The Subtle Strategies of Satan

The Accuser

Teaching t07968

Introduction

VIDEO: Popular images focus on the dramatic and overt, but the Bible says he works mainly in subtle and covert ways.

NON-CHRISTIANS: Unless you get involved in occultic practices, you will probably never sense his presence. After all, his goal is not to get you to worship him, but to keep you from worshipping the one true God and his Son, Jesus Christ. And he has a masterful way of distracting you from Christ—which we will look at next week.

CHRISTIANS: If you receive Jesus and begin to follow him and share him with others, you are a threat to Satan and he will begin attack you. He knows he cannot bring you back into his kingdom—but he will try to neutralize you so don't influence others to follow your exit.

Review Rev. 12:9-11—3 forms of attack and 3 ways to overcome. If you know how to spot these attacks, and if you know how to respond in these ways, you will overcome him—that is, you will defeat him by fulfilling the role God has for your life.

The accuser of the brethren

Let's look this morning at the first way he attacks—read 12:10b. He attacks, like a merciless prosecuting attorney, by accusing.

Whom does he accuse? "The brethren"—all true Christians—including you.

When does he accuse? "Day and night"—when you awake in the middle of the night, when you wake up in the morning, as you go through your day—especially when you think about praying to God or sharing your faith or serving God in some way—and as you go to bed at night and reflect on your day. Almost any time is accusation time for him.

Do you recognize the accuser's voice? He will not identify himself. In fact, he loves to masquerade as your own internal voice, or even the voice of God—accusing you of your many sins (and even things that aren't wrong if he can get by with it) and focusing your attention on how unworthy you are to fellowship with God. That's always his goal—to rob you of vital fellowship with God. Because he knows that our service and our witness for Christ will be effective only when it flows out of vital fellowship with Christ.

If you are a new/young Christian, he loves to first tempt you into some sin (especially one that you have vowed never to repeat now that you are a Christian) and then whisper, "And you call yourself a Christian! After what you just did, do you really believe God will still accept you?"

If you are an older Christian and know about God's unconditional acceptance, he loves to rivet your attention on your recent lack of devotion, or how selfish you often still are, or how damaged your life is because your past, or how inadequate you are to serve God, etc. He will try to convince you that because of these things, God may accept you—but he doesn't really want to be close to you and cleanse you and restore hope to your heart, or empower you to serve him with joy.

“You’re so messed up that you’ll never be able anything but a liability to God.”

“God is disgusted with your continued selfishness, your pathetic lack of spiritual progress, etc.”

“Why bother to draw near to God? You don’t really love him—and you’ll just wander away again, anyway.”

“How can you expect God to empower you when you haven’t even talked to him for the last several days?”

I want to come back to how you can distinguish between the accusation of Satan and the conviction of the Holy Spirit a little later, but first we need to learn about how to overcome the accuser . . . 

The blood of the Lamb

Do you recognize his voice? Do you know how to respond to it? "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb." We must understand this as fully as we can.

What does the "blood of the Lamb" mean?

It is not a superstitious use of incantation: "The blood of the Lamb rebuke you!" That is not what this verse is talking about. Satan is not going to be put off by some ritual incantation or spell.

When "blood" is used in the Bible, it always signifies "death."

Num. 36:22-28 - In the "rough justice" of ancient Near Eastern culture, if you killed someone, their kinsmen hunted you down and killed you. But God instituted a different form of justice for Israelites through the law of Moses. Those who killed someone were to flee to one of the 6 cities of refuge. If it was murder, they would be judged and dealt with accordingly. If it was manslaughter, you could remain safely in the city of refuge. The person who came after him was called the "avenger of blood"—the avenger of death.

Matt. 27:22-25 - Imagine the raging crowd as Pilate comes to offer them Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd, inspired by the religious authorities, cry out "Crucify him! Give us Barabbas!" And Pilate, who feels very uneasy about the whole matter, washes his hands publicly and says "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to that yourselves." And the crowd responds, "His blood be on us and on our children!" meaning "the responsibility for his death be upon us and upon our children."

Even in Lev. 17:11, it still means "life poured out in death." Because when the blood is poured out on the altar, the animal is surely dead.

So when we read about "the blood of the Lamb" in the New Testament, it is talking about the death of Christ.

What is "the blood of the Lamb" for? In the Bible, it is so that our consciences may be cleansed. Two passages from the book of Hebrews help us here.

Heb. 9:14 - The context is the Old Testament way people received ceremonial cleansing from their sins—via an elaborate system of ritual animal sacrifices. Read 9:14.

"Cleanse your conscience" - If there is anything that inhibits our confidence as Christians in joyously relating to Christ and serving God, it is a guilty conscience. It may be because of real or imaginary guilt, but it is the great inhibitor.

And what are "dead works?" They are things you do to pay your conscience off so it won't bother you any more.

The classic example is the businessman who commits adultery on a business trip, then buys his wife a diamond brooch. Why? Because he longs to see her and draw near to her and relate to her? No, to pay his guilty conscience off.

These "dead works" take two forms: attempts to deny our sin (MINIMIZING, BLAME-SHIFTING & RATIONALIZING), and attempts to alleviate our guilt by doing something to make up for it (SELF-RECRIMINATION; RESOLUTIONS TO NEVER DO IT AGAIN; COMPULSIVE CONFESSION TO OTHERS; COMPENSATORY SERVICE TO GOD).

The more you go down this path, the more you are robbed of the joy of knowing God and his love for you. The more you are just living the Christian life out of a sense of duty—and then he will accuse you that your heart is really not in it, and on and on it goes. You will become either a joyless, self-righteous hypocrite, or you will despair of ever being able to truly walk with God and give up. Either way, the accuser wins . . . 

There is only one alternative to "dead works." It is the "blood of the Lamb." Read Heb. 10:21,22.

The Old Testament symbolism is this. When the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, he had to be sprinkled by blood, a symbol of the chosen sacrifice's death and a picture of the future death of God's chosen sacrifice, Jesus Christ. Sprinkled by the sign of that death, he dared once a year to bring the sins of the people before God.

Now that Christ has died, and now that by receiving Christ you enter into the benefit of that death, you can do any time what he could do only once a year! Be bold! Enter into the very presence of God with confidence—not when you feel worthy, but when you feel most unworthy. And not with confidence in what you do for God, but in what Jesus has done for you. The glorious truth is that we are never worthy to come into God's presence by our own works (no matter how good they may be), but we are always welcome into his presence if we come by Christ's perfect work (no matter how bad we may have been).

Doesn't this promote laxness about sin?

That's what I've heard a lot of Christians say, but it's not true for two key reasons:

Maintaining vital fellowship with God is the best protection from becoming enmeshed in sin. The more we live under the grace of God, the more motivated we are to relate personally to him, the more quickly we will want to return to this, the more he empowers us to transform our characters and enable us to love others, etc. The irony is that grace (properly understood and appropriated) produces true righteousness, while law ultimately results in enslavement to sin (Rom. 6:14).

If you instead cling to your "dead works," you're really saying that Christ's death wasn't enough—and that is a blasphemous thing to do. You are denying the validity of the blood of Christ on your behalf—and that is a worse sin than the one you originally committed!

"The Father does not welcome you because you have been trying hard, because you have made a thoroughgoing confession, or because you have been making spiritual strides recently. He does not welcome you because you have something you can be proud about. He welcomes you because his Son died for you . . . Christ's death has now made it possible for the Father to do what he wanted to do all along. So come boldly, sprinkled by blood . . .  " 1

I wish I could explain to you what a life-changing truth this is, but I think most of you probably have some inkling of it in your own experience.

The first time you apply it is a radical breakthrough in your Christian life (EXAMPLE).

But it's so easy to drift back into the mentality that it is your commitment to God that makes him want to relate to you. And Satan's accusations get more subtle, so you will have to apply this lesson over and over again (EXAMPLES).

Satan's accusation vs. the Holy Spirit's conviction

Once you understand the above, it is easier to distinguish between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the accusations of the devil. The key is to remember their respective goals.

When the Holy Spirit convicts you, he has only one purpose—to restore your fellowship with a God who loves you and a Christ who died for you. That's all he wants. And when he convicts you of sin, even though you might have to put it right with other people, the mere acknowledgment "Yes, Lord, you're right" is enough. You resume your fellowship with God, the hope comes back, etc.

But if your fellowship with God is not restored, then you should suspect that it is the accuser's voice. Why? Because his goal is to destroy your fellowship with God. So when you listen to his voice, the more hopeless you feel, the larger your sins loom, the more distant God becomes, etc.

Conclusion

So when they overcame him by "the blood of the Lamb," they simply realized that God was satisfied with the death of his Son about them. They refused to let his accusations impede their access to God.

And God is satisfied with what his Son has done in your case. That satisfies him completely. He will, of course, not tolerate dishonesty with him about sin in your life. But all he wants is for you to acknowledge it as he points it out, and return to fellowship and walking with him. When you understand "the blood of the Lamb," when God convicts you, you can simply say "Thank you, Lord"—because you are confident of his love. What liberty this brings!

Footnote

1 John White, The Fight (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976), p. 88.

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