Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had madeGenesis 3:1a
Let us move on to consider the strategy that the Tempter employs. This is most instructive because it is exactly the strategy he employs when he appears as an angel of light to us—not that we shall see visions of shining beings—but the personality that he exemplifies, the character in which he appears, is the same now as then. He is an angel of light. Scripture makes clear that the devil can also appear as a roaring lion, meaning he can strike in tragedy, in sickness, or in physical evil, as he struck Job or Paul, with his thorn in the flesh, which Paul called the messenger of Satan. When he appears as a lion, he can strike fear into our hearts. But his most effective strategy is to appear as someone good, someone attractive, something or someone who appeals to us as an angel of light.
If you learn how to recognize the strategy of the devil, you will find that he invariably employs the same tactics. There is a sense in which he is very limited, and he doesn't vary his tactics widely. Sometimes we feel as if we shall never learn how to anticipate the devil. But we can learn. Paul said that he was not ignorant of the devil's devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). If we learn how he works, we can easily learn to detect him in our lives.
James has described this strategy very plainly in one or two verses. He says,
...each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:14-15).
There is the strategy of the devil. He always approaches us in the same three stages, and those steps are outlined clearly in this text. His first tactic is to arouse desire. James says that every man
is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed (James 1:14). Each step the devil takes with us is always to arouse desire to do wrong, to create a hunger, a lure, or enticement toward evil.
The second is to permit intent to form an act to occur. James describes this:
after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin (James 1:15). Notice that the symbol he employs is that of conception and birth. There is a gestation period in temptation, for once desire is aroused, there occurs a process within which sooner or later issues in sin, an act that is wrong.
The third stage is that the devil immediately acts upon the opportunity afforded by the evil act to move in and to produce results that Scripture describes as death—
sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. This is the devil's ultimate aim. Jesus said that he was
a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). He delights in mangling, smashing, twisting, destroying, blighting, and blasting. We can see his activity present everywhere; it is going on around us, in our own lives and in the lives of others. These are
the works of the devil, says the Scripture (1 John 3:8).
Lord, thank You for this reminder that I have an enemy, and I am in a battle. Teach me to see through the strategies of Satan and to stand firm against his attacks.
The devil delights in the fallacies we have about him. Have we learned to recognize the strategies of Satan and the repetitive three stages he uses to approach us?