There are two words that begin with the letter “s” in the Christian lexicon, with negative connotations, that a large percentage of Evangelicals are getting mixed up: sin and Satan. The infiltration and influence of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements into mainstream Evangelicalism is a contributing reason as to why many believers have confused these concepts. Those movements have an overemphasis on, and unbiblical view of spiritual warfare. There is an unhealthy focus on Satan. But going even deeper than that, at the root and heart of the issue regardless of fads and trends in the church, is the native sin-nature in every human being that wants to displace culpability for their own sin onto something else. It is much easier, and far more flattering to one’s ego to claim that Satan caused you to sin, rather than to face the fact that you sinned because you wanted to sin; you sin because you are a sinner.
What does the Bible tell us about Satan?
Satan is our enemy, and he wants to cause us harm. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Ephesians 6:11 instructs us to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Revelation 12:10 informs us that Satan is our accuser before God.
But we also know from scripture that Satan, like everything else in the universe, is under God’s sovereignty. The book of Job gives us insight into this. Satan had to ask permission to test Job, and the Lord gave that permission, with limits. Does Satan always have to ask permission before he attacks a believer? The Bible does not say. But we do know that God is sovereign over all things, so if Satan does attack, tempt, or otherwise try to harm us in some way, it is still under the control of God; He is allowing it. Satan isn’t all-powerful. And he was already defeated at the cross. “He [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15)
I am not denying that Satan attacks believers, tempts them, or tries to get them to stumble. The Bible is clear on this subject. I am proposing that in our sinfulness, we have bypassed the central issue: our own sinfulness and sin nature. Can Satan give us grief and tempt us to sin? Certainly. But that does not excuse us. We, and we alone, are culpable for our sin. Satan has turned into a socially acceptable crutch within the church. Everyone wants to place the blame on Satan, instead of looking inward to the sin-sick heart. Satan is a tool that God uses for His sovereign and eternal purposes, one of which is our refinement. Satan cannot cause you to sin. James tells us “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (4:7) The indwelling Holy Spirit will give help to the believer to resist Satan’s temptation. But the believer must decide to be obedient and turn from sin.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t that He came to die and raise to life again because the devil made us do it; poor, sad, innocent people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He died and rose again to pay the penalty for our sins, so that we may have eternal life with Him. Satan is real, he is our enemy, but he is not the focus. Our own sin is what we are called to put to death (Colossians 3:5;Romans 8:13). Let’s not be the 4-year-old in line, pointing at our neighbor, blaming him for knocking little Susie over. Own it, confess it, repent of it.
Soli Deo Gloria!