EPHESIANS 2:1-5 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
This series of posts is just a transcription, with very little tweaking, of a sermon I preached recently called The World, The Flesh and The Devil. As I prepared to teach – reading systematic theology books, commentaries, sermons – one name kept coming up: Thomas Brooks.
Thomas Brooks was a Puritan minister in the 1600s who – apparently – wrote the go-to book on the methods of Satan. Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices is thorough and, yes, sleep-inducing but meatier than any modern read on spiritual warfare I’ve found. It’s still available in print here but there are also several online versions free to read as well – like this pdf.
So, nothing I’m about to tell you is original. All I’ve done is taken a handful of Thomas Brooks’ “devices”, broken them into two categories, and translated them into modern English. I strongly encourage you to read his entire book if this small taste of it here is at all helpful to you.
- Immediacy: He shows me the bait and hides the hook. My thoughts are turned to the immediate pleasure that could be mine and I give little or no thought to the longterm consequences that will also be mine.
- Rationalization: I spin my sin as virtuous, telling myself “I’m not a gossip; I’m concerned” or “I’m not an alcoholic; I’m sociable.”
- Discontent: He focusses my attention on sinful people who are living seemingly great lives and I begin to think “I might as well…look how far being the good guy has gotten me.”
- Piety: He keeps a list of all the good I do and reminds me of it when I’m tempted. And I say to myself “I’ve done so much good that this one bad thing isn’t a big deal.”
- Anonymity: He denies the existence of God by telling me “no one will ever know.”
- Regret: He causes me to obsess over the consequences of past sin that I cannot repair – lost jobs, estranged children, broken friendships, bad reputation earned.
- Punishment: When life is difficult he tells me I’m being punished by God.
- Desertion: He tells me the reason I can’t resist temptation is because God has forsaken me or He’s not real.
- Secrecy: He convinces me that “they” won’t love me anymore if they know the real me. My sin becomes a secret I keep at all costs and the secret becomes a wall that separates me from others.
- Effort: He tells me my sin is proof that I’m not really a Christian (or not anymore), so I pray again, get baptized again, study again, try harder again.
JAMES 1:13-15 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Once I sin, the Devil hits me with the other fist: Accusation. “Devil” comes from the Greek word “diabolos”, which is the noun version of the verb “accuse.” Accusation is the Devil’s very name.
As clever as these strategies are, they can be defeated. “Resist the Devil,” we’re told, “and he will flee (James 4:7).”
How to do that? Coming in the last post of this series on Monday.