“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”- 2 Corinthians 11:14–15
Upon our conversion to Christ, we gain several enemies who seek to impede our spiritual growth and even to cause us to leave the path of faithfulness. Some of these enemies are external. For example, the fallen world hates Christ and all those who are united to Him by faith (John 7:7), and it seeks to get us to share its disordered priorities and affections. Other enemies are internal. We must war against the flesh – the remnants of our fallen nature – if we are to develop a love for what God loves (Rom. 8:1-11).
The final enemy we must face in our sanctification is also external. We are talking about Satan, that fallen angel who has rebelled against God and has sought to enlist others in his cause. The devil is a real enemy, although many people regard him very lightly in the West today. We do not often hear of people striving mightily against Satan today, but the annals of church history are filled with stories of the saints battling against the devil and his minions. Martin Luther, for example, wrote frequently of his battles with the devil, even claiming to have seen him on occasion. It makes sense that Luther would have such a strong experiential knowledge of the devil, for Satan loves nothing more than to attack the gospel, and Luther was at the forefront of the greatest recovery of the gospel since Apostolic times. Honestly, Satan is likely after bigger targets than most of us, but that does not mean we are not under assault from evil spirits or demons. We know that there is a legion of demons who follow Satan’s lead (Mark 5:1-20), and we will find ourselves in great spiritual peril if we are not prepared to recognize their work.
Not every enemy we face has a demon behind it. Our flesh and the world need no help in tempting us to sin. Yet, Satan roams the earth like a lion, seeking to devour his prey, and we need to be aware of how he and his forces often present themselves. These cunning foes most often do not look plainly evil. They tend, in fact, to disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Satan and his demons hide what is evil under what seems good. They twist the truth, making lies seem plausible to our ears as they endeavor to lead us into grave spiritual error. Only discerning Christians will recognize the devil when he is at work. Therefore, we must seek to have our “powers of discernment
trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14). We do this by growing in our understanding of biblical doctrine.
Discerning Christians are able to distinguish between truth and error and, perhaps more importantly, between truths and half-truths. We can develop discernment only by thoroughly knowing the truth of God, which is why we must study Scripture and the doctrines of Scripture. What are you studying in order to become more discerning?