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  • Writer's pictureAdam O'Neill

Who is the enemy and what are his lies?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Who is the enemy and what are his lies?

This article will be hard to read; it was hard to write. Primarily, I believe, because of the success of the last trick of the enemy I write about. Its effectiveness means we often do not see any of the others. Discovering the ways our enemy has craftily misled us is a painful process. Over the course of the last 2 weeks I have written about how, as Christian men, we find ourselves presented with the opportunity to do battle. The first article addressed how we step into the arena, that to have any effectiveness at all means taking a risk with the knowledge we will fall but with our hope fixed and a fire in our chest, when we fall— we stand back up. In the second article, I discussed the weapon we discover is in our hands, the Truth, which many noble and righteous men and women have taken up. In doing so they changed the world. Now I aim to tell you where you might direct that weapon. The sharpest sword is ineffective if flailed about, never contacting anything. Making sure it is directed at the right enemy is crucial to our success. To do this I have to introduce your enemy and then tell you some of the lies he has sent your way. It is against these lies that you turn your weapon. This is not an exhaustive list. The number of lies he tells are as numerous as the number of ways he can twist the truth to serve his purposes. I hope to present just a few that are more prevalent today. These are based purely on my observations and conversations with trusted friends and colleagues.

Who is your enemy?

Eve met your enemy in a garden, and he tricked her in the same way he tricks you today. Your enemy is Satan, his army, and what he stands for. His weapons are twisted truth. Evil is not a creative process but a destructive one. Evil does not make something new, it cannot create as God does. When God speaks there is life, newness, and creation. When the devil speaks he takes what has been created and twists it to serve himself. His driving force is Pride and his chief aim is the destruction of what God has created and an attempt to redirect power and glory to himself. He does this by stealing, killing, and destroying (John 10:10). Stealing, because as we mentioned, he cannot create. Killing because it is in direct opposition to what God aims, “to bring life”, and destroying because he detests how what has been created in its beauty and purpose glorifies God. He is a peddler of pain and a purveyor of lies. He is not, however, omnipresent and cannot be in all places at once. He has help. We know this army of darkness as his demons. Through them he whispers falsehood and temptations into the ears of Christians and non-Christians alike. Here are some of the most destructive lies I believe he has told this generation of men:

True happiness is about acquiring pleasure and earthly success.

In one of John Piper’s most oft-quoted sermons he tells the story of Ruby and Laura. Ruby was a nurse and Laura a physician who dedicated their lives to the spreading of the gospel in Cameroon through medical missions. Ruby was in her 80s and Laura in her 70s when the breaks in their vehicle gave way and their car careened off a cliff. To a group of thousands seated outside listening to his sermon, Piper asks, “Was this a tragedy?” Answering his question, he continues, “It is not a tragedy.” The tragedy, Piper describes, is found in a life wasted on the pursuit of personal pleasure. A life of hard work to acquire wealth so that someday we can retire to Florida and collect shells. Piper’s sermon has become known as the “Seashell Sermon” because of this great tragedy: that we would spend our life on pleasure to approach Jesus at our death with our shell collection as proof of the time we were given. The enemy would have you believe that your purpose on this earth is to pursue pleasure. He does this, I believe in two primary ways. He either, one, convinces us to live an easy life now through whatever cheap means are presented to us, or two, he convinces us to work hard now so that you can live an easy life of pleasure in the future; in both the lie is that your ultimate purpose is to acquire pleasure. To be sure, every good gift is meant for the believer and it brings us great pleasure, but it cannot be our primary aim. When the good gift becomes the object of our affection and pursuit, it is transformed into an idol that threatens to destroy our effectiveness. The enemy wants you to be ineffective, and one of the ways he does that is by removing the object of your pursuit from happiness in Jesus to happiness in pleasure and earthly success.

Slothfulness is self-care.

Self-care is important. The reason why is primarily, I believe, twofold. First, our bodies are image-bearers of God, we were made in His image (Genesis 1:26). Caring for our bodies affirms our respect for what God has made and brings glory to Him. On this basis, I believe Christians should eat well, exercise, and get adequate sleep, among other things. Second, we were made for self-care. Rest, a crucial part of self-care, is one of the Ten Commandments in “remember the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:8). As Jesus declared, the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). Rest is a gift from God and one we were meant for. Slothfulness, however, is not self-care and it is not rest. Slothfulness is an unwillingness to work or use energy. The lines between true rest and slothfulness should not be blurry but they have become that way. It is a great lie we have been told to keep us from being effective. You need rest to be effective, but you need to be resting from work. Just as we were made for rest, we were made to work (Genesis 1:26). So while you were called to rest and care for your body, you were not called to slothfulness. Slothfulness is an attempt of the enemy to rob you of your effectiveness and masking it in the guise of self-care has been a popular tactic over the last few years.

A little sin is not that devastating.

The easiest way for Satan to convince you that a little sin is not devastating is to point you to others around you who appear to behave worse than you. He especially prefers to point you to other Christians. First, there is the temptation to compare ourselves to non-Christians and this provides a quick sense of false justification for sin, “look how they behave, that, I would never do”. Yet the conscience interjects that they do not have the power of the Holy Spirit working inside of them, so we must second, turn to other Christians, “He is a Christian and he does it as well, sometimes he does even worse.” So, we are comforted. The reason why a “little sin” makes no sense is because of the costliness of grace. Bonhoeffer describes it as the difference between cheap and costly grace. With the death of God himself on a cross, the cost of sin was revealed. You are no longer your own, you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). It is for this reason that we are to both surround ourselves with people who are pursuing Christian purity as relentlessly and to greater degrees than we desire to and are willing to call each other out when we fail. A little sin is not only devastating because it makes our costly grace, cheap, but because any area of sin we allow provides a foothold for the devil by which he robs us of the favor of God. Psalm 84:11 says, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” A righteous walk is a prerequisite to God’s abundant blessing and favor. A little sin is more devastating than we could ever know.

That we are not enough.

The reason this lie is so effective, I believe, is because it was true. Before Christ, you were not enough. In Ephesians 2:1 we were described as dead in our sin. Do not fall for the lie that within you exists all you need to be successful and effective. Without Christ you are not just ineffective, you are dead. But praise God that what was once true of us, that we were dead, utterly incapable of rectifying our fallen state, has been forever cast-off in the light of Christ’s forgiveness. Now, you are more than enough, you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), foreknown, predestined, justified, glorified (Ephesians 8:29-30), and can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Satan knows all this about you and because he can do nothing to change the status of your salvation and the power that comes through it, he instead shifts his tactic to convincing you that was is true is not actually true. Stand tall and firm in the knowledge that you have the power of heaven behind you, you are enough through Christ.

He does not exist.

After Satan has whispered his lies to you, filled your head with false accusations and twisted truths, he tells his last and greatest lie: he does not exist. For his lies to be most effective, he must have you believe that all of them came from inside of you. He must have you believe that these aren’t just things he believes about you; they are things you believe about yourself. C.S. Lewis described this lie in his book Screwtape Letters, which is a fictional correspondence between a lesser demon and his presiding officer, “My Dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves” (Letter VII). Satan is very real, and although he is not omnipresent as our God is meaning he cannot be in all places at once, he has help, and rest assured if you plan to do anything for the Kingdom of God, you have caught his attention. Remember who your enemy is, “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” (Ephesians 6:12-13).

I began writing this series of three articles primarily for men, not because I believe the concepts do not apply to women as well, but because I see a great need among my fellow men to take up a gauntlet for Christ. This is a task I often feel unequipped for. Too many times I’ve sat in the seats of the arena but never stepped inside where the action is taking place. In the first article, I described how we find ourselves in the arena and what to expect when we are there. In the second I described the weapon you find at your side, the Sword of Truth, and how you wield it. Finally, I have attempted to describe whom you wield it against, Satan and his armies, and a few of the many lies he will tell you as you begin your attack. There is much work to be done and the war has already begun, though we both will be bruised and bloodied it would be an honor to see you beside me in the arena.

*scripture quoted from the English Standard Version

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