Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Master of Camouflage

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.... Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (Eph. 6:11; 1 Pet. 5:8).

Anyone who lives with a cat knows that members of the feline tribe don't approach their prey openly. Rather, they sneak up soundlessly, every move patiently calculated, eyes fixed firm on the target, until they judge themselves close enough to deliver the killing blow in one quick leap. Often, they maintain a literal low profile, particularly useful if you're a lion and your preferred habitat is grassland where much of the cover is shorter than you are.

The "roaring lion" who is the devil uses similar tactics. He doesn't show his real self openly, and he saves most of his roaring for boasting about his kills. When scheming to deliver a crippling blow to someone's spiritual health, he's more likely to purr, speaking soothingly about how this really isn't sinful and would be so wonderful. He watches his targets carefully, keeping an eye on how they react to certain situations and what they aren't paying attention to. Carefully he maneuvers his victim into position, covering his true nature with whatever innocuous-looking aspect of the environment he can hide behind--then when danger is least suspected, he makes the fatal suggestion that leads his prey to fall hard and leaves everyone stunned, wondering what happened.

Also like the natural predator, which selects its victims based on the perceived ease of overpowering them, the devil has an eye for those souls most vulnerable to temptation. Ironically, these are often the ones who seem strongest to human eyes: the wealthy executive, the high-profile superstar, even the Christian worker who seems to be accomplishing great things for God. The devil knows that the more "successful" we become in human terms, the easier we find it to start relying on our own abilities rather than God's supernatural power--and human nature being what it is, there's no guarantee of an exception when those abilities are used for strictly "Christian" work. The megachurch pastor who commits adultery with an attractive young counselee may well have started with the purest of intentions, but brushed off warnings about the temptations of being alone with her because he was sure he was above such carnal thoughts. He put his spiritual armor in the closet months before because he didn't think he needed it any longer, and he learned the hard way that his flesh was still vulnerable.

We're all equally helpless against the devil when we have only our own strength to rely on. Just as a gazelle must eat daily if it's to keep up its strength to escape lions, we have to replenish our spiritual defenses daily through prayer and Scripture.

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).

The devil is a master when
It comes to craft and art,
For he can paint the blackest sin
To lure the purest heart.

The devil is a master of
Deceit and subtle change,
And he can take the truest love
And twist it for his gain.

The devil is a master who
Perverts each thing that's good:
Beware, or he may work on you
Like craftsmen carving wood.

The only way to dodge the plans
This master thief can weave:
Find strength in Christ, the Son of Man,
Who saves all who believe.

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