SCHEMES, PLOTS, AND TRICKS
Most people are unaware that they are the focus of an insidious scheme by an enemy who uses any and every trick possible to harm them! The ancients knew of this scheme and warned as many as would listen. Back in a time when people were generally more spiritual, this vile plot to undermine people’s welfare was frequently exposed; but now in our day, when such things are dismissed as the mere rants of a by-gone era of silly superstitious simpletons, the tricks of the enemy are actually embraced and welcomed by a culture now drunk on the enemy’s liquor of deception. But we hav no reason to fear our Enemy and he has every reason to fear the One who is in us!
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
JESUS AND THE ENEMY
Jesus didn’t think that the enemy or the enemy’s schemes were ‘silly superstitions’. He had several first-hand encounters with this vile enemy and on several occasions warned His disciples not to be complacent about how their enemy manipulated people’s actions, attitudes, and thoughts.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Jesus rebuked Satan with the Word of God and returned from this wilderness experience in the ‘power of the Spirit’ (Luke 4:14). But this was not His last encounter with Satan directly or even indirectly. Just before Christ embarked on the climax of the Father’s plan of redemption, the enemy was already at work to manipulate Christ’s disciples. When Peter spoke on behalf of the Enemy, Christ retorted-
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And even though Jesus had pastored Judas Iscariot daily for over three years, Judas was still susceptible to the Enemy’s manipulation because off the Enemy’s appeal to idolatry in his heart.
¶ Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them.
Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Even after Jesus directly warned Peter that Satan was going to attack him with fear, Simon-Peter lowered his guard with his pride and almost scoffed at Christ’s warning-
¶ “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death.”
As Jesus trained His disciples to be ‘fishers of men’ He cautioned them that they were engaging in a supremely spiritual activity to reconcile men to God and in the process they would be opposed and hindered by this Enemy who would constantly attack the truth of the Gospel with his lies.
And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
THE TACTICS OF THE ENEMY
so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (‘schemes’ NET).
Second Corinthians 2:11
There are two very predictable aspects about the Enemy’s tactics. Firstly, he lies, deceives, and misrepresents. Secondly, he distorts, twists, and destroys that which God has created as good for mankind. Christ put it this way when speaking to the Pharisees who opposed Him –
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that Satan repeatedly hindered his attempts to preach the Gospel in Macedonia.
because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
First Thessalonians 2:18
Our Enemy has blatantly lied to and maliciously deceived the potential members of our harvest field about 5 key truths: God, Bible, the After Life, Sex, and Church.
1. LIES ABOUT GOD
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
The Enemy has thoroughly tricked a gullible world about who God is. The truth is: God is the Creator, the Redeemer; the One who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the One who ‘so loved the world that He sent’ His Son to die for the sins of the world and freely offer the forgiveness He has purchased on behalf of all humanity. In the Old Testament He identifies Himself to the Hebrews as Yahweh — the Eternal Self-Existent One — but the Enemy distracts people from encountering the True God and lures them into thinking that he is their god and even accepts any name (preferably a false name to match his character) that they might call him.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Second Corinthians 4:4
2. LIES ABOUT THE BIBLE
The Enemy has deceived people into thinking that the Bible is a book of rules when, the truth is, it is the story of redemption comprised of what initially appears to be disconnected stories which, when a reader becomes acquainted with them, are actually a vital part of the grand meta-narrative of how the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has redeemed mankind through Jesus Christ. The Bible is therefore a love story.
¶ His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.
The Enemy has deceived people into believing that the Bible is an out-dated, error-laden, irrelevant, encrypted code book – when in fact it is nothing of the kind – because the truth is it is a divinely inspired and preserved revelation from our Creator for us.
3. LIES ABOUT THE AFTER-LIFE
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The Enemy has utterly fooled people with despair about the point to living and dying. Our lives have been designed to behold the wonder, the magnificence, the beauty of the Creator’s precious and extravagant gift of life to each of us. In God’s eyes we are all His children. Jesus revealed the Father’s heart for each of us in His story of the Father with two sons, a dutiful but distant older son and a wayward yet repentant younger son. The Enemy has manipulated sin-stained human hearts to enforce cruel artificial and alien divisions between us on the basis or ‘race’, skin colour, ethnicity, gender, social class, nationality, age, professions, and religion. And it’s the latter, ‘organised’ and ‘unorganised’, which he has used deceived people about the after-life. The religiously atheist has been tricked into thinking that humans are mere animals devoid of a soul and therefore incapable of existence beyond the grave. Using the platform of one religion he has hoodwinked certain people into believing the lie that the after-life is essentially an erotic paradise where men can be rewarded with up 70 celestial female sex-slaves if they kill themselves while killing others to spread their false religion. Using a different religious platform he has deceived people into believing that there is no heaven or hell, just a perpetual cycle of rebirths. But the truth has been revealed by Christ who described life beyond the grave as our eternal destiny where we are invited to enter into His Kingdom and enjoy the unbroken experience of infinite delight and satisfaction; or, to reject our Creator’s offer of reconciliation and experience an eternity enduring the consequences of this regrettable choice.
¶ “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
4. LIES ABOUT SEX
I guess that there are only a few people in the universe who truly appreciate the profundity of the enormity and theological implications of sex — and my estimate would include the Enemy in that number — which explains why he is so hell-bent on distorting it! With apologies to the late C.S. Lewis, it’s as if the Enemy has convinced the world that playing in a mud puddle outside a beachside holiday house is better than enjoying the beach on the side of the house! When sexuality is misapplied, it not only misrepresents God’s covenant faithfulness, His gift of creativity, and His design for human flourishing, it also tragically brings great hurt. (Dr. Nancy Pearcey has well documented this in her book, Love Thy Body.) The apostle Paul warned that untethered sexuality has lamentable consequences (1Cor. 6:18).
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
First Corinthians 6:18
Our Heavenly Father has designed the gift of human sexuality as a profound expression of who He is. Just as He is Father, Son, and Spirit in perfect union, human sexuality is uniquely designed to bring unity between one man and one woman within the bounds and blessing of covenant love. Just as God is a Creator, He has gifted humankind with the ability to procreate through His gift of sex. Throughout the Old Testament God seems to have placed an almost incomprehensible stress on guarding the purity of sexuality that only becomes obvious as the New Testament unfolds.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
The glory of the Christ’s gospel is though, that for all those who have been entangled in the web of the Enemy’s deceit, there is the availability of forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration.
¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
First Corinthians 6:9-11
5. LIES ABOUT THE CHURCH
The Enemy has manipulated vulnerable church leaders to disgrace the Lord of the Church and cause untold harm on those they should guard, shepherd, feed, lead, and protect. Recent high profile court cases involving clergy abuse of the vulnerable only serve to remind a cynical watching world of this sad truth. But the vileness of our Enemy is that he has spread the misconception that all church leaders are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.
Reinforcing this devilish scheme to besmirch the Church and its leaders is today Breakpoint commentary from John Stonestreet who writes-
“My pastor recently told me that 25 years ago, the first person that people would contact when they faced a marriage crisis was their pastor. Ten years ago, he continued, it was their counselor or psychiatrist. Today, it’s their lawyers.
A recent study conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago concurs. “Doctors, teachers, members of the military,” and scientists are, according to the survey, esteemed “more positively than clergy.” Among infrequent churchgoers, clergy are viewed as negatively as lawyers. (For the record, that last line came from a member of our editorial team who’s been admitted to the bar in two states.)
As my pastor observed, the declining respect for clergy is a trend both in and out of the church, including among those who attend church frequently. While 75 percent of churchgoers “hold clergy in high regard,” they aren’t as positive when it comes to personal attributes and character qualities of their clergy. Barely half consider clergy to be trustworthy, and only slightly more regard them as “honest and intelligent.”
Remember these are people who attend church at least once a month! Among those who seldom or never attend church, the respective numbers on those questions are 23 and 30 percent.”
And sadly, this devilish deception has beguiled younger believers into a tremendous reluctance to commit to their church as a matter of weekly priority. Yet Christ’s heart for His Church reveals why the Devil is so determined to draw spiritual lambs away from it.
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places…to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:8-10, 21
HOW TO BE SPIRITUALLY INVINCIBLE AGAINST ANY SCHEME OF THE ENEMY
Jesus described Himself as a Shepherd who kept His sheep safe, well fed, well led, and protected (John 10). He has ordained under-shepherds to continue this ministry (John 21:17; Ephesians 4:11). There is great safety and protection for the follower of Christ when they are in the fold.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Secondly, the Apostle Paul detailed the spiritual armour and weaponry with which the believer is equipped when they have their minds renewed by the Word (the ‘helmet of salvation’ Eph. 6:17), their hearts covered by their Spirit-enabled obedience to Christ (the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ Eph. 6:14), their confidence informed by the solid teaching of God’s Word which bolsters their faith with good reasons to believe (the ‘shield of faith’ Eph. 6:16), their feet shod with the gospel enabling them to transmit a highly contagious faith (Eph. 6:15), and their hands trained to defend their faith in the God of the Bible and destroy devilish lies with the truth (the ‘sword of the Spirit’ Eph. 6:17). In description of the believer’s armour there is no protection for our backs — because together, as a church, we stand back-to-back in this battle. That is, I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine. John the apostle could remind his congregation, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1Jn. 4:4). And he could say this because the One who was in them was the One who defeated the devil through His victory on the cross.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.
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