I'm currently reading The Christian, His Conflict And His Armour by Charles Simeon. Simeon lived from 1759 - 1836 and was minister of Holy Trinity Church Cambridge for 54 years. He was a contemporary of William Wilberforce and, according to the end notes of the book, was instrumental in encouraging many to give themselves to missionary service.
In chapter two of the book Simeon deals with the wiles of the devil. He says that Satan always has two purposes, to lead men to sin and to keep men from God. He expounds on those two main themes throughout the chapter.
To Lead Men to Sin
- "Satan considers the weak part of every man, and directs his artillery where he may most easily make a breach." We must therefore be aware of our weaknesses in order to know his most likely place of attack.
- "Satan is sure to embrace an opportunity when we are alone, withdrawn from those whose eye would intimidate or whose council would restrain us." We should therefore remain connected to the Body of Christ and pursure discipling relationships that will prevent us from being isolated. Christianity is to to be a lone pursuit.
- "...in leading us to the commission of sin, he will use sometimes the authority of magistrates, of masters, or of parents, and sometimes the influence of our dearest friends or relatives." We must therefore be sure that our final authority is the Word of God and that we are willing to "obey God rather than men" when the council of men conflicts with the Word of God, even if that council is from someone we respect or to whom we are close.
- "He for a time conceals his full purpose: he pleads at first for nothing more than the gratification of the eye, the ear, the imagination." We must always realize that Satan's goal is our enslavement to sin. The attractiveness of sin to our senses is only the bait. If we take that bait and indulge our sensual nature, we are also taking the consequences that go along with that sin - things which are at first hidden from us.
To Keep Men from God
- "He will begin with misrepresenting to his captives their own nature." Simeon says Satan will either try to convince us that we are not that bad and therefore do not need a savior or that we are so bad Christ's work is not sufficient for us. Either way the result is the same.
- "...he will misrepresent to his captives the character of God." Again, Simeon says Satan pursures one of two extremes. He either paints God as too merciful to punish anyone eternally or as unwilling to forgive the most grevious sinners because of the demands of His justice.
I found much wisdom in Simeon's discussion of the wiles of the devil. I also found it interesting that the enemy's tactics have not changed much in the 150 or so years since Simeon wrote this or indeed in the several thousand years or so since he first deceived our first ancestors in the Garden. We would do well to continually remind ourselves of these tactics in order to be prepared for them when they come our way.