Satan is good at his job. That kind of introduction is hopefully shocking because it is not disparaging. However, not all evil needs to be disparaged, often times that is done so at our own peril. What lies behind that kind of a compliment is intentions that lie behind all kinds of compliments of that nature: stewardship.
Many times compliments are given because of an infatuation with the subject. “She is lovely” is said because it’s true and because I want her to know I think that. “My roommate is an amazing swimmer and my other roommate is an amazing bull-rider.” Those statements are not only true, but the intention behind them is flattery.
The defensive coordinator of a football team watching film on the opposing offense with his defensive secondary constantly saying, “Their Quarterback is the best in the business at looking guys off”, is not flattery; it’s stewardship. The point is not to be infatuated with the opposing quarterback. No one would accuse the coach of having a foot in both camps, nor would they question his allegiance. The point of coach’s statement is to know your enemy well enough that you can prepare the ones you actually hold in high esteem to handle the situation rightly. There is no betrayal in a boxing coach telling his fight pupil that the guy he is fighting for the belt has great defense and quick jab.
It is no betrayal to the Gospel of Jesus to say to the people of God that the devil is cunning (Genesis 3:1). It is not treason in the Kingdom of the Gospel to call the enemy a strong, roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Those things are true. And they are not said in Scripture to flatter the enemy, but to expose the enemy. They are not said in love for enemy but in love for the enemies opposition. They are said in warning. Things might have gone much better for Eve if she believed the Serpent was as cunning as he is. Peter’s warning to his church is that the Devil is about as fun to face as a roaring lion: don’t mess with it.
Thus, now that my defense has been established, allow me to say it again: Satan is very good at his job.
Satan is not only very powerful, but he has a lot of experience. Thousands and thousands of years in fact. He has seen a many people come and go; he has been through a lot. We ought to never underestimate the power of the god of this age (2nd Cor. 4:4), and allow that power to drive us to the One who has Him in full subjection and has a plan of casting him into a lake of fire and torment (Rev. 20:10).
However, since the God of the universe and the god of this age use human means and operate in human affairs, we need to be mindful of his abilities and tactics. Not that we are powerful enough to fight him, but by God’s grace we are powerful enough to rebuke his means and flee him.
Satan works to destroy the Gospel in two primary (and basic) ways: from outside and from within.
We see this in movies all the time. The enemy not only wants to win the game or win the war, but the enemy wants the opposition to turn on itself. Inner destruction and outer destruction work together.
It used to always be said in football, for example, that the “run sets up the pass.” What we are seeing today in our pass-heavy offenses is that the pass can set up the run. They are both a catalyst for one another. A good enemy will then go for both, not just one. And we face a good enemy. Not good in the moral sense, but in the powerful sense.
Douglas Wilson mentioned this in his blog Curling Up Under the Blanket,
“The gospel, pure and unadulterated, is therefore the thing that Christians must emphasize, and which the adversary will always attack. The adversary will attack it from without by malevolent persecution and from within by disingenuous corruption. If we don’t understand the tactics behind the corruption, then when the time comes we will be mystified by the persecution. We will not understand what our persecutors are up to because we have not understood what our preachers were up to.”
It is important to know tactics and to prepare for them and expose them. And those tactics from the enemy come from attacks both outside the church and within in. It’s external and internal. A wolf can devour a sheep inside or outside the pen.
External persecution is obvious. Christians are getting their heads cut off, their churches burned down, they are being disowned by their families, Bibles are being burned, etc etc. In our country, although our heads remain on our bodies, external persecution still manifests itself in the belittling of the faith in the public arena like schools and occupations. It manifests itself legislatively in immoral laws against the church. It blossoms in the form of suing bakers, bed-and- breakfast owners and photographers out of business. It holds Christians accountable to
blasphemy laws hate speech laws and will haul them away rehabilitate them if broken. It even happens through nasty name calling and public scrutiny in movies, on the streets etc.
External persecution is not new and is often easy to recognize. Paul knew about it intimately.
“..I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned..” – 2nd Corinthians 11:23-25
Paul was accustomed to the enemies external tactics. However, Paul was also accustomed to the other kind:
“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” -Galatians 2: 4-5
Notice the prepositions: These people have been brought in, they have slipped in, and they bear the name brother. Yet their brotherhood is defined as a false one; and a distinction is made between us and they. Although they are not of us, they are in us; they are among us. This is internal corruption, for Paul says that their aim is against “the truth of the Gospel.” This is a tactic of the enemy, internal destruction.
This is important to recognize, because until Paul recognized it, it was working. He said the people of God were “quickly deserting” God (1:6), becoming “bewitched” (3:1), and were submitting to “a yoke of slavery again” (5:1). Thank God for Paul and His discernment.
This means for us today, that the churches folding on important biblical and social issues is not a light-hearted affair. These religious “brethren” who want to see the truth of God fold for “love’s sake” or for the changing tides of society, these are not minor issues; these are Gospel issues. Sin is linked to the Gospel, the Gospel is what God has done for sin and sinners alike. These are not to be taken lightly. Why? Because they are tactics, tactics of the enemy. He wants us to crumble internally. If we crumble internally, the external pressure is more effective.
We cannot surrender biblical truth. When churches fight for these they often look divisive or unloving. I bet Paul heard that a time or to when he hoped the enemy he was addressing in Galatians would castrate themselves (5:12) and hoped we the people would not submit to them for even a minute (2:5).
We can not allow any leaven in our dough (5:9).
We must defend the fort.
We must defend God’s truth. We must protect the sheep. Even if we look like sticks in the mud, hateful bigots or unloving judgers, we must keep the flock unstained from false, sneaky “brethren”, who knowingly or unknowingly are sent in among us by their false lion-god, who is very cunning and very hungry.