One of my favorite books, The Screwtape Letters, was written by C.S. Lewis. Book Reviewer Patricia Klein asks:
Who among us has never wondered if there might not really be a tempter sitting on our shoulders or dogging our steps? C.S. Lewis dispels all doubts. In The Screwtape Letters, one of his bestselling works, we are made privy to the instructional correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his wannabe diabolical nephew Wormwood. As mentor, Screwtape coaches Wormwood in the finer points, tempting his “patient” away from God.
Of course Lewis is only expanding on the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians, “stand against the schemes of the devil,” (Ephesians 6:11) but do you know what some of those “schemes” are? The list of ways Satan tempts us is as varied as we are but here are five key tricks he uses:
- Satan is the Master of Disguises. Paul told the Corinthians “… even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” (2 Corinthians 11:14). In fact, once Satan used Peter to tempt Jesus (see Matthew 16:23)!
- The Devil knows our weaknesses. He won’t waste time tempting us with temptations that don’t appeal. He knows our weakness and will focus his energy there. Be ready!
- Satan will lull us into complacency. Jesus told the church in Sardis to “wake up!” (Revelation 3:3)
- He makes it easy to rationalize sin. He’ll use every trick from renaming sins (sins become indiscretions, peccadillos and faults) to justifications of every sort (“everyone is doing it” and “no one is really getting hurt”).
- The Devil encourages us to practice “selective hearing.” Kids are great at this (and not a few husbands too). Look at the different responses you get to “I need someone to take out garbage!” and “Who wants ice cream?” We practice selective seeing when all we see is the temptation and no alternative: “What could I do? I had no choice.” (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.) There is always the Lincoln Alternative. Abe once advised, “When forced to choose between the lesser of two evils – choose neither!”
The best way to learn to deal with Satan’s tricks is by studying the examples in Scripture. David failed miserably when instead of looking away he focused on Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1 ff.) but Joseph succeeded against a similar temptation (Genesis 39). Satan openly confronted Jesus but Jesus triumphed over temptation and shows us how to as well in the fourth chapters of Matthew and Luke.
Temptation is inevitable. Will you be ready?