John 10:10 – The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
John 10:10 is one of the most well known verses of scripture. Jesus, in this famous quote is setting up a dichotomy between his leadership and bad leadership by creating a metaphor involving the common Hebrew practice of raising livestock. Jesus calls himself the true Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep in stark contrast to the thief who manipulates and coerces ‘the sheep’ for his own dark pleasure.
Despite the overwhelming clarity of Jesus’ contrast, the truth is that in the messiness of life, we often have difficulty separating the shepherd from the thief and fall prey to our ‘enemy’ disguising himself as an angel of light. So in an effort to clarify the distinction between darkness and light, I posit 5 deceptions that the devil uses to confuse us in our walk with God. This list is obviously not exhaustive but nonetheless relevant. The deceptions are:
1) He convinces us that he does not exist.
2) He convinces us that he is in control
3) He convinces us that there is no hope.
4) He convinces us that his thievery is God’s wrath.
5) He convinces us that death is our only chance for victory.
Technique number 1, he convinces us that he does not exist:
The great theologian Origen spoke about their being 3 lenses through which we can interpret scripture, we can look at the body which is the obvious story and truths being shared, we can look at the soul which contains more subtle interpretations of the text, and we can look at the spirit of scripture which reveals a coherent and yet deep truth of God and our Savior. On the surface of John chapter 10, Jesus is talking about the Pharisees and Sadducees, but on a deeper level he is talking about the devil.
Paul states in his letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places. As much as we would like to believe that there is not a mortal enemy to us as we journey through this human experience, the devil exists. And if we learn from Ephesians 6:12 not only does the devil exist, but there is an entire governmental system of evil that is set up to ruin our lives and derail us from our highest destiny in Christ Jesus. The truth is that this system is not at all as powerful as God, as Paul notices in Romans 5:20 which states, “moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” God cannot lose to Satan in the long run, but the “system of evil” in our world and beneath the tapestry of our visible existence can surely frustrate the Grace of God in a painful and disconcerting way. And what better way to torture someone than to act like you don’t exist while you distract them from this life’s good. The deception that “dark spiritual forces” do not work against our good, often bears the fruit of unforgiveness and self-condemnation, wherein we blame the human beings who the devil used to hurt us, rather than the manipulator himself and we blame ourselves for every mistake, instead of realizing that we have a tempter who is continuously working toward our ill.
Realizing that the devil exists and that just as God has a plan for our life, satan has a plan for our death, frees us to fight him on his own ground, with the assurance that GOD ALWAYS BEATS SATAN in the end. Being free to see that the devil exists empowers us to bind and loose rather than stay victimized by wickedness. Being free to see that the devil exists prompts us to exercise our natural authority as human beings to have dominion on this earth and prompts us to exercise the authority that Jesus imputes to us. Now, true, we want to guard against attributing everything to satan in a spirit of irresponsibility or hopelessness, and we always want to focus on God and goodness much more than the devil and evil. But to know that much of the sorrow of our world is a direct result of a condemned criminal who we can crush as Jesus crushed him 2000 years ago, is incredibly helpful.
Technique number 2, he convinces us that he is in control:
Sometimes, the trials and tribulations of life can become so tumultuous that it can begin to seem like we are the devil’s whipping boy, and that we have no locus of control in ourselves as people and Sons of God to change our situation. In my opinion, God does not control our reality with puppet strings, but I do believe that in the general sense God is in charge and is always willing to intervene on our behalf. But the darkness of our culture can really make it seem like the devil and not the Creator is the God of this world. This kind of thinking, in my opinion, is the source of the doctrine of eternal damnation. Many excellent and loving Christians believe that the devil is so powerful that he actually has the ability to deceive and torment a soul for all eternity. But the truth is that the devil may have seasons where he is free to wreak havoc on human kind, but GOD IS IN CHARGE AND IN THE END NOT ONE PERSON WILL HAVE TO SUFFER THE DEVIL’S NONSENSE FOR ETERNITY.
Technique number 3, he convinces us that there is no hope:
Many times, situations in which we find ourselves embroiled can seem totally hopeless and beyond God’s redemptive touch. Brain cancer, unlawful incarceration, rape victimization, and many other scenarios can make it seem like there is absolutely no chance of redemption. The devil often intensifies this deception by causing us to dwell on the hopelessness of our trials and tribulations and then accusing us of being faithless and unbelieving. God convicts yes, but never accuses. So when you hear the sound of accusation whether it be from a preacher’s mouth or from a friend’s impatience, you can rest assured they it is not God who is speaking through them. God will always find a way to get redemption out of suffering and THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE, even when we don’t think that it is there, hope and brightness will find a way to grace us in even the most bleak of dilemmas.
Technique number 4, he convinces that his thievery is God’s wrath:
Right before Jesus heals the blind man in the Gospel of John, his disciples ask him, “Master who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” To which Jesus responded, “neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” It is true that sometimes God allows us to go through things to learn lessons so that we can come out of a prior sinful behavior, but bottom line, GOD NEVER GETS PLEASURE OUT OF OUR CALAMITY. Many of the trials that we experience in this life stem directly from the enemy trying to steal our joy and faith. When we can see that a situation perhaps like a boss not liking us is not God’s wrath but a scheme of the enemy, then we feel empowered to deal with that situation through the unconditional love, power, and soundness of mind of God rather than seething in bitterness.
Technique number 5, he convinces us that death is our only chance for victory:
The negro slaves used to often sing, “Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home, swing low sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.” This song, highlights the hope that many of the slaves had in the after-life, free from the oppression of slavery. I believe that this song is a testament to the perseverance of a people to find hope even in the most dehumanizing of experiences. But the truth is that sometimes things like alcohol addiction or drug addiction or mental illness can bring us to such a point of despair, that we conclude that we are just going to wait for death or worse take our own lives, because the only way out is to go to the other side. Let me tell you, every situation that we find ourselves in has the potential to glorify God. Even terminal cancer which for whatever reason the Lord does not miraculously heal has the capacity to glorify him by the compassion of the nurses and doctors for the patient or the patient’s hope and laughter in the face of adversity. There is no situation for which there is not victory!! Victory is the essence of the Christian walk, and all people everywhere will eventually get the victory!!!!
One method of defeating the devil at his own game and to defeating him against all 5 of these techniques to derail our progress with God is to surrender, stand, succeed, and celebrate. No matter what is going on in our lives, we need to surrender it and ourselves to the Lord and ask Jesus for incite and strength to deal with the trials that come. Once we have surrendered, then we can stand in our authority as human beings and Sons and Daughters of God to vanquish the devil at his own schemes, often just by pointing them out. Then once we have stood, we trust the Lord to succeed in whatever scenario we are facing. And most times succeeding doesn’t have to be winning the big game or having a lot of money, but it could be as sublime and simple as praising the Lord on a Sunday morning or Saturday night in spite of a tough week. And then of course, whatever is going on, and whatever the outcome, celebrate. Celebrate the love of Jesus in our lives and the love of our Creator. Celebrate the reality that one day there will be no depression, no cancer, no death, and no disease, no racism, no classism, no devouring of innocents and that all people will bask in the sunshine of the Lord’s unconditional love and favor forever more.