In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us one reason we have to put on the full armor of God is that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
The word schemes comes from the term from which we get our word method. When someone has a strategy and has carefully thought about the way in which he is going to go about accomplishing that strategy we say he has a method, he is methodical and when that carefully planned strategy is for evil, we say he has schemes.
The devil is not simply some big dumb bully who is randomly attacking the church, instead he is cunning and he is sinister and he has specific sneaky ways that he has been working on for thousands of years now for doing us damage.
One of the other words that Paul often uses to describe the way the devil works is by setting snares. You know snares are traps. Usually hidden traps. Not things that are right there in the open that are obviously the devil, but subtle, out of the way, catch you by surprise traps, which means if you are a believer you simply cannot afford to not be watchful and serious about your relationship with God on a daily basis. The risk is too great.
Now God is gracious in that he helps us understand and even anticipate the different traps of the devil if we’ll just wake up and watch out. In fact over in 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul tells the church to be careful that they are not outwitted or outsmarted by the devil because and this is the key, we are not ignorant of his schemes. In other words, Paul is saying that we have some knowledge of Satan’s different strategies which of course is a major help in our fight against this enemy, if we know the different areas where he might attack.
One of my favorite books is actually a book written a couple hundred years ago now by a pastor named Thomas Brooks and it’s called Precious Remedies against Satan’s devices and he in that book works his way through Scripture to identify some of Satan different schemes and also to give us helps for winning the battle against them. Let me share a few of those schemes that Brooks points out:
Many of Satan’s most effective schemes have to do with the way he minimizes or disguises sin. He is a tempter and he wants to make sin look attractive to you and he has all kinds of tricks for doing that.
If you think back to the Garden of Eden this is one of the main things Satan attempted to do, he tried to make disobedience to God seem good.
One way he still tempts believers to think like that is by presenting the bait and hiding the hook, presenting the golden cup and hiding the poison. This means that one of Satan’s strategies is to present the pleasure you will experience from sin and hide the pain that will come to you from it.
Another way he schemes to tempt us is by trying to make sin look smaller or less evil than it really is. Sin is a murderer that wants to destroy you, but of course, Satan doesn’t let it come to you like that, instead he dresses sin up in its nicest outfit so that you will think sin really isn’t as bad and ugly as it really is.
A third strategy he likes to use is by showing us godly men’s sins and trying to keep us from thinking about their repentance. This is where you might hear someone say, well David did that thing with Bathsheba and yet they will never talk about the consequences David experienced as a result of that sin or the grief and sorrow and repentance he displayed after it.
A fourth way he minimizes sin is by trying to convince you that repenting of your sin is easy and that you might as well just enjoy the sin and repent afterwards, because repenting of it, is no big deal. So you might think to yourself, it doesn’t really matter if I do this because I will just ask God to forgive me afterwards.
Still another way he often tries to minimize sin is by getting you to focus on how well other sinners are doing, and so you might look at people who are obviously living wicked lives and then be tempted to think that they are getting away with it, when of course Satan doesn’t show you or want you to think about the coming wrath of God upon them.
Besides these kinds of strategies for minimizing sin, of which I am sure you can even think of more, Satan also has lots of schemes for stealing the believer’s joy and hope in Christ. Maybe another way to say it is that Satan is scheming to get you to doubt God’s goodness.
This is again one of his main strategies in the Garden of Eden, and when it comes to us and temptation, it is perhaps an even sneaker way in, where if he doesn’t distract you with the pleasure of sin, he will attempt to cause you to doubt God’s goodness and as a result to steal your pleasure in Christ and His gospel and he does this in all kinds of different ways.
Like for example, he may tempt you to become so focused on your sins that you actually end up forgetting your Savior. This one seems holy so it is a little tricky but sometimes what will happen is that you become aware of how sinful you are, and that can be good, but Satan takes advantage of that, and instead of your new awareness of your sinfulness leading you to see how great a Savior you have in Jesus Christ, you just end up thinking all the time about how terrible you are instead.
He loves when believers being doubting that God is good, when a believer stops believing that God is for him, this is when Satan does his best work and so one of Satan’s strategies to steal your joy is by tempting you to think that all the bad things that are happening to you are because God is against you.
There is a great passage which gives us confidence as believers and that is where Paul tells us God is working all things together for our good, and Satan hates that passage and doesn’t want you to believe it, because if you know that God is working for your good you keep enjoying God even when life is difficult, so Satan likes to promote the idea that prosperity means God loves you and that any kind of suffering means God must be against you, when that is definitely not always the case.
Or perhaps one other way that Satan does this is by continually accusing real believers that they are in fact not true believers at all. Satan wants people who are not Christians to think they are Christians and he wants people who are Christians to think that they are not. We know from the New Testament that Satan does a lot of his work through false teaching and so he’ll either present false teaching that distracts people from thinking about faith and repentance as necessary for salvation or he’ll present false teaching that minimizes the work of Christ as being enough for repentant sinners. Legalism or license, Satan is happy to use both.
Finally, right along with that another major strategy Satan has used and still uses is to twist and distort God’s Word. That again is something we see from the Garden of Eden to Satan’s temptation of Jesus, Satan is happy to even use the Bible in his fight against the church, by tempting us to doubt it or to believe the Bible means something that it doesn’t, which is all part of why it’s a little difficult to understand a person who says he is believer who is at the same time not serious about his relationship with God, with spiritual maturity, with growth, with fighting sin, because as Paul tells us here –
1.) the Christian life is a struggle
2.) against demonic forces who want to do the church harm, and
3.) who have strategies and schemes they use in their war against us!