The devil’s playbook
We are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:11
The Bible reveals to us the devil’s playbook. How does he aim to defeat us? To begin with, in these four ways:
One, a judgmental attitude. In this passage in 2 Corinthians, the devil designs to make a church into a harsh environment, where people are “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (verse 7). Such a church stops feeling like Jesus. It starts feeling like a scene out of Kafka. How to defeat this satanic design? Repent of self-righteous judgments, and eagerly communicate Jesus’ forgiveness, inclusion, honor.
Two, normal human instincts. In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus rebukes Peter, through whom Satan is speaking. How did Peter open up to, of all things, satanic influence? Not by consciously opening up to satanic influence. All he did was think in normal human ways (“setting your mind on the things of man”). All he did was set his heart on survival, making the way of the cross unthinkable. Another of the devil’s designs. How to defeat him? Die to selfish survival.
Three, a spirit of accusation. In Revelation 12:10 the devil is exposed as “the accuser.” Another of his designs is to pierce our hearts with accusing thoughts about our sins – or even sins we haven’t necessarily committed, but we fear we have, or others say we have. He spreads a mist of vague anxiety within ourselves and dark suspicion of others. How to defeat this defeat? Run to the cross for all our sins, and refuse to counter-accuse against our accusers. A calm explanation might help at the interpersonal level. But if the negative emotions are really intense, the only thing to do is not make the feeding-frenzy worse. Wait on God to vindicate you.
Four, lying in order to win. In John 8:44 Jesus calls Satan “the father of lies.” It is his nature to lie, to deceive, to distort and twist and confuse. He spreads his trademark behavior to others, especially in scenes of ungodly conflict. He uses half-truths, self-serving accounts, spin. How to defeat him? Admit the plain truth, all of it, however embarrassing it might be. We won’t die. We will find it to be freeing. Our safety and joy are always found in honesty before God and one another.
We have an enemy, and we know his strategies. As C. S. Lewis taught us in The Screwtape Letters, we should neither ignore him nor obsess about him. But fixing our eyes on Jesus, we can crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20) by humbly staying in, or humbly returning to, the ways of the gospel.