Oppose the Devil and His Crafty Acts
“Oppose the Devil, and he will flee.”—JAMES 4:7.
1, 2. For whom are baptisms occasions for joy?
IF YOU have been serving Jehovah for decades, you have likely heard numerous baptism talks at our assemblies and conventions. Yet, no matter how often you have been present on such occasions, you likely still feel moved each time you witness the moment that those sitting in the front rows of the auditorium stand up to present themselves for baptism. At that instant, a buzz of excitement ripples through the audience, followed by a burst of heartfelt applause. Tears may well up in your eyes as you look at yet another group of precious individuals who have taken sides with Jehovah. What joy we feel at such times!
2 While we may witness baptisms a few times a year in our locality, the angels are privileged to observe them much more often. Can you imagine how much “joy in heaven” there must be as they see thousands of individuals worldwide added to the visible part of Jehovah’s organization each week? (Luke 15:7, 10) No doubt, the angels are thrilled to observe this increase!—Haggai 2:7.
THE DEVIL “WALKS ABOUT LIKE A ROARING LION”
3. Why is Satan walking about “like a roaring lion,” and what does he want to do?
3 In stark contrast, however, there are spirit creatures who observe those baptisms with fury. For Satan and the demons, it is galling to see thousands turn their backs on this corrupt world. After all, Satan boasted that no humans serve Jehovah out of genuine love and that none would remain faithful under severe test. (Read Job 2:4, 5.) Every time someone is moved to dedicate himself to Jehovah, Satan is proved wrong. It is as if Satan receives thousands of slaps in the face every week of the year. No wonder he “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone”! (1 Peter 5:8) This “lion” is eager to devour us spiritually, causing us to damage or even sever our relationship with God.—Psalm 7:1, 2; 2 Timothy 3:12.
Every time someone dedicates himself to Jehovah and is baptized, Satan is proved wrong
4, 5. (a) Jehovah has restricted Satan’s influence in what two important ways? (b) Of what can a true Christian be assured?
4 Although we face a fierce foe, we have no reason to be overwhelmed by fear. Why not? Because Jehovah has restricted the reach of that “roaring lion” in two important ways. What are they? First of all, Jehovah has foretold that “a great crowd” of true Christians will survive the coming “great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:9, 14) God’s prophecies never fail. Therefore, even Satan must know that God’s people as a whole are beyond his reach.
5 The second restriction can be deduced from a basic truth spoken by one of God’s faithful men of old. The prophet Azariah said to King Asa: “Jehovah is with you as long as you remain with him.” (2 Chronicles 15:2; read 1 Corinthians 10:13.) Numerous recorded examples demonstrate that in the past, Satan always failed to devour any of God’s servants who remained close to God. (Hebrews 11:4-40) Today, a Christian who stays close to God will be able to oppose and even conquer the Devil. In fact, God’s Word assures us: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”—James 4:7.
“WE HAVE A STRUGGLE . . . AGAINST THE WICKED SPIRIT FORCES”
6. How does Satan fight against individual Christians?
6 Satan cannot win the war, so to speak, but he can make casualties of us as individuals if we let our guard down. Satan knows that he can devour us if he can weaken our bond with Jehovah. How does Satan try to achieve this? By attacking us intensely, personally, and cunningly. Let us consider these main strategies of Satan.
7. Why is Satan intensely attacking Jehovah’s people?
7 Intense attacks. The apostle John stated: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Those words contain a warning for all true Christians. Since Satan has already devoured the entire ungodly world of mankind, he can now focus on and intensify his attacks on those who have so far eluded him—Jehovah’s people. (Micah 4:1; John 15:19; Revelation 12:12, 17) He has great anger because he knows his time is short. So he has stepped up the pressure. Today, we face his final rampage of savagery and destruction.
8. What does the apostle Paul mean when he states that we have “a struggle” against wicked spirits?
8 Personal struggle. The apostle Paul warned fellow Christians: “We have a struggle [“wrestling,” footnote] . . . against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Why did Paul use the term “struggle”? Because it conveys the idea of hand-to-hand combat. Thus, by using that term, Paul stressed that each of us has a personal fight with wicked spirits. Whether we live in a country where belief in wicked spirits is prevalent or not, we should never forget that when we dedicated ourselves to Jehovah, we stepped on the wrestling mat, as it were. At least from dedication onward, each Christian is locked in combat. No wonder that Paul saw the need to urge Christians in Ephesus three times to “stand firm”!—Ephesians 6:11, 13, 14.
9. (a) Why do Satan and the demons employ various “crafty acts”? (b) Why does Satan try to corrupt our thinking, and how can we resist his efforts? (See the box “Beware of Satan’s Cunning!”) (c) Which crafty act will we now consider?
9 Cunning schemes. Paul exhorts Christians to stand firm against Satan’s “crafty acts.” (Ephesians 6:11) Note Paul’s use of the plural. Wicked spirits use not one but various cunning schemes—and for good reason. In the course of time, some believers who have stood firm against one kind of trial have given in when faced with another. Hence, the Devil and the demons closely observe the behavior of each one of us to detect our weakest spot. Then they exploit any spiritual weakness we may have. Thankfully, though, we can recognize many of the Devil’s methods, for they are revealed in the Bible. (2 Corinthians 2:11) Earlier in this publication, we discussed such schemes as the lure of materialism, harmful association, and sexual immorality. Let us now consider yet another one of Satan’s crafty acts—spiritism.
PRACTICING SPIRITISM—AN ACT OF BETRAYAL
10. (a) What is spiritism? (b) How does Jehovah view spiritism, and how do you view it?
10 By practicing spiritism, or demonism, one makes direct contact with wicked spirits. Divination, sorcery, binding with spells, and inquiring of the dead are some forms of spiritism. As we well know, Jehovah views spiritism as “detestable.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Revelation 21:8) Since we too must “abhor what is wicked,” it is unthinkable that we would ever seek out the company of wicked spirit forces. (Romans 12:9) What a repulsive act of betrayal against our heavenly Father, Jehovah, that would be!
11. Why would it be a grand victory for Satan if he could induce us to turn to spiritism? Illustrate.
11 However, for the very reason that dabbling in spiritism is gross treachery against Jehovah, Satan is bent on getting some of us involved in it. Each time he can induce a Christian to turn to demonism, Satan scores a grand victory. Why? Think of this comparison: If a soldier could be persuaded to desert and betray his army unit and join enemy forces, the enemy commander would be delighted. He might even parade the traitor as a trophy, so as to insult that soldier’s former army commander. Similarly, if a Christian turned to spiritism, he would willingly and knowingly desert Jehovah and place himself directly under Satan’s command. Imagine what pleasure it would give Satan to parade that deserter as a trophy of war! Would any of us want to hand the Devil such a victory? Absolutely not! We are not traitors.
RAISING QUESTIONS TO CREATE DOUBTS
12. What method does Satan use to influence our view of spiritism?
12 As long as we abhor spiritism, Satan will not succeed against us by using it. Hence, he realizes that he must change our thinking. How? He seeks ways to confuse Christians to the point that some will think that “good is bad and bad is good.” (Isaiah 5:20) To do so, Satan often falls back on one of his time-tested methods—he raises questions to create doubts.
13. How has Satan used the method of raising questions to create doubts?
13 Notice how Satan used that approach in the past. In Eden he asked Eve: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” In Job’s time, during a meeting of the angels in heaven, Satan raised the question: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God?” And at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Satan challenged Christ by saying: “If you are a son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” Imagine—in Jesus’ case, Satan dared to mock the very words that Jehovah himself had spoken some six weeks earlier: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved”!—Genesis 3:1; Job 1:9; Matthew 3:17; 4:3.
14. (a) How does Satan use his scheme of creating uncertainties regarding spiritism? (b) What will we now consider?
14 Today, the Devil uses a similar scheme in an effort to create uncertainties about the wickedness of spiritism. Sadly, he has succeeded in raising doubts in the minds of some believers. They have begun to question whether certain forms of spiritism are truly all that evil. (2 Corinthians 11:3) How can we help such ones to adjust their thinking? How can we make sure that Satan’s scheme fails to influence us? To answer, let us consider two areas of life that Satan has slyly contaminated with spiritistic elements. They are entertainment and health care.
EXPLOITING OUR DESIRES AND NEEDS
15. (a) How do many in the Western world view spiritism? (b) How have some Christians been influenced by the world’s view of spiritism?
15 Especially in the Western world, occultism, witchcraft, and other forms of spiritism are taken more and more lightly. Movies, books, TV programs, and computer games increasingly portray demonistic practices as being fun, smart, and harmless. Some movies and books with plots focusing on the occult have become so wildly popular that devotees have organized fan clubs. Clearly, the demons have succeeded in trivializing the dangers of the occult. Has this trend of taking spiritism lightly influenced Christians? The thinking of some has been affected. In what way? To give a typical example, after one Christian watched a movie that centered on the occult, he said, “I saw the movie, but I didn’t practice spiritism.” Why is such reasoning dangerous?
16. Why is it dangerous to choose entertainment that centers on occult practices?
16 Although there is a difference between actually practicing spiritism and watching it, that surely does not mean that watching occult practices poses no danger. Why not? Consider this: God’s Word indicates that neither Satan nor his demons have the ability to read our thoughts.a Thus, as mentioned earlier, to find out what we are thinking and to detect any spiritual weakness in us, wicked spirits have to observe closely our actions—including our choice of entertainment. When a Christian’s behavior shows that he enjoys movies or books that center on spirit mediums, magic spells, acts of demon possession, or similar demonistic subjects, he is sending a message to the demons. In effect, he is alerting them to his weak spot! In response, the demons could intensify their wrestling with that Christian in order to exploit the weakness he has revealed until they have pinned him down, so to speak. In fact, some whose interest in spiritism was first piqued by entertainment that prominently featured the occult have eventually become involved in actually practicing spiritism.—Read Galatians 6:7.
17. By means of what crafty act may Satan exploit those who are ailing?
17 Satan tries to exploit not only our desire for entertainment but also our need for health care. How? A Christian whose health is failing despite numerous efforts to find a cure may become despondent. (Mark 5:25, 26) That can provide Satan and the demons with a favorable opportunity to exploit him. The demons may tempt an ailing one to turn in desperation to treatments or procedures that involve the use of “magical power,” or spiritism. (Isaiah 1:13) If that crafty act of the demons succeeds, it could weaken the ailing one’s relationship with God. In what way?
18. What types of procedures would a Christian reject, and why?
18 Jehovah warned the Israelites who had resorted to “magical power”: “When you spread out your palms, I hide my eyes from you. Although you offer many prayers, I am not listening.” (Isaiah 1:15) Of course, we always want to avoid anything that might hinder our prayers and diminish the support that we receive from Jehovah—and all the more so during a period of illness. (Psalm 41:3) Hence, if there are indications that a certain diagnostic procedure or therapeutic treatment may contain spiritistic elements, a true Christian should reject it.b (Matthew 6:13) In that way, he will be sure to retain Jehovah’s backing.—See the box “Is It Really Spiritism?”
WHEN STORIES ABOUT DEMONS ABOUND
19. (a) The Devil has fooled many people into believing what about his power? (b) What stories should true Christians avoid?
19 Whereas many people in Western lands make light of the danger of Satan’s power, the opposite occurs in other parts of the world. There the Devil has fooled many into believing that he has more power than he really does have. Some people live, eat, work, and sleep in dread of wicked spirits. Stories about powerful acts of demons abound. Such stories are often told with relish; people are fascinated by them. Should we share in spreading such stories? No, servants of the true God avoid doing so for two important reasons.
20. How could one, perhaps unwittingly, spread Satan’s propaganda?
20 First, by circulating stories about the exploits of the demons, one promotes the interests of Satan. How so? God’s Word confirms that Satan is capable of powerful works, but it also warns that he uses “lying signs” and “deception.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10) Since Satan is the archdeceiver, he knows how to influence the minds of those who are inclined toward spiritism and how to make them believe things that are not true. Such ones may sincerely believe that they saw and heard certain things and may relate their experiences as truth. In time, their stories become exaggerated by constant retelling. If a Christian were to spread such stories, he would, in effect, be doing the bidding of the Devil—“the father of the lie.” He would be spreading Satan’s propaganda.—John 8:44; 2 Timothy 2:16.
21. On what do we want to center our conversations?
21 Second, even if a Christian had some real encounters with wicked spirits in the past, he would refrain from repeatedly entertaining fellow believers with stories about such things. Why? We are admonished: “Look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:2) Yes, we are to focus our attention on Christ, not Satan. It is noteworthy that while on earth, Jesus did not entertain his disciples with stories about wicked spirits, although he could have said much about what Satan could or could not do. Rather, Jesus focused on the Kingdom message. Therefore, in imitation of Jesus and the apostles, we want to center our conversations on “the magnificent things of God.”—Acts 2:11; Luke 8:1; Romans 1:11, 12.
22. How may we continue to contribute to “joy in heaven”?
22 True, Satan employs various crafty acts, including spiritism, to try to destroy our relationship with Jehovah. However, by abhorring what is wicked and clinging to what is good, we give the Devil no opportunity to weaken our resolve to reject spiritism in all its forms. (Read Ephesians 4:27.) Imagine what great “joy in heaven” there will be if we continue to “stand firm against the crafty acts of the Devil” until he is no more!—Luke 15:7; Ephesians 6:11.
a The descriptive names given to Satan (Resister, Slanderer, Deceiver, Tempter, Liar) do not imply that he has the ability to search our hearts and minds. By way of contrast, however, Jehovah is described as “the examiner of hearts,” and Jesus, as the one who “searches the innermost thoughts and hearts.”—Proverbs 17:3; Revelation 2:23.
b For further information, see the article “A Health Test for You?” in the December 15, 1994, issue of The Watchtower, pages 19-22, and the article “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Your Choice of Medical Treatment—Does It Matter?” in the January 8, 2001, issue of Awake!