Exposing the Devil’s Subtle Designs
“Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 PETER 5:8.
1, 2. (a) What could be a terrifying situation that Jesus himself faced? (b) Why were people trying to kill Jesus?
SUPPOSE you learned that someone had been hired to kill you. What if you knew that right now he was stalking you, just waiting for the best moment to attack. That could be terrifying! Did you realize that Jesus Christ faced a similar situation?
2 The Bible says: “Jesus continued walking about in Galilee, for he did not want to walk about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.” However, despite the danger to his life, in 32 C.E. Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles. On that occasion, “some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem began to say: ‘This is the man they are seeking to kill, is it not?’” (John 7:1, 25) Why were people trying to murder Jesus? Because they had been put up to it by the Devil! Jesus himself said, as recorded in John 8:44: “The Devil . . . was a manslayer when he began.”
3. Why is the apostle Peter’s warning about the Devil especially appropriate today?
3 So, then, we should not be surprised that the Devil is out to get godly persons today, especially since he has been thrown out of heaven. The Bible explains: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:7-12) This means that Satan and his demons are waging all-out war on us! The warning is therefore especially appropriate now: “Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” That someone includes you, if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is why Peter also said: “Keep your senses, be watchful.”—1 Peter 5:8.
4. (a) What is the Devil’s purpose in subtly approaching us? (b) How only can the Devil prove successful in his approaches?
4 But what is the Devil’s purpose in subtly approaching us? It is not to cause our death immediately. In his wily approach against Jesus, Satan’s purpose was to get him to compromise his worship of Jehovah. (Matthew 4:3-10) When his efforts to tempt Jesus to disobey God failed, Satan’s aim was to cause him to seek relief from the threats of death by compromising his integrity to God. Similarly today, the real purpose of Satan’s approach is to destroy our good relationship with God. Will he be successful? There is only one way that he can be. The Bible shows what that way is when it says: “Jehovah is with you as long as you prove to be with him; . . . but if you leave him he will leave you.”—2 Chronicles 15:2.
5. (a) What can be said about the success of Satan’s methods? (b) If we are to stand firm, of what must we be continually aware?
5 Sadly, each year some are overcome by Satan’s methods. They leave Jehovah. Many of them, in fact, must be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation for their ungodly conduct. (1 Corinthians 5:13) Others become, as it were, ‘prisoners of war’ by getting caught up in the Devil’s system. Will you stand firm against all of Satan’s efforts to cause you to leave Jehovah? If you are to do so, you continually need to be aware of the Devil’s subtle designs.
The Way Satan Operates
6. Why need we not be in the dark regarding Satan’s designs?
6 We are not left in the dark as to how Satan operates. “We are not ignorant of his designs,” the apostle Paul explained. (2 Corinthians 2:11) This means that Satan’s attention is on us—he is thinking about us, using all his shrewd thinking to get us away from serving God. Is that not a sobering thought? But in the Bible we have a thorough history of Satan’s designs, that is, his schemes, maneuvers and strategy, so that no one need be ignorant in this regard. A good soldier studies historical battles of the past and applies with benefit what he learns. Similarly, ‘as fine soldiers of Christ Jesus,’ we can study the various tactics of Satan and thus avoid being caught off guard by any of his methods of operation.—2 Timothy 2:3.
7. (a) What frontal approaches does Satan at times use? (b) What other methods does he use, and why?
7 Eventually Satan’s agents brutalized and killed Jesus. (John 19:1; Matthew 27:49, 50) And Jesus foretold regarding his followers: “People will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you.” (Matthew 24:9) However, such frontal approaches often boomerang, resulting in God’s persecuted servants’ having even greater zeal for his service. (Acts 5:41, 42) Therefore, Satan more often tries other methods—subtle designs—to break the integrity of God’s servants.
8. How does the Bible reveal that Satan would use subtle designs?
8 The Bible points to such subtle designs when it encourages: “Stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) The Greek word here for “machinations” means “crafty acts.” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) That Satan is a master of deception, being extremely crafty and cunning, is also indicated when the Bible says: “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.”—2 Corinthians 11:14.
9, 10. (a) What can we learn from examining Satan’s first successful machination? (b) What shows that he continues to use the same cunning and craftiness?
9 Consider Satan’s first successful machination. When approaching Eve he did not try to argue that God would approve if she ate the forbidden fruit. Eve knew better than that. So Satan made the fruit seem extremely desirable to Eve. He told her that eating it would really improve her situation, providing her an appealing prospect. “You are bound to be like God,” he said. (Genesis 3:5) Eve yielded to Satan’s enticement. She cultivated wrong desire, which led to her sin.—James 1:14, 15.
10 Satan continues to use cunning and craftiness, as the apostle Paul wrote: “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) If Satan’s advances were not so subtle it is unlikely that so many persons would be battle casualties. He constantly presents tempting diversions, subtly trying to interest us in things that eventually will inhibit our spirituality. His aim is to weaken us so that we gradually leave Jehovah, or so that a frontal attack may succeed in breaking our integrity to God.
11. (a) In what way can Satan’s methods be compared with those of a fisherman? (b) What must we never forget?
11 Satan’s methods can be compared with those of a fisherman who uses lures to catch fish. The fisherman experiments to find out which lure will appeal to the fish. Of course, when the fish bite they do not realize that there is a hook behind the lure. How about us? Are we aware of the lures Satan uses? Do we fully appreciate the consequences of getting “hooked”? Do not be deceived! Satan and his demons are real enemies who are out to get us! So never forget that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” He has blinded most people’s minds to this fact. Do not let him blind yours.—1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4.
Subtle Forms of Materialism
12. (a) What is a chief lure that Satan uses? (b) What things can the eye desire?
12 A chief lure that Satan uses is love of material things and pleasures. (1 Timothy 6:10) The Bible refers to “the desire of the eyes,” warning that such desire “does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:16) In our modern world there are more things than ever for the eye to desire. There is the latest in new homes, cars, vans, boats, clothes, televisions, hi-fis, watches, computers, video games and other electronic devices of all kinds. Also, there are the many pleasures to be enjoyed in the way of music, dancing, movies, the theater, TV viewing, an endless variety of sports, and so forth.
13. (a) How can Satan use things that can be beneficial to lure Christians away from serving God? (b) Why should we not underestimate Satan as a foe?
13 Now, of course, material things and pleasures are not necessarily wrong in themselves. Jehovah created a delightful material universe, including our earth with all its beauty, to please our sight and other senses. Obviously, various forms of recreation and entertainment can be beneficial when kept in a proper place. (1 Timothy 4:8) Yet, at the same time, we need to be aware that Satan often uses these very things to lure Christians away from serving God. No doubt Satan himself has had much to do with the development and use of these modern material things and pleasures that have served to distract so many people from serving Jehovah God. Do not underestimate our foe the Devil. He has become a master at sneak attack.
14. (a) What are clues to show that a person is being influenced by subtle forms of materialism? (b) Why can drifting away from God be almost imperceptible?
14 How can you know when you are being taken in by Satan’s subtle lure of materialism? You can if any form of relaxation or pursuit of material possessions has begun to interfere with your study of the Bible, regular attendance at Christian meetings or weekly field ministry activity. Really, there is a need to be watchful. A materialistic lure can cause you to drift away by simply absorbing more and more of your time, interest and energy. (Hebrews 2:1) When a boat drifts you may not detect that it is moving. You may say that it is not moving at all. But proof that it is drifting is seen in that it gradually changes positions. It is similar with a person who drifts away from God and His organization.
15, 16. (a) What examination would it be wise for us to make of ourselves? (b) What situation shows that it is wise to make such an examination of ourselves?
15 Wisely, therefore, we should often examine our own Christian activity, asking: “Do I study the Bible as regularly as I once did? Is my meeting attendance as regular as it was in the past? Do I put in as much time in the field ministry as formerly?” Perhaps you say: “Oh, I am much busier now.” But busier doing what? Could it be that you are spending more time in the pursuit of pleasures, perhaps in front of a television screen? Is it that your accumulation of material things and taking care of them is hindering you rather than helping you in your service to God? Are you really heeding Jesus’ counsel not to be anxious about material things but to seek God’s Kingdom first?—Matthew 6:31-33.
16 All around the world there are battle casualties—Christians who have been taken in by the Devil’s subtle forms of materialism and have fallen out of God’s service. Perhaps in your own congregation you can think of ones who once were faithful fellow workers, but who no longer are active in God’s service because of succumbing to subtle materialistic lures that caused them gradually to drift away. (Philippians 3:18) So “keep your senses, be watchful.” Do not let the Devil devour you!—1 Peter 5:8.
A Subtle Form of Spiritism
17. (a) Why did angels leave their positions in heaven, and what happened to them when the Floodwaters fell? (b) These angels have been responsible for what?
17 Do you recall when other angels joined Satan in rebellion against Jehovah? It was shortly before the Flood. The Bible reveals that the attractive daughters of men served as a lure to the angels. Some of these left their heavenly positions of service to come to earth to have sexual relations with those beautiful women. What they did was just as wrong as were the homosexual acts committed by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 6:1, 2; Jude 6, 7) When the Floodwaters fell, the angels shed their materialized bodies and returned to heaven. Although being denied any longer the ability to materialize human bodies to satisfy their unnatural sexual desires, these angels have been very active in corrupting the human family morally. The great increase today in sexual immorality of all kinds is a direct result of their having been cast out of heaven and confined to the vicinity of the earth.—1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 12:9, 12.
18. What evidence, past and present, reveals that sexual immorality has been one of Satan’s foremost means of corrupting Jehovah’s servants?
18 The lure of sexual immorality has always been one of the Devil’s foremost means of corrupting Jehovah’s servants. Shortly before God’s people of Israel were to enter the Promised Land, Satan used attractive Moabite women as bait to lure the Israelites away from Jehovah’s service. Thousands of Israelites were “hooked” into committing fornication, and, as a result, were put to death for their wrongdoing. (Numbers 25:1-3) In connection with that occasion, Christians are warned: “Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day.” (1 Corinthians 10:7, 8, 11) This subtle design of Satan worked then, and it is working today. More people are disfellowshipped for sexual immorality than for all other reasons combined.
19. (a) Why do so many of Jehovah’s servants become involved in sexual immorality when they know it displeases God? (b) What will help you to avoid becoming involved in sexual immorality?
19 But since Jehovah’s servants know that fornication and adultery are against God’s laws, why do so many of them become involved in such activity? Well, why did Eve disobey God’s law? Because Satan made doing so appear extremely attractive; it was an opportunity she thought that she could not pass up. Similarly today, through his propaganda channels—television, movies, the press, and so forth—fornication and adultery are made to appear not only exciting and pleasurable but also acceptable. So if you bite at the lure offered through the Devil’s propaganda channels, what will happen? You, too, may be “hooked”!
Avoid Independent Thinking
20. (a) What is another subtle design of the Devil? (b) How has Satan been using this design for some 6,000 years?
20 From the very outset of his rebellion Satan called into question God’s way of doing things. He promoted independent thinking. ‘You can decide for yourself what is good and bad,’ Satan told Eve. ‘You don’t have to listen to God. He is not really telling you the truth.’ (Genesis 3:1-5) To this day, it has been Satan’s subtle design to infect God’s people with this type of thinking.—2 Timothy 3:1, 13.
21. What are examples of independent thinking in modern times, and what have been the results?
21 How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization. For example, God’s organization has from time to time given warnings about listening to certain types of immoral and suggestive music, and about frequenting discos and other types of worldly dance halls where such music is played and people are known to engage in immoral conduct. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Yet certain ones have professed to know better. They have rebelled against such counsel and have done what is right in their own eyes. With what result? Very often they have become involved in sexual immorality and have suffered severe spiritual harm. But even if they have not been so affected, are they not reprehensible if others follow their example and suffer bad consequences?—Matthew 18:6.
22. (a) Of what must we be constantly aware? (b) What appropriately will be considered in our next study?
22 This fact cannot be overemphasized: We are in a war with superhuman foes, and we constantly need to be aware of this. Satan and his demons are real; they are not mere figments of the imagination. They are “the world rulers of this darkness,” and we have a spiritual fight against them. (Ephesians 6:12) It is absolutely vital that we recognize their subtle designs and not allow ourselves to be overreached by them. Very appropriately, then, we will next consider how we can arm ourselves to fight against these wicked spirits.
Can You Answer These Questions?
□ What is the Devil’s purpose in subtly approaching Jehovah’s people?
□ Why does the Devil use subtle designs?
□ What are various subtle designs Satan uses?
□ What will help us to avoid being overreached by these subtle designs?
[Picture on page 21]
The movement of a slowly drifting boat is almost imperceptible. So can be the drift of a Christian away from God and His organization