We don’t talk much about Satan these days. It’s easy to ignore or discard things we don’t understand, especially unpleasant, scary things. Because books, movies, and TV shows have put such an outlandish picture in our heads, it’s easier not to think about the devil than to try and understand him.
One of the first things I learned when I became a Jesus-follower was that God speaks to us. Personally, and understandably. Most Christians I know discard this fact for the same reasons they discard the reality of Satan . . . they don’t understand it. Plus, most of the people who go around saying, “God told me _______,” come off a little weird.
My first exposure to the concept of God speaking directly to me came from Charles Stanley’s book How to Listen to God. According to Stanley, the most direct way of hearing from God is through His Word. Reading a verse, asking God what He’s saying to you through that verse, and then obeying what you hear without question. But Stanley goes on to write about hearing God’s voice independent of Scripture. He encourages us to ask, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening,” just as Eli instructed Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:9.
I’ve practiced inviting God to speak to me for years. Over and over, God has directed my steps relationally . . . with my wife, kids, coworkers, and the men I’ve mentored. And looking back, it’s clear God’s guidance has been about almost exclusively about matters of the heart. He cares about my motives, my relationships, and my attitudes. As the younger Stanley (Charles’ son Andy) teaches, “When we see as God sees, we do as God says.”
But wait, what does this have to do with Satan? Well, here’s the new big idea I stumbled on . . .
Satan also speaks to us about matters of the heart.
When we are filled with the Spirit of Christ, we experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we let the evil one speak into our hearts, we experience the opposite . . . anxiety, hatred, sadness, a judgmental spirit, we’re unkind, hurried, loud, jealous, rude, deceptive, mean, selfish, unforgiving, and undisciplined.
We’ve let culture’s images of scary monsters replace the real aspects of the devil . . . the things residing in our hearts that are not from God and are working against what God wants for us. Matthew refers to Satan as “the tempter” when he’s working Jesus over in the desert. He’s still at it today, tempting us with the same things He tempted Jesus with . . . control (trusting ourselves instead of God), physical wants and needs (sex and the things of this world) and emotional wants and needs (to be loved and respected).
Instead of looking for Satan in the movies or the news, look at yourself . . . your attitudes, the lies you’ve bought into, the grudges you hold, or the fear holding you back from being more open with your faith.
Look at your heart.
Scripture: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
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