His name means “adversary.” He is a slanderer, a liar, and a deceiver. He lives to lead people astray from the truth. He is crafty and cunning in all He does. Just as Christ is trustworthy in all that He does, so Satan is untrustworthy in all that he does.
But how does Satan tempt individuals? People are fond of saying, “the devil made me do it…,: but just how does he “make them” do whatever they did? Second Corinthians 11 gives us some hints.
Whatever Satan does, his tricks are not new. He employs the very same kinds of tactics as he used in the Garden of Eden with Eve (v. 3). He tells lies and distorts the truth through cunning and crafty wording. His lies are not always (or even generally) outright blatant misstatements of fact. Rather, they are subtle twistings and slight perversions that cast doubt on God’s goodness and righteousness.
The common cultural caricature of how he does that is with a little pitchforked devil subtly sitting on one’s shoulder, whispering untruths into one’s ear. Yet the primary way he leads people astray is not through verbally implanting ideas in our minds, but by his worldly philosophies and ideologies which become cultural truisms (2 Cor. 10:5). And the primary area of attack is against “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
The word “simplicity” here refers to a genuine, or whole-hearted commitment to Christ. We might use the term, “single-minded.” In other words, Satan will do anything to divide your affections from Christ, to make you “double-minded” (see Js. 1:8) — to have competing desires in your life. There is a sense in which he doesn’t mind if you want or have Christ, as long as you have and want something else as well.
C. S. Lewis summarized it well in The Screwtape Letters, in which he imagines how the devil might train a young demon in the art of deception — how might he attack believers to destroy their faith? In one imaginary letter to his protegé, Wormwood, he writes:
What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring.
This is exactly what Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 11 — how Satan tempts is to distract us from a simple, whole-hearted, single-minded love for Christ. In effect, Satan is attacking the single greatest command of God — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:30). He will have you do anything — even any good thing — as long as you do not fulfill that command.
So as you leave your home this morning and as you conduct the ordinary affairs of your day, be on guard against any idea or any activity that will lead you away from loving Christ with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.