How Satan Works. A Dereck Prince sermon
Understanding that evil is not something but someone is a vital weapon for warfare in the spiritual realm.
Knowing this, we can begin to understand and counter some of Satan’s most successful tactics against us. Let’s begin by looking at several pictures in Scripture that help us visualize this enemy.
Revelation 12:9 gives us this description: “The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”
Here are two pictures of Satan: the dragon and the serpent. The dragon is a great, powerful, raging beast that inspires fear. At one point in my life I inherited from family members some antique porcelain vessels that were decorated with Chinese dragons.
Ultimately, I decided not to keep those vessels because I did not want a portrait of Satan displayed continually in my home. The dragon is large, fearful, fierce and awe-inspiring. It threatens, terrifies, tramples and destroys.
The serpent or snake, on the other hand, is small and sometimes scarcely visible. Snakes do not operate in the same way as dragons.
They slither quietly and can insert themselves through any little crack or hole. I was born in India and lived there until I was five years of age. One of the problems our family faced was the cobra. In fact, several thousand people die every year of snakebites in India.
The cobra does not attack directly as a dragon does. Instead it comes up a bathroom pipe or through a small hole. Before you know it, the cobra is in the room with you ready to strike.
Satan can operate as a dragon, or he can behave like a snake. He can be large, fierce and terrifying, or he can be subtle and slippery—coming in through some little hole where you would least expect something dangerous to enter.
A Thieving Destroyer
Jesus gave us another picture of Satan: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The thief here is the person of Satan. That role is contrasted clearly with Jesus’ role: Satan is the life-taker; Jesus is the life-giver. Satan will usually disguise his motives and seek to conceal his presence and his activity, but his ultimate objectives never change. His intention is always to steal, to kill and to destroy.
To steal is to take away that which is rightfully ours. That refers specifically to our inheritance in God and the blessings God wants us to have. To kill refers to Satan’s efforts to destroy our lives physically, whether directly or through sickness.
Satan is a murderer. Indeed he is the source of all murder, war and genocide. To destroy (Greek, apolese) goes beyond time into eternity. This refers to the ultimate, ongoing, eternal destruction of the lost soul who has been deceived and ensnared by Satan. Always bear in mind this stark warning from Jesus.
Four Tactics He Uses
With these pictures of Satan as a dragon, serpent and thief presented in Scripture, we can begin to discern some of the main tactics he uses in warfare against us.
We noted that the New Testament calls this enemy “the devil” or “the accuser/slanderer.” This is the most common and constant activity of Satan, as portrayed in Revelation 12:10: “For the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”
Satan is continually misrepresenting us. He not only accuses us before God—he accuses us to ourselves. He magnifies all our bad points and overlooks our good ones, whispering everything bad that can be said against us in an effort to make us feel guilty, shameful or unworthy.
This is why accusation is Satan’s greatest single tactic. If he can keep us feeling guilty, then we are never a match for him. We will never rise up, take the offensive and defeat him. (Later we will examine the Scriptural weapons God has provided for us to deal with Satan’s accusations of guilt.)
The next tactic comes at the end of the passage we cited earlier in Revelation 12:9: “The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”
Jesus explained that Satan “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NASB).
Deception is a main tactic against us: Satan “deceives the whole world.” Because he is a liar, he does not come to us with truth. He does not present facts.
Why does this accomplish his purposes so well? Because once he has deceived and ensnared us, he can go on to his other evil deeds.
The only real safeguard against deception is the Word of God. Scripture is absolutely true.
If we can be persuaded to believe something contrary to Scripture, we know that—somehow—behind that persuasion is the enemy.
He is always working to twist our minds from scriptural beliefs and introduce deception to us. His aim in deceiving us is to destroy us.
Here is how Matthew 4:3, a verse in the account of the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness, refers to Satan: “Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’”
To tempt is “to entice.” Satan entices us to do evil. He places before us something that is wrong or evil, yet he presents it as desirable or attractive.
Once we become convinced it is indeed desirable and attractive, then Satan says, “If you want this, then here is what you need to do.” Without exception, whatever Satan tries to persuade us to do is something that entails disobedience to God.
In Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica he says: “We wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
Hindering is another typical activity of Satan, especially toward the servants of God who are seeking to do God’s will. Satan thwarts, resists and opposes our intentions by putting obstacles in our way and bringing opposition and confusion.
We see, then, four key ways in which Satan operates: He accuses, he deceives, he tempts (or entices) and he hinders.
These are, of course, not the only ways the enemy opposes us, but they represent the most common tactics he uses—ones with which we will most often have to contend as we engage in warfare against him.