I vividly remember the first time these words pricked my ears, causing them to stand at attention like an aroused guard dog. Years of Sunday School had taught me that the devil was bad, but life, itself, had taught me that paying attention to details was good, so this foreign, puzzling expression utterly confused my adolescent brain.
Later, my father explained that the expression, the devil is in the details, meant that mistakes were often made by overlooking the smaller, seemingly less important matters instead of the obvious, larger ones. He went on to say that although a matter might appear to be rather simple on the surface, it may actually be rather complex and require thorough examination and careful execution to resolve.
Time passed and as the years ticked along, I began to realize that it was a warning to keep a close watch on the task at hand, in every aspect. As my Bible knowledge increased and I matured spiritually, an expression I uttered as casually as any drink order, clicked on like a lightbulb in my head; then its meaning and reality suddenly changed how I began to view the world around me, myself and the Lord.
Not long ago, I committed to reading the entire Bible within a year. The Lord had convicted me to not just read, but to really study the Old Testament. Over the years, I had convinced myself that the Old Testament was for scholars, preachers, and “really smart” Christians. Much to learn, I earnestly asked the Lord to reveal to me truths about who He is and how to worship Him and serve His kingdom.
Not far into my reading, God answered my prayer — Genesis 3 — The Fall, to be exact. Between pouring out bowls of Cheerios and scraping up remnants of Play-Doh, I read verses 1-5 over and over; it was like reading those words for the very first time in my life.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 ( NIV)
Written on the pages of my Bible was the account of a cunning serpent tempting Adam’s helpmate, Eve, to disobey God with his smooth-talking sales pitch. A closer look revealed two truths: Satan did not cause Eve to sin but through temptation and deception, he simply appealed to the fleshly desires within her. Nor were his tactics grandiose or demanding; they were subtle and suggestive.
RECOGNIZING THE ENEMY
Genesis 3:1 states that the serpent was the most crafty of all God’s creations. Consider that word, “crafty,” and its other meanings — cunning, deceptive, manipulative. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the devil is shrewd, and he continues to adapt his tactics. John Calvin maintained that Satan inhabited the serpent to use its natural gifts of cunning and craft for his own wicked scheme to tempt Eve to question and ultimately rebel against her Creator.
Ephesians 2:2 says he is the “prince and power of the air.” According to ll Corinthians 4:4, he is the “god of this world,” implying that Satan has shaped the views and values of the vast majority of people in this world, even Christian people, who’ve been repeatedly duped by his duplicitous schemes. As his many names suggest, his sole purpose is to make war against God’s people and destroy all that is good and godly, by any means necessary.
UNDERSTANDING THE ENEMY
Reading on in Genesis 3:6, we discover Eve’s descent into disobedience. First, she looked upon the fruit of the tree. Next, she touched it. Then as God had forbidden, she actually ate of it because she desired to gain wisdom and be like God. Like a parent who establishes a curfew to deter a child’s misconduct, God established boundaries in the Garden of Eden. In nature, just as in the Garden of Eden, once we cross the first boundary, break the first rule, it’s easier to slip over the next and so forth. This is Satan’s modus operandi. He starts with the seemingly insignificant details of our lives, that single, honey-coned cell of our inquiring minds or that single, slightly opened sliver of our hurting hearts and moves in to eventually dominate all the details of our lives.
Typically, mass media depicts Satan with horns and a forked tail carrying a pitchfork in his red-skinned hand, but such is not the case, not by a longshot. If that were true, we’d surely see him coming, more aware of his evil presence and schemes to destroy us. On the contrary, when out to trick us, he uses the fine art of subterfuge, but the more we immerse ourselves in Scripture, saturated with the Word of God, the more difficult it is for him to deceive us in any detail.
The evil one can most certainly assail us with outright, blatant attacks, but more often than not, the tactics he employs against us are much more subtle: apathy, distraction, hopelessness, preoccupation, doubt, fear, conceit, and of course, PRIDE. Furthermore, in the Garden of Eden, the serpent appealed to Eve’s PRIDE, her desire to “be like God” and no longer under His authority, which, by her own hand, proved to be her undoing and resulted in expulsion and death.
FIGHTING THE ENEMY
Accepting Christ as Savior does not vanquish sin or evil in ourselves or in the world around us. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, that spiritual warfare between the forces of darkness and death and the forces of light and life exists, and all humanity is under siege. The victor of the WAR has already been determined; Christ conquered sin by shedding His blood on the cross, and He conquered death when He rose from the grave on the third day after dying on that cross. He now lives and rules with all power and authority in Heaven and on Earth, FOREVER. This means that through Christ, in Him, Believers are ultimately victorious over evil and the deadly consequences of that first act of sinful disobedience in the Garden of Eden — hallelujah! (Romans 5:12).
God has not abandoned us to the throes and wiles of the devil; before Christ ascended into heaven to return to His Father, he left us the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and to fight for us and with us, no matter what circumstances or situations lie ahead (John 14:27). Furthermore, God has equipped us with armor to recognize and resist the ever beguiling enemy; however, we must appropriate God’s full body of armor for ourselves each and every day. ( Ephesians 6:10-20)
DEFEATING THE ENEMY
Mindful of spiritual forces waging war in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12), my pulse sometimes races, but God’s promise of redemption and restoration assures me that the devil and his gang of demons will be defeated, so this daughter of Eve lives with hope and without fear. Returning to the beginning in Genesis 3:15, God promised that Eve’s seed, Jesus, would one day crush the head of the serpent, which Jesus did on the cross of Calvary two thousand years ago. Upon Christ’s return, Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where he will be tormented day and night (Revelation 20: 1-10). Until that time God has given His children power over evil by simply calling on the name of our Lord (Luke 10:19-20).
Satan is real, and his power should never be underestimated. He hates God and all of God’s good creation, especially man, who was created in God’s own image. The devil is literally “hell-bent” on man’s destruction. On the contrary, God’s chief purpose for man is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. What awesome news! God made a way for us fallen, sinful creatures to ENJOY him and to experience His goodness and blessings in our lives. He has given us everything necessary to spread the gospel, serve others and to glorify Christ in the face of the enemy and wants us to “power” through our life’s journey, while always being on guard for Satan’s attacks.
To quote A. W. Tozer, “The best way to keep the enemy out is to keep Christ in. The sheep need not be terrified by the wolf; they have but to stay close to the Shepherd. It is not the praying sheep Satan fears but the presence of the Shepherd.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, ceaseless prayer and constant abiding in Christ we can fend off the evil one’s attacks. Seek Christian community in a local church and smaller groups that foster Christian sisterhood and surround yourself with Believers in Christ for additional support.
Listen to the Shepherd’s voice and stay close to him. Only there will you fear NO EVIL and find comfort, even in the presence of your ENEMIES (Psalm 23).
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