How can that even be possible? In the Bible he is referred to as “adversary” (1 Pet. 5:8), “dragon” (Rev. 12:7), “thief” (Jn. 10:10), “enemy” (Mt. 13:39), “murderer” (Jn. 8:44) and “tempter” (Mt. 4:3). He’s everything Jesus Christ is not. He’s the anti-christ (1 Jn. 4:3). It’s darkness versus light, lies versus truth, hate versus love. There’s no way! Even the most naïve Christian can’t confuse the voice of Satan with the voice of Jesus Christ, right?
I suppose if it were that simple, we wouldn’t need all the biblical exhortations that warn us of Satan’s schemes and cunning plans. We wouldn’t hear about his victories in the lives of professing believers. And we wouldn’t need to be vigilant, continually looking for the deception that lurks in the murky corners of our hearts. Was he defeated at the cross? Yes! Is he subservient to God? Yes! Is his eternal doom secured? Absolutely! But for His wise purposes, God has permitted the Ancient Foe to “prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). And his primary target? Christians!
Satan is the prince of darkness, but he often uses his “smiling light” to achieve his best purposes. His effectiveness is limited when he comes as an open enemy, but very powerful when he knocks on the door of our hearts; carrying a Bible, posing as a friend, masquerading as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11: 14). Satan is so subtle and clever that he can even deceive the Lord’s choice servants into thinking they are following the Lord when in reality they are following him. Remember when Peter sought to prevent the Lord from entering Jerusalem? Remember our Savior’s response? “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Mt. 16:23).
So if Satan can deceive an Apostle, how can I know he isn’t deceiving me through his minions of demonic representatives and humans disguised as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15)?
1. Jesus Christ will always work in line with the Bible. He welcomes us to hear His voice through a careful examination of the Scriptures (Ac. 17:11). He invites us to ask Him for wisdom (Jas. 1:5). He encourages wise counsel with mature believers (Pr. 15:22). He commands us to “test the spirits” (1 Jn. 4:1). Satan, on the other hand, twists and contradicts the Bible to achieve his diabolical purposes. This was clearly witnessed in the way he sought to tempt Jesus in the wilderness with partial truths (Mt. 4:1-11). Like he did with Adam and Eve, he simply prefers we take his word over God’s revealed word on the matter (Gen. 3:1-6). He hates the light of careful Bible examination for fear for being exposed as a liar.
2. Jesus Christ entreats us with gentleness as the meek and mild Servant (Mt. 11:28-30). His leading is quiet with steady persuasion. This is witnessed in the calm and temperate spirit that marks Spirit-filled believers. Satan is oftentimes more impulsive and abrupt. Christ uses His “sword” (Eph. 6:17) to carve with precision like a surgeon. Satan is more reckless with his “flaming arrows” (Eph. 6:16). His ways are harsh and abrasive. His goal is to destroy (Jn. 10:10).
3. Jesus Christ is forever revealing sin to His children. He deliberately places and keeps His finger on specific areas that need repentance. He treats us with respect and dignity. His goal is conformity to His nature. He convicts in love, offers forgiveness through His blood, strengthens us to obey, and restores our fellowship. Satan brings up our sin, but only as the “accuser” (Rev. 12:10). He is ruthless with his subjects and broad in his indictments. He wants us to try harder through personal reformation or to simply walk away feeling frustrated and condemned.
4. Jesus Christ leads us to His pastures of peace. Tribulations may surround us and trials may increase as a result of our obedience, but when we are in the center of His will we experience the “peace of God which surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7). For example, there was great unity when the early church discerned God’s will in Acts 15. Paul rebuked the chaotic Corinthian worship services informing them that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). Satan brings restlessness in our hearts and in our relationships with other believers. People and churches marked by turmoil and tension, discord and disunity are not following the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), but rather the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).
5. Jesus Christ will appeal to our higher instincts. He will lead us to decisions that not only bring Him the greatest glory, but also deliver us to the greatest expressions of joy. Satan, on the other hand, leads us down the paths of immediate gratification. The paths might not be labeled “sinful,” but they are oftentimes self-destructive and always less satisfying. Many times it’s the difference between what we “want” to do and what we “ought” to do, temporary pleasure or lasting edification, bondage or freedom.
6. Jesus Christ calls us into a cross-centered life. He invites us to join Him on the Calvary Road, to “fellowship [with] His sufferings” (Phil 3:10). The Good Shepherd walks beside us and empowers us to die to self and continually find in Him our strength, our righteousness and our identity. Humility is the result. Satan never preaches the cross. His leading, though often outwardly “Christian,” leads to carnal living, worldly appetites and lukewarm churches. Pride is the result.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10).
I hope this post brings further clarification to our recent sermon from 2 Corinthians 11:14. There are no fool-proof ways to discern the difference when both Jesus Christ and Satan employ the Word of God. However, if we keep our eyes upon the Savior and continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18), we will do well. Jesus is our Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:14) and the more we walk with Him, the more we will be able to distinguish His voice from the voice of the devil. As He Himself said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn. 10:27).