Though Satan can never steal the Christian’s crown, though he can never snatch him away from the hand of the Father, he is so envious and malicious that he will leave no stone unturned in robbing the Christian of comfort and peace, in making their life miserable, in giving them reason to live in constant sorrow and mourning, doubt and questioning.
Thomas Brooks once identified eight ways in which Satan keeps Christians—Christians like you!—in this sad, doubting, questioning, condition.
He causes you to think more about your sin than your Savior. He wants to so fill your mind with thoughts of the sin you’ve committed in the past, or temptations to sin you face today, that all thoughts of Jesus Christ and his finished work are displaced and erased. His desire is that you would think so much of your sickness that you would neglect the remedy that is close at hand.
He works in you to wrongly understand God’s graces. Just as falsely defining sin will lead a person astray, so too will wrongly defining God’s graces. In particular, Satan labors so a Christian will define saving faith only in such a way that it includes full assurance of salvation; he can then use that too-expansive definition to cause the Christian to make his doubt proof of his lack of justification.
He leads you to make false inferences from harsh providences. He whispers to you that providence appears to contradict your prayers, desires, tears, hopes and endeavors. Once he has shown you this he says, “Surely, if God actually loved you and delighted in you, he wouldn’t deal with you in these ways…”
He suggests to you that the evidences of grace in your life are counterfeit rather than genuine. He wants you to believe that what you call faith is actually just a fleeting fancy, that what you see as zeal is just natural and unsanctified enthusiasm, that you are not actually evidencing any true evidences of grace, but just natural ability.
He convinces you that the kind of battle you have with sin is a battle that marks only unbelieving hypocrites. As you battle against sin, and while the same old sins continue to rise up against you, Satan tries to make you believe that these very battles are evidences of hypocrisy rather than a universal Christian condition.
He suggests to your soul that the fact that you have less joy in Christ now than you once did proves that you have not been saved. He may bring to your mind a time when your heart was overflowing with joy in him, when you felt the tangible comfort of the Holy Spirit. And then he will have you contrast that to your present condition and use it to convince you that you must not be a Christian.
He works within you to make you believe that relapses into sin—even sins you have labored to overcome—are evidence that you are not a believer. He may whisper to you that you are a fool and a hypocrite to believe that God could ever love someone who battles sin, overcomes it, and then later succumbs to that same old sin.
He convinces you that only an unbeliever could face the manner and the weight of temptation you face right now. First he will weary you with constant temptations perfectly suited to your weaknesses and desires. Then he will try to convince you that the very fact that you face these temptations must mean that you are not a Christian at all.
Let me share just three short, choice quotes from Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. First, here are words of comfort for those who have fallen into sin, despite laboring hard against it:
Though their repentance is ever so sincere and sound, yet their graces are but weak, and their mortification of sin is imperfect in this life. Though by grace they are freed from the dominion of sin, and from the damnatory power of every sin, and from the love of all sin, yet grace does not free them from the indwelling of any one sin; and therefore it is possible for a soul to fall again and again into the same sin. If the fire is not wholly put out, who would think it impossible that it should catch and burn again and again?
And then a word on the sufficiency of Christ:
We have all things in Christ. Christ is all things to a Christian. If we are sick, Jesus is a physician. If we thirst, Jesus is a fountain. If our sins trouble us, Jesus is our righteousness. If we stand in need of help, Jesus is mighty to save. If we fear death, Jesus is life. If we are in darkness, Jesus is light. If we are weak, Jesus is strength. If we are in poverty, Jesus is plenty. If we desire heaven, Jesus is the way. The soul cannot say, ‘this I would have, and that I would have.’ But having Jesus, he has all he needs–eminently, perfectly, eternally.
And finally, an examination of the ways in which Satan tempts us:
Satan loves to sail with the wind. If your knowledge is weak–he will tempt you to error. If your conscience is tender–he will tempt you to scrupulosity and too much preciseness, as to do nothing but hear, pray, and read. If your consciences be wide and large–he will tempt you to carnal security. If you are bold-spirited–he will tempt you to presumption; if timorous, to desperation; if flexible, to inconstancy; if proud and stiff, to gross folly. Therefore still fit for fresh assaults, make one victory a step to another. When you have overcome a temptation, take heed of unbending your bow, and look well to it, that your bow is always bent, and that it remains in strength. When you have overcome one temptation, you must be ready to enter the battle with another.
The Tweetable Puritan
- Sin may rebel, but it shall never reign in a saint.
- Christ in this life will not free any believer from the presence of any one sin, though he frees every believer from the damning power of every sin.
- It is one thing for sin to molest and vex you, and another thing for sin to reign and have dominion over you.
- Believers must repent for being discouraged by their sins.
- People may be truly believing who nevertheless are sometimes doubting.
- Many things may be cross to our desires that are not cross to our good.
- The hand of God may be against a man, when the love and heart of God is much set upon a man.
- God can look sourly, and chide bitterly, and strike heavily, even where and when he loves dearly.
- True grace works the heart to the hatred of all sin, and to the love of all truth.
- God will graciously pardon those sins to his people, which he will not in this life totally subdue in his people.
- Though Satan can never rob a Christian of his crown, yet such is his malice, that he will therefore tempt, that he may spoil them of their comforts.
- Christ himself was most near and most dear, most innocent and most excellent, and yet none so much tempted as Christ!
- It is as natural for saints to be tempted, who are dearly loved by God, as it is for the sun to shine, or a bird to sing.
- All the temptations that befall the saints shall be sanctified to them by a hand of love.
- Temptation is God’s school, wherein he gives his people the clearest and sweetest discoveries of his love.
- No temptations do hurt or harm the saints, so long as they are resisted by them.
- Satan will come on with new temptations when old ones are too weak. In a calm prepare for a storm.
Please do read along with me if you are interested. For next week, read Section 5: “Satan’s Devices To Destroy and Ensnare All Sorts and Ranks of Men in the World.” I will be offering some thoughts about all of that next Thursday.
The purpose of this series is to read the classics together. Do feel free to leave a comment below or to leave a link to your own blog if you have chosen to discuss this book there.