Satan whispers, “Don’t worry about that sin, that pattern, that temptation. It’s no big deal.”
Then when you fall for it, he shouts, “You’ve blown it! What a wretch you are! God won’t want to hear from you now, not for a couple of weeks at least. Not till you’ve made it better.”
But you can’t make it better. And the whispers start again: “Stuck, eh? Well, what do you expect? Sin is in your genes—unavoidable, no matter how you try. God’s setting you up to fail! Just a load of rules you can’t ever keep.”
You plug your ears and try to keep going. But there’s that voice, louder than before: “Struggling again? And you call yourself a Christian? What a joke. Real Christians don’t have these problems. They just ramp up their faith, repent, and move forward.”
He’s right, you think. Back to despair and the darkness.
He starts again. “Look out for yourself; no one else will. Live for now, live for you—nothing else matters.” But when you put yourself first and it still doesn’t satisfy, his whispers become roars: “You really are on your own now. Selfish to the core. And still miserable.”
You cast around for help, and he hisses, “You’re not built for church; you’re too weird. Best not to even try; you won’t fit in.” During the service or the small group, he tries to drown out the rest: “They don’t get you. They’re not like you! Church isn’t for you.”
So you back off and turn inward. Back to his lies.
“Real Christians have amazing quiet times—hours spent in the Scriptures and on their knees before God. You can’t remember the last time you prayed in complete sentences.” Then you open your Bible and he mocks, “Look at all these rules. You’re not strong enough to carry these burdens. You’re pathetic.”
And on he goes.
Satan has a forked tongue. He speaks with two voices, not one. He’s the tempter and the accuser. He’s licentious and legalistic. He provokes us to shame and to pride. And just when you think you’ve resisted one, the other grabs you from behind.
But whatever the lie, Satan’s strategy is the same: to pull our focus away from Jesus. In temptation he’ll distract us from Christ’s beauty. When we sin, he’ll distract us from Christ’s mercy. His one goal is always to lead us away from Jesus.
In temptation and in guilt, in shame and in pride, in self-pity and in self-confidence, let’s not look to ourselves—our badness or our goodness. Here’s Martin Luther’s advice:
When the Devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and where he is there I shall be also!”
When you’re tempted to listen to Satan’s whispers and shouts, don’t panic. The one sure-fire way to “resist the Devil” is simply this: look to Jesus.
Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at A New Name.