The devil is a master trickster. He’s slick, silver-tongued, and skillful in the art of deception. In fact, his trick is of such caliber that he’s been at it for thousands of years with the same old dirty trick. Oh yes, the method used in the garden is still employed today. Granted the vices used today are different, but make no mistake the tempter’s method of tricking people is still the same. So, what is this trick? Here are three serpentine movements I have observed over time in my battle against the tempter’s trick.
1. The tempter’s trick is deceiving you to believe that God wants to kill your joy.
This was the hook that Satan baited to tempt the appetite of Eve. It begins with a clear distortion of the truth that is disguised as a seemingly harmless question, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1) Which prompted Eve to utter her own distortion of the truth too by adding the stipulation, “neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” (Genesis 3:3) The truth is that God gave Adam and Eve freedom to eat from all the trees with the exception of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ with no stipulation about touching it (Genesis 2:15-17). I suppose the argument could be made that Eve’s distortion was intended to be preventative of temptation, but at the same time it was still a distortion of God’s truth, and it reeked of the joyless odor of legalism. Yet, the serpent’s distortion carried with it the malicious intention of deception. This deception is clear in its motive for the serpent’s desire was to deceive Eve into believing that God was actually holding out on her— “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) The tempter’s trick was to persuade Eve to believe that the prohibition was an obstruction to her happiness.
If you take an honest look around the modern culture you’ll realize that though the vices may be different today, the devil’s method of tricking people is still the same. And it’s not as subtle as you may think. How many times has the cultural portrayal of Christian ethics been that of restrictive to our happiness instead of preventative of our misery? It’s a subtle thing the culture seeks to engrain into our minds, isn’t it? That holiness and happiness are antonyms instead of synonyms. Be aware of that’s the tempter’s trick. He is trying to deceive you to believe that God wants to kill your joy.
2. The tempter’s trick is deceiving you to believe that sin will bring you joy.
The trap had been set. The guile seed of the tempter’s trick had taken root in the heart of Eve. What was at first a subtle distortion quickly became a bold-faced accusation, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) Not only is the serpent suggesting that God is holding out on Adam and Eve, but buried within this serpentine talk is the false promise that sin will bring you happiness.
The Hebrew in this text illuminates this thought. First, let us observe the use of Elohim to describe the devil’s predicted outcome should Eve follow through with the devil’s invitation. The English Standard Version reads the Hebrew text this way, “and you will be like God (Elohim).” It’s actually the same Hebrew word used at the beginning of the verse to refer to God, “For God (Elohim) knows.” But how exactly will Adam and Eve become ‘like God’? The serpent suggests by ‘knowing good and evil.’ Again, the Hebrew is informative for the word yada used here is translated into the English word ‘know’ hinting at the idea of being ‘wise’ which in this sense is better understood as the ability, or authority, to decide what is right and what is wrong. What began as a subtle invitation to doubt has quickly become an invitation to autonomy—which was portrayed as ‘freedom’ from God. The tempter’s first trick was deceiving Eve to believe that God was restricting her happiness. The tempter’s second trick was in deceiving Eve to believing that freedom from God was what she truly needed. However, what the devil didn’t tell her was that this freedom wasn’t what she truly imagined. It ironically led to slavery and would put her in an unhappy state.
If you take an honest look around the modern culture you’ll realize that though the vices may be different today, the devil’s method of tricking people is still the same. It’s a subtle thing the tempter seeks to engrain into our minds. Be aware because the devil loves to trick people into believing that sin will make them happy. I say “trick” because unholiness does not lead to happiness. It leads to destruction.
3. The tempter’s trick is deceiving you to trade in life for death.
Indeed, her eyes were opened—just not in the way she perceived. The ‘independence’ they choose was not what the tempter had promised. It turns my stomach with angst when I consider the outcome of the serpent’s persuasion on Adam and Eve. For in claiming to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:23) and traded treasure for trash, glory for garbage, life for death. This is the nail which the devil is pleased to drive into the coffin of men and women. Take care brothers and sisters for the devil is crafty and sneaky. Be aware, the devil’s deception will always lead to destruction, for the wages of sin is always death (Romans 6:23). If you take an honest look around the modern culture you’ll realize, that though the vices may be different today, the devil’s method of tricking people is still the same.
So how do we guard ourselves against the tempter’s trick? Though you may think it elementary it seems that the biblical answer is: by faith. But here is the thing about faith. When it is misplaced it will give you no help. Tim Keller once wrote in regard to saving faith, “It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.” I agree and would add that what is true at our conversion is also true in our sanctification. Yes, you must actively pursue holiness and fight against sin. But do not trust in your own strength or will. If you misplace faith your fickle heart will fumble. Do not trust in your own intuition or intelligence. If you misplace your faith your faulty mind will fail. It is by faith that light is thrown on the tempter’s trick illuminating and disarming his deceptive illusions, but not by faith in yourself. It is by faith in the death of Christ that we realize the power of sin is broken in our lives and its enslaving blindfold removed. It is by faith in the resurrection of Christ that our hope for victory is realized. It is by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to swing the sword which silences the old tempter himself. It is by faith in the promise of God’s Word that only He can make us happy that sin ultimately loses its appeal to our hearts.
Take courage and let your heart sing in harmony with biblical wisdom and fight against the tempter’s trick. Fight by rejoicing in the victory that the Gospel preaches for Jesus promises to do what sin never could—satisfy your thirsty heart fully and forever.
“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:14, ESV).