESV “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Instead of resting in the knowledge that God has already prepared everything we need even before we were born, we allow Satan to lure us away with many anxieties. God calls us to go to Him with all our requests and anxieties, and lay them at His feet because He knows how to and will take care of our needs. After we have done so, we need to be careful not to fall for Satan’s temptations to pick them back up again. This is where many stumble in their faith and hence, never really experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”
Matthew 6:8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The brain: Anger also triggers a chain reaction in our bodies. It starts off in the amygdala, the brain’s emotions centre, which sends signals to the rest of our body to tense our muscles, increase our blood pressure, and quicken our heart rate and breathing. The brain diverts its focus onto whatever is making us angry, and pays less or no attention to everything else that may be happening. This prevents us from thinking clearly. It is why anger leads us to do and say things that we later regret. If only we had been more sober-minded!
Proverbs 29:22 ESV A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
The Bible is filled with many warnings about anger. It does not tell us to not be angry because that would leave us fighting against our brain’s natural reflexes. Rather, we are called to not give in to its fleshly reflexes.
We are to:
- Be patient and slow to get triggered | Proverbs 14:29 ESV Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
- Be angry but not to sin as a result of our anger | Ephesians 4:26 ESV Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
- Watch our words | Matthew 5:22 NLT But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
- Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving | Ephesians 4:31 ESV Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Not stay angry | Psalm 37:8 NLT Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.
- Not dwell on what makes us angry | Psalm 37:8 ESV Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
We need to remember that anger is a state of mind. It can be triggered simply by doing nothing but meditating on bitter thoughts. Satan will instigate us to become or remain angry with someone. The devil will keep reminding us what they have done and what they should have done.
We do not need to submit to such thoughts. Rather, we simply need to command Satan to “go away in Jesus’ name!”
3. Rejection and self-rejection
The brain: Different areas of the brain are triggered by the emotional pain we feel from rejection. One of them is the anterior cingulate cortex, which registers physical pain. In other words, to the brain, emotional pain is as real as physical pain. We all know what it feels like when we are in intense pain, it is hard to think about anything else. This is when Satan will come and fill us with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will trigger our limbic system and divert energy from our prefrontal cortex, which is central to cognitive functioning and organisation. This further reduces our ability to think clearly and soundly.
Satan is a defeated enemy who accuses us day and night and fills us with negative thoughts about ourselves. He will plant his accusations in the first person such as, “I don’t deserve anyone’s love,” “no one loves me,” “no one will ever understand me,” “I’m all alone,” “I’m unworthy,” “I’m misunderstood,” “I hate my life,” “I might as well not be alive,” and so forth. This is how many are deceived into rejecting themselves and even life itself.
Revelation 12:10 ESV And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
The devil uses a multi-pronged strategy. For example, he first starts by tempting us to sin against God or other people. When we do fall into sin, he will then return and accuse us of sinning. The devil will even remind us of other sins we have committed in the past and accuse us of not being worthy of God’s forgiveness. When we do muster up the faith to ask God for forgiveness, Satan will then accuse us of other things we have not done for God. Satan will even deceive us into thinking that he is God and that it is God who is accusing us. If we are not careful, we will succumb to all the negative ideas that Satan plants in our minds. As followers of Jesus, we all need to realise that this critical inner voice that accuses us day and night is not God’s or ours, it is Satan’s.
Jesus came to break this cycle of condemnation and self-rejection by showing us how to live and be made with God. We must therefore be careful not to agree with Satan’s accusations and reject ourselves any longer. Instead, we ought to submit to God and resist the devil.
John 3:17-19 ESV For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
James 4:7-8 ESV Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
4. Chronic stress
The brain: Some stress in life is normal and can even help us to stay motivated and build endurance. Prolonged and chronic stress, however, will have a negative impact on our brains, specifically in the hippocampus, amygdala and frontal cortex. These three areas play vital roles in learning, memory processing, emotional regulation, and rational thinking.
Reduced self-control and increased anxiety from chronic stress are not only at the root of many relationship problems, they can lead to physical ailments.
God calls us to be still and know that He is God, that He is in control of all things. If we ask Him for wisdom, He will give it to us abundantly. When we fix our thoughts on God and trust Him, we will experience perfect peace. As we follow the Holy Spirit, He will work all things work for our good. When we “off load” all the things that are on our hearts to God and trust Him with a thankful heart, our minds and hearts will guarded by “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” God does not want us to burn out. He cares for His creation and will show us a better and safer way to life.
Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
James 1:2-5 ESV Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Isaiah 26:3 NLT You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Romans 8:26-28 ESV Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Philippians 4:6-8 ESV do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Besides external factors such as war, work politics, job loss, or persecution, for instance, chronic stress begins internally, with our perspectives. The human heart has a great propensity to fear because there are so many things that are out of our control. We can’t control how other people behave towards us, the consequences of our past, our health, the economy, and so on.
Aware of our human nature, Satan will bombard us with many stressful thoughts that will overwhelm our brains, if we let him. The devil will fill our minds with anxious thoughts about gaining approval, avoiding loneliness or shame, building self-esteem, compensating for a fear of being left out, and so on. The more we think about such things, the more stressed we become.
The devil knows that any unsuspecting victim who is stressed and distracted is easy to devour. He will even tempt us to chase things that sound good or important, but that have no eternal value or may even be against God’s will for our lives.
The brain: Forming a reliance on anything that makes us feel good can literally change our brain chemistry.
Addictions form when we experience or consume something that gives us strong sensations of pleasure or relief and we choose to return to it repeatedly to experience the same sensations. The brain sends reward signals, such as dopamine and serotonin, with each use and “learns” to associate it with something positive, even if it ends up destroying our health. When our brains are flooded with dopamine and serotonin on a regular basis, our bodies produce less and less of them naturally, leading us to rely more and more on our addictions to maintain at least minimal levels of these chemicals.
Dopamine and serotonin not only affect our mood, memory, and concentration, they also play important roles in body functions such as sleep, body movements, bowel movement, blood clotting and bone health. This is how long term addictions usually lead to mental and physical ailments.
Addictions are not confined to chemicals in drugs or alcohol, they can also include activities such as sports, pornography, food, online games, sex, masturbation, and internet surfing. By turning to such substances or activities to stimulate our moods, we literally “train” our brains to want more and more and to “throw a tantrum” if we don’t continue to indulge it. This is where we experience withdrawal symptoms.
Satan will tempt us to rely on the temporal things of this world, instead of God, for our emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. The devil knows that the more we become reliant on or addicted to something, the less likely we are to follow God and submit to Him.
1 John 2:15-17 ESV Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Our enemy will fill our minds with thoughts such as, “just one more time and then maybe I will stop,“ “I’m able to control myself, unlike other people,“ “I am sure God wants me to be happy, I am sure He doesn’t mind,“ “I can never change, I am in too deep,“ or “I can’t confess and ask for help, it is so shameful to be addicted to this as a Christian.“
Each step of the way, Satan coaxes us into deeper and deeper slavery. He knows that if he can get us enslaved to the works of our own flesh, we will extinguish the Holy Spirit and forsake the kingdom of God. He would have successfully devoured us.
Galatians 5:16-21 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
6. Sleep deprivation
The brain: A lack of sleep significantly impacts the ability of the neutrons in our brains to function properly. This reduces the speed and accuracy with which we perceive, recognise and respond to things. This is because the parts of the brain that are crucial for decision making, problem solving, and memory, the frontal and parietal lobes, become less active. On the other hand, the amygdalae, which is associated with emotional processing, becomes more connected and active.
Anyone who hasn’t slept well for a while will tell you that they can’t think straight. We are more likely to rely on our fleshly instincts than on a sound mind.
Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation can shrink one’s brain. There have even been incidences where people have even died from a lack of sleep because their internal organs were overworked.
Our enemy knows that when it is nearly impossible to stay sober-minded when we haven’t had enough sleep. When we fail to rest – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – our ability to listen to the Holy Spirit is also affected.
Therefore, Satan will tempt us to stay up late at night and fill ourselves with anxious thoughts, angry reflections, or mindless distractions. The Bible calls this “eating the bread of anxious toil.”
Proverbs 3:245-26 ESV If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
Psalm 4:4-5,8 ESV Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Sometimes, the devil will even plant terrifying nightmares into our subconscious so that we fear falling sleep. This usually happens if we have participated in witchcraft and called upon spirits in the past, and will go away after we repent.
Proverbs 3 gives us good insight what leads to “sweet sleep.” It entails keeping God’s commandments, not trusting in our own understanding, seeking God’s wisdom, honouring God with our money and resources, forsaking fear, refusing to do evil to others, and humbling ourselves before God.
7. Hypnotic states
The brain: Brain research has shown that hypnotic suggestions do influence brain activity, and not just behaviour or memory. A Stanford university found three hallmarks of the brain under hypnosis. To quote the research, “First, they saw a decrease in activity in an area called the dorsal anterior cingulate, part of the brain’s salience network. ‘In hypnosis, you’re so absorbed that you’re not worrying about anything else,’ Spiegel explained. Secondly, they saw an increase in connections between two other areas of the brain — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. He described this as a brain-body connection that helps the brain process and control what’s going on in the body. Finally, Spiegel’s team also observed reduced connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the default mode network, which includes the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex. This decrease in functional connectivity likely represents a disconnect between someone’s actions and their awareness of their actions, Spiegel said.”
This means that anyone whose brain has been put into a hypnotic trance is easily manipulated into believing or doing anything that is suggested to them.
Satan gains control over our minds when we put down our guard to enter trance-like states through new age meditation, chanting, hypnosis, drug-induced stupors, certain types of medications, or drunkenness. Anytime a person loses control over their conscious minds,“empties” themselves, or loses sobriety, Satan will take quickly gain footholds through their subconscious minds to plant his suggestions. This is why God’s Word calls us to remain alert and sober-minded.
The god of this world, Satan, works to blind our minds so that we are blocked from seeing the truths that are found in the gospel. When we engage in such trance-inducing activities, we play right into his hands.
2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The consequences are that one’s mind will become “dulled” or distracted when reading and hearing God’s Word or listening to the Holy Spirit. Some may even find themselves falling asleep as they read the Bible or listen to a sermon. If we find ourselves in such situations, we need to ask God for forgiveness for entering hypnotic states, repent for such activities, and cut off all ungodly spiritual ties to the places and people involved.
God renews our brains spiritually and physically
The good news for those of us who have allowed our minds to be distracted, polluted and hijacked by Satan is that God sends His Spirit to personally renew our minds and transform us into “new creations” if we invite Him to. We can rejoice that the Spirit in us is much more powerful than anything Satan, the spirit in this world, can do to our minds.
1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Let us therefore repent for all the ways we have formerly misused and abused our brains for our own ungodly desires and now allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds to become truly righteous and holy. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger just like everyone else but now, we are under His grace.
Ephesians 2:3 NIV All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
A mind renewed by the Holy Spirit will feel:
- Quiet and peaceful | Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Clear, not confused | 1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…
- Spiritually alive | Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
The good news is that this change is not only spiritual but physical.
Researchers have discovered that our brains have the ability to change and adapt, both functionally and structurally, as a result of our experiences. This change is not just psychological but a physical one. The changeability is called neuroplasticity.
The human brain consists of a network of nerves that transmit and process information. Each time we do, feel, or think about something, our experiences form specific “pathways” within this network of nerves. The more we repeat certain experiences, the stronger the corresponding pathways become and the more subconscious and automatic our behaviours become. This is why we brush our teeth without consciously thinking about it. This, however, does not mean we are stuck in our old ways, because our brains will literally form new pathways as we form new habits. The old pathways weaken as we use them less and less. Brain networks change over time. This is the essence of what neuroplasticity is about.
Another interesting observation is that the brain also has the ability to repair itself after traumatic injury. It can build new brain cells to replace damaged ones. All this is in essence what Romans 12:2 tells us; that God can transform us into new creations by changing the pathways in our brains and renewing our minds. But first, it requires us to offer our entire selves – our past, present and future selves – as living and holy sacrifices to God and allow His Spirit to do His renewing work in us.
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The best way to keep ourselves safe from the devil is to stay sober-minded, revere God and keep all His commandments. By doing so, we will be safe from the “the snares of death.”
Proverbs 14:27 ESV The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
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