Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God... in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
Comedian Flip Wilson made a fortune with this line: "The Devil made me do it!" And I for one will not deny that Satan seduces, captures, and enslaves people by his crafty schemes. He can seduce us into horribly bad situations.
What I can't accept is that he wreaks his havoc independently of our human wills. I don't grant the claim that he moves in and takes over a human life without an individual's "permission" — whether overt or, more often, implied.
I'm no expert on the Devil. (Who would want that distinction!) But I am convinced that his best work is subtle, indirect, and masked with respectability. He doesn't just work "out there" in the world but shows up in our churches more regularly than some of our members do.
He is there to remind us of hedonistic pleasures still there for the taking. He stirs up ego and initiates power plays. He tempts us to betray our covenant commitments as the bride of Christ and wants to spoil our relationship with God by luring us into a romance with the world that amounts to spiritual adultery.
Satan wants us to believe that church attendance makes us very religious, even though some may be deeply unspiritual as racists or sexists in the way we see and deal with others.
Old Scratch would like for you to be viewed as a dynamic and respected leader in your community while you are unloving, detached, or abusive at home.
Satan whispers the lie into Christian ears that we can teach and counsel others with Scripture and then justify ourselves for not living by it personally.
Beelzebub is never offended by the people who volunteer quickly and appear cooperative at church but grumble and complain the whole time they are following through.
Satan's wicked intention is the bad news. The good news is that Satan can't make you go there.
You have the choice to "resist" his advances — with the promise that he will then flee from you. Two things will always mark effective resistance to the Devil. First, all excuse-making and defensiveness ends. Second, passionate love for God compels you to draw near to the one who has already loved you enough to die for you.
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world (James 4:7-8 NLT).