Satan had several thousand years to practice his schemes. Besides God, Satan is an expert of human behavior, not because he possess some divine power like God but he had many years to study human behavior. Based on many years of observation, Satan knows very well of the statistics and probability of what temptations work best on people. He studied human condition long enough that he agrees with Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to how to tempt God’s people with success. With his high success rate, he’s very confident in using the same old tricks.
Because Satan knows the Scripture and knows it well, he may quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 and even tell you to really believe it, for it says: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man!” I’m sure some of his demonic angels talk to each other this way:
Look at these stupid humans. They fall for the same old tricks that I’ve been using for thousands of years! They just don’t get it. And look at many of these churches. Although there are more churches today than at the time of the Reformation, these churches are actually helping our cause. Do you remember at the time of the Reformation? Boy, we were losing our battles left and right. The enemy had such small armies, but they were strong unlike these so called Christians today. Unlike those days of the Reformation, today’s churches hardly talk about us or train their people how to defend or counterattack. These people are simply weak. And they’re no threat to us, the kingdom of darkness!
Consider some of the ways how Satan tempts God’s people:
- Satan tempts when he sees us weakest.
- Temptations come when we are away from regular routine/actions or when we are relaxing.
- He tempts after a time of spiritual activity.
- He tempts when people turn from him and his device to a holy God and his truths.
- He tempts when he finds us idle or unemployed.
- He tempts when we are unthankful and when our contentment dries up.
- He tempts to sin gradually.
- He tempts with close friends and even with family members.
- He tempts some people more than others.
(These points are explained in my sermon. If interested, you can click “How Satan tempts God’s people” on the link below.)
Care to know what you should do?
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Notice the order. First, submit to God. This is far from showing self-sufficiency and self-confidence. You need to understand that you cannot overcome temptation by your own strength and power. The prayer that Jesus taught (i.e., “the Disciples’ Prayer” in Matthew 6) is a prayer of continual relying and depending on God.
Second, resist the devil. The Greek word is antihstemi, which means to oppose, resist, or to withstand. This is where we get the medical term, which means to withstand or fight against virus or germs.
Jesus is the greatest example of one who successfully resisted the devil. Jesus demonstrated that the only way to resist the devil is to use one powerful God-given weapon – i.e., the word of God. Three out of three times Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations with “It is written.”
However, let me also say something about quoting and applying Scripture. I would be the first to admit that there is no value in mere memorizing and quoting Scripture. The devil knows the Scripture too and he can also quote it well. Some people think that merely quoting the Scripture will make Satan to run away. Such thinking is no different than an archaic and superstitious practice that flashing a cross or making a cross will make demons to run away. The power to overcome temptation does not mean simply quoting Scripture. No, it is properly obeying or applying the Scripture! It is submission to God’s word! Satan flees when you say, “I will obey God’s word” not “I can quote it.”
Obeying God means you don’t put yourself into a situation where you will be tempted. Sometimes people choose to be in a situation where they are vulnerable. In that case, don’t tempt God to deliver you! And don’t blame God if he doesn’t. It’s like when an alcoholic walks into a bar and says God is tempting him when in fact God does not tempt anyone to sin. Rather, it was the alcoholic who put himself into temptation, not God. So, don’t put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted. According to Terry Johnson, there are three P’s that we should clearly stay away from because of its potential temptations, namely places, people, and products.
- Places – there are certain places that I would not choose to go. For instances, I would not walk into a club because I want to listen to some music. If you have addiction to alcohol, you know where to stay away. If you have addiction to pornography, you know where you are tempted. If you addiction to shopping, you know where not to go. These are places that I would not put myself to be tempted.
- People – there are individuals that may tempt me to lose my sanctification. Such people maybe gossipers, complainers, blasphemers, liars, and etc.
- Products – certain TV shows that tempt you to think that what you have is not cool or insufficient. They make you think that you need to have their products – whether it’s clothes, cosmetics, cars, appliances, purses, shoes, and ad infinitum.
If interested in hearing my recent sermon series on this subject and/or related issue, you can click the following:
- How Satan tempts God’s people
- Where did Satan come from and how did he fell?
- How does the Bible identify our spiritual foe?
- Theology of temptations
Terry L. Johnson, When Grace Comes Alive (Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2005), 173-4.