When I was a teenager the movie “The Usual Suspects” came out and was one of the more popular movies among my generation. One of the last lines of the movie is one of those lines you hear, think about, and think “Wow, that is so true!” Throughout the course of the movie a handicapped accomplice is giving his testimony to a detective about a major crime and is given his freedom in exchange for information about the notorious mob boss. At the end, the detective figures out he’s been hoodwinked and the handicapped man really was the mob boss himself and he replays their discussion in his head when you hear the line:
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
As a Christian, my enemy is not homosexuality, lust, anger, abortion, murder, lies, gossip, poverty, suffering… my enemy is Satan. Our enemy is not an idea, agenda, or godlessness in general. Our enemy is active and wants to take us over.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8–9)
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:11–13)
I believe there are some Christians who give the devil too much credit and blame him for every sin they’ve ever committed. But from what I have observed the majority of American Christians treat the devil like he’s not even real, as if he’s a fairy tale that’s useful for scaring us into godliness, but not actually real. Yet at the same time, many who don’t give the devil a second thought also affirm that the Bible is entirely true and is God’s Word! Brothers and sister, we must be very careful about this: Know your enemy.
I’ve heard it said that Christians should walk throughout the day with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. We must study our culture and look at the world around us and discern where God is at work then discern where the devil may be lurking.
Here’s a hypothetical example: Suppose Bill struggles with anger and when he comes home from work his family is walking on egg shells so they don’t set him off. But Bill is a Christian, and he really wants to overcome his anger… what should he do? It’s not as simple as saying “focus on being less angry.” If Bill focuses on being less angry, he’s stiff focusing on his anger… he’s still focusing on sin. Some might say, “Bill should focus on patience, since that’s the antidote to anger.” But I’d say Bill ought to focus his mind and passions on Jesus Christ. As Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Some Christians claim we only need to study Scripture, only study the Truth, in order to live the godly lives we are called to. Many of us are probably familiar with the anecdote that IRS agents don’t study counterfeits, they study the real thing in order to identify the fake dollar bills. True enough, and we ought to spend our greatest effort immersed in the Bible. However, IRS agents study the real thing and then are tested by having to identify a which bills are counterfeit and which are real. If IRS agents and bank tellers never see a counterfeit in their training I highly doubt they will be able to quickly identify one when it is passed. We must train ourself and train our children to know the truth and be able to engage the culture around them in order to discern what is true and what is a lie and give them the integrity to choose what is right.
But our enemy is not of flesh and blood… our enemy is active and looking to devour us. This isn’t a Christian scare-tactic and I’m not saying “Run away, Run away!” from culture and hide out in a monastery. I don’t believe we should all become Amish and escape from the devil’s schemes. I simply believe that we need to remember who our enemy really is, and live accordingly.
Know your enemy, learn his war-tactics and how to fight against him…