The Bible tells us how to address the one “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9) in several revealing passages in the New Testament. In none of them are we told to attack him directly. Rather, we remove the means for him to attack us. For instance, we would not want to go after a stronger opponent with a knife in our hand if he is a better fighter than ourselves, because he could take the knife away from us and use it to hurt us. The principle is the same here: by refusing to look to the flesh to save us, we deprive the devil of a weapon to use against us. Let’s see how the NT communicates this idea.
In 1 Peter 5:5-9, we are told to submit to one another, and not be proud and lifted up against others. Then we are told to “resist the devil.” If we humble ourselves and submit to one another, we deprive the devil of using one of his favorite tricks to control us: pride. When we act and think as those who are superior to their brethren, then we give a weapon to the enemy to use against us, and he corrupts our pride into a greater weapon and aims it at our brethren to destructive effect. Our pride warps our character and we actively plot against others. We undermine their unity and authority so that we can control them.
But the one in humility wants to serve, not command. The humble doesn’t want to control, but rejoices to see his brethren under the control of the Holy Spirit. Satan finds no “hooks” to latch onto this person to further his own agenda. What hooks does he find in you?
Paul warned Timothy, when he is to pick someone for the office of overseer, not to pick a young person who might get a big head over the responsibility, “lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). But those who humble themselves as little children, those who acknowledge their daily dependence on others, shall be greatest in the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:4).
In Ephesians 4:25-27 we are told to put away lying and instead speak truth; to be angry without expressing it sinfully. With those verses we are told, “nor give place to the devil.” Jesus called Satan the father of lies in John 8:44. There the people were lying and thus following the father of lies into unbelief in Jesus. Satan is all about trickery, twisting the truth to us as he did to tempt Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. If we are in the habit of lying to others – and to ourselves! – we invite Satan into our lives. And he is glad to have control.
If we are angry, then we can give place to Satan there as well. There is a place for anger, but few seem to know how to express anger without sinning. If we think anger is a justifiable reason to yell at someone, speak hateful words, go to war, throw things, hit or hurt someone, impulsively do things one would not normally do when calm, then we act in sin – with the devil’s blessing.
Typically, the feeling of anger is accompanied by an inner power, a drive, an energy; that energy is to be used to right wrongs. To be angry and sin not means to first find out the source of the anger. Anger arises when a line has been crossed that should not have been crossed; some wrong has been done. Anger gives us the energy to investigate the matter to the end. We examine whether our perspective is correct and we have not misunderstood the issue; we ask questions; we investigate to see what went wrong, then set a course to see that the wrong corrected. In anger, we do not to jump to conclusions but examine all sides. In none of these processes do we break out in fury or unchecked emotion. Any steps where we are out of control are openings to place ourselves under the devil’s control.
We are not told to fight the devil directly. Rather, we put ourselves under the authority of God. In doing so, we remove whole possibilities of temptation and ruin. Any time we favor the flesh, we open doors to the devil’s trickery, to his corrupting influence. But any time we choose the path of faith and surrender to the will of God, we protect ourselves from grievous harm and become more like Christ.
When we give place to sin, we give place to the devil. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8a). Jesus came to set us free from sin and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b). But we must hourly choose to whom we will submit; God will not give His power to us to fulfill the flesh. He will not give us aid to build up Satan’s kingdom when He expressly came to destroy it. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
We may stand in faith and hope in God’s promises, or slink in depression, doubt, and uncertainty, playing into the devil’s hand.
We may be agents of God to speak the truth in love and build up the body, or we may deceive and connive as an agent of Satan to create chaos and bend people to our will.
We may walk in humility, not trusting in our hearts because we know evil is there and instead lean hard on God’s protection; or we may be blind to our sin and weaknesses and trust in ourselves more than is warranted, and become pawns of the devil.
What will we do, then? Will we stand for Jesus or against Him? Will we practice those things that lead to sin and the enthronement of Satan in our lives, or surrender our pride, lies, and flesh that Jesus may be Lord of all? Truly, we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), to seek the lordship of Jesus in all we do. When we live for Jesus in faith, dying to the works of the flesh, we overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:14). In this same way will those get the victory during the tribulation period of demonic persecution, who “did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).
A question from this study will naturally arise: can a Christian be possessed by a demon? I don’t know about “possessed,” but I do know that she can be influenced by a demon. (I’m aware of stories from our brethren in Africa who have reported demonic possessions of possible Christians.) The way of deliverance is clearly taught, though: share the gospel with that person in one of her saner moments and let that person choose for Christ. Where Christ is accepted, the demon must flee. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Both steps are necessary for full deliverance: submitting to God and shutting the door to the devil’s ways.
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil; so there is no substitute for Him. In the end, the devil’s doom is sure: “And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).