so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:11).
I suppose one advantage of being in bondage to sin for so long is it made me well aware of the enemy’s tactics. I hung around him long enough to have some understanding of his “designs.” There are many tactics of Satan, but I’d say one of his favorites is making us think our actions are normal and natural and even reasonable. Have you ever said to yourself or someone else, “Well this is just who I am” or “I can’t help it, I’m made this way” or perhaps, “It just felt right, how could it be wrong” or even, “Love wins“?
This is because each of us “is tempted when lured and enticed by our own desire” (James 1:14). Satan doesn’t really need to bring anything new to the battle for our hearts. He just needs to fan the flame of what is already there.
For every one of us that could be a different thing. My desires won’t be the same as the next guy or gal. For some it might be lust, for others it might be disordered sexual desires, for some it might be food, for others it might be control, for some it might be fame, or perhaps money or it could simply be a desire to devour any kind of impurity (Eph. 4:19). In all of us is this desire which wants to disobey, to rebel, to reach for the forbidden fruit even though we know God said no and even though there are plenty of trees from which to pick from all around. Our radar zeroes in on the one forbidden thing.
This is the curse of sin and it stains us all. Satan doesn’t need to do anything more than to blow on the hot embers of our desire and when we act upon them, James says this desire then gives birth to sin (we act on that desire), and as we continue to act on this desire because we think it’s just natural, normal and reasonable, it brings forth death. The death here is a spiritual death, one described by Paul in Romans 1:
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…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (vs. 21-32).
The death is a spiritual death, by which we are slaves to our human desires. The early church father, Augustine, called our plight one of “disordered loves.” All of us, no matter who we are, love the wrong things. None of us are without excuse. All have these disordered loves and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). If we do not “come to our senses” as the Prodigal Son did and say yes to the Spirit of God convicting us of our sin, we will continue to slide down this road where we are no longer able to hear or know truth, but instead we find ourselves doing what God says not to do and even give approval to those who do (Rom. 1:32).
Satan fans the embers of human desire which feel normal to us, and as we worship the creature (our desires) we fall prey to the delusion that we are fine, even justified, in our sin.
We need to be aware that Satan is a master at making our desires appear to be natural, even holy. The prophet Jeremiah said we will dress the wounds of the people and say “peace, peace” when the reality is, there is no peace (Jer. 6:14). Paul saw clearly what Jeremiah saw, that our hearts are deceitfully wicked and prone to love the wrong things (Jer. 17:9) and rather than justify love for loves sake he cried out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
Scripture repeatedly warns us to be vigilant and watchful over our hearts and the hearts of others. The Puritans did this through daily introspection and examination, naming their desires and lining them up with God’s word to see if they were holy desires or fleshly ones. We would do well, perhaps, to adopt some of their rigors. But being rigorous without first repenting, without first coming to our senses and realizing Satan has used our desires against us, we will not know freedom. The good news is this: When we humble ourselves and cry out along with Paul our need to be delivered from this body of death which loves the wrong things, we are given a new heart. The Holy Spirit recreates us as new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17) and instead of being a slave to our desires we become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:15-23).
A good practice is to ask yourself often whether or not the things or people you love are ordered after the wisdom of God or the wisdom of this world. There is a way which seems right to humankind, but in the end it leads to death (Prov. 14:12). Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s designs on your desires. Take delight in the Lord, and discover that His word is true, you will be a new creation, with new desires (Psalm 37:4).
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25).