I. For Christians to try to gain Father God’s approval by performance instead of grace

Scripture teaches us that we are saved by grace through faith and that we are favored and accepted in Him through Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1:6). When we fall into a performance trap of trying to approach God through our own efforts and works instead of by His grace displayed in Jesus’ vicarious death, burial, and resurrection, we nullify the grace of God in our lives (Galatians 2:21). Our sinful human nature craves attention and wants to brag and boast about accomplishments. But when it comes to approaching God no flesh can boast (Romans 3:27-28). Satan comes as an angel of light and in the guise of religion by making a Christian feel the kind of guilt that brings sorrow without redemptive hope. This causes believers to move away from God and backslide further.

II. To make Christians feel condemnation rather than conviction when they sin

The Bible teaches us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Even after salvation in Christ we still sin (1 John 1:8-9). Satan especially tricks new believers by emphasizing guilt without grace--law without love--which results in believers moving away from Christ and condemning themselves.

Condemnation is never of God. It is guilt which leads to godly sorry, and conviction which leads to true repentance that God accepts (2 Corinthians 7:10; Proverbs 28:13).

III. To get Christians to compromise and become halfway Christians

Satan knows that Jesus strongly rebuked the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-16) because they had one foot in the world and the other foot in God. In this passage from Revelation, we see that God says He vomits out those who are halfway between serving Christ and serving the world.

God shares His glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8). He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters at the same time (Matthew 6:24).

Satan knows that he will not succeed in getting most Christians to fully backslide or deny Christ, so he deceives some into thinking they can have a minimum commitment to Christ in which they have just enough Christianity to make it to heaven and just enough of the world to gratify the pleasures of sin.

Sometimes these believers are harder to reach and in more deception than the ones fully backslidden who know they have need of divine grace and intervention.
IV. To convince Christians to dishonor the Lord’s Day

Isaiah 58:13-14 speaks of how it displeases God when we do our own thing on His Sabbath day. Since the resurrection of Christ the church has assembled on the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10; 1 Corinthians 16:2) to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church (Revelation 2:28).

Satan knows that if believers regularly miss church they will not be in sync with their local churches and will not be able to fully walk in their corporate destiny. Believers are constantly tempted to attend sporting and family events on Sundays. On any given Sunday about one third of the church is usually missing from services.

Satan wins in the life of believers who don’t prioritize the corporate gathering of the church. For example, only the 120 who were physically present in the Upper Room were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). This sets aside the arguments of those who believe that being in church on Sunday is optional and not very important to God.

V. For Christians to approach God with only laborious petitions instead of enjoying His presence throughout the day

The greatest title a believer can ever have is to be called a friend of God (John 15:15). Too often, Christians only approach God with petition prayers involving intercession but don’t always involve cultivating friendship through fellowship with God. The result of this is believers that do not grow in the knowledge of God beyond having His heart for those they are praying for.

Fellowshipping with the Lord with our human spirit enables us to continually entertain God’s presence in our souls irrespective of whether or not we are busy or doing things other than spiritual practices. Believers need to learn to hang out with the Lord and enjoy His presence so they will consistently “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

VI. For Christians to seek blessings more than the One who gives the blessings

Serving God with conditions is a sure-fire way to fall away from the faith. Jesus speaks about believers who do this in Mark 4 (the parable of the sower and the seed) when He speaks about people who fall away from God because of tribulation (when things don’t go the way they want) and because of desires for other things (which is seeking blessings more than the giver of blessings).

In contrast, Psalm 37:4 teaches us that if we would only delight ourselves in the Lord that He will grant us the desires of our heart anyway!

The devil deceives believers into thinking if we take our eyes off the Lord and focus on the things we want then we will receive them. But Scripture teaches us the opposite: that if we put first the Kingdom of God all the things we need will be given to us anyway (Matthew 6:33).
VII. For Christians to pursue purpose without pain

When the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world instantly in Matthew 4:8-10, he was tempting Jesus to gain power and authority over the nations (as prophesied in Psalm 2:8-12) without going to the cross and suffering first (as prophesied in Isaiah 53:10-11).

Although it would have been a shortcut, it would have granted Jesus power over the nations while dooming humankind to eternal damnation since there would not have been any redemption for sin. God surrounds earthly power with problems and pain so that only those willing to mature through the process of relational pain and challenging circumstances are prepared and trustworthy enough to have His power and delegated authority.

VIII. For Christians to run from and resist spiritual authority

Many people in the church are so emotionally incapacitated due to father or parental wounds they do not have a healthy view of any authority in their lives.

When someone comes to Christ these emotional issues don’t automatically go away. Unless someone intentionally points out these areas and aids a person in repenting of their mistrust of authority, most with these wounds will have a hard time receiving correction from any form of spiritual authority. Satan will even plant seeds into the minds of Christians regarding blame shifting (blaming others for their own sins and failures, and not taking personal responsibility) when their pastor preaches a strong message involving correction for sin, or when a spiritual authority has to give them correction. Some get angry and might even leave the church.

I have noticed that many believers hop from one church to another and grow only to a certain point because they run when a church attempts to disciple them and hold them accountable for personal growth.

IX. To get Christians to think they can fulfill their purpose in God without commitment to a local church

Most American Christians have an individualistic, Western view of purpose and destiny as opposed to the biblical view of purpose in and through community.

In the Old Testament, the people of God were punished by God by being put outside the camp of the Israelites. Those in this situation could not approach God and minister for the Lord (Numbers 12:14-15).

Nowadays, Satan tempts millions of Christians to intentionally put themselves out of the corporate camp because they are deceived into thinking they can just read the Bible and pray as individuals and still fulfill their kingdom purpose.

A person will never understand the mind of the Lord without being immersed in a community of Christ-followers. Jesus said the devil cannot overcome His church (Matthew 16:18-19); James calls on the corporate church to resist the devil (James 4:7); the armor of God is an armor that only a whole local church can put on since the admonition ends with a call for believers to pray without ceasing for all the saints, something an individual could never fulfill (Ephesians 6:18); 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that when we come to Christ we are baptized into His body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) and that we need all the members of the body to function interdependently for an individual part to be effective in serving Him (1 Corinthians 12:12-30).

In light of all this, is it any wonder the devil tries to take people out of local churches, isolate them, and put in their minds that they can attempt to defeat the kingdom of darkness as individuals?

X. For Christians to center their lives on subjective feelings rather than the Word of God

Feelings and human emotions are great gifts from the Lord so that we can detect how we are really doing in the inner-man. Although they are an aid for us to detect what is happening internally, and we should not ignore them, we are still commanded to live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mathew 4:4), and that we are to take captive any imaginations and thoughts that set themselves up against the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Although our feelings are valuable, sometimes they give us impressions and dictates that are against the truth of the Word of God. Our feelings tell us what we as human beings want to do and feel, but the Word of God tells us what God values and how He wants us to think, feel, and live.

Knowing this, Satan attempts to get believers to focus their thoughts on how they feel so they become self-centered, fearful, depressed, and relationally dysfunctional, instead of looking above and centering our minds on Christ (Colossians 3:1-4) and being Christ-centered.

Dr. Joseph Mattera