Be Not Ignorant Of Satan's Schemes!
By Raymond D. Sopp
2 Corinthians 2:11: "In order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his (Satan's) schemes." Ephesians 6:10-12: "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
As I see darkness (evil) encroaching upon every aspect of our society, I had to ask myself this question, "Has God's Church become ignorant of Satan's schemes?" And as I prayed, God placed this commentary on my heart. What makes Satan's schemes particularly hideous is the fact that in reality he is completely powerless. In fact, we, God's Church, have the keys (knowledge) to heaven and are instructed by God Himself to give that key (knowledge) to all who will listen. This knowledge (key) is so awesome in power that even the gates of hell (Hades), Satan himself, CANNOT prevail against it. Matthew 16:17-19: "And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock (foundation of revelation) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys (knowledge) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'"
Please allow me to take a brief, but needed departure to comment on the above line of Scripture, "I will give you the keys (knowledge) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." A more accurate translation of this line of Scripture would be: "I will give you the keys (knowledge) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth (has first been) bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth (has first been) loosed in heaven." This more accurate translation meets the critical rule of interpretation by context, as Jesus' statement started with, "Blessed are you, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." And again in John 6:44-45, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." Hence, although God commanded us to proclaim the gospel (key), God maintains His sovereignty as revealer and initiator. This is very important for us to remember as it will keep us from becoming haughty, inasmuch as, "flesh and blood did not reveal this to you!" Where is boasting? It is excluded!
1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Since we, God's Church, hold this key (knowledge) to the power of God, Satan, the father of lies and deceit, had to devise a scheme (plan) to cause us (God's witness on earth) to self-destruct, or repress our effectiveness by manipulating us into rejecting the truth of God for a lie. Inasmuch as, if Satan, through his schemes, could succeed in repressing, or even silence the gospel message (i.e., hide the key), God's power to save would not be released. Romans 10:13-15: "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!'" Therefore, we must not be ignorant of Satan's schemes, as Satan's power is ONLY derived and kept through ignorance! Because to know his schemes would cause his schemes to fall upon deaf ears! Inasmuch as, we could then add our voices to Jesus' and say, Matthew 16:23, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
So what are these diabolical schemes of Satan that can render us ineffective? We actually can come to understand the evil one's schemes by examining the two names given to him in the Holy Scriptures, i.e., Satan and Devil. As we know, names were often used in the Bible to illustrate a revelation from God. For example, Abram's name which meant "exalted father," was changed by God to Abraham which meant "the father of a multitude," which practically illustrated God's revelation for Abram. In the same way, God uses the names Satan and Devil to practically illustrate to us a revelation of the evil one's diabolical schemes.
The name Satan means "adversary," someone who stands in opposition to you or your plans. Even if an adversary cannot stop your plans, he will derive great pleasure in causing a hindrance to your work. Satan's hindrances to God's work (gospel) can take on many forms, i.e., fear, intimidation, anxiety, discouragement, depression, despair, discontent, unforgiveness, the love of money, greed, covetousness, selfishness, the cares of this world, criticism, slander, gossip, envy, jealousy, and so on. Do you see a common thread? Yes, Satan will appeal directly to our corruptible flesh in order to hinder God's gospel message. Therefore, we must not allow our emotions or carnal reasoning to ever triumph over God's Word within our hearts.
We can gain further insight as to how Satan will use his adversarial schemes against God's work by considering how he used his schemes against Jesus. Emmanuel (God with us) was in a body made of flesh and blood, and therefore, was also subject to the same temptations we are, yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan used Jesus' hunger and emotions to question God's love and faithfulness, he used the seductiveness of pride and ambition to get Jesus to test God, and finally he used the seductiveness of power and money to get Jesus to turn a deaf ear to God. Then incredibly in Matthew 16:21-23, Satan used Jesus' closest friends, His most intimate inner circle, to bring in carnal reasoning to thwart God's plan of salvation. And yet, Jesus was able to stand against all of Satan's schemes through prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of God's Word. Which are the very same safeguards we have at our disposal today to stand against all of the schemes of the evil one.
Not so long ago Satan tried to hinder me through a brother in Christ by using him to dampen my zeal and enthusiasm with the statement, "We must not become too bold as it could offend, and we run the risk of coming across as judgmental. And in so doing, we would not be exhibiting God's love." But in fact, contrary to that carnal reasoning, it would actually be the antithesis to agape love if I kept silent; as I would be allowing someone to go to hell for the selfish carnal desire to be liked by the world, i.e., appeasement. However, I would be the first to acknowledge that we need to pray to be sure our heart is right before God and our attitude is right toward man, i.e., to save and not to judge. Nevertheless, to say the absence of offence should be our goal simply cannot be supported by Holy Scripture!
Matthew 10:32-39: "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it." And again in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life." And again in John 15:18-19, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." If you are in Christ, you ARE an offense to the world!
John 16:8: "And He (the Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment." The power of the Holy Spirit was actually given to us to convict the world of sin in order to save, which in reality, is a consummate display of God's agape love. Allow me to explain. You cannot come to Jesus unless you see a need, and you cannot see a need without first being convicted of sin. But afterward, the humble of heart will then be convicted of righteousness and we gain a friend. On the other hand, the proud of heart will then be convicted of judgment and they will begin to gnash their teeth and commence to hate us with every ounce of their being.
Therefore, to him who said I should temper my zeal for the harvest of souls in order to appease and not offend, I'll just echo what Jesus said in Matthew 16:23, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." However, also like Jesus, my anger will be solely directed at Satan's diabolical scheme to silence my zeal for souls and not at the man whom Satan used; as I remember Jesus' agape love for Peter remained intact, inasmuch as, our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but spiritual. Nevertheless, Jesus had to deal sternly with the temptation Peter's words caused within His heart, i.e., the temptation to use carnal reasoning to avoid the excruciating pain of the cross. Even as I had to deal sternly with my heart when that brother's words neutralized my zeal for the harvest of souls as I initially wanted to use his carnal reasoning to justify my silence. After all, it sounded so good! Who would want to offend and/or be seen as judgmental? That can't be love -- can it?
This spiritual warfare is real and we must fight against it with all of our heart and in the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, did God lay on your heart to give to a ministry, but then later back away thinking to yourself, "I need the money more than they do? After all, I worked hard for it and I should spend and enjoy it on myself!"? Or did God lay on your heart to pray for someone, but then you thought, "I do not have the time, besides it's probably just me and everything is OK!"? Or did God tell you to forgive someone, but the shrill of your emotions from deep within your heart kept you from saying yes to God? Or did God tell you to overcome evil with good and that vengeance was His, but you could not let go, because your carnal reasoning said, "If I do nothing that person will get away with it!"? I could go on, but I think you get the point.
All of the above situations are adversarial to God's work and/or plans. So we must learn to say within our heart and in the power of the Holy Spirit, "Get behind Me, Satan (Adversary)! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." You may say, "That's too hard brother!" But you must also remember, obedience is defined by doing something you do not wish to do! Hebrews 5:8: "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."
The evil one's other name, Devil, means "one who casts himself, or something, between two for the sole purpose to separate and divide," as demonstrated in the Garden of Eden. As the evil one slandered God before Adam and Eve, he caused doubt to grow within their hearts about God's love and motivation. This drove a wedge between them, which consummated in division, separation, and finally death. Therefore, we must not be found doing the same to each other by means of slander and gossip, as it would be an antithesis to our collective calling as ministers of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."
Indeed what an insidious devilish scheme this is, as the evil one all ready knows! It's written in Luke 11:17, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls." But what makes this scheme exceedingly insidious is that at the same time we slander, demonize, and gossip, we can also be made to feel righteous, superior, and even pious. But we must remember that in reality, all we're doing is the Devil's work. And in so doing, we now have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of different denominations which have served only to water down, conceal, and even bring disrepute to God's immutable -- unalterable -- consistent gospel message of reconciliation.
Jesus gave us very explicit instructions concerning this in Matthew 13:28-30, "And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!' And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'" And again in Mark 9:38-40, "John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, ‘Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us.'"
Even the Apostle Paul had much to say about internal division, which he denounced severely! 1 Corinthians 3:1-4: "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,' and another, ‘I am of Apollos,' are you not mere men?" And again in Titus 3:9-11, "But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned."
This in no way suggests that we should compromise the truth and/or the immutable gospel message, nor allow blatant – flagrant – unabashed sin within the Church for the sake of peace. But concerning matters which do not lead to death, if separation occurs, let them be the one who separates. But as for you and I, let us allow the Word of God to be a lamp unto our feet. Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." And Jesus said in Mark 9:50, "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
Therefore, let us no longer be ignorant of the evil one's schemes, but fight against them by putting on the full armor of God and be filled with God's Holy Spirit. As we find ourselves completely powerless to stand against Satan's schemes without God's direct intervention. For example, it is impossible to forgive someone, FROM YOUR HEART, without God's help. And pray without ceasing to be kept from temptation, i.e., the evil one's schemes. So we can again become the salt and light, holy and distinctive from the world. And no longer be just a "noisy" gong, or a "clanging" cymbal, for we are commanded to make a "noise" which can be easily distinguishable from the "noise" of the world as described in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen.
But you may say, "Are we not to put on the full armor of God to fight evil spiritual forces in heavenly places?" No! We are informed by Ephesians 6:10-20 where our spiritual battle originates, but our battle is waged from within. Indeed, it may be more exciting, and can even puff you up thinking you're doing battle in heavenly places, but it's time to become humble enough to associate this warfare with the battle which wars within. When Jesus taught us to pray, He did not tell us to war in the heavenly places, but to pray that we will be kept from the evil one and temptation. Although this battle is very personal and is waged within, we do have outside help as we seek God in prayer and put on His heavenly armor!
Lord, I now see the schemes of the evil one and how he has used me in the past by manipulating me in becoming an adversary to Your work by acting in accordance with my flesh and not Your Word. But I also know that I do not have the power to change, nor can I recognize Satan's schemes without Your help. Father, will You help me put on Your full armor and fill me with Your Holy Spirit so I may be one of the ones who will stand firm against the schemes of the evil one. And allow Your light to burn brightly by allowing Your treasure within this earthly vessel to shine through, to pierce through the darkness, bringing glory to You. All the while remembering it is written, "There is no condemnation in Christ." Amen!
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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