We’re all familiar with the bad things in life and the dark side of Satan. Everyone knows him as a liar, a cheater, a murderer, a thief. We think of him as this grotesque monster with horns and claws, because we know that is his true nature. However, what if when Satan presents himself to us, that’s not what he looks like at all? What would we do then?
There is one specific verse in scripture that holds a monumental amount of truth in it, and I often look to it for discernment.
“And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Paul is talking to the church at Corinth, telling them about the false teachers and false apostles that will come, which he is trying to prevent from penetrating the church in the area. These false apostles preach good things, but wrong ones. They teach what people like to hear and not the truth. They were in the preaching business to build a name for themselves, to gain fame and power, rather than genuinely provide service to God’s people. Such people Paul called false apostles, and went on to say even Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light, as a good thing, presentable and appealing to us. (Paul even continues to say these same apostles are ministers of Satan.)
Satan comes looking like a rock star. He appears to you as the slickest salesman you’ve ever met. He looks like everything you’ve ever wanted and more. He uses the good things to deceive us. This is how he captures people and places them in bondage to their sins. He puts a bottle of wine in your hand, telling you how sweet it must taste. It will help you get through your problems for the night. It’s all you need to satisfy yourself for the night, so you drink. But one bottle turns into ten, you become trapped in a chronic addiction and are in over your head in alcoholism. Depression follows, you can’t sleep, you develop rage problems, you have a constant feeling of fatigue. You just can’t shake the odor of alcohol off your breath.
Drugs start off the same way. “Try it,” the devil says. He tells you about all the amazing sensual feelings you endure through it. The relief it brings to your senses. The relaxation. The devil tells you to give control of yourself to something else, because you’re too afraid and insecure to handle it. As long as that something else is not God, he’s okay with it.
But it starts off as something good. Even if it’s not something good (drugs aren’t good no matter how you cut it), the enemy will make us perceive it as good. He will pretty it up to point we can’t recognize it for what it is: heartbreak and self-destruction. He will give us lists upon lists of reasons why it’s a good choice, or why there’s no harm in it.
And sometimes Satan uses the good things, the things that actually are good, but for evil purposes. He will throw you into a relationship with someone who might not be a bad person, but your obsession and devotion to them draws you far away from God. You’ll eventually figure it out when you really get to know them and you discover they aren’t your greatest ally.
Satan is a liar. He does a lot of things to fight God’s people. We all think of Satan immediately when our car breaks down or a loved one is diagnosed with an illness, or when disaster hits our house, we lose money, or we’re inconvenienced. Everyone pictures Satan as this little wrecking ball come to take down your house. But sometimes Satan doesn’t need to appear as a wrecking ball to destroy it. Sometimes he disguises himself as a remodeler, come to help you remake your living room. You invite him in and set him to work. But when he leaves you find that he has screwed up the floor boards, the tiles are loose, the walls are weak as chalk, and the ceiling leaks. He rides off snickering in your gullibility. You won’t discover those flaws until way down the road when something happens.
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44 NKJV)
Satan is the father of lies. It is his calling. He lies passionately and takes pride in his skill in it. It all goes back to the Garden of Eden, with the fall of man.
“1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that is was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God, among the trees of the garden.”
The serpent (Satan) began with asking the woman (Eve) “Has God indeed said..?”
He got her to question the truth before he lied to her. It softened her before the actual deception. If the devil can get you to even question the Word of God, it sews doubt. Doubt then opens the door for failure when temptation arrives. Then the devil deliberately lied to her, saying, “You will not surely die.” It was the exact opposite of what God had said. And naturally Eve would have probably been a little less easy prey for this lie, had the devil not previously confused her thinking.
The serpent tells the woman that her eyes would be opened and she would know. As human beings, we are so afraid of the uncertain. We don’t know what’s coming next and it terrifies us. But the devil tells her she will obtain wisdom, she will know. So she succumbs to the temptation, because she’s looking at the prize she thinks she can gain from it.
Now, take a look at this:
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that is was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
Good, pleasant, desirable. Satan pretties up the bad things so we will lower our guard and grab at them. I can imagine a hulking cluster of colorful, juicy, ripe fruit beckoning Eve as she reaches forward. The smells are probably sweet. The texture is smooth to the touch. It looks absolutely mouth-watering. But after she eats of it, she instantly regrets it. I imagine that she gave Adam some of the fruit so she wouldn’t be alone in experiencing the emotions and awful feelings that entered her form. She was probably wanting to see if it did the same thing to him, and so she would have someone to help her understand why she became ashamed of the beautiful body God designed for her to inhabit or why she felt so compromised, dirty, sinful, and ugly. She felt so ashamed of herself she and her husband tried to cover up God’s creation, because it had been tainted, their view on it turning from innocence into impurity.
There is a reason the forbidden fruit is forbidden. And it’s not to restrict us from knowledge, but to save us from the heartbreak.
“For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
We may want to see our future, but sometimes it’s better that we don’t. You may not want to see what you have to go through. You might give up where you are. God intended you to get through it all. God won’t give you something He won’t get you through.
The fruit is pleasant to the eyes. We see its tasty-looking shell, but it becomes totally poisonous to it when we ingest it. It is spiritual death encased in a beautiful coating. On several separate occasions I’ve heard preachers compare it to a rose. The rose is beautiful, blooming brightly and elegantly. We reach down to snatch it for ourselves, to take it home with us. But our fingers are caught on the briars and thorns just beneath the extravagant pink petals. We bleed and our wounds fester. And if we’re lucky we learn from that experience. But many people grab at it again. And again. And again. It is a false rose, ready to hurt us. Camouflaged in beauty, with darkness at its core. Nobody notices it, nothing is ever done to destroy it. It remains, sitting where it is, waiting for people to become victims of their own gullibility.
Mexico and Central America is home to the deadly Cantil snake. It’s a cousin to the copperhead, which many people in the US are familiar with. It’s superbly venomous bite causes necrosis–complete or partial death of the cells in an organ or tissue. Basically, if it bit your hand, your hand would rot off of your body like a corpse’s. The venom also causes an array of other injuries and pathogens to enter your body, shutting down different physical processes. If bitten by a Cantil, you will die in a matter of hours if not treated.
However, Cantils have short, thick bodies which make quick movement nearly impossible for them. They can’t hunt their prey like other speedier snakes. Instead, they lie in wait for frogs, lizards, birds, and rodents to come their way. They are gifted with the power of trickery. On the end of their tail is a whitish yellow whip, which they can move in such a way that it looks like a squirming worm. Since most of their prey feeds on worms, the victim will come within attack-range and fall to the jaws of the Cantil.
In the same way, the enemy lures us in with something pleasant, something we can eat that we are told will sustain us. Society tells us to drink, to party, engage in sexual behaviors. Society tells us we must always have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It tells us we must do this and that, because those things complete us. Those things are normal, they’re good, they’re harmless. But once we fall for the bait, tragedy strikes. We find out quickly that the enemy never keeps his promises.
But, as humans, we must realize that we will always fail. We will always be tempted, and many times we will succumb to that temptation. And we must realize that even if we fail, that in itself is not the end. We have a Redeemer, a Forgiver, and a Healer. Jesus died specifically to free us of the consequence of our actions. Not only that, but Jesus tells us how we can spot these things, throughout Scripture. And He teaches us how to see through the lies of the world; that we should be separate from the world, having killed our flesh and our sinful-self, crucifying it with Him on the cross.
I hope this helps you to discern between false goodness, false beauty, and the goodness and truth of God.