Session 6 – Saturday Morning Service – January 14, 2012
The Subtlety of Satan
The vast majority of people who call themselves Christian do not believe in the existence of Satan, but rather just an amalgamation of the evil of mankind. However, the Bible assumes that Satan exists.
Genesis 3:1 describes Satan as subtle. It also is translated as crafty. Something that is subtle is not readily obvious. It is something that requires us to think. Satan hides his real intentions by a different outward appearance. The word subtle is related to the opposite of the word naked in Genesis 1:25. Adam and Eve were not hiding anything.
Why is the serpent said to be more crafty than the beasts of the field? Was he not an angel? Because of the fall of Satan, Satan was placed in a position where Adam was to take authority over him in the same way that Adam was to have dominion over the beasts of the field. Temptation comes from those things that should be subservient to us.
The dialogue of Satan with Eve:
1) Satan begins with a question. This question is a twisting of God’s word in order to plant doubt. The question attempts to plant the seed of usurping God’s authority.
2) Eve responds by adding and changing God’s words. She added “touching” and she did not call the forbidden tree by its proper name.
3) Satan contradicts God’s statement of the consequences of eating from the tree. This statement plants a seed of rationalization.
4) Satan then offers Eve an alternative form of happiness. But it is poison wrapped in a subtle wrapper. It is spiritual suicide wrapped in an appearance of happiness.
Satan tried the same subtle approach with Jesus Christ in the wilderness. And this subtlety is the same means that Satan operates in the world today. See 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. This is also seen in Romans 1:18-32.
1) Romans 1:18-20 begins with the truth that God exists and everyone knows it.
2) But Satan has made people doubt the veracity of God.
3) Next, Satan has given people a rationalization that they are god.
4) Next, Satan offers people alternative forms of happiness.
5) And finally, people deal with the wrong they do by getting everyone else to participate in their sins.
Satan is also subtle in how he deals with the church. Satan does not attack the church openly, but in subtle ways. He just tries to shift the gospel a little.
1) He starts with questions that cause doubt. Did Jesus really do everything needed?
2) He then creates a rationalization about the self-centeredness of the gospel.
3) He then offers an alternative form of happiness – morality and therapy – doing good and feeling good.
What is our response? Be sober-minded, be watchful, be observant, be able to discern, notice the times in which we live.
Satan is subtle. But God is not. And we must not be either. Everything about salvation was/is done in public and is open to scrutiny. See 2 Corinthians 4:2. We must proclaim the full counsel of the word of God in the public arena with no subtlety.
Subtlety of Satan by Mark Gervais
by Warren Wiersbe
Dr. Wiersbe zeroes in on Satan’s attacks as deceiver, destroyer, ruler, and accuser. He emphasizes that conquering the enemy comes by obeying God’s truth.
Free Kindle book.
For some reason this is a pre-buy Kindle book which won’t be available until December 15th. However, the price is sure to change quickly so if interested pre-buy the free book. 🙂
This follows along with the post about Paul.
Can we trust the word from the other disciples?
Or could they have been deceived by Paul?
This might seem strange to most believers to question the disciples but that is what Satan wants us to do. “Hath God Said?” So Satan comes along and encourages others to question the disciples and the books in the NT written by them and Paul. Satan doesn’t mind convincing you that you are doing just fine because you are willing to follow the Words of God, it is just the disciples or Paul that you question. But that is very dangerous territory.
See who wrote the Words of God for us?
Did God write down the Words of God?
Two instances that I know are recorded that the Lord physically wrote.
Exodus 31:18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. ESV
John 8:8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. ESV
Beyond that every word of God was written by a man through the Holy Spirit. So if we start throwing out, nullifying or belittling the writings of the disciples, we are tampering with Scripture ourselves.
How can we then know what God has said if we cannot trust the words written by Paul, the disciples or the prophets?
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. ESV
Genesis 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made,
and behold, it was very good.
And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. ESV
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” ESV
17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” ESV
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.
12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. ESV
Isaiah 24:6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; ESV
However the Lord is merciful to us though we deserve His wrath.
Psalms 103:8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. ESV
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. ESV
Personal Note: We have killed four copperheads in four days! The serpent did not strike our heels but we have struck their heads. (Genesis 3:15) Thankfully, Jesus dealt the blow to Satan for us.
Our state has had hail storms, tornados, damaging straight line winds, derecho (That was a new one!), an earthquake, and flooding just this week! Talk about a world suffering from the effects of sin.
But we have been blessed immensely. No storm damage of any kind. No one bitten by snakes although the two in the picture were just in front of the flower bed while the children were all outside playing and working.
We have also enjoyed lovely flowers and we made lots of strawberry preserves.
But we await the New Heavens and the New Earth.
2 Peter 3:13 But according to his promise
we are waiting for
new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells. ESV
Lately piracy in the seas around Somalia has been in the news. Just this past weekend the Captain of the Maersk Alabama was rescued from pirates after being held captive for five days. The US military ships surrounded the lifeboat containing the four pirates and the American ship captain. After a standoff, the Navy Seals shot and killed the pirates and rescued the American when the captain was deemed to be at risk of being shot.
Today the news has included several more reports of hijacking and piracy attempts. A pirate has stated that they are actually searching for American ships with the plans to hijack and kill all the Americans. They are specifically looking for the American Flag flying over a ship. This is in retaliation for the Navy killing the pirates in the rescue.
When a ship out at sea is found to be flying an American Flag that means something. What does it mean? It means that the ship is backed by the US government. All terrorism and attacks against the ship run the very high risk of retaliation by the US government.
My studies in military history have shown there is much in a name. While a small country could be at the mercy of pirates, larger countries are not helpless. Countries such as the US can escort ships and they can retaliate in the case of an attack. Also the US has political sway over other countries, granted not as much as before, but we still do. Small countries are dependent on their political allies. This is much of the reason for the First Gulf War – protecting Kuwait from Iraq. There are Fillipinos who have been held captive by pirates since November and there is little their country can and will do about the situation.
So how does this apply here in our Christian Life?
Whose flag are you under? Are you under the flag of the Lord?
In the Bible, the phrase Yehovah Nicciy means Jehovah my banner. Nec (root word) might be translated as banner, flag or standard while the word Degel is also translated flag, banner or standard.
15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi:
16 For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. KJV
15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord is my banner,
16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” ESV
Psalms 60:4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah ESV
Song of Solomon 2:4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. ESV
Isaiah 13:2 Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles. KJV
We as those who Christ as ransomed have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. ESV
We are flying the Lord’s Banner or Flag with the Holy Spirit as our guarantor.
When others decide to “mess with us” then they run the risk of facing the full wrath and fury of the Lord. We are backed by the Lord and all His resources.
However, just like today with the shipping situation, those under the Lord’s banner also risk being singled out by Satan for attacks. Satan hates the Lord and by association us. Satan will do all in his power to attack those flying the Lord’s banner.
As a matter of fact, the Lord has warned us that this will happen.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ESV
Just as the US has warned American ships to be extra vigilant during the recent pirate crises; the Lord has warned us that Satan is sneaking around looking for those who are caught off guard.
But we shouldn’t live in fear because the Lord is on our side.
4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. ESV
Having the Lord as our protection and shield is better than having all the military might of the whole world behind us.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. ESV
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (NIV)
Just as we found that the first sin of Satan was the sin of pride, we discover in Genesis chapter 3 that the first sin of man was also the sin of pride. Pride in mankind has its roots in the Garden of Eden. We know that Adam and Eve first sinned when they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil against the direct command of God. But the question remains: Why did Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit? They ate the fruit because of pride. Yes, there were other reasons which we will examine in a moment. But for the purposes of this study we will concentrate on the sin of pride.
The first thing to notice in our passage in Genesis chapter 3 is that the sin of pride had its beginning when truth was exchanged for a lie. Notice in verses 2-3 that Eve begins with an orthodox belief. “The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'” (NIV) Eve correctly repeats the command of God that was given in Genesis 2:16-17. However, in verse 4, we see that Satan exchanges the truth of God’s word for a lie. “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.” (NIV) The words of Satan are in direct contradiction to the word of God. I believe that it is a universal truth that all sin is based on a lie which is in contradiction to the word of God. In Romans 1:25, in Paul’s great treatise on the utter sinfulness of man, we read “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.” (NIV)
The second thing to notice in our passage in Genesis chapter 3 is that the sin of pride is based on the temptation that man can share in the glory that is due only to God. Just as Satan himself was deceived and believed that he could in some way be equal to God, so man in his pride can be deceived that we can also be, in some small way, equal to God. We see this temptation in Genesis 3:5. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NIV) What is the temptation which Satan lays out before Eve? The ability to be like God. And it is the pride of man which tells us that this might just be possible. But God tells us that this is impossible. We read in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)
The third thing to notice in our passage in Genesis chapter 3 is that the sin of pride was accompanied by other sins in the fall of Adam of Eve. In Genesis 3:6, we read “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (NIV) When Eve looks on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil looking through the glasses of the lie of Satan, what is it that she sees? She sees fruit that is: 1) good for food, 2) pleasing to the eye, and 3) desirable for gaining wisdom. Looking through the glasses of God’s word, none of these three things were true. But believing the lie of Satan changed the appearance of the fruit to Eve.
Allow me to draw a parallel here. Consider Genesis 3:6 in light of 1 John 2:16 “For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.” (NIV) Notice the equivalence between these two passages. Good for food = cravings of sinful man. Pleasing to the eye = lust of his eyes. Desirable for gaining wisdom = boasting of what he has and does, or “pride of life” in some Bible versions. But also notice the last phrase in 1 John 2:16. These lies do not come from the word of God, but from lies of the world.
The fourth thing to notice in our passage in Genesis chapter 3 is that the fruit of the sin of pride is bitter. Adam and Eve gained no wisdom from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they did gain some knowledge. We see this in Genesis 3:7. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (NIV) What is the knowledge that they gained? They gained a knowledge of their shame. How bitter is the fruit of pride. We think we are something special and that we are due some special privilege that others cannot have. But when we learn the truth we find that our pride gives us nothing but shame.
So is there a lesson to be learned here? I believe there is. The lesson we can learn is how to resist the temptation of pride. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (KJV) Adam and Eve faced the temptation of the sin of pride. You will too. God gave Adam and Eve a way of escape. There was another tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden as well. It was the Tree of Life. More about that in a minute.
Let’s consider a student in school who has just failed an exam. He goes to his teacher and he argues that it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t pass the exam and that he deserves a passing grade. He tries to blame everything. The test was too hard. I didn’t have enough time. I wasn’t told what to prepare. We do the same when we don’t pass the test of temptation. Notice the three “BUT’s” in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
I argue “My temptation was unique – no one else has ever faced such a temptation.” But what does God say? “BUT such as is common to man.” Your test was no different than anyone else’s.
I argue “My temptation was too strong.” But what does God say? “BUT I am faithful and will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that you are able.” Nothing comes to you that God doesn’t allow and he allows no more than we can bear.
I argue “my temptation was impossible to get through.” But what does God say? “BUT I will make a way of escape so you can bear it.”
We can face the temptation of the sin of pride with God’s help. Pride has been successfully defeated by others in the past. Pride is not too strong to be defeated now. God offers a much better way than the way of pride. This is the way of humility and servanthood. But those are the subjects of future posts.
Now, what was the way of escape that God gave Adam and Eve? It was the Tree of Life. What would have happened if Adam and Eve had chosen the fruit of the Tree of Life instead of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? We are told the answer to this question in Genesis 3:22-24.
22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (NIV)
The fruit of the Tree of Life would have granted Adam and Eve eternal life. However, once Adam and Eve had fallen, the fruit of the Tree of Life was forbidden to them. God drove them from the Garden and placed an angel to guard the way back to the Tree of Life. When we are faced with the temptation of pride, we too have a choice. We can choose to take and eat that fruit of the sin of pride. It looks good, and it tastes good, but it turns to bitterness in the belly. Or we can choose to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Life. The way will be hard for we must take up and bear a cross daily, but the fruit will be sweet to the soul.
By Berean Husband
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. (NIV)
Isaiah chapter 14 is a taunt against the king of Babylon that the house of Israel was to take up when they were released from bondage. However, I believe that these verses have a second meaning in that they also provide us a glimpse of what occurred in heaven when Satan fell. If that is true, then these verses record the first sin ever committed, and also God’s punishment for the first sin.
So what was the first sin? It should be no surprise that I believe that the first sin of Satan was the sin of pride. Its manifestations are recorded in verses 13-14. “You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (NIV) First, notice that the manifestation of the first sin began in the heart of Satan. It was not the rebellion that Satan led against God that was the first sin. It was something that went on in the heart of Satan. And is that not true for all our sin as well? All our sin begins in our heart. There is nothing that we do with our body which is evil that does not begin in our heart. And there is nothing that we fail to do with our body which would have been good that does not begin in our heart. We are told in James 1:14-15 “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (NIV) Someone might say, “I thought it was Satan who tempted me. Or at least one of his demons.” What I gather from James 1:14-15 is that Satan doesn’t need to bother tempting us. Our own fleshly nature does the job quite well for him. We are tempted to sin by the evil desires that begin in our heart. We need to realize that the sin of pride begins in our heart and is not caused by outward circumstances.
Second, notice that the manifestation of the first sin of pride of Satan was focused clearly on the “self.” What I mean can be seen in all the “I” statements in Isaiah 14:13-14:
“I will ascend to heaven”
“I will raise my throne above the stars of God”
“I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain”
“I will ascend above the tops of the clouds”
“I will make myself like the Most High”
Satan’s first sin occurred when he became the object of his own worship instead of God. All of these “I” statements in verses 13-14 indicate a person who is more interested in their own self-exaltation rather than the glory of God. Notice that Satan did not intend to dethrone God. He intended to become like God – “I will make myself like the Most High.” And just to give a small preview of the next post, is that not the same thing Satan offered Eve in the Garden of Eden? A chance to be like God. Genesis 3:5 tells us “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NIV) This is why it is possible for a Christian to have the sin of pride. We are not seeking to replace God. In that case we could not be a Christian. We just want to be a bit like God. To get a little bit of the glory that is due only to God.
Third, Satan’s first sin occurred when he desired a place that was not rightfully his to take. There is another passage very similar to Isaiah 14:12-15 found in Ezekiel 28:12-19. This passage in Ezekiel is, on the surface, the word of God against the King of Tyre. However, I believe it is also a message about Satan. These verses in Ezekiel tell us that Satan had every possible benefit and privilege which could be afforded by God. But he was not satisfied. He wanted the one thing that could not be his – equivalency with God. Did not King David have the same problem? God gave him everything, but David desired the one thing he could not have – another man’s wife. We read in 2 Samuel 12:7-12:
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.
12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'” (NIV)
Is it not the same with us? God has showered us with blessings beyond our ability to count. By grace, we have received things which we have no right or claim to. But we are never satisfied. Our pride tells us that we deserve more. Who is God to think He can withhold from us the lustful desires of our sinful heart? Surely we know what we need better than God does. Our pride leads us to fall into the trap of Satan, to desire the things we cannot have.
But now notice the punishment of Satan for his first sin of pride. This is seen in Isaiah 14 verses 12 and 15. “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” “But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.” (NIV) The punishment of Satan was far more than just being told that he could not have what he lusted for, the punishment of Satan was his loss of everything he had. So, is the sin of pride that serious? It was the sin of pride which led Satan to rebel against God. What started in Satan’s heart eventually led to an action which would forever damn Satan. So the answer to the question is “Yes, pride is that serious.” The sin of pride in the life of a Christian could lead into further deliberate acts of rebellion against God. We could begin to worship ourselves instead of God. We could begin to seek the worship and adulation of other people. We could begin to take what has been forbidden to us. And what might the consequences for the sin of our pride be? For Satan it was the loss of everything. David was repaid with exactly what he had sinfully done. I don’t know what the answer might be for you or for me.
By Berean Husband
Since when is it acceptable for a “Christian” to give into sin? Why did Ray Boltz not resist Satan and flee from sin? Ray Boltz needs to examine himself with Scripture to see if Jesus Christ is in him.
40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord . KJV
2 Cor 13:5
5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? KJV
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. KJV
1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. KJV
2 Tim 2:22
22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. KJV
1 Cor 6:18
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. KJV
by Daryl Wingerd
For those not familiar with American football, the game is played on a 100-yard field. A team can score in two primary ways, either by carrying the ball into the other team’s end-zone and scoring a touchdown (6 points), or by kicking the ball from a distance, between two vertical poles in the other team’s end-zone, thus scoring a field-goal (3 points). Every good football coach knows the field-goal principle well. In order to stop the opposing team from scoring, you must keep them far away. Good “place-kickers” (as they are called) rarely miss when within range.
Christians have an opposing force seeking to defeat them-an enemy who is happy to score spiritual field-goals (rather than touchdowns) by tempting them to sin in little ways, even if he cannot always score in big ways.
Probably the best example of the way the field-goal principle works is in the arena of sexual immorality. Consider King David as an example. David let the enemy get past mid-field when he looked lustfully at the lovely Bathsheba while she was bathing on her roof-top. Then he allowed the enemy to come within easy field-goal range when he sent to have her brought to his palace. In this particular case, David gave up a spiritual touchdown when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then conspired to have her husband murdered. But David’s fall into sin began by merely letting the enemy come close, and it resulted in a huge and shocking defeat.
Before anyone commends himself for not going as far as David, realize that Satan achieves most of his victories by scoring collections of field-goals. He successfully tempts men to look lustfully at women through pornography or other venues. Even when the sin goes no farther than looking, adulterous field-goals like these, while seemingly insignificant, are an integral part of the enemy’s strategy. The fact is, every sin, whether big or little, serves to advance Satan’s cause, which is to damage and devour. Whether big or little, sin presses only toward destruction. The house consumed suddenly by fire ends up in the same final condition as the one consumed gradually and secretly by termites.
My intent in discussing the destructive nature of sin is to show you the value of the distance principle-the field-goal principle-in defending against it. The best defense against sin is distance from sin. As we all know, the farther a magnet is kept from a piece of iron, the weaker the attraction becomes.
The Apostle Paul gave Christians excellent counsel for defending against sin when he said, “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14). Because our flesh is powerfully attracted to sin (and it is, even after we are born again), we should be distrustful of it. We should keep it far away from temptation, just as we would keep a hungry dog far away from the holiday ham. No dog will restrain himself if left alone in the kitchen with a savory chunk of meat. He must be kept in another room, or better yet, outside. Likewise, no man should presume that he will be able to restrain his flesh from embracing sin once he invites it into the bedroom of his mind.
Many football teams lose because a moment of carelessness or over- confidence allows the opponent to come within easy field-goal range. Once the defense of distance is gone, remaining defenses are usually insufficient. Field-goal attempts are rarely blocked. Will we give Satan the same opportunity? Will we, through our own carelessness or over-confidence, let him get close enough to succeed in his diabolical plot to destroy us?
“Flee sexual immorality,” Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 6:18. Run away from it! Put as much distance between yourself and sin as you can! A godly friend of mine actually ran to his car and drove away when approached by a scantily-clad and overly-friendly woman. Joseph wisely fled when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him (cf. Gen. 39:6-12). David, however, responded with foolish self-confidence and brought temptation (literally) into his bedroom. He did not foresee the bitter end from the beginning. He never imagined that toying with the pleasures of sin up close would lead to such horrific moral carnage. But once allowed within range, Satan struck with devastating force.
The best course to prevent falling into the pit is
to keep at the greatest distance. He that will be so bold
as to attempt to dance on the brink of the pit,
may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing
with God that he should fall into the pit. . . . Sin is
a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in
the world. And yet, ah! how few there are that tremble at it,
that keep at a distance from it.
from Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
(first published in 1652)
Copyright © 2007 Daryl Wingerd.