Jesus brought out the way of freedom so clearly when He said that when we got to know the truth, the truth would set us free (Jn.8:32). Satan operates, on the other hand, by persuading us to believe falsehood because he is the father of lies (Jn.8:44). When he went to Eve in the Garden of Eden, he started by fooling her into questioning whether God had actually said what He had said, and then by an outright claim that what God had said would not happen (Gen.3:1,4). Eve fell when she chose to believe Satan’s lies and ignore God’s truths. Isn’t it the same way we also fall?
Findings In Psychology
Psychological observations have also discovered how it is having false beliefs that leads to wrong behaviour and consequences. Albert Ellis brought this out in his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy model. According to him, contrary to what most people assume, it is not the events that happen to us that cause us to respond and behave in a certain way. We usually think that we behave in a certain way because somebody did something to us or something happened to us. Ellis points out that when something happens to us, we act according to what we believe in our minds concerning such incidents. For example, when we face a failure in life, if we believe that we are a failure and that there is no use trying anymore, we would get depressed and perhaps even commit suicide. But if we believe that God has a plan for our life and that making some mistakes does not mean that we are failures as human beings, we can learn from our mistakes and go forward. So we see that the same bad situation can happen to two people, and one of them may overcome it and go forward, while the other may give up and react negatively. It all depends on whether what we believe in our mind at that time is based on truth or falsehood.
We saw how Satan deceived Eve by feeding her with lies. He did this in such a way that these lies displaced the truths Eve knew and believed. He began by planting doubts in her mind concerning God’s Word, flatly denying God’s Word, making allegations that God had some selfish motives in denying her the fruit, and then making the forbidden fruit look attractive in her eyes. God had told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Satan asked Eve if God had really said that. God had said that the fruit would cause them to die. Satan told her that she would not die even if she disobeyed God and ate that fruit. Satan went on to tell her that the fruit would make her wise and that actually God did not want her to become like Him. This shows the way he works with us also. He tries to make us believe lies.
When Satan came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, his tactics were again to plant falsehood in Jesus’ mind in the place of truth. Jesus had just been proclaimed as the beloved Son of God at His baptism, and Satan began his attack by trying to cast aspersions on that fact. “If You are the Son of God...,” he said. He challenged Jesus to assert Himself by demonstrating His power to turn a stone into bread. Jesus overcame by refusing to swallow the bait and holding on to the position of truth. He was the Son of God, and there was no need to prove that to Satan.
When Satan suggested that Jesus should jump down from the top of the temple, he tried the more subtle way of planting lies by using partial truths. He quoted parts of Bible verses (also out of context) in such a way as to compel Jesus to think that if He did not do what Satan suggested, it would look as if He did not believe in God’s promises. (Are we not familiar with this?) Several lies are involved here, which we need to see through. Just because we have the power or authority, we do not have the right to use them apart from the will of God. We do not have to respond to every challenge that men hurl at us. What men think about us does not matter as long as we are doing the will of God. The important thing is to do the will of God and not to impress or convince people about our authority.
The third time Satan came around, he tried to get Jesus to ‘do the will of God’ through wrong means. He knew Jesus was keen on winning the world for God, and he offered Him a quick way. But Jesus was quick to see that bowing down to Satan would recognise him as god, and winning the people by bowing before Satan was a false way that would not win them for God.
Satan works through lies. He whispers these lies to us all the time, picking and using different ones according to the situation. But we see that if we listen to God and cling on to God’s Word, we can win every time.
All the anger and frustration that Satan feels at having been deprived his earlier position in heaven are directed at us (God’s people), and Satan is determined to alienate us from God by hook or by crook. One of the main things he does is to distort the concept of God in our mind by feeding us with lies and half truths. We are familiar with the pictures showing God as a tyrant, strict judge, policeman waiting around the corner to catch us, one who legalistically nitpicks on us for every imperfection in us, who throws the Book of the Law at us when we fall, who is up there not bothered about our struggles, etc. Satan tries to make us ‘feel’ as if we are not forgiven even though we have confessed our sins, or as if God does not love us even though His Word proclaims it loudly. We know how ridiculous these pictures are, and how far away from the truth! But Satan tries to paint these images about God in our minds at different times according to our particular state of life at those times. The only antidote for these is to know the real God of everlasting love, mercy, longsuffering and kindness, not forgetting how gracious He is towards us while He is also holy, righteous, just and without partiality.
About Ourselves Satan tries to keep us down and away from the battle against his forces by feeding us with lies about ourselves. Satan accuses us not only about the sins we have fallen into but also things we are not really guilty about. He condemns us and makes us feel worthless and hopeless even though our God is a God of hope. He tries to make us feel lonely and without direction thinking that God has left us. He tells us that nothing is going to work out for us, we have sinned too much for God to love us, God does not care for someone like us, etc. As pressures build up and we allow such thoughts to crowd us, there is no limit to which Satan can lead us away from God. One reason why suicides are increasing can be an increased activity on Satan’s part.
Satan puts thoughts into our minds without us realising what he is doing. Then we begin to be suspicious of others and their motives towards us, and we also ‘feel sure’ (without any proof) that others are thinking this and that about us and planning against us. Satan distorts things that have happened between us and others and causes us to think negatively about them. We may not realise that it is Satan who is giving us suggestions in our mind to hit out against the others with words or actions that we would not tolerate under normal circumstances.
The Way Out
What we need to do is to check whether what we are thinking in our mind is ‘true’ or based on lies or falsehood which the devil is feeding us with. It is not always easy to do this, since the devil applies pressure on us to believe what he tells us, and it is difficult for us to resist him unless we insist on knowing the ‘truth’ in different situations. And truth comes from God, especially from His Word.
God tells us that we have to be alert against the schemes of the devil when he is prowling around like a lion trying to catch and devour us. We realise that we are no match for Satan’s cleverness, and our sole chance of victory is to cling to God. As we keep feeding on the Word of God, submitting to the voice of the Holy Spirit in every situation, keeping ourselves humble before the Lord through prayer all the time and open to corrections and warnings that He gives us through His children, we can learn to see through the schemes of the devil and find protection against them. When we know the truth, it shall set us from the lies of the devil.