The best weapons are the simplest ones. This is a lesson I have learned from 40 years of watching the good guys catch the bad guys on television – from Dragnet, to Hawaii Five-0, to Barnaby Jones, to Hill Street Blues, to Law&Order, to CSI New York, I have learned that a fancy, exotic weapon is easy to trace, and will often fail. Stick to a dependable Smith&Wesson .38 (or better yet, a piece of rebar), pick up your spent shells, and wear gloves – especially when you load (so many of the bad guys leave a thumbprint on the shells when they load).
Satan keeps things simple – which is not the same thing as saying that he is simple. He is described in the Bible as a lion – a sophisticated predator at the top of the food chain – and we are the prey (I Peter 5.8). A lion knows the best weapons and tactics are the simplest ones. A lion stalks, conserves energy, attacks at the most opportune moment, attacks the most opportune target, kills quickly – a precise bite to the neck –opening the jugular, breaking the vertebrae, severing the spinal cord.
Satan doesn’t need massive, complicated conspiracies to entice us to sin. He exploits our weaknesses like a maestro. And he seems to do it with such ease. Fore-warned, as they say, is fore-armed. I think it is important to remember that we are being stalked, and to recognize the simple tools Satan uses to create such havoc in our lives, and in our congregations. I want to pull three weapons out of his gun-locker, and take a look at them so we will recognize them when he tries to use them against us.
The first is to convince us that he is not the enemy – that the enemy is a brother or sister. Even when a brother or sister is advocating clear falsehood, or encouraging clearly sinful behavior – the enemy is Satan, not that brother or sister. Our fight is not just to thwart their influence, it is to reclaim their soul. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the powers, the authorities that govern this present world of darkness….Ephesians 6.12.
The second is to convince us that if we are right, collateral damage doesn’t matter. The stand I take may be scriptural, but if I lay waste a congregation to make that stand I am doing the Devil’s work. We don’t see that. We believe being right is enough - that being right justifies extreme behavior. Paul says he knows that he is free to eat meat but that if a brother is hurt over food “you are no longer walking according to love” (Romans 14.15). Peter says that our answers must be right, and ready, and that they also must be “gentle,” and “reverent”, (I Peter 3.15).
The third is to convince us that when we have lost a battle we have lost the war. We sin. This is a fact of our existence – even our Christian existence (I John 1.5-2.3). But Grace is immediate and absolute. If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1.9). Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus. When Judas couldn’t undo the deed he had done he killed himself. Satan convinced him he was beyond forgiveness. Peter responded to his betrayal by weeping bitterly, and staying close to Jesus. Peter was forgiven. The apostle Paul never forgot his sinful past, and declared that the blessing of it all is that “….in me as the worst (sinner), Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life,” (I Timothy 1.16). Satan convinces us that we can’t be forgiven, and that we won’t improve. We think we’re being realistic when we indulge this discouragement. We’re actually being faithless.
This is not a complete inventory of the simple, effective weapons we would find in the Devil’s gun-locker. But it is a start. Most of all I hope we take him seriously, and personally. That is certainly the way he will take us. I want us also to remember that God says, clearly Resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4.7). He is a cunning lion, but he is also a cowardly one.