Naturalists say man is at the top of the food chain with no natural enemies. But he does have a supernatural one. Satan is the apex predator on earth, a man hunter at the top of the food chain. In him resides the most corrupt, grim, and horrific evil. All evil is sourced in him and traced back to him. God and Satan are not equal and opposite foes vying for control of a soul as is commonly perceived. Satan is a created being and destroyer of all that exists. The origin of evil is a twist on what is good, with Satan inspiring the fall of man resulting in a curse placed on the earth that is felt into the smallest particles and most complex mechanisms. Creation was made with such precision that the slightest deviation resulted in severe malfunctions. Though frustratingly simple for the modern intellect, there is no better explanation propounded as to why we have problems than a curse. It’s where the concept of cursing comes from.
Ezekiel reveals that Satan was the highest archangel in God’s celestial cabinet and Chief of Staff over everything God created. In an absurd perversion he coveted the power of the most high, thought he could be like God, and was ushered out of office to be cast down to other domains. On the throne, Jesus caught that moment and relayed it this way, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Demoted, his highest priority is to get back at God after getting kicked out of the most privileged position in the universe. Since he can’t reach God, he does the next best thing by attacking God’s most cherished creation, humans, on a planet in the arm of a galaxy called the Milky Way. As consolation for the restless emptiness he experiences as one doomed to the abyss, he has hunkered down as the “god of this world”, the god of the world system that is against God.
The Ultimate Grudge Holder
Ironically, the presence of evil in a cursed world is one of the greatest testaments to the veracity of Scripture and the Christian worldview. The Biblical explanation for the existence of evil is the most logical ever propounded. The word “Satan” means adversary and his primary issues are with God. “Diabolos” or “devil” is a Greek word used in Scripture which means “slanderer,“ an activity that is close to his twisted heart. Scripture says Satan is “a liar…and murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44 ). His objective is destruction with an insatiable thirst for cruelty, stopping at nothing to get it. He detects low self esteem and emotional problems from miles away like a shark detects blood in the water. He’s turned on and intoxicated in orgasmic fury over senseless bloodshed. He’ll take a casualty any way he can get it and puts a scope on the weakest in the herd as well as the leader. He loves a pile on no matter how unfair the advantage and if he sees the victim waving a white flag and asking for terms of surrender his cruelty and deception is increased. For him there is no mercy.
Many think if they obey Satan, he’ll stay off their backs, just find the right direction to rub the fur. But he always bites his own as the ultimate traitor. He is a terrorist, manipulator, control freak, and master of the cheap shot, sideswipe and sucker punch. He’s a voyeur and will stake out a victim over long periods of time if need be before he makes his move. He is relentlessly patient in revenge, the ultimate grudge holder, plays dirty pool, and never forgets a sleight. His heart is cold, his touch lifeless, and his gaze is penetratingly vicious. He has a long memory, and continually reminds folks of their failures. He scintillates the nervous system with the counterfeit spiritual sensations of guilt, shame and pride. He hates exposure and he can’t tolerate being mocked. He loves to be preeminent, is a glory hog, and becomes infuriated at being dissed. He causes chaos and wafts into harmonious situations with a strange odor of confusion and selfishness, his victims little knowing how right relations went awry. He is as brilliant as he is powerful and natural men are his pawns, those who neither fear the Lord nor strap on the armor of God on a daily basis.
Though he is a bully and plays by his own rules, he is also a petty legalist incapable of common sense, an unreasonable and thwarted career bureaucrat. He distorts established boundaries of truth and reality and makes compromise appear better than it is. A world according to Satan would be a sterile, trimmed to the quick, plastic, suffocating existence where passion has been replaced with hollow, bureaucratic servility. Satan hates individuality, loves conformity, uniformity, anonymity and creates systems that eliminate all forms of distinction. His modus operandi is elicit reliance on systems to eliminate personal responsibility and decisions. With so much negative energy, it’s amazing Satan keeps his emissaries in as much order as he does without mutiny. He is smart enough, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 12:26 to keep order and hierarchy in the ranks, perhaps through power and intimidation as the chief. As paragons of instability, demons swing from senseless undulation and worship of Satan to grumbling and bickering. The hate demons have for God is greater than their desire for insubordination and they follow rank.
Deception and Intimidation
Satan often inspires the sensationalized tragedy, the triple homicide, the suicide bombing, and the fatal accident. But he is also the author of the white collar sin. If he can’t paralyze his victim with outright intimidation, he’ll use deception and guile with equal dexterity depending on the personality and situation. Like any predator Satan prefers to spend the least amount of energy in capturing a victim, slipping into the shadows and operating undetected. The experience of people 90% of the time with Satan is not the demonstrative, sensational, shock value encounters as seen in Ghost Stories, the Exorcist, or the Omen but in the subtle compromise and grooved pathways of bad habit, all in view of the big fall. His objective is to produce a vague cloud of half-conscious guilt over a life wasted in trifles and distractions.
C.S. Lewis perceived this tactic of attrition when he captured the conversation of one demon to another in The Screwtape Letters. The Devil’s Diabolical Advice for the Capturing of the Human Heart: “You can make him waste his time not only in conversations he enjoys with people whom he likes but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room…to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them…in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that the creature is too weak to shake off…Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Satan is fluent in psychology, philosophy, and theology and incites men to love life so much they’ll shrink from dying to self and going God’s way. Satan is a revisionist of history and a discounter of orthodoxy. He is a master of psychological warfare and his primary targets are the minds and hearts of men; if he can’t keep a man from coming to Christ, he’ll try to get him to foul himself out of the game with discouragement, despair, suicide.
Christian opinion is divided over how much Satan influences minds and world events. Some think he has minimal involvement and exposing him gives him attention he doesn’t deserve. Others see a devil behind every bush. The truth is in the middle, highly involved more than many think but not the cause of all problems. He spends much of his time in the heavenlies with his faultfinding book of complaints, berating and itemizing the sins of men before God. Satan has one advantage over God in that his ways appeal to the depraved heart of man naturally. That’s why it’s difficult to trust a world religion that doesn’t circumsize the heart. Man has a sin nature and the two cooperate so closely that it’s difficult to detect where Satan leaves off the flesh takes over. He incites the depraved nature with all kinds of carnal expressions that play out in self defeating cycles of bitterness and self pity long after he has left the scene. The damage he inflicts after a surgical strike can leave nasty hangovers called strongholds in the mind that last for years. Unless they are forcefully and painfully removed a person perpetually sabotages himself, insuring a life of mediocrity and never reaching his potential in Christ. Because of the stronghold effect, Satan targets children just as predators in the wild target young easy meat. If he can plant strongholds children while they are young he has a good chance of keeping them as most people will never challenge the assumptions and agreements they made in early in life.
Tozer described in graphic imagery the process needed in extricating a stronghold from the tough, fiberous root of our sin nature: “The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw.”
Some Christians say not to give attention to Satan because it will bring undue glory his way and that exposure to Christ is all that’s needed to make it skillfully through life. An analogy many use is a bank teller who works with real money all day. When a counterfeit comes along they can spot it. “So we don’t need to focus on the devil at all- just focus on Christ and you’ll detect evil.” While there is much truth to that, it’s also to Satan’s advantage since he can operate undetected in the shadows. Perhaps that’s why he defeats us more than we defeat him because he is a better student of us than we are of him. There is biblical evidence in making the enemy of our souls at least a cursory object of our study. After talking about the authentic life for 4 ½ chapters of his first epistle, Peter says to “Be alert, for your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). After Paul articulated our position in Christ for 5 chapters, ends his letter to the Ephesians with the admonition to put on the armor of God against the devils schemes (Ephesians 6:11). Just being saved is no automatic victory over the enemy. We have to expose and resist him.
The Devil Is In The Details
The devil is truly in the details and fine print, as Satan has an advanced degree in theology. He majors in the fine print of cosmic legislation and holds a doctor of letters in God’s word. He is capable of twisting any verse to fit his argument. His greatest assaults in a culture are on a doctrinal and Scriptural level as poor ideologies can enslave masses (cf. Satan’s attack on Jesus at the outset of his ministry, twisting the use of Scripture in Matthew 4 ). But if he is outgunned in substance (Scripture), he’ll attack form and character. Those who can handle the details of a lifelong study of the Word will be more discerning to the tactics of Satan. An attention to detail with his tactics is mandatory without being persuaded to an unhealthy fascination with the occult.
The modern chorus and praise song, though praising God, has scant reference to the apex predator on earth, symbolizing the inability of Christians to detect the masterful and system wide presence of Satan. But not all stalwarts of the faith were ignorant Satan‘s schemes. In one of the greatest hymns ever written “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, Martin Luther devoted almost 50% of the lyrics to the power and exposure of the enemy. He wasn’t giving undo attention to Satan but was merely sensitive to how much of a daily reality Satan was in trying to take him out. Even if we don’t think we can trust God’s way, we need to know enough not go Satan’s:
“A might fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper He, amid the floods of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe, Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.”
“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Were not the right man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabboath is his name, From age to age the same, and he must win the battle.”
“And tho’ this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us; we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him, his rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure, one little word should fell him.”
“That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours, thro’ Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”
The Inferior Spiritual Realm
Those who resist Christ and go the blind ways of the world have little understanding of how bad evil really is. Though he is a supernatural creature, Satan plays with real bullets. He distorts the spiritual realm as mere imagination of the mind, tale and myth. If he can‘t keep people from believing in the supernatural, he‘ll keep them fascinated with the inferior realm of phantasmal darkness, demons, the occult or other religions. He is a master of illusion, and just when he is detected he disappears into mid-air as a mist. He is a ventriloquist capable of throwing his voice and causing people to think his thoughts, wearing them like a glove, being unable to distinguish between their own and his. He lulls his entourage into a state of spiritual lethargy or catatonia so they sleepwalk through life in a kind of comatose numbness that is as mediocre as it is tragic. He bites like a viper and leaves his victims as defenseless as a loaf of bread and without support and reinforcements as “promised.” Satan is a hypocrite and phony, and though busy himself he entices his subjects with sloth and laziness. He has the appearance of going somewhere with activity, but his goals are annoyingly futile and empty. He is the consummate loser, loner, hermit, and is unstable in all his ways. Unreliable in anything sound, he is sure to respond to solicitations of carnality, indulgence, and selfish ambition. He incites man to self-promotion and is very sensitive those who dare upset the status quo and the balance of power with a life of godliness and integrity.
Satan despises anything that is human and neutral like culture, needs, and normal bodily functions. Martin Luther believed his flatulence kept the devil away during his exile at the Wartburg castle. He is fiendish in calamity and his mantra is what was seen on a T-shirt: “it’s only funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s freaking hilarious”. He relentlessly presents land mines of distraction in the simple life of faith with preoccupations towards self in all it’s varieties: self indulgence, self-righteousness, selfishness, self-consciousness, self-exaltation and anything that keep us from fighting him.
He is fascinated with the physical and material world and his emissaries are obsessed with possessing a physical body for expression to carry out evil plans. Like spiders that crawl about at night looking for the most remote vacancies, demons are spiritual wanderers looking for new homes to take over and pester. The are found in cities as well as the wilderness. To the uninitiated and ignorant, encounters with demons are reconfigured as “ghosts”. But ghosts are really residual, misty “trophies”, leftover images of people he has conquered that are replayed in favorite scenes like a broken record in a continual spin cycle of apparitions and EVP’s.
With tattoos, black concert t-shirts, skulls and other emblems of intimidation, Satan portrays himself as the “getter done” power in the world. “If you want something done quickly and done right, call me,” he whispers. He and spreads lies that Jesus is a sissy, effeminate, and pansy power incapable of enough machismo to kick modern problems in the butt. He spins the holy life as one of boredom with little excitement, stimulation or enjoyment. He uses the deception that only the good die young and that it’s more fun to laugh with the sinners than die with the saints.
Satan is a worthy opponent but he is not unconquerable. Neither angels, nor principalities, nor demons…can separate us from the love of God“ wrote Paul. James said that there is a two fold strategy for defeating our ancient foe: “submitting to God” first, then “resisting the devil”. Most people, left to their own devices reverse it. They submit to the devil and resist God. But submitting to God isn’t enough. Those who hate conflict and making waves will find it unnatural standing up to Satan, and forcefully removing him out of their presence will feel “mean and insensitive”. Don’t buy it. If there is a being we can have the strongest boundary with it is Satan.
Christians of all people understand when spiritual warfare breaks out in physical manifestations such as real war. But spiritual warfare is not primarily physical. It’s a battle within our own thoughts, attitudes, and prejudices. If we don’t fight our own lusts, we’ll fight people, just as Satan hopes for. He’ll cause scenes like what was reported in the newspaper a few years ago. Without knowing it, two men in a neighborhood in Bradenton, Florida ordered a pizza at about the same time. When the pizza man showed up each insisted it was his. They got into a fight, and incapable of discerning the spiritual warfare going on inside their heads, one shot the other dead— over a pizza! Satan had a feast that night and though he doesn’t eat pizza, the tomato sauce on that pizza was blood.
“For we are not fighting people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realm.” Ephesians 6:12
Satan doesn’t just ease up because we decide to put our heads under the pillow and hope he goes away. He doesn’t pack it up if we choose not believe in him. In fact, his greatest victims are those who are unsure about the spiritual realm as defined by Scripture. As many a staff sergeant has counseled his infantryman in the heat of a scuffle, “your best chance of survival is to fight back with all of your heart.” It’s kill or be killed. A man will never reach his potential without a serious prayer life in resisting the apex predator of his soul.
Copyright 2010 by Scott Chandler. All rights reserved.