How Do Satan and His Demons Attack Christians?


By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2009

On this subject as all subjects, our focus as Christians must be only on what the Bible clearly says. There are many books and seminars being offered on spiritual warfare, some of which are based on experience rather than the clear teaching of Scripture.

It is crucial that we stick to what the Bible clearly says. Whatever we need to know about Satan is contained in the Scriptures.

Summary of article:

How does Satan attack believers?

1. Satan incites our fleshly desires within us through the unbelieving world around us.

2. Satan attempts to deceive us with the lies of worldly wisdom through the unbelieving world around us.

3. He attempts to deceive us with a false Jesus and a false gospel through false Christians.

4. Satan can physically afflict us or ones that we love with illness, crimes, disasters, persecution and the like.

How do we stand firm against these attacks?

See TI Article entitled “How To Stand Firm Against Satan’s Attacks”

How does Satan actually attack us? What are Satan’s weapons in his attacks on believers?

1. Satan attacks Christians externally through the unbelieving world.

Satan does not implant thoughts in our minds internally. He does it externally through the world.

Satan spreads lies about God through the unbelieving world attacking our beliefs and values - spreading the lies of worldly wisdom.

Satan spreads fleshly temptations through the unbelieving world attacking our mind, emotions, and body - the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life.

The “desires” that we have to sin is the flesh, not Satan.

Paul says in Eph.6:11 says that Christians are to stand firm against “the devil’s schemes.”

This gives the Devil’s strategy in his war against God and us.

2. The Strategy of Satan in the battle is deception

He attacks through “schemes” or “wiles.” The word “schemes” refers “cunning arts, deceit, craftiness, trickery in a planned way.” Satan’s primary method of attack is deceit. It is well-planned out deceit, strategic lies.

As I mentioned earlier, the devil is a slanderer who is the father of lies. Jn.8:44 as we saw above says,

“You are of your Father, the devil, and you will do the desires of your Father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and did not abide in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, you do not believe.”

Satan is by nature a liar and his primary method with which he attacks human beings is through lies to deceive them into believing something false about God or God’s plan in order to get them to rebel against God.

He lies about who God is, what God is like, what we are like, what God desires for us to do, how to be saved, etc., etc., etc.

This is how he attacks us – through lies.

And as we shall see the instrument he uses to spread these lies is unbelievers.

These “schemes” or “strategic deception or lies” are ones that will be effective against us if we do not give the proper defense.

In Gen.3:1-6 it says,

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Satan attacked Adam and Eve by lying to them. By telling them falsehoods about God, and his purpose and plan for them.

Notice also, that Satan tempted Eve externally. He took over the body of a serpent and spoke audibly to her. He did not implant any thoughts in her mind.

This is all Satan can do is attack us through deception. Otherwise, he has no power or control over us as believers.

He cannot spiritually lay hold of us and force us to do anything against our wills. He cannot possess us. Christians cannot be demon-possessed. He cannot influence us in a way that we cannot simply choose resist. He cannot control our minds or our emotions. He can only tempt us by inciting our fleshly desires and trying to deceive us.

He cannot turn us away from Christ and into unbelief and an unbelieving lifestyle that goes with it. He can only deceive us.

How do Satan and his demons attack us as believers?

The Bible shows four ways:

1. Satan incites our fleshly desires within us through the unbelieving world around us.

Because of the fall of Adam every human being has a fleshly nature in him or her. That fleshly nature has fleshly desires. Those desires can result in fleshly sinful actions if we follow them.

In Gal.5:19-20 Paul describes those actions using four categories:

a. Sexual immorality, that is, sexual activities outside of marriage

b. Idolatry, that is, false religious doctrines and practices

1 Tim.4: 5 speaks of “deceiving spirits through hypocritical liars.”

c. Selfishness

d. Destructive addictions

In Gal.5:17 Paul says that our sinful nature, our flesh, desires what is contrary to the Holy Spirit who resides in us.

These desires are from our flesh; they are not from Satan. Satan cannot implant desires in us. These desires are from our flesh. Everyone has fleshy desires.

All these actions mentioned by Paul begin with the desires of the flesh.

Jesus mentioned this himself in Mk.7:20-23.

“And he said, “That which comes out of the man is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

There is no such thing as the demonic spirit of anger, or the demonic spirit of lust as if Satan has implanted in us a fleshly desire that has become an obsession we are in bondage to. That is not Biblical.

James talks about this as well. He says that a person sins, he or she is responsible.

Jas. 1:13-15 says “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”

James is making sure that we understand where the internal source of temptation is; it is our fleshly desires.

This statement is important because James is also the one who talks about resisting the devil and he will flee from you in Jas.5.

There is an internal source of temptation in us – our desires.

They will be there until the day we die or the Lord returns for us.

But there is an external source of temptation in regards to our fleshly desires and that is Satan and his demons.

Their strategy (schemes in v. 11) in regards to our fleshly desires is to incite them, to stir them up in us through the world.

Unbelievers live their lives weaved around fleshly desires. They develop society and culture reflected in the media around their fleshly desires. Satan is behind this.

Satan uses them to stir up our fleshly desires. Wherever we live unbelievers dominate. We will be surrounded by fleshly attitudes and actions, things and activities that stir up our fleshly desires all of our lives.

This is obvious.

In Eph.2:1-3, Paul speaks of our former manner of life as unbelievers.

“And you who were dead in trespasses and sins he has made alive. In which in time past you lived according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our manner of life in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Unbelievers “live according to the flesh which is according to the course of this world which is according to the prince of the power of the air.”

This is a general statement of the lifestyle of an unbeliever, of their pattern of life, and of their values and life focus. That lifestyle follows the desires of the flesh, which follows the ways of the world, which follows the ways of Satan.

In Jn.12:31 and 14:30 Jesus calls Satan the “ruler of this world.” Satan rules unbelievers who develop the evil ways of the world based upon the lies of Satan and the desires of the flesh. Every person born into the world has the desires of the flesh in them and grows up in an environment where the flesh is incited and the lies of Satan are heralded.

Satan uses the world of unbelievers to do this. That is behind what John says in 1 Jn.

1 Jn.2:15-17

“Do not love the world nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

John says “Do not love the world or nor the things of the world.” Love means to value something. John is saying that believers are not to value the world, the ways of unbelievers, or the ways of their fleshly desires.

John says that if anyone says he is a Christian and yet has a lifestyle of an unbeliever, where his or her pattern of life, his or her values and life focus are worldly, he or she is not a Christian.

At times Christians will fall into valuing the world, but the love of the father and what he values is in Christians through the Holy Spirit and that dominates our minds and hearts.

Notice in 1 Jn. what the world is full of which incites our fleshly desires.

1. “The lust of the flesh,“ the desires of the flesh for that which God forbids.

2. “The lust of the eyes,” the desires incited by the eyes – by looking – the world is full of things which incites our fleshly desires for the forbidden through sight

3. “The pride of life” – the world is full of pride and selfishness that boasts how one is above all others, deserves more than others based on their abilities and achievements, looks, etc.

Satan uses the world to incite our fleshly desires so when you are tempted by a desire for the forbidden you can be sure of two things. The external source of the temptation is Satan and his demons through the world and the internal source of temptation are the fleshly desires that are in us.

We need to stand firm against Satan and his demons inciting us through the world.

In 1 Cor. 7:5, Paul writes of Satan tempting Christian husbands and wives with sexual temptations. He does not say how he tempts them. As we have seen, it is not internally, but externally. Satan is behind a sexually charged unbelieving world around us and the flesh has desires within us.

In Eph. 4:26-27, Paul says that holding onto anger against someone gives Satan a foothold in one’s life. Again, Satan stirs up anger by developing strife and conflict in the world and spreading lies about the justification of all anger in all circumstances based on the importance of feelings.

2. Satan attempts to deceive us with the lies of worldly wisdom through the unbelieving world around us.

In James 4:7, James tells Christians to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

This is a major statement about stopping the devil’s work in our lives, but the context is rarely mentioned.

What is the context that speaks of the devil’s work that needs to be resisted?

It is being deceived by the lies of worldly wisdom and embracing worldly beliefs and values.

In Jas. 4:1-6, friendship with the world, taking on the ways of the world, is the same thing as loving the world.

In 4:6 James says to submit to God not to the world’s ways and resist the devil. Satan was tempting them through the world’s beliefs and values.

Christians are to resist the devil’s temptation by turning away from the beliefs and values of the world which are based upon Satanic lies and hold fast to faith and obedience in God and His Word.

Earlier in Jas. 3:14, he writes of harboring bitter envy and selfish ambition in their hearts. It is based upon the wisdom, which is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil [of this dark world].

In Jas. “wisdom” refers to a “way of living,” how people live. It refers to the principles of living that people base their lives upon.

How do we resist? We need to submit to God’s wisdom. Who are we listening to, God’s wisdom James 3:17 or the devil’s wisdom 3:14?

We need to stand firm against Satan and his demons inciting us through the world.

When fleshly desires rise up in us, it is our values and our beliefs that cause us to decide whether we will follow those desires.

God gives to us at salvation when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us new desires based on new beliefs and values.

So Satan knows he must strike at our beliefs and values if he is to tempt us and he does this by lies.

So Satan attacks the true and righteous values and beliefs, which God has given to us with false and evil values and beliefs through lies.

Lies about what is right and what is wrong. Lies about what is valuable and what is not. He has enslaved the world with his lies and he attempts to tempt us through his lies.

When we accept those lies in our minds and hearts, we fall into the temptations of Satan.

Remember from the time we are children we receive hundreds and thousands of lies from the world around us into our minds and memories, many of them we do not even notice.

They do not just come from the culture or media, they can come from unbelieving parents and relatives and even from believing parents and relatives because we still sin.

Matt.16: 21-24 “Be Gone Satan” “Get out of my sight Satan!” Jesus addresses Satan as the originator of the lie that Peter just articulated.

The lie Peter articulated is the lie that was the primary one Israel has been deceived by Satan into believing.

The lie is that the messiah was to come and set up his kingdom without any need for a making a sacrifice for sin, that in turn bred another lie, that in order to enter the kingdom of God there is no humbling before God and no recognition of sin needed.

Peter got this lie from the entire nation around him, from the world.

I call this the Satanic information network. It is the compilation of lies that Satan implants in a culture or society.

I don’t believe that Satan put that directly into Peter’s mind, he had implanted it in the nation and culture. Peter was saying what many were saying.

Jesus was emphasizing that Satan is behind this lie and warning Peter and his other disciples about it.

Can Satan implant thoughts in our minds as believers to tempt us?

This is explained in the article, “Can Satan Read Our Minds?” Aside from demon possession, the Bible only shows Satan working externally in the unbelieving world around us.

3. He attempts to deceive us with a false Jesus and a false gospel through false Christians.

2 Cor.11:2-4

The Corinthians had allowed people to rise up in their church who were preaching false doctrine about Jesus Christ. These individuals claimed to be apostles of Jesus Christ and claimed that Paul was in fact, not a true apostle and therefore had no authority to preach the doctrine he had preached to them.

Of course, they said this because they were preaching doctrine different than what Paul preached. Paul preached true Biblical doctrine, the same doctrine of the other 12 apostles.

The Corinthians should have immediately examined what these false teachers were saying and once they realized they were teaching something different than Paul and the other apostles, put them out of the church. But they didn’t. Instead, they endured their teaching, listening to it and wondering about it. Paul thus writes to them a warning about the danger of what they were doing.

v. 2 Paul tells them that he is righteously jealous for them like a husband whose wife is being persuaded to leave him and turn to another.

v.3 He fears that as satan deceived Eve, they to would be deceived and led astray from the simplicity and pure devotion to Jesus Christ, which the true gospel has brought to them by teaching faith in Christ.

Satan has two goals attacking believers with these kinds of lies.

1. He desires for us to add ritual and works to our walk with Christ. This can cause us to become legalistic and burdened in our daily lives as we attempt to please Christ through works. Rather we should live by faith that Christ is already pleased with us and desires to work through us for our blessing and his glory.

2. He desires to confuse us about Christ and get us to doubt our beliefs in the true Jesus and gospel we have committed our lives to.

He can’t get us to turn away from the true Christ and go into a cult, but he can get us to be confused and doubt our beliefs.

Then Paul gives three deceptions of Satan about Jesus and the gospel.

v. 4
“For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

You “put up with it” or “bear this beautifully” expresses a rebuke. What is the matter with you? – you are easily putting up with this false doctrine. Instead of getting rid of it, you endure it and listen to it.

Paul gives three elements of false doctrine about Christ.

1) They preach a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached…”

They preach a false Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible perverted into someone other than he is. They preach a Jesus who was Son of God, but not Son of man, or Son of man and not Son of God, one who was crucified, but not risen from the dead.

Today there are many groups that would have us believe that they are Christian, but they do not preach the true Christ. Any group that does not preach that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, the second person of the Triune God is false.

2) They have “a different spirit from the one you received…”

Faith in Jesus Christ brings the Holy Spirit into our lives and it is the Holy Spirit that helps us to grow and mature in Christ on a daily basis. Those who preach a different gospel come with a different spirit, not the Holy Spirit.

This other spirit is a demonic spirit which refers to the Satanic lies behind the false doctrine they bring.

3) They have “a different gospel from the one you accepted…”

A different gospel is a different way of salvation from the true gospel. This tells us that Satan sets up counterfeit “Christian” religions with Christ involved that have a false way of salvation

How can we tell who is right?

2 Cor.11:4
Paul says “other than the Jesus we preached.”

The only true Jesus and the only true spirit and the only true gospel is the one preached by the apostles in the NT. How can this be? How can false teachers go around looking like Christians and talking about a counterfeit Jesus and a counterfeit way of salvation that is not Biblical?

Paul answers this question in 2 Cor.11: 13-15.

v. 13 “false apostles…masquerading as apostles of Christ”

They look and act like they come from God and yet they come from the devil himself.

v. 13 “deceitful workers…”

They were workers, laborers, doers.

They work and labor and put out great effort in the name of their counterfeit Jesus and their counterfeit way of salvation. In our age of tolerance, we think that anyone who puts out great effort and labor and work in the name of Jesus somehow cannot be wrong, even though they do not teach the truth.
How can they do this?

v. 14 “for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

Paul says do not be surprised for this is the way of their leader – Satan. There is no wonder about it at all. Satan himself masquerades or disguises himself as an angel of light. He makes people think that they are dealing with an angel of light, rather than who he is the prince of darkness.

v. 15 “servants of righteousness”

His servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.

4. Satan can physically afflict us or ones that we love with illness, crimes, disasters, persecution and the like.

This creates great trials in our lives which in turn pushes us to question what we believe and how we are living. There are several very important passages in the Scriptures dealing with topic we will begin with Job.

a. Satan tempts us by inflicting upon us crime or war, natural disasters, or physical illness

Job 1:1-2:8
Physical and psychological trials - “Squeeze him and he will break”

1: 13-15 crime and war
1:16 “the fire of God” – lightning MHC
1:17 crime and war
1:18 natural disaster – a mighty wind
2: 6-8 physical illness

So Satan has the ability to move unbelievers to action and to cause natural disasters and physical illness.

Notice, several things:

1. God had a hedge around Job – which simply means God’s protective care which in terms of Job God had by his divine sovereignty chosen to protect him from all these things.

2. Satan had to ask permission to afflict Job was limited by God’s sovereign will. Nothing is out of God’s control, not even Satan’s activities.

3. This was allowed by God to show the solid character of Job’s faith and obedience, it was done by Satan to tempt Job to turn away from God. Job, in fact, did honor God. At first, he was unwavering 1: 10, then he struggled later in the book, but in the end he held on to his faith and was taught much truth about suffering.
Job.1: 20-22

4. Satan’s goal was not for Job to struggle with his faith. It was for Job to completely and utterly turn away from God by cursing God. This is Satan’s goal for us.
Job.1: 9-10
Job.2: 4-5

5. Notice Job does not focus on the attack of Satan he focuses on wearing the armor of God – faith and obedience.
Job.1: 20-22
Job.2: 10

Job does not spend time identifying the attacker, “Was this just a natural occurrence or from Satan or what?”

He understands that all things are under God’s sovereign control, and focuses on God. There is no binding of Satan anywhere in Job. There is only faith and obedience. In fact, after these two events, for the rest of the 40 chapters there is not mention or focus on Satan. The theme presented is that the focus is God and us; God allowed Satan to tempt, we are to trust and obey and that is it.

b. Satan tempts us through persecution.

1 Pet.5: 8-9
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

The context of the devil’s temptation as a roaring lion is the suffering of persecution as indicated in this verse.

v.9 “the same kinds of sufferings” refers to the sufferings of persecution.

And this persecution can be subtle as well as strong.

Persecution can come in the form of pressure to compromise the Biblical principles we follow.

Standing firm is holding onto your faith.

How do we stand firm against these attacks?

See TI Article How To Stand Firm Against Satan’s Attacks