C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
Lewis’ point is that the Christian must walk the fine line between being absolutely certain that Satan is a real being, and being so fixated on Satan that our eyes cease to be fixed on Jesus. If we err in the first regard, then we will never be ready and armored up when the true attacks of the enemy comes. If we err in the second regard then we will spend so much of our time hunting for the work of the devil that we fail to embrace the work of God.
We have a description of that fine line laid out for us in James 4 in which James fully embraces the Christian responsibility to be engaged in fighting the devil’s work all while keeping his eyes focused on God:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
This is the daily responsibility of the Christian; we are to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus. When we do that, we are submitting ourselves willingly to God and at the same time resisting the fiery darts of the enemy that come our way. And as a result of that resistance, the devil will flee from us.
But how do we do that? How do we resist the work of the devil? For that answer, we turn to the example of Jesus who showed us how to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil at the same time:
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time (Luke 4:9-13).
This was not the first time the devil had tempted Jesus; it was the third. Jesus, having been baptized in the Jordan River, was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. He fasted for forty days and then was tempted by the devil three different times, culminating in the temptation above. And His response shows us the surest way to resist the devil and his temptations when they come to us:
The surest way to resist the devil is with the Word of God.
The devil tempted Jesus in a variety of ways, and with each one, the temptation became more and more sly in nature. And with each one, Jesus turned to the Word of God to combat the lies of the enemy, and so should we.
When we face temptation, it will come in a variety of ways. The devil might appeal to our physical desires; he might appeal to our pride and sense of self; he might appeal to our faith and whether God is actually who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. How will we stand up against that kind of temptation?
We will only do so when we have had our minds regularly fixed on the Word of God. This is how we will know the lie from the truth, even when that lie is subtle. It’s by calling forth what God has already said to be the real, actual, unchangeable truth about Himself, the world, and us as His children. This is the surest way to resist the devil – it’s through the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.