“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist”
-Charles Baudelaire French poet 1821-1867
Recently there was a special aired on television, the topic of which was whether or not the devil really exists. A colorful cast of characters made their individual cases, and although there was allot of back and forth debate, nobody really clarified the matter, at least not to my satisfaction. I realize some of you are scratching your heads wondering why I would waste my time writing about the devil, seeing as there are a thousand other topics I could write about, but the reality of our enemy is something to be pondered if we are to defend against his wiles.
The devil is not a comfortable topic to talk about for anyone. Once you begin to understand his utter hatred for mankind, and his desire to destroy what God has created, one can’t help but feel a bit perturbed. In the old country, whenever the devil’s name was mentioned the elderly women would spit on the ground three times, and with a look of disapproval say ‘it’s better not to talk about that one.’
There are countless misconceptions concerning the enemy of our souls. The devil does not live below ground, he doesn’t have horns, he doesn’t run away from garlic, or from salt, in fact the devil doesn’t run. He is forced to flee at the name Jesus, he fears the blood of the Lamb, but we will get to that in due time.
During the Middle Ages the devil was caricaturized, with paintings and murals showing a red horned beast with a long tail, while in our modern age he has been wholly ignored even though he is ever present, smiling with yellowed gums and missing teeth because he’s old, and when he can no longer tear with his teeth, he will chew with his gums.
In order to defeat an enemy, you must know your enemy’s weakness, and as such we must understand the devil who revels at the thought of being overlooked and dismissed. He makes his home in the shadows, and does not desire to be seen. When I speak of knowing our enemy, I do not do so in the sense of fearing him, but rather reviling him, being by nature repulsed by his nature, and learning the weapons of our warfare inasmuch as we are able to defeat him.
God, our heavenly Father, desires to be found, discovered, loved, and worshiped, but the enemy is content with going unnoticed. As long as he can ply his trade, as long as he can snatch unwitting souls and drag them down into the deep, he is content with keeping to the shadows. So why talk about our mortal enemy? Is he really that dangerous? Unfortunately yes, and if we know the ways and means he employs to deceive and imprison the souls of men, we can do our utmost in keeping ourselves from falling into his snares.
First, the devil tempts. It is what he does best, and we’ve all read it in the Bible, heard it from our parents, sat through the sermons in church, so much so, that it no longer sounds sinful to our ears. Temptation does not sound like a negative thing to the modern hearer anymore, because when one is tempted by its very definition temptation must be something that the flesh yearns for and desires. It is not evil itself that tempts us, but something we dreamed of, some possession, position, or person we desired.
We rationalize and justify falling into temptation, still desirous of reaching heaven, because temptation attempts to convince us that we can take a shortcut, just like Eve so long ago, we are talked into believing that we can circumvent the authority and commandments of God, because they have a negative connotation, and cut our own, much shorter path toward the pearly gates.
Temptation is as persistent as a toothache, continually presented to us through different prisms which attempt to minimize the consequences, sugar coat the aftereffects, and keep us from seeing what awaits us at the end of the journey if we give in and take the bait. Temptation comes in our moments of weakness, as well as our moments of strength, because if one’s armor is not securely fastened, if one’s prayer life is not active, even in what we perceive as our greatest time of strength, the enemy will find a weakness which he can then exploit.
As pleasing to the eye, and desired by the flesh a temptation might be, the end result desired by the devil in any given temptation is to cause us to miss the mark altogether, to forfeit the eternal promises of God, for the temporal pleasures of this earth.
Second, the devil is a thief and a liar, but often his theft is so delicate that some go on for years not realizing what he has stolen from them. Eventually all who have fallen into the snare of the enemy wake up to the reality that something is missing, something has been taken. By stealing our peace, our joy, our charity, and our strength, the devil does not become richer, but we become incomparably poorer. What troubles me is that this theft takes place with the tacit support and approval of the victim, who feels a masochistic sort of pleasure in being robbed of the most precious virtues he possesses.
Third, devil divides, but not with the intention of coming out of the shadows, showing himself, and lording over those he has deceived, but out of the sheer joy of witnessing a daily Babel, in which a mass of humanity is yelling at each other absent of understanding, with no common goal or unity. The enemy’s methods of infusing hatred within the hearts of men vary, but all toward the same defined and desired result.
The enemy also binds. Habits have often been referred to as man’s second nature, and habits are not necessarily bad or evil. If you wake up every morning and brush your teeth, which is a habitual practice, it is not evil, just common sense, and respect toward your fellow man in not forcing them to smell last night’s garlic on your breath. However, some habits can be perverted and then those selfsame habits become snares. The chains of habitual practice are at first too thin and small to notice or feel, but given enough time eventually become so thick that one can no longer break free. It is the journey from wearing a thin and delicate chain around your neck, to that selfsame chain becoming a shackle and a fetter, fastened to the earth that so many fail to notice until it is too late. We all know what these practices that lead to abject slavery are, even in the lives of some believers. I will not enumerate them for fear of missing one, that selfsame one that a reader of this article might then say, ‘wow, dodged a bullet, he didn’t name my vice, my habit or my addiction.’
You know what is just and unjust, you know what is good and what is evil, don’t let the devil deceive you into indifference and apathy. More Christians suffer death by apathy than we would like to admit.
The devil kills. He kills out of pleasure, not out of fear. He kills because he knows his end, he knows his time is short; he kills because his hatred of man knows no bounds. The devil is not man’s friend, he is our enemy, and as such we cannot make concessions. The most enticing of temptations is nothing more than bait upon a hook, the most reasonable of compromises a smooth road to destruction.
The devil will forever remain in the shadows, because he fears the light. He fears the light of truth, he fears the light of Christ, he fears the light of the gospel, and so remains well hidden.
As children of God, as those possessing the light of truth, we must be fearless when confronting the enemy. Too often between fight, flight, or immobility, we choose either flight or immobility acting as though we are defenseless, or as a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
The Bible calls him a lion, a snake, a wolf, a leviathan, and the truth is that we wage war on his turf, on his territory, but wage war we must. The alternatives are too bleak to consider. If we do not fight, if we do not as Dylan Thomas once said, rage against the dying of the light, then we will surely be overtaken, and sooner or later become complicit in the enemy’s plot. From one who was tempted, man becomes the tempter, because it was not the devil that tempted Adam, it was Eve after she fell.
If we are to fight well, if we are to do battle with nobility and dignity, we must know our adversary, we must renounce fear, put on the whole armor of God, and resist our mortal enemy, keeping the knowledge that our General Jesus goes before us at the forefront of our minds.
Revelation 12:10-11, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.