Satan's Greatest Hits

Satan's Greatest HitsSatan is a mobster - a hit man - and he wants nothing more fervently than to rub you out. He’s a murderer, a liar, a gangster, and he’s got a contract out on your life. His final days as god of this world system are spent manically battling the angels of God for the souls of men. And if he can’t have your soul, he’ll settle for desecrating your call as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God.

As children of light, we have no business even dabbling in Satan’s kingdom. We have no business sleeping with the enemy in compromise and sin. Everything he lures us with is a lie. It’s darkness. It’s cursed. Church of the living God, we’ve got to wake up and declare, “No more! My life of compromise is over.
I am going to serve the Lord and walk in His ways and bring glory to His name with every breath that is in me! I am through playing games with evil. I am going to develop an intimate relationship with my Father in heaven and live in humble dependence on Him to keep me from falling and to walk in His ways. May God Almighty, this day, write across my forehead, ‘Holy unto the Lord’ and may it never be erased again!”
 
It is dangerous to focus on Satan too much. However, the Bible clearly teaches that we should be aware of the ways in which he operates. The Apostle Paul indicated in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 10b-11) that they were not to be unaware of Satan’s schemes, so that the devil could not outwit them. Again, in Ephesians 6:11 Paul refers to “standing against the devil’s schemes”. That, of course, presumes one knows what his schemes are!
 
Satan’s most effective devices, by far, are those that operate unseen in people’s lives. They are subtle schemes, that take on the appearance of being natural, normal, unavoidable and sometimes godly. They’re effective because they are so integrated into the norms of our culture that they don’t appear to be contrary to the ways of God. Consequently, we allow them to remain a part of our lives. Long term, these are the sins that provide a foundation for more obvious acts of rebellion.
 
Performance Orientation
One of Satan’s most effective tricks is to keep us enmeshed in performance orientation and ignorant of how to live out of God’s grace. Our entire culture is steeped in the pursuit of approval, worth and value via performance. It is what motivates most of the great achievements of mankind, thereby deceiving us into honoring it and teaching it to our children. At a recent Renovare conference, author Richard Foster said: “Even in the church, we preach grace but live in legalism and performance.”
 
Performance orientation manifests itself at the level of motivations. Ask yourself, “What motivates me to obey God, to seek Him, to do good works?” If you respond with words like, “I’m supposed to”, “I ought to”, “I should”, odds are you are living out of a sense of obligation toward God, a need to pay Him back for saving you, or out of a compulsion to buy His love or approval. Such tasks are doomed to fail. And what is worse, they call into question the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice in obtaining forever the love and acceptance of God for those who have received His Son as Lord and Savior.
 
Grace puts things in an entirely different light. In grace, I serve, I obey, I do for God, purely and simply because I love Him and for no other reason. In grace, I operate from a place of already being approved, already being forgiven, past, present and future. In that place, I follow Him because I want to rather than because I am suppose to.
 
Titus 2:11-14 spells it out nicely. Paul reminds us that grace is what teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and grace teaches us to live self-controlled, upright and godly in this present age, eager to do what is good! When I understand that my acceptance by God is no longer dependent on my performance, and when I experience the continual application of God’s love and grace in the midst of my periodic unfaithfulness, my stony heart of rebellion dissolves and I begin following the Lord not out of obligation but out of desire. His grace transforms my heart into one that is yielded and loving. In grace, the prophecies of Jer 31:33 and Ez 36:25-28 are fulfilled - God gives me a new heart, one with His law written into it. With this new heart, the love of God’s law comes “factory installed”, and I obey it out of natural desire.
 
When we truly believe that Christ has forever earned love and acceptance from the Father for us, when we accept and receive His continual flow of forgiveness even for our most evil sins, then we find freedom and peace in letting go of performance. We serve Him because our hearts have been transformed by His awesome grace and love. It is then that one of Satan’s most clever schemes is thwarted.
 
Condemnation
Another of Satan’s greatest “hits” is condemnation. This one is also insidious because it takes on an appearance of being normal, even righteous. People who suffer from chronic feelings of low self-worth are suckers for it. When they fail God, they try to atone for their sin by embracing condemnation, as if it were well deserved punishment sent from heaven. Satan whispers into their minds thoughts like, “Failed God again! You call yourself a Christian! You’re just a hypocrite, a failure, never going to do anything right. This thing is just too powerful for you. It’s your cross to bear”, and on and on and on. Being unaware of Satan’s schemes, they mistakenly embrace such thoughts as truthful revelations from their own mind and heart.
 
What is the sin here? It is believing your thoughts and feelings and/or the voice of the enemy when God has said something different. In Romans 8:1-2, God unambiguously proclaims that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Are you going to believe your thoughts and feelings, or are you going to believe God?
 
In the 1960’s a deceptive philosophy was adopted by a generation of people - one that has since become invisibly entrenched in the belief system of our entire culture. It suggests that truth is found in what you feel and experience. It further suggests that to operate contrary to one’s thoughts and feelings is to be hypocritical, dishonest or unnatural. The problem with this philosophy is that it presumes that thoughts and feelings are the source of truth, that they are accurate barometers of reality - an idea which is patently false.Thoughts and feelings continually lie to us and mislead us. It may be a convenient philosophy for those who choose to believe that they are God, or for those who choose to live as if they were, but it is illogical and contrary to reality. God is the only reliable source oftruth. With our finite minds and limited experience, we cannot know anything with certainty unless it has been revealed to us by the One who is omniscient. That is why the Bible is so very important. It is our ground of truth, sent from God. All thoughts and feelings are subject to its revelation.
 
Satan’s plot to get us to embrace condemnation, even when it contradicts God’s Word, is a long and winding road. He sets us up by first getting us to repeatedly compromise in seemingly minor areas (gossiping, lying, cheating, holding on to unresolved anger, etc). At this stage, he’s tilling the ground, getting us to carelessly spend our spiritual currency on pottage and thereby forsake that intimate place in God from which the Lord keeps us from falling. Then Satan sends the big temptation - the one he knows carries a lot of emotional investment in how we perceive ourselves and our value to God. Having no ground left to stand in by that point, we become an easy victim. Then, after we succumb to the “big temptation” Satan persuades us to embrace feelings of guilt, shame & condemnation. What he’s really tempting us with at this point is the sin of unbelief. If we take the bait, then hopelessness, frustration and anger sets in, followed by more temptations and more falls.
 
Do you know what the greater sin is in this vicious cycle? It is believing the lie that God accepts us based on our performance rather than on the finished work of Christ on our behalf and the compounding of that sin by embracing the condemnation that God says is no longer ours to bear. In this two-stage plunge into unbelief, we have doubted the character and integrity of God and what He has said is true. That is the greater sin that fertilizes the womb from which more overt sinful acts are born.
 
Since it is a trap, reject such thoughts & feelings! Aggressively embrace the truth of who you are in Christ and the forgiveness you stand in through Him. Run back to God the moment you have sinned - not away from Him! The genius of Satan’s trap is that it is designed to keep you from seeking intimate communion with God, out of fear of Him and from doubting His goodness and His word.
 
In his book, Passion for Jesus, (pp. 113,114,117 & 120), Mike Bickle comments:
“When the Lord’s presence departs from us in our place of compromise . . . you and I must arise in obedience and faith and seek Him. . . . . He does not condemn us for our immaturity or accuse us of our failures. Instead, He calls things that are not as though they were, because He sees those things in seed form in our hearts (Rom 4:17). . . . . Even when we are weak, even when we fail, the Lord looks at the sincerity and devotion of our hearts and exclaims, ‘You are so beautiful to Me!’ The knowledge that Jesus continues to enjoy us as we are maturing is a foundational truth that empowers us to mature. . . . . Even though your actions sometimes fall short of your intentions, the devout resolution of your heart overwhelms Him with affectionate emotion. He looks at you and yearns over you, longing to draw you into a more intimate relationship with Him. It is this revelation of Jesus’ ravished heart for you that awakens your heart to fervency for Him, igniting your progression in holy passion. And it is His passionate love for you and your response of love and devotion for Him that act as a breastplate of love, guarding your heart with holy affections in times of temptation and in the difficult hours of life (1 Thess 5:8).”
 
Unforgiveness & the Judging of Hearts
When we have been unfairly treated, when we have been abused, slandered and defiled by others, and when we choose to work through these traumas apart from God’s enablement, we often end up creating elaborate systems of justification for holding unforgiveness against those who have injured us. The greater the trauma, the more innocent we were when it was done, the more justified we feel in refusing to yield to God’s desire that we forgive. Such responses to hurt begin in childhood, when we do not yet understand the power of grace nor see the ultimate justice of God in the eternal perspective of faith. And so, we try to create a sense of justice in a world that seems to have none by becoming judge and jury in our heart against those who have hurt us. These “sins of response” give Satan ground to bring even greater deception and bondage into our lives.
 
Sometimes, the judgments we make against people aren’t based on actual harm done, but on perceived intent. In other words, we presume to know what was in their heart - what motivated them to say or do what they did. That gives birth to inner justification for condemning them in our heart and refusing to forgive them. As adults, we must come to grips with the fact that such condemning attitudes of the heart are rebellion against God - a way of choosing to live in a sea of self-pity and anger rather than trusting that He is the proper judge for sin.
 
Satan’s deceptions in this area are quite elaborate, and one of his most effective is in persuading us to believe (by planting thoughts in our mind) that forgiveness is something more than it really is.
 
  • He would like for us to believe that forgiveness is tantamount to saying that what was done was okay. That’s not what it means at all!
  • He’d like us to believe that in forgiving, we are releasing the guilty party from the legal or divine consequences of their behavior. That’s not at all what we are doing! We have no such authority.
  • Satan would like us to believe that forgiveness is something we have to achieve on our own. Nonsense! Some things seem unforgivable, but if we will ask Him, God will enable us to forgive even those things.
  • The evil one would like for us to believe that forgiveness is achieved merely by mouthing certain words so as to satisfy some legal standard. Although saying words can help us to embrace the meaning of them, the ability to forgive from the heart is something that must be sought and received from God.
  • Satan would also like us to believe that forgiveness is dependent on the perpetrator’s response. That is also untrue. It does not matter if the person who harmed you acknowledges or repents of their sin. If you truly forgive them from your heart, then you have accomplished God’s will for you in the matter.
What then is forgiveness?
- It is taking yourself out of the judgment seat simply because it belongs to God alone. Imagine that future day when you will stand before God in heaven. Do you really think that you are going to be so presumptuous as to go sit in His throne? I don’t think so! Why sit in it now then?
 
  • Forgiveness is acknowledging that having accepted Christ’s forgiveness for yourself, you have no right to withhold it from others. It is therefore an act of the will, not a servant of feelings.
  • Forgiveness is also an act of God’s grace poured out through your heart. It is a result of being transformed into His image, taking on His mind and heart, clothing yourself with Him.
  • It is as much an opportunity to set yourself free as it is an opportunity to set the perpetrator free.
  • Forgiveness is a removal of a significant part of Satan’s ground, that has allowed him to re-victimize you over and over again so as to emotionally destroy you and your relationship with God.
In his book, Passion for Jesus, Mike Bickle says:
“An intimate relationship with Jesus can heal any wound of the human heart. How are the inner wounds of the heart healed? We have to give everything to God, including our bitterness, self-pity and desire for revenge. Our grief, anger, shame and pride - even our hopes, dreams and ambitions - must be laid on God’s altar, along with our personal rights and the desire to run our own lives. Jesus Christ must become the focus of our hearts - not our tragedies, our past or all that might have been. Only Jesus can transform self-pity into praise or tears into triumph. A focus on intimacy with Jesus heals the inner wounds of the heart.”
 
Idolatry
The siren song of idolatry is exquisitely effective today not only because idolatry is in itself seductive, but also because man is ignorant of the many forms it takes. Most think of idolatry as being limited to prostrating oneself before a carved figure. The Bible gives a far broader picture, however. Take Ephesians 5:3-5 for example, where idolatry is said to include the sins of:
 
  • sexual immorality
  • any kind of impurity
  • greed
  • obscenity
  • foolish talk
  • coarse joking
When I commit one of these sins, (and I am certain there are others that are associated with idolatry), Satan deceives me into thinking them relatively unimportant. I do not confess my sin of idolatry because I do not see my sin as idolatry. Thus, I remain bound to the sin and blinded by an unrepentant heart.
 
What is idolatry then? It is putting one’s hope of fulfillment in something other than God. It is giving one’s heart, one’s primary devotion to something other than Him. This can occur in a marital relationship, when one spouse gives first place in their heart to the other spouse rather than to God. Without ever saying or thinking it, they place their hope of fulfillment in their mate and relegate God to second or third place.
 
We must understand what idolatry is and ruthlessly eradicate it from our lives, by asking the Holy Spirit to search our heart and reveal if there be any wicked way in us.
 
Trials in the Wilderness
We all must go through various trials in this life. They are necessary for producing perseverance, character and hope. It is what Satan tries to do in the midst of those trials that is one of his greatest hits. He tempts our faith with our flesh.
 
Examining how he tempted our Lord reveals his most common tactics. When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness with all the kingdoms of the world, Satan was tempting Him with the idolatry of putting material things before God (and the sense of control that would give). When he tempted Christ to throw Himself down so that God’s angels would catch Him, Satan was tempting Him to throw off weakness and embrace power. And when Satan tempted Jesus to turn the stone into bread, he was tempting Him with disobeying the will of His Father - for God had led Jesus to fast in the wilderness.
 
In all these temptations, (and others), during our wilderness periods, Satan causes us to think and/or feel that God has abandoned and forsaken us. In essence, he is tempting us to question the honesty and faithfulness of God to keep His Word, where He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)
 
Sounds like a familiar challenge doesn’t it? It goes all the way back to Genesis 3:1, when Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say . . . . .” As Jesus did, we must resist this temptation by proclaiming our faith in the Word of God, despite all appearances, thoughts and feelings to the contrary. When we do, Satan will respond the same way he did with Jesus - he will withdraw until a more opportune time (ref. Lk 4:13).
 
Wounds of Injustice
Most of us have suffered wounds of injustice. During each of them, Satan’s henchmen demons were there, not only inciting our wounding, but also planting thoughts of doubt about the goodness and fairness of God in our heart during the intense emotions of the moment. At such times, their voice whispers: “It’s not fair . . .
  • that You (God) put me in this family,
  • that You put me in this body,
  •  that You let my child die,
  • that You allowed me to be molested,
  • that You let the innocent suffer!”
When we read God’s reply to similar cries from Job, our frustration gets compounded. His answer to Job was: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38) Instead of directly answering Job’s question about why He was allowing all of those terrible things to happen to him, God addresses the attitude of the heart behind Job’s remarks. In God’s mind, the greater problem was the doubt in Job’s heart about God’s goodness and the arrogance behind his presuming to be able to have enough information to even begin to make such charges against God.
 
When we suffer wounds of injustice, we often bury anger, judgment and bitterness against God deep inside, too afraid to acknowledge their existence. And so it makes us even madder when God doesn’t answer our question, “Why did You let me be hurt?” In fact, His silence can be the most maddening thing of all, for it is then that we discover that we cannot command answers from Him, nor can we control or manipulate Him into answering our angry tirades. This reminds us that we are not sovereign gods, that we are wholly dependent on Him, and that inflames our pride, which does not die easily. When we respond to wounds of injustice with angry, prideful ultimatums rather than humble accedence to the unseen wisdom of God, we open up large tracts of ground for Satan to take in us.
 
The Immediate, Temporal, Finite Perspective
One of Satan’s most effective tricks is to so monopolize our attention with the tyranny of the now that we forget the true dominance of the eternal. He immerses us in the sensate, which Websters New Collegiate Dictionary defines as being, “preoccupied with things that can be experienced through a sense modality”. He exploits this predominance of the physical senses, our common inexperience with spiritual discernment and the dearth of faith found in our sinking culture to deflect our attention from eternal realities and perspectives. He gets us so preoccupied with the complexities of modern life that we fail to give much attention to practicing or reinforcing the greater reality of the kingdom of God in our midst.
 
In this manic, self-focused world, we must aggressively apportion time to focus in on the eternal. We must pursue the transcendent. We must consciously maintain facility with the sights and sounds of that greater reality of God’s kingdom and purpose that exists unseen all around us. We must immerse ourselves in those things that strengthen faith and an awareness of God’s presence.
 
Our battle against this satanic “hit”, more than any other, requires an aggressive posture toward the kingdom of God and against the kingdom of darkness. It is not sufficient to wage a defensive battle against sin, waiting unprepared for its onslaught. Instead, we must live vigilant, proactive lives, knowing ahead of time what Satan’s schemes are and what our response will be when they are employed against us. I must make up my mind once and for all what my response to each temptation will be. Is yielding to it going to be considered an option? It is at this level that I must make an irrevocable decision that the answer will forevermore be “No”, understanding that God will honor my commitment only when, by faith, I turn to Him at each moment of temptation and call upon His power to enforce the decision.
 
It is important to understand that my dependence on His holiness to empower my decision must be accompanied by the faith of knowing that God will do so every time I truly want Him to. And the thing that keeps my will yielded to His is maintaining an intimate love relationship with Him. When I abide in Him, temptation loses its allure in the glory of His presence and my desire to live in holiness stays resolute.
 
God has called us to be violently aggressive in taking the kingdom. (Mt 11:12) It does not just happen to us. We must fervently pursue and take it by the force of a passionate will and desire for the things of God. (That passion comes from being in His presence). And we must refuse to live solely by the evidence of the immediate, the temporal and the finite.
 
Pride
Pride is an insidious, unseen killer, more like a hit done with a slow- working poison rather than a brutal frontal assault. It hides itself in the independent spirit of americanism. It flaunts itself in sports, in business, in entertainment and other arenas where successful heroes become the models for our culture. In the west, pride is seen as a virtue. It is all the more difficult to resist because it is championed by almost every structure of modeling and authority - even ecclesiastical ones. And it follows quickly on the heels of even our righteous thoughts and acts.
 
There is only one effective approach to this problem. We must continuously ask God to show us if there is any such wicked way in us. (Ps 139:23-24) Pride must be ruthlessly and immediately attacked with the weapons of our warfare the instant it is detected. It’s opposite must be aggressively sought and practiced. We must purposely teach, model and reward humility and the seeking of it - for God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud. (James 4:6) He esteems the humble. (Is 66:2) And so, we must live in the reality of Galatians 2:20:
 
“I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
 
The Flesh
Romans 7:18 says, “Nothing good lives in me, that is in my flesh.” This seventh chapter of Romans describes what seems to be a hopeless battle that rages within the heart of every man - wanting to do what is right and not doing it, wanting not to do what is wrong and doing that instead. Satan’s trick is to persuade us that this is the unchangeable state of man in this world - that we have no hope of living any other way before Jesus comes. Once again, the devil is saying, “Has God really said . . . . “ He’s hoping that our love of sin will cause us to ignore the answer found in Romans 8 and use Romans 7 as an excuse for a compromised, unfaithful life.
 
In Romans 8 we are told that Jesus Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death described in Romans 7. It tells us that walking by the Spirit makes the difference. When we yield ourselves to the Spirit, He overcomes the enemy for us and enables us to walk in the ways of God. A big part of yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit has to do with the moment by moment decisions we make to consider ourselves dead to the flesh, (the sinful nature), by not feeding it, not believing it, and not following after it and instead receiving God’s continual flow of life within us to keep us from falling. If we will do this, 2nd Peter 1:3-11, Gal 5:16, Jude 24, Titus 2:11-14, 2 Cor 1:21, 1 Jn 2:1-6, Romans 8 and Gal 2:20 all conspire to suggest that God will live His righteousness through us, conquering our flesh for us, and progressively move us deeper into a life of faithfulness to His ways.
 
Fear
Finally, one of Satan’s most effective strategies against us is to assault us with thoughts and feelings of fear. In fact, he may be trying to pull this one on you right now. If you have found yourself guilty of the first nine “hits” described in this article, you may be experiencing feelings of fear and hopelessness. This is a trick of the enemy. You must stand against it and call it the lie that it is. You must put it away just as aggressively as the other tricks. 1 John 16b, 18 says:
 
“God is love . . . . There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Fear is often an element of Satan’s first great hit - performance orientation. If your sense of acceptance by God is based on having lived free from Satan’s schemes, and if this article has uncovered levels of compromise that you didn’t realize you had, you may be experiencing feelings of worthlessness, fear and rejection. Remember, such feelings are based on the lie of performance and are deceptions of the enemy! Run back into God’s arms as did the prodigal son and experience the healing grace and love that is there for you. Let God’s love quench your fear.
*** performance orientation
*** condemnation
*** unforgiveness
*** idolatry
*** wilderness trials
*** wounds of injustice
*** the immediate perspective
*** pride
*** the flesh
*** fear
As you can see, these ten of Satan’s greatest hits are quite sophisticated and extraordinarily clever. But our God is infinitely wiser and has a perfect way for you to escape them all.
 
Let’s first determine in our hearts that by God’s power we are going to stand against the schemes of the devil, that we are going to plan ahead of time what our response to these temptations will be, that we are going to wage an aggressive, offensive war against the enemy rather than a defensive one, always dependent on God’s power and promises to see us through.
 
Second, understanding that all of Satan’s schemes depend on unbelief, let’s commit once and for all, to trust in God and be led by His Word. His is the greater power! All the forces of evil combined cannot hold a candle to it. When God comes to vanquish sin and evil, just the breath of His mouth will destroy all of Satan’s power. (2 Thess 2:8) In writing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, Martin Luther had it right when he proclaimed,
“. . . . one little word shall fell him!”
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Copyright © 1996, 1997 Mastering Life Ministries
This article is reprinted by permission of the publisher.
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