I grew up in Brick, New Jersey, a beach town about sixty miles south of New York and sixty miles east of Philadelphia. Now I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I love it here, but I do miss the beach.
From my home in Fayetteville, it’s about 800 miles to Panama City Beach, Florida. Let’s say it’s my goal to drive there for a vacation this summer. Let’s also say it’s your goal to stop me from reaching my destination and the only rule is this: you can’t physically touch me, my car or the roads between my house and the beach.
So for example, you can’t dig an enormous hole around my house so I can’t even leave and you can’t blow up the bridge that crosses the Mississippi River.
How would you stop me from going to Panama City Beach this summer?
I can think of several ways you might be able to stop me or at least delay me.
You could try and convince me that Panama City isn’t all that great. Even though I’ve been to many beaches, I’ve never actually been to that one. So you could tell me it’s too crowded or too expensive or too far. If you could cause me to doubt how good Panama City is, then maybe I wouldn’t go.
Assuming I didn’t have a GPS, you could give me wrong directions or place detour signs along my route. I might eventually find my way there, but it would take longer and be much more frustrating.
You could also tempt me to go somewhere else. You might try telling me how great Chicago is and how much fun it would be to see a Cubs game at Wrigley field this summer. That would have me headed in the opposite direction from Panama City. If that didn’t work, you might try getting me to go to a different beach, like Fort Morgan, Alabama. That would probably seem like a much better idea to me since I’ve been there before and enjoyed it.
As a part of any of these strategies, you could also enlist other people to go along with your plan. Hearing from several sources that Panama City isn’t very good or that Chicago is a much better idea might convince me to change my mind.
Here’s my point–because you can’t actually touch me, you would have to somehow deceive me or tempt me to not go to Panama City Beach for my vacation.
And that’s exactly how Satan keeps us from moving in the right direction toward God and His will for our lives. Because he ultimately has no power over us, all he can do is lie to us and tempt us.
Of course, he’s very good at that. Jesus called him the “father of lies.” (John 8:44) In Genesis 3, Satan deceives Adam and Eve. In Matthew 4, he tries to even tempt Jesus. In Revelation 12, John refers to Satan as the one who “leads the whole world astray.”
We’re dealing with a very powerful, very intelligent, very evil being. His every intention toward us is evil and destructive. And his most powerful weapon is deception.
As powerful and evil as he is, the truth is stronger. Don’t ever doubt that. God and the truth of His word is more powerful and effective than anything Satan can throw at us.
To deceive means: to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.
Satan’s strategy in your life is to get you to accept something as true when in fact it’s false.
Here’s why deception is such a powerful weapon–the thing you’re believing seems to be true to you. If you knew it was false, you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s the very problem–you don’t know that what you’re believing is a lie.
Sometimes we can believe something for so long, it just seems to be true. Does that make it true? No, but it can seem to be true.
What are some of the lies we believe that may now seem like truth to us? Well, the list is endless, but here are a few:
- I’ve done things God can’t forgive.
- I’m not worthy of God’s love.
- I’m a disappointment to God.
- I’m a bad person.
- I’m not smart enough or pretty enough.
- If God was good and loving, He wouldn’t have let __________________ happen.
- If I get this job or this person or this house or this pair of jeans, then I’ll be happy.
- I know I shouldn’t _______________, but it won’t hurt me if I do it anyway.
- I need _______________ to feel good.
- God let me down, so I will need to take care of myself and do things my way.
So why is all this important? Because my view of God and my view of myself will determine everything I do. Everything.
For example, if I believe I’ve done things God can’t forgive and those things have made me unlovable, then I will act accordingly. If I believe God can’t forgive me, then why seek Him? Why trust Him? If I’m so bad that He can’t even love me any more, then why even try to do what’s right?
Here’s a way you might be able to identify whether or not you’re being deceived: if you believe something about God or yourself that you would never expect someone else to believe, then it’s probably a lie and you’re being deceived by it.
For example, if you’re telling yourself that God is angry and disappointed with you because of something you’ve done and that He sees you as a bad person, then stop and ask yourself, “Would I tell my best friend to also believe this?”
You would probably remind your friend of God’s love and grace and forgiveness. If that’s what you would do for a friend, then why would you not do it for yourself?
It’s because you’ve been deceived.
In John 8, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We are set free from Satan’s lies and deceptions when we know the truth. We know the truth by holding to Jesus’ teachings.
God is good and He has a good plan for your life. Satan will do whatever he can to keep you from experiencing God and His goodness, but his only real weapons are lies. He will try to deceive you and tempt you to live your life in the way you think is best, not the way God has laid out for you in His word.
At the root of extra-marital affairs, addictions, abusive behavior, cheating on your taxes or any number of wrong behaviors is a lie. A lie that leads to deception. A lie that tempts us to go our own way.
Our defense, our only defense, is to know the truth of God’s word, so we can reject the lies before they take root in our minds and deceive us into thinking they’re actually true.