Sometimes I wish the enemy would announce himself with a blaring trumpet. Wouldn’t it be easier to avoid his traps if this type of announcement were his style?
However, this isn’t how Scripture depicts him. He prowls. He deceives. He waits and he watches for an opportune time. It doesn’t seem like he’s in a rush to carry out his schemes.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve fallen for a lie that had just enough truth woven into it to deceive me.
It sounded true. It even had a little bit of his Word in it. But there was no foundation. Upon further examination, what appeared to be solid crumbled like ash before my eyes. It was an empty shell with a shiny exterior. Nothing more. But you know what? I have good news.
Our enemy is not creative.
If we examine Scripture, we see he’s using the same tactics he used hundreds of years ago on believers today. Sometimes he changes the angle, but the heart of the deception is the same. And do you know what’s even better news? We have a Helper who strengthens us and enables us to discern the truth.
Here are some ways the enemy deceives us and what God has given us as an escape.
1. We compare our sin to others.
It’s tempting to look at others and say, “Well, I’m not doing as bad as they are. I’m just struggling.” We live in a culture where it’s easier than ever to compare ourselves to others and believe our sins aren’t as costly. Here’s the problem with this type of thinking: God doesn’t rate our sin.
He made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that the person who harbors sin in her heart is just as guilty as the one who acts it out (Matthew 5:21-30). This type of thinking is difficult for us to understand, but God used these extremes to magnify our need for a Savior.
The good news is that in the same way that God levels the field with sin’s cost, he also evens the foot of the cross with his grace. Everyone has access to forgiveness if we come to him with a repentant heart.
2. We think we’re not hurting anyone else.
Sometimes we think sin is only present when our actions affect other people. This type of mindset is especially prevalent when it comes to idols and addictions. If we look at the Old Testament, idols are easier to identity. Scripture is filled with stories of people building literal figures that they would bow down to and worship.
The idols of today are more deceptive. They look innocent to the naked eye, but are just as lethal to our spirit.
Let’s be clear on what the definition of an idol is: It’s anything we elevate above God. It doesn’t have to be material. It can be a relationship, activity, or even a ministry that’s purpose became skewed. The good news is when we seek God first, these other desires fall into their proper place.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” Matthew 6:33.
3. We twist God’s Word.
This is the enemy’s oldest trick in the book. The serpent used it on Eve in the gardenand continues to use the same strategy today.
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Genesis 3:1.
He already knew what God said. His purpose was to confuse Eve and make her question the truth.
Today, we see the same scheme. Some doctrines mislead us to think the truth is fluid and can change with time. But friends, God’s truth does not change. It is a Rock, immovable by winds and trends.
This is why it’s important for us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word regularly and to pray continually. The more time we spend getting to know who he is, the less susceptible we will be to lies.
4. We believe we can repent and change later.
Often, it isn’t until we have a close experience with death that we realize how short this life is. We may go to church, tithe, and have our quiet time. But loss has a way of impacting us in a way where we question what really matters, why we’re here, and how we want to live.
The truth is, we don’t know how much time we have. James makes this clear in the following verses.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” James 4:14.
Our time here on earth is just a tiny fragment of our existence. Let’s not store up treasures here on earth, but in heaven, where they will last.
5. We think God is withholding something from us.
When we pray for something good and don’t receive it, we can become frustrated. We may believe God is keeping something from us and become disillusioned in our relationship. Sometimes we decide to take matters into our own hands because we don’t think God will deliver.
While we won’t always know why God doesn’t answer a specific prayer, we can be sure of this: He has our best interests in mind. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9).
God sees more than our unique situation. He sees the whole story. He sees forever. If we’re still waiting for an answer, there is a reason. Keep seeking God with your whole heart. He hears you.
6. We become apathetic.
The longer we walk down a path other than God’s, the more we’re blinded. Even if we were aware of our error at first, we get careless. Our conscience is dulled with time. And the more we continually grieve the Spirit, the more difficult it is to discern his voice.
This is why it’s so important for us to be in continual, close communion with God and believers who will hold us accountable. Not only that, but we need to be willing to accept correction from truthful, loving Christ-followers.
Friends, if you are stuck in sin, know this: we serve a God who longs for us to walk in the freedom he provides. But it takes a decision on our part. He will never force our hand or makes us choose the life he provides.
Let’s lay down what entraps us and choose life today. Let’s declare victory over what holds us back.
*A version of this article originally appeared at iBelieve.com.
In my new book, Shift, I talk more about discerning God’s voice, and also discerning some of the common tactics the enemy uses to derail us from God’s plan. I believe it is possible to see God even in the midst of life’s struggles, but we have to change the way we look for him. You can pick up your copy of Shift by clicking the image below.