Three weeks ago we were continuing our study of Psalm 119. We had just taken a look at “deception” and the myriad of ways that we as people deceive those around us and ourselves. After sharing the lesson with you that day I felt a strong need to continue the study, to give you an insight into the deeper issues of deception, the source of deception.

Any student of God’s Word knows that every action, every attitude, every word, and every thought that we express or possess flows from one of two sources. Truth comes from the heart of Almighty God. Deception, lies, and untruth flow from the heart of the Enemy, Satan. This poses a problem for many American believers because many of us believe that Satan is merely a symbol of evil, a cartoon-like character who personifies al that is wrong with the world. Many of us do not believe that Satan is real and that he has come seeking to “steal, kill, and destroy.” George Barna supports my comments with his study, What Americans Believe.
George Barna asked a broad section of Americans who identified themselves as “Born Again” followers of Jesus Christ to respond to the following statement. Barna stated, “The Devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” Barna then asked, “Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with that statement?” The Born Again population replied with 32 percent agreeing strongly, 11 percent agreeing somewhat and 5 percent did not know. Thus, of the total number responding, 48 percent either agreed that Satan is only symbolic or did not know! (What Americans Believe, pp. 206-212)

These are the confessed most religious people in our country and almost half of them believe that Satan is simply a symbol, or they do not know if he is real or not. Even though half may not be convinced the evidence is convincing. All around us we see deceit, deception, and lies wreaking havoc and causing heartache at every turn. If deceit and deception have been a part of our lives then we need to understand that Satan has been having a field day with us. If we’ve gauged our goodness by comparing ourselves to others who are less saintly, then we’ve deceived ourselves. God doesn’t say, “Be holier than Joe,” but He says, “Be holy because I am holy.” We are to model truth, honesty, and even gut wrenching, painful honesty about the condition of our heart so that God can shape us into His image. We can’t play games about our goodness, gloss over our lack of a godly attitude, sanctify our unsaintly thought life, or conceal our real character and walk with God. God wants you and me to get real, to be real, and to stay real.

That poses a problem for us doesn’t it? Who among us doesn’t try and play games with themselves and with God. Have you ever heard comments like this: “Well, I may not be any saint, but at least I’m not as bad as him or her.” “I didn’t really tell you a lie, I just didn’t tell you the whole truth.” “God, I promise that if You will get me out of this mess then I will live a better life.” Comments like these and many more are the ways that we try and justify our actions, sanctify our self-deceptive practices, and cast us in a better light. We can even set out to do good, to truly love others with honesty and integrity and end up deceiving them and ourselves when the heat gets turned up in the kitchen and we are forced to make difficult decisions.

I received a letter shortly after I shared with you the sermon on deception. I would like to share it with you simply to illustrate how we can really mean well, but end up deceiving others, even those we love with all of our heart.

Mike,

I have enjoyed your study on Psalms 119. I have just completed reading last week’s sermon on deception and I look forward to getting this weeks. The life we lead is a scary thing sometimes. My mother and I even now have a strained relationship over what I call lies and she feels that she just didn’t tell me the whole story.

At 16 I found out she had been married once before and my brother is not my fathers, but someone else’s son. A few months ago she told me that she had another son by the same marriage that she had given that child up for adoption some 50 years ago. She is grieving that decision and it has warped her both mentally and physically from the pain of that secret. Deception seems to be a hole that sucks us in and everyone around us seems to get pulled that way as well. Take care of yourself.

Your friend,

You could never convince me in a million years that this man’s mother meant to hurt her son, but at this moment there is deep pain present in the relationship because of the deception that has taken place.

How do we battle deception? Where do the demonic devices of deception come from? Is there any hope of winning the war against living a life of deception? I have come by today to announce to you that the battle has already been won, the Enemy has been defeated, and that you and I can live a life characterized by Truth as we cling to the One who described Himself as ‘the Truth.”

The first step that we must take is to identify the Enemy. If we continue to identify those around us, our circumstances, or any other prospect as the Enemy then we will most certainly never escape the bondage of deception. By focusing our energy and efforts at defeating those who aren’t our enemies we rob ourselves of what is needed to engage the real Enemy.

If a stream is polluted and you want to remedy the situation and restore the stream to its natural beauty and cleanliness then you must identify the source of the pollution. If there are beer cans and trash lying on the banks of the river and you convince yourself that by picking up the trash that you will clean the river then you are wrong. Picking up the trash may make the river more clean for a moment in time, but to really remedy the problem you need to identify the culprits who are throwing their trash everywhere and put a stop to it. If you fail to identify the real enemy then you will spend the rest of your life expending your energy picking up trash and never get to the heart of the problem. By finding the source of the pollution and stopping them from bringing about any further damage you can restore the stream.

Satan is littering God’s creation with the trash of deception, lies, and deceit. We find the banks of our lives brimming with refuse and we must put a stop to it if we are going to escape the pollution of the Enemy and allow the crystal clear waters of God to flow uninhibited through our lives.

I want to spend our time together today looking at how to overcome the Enemy. I have been extremely blessed this past week by taking a long hard look at the tactics used by one of our armed forces finest leaders, retired General Fred Franks. In his powerful book, Into The Storm, Tom Clancy shares detailed information about the battle-scared life of retired Army General Fred Franks. General Franks was one of only a handful of amputees who have served as a commander of our nation’s fighting forces. Unlike General Schwarzkopf, Fred Franks is a man who is small in stature, but his leadership abilities were larger than life. General Franks was an organizer and one of the most proficient producers of well trained, thoroughly educated, physically fine tuned, and highly skilled soldiers that our military has seen in many years.

General Franks outlines the seven most important components of his mission in seeking to train soldiers to win every battle and overcome the enemy. Let me share his insightful planning and preparation with you.
1) Preparing troops for battle in every phase of combat. General Franks was a fanatic for troop training. He wanted his troops to be prepared to face any and all conditions and every adversary on the field of battle. Physical training, equipment training, night training – a soldier must be prepared if he plans to engage the enemy and come out victorious.
2) Be clear about your mission. Under General Franks, every leader had to write out their mission statement. “A Commander’s intent” can’t be fuzzy – it must resonate with clarity.
3) Foster unity. In actual combat conditions soldiers fight for their friends. Build strong teams, build strong unity among the troops.
4) Pay attention to logistics. Soldiers who run out of food will run out of morale. A leader must take great strides to make sure the details have been considered so that the troops can be in position to win.
5) Know the enemy. Never underestimate the enemy. Consider him to be dangerous, imminent, and cruel. Always respect the enemy. Always go for the jugular never the capillaries. Our mission is not merely to win the surrender of the enemy – it is to crush him.
6) Commanders should lead their troops into battle. Hear the sounds, smell the sounds, and know the conditions. Get in the fight. Commanders must be visible. Soldiers will feed off of your courage when theirs is lagging.
7) Thank the troops after the battle. When Fred Franks lost his leg on the field of battle none of his commanders came to see him in the hospital. It was a lesson he never forgot. As a result of his experience, Fred Franks never forgot about his troops.
These are great lessons from the life of retired General Fred Franks for those of us who are on the field of the battle of life, those of us who find ourselves engaging the Enemy on a constant and consistent basis. We are in a battle you know. Those who are unaware of the severity and seriousness of this battle will most certainly be defeated. Oh, they would never say, “The Enemy has destroyed me.” They would describe what has happened with phrases like these: “We aren’t married any more. We just decided that we would both be better off if we divorced.” “I’m going out of town this weekend to visit my daughter who is in treatment. She’s been suffering from Bulimia and it almost killed her.” “They wouldn’t give us the loan. They said that our credit is bad.” “They fired me because they said I have a drinking problem. I don’t have a drinking problem. Sure, I have a drink now and then, but who doesn’t.” “I can’t go to that church anymore because they have everyone believing that I gossip. I can’t believe they would lie about me that way. I wasn’t gossiping, all I was trying to do was to get folks to pray for them.” They. They. They. Our problem is not they. Our Enemy is not them. Our Enemy is the Adversary of Almighty God. .Paul wrote in Ephesians,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12 NIV)
If our Enemy is not “them,” but Satan, then how can I, a mere man, win in this battle? It is a winnable war my friend, but before you begin to fight we must take another step toward towards the field of battle.
We need to know the Enemies battle plan. We need to understand the Enemies tactics. Before an army goes into battle they need to know who their enemy is and how he fights. Paul Harvey has written an insightful piece called, “If I Were The Devil” that is worth thinking about. He writes,
If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness and I’d have a third of it’s real estate and 4/5ths of it’s population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree – – Thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers – with the wisdom of a serpent I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve – do as you please. To the young I would whisper the Bible is a myth. I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old I would teach to pray – after me…’our father which art in Washington’. And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice-versa. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction, I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions just let those run wild, until before you knew it you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every school house door. Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing. I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of congress. And in churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money. If I were the Devil I would make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas a bottle. If I were the Devil I’d take from those who have and give to those who want it, until I’d killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I could get whole states to promote gambling as THE way to get rich. I would caution against extremes – in hard work – in patriotism – in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old fashioned, that swinging is more fun – that what you see on TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public – and I could lure you into bed – with diseases – for which there is no cure. In other words, if I were the Devil, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing. (Source: Paul Harvey.)
Paul Harvey has great insight into the tactics of Satan. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) Satan’s tactics are to use any thing or any one in our life to steal, kill, and destroy us.
J.O. Sanders, in his book, Satan Is No Myth, has outlined Satan’s strategies. He breaks down Satan’s strategies into two different battle plans: one for unbelievers who have not committed their lives to Christ, those who have not been freed from the shackles of sin, and one for believers, captives who have been given their freedom in Christ. Sanders outline is as follows:

1) Satan blinds the minds of the unbeliever. (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan blinds us through a myriad of ways to the Truth. He deceives us into believing that we are “bad” enough to need a Savior, that Jesus is nothing more than a mythological figure like the Greek gods Zeus or Mars, or that Jesus is only for weak people. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:4, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4 NIV)

We can think that we are exhibiting strength by resisting God’s voice calling us to Himself, but in actuality we are being used and deceived by Satan.

2) Satan snatches away the good seed of the Word of God. Have you ever heard someone share about what God has done in their life or someone share a lesson they have learned from God’s Word? Have you ever sat and listened to me share the Good News of God’s Word and not understood what was being said? The Bible says that our lack of understanding is one of the ploys of Satan. Jesus said in Matthew 13,
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. (Mat 13:19 NIV)

Satan sows misunderstanding, he snatches the Word of God from our hearts so that the seed of God’s Word can’t germinate and grow in our heart. The Bible makes it very clear that if you and I desire understanding or wisdom then all we have to do is ask of God and He will give it. James 1:5 says,
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NIV)

3) Satan lulls the unbeliever into a false sense of security. This is one of Satan’s primary tactics in the life of an unbeliever and especially in the lives of those people of means. “Hey, I’m alright. I’ve got it made. I’ve got a nice house, two cars, two week summer vacation, and a beautiful wife. What more could a man want in life? Why would I want to become religious?” The Bible dispels this man’s security by saying,
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Rev 3:17 NIV)

Don’t buy into Satan’s lie. Our need for Christ has nothing to do with what we have or don’t have – it has everything to do with what He has, salvation, real abundant life, and even life everlasting.

4) Satan lays snares for the unwary (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. {25} Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, {26} and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Tim 2:24-26 NIV)

5) Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:13-14). Satan is busy in America today furthering the agendas of hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called religions that promise peace, tranquility, and happiness. These pseudo religions are becoming very popular while Christianity is falling on more difficult times. Satan lures folks who are not followers of Jesus into these groups because they are hungry for more out of life. Paul writes,
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. {14} And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:13-14 NIV)

6) Satan deceives those whose minds are not subject to the Word of truth. We can be convinced of almost anything if we do not have the Word of God to serve as our authority, the plumbline of our life. If Satan can keep us from the Word of God then he can accomplish his mission of deceiving and destroying us.
The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Rev 12:9 NIV)

7) Satan mixes truth with error. Once again, this tactic of the Enemy is being utilized in a masterful way in our society today. True atheists are about as prevalent as dinosaurs today. On the other hand, the number of Christians who submit their lives solely to the teaching of God’s Word is also small. Most Christians utilize the things they like about Christianity, but dismiss the difficult teachings of Jesus. We are not inclined to put our trust in the absolute truth of God’s Word. As a matter of fact, we wonder if there is any absolute truth, other than what I deem to be truth. I’m sure that probably catches some of you off guard and you wonder where I have come up with that one. I’m glad you’ve asked.

While an estimated 74% of Americans strongly agree that “there is only one true God, who is holy and perfect, and who created the world and rules it today,” an estimated 65% either strongly agree or somewhat agree with the assertion that “there is no such thing as absolute truth.” (Christianity Today, 9-16-91, p. 48, from George Barna, The Barna Report: What Americans Believe, 1991)

Another bit of support for my statement comes from Robert Bellah in a study he has conducted.

According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81 percent of the American people also say they agree that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue.” Thus the key to the paradox is the fact that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms — terms that make no demands on behavior. A woman named Sheila, interviewed for Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, embodies this attitude. “I believe in God,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I went to church. But my faith has carried me a long way. It’s ‘Sheila-ism.’ Just my own little voice.” (Against the Night, Charles Colson, Page 98)

Satan’s strategies with believers are different than his strategies with unbelievers. The main difference in Satan’s strategies are that, in the lives of unbelievers, Satan seeks to attack the individual and shield them from the Word of God, the Truth of God. In the life of a believer, Satan seeks to destroy the mission of the Church. His desire is to alienate the members of the Body from one another so as to limit the effectiveness of God’s established instrument of ministry. Sanders lists Satan’s strategies in the life of a believer as follows:

1) Satan seeks to annihilate the church or neutralize its witness from within (Acts 5:1-6).
2) Satan undertakes virulent persecution from outside the Body.
3) Satan seeks to smother the Churches witness by according it great popularity.
4) Satan seeks to disturb the unity of the church by creating discord and division.
5) Satan seeks to bring about the subversion of the church through apostasy and heresy.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. {2} Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (2 Pet 2:1-2 NIV) (Satan is No Myth, J.O. Sanders, Moody, 1975, p. 72ff)

Satan is bent on destroying you and me. Although his tactics vary according our position in Christ, his aim is the same – the destruction of God’s creation. How do we defeat the Enemy? Next week we will spend our entire study time looking at God’s plan to defeat the Enemy, but as we close our study time this morning let me leave you with this. God said through the prophet Zechariah,
So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Zec 4:6 NIV)
You and I are not strong enough, intelligent enough, nor crafty enough to defeat the tactics of Satan, but we are overcomes in Christ Jesus. Through Christ God has given us the power to defeat the Enemy. We are more than conquerors through Christ, but we must allow Christ to live, rule, and reign in our lives.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then I want to urge you this very day to bow your head and ask Jesus to come into your life. Ask Him to be your power to defeat the Enemy and He most certainly will.

Understanding the Strategies of Satan
Psalm 119