The Wiles of The Devil
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” (Eph. 6:11).
Our English word “wiles” is generally used to express deception through trickery and includes all the methods that would be part of that. It has to do with cunning or skill applied to no good purpose. The word ruse is a synonym with stress on the creation of a false impression.
But when definitions seem inadequate, what helps is personification; a living example of the thing under consideration. The Bible teaches, the devil – as he works his craft against us – personifies wiles. He is the master of wiles.
He lies to us, wants to trap us, discourage us and snare us. He will do anything he can do with cunning satanic variety to weaken us and destroy us. He goes to work daily to produce discouragement, confusion, indifference and imbalance. He is our chief enemy, but deals in wiles and stratagems. So here is a “briefing” (to borrow military intelligence terminology). Four things to watch for:
1. The devil exaggerates the pleasures of sin while minimizing the true nature and outcome of sin. Of Moses the Holy Spirit said: He “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,” (Heb. 11:24,25). Observe that phrase: “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” The devil approaches us with exaggerated emphasis on the pleasure we can enjoy if we will sin. He is asking us to invest in something with promise of immediate return – but without telling us about the risk, the outcome, the ugly side! The devil is counting on the fact we will see the fun, the pleasure – the joy of satisfied appetite – and jump at that, acting impulsively. If you stop and think; if you inquire; if you look deeply and consider consequences – you frustrate the wiles of the devil. The devil wants us to act on the immediate pleasure of the tempted behavior.
Therefore, Satan is annoyed when we stop to think; when we inquire about some tempted behavior; when we think in terms of long-term consequences - - when we study and pray and consider if something is right or not! Satan exaggerates the immediate gratification, while minimizing the true nature of the sin. The bait looks good, but when you take that bite you have taken in the ugly poison of sin.
2. The devil sees an opening into our lives through emotions or mood (Eph. 4:26). People have said to me: I knew I shouldn’t be drinking, but I was depressed. I know I’m married, but this other woman made me feel so good. Sure it’s wrong to lie, but I was under such pressure! It was a sin to treat my brethren the way I did, but I was so mad!
What’s happening? The devil is watching. When we fall into certain moods or we are overcome by various kinds of emotions, the enemy steps in to defeat us; to lead us into sin. The wiles of the devil include this cunning ability to find openings through our moods and emotions. Paul said, “ ‘Be angry, and do not sin:’ do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Eph. 4:26).” When I’m angry and I take that anger with me into the next day, and carry it along with me for weeks and months and years … I might as well wear a bull’s eye target. The devil will find me and seek and entrance into my heart for his evil purpose and to my downfall. Use the Word of God and prayer – to take a careful inventory of your moods; your emotions; the grudges you carry. Expel the hurt feelings you can’t seem to turn loose of; the habitual, destructive thoughts you entertain. The devil can use those things to slowly erode your character; to lead you into sin to gradually turn you away from God.
3. The devil will use people to lead us astray. Not long into His public work our Lord warned men of men. He told people to be careful about people! He knew the devil can use people to lead us astray. So Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves,” (Matt. 7:15). When He sent His disciples out He said, “Beware of men,” (Matt. 10:17). Jesus wanted us to know this: the devil can use people to lead us astray. Through words of invitation into sin; through false teaching, or through subtle influence he can defeat us. One of the wiles of the devil is to use people to corrupt us.
Read 1 Tim. 6:1-5. In a situation where there are teachers not consenting to wholesome words, the devil discovers his advantage. When men who preach and teach do not maintain loyalty to “the doctrine which is according to godliness,” the devil can step in through that entrance and seduce many. When we accept, endorse, consort with false teachers, that indifference plays right into the hands of error and the devil’s purpose. Let’s observe: Paul describes the risk to Timothy then he tells Timothy: “From such withdraw yourself.” Too much is at risk to play around with men like this. It is one thing to be patient and kind and do what we can to work with people. But when corruption is evident; when men are at work who are destitute of the truth, we cannot just let error have its’ way. “From such withdraw yourself.” Paul warned the Colossians – “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument,” (Col. 2:4).
4. The devil is the master marketing agent; he packages sin in neat, attractive bundles (Heb. 3:12,13). What if someone came to you with a garbage bag; trying to hand to you a garbage bag. As soon as they hold it out you can smell the contents. You can hear the buzz of maggots. You can see the leaking liquid. Are you going to take the hand-off?
But what if someone comes to you, neatly dressed with a pleasant smile. And they hand to you a beautiful package, like it was professionally wrapped at Dillards. It has matching bow and ribbon; perfectly wrapped and absolutely beautiful. Your reaction would not be the same – as with the garbage bag!!
The devil is the master market executive. He knows how to package sin so that it doesn’t look like anything bad. This is part of his deceptive essence. For instance – in the lust of the eyes – the devil seeks to present sin to us IN A NEAT PRETTY PACKAGE so that our first reaction is to look; to admire; to want; to take.
How can we stand against such a wily enemy?
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints,” (Eph. 6:10-18)
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 12.10; October 2005