When you hear the name “Satan” or “the Devil,” what immediately pops into your mind? Is it a mischievous, grinning creature with a red tail and horns? Or is it a horrifying being, fit for the most frightening of nightmares?
Well, truth be told, the reality of Satan himself is probably far from either of these descriptions. In fact, the Bible alludes to him as having been “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12; dual prophecy of “King of Tyre” representing Satan). Originally, Satan was probably among the greatest of angels, making him superior to any other created beings in history. The key word is, of course, “created.” None of creation can be greater than the Creator.
The bottom line is this: we are completely outmatched by him unless we are guided, protected, and empowered fully by the Holy Spirit. This is very difficult to do consistently on this earth since we are continually struggling with our flesh and sin nature. We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word, fellowship with strong believers, and in prayer if we are to stand a chance.
But perhaps it would also be helpful in some small way to observe some of Satan’s favorite tricks and lies. If we can better recognize how the Father of Lies operates, maybe we can sidestep some of the pitfalls with wisdom.
Satan Is the Greatest Imitator
In my humble opinion, it takes a certain level of intelligence or acute sense to copy something well, whether it’s in music, writing, art, strategy, or almost anything else. The naturally talented person may unknowingly be doing something right, but the astute observer will pick up on what exactly it is the other person is doing and copy it—resulting in the appearance of being excellent himself.
Satan, having superior intelligence and eons of observation/experience, has a habit of copying the Almighty God’s work.
Now, people who know me or read this blog know that I don’t shy away from making controversial or offensive statements when I need to make a point. So I’ll just reiterate what I’ve been saying for some time now: some of the world’s major religions are merely imitations of the real truth.
Take Islam, for example. It started about 600 years after Christianity and borrows many similar ideas. Creationism, monotheism (defined more narrowly), Jesus Christ, heaven, hell, and a future kingdom reigned by a great ruler…the similarities are plentiful. But it differs in many critical areas, missing the mark where it matters—namely, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Christianity warns us that before Jesus’ second coming, there will be a time of reign for the Antichrist. Not-so-coincidentally, Islam tells us that before the second coming of Jesus, there will be a seven-year reign for the mighty (and good) 12th Imam, a being of light. Hmmm…smell fishy to anyone?
Or take Mormonism, which started almost 1,800 years after Christianity. Some Mormons, in fact, consider themselves Christians of a different denomination or sect. To the ignorant, the religions seem almost identical on the surface. They even call themselves “The Church of Latter Day Saints.” If you read up on them or talk with Mormon evangelists, they will try to earn your trust by sounding a lot like familiar Christianity. Heck, even the wording and style of their scriptures—notably, the Book of Mormon—sound much like our Bible to those with untrained ears.
But again, they miss the mark by believing that Jesus Christ and even God the Father were once mortals who had to achieve godhood (how they explain creation or who the original Creator was is beyond me). There are other serious doctrinal issues, but I’ll stop there.
As you can see, Satan has a bad habit that is becoming clearer…
Satan Loves to Alter Truth Just Enough to Sound Plausible
In other religions, we’ve seen that Satan likes to take basic truths and then twist them enough to lead to error and death. But this is not limited to religious doctrine.
Take the fact that human beings are precious in God’s sight and that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are designed to rule over the lesser beings of this earth and to shadow God’s many attributes, such as the powers of discovery, invention, love, reasoning, moral nature…
Now, take that sound biblical truth and blow it up just a bit—exaggerate it. Now you have man making his own truth, his own morality, and living to exalt himself rather than Almighty God. Suddenly, scholars and thinkers use their God-given abilities and think they’re “too educated” to even believe in a higher power. They learn new things about the world around them and use these discoveries as excuses to deny the existence of God—the one who created it all in the first place. Deceived people all over the world start to live by the mantra of “we make our own destiny,” living apart from their true purpose of glorifying God.
In sexual relationships—designed by God to be good and pleasing in marriage—Satan tells us that it’s OK if we’re going to marry that other person in the future anyway. After all, let’s not be legalistic here and picky about a small thing like timing (hint: if you read the Bible enough, you learn that timing and circumstances are critical in God’s eyes). But gradually, bit by bit, our morality shifts and erodes to the point where we don’t even remember our original stance on sex in the first place. Satan loves to alter truths incrementally.
Soon, it’s “as long as I love the other person.” Then it becomes, “Well, as long as it’s with someone special for my first time.” Eventually, it becomes, “I’m an adult, I can do what makes me feel good.” The phrase “consenting adults” becomes a free pass to do anything under the sun.
Unfortunately, even in modern Christian doctrine, we are not safe from Satan’s deception. I think I’ll have to separate the Christianity-specific distortions into its own part later. Yes, Satan has clearly infiltrated our own ideas and practices.
Satan Loves to Wrap Evil in a Pretty Bow
Satan is not a sloppy person or oozing with slime and acid. His most successful lies come in the most welcoming packages and seem harmless, even highly attractive.
Take Christmas, for example. Christians thought it was important to have a day to commemorate the birth of their Lord, Jesus Christ (even if the chosen date was questionable). Satan sees this and hates it; Jesus coming to the earth as fully human was the beginning of the end for him. So he devises a warm, affable, grandfatherly figure named Santa Claus to take attention away from the Savior. Even worse, this new figure distracts people from an early, impressionable age. Children all over the world start fixating on Santa Claus instead of Jesus, and meanwhile, Satan is laughing his head off.
I won’t address some of the coincidences, such as “Santa” being an anagram for “Satan,” or the predominant use of the color red. I don’t know how significant these are, especially since some of it is language and culture-specific. But I think a popular Christmas song’s lyrics tell much of the story:
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
So, apparently Santa Claus is omniscient now? And how does he deliver presents all over the world in less than one full night? Well, it would seem he has some powers of omnipresence (or perhaps an invisible legion of helpers). Does this sound familiar?
How about the fact that children learn to be good not for goodness sake (ironic, considering the lyrics), but rather to be on the “good” list to receive the best presents? It’s a works-based reward system, just as almost every other religion in the world is except Christianity.
Or how about another crucial holiday, Easter, which signifies Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? The ultimate defeat of evil and our source of eternal salvation?
In comes a fluffy, cuddly bunny laying eggs everywhere. How cute, and how completely off-the-point.
Satan Is Artistic and Talented
Lest we forget, Satan was perhaps the most beautiful being ever created by God. Not only that, but he was wise and gifted in music. Hence, his pride overtook him and caused him to rebel.
To me, it’s no wonder that so much of the music industry is dominated by God-less groups or even artists who have explicitly claimed to have sold their souls to the Devil. The Beatles were famously involved with mystics, an easy avenue for demonic activity to enter into people (as are, possibly, mind-altering drugs). Bob Dylan referred to a deal he once made with the “chief commander…on this earth” in a 60 Minutes interview (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; Satan is the “god” of this world and age). The ironically-named “Stairway to Heaven” song by Led Zeppelin is often referred to as one of the greatest rock songs of all time…and it contains these possible backward-masked lyrics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stairway_to_Heaven):
Oh here’s to my sweet Satan.
The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan.
He will give those with him 666.
There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.
More recently, Snoop Dogg rapped about a deal made with the devil in “Murder Was the Case.”
Nowadays, Satan probably senses that the world is naturalistic and dubious of anything spiritual, so he’s laying a little lower. He’s always a masterful tactician. He doesn’t mind not getting attention as long as the world looks away from God as well. But you can’t tell me that Lady Gaga and a number of others aren’t likely in cahoots with him currently…
You also see that many of the most artistic people today are eccentric, have alter egos, are “spiritual” (in cults or off-brand religions), and predominantly homosexual. I don’t have statistics, but I’d imagine this includes a large portion of successful fashion designers today. Heck, my favorite classical composer, Tchaikovsky, was gay.
Somehow, high talent seems to be a gift of some kind to those who follow down the lost path. Considering that Satan is so immensely talented himself, it seems to be his natural way of rewarding those who are following him to their doom…
This topic came up in conversation last night, and while it seems like a basic topic on the surface, it’s really a lot more in-depth than people think. But thankfully, the bottom-line conclusion seems to be the same for those who oversimplify things and for scholars who have done all the necessary research and exegesis: true salvation cannot be lost.
1 Peter 1:3-5 tells us: “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
This is usually where people stop. Feels good doesn’t it? A sense of security sets in, and all worries are alleviated. But as human beings, we always need to remember the practical, application aspect of it. In short, true salvation cannot be lost, but professing faith can. In other words, it all goes back to the whole “fruit” issue of whether we are genuine Christians or not. Many people have themselves fooled because they like easy, convenient answers, but the Bible does not tell us that gaining Christ is supposed to be a simple, one-time “decision.” Philippians 2:12 tells us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” not just rainbows, smiles, and relief.
One of the biggest tests for true faith is endurance (Hebrews 3:14). True faith endures to the end, false faith fizzles out at some point. But until we reach the end, how can we know for sure that we have a true faith in the meantime? After all, we all backslide time to time (although I’m convinced a true believer cannot backslide past a certain point of severity or length). That’s why the Bible tells us not to take it lightly and to keep growing in the faith. We can know in our heads that true salvation cannot be lost, but we must constantly test our faiths and examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to make sure we fall into that “true” category. Imposter Christians might be fooling themselves as well—possibly with the help of the ever-crafty Satan, who probably just loves fake believers who stop trying. It’s like being in a war and a blinded person is unknowingly fighting for the other side.
Anyway, what is a passage like Hebrews 6:4-8 actually saying then? It sure sounds like it’s saying that those “who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit” can later fall away and crucify Christ all over again. Well, let’s take it step by step here…
First, a professing Christian probably goes to church. He probably even goes on retreats or to conferences once in a while. So he has been in the company of true believers. He has seen them, talked with them, and shared in fellowship.
Second, he may have even felt (or indirectly experienced) some of the Holy Spirit passing through a certain venue or event. He may have gotten caught up in the swell of music—or dim lighting, crowd pressure, mood, etc.—and lifted his hands, filled with emotion. Mob mentality or some similar form of peer pressure is one heck of a powerful thing. While these feelings can be great sometimes, we also need to be aware that our hearts are deceitful above all (Jeremiah 17:9). Feelings are not an end-all, be-all indicator of a saving experience, no more than butterflies are evidence of true love between two people. I guess you can compare infatuation to real love in the same way you can compare mere professing faith to true faith. Or just think of the rocky/thorny soil examples in Jesus’ parable. But if you NEVER get fuzzy feelings, that could be evidence of a hidden problem…
Third, this professing believer may have read the Word of God, prayed, and done all the things that true believers do. He may have even had glimpses into the beauty of the Word and appreciated it.
In many ways, this person may have “tasted” or “shared” in common experiences with us without being truly saved. But why does the author of Hebrews seem to think they are even worse off than before? Because if this professing Christian later falls away—rather than transitioning into true faith—he will think that he has seen it all. “Been there, done that,” he will think to himself, and he will be less likely to give Christ another chance later on with an open mind. A part of his heart will be hardened, almost like a person who has experienced broken trust. It will take that much more to buy into Christianity the next time, if there ever is another opportunity for that person.
So what can true believers learn from all of this? It’s important for us to never grow complacent! The following passage (Hebrews 6:9-12) brings us some more crucial advice:
9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
We need to realize our full potential as believers…growing lazy is the easiest thing to do for many of us. Heck, that has been one of the biggest struggles throughout my life, whether in worldly or spiritual affairs. But by pressing on continually, we will please God more and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Or, if our salvation was not true to begin with (but we were falsely convinced it was), we may end up truly finding the Lord along the way because God honors diligence and effort. Maybe by staying immersed in scripture and prayer, the not-yet-saved person is increasing his or her chances of finding that “aha!” moment. So there’s nothing to lose by being diligent and working out our salvation with “fear and trembling,” but eternity to gain.
Bottom line? True salvation cannot be lost. But we better make sure our salvation is true by treating the issue with tons of reverence and priority (but not paralyzing paranoia)! Let’s not take the wonderful truth of God’s eternal gift and twist it into an excuse to live shoddy Christian lives.