We are continuing our series looking at the war against humanity waged by evil supernatural beings. Like a master con artist, Satan has planned and schemed to separate as many people from God as possible. We must be aware of his strategies:
10If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 emphasis mine).
The context of this passage is about forgiving a believer who had been disciplined by church leadership after practicing a serious sin. Paul is emphatic that the church should forgive him and welcome the man back into fellowship so that Satan does not get the better of the church by superior ingenuity or cleverness—to outwit us. Unforgiveness and resentment cause a spiritual cancer of bitterness to grow within individuals and a relational church body. Satan strategizes how to separate people from one another with a wall of unforgiveness. He knows that unforgiveness will hold us back from drawing near to God. Jesus warned that if we want the Father's forgiveness, then we must forgive. “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).
There have been times in my Christian life when I have been unaware of Satan's schemes, and perhaps, you have been, too. Satan uses many plans and strategies to gain a foothold in a person's life to try to corrupt their mind and heart. It is often through some small sin, but he never stops there. He looks for an entrance through a sin not acknowledged to God, e.g., an area in our lives where we disagree with God about what sin is. A progression of sins can become habit-forming and create a stronghold that the enemy sets up in us. Strongholds are difficult to break with merely self-willpower alone. Confession to God and repentance breaks the legal right of the enemy and uproots the thoughts and acts from the soil of our lives. Marcus Aurelius said, "A man's life is what his thoughts make it." Take care of your thought life, and your soul will prosper. Your predominant thoughts will govern your immediate action. If you sow a thought, you will reap an act. If you sow an act, you will reap a habit. If you sow a habit, you will reap a character. If you sow a character, you will reap a destiny. Good thoughts that take root in the good soil of your character will progress to good habits and will ultimately bring you great peace and assurance.
A progression of evil thoughts that are not rejected, resisted, or cast down become habits that give permission and power to unseen demonic forces seeking to enslave and destroy your life. Whenever a person permits sin to enter their lives, they give ground or territory to demonic spirits to control and manipulate. It is as if we give demonic spirits "food" to eat, which makes them stronger. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). What does it mean to prowl? The picture is of a lion, perhaps unseen, hiding in the shadows, going back and forth with its eyes fixed on its prey, trying to find the right time and a weakness whereby he might attack. The Greek word here translated as devour means to "drink down, gulp entirely and swallow up." C.S. Lewis writes about Satan's aims in his fictitious account of an elderly demon, Screwtape, training his nephew, Wormwood, to undermine the mind, will, and emotions of Christians. He writes:
"To us, a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense."
Demons can only express themselves on earth by using people who respond to their temptations. The more a human being obeys the direction or bidding of an evil thought from demons, the stronger their hold. Thank God that we have a deliverer from the power of sin, the Lord Jesus. John the apostle wrote: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work” (1 John 3:8). May the power of God deliver you entirely from the schemes of the enemy! Keith Thomas
This meditation is a shortened version of the more in-depth study: Satan's Schemes.
 E-sword.com, searching on 1 Peter 5:8.
 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, HarperSanFrancisco, Zondervan, Page 38.