“In the Valley of Humiliation poor Christian faced great difficulty, for he had gone only a short distance before he saw a devilish creature named Apollyon coming across the field to meet him.” – John Bunyan
12 “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:12–15 (ESV)
Martin Luther said that Christians face three enemies: —the world, the flesh, and the devil. Obviously, these foes are interrelated.
First, our flesh. This refers to the remaining tendency in our lives to sin (Romans 7:13-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:1-11).
Second, the fallen world. It is the world system that sets itself in opposition to Christ. In itself, the world was originally very good (Genesis 1-2), but in the fall of Adam, it was set against its Creator. It hates Jesus because of His testimony about its fallen system of pride and ungodliness, and thus it gains the capacity to hate all who are united to Christ (John 7:1-9; John 15:18-25; I John 2:15-17).
Thirdly, there is the devil himself. It is to this fallen angel that we give our specific attention today.
These three enemies are interrelated, we can still examine them separately. Our battle to grow in holiness is a supernatural one, and it involves defeating the devil as well as the world and the flesh.
In the modern Western culture, the devil, or Satan, is largely understood as a myth. Many people deny the existence of a personal being known as the devil; even many people who profess the name of Christ. It has not always been this way. Our forefathers in the faith were acutely aware of the power and presence of Satan.
Martin Luther, for example, spoke regularly of his encounters with the Prince of Lies. Luther struggled with bouts of Anfechtungen—extreme depression—and he even spoke of being able to see the devil and throw his inkpot at him. Today, many people think the devil is little more than a historical curiosity. He is viewed as a being invented to explain certain phenomena, but not a supernatural creature in his own right.
Luther was at the forefront of the greatest revival of truth since the apostolic age; The Protestant Reformation. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Satan might focus his attention on the great German Reformer. It is interesting to note that Martin Luther wrote one of the most enduring hymns of the church; A Mighty Fortress is Our God.
For the rest of us, perhaps the devil isn’t all that interested. However, we should not take that to mean that we will not be called upon to defeat demonic forces as they wage war on our own lives. There is a legion of demons who exist to influence the world for ill and lead God’s people astray (Mark 5:1–20). Jesus Himself frequently dealt with evil spirits. To ignore them is to be unprepared for the spiritual battles that we must fight.
There are two extremes believers in Christ must avoid. The first is to look for the devil, or one of his demonic angels, under every rock, nook and cranny. The fallen world and our remaining sinful flesh can entice us to disobedience against God without demonic assistance. The second would be to ignore the devil all together and pretend he does not exist.
Believers in Christ must know how the devil presents himself if we are to combat him. As the following passages indicate, we should not necessarily expect our spiritual enemies to look overtly evil. Satan is the master trickster who often disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV)
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 ESV)
“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 ESV)
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31 ESV)
In many cases, evil does not look all that disgusting to us. The devil draws us in by offering things to us that look good; not by broadcasting it loud and clear that we are being tempted to do what is wrong. Wise Christians train their powers of discernment by the Word of God. We seek to know God’s thoughts so that we might recognize the devil when he comes in the guise of an angel of light.
Because the Son of God came to destroy the devil, we need not fear him. We also need not wonder too much if the devil is behind specific temptations that confronts us. What we should do is become fully grounded in God’s Word. As we grow in our knowledge of Scripture, our discernment improves, and we find it easier to identify as sinister things that might at first glance appear to be good. Let us train our minds by the Word of God.
I encourage you to read and meditate upon Ephesians 6:10-20. Have a God honoring day.
Soli deo Gloria!