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Scripture calls the serpent the most subtle of all creatures.
Jesus calls him the Father of Lies.
The devil is such a subtle and skillful liar that most people have difficulty discerning his lies as lies.
One of his greatest achievements, as we know, has been to convince most people that he doesn’t exist. Another of his achievements has been to rebrand sin as virtue. So, for instance, attacking God’s justice has been rebranded as “social justice”, depravity has been rebranded as “liberation”, and tolerance of depravity has been rebranded as “love”. The devil has also convinced many Christians that killing is OK, as long as it’s done in the name of the state or in self-defence.
The devil feeds on people’s ignorance of God’s Word. He does so by feeding their pride, vanity, lusts, and fears. If your pride, vanity, lusts or fears are being triggered, you know the source is the devil, not God.
Whether we consciously realize it or not, we’ve all had dealings with the devil, mainly through his minions. Jesus had up-close and personal experiences with the devil during a series of temptations. Satan made personal appearances in Jesus’ case, as Jesus would have been quite a feather in the devil’s cap had he caved to the temptations.
You can tell those who have caved. If they’re not born-again but they’re at the top of their field or are a household name, they’ve caved. Jesus tells us that the world is under Satan, so anyone in positions of power or authority, or anyone who’s attained a certain level of success or celebrity who is not born-again has had to cave to the devil’s temptations, and they’re warned never to talk about it. There is no other way for them to achieve sustained success above a certain level except to be born-again, and very few born-again believers are drawn to the entertainment or arts industries, or to politics, law, business, banking, professional sports, medicine, etc., or religion.
Yes, I said religion.
Genuine born-again believers are not religious. Jesus was not religious. He did God’s will, he kept the Commandments, and he preached and taught the Word, but he wasn’t religious. In fact, he overthrew most of the tenets of the Judaic religion by claiming that the hundreds of Mosaic laws were no longer required. Jesus overthrew religiosity in the same way he overthrew the money-changers’ tables in the temple.
Unfortunately, very few Christians got that memo and so have continued to follow religion rather than Jesus, ritual rather than faith, lies rather than Truth. The devil has a field day with these people. They’re how Christianity is being destroyed from within.
The key to discerning the devil’s lies is to view the world through the lens of God’s Holy Spirit, as Jesus did. This can only be done if you’re born-again. The day I was born-again, I remember feeling that everything had clicked into place and the world finally made sense. It was like when you’re getting your eyes tested, sitting in the dark behind the eye-testing gizmo. You strain to make sense of the blurry letters on the wall as the optometrist clicks through one lens at a time, and then suddenly, with the right click — YOU SEE!
I’d strained to make sense of the world for years until I was born again, but since then, the way of the world appears self-evident to me. In fact, it’s now so self-evident, I can’t unsee it, and it boggles my mind that I could have been so blind to it all those years. But the blindness was supernatural, just as the clarity of vision is supernatural. I didn’t make myself blind any more than I made myself see. This is all God’s doing.
As subtle and as skilled a liar as the devil is, Jesus tells us that we born-agains have the capacity, through the power of God’s Spirit, to be as wise as him. Just as we can know God’s mind, we can also know the devil’s and the minds of those who serve him. And in knowing their minds, we can discern their lies.
But in striving to be as wise as a serpent, we need to remember to remain as gentle as a dove. The devil uses his wisdom to harm people; we need to use ours to help them.