Schemes of the Devil (Sermon 9-4-2022)

Paul writes to the Ephesian church that we are to be strong in the might of the Lord and to put on His armor. There is a reason for wearing armor. Let’s read:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:10-11 NASB)

The word “schemes” has also been translated as “wiles” as we read in the KJV.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11 KJV)

The original Greek word used is μεθοδεία, methodeia (pronounced meth-od-i'-ah) and is defined as cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Vine’s Expository Dictionary further expands on the usage by saying it denotes "craft, deceit" (meta, "after," hodos, "a way"). "a cunning device, a wile," and is translated "wiles (of error)" in Ephesians 4:14 and the wiles (plural) (of the Devil.)" as we just read.

So, we have the devil and we are told that he uses deceit, craftiness, trickery, and such methods to ensnare or trap us. His craft and methods have not changed since we first met him in Genesis. We may remember how that conversation started. “Did God say you could eat from any of the trees in the garden?” Eve responded that they could with the exception of the tree in the middle. She also told the devil that God had told her (and Adam) that they would die if they did. So, the devil challenges that death statement with; “You surely will not die!” then he tells Eve, “God knows that when you eat of this tree you will be like God and know good and evil.”

The devil is still using trickery and craftiness to lure us away from the very foundation of God’s truth. He attacks the Bible. He sows seed of doubt by questioning “Is that what the Bible really says?” or “Are you sure that is what is meant by?” “After all, the Bible was written by men and it is old. There may be errors in the Bible or the norms of society were different when the Bible was written.”

The tools of the devil are still lies and deceit. Think back to when he tempted Jesus. The devil hit certain areas which will cover most ways in which we are tempted. Let’s read through Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written,

‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’

and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:1-12 NASB)

So, we have a Jesus going out into the wilderness and fasting. He is hungry. The devil approached with the Lust of the Flesh. How many times does the devil come to us with schemes that appeal to our flesh? It may not be food. It may be desires for sexual gratification; it may be for some stimulant like drugs or alcohol; there are many things in this world that attract our attention. Many of the things are not bad, in and of themselves. However, are we reaching for those lust when we should be abstaining?

Jesus was led by the Spirit to go into solitude and food was not to be a distraction. His hunger was intense, but His desire was to focus on spiritual things and not fleshly things. The devil knows where our weaknesses are and that is the area where he paints the attractive picture. Think back to David. He looked out to see a bathing woman and allowed sexual desire to move him to sin. The devil still appeals to out Lust of the Flesh.

Next, Jesus is taken to see all of the kingdoms of the world. It is not truth that the devil had possession of these kingdoms, but he offers them to Jesus if Jesus will bow and worship him. This is the Lust of the Eye. See all the pretty things this world has to offer. There are so many things that glitter and attract. The devil schemes to lure us under his spell by showing us the shiny things that attract. The things that speak to our greed. “I have worked for this and I deserve this, therefore, I will grab this even if I have to let go of my commitment to God. The devil tells us it is temporary we are not turning away from God it’s just that we see a more attractive offer at present.

Jesus grew up as a carpenter’s son and had a trade to fall back on as He matured into adulthood. The prospects of an itinerate preacher did not offer the security of owning estates or ruling over vast kingdoms. The appeal of physical comfort is always tempting. The devil still uses this tool to ensnare us. The Lust of the Eye still catches us when we allow the devil to hold those attractions in front of us. We may not be lured by owning kingdoms but we will have prosperity and comfort placed there. We may not be asked to bow down and worship the devil but we will be faced with the choice of conforming to the ideals of this world or conforming to the life God presents for us.

The third temptation of Jesus involves the Pride of Life. The devil takes Jesus to the top of the spire of the temple. He then quotes scripture that God will send angels to prevent Him coming to harm. Put God to the test, jump off of this spire and God will send angels to protect you from harm. The devil was playing on the sonship of Jesus to appeal to His pride. “God will not allow you to be harmed.” The devil appeals to the idea that we value life above all else. Saint Augustine of Hippo writes: 'Pride is the commencement of all sin' because it was this which overthrew the devil, from whom arose the origin of sin; and afterwards, when his malice and envy pursued man, who was yet standing in his uprightness, it subverted him in the same way in which he himself fell. For the serpent, in fact, only sought for the door of pride whereby to enter when he said, 'Ye shall be as gods.'

The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are the three ways the devil approached Jesus and they are the same routes that the devil will use to ensnare us. We need to remember that Jesus was human. He was made like us in every way. We need to remember that He came to do three things: 1) destroy the devil’s power and free those who were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:15); 2) become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God and atone for our sins (Hebrews 2:17); and 3) be the One who is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus has already been in the same battles we face and has been victorious.

Sadly, many of us fall victim to temptation because our flesh is weak and we fail on two points. First, we fail to look for a way out of the temptation. Paul writes these words to assure us that there is a way out.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB)

Second, we fail to look to Jesus and observe how He overcame the temptations He faced. In each and every case, Jesus quoted Scripture. Oddly, the devil quotes scripture too. However, Jesus knew enough scripture to be prepared with the right answer.

We began, this morning with a verse from Ephesians about the schemes of the devil. Let’s go back to that verse and read the balance of how we prepare to face the temptations and schemes of the devil.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:12-17 NASB)

The sword of the spirit is the word of God. Sadly, the devil knows more scripture than many of us. When we don’t read and feed on His word, we will never be prepared to go into battle with the devil.

The devil has already convinced many that sins are okay because this is the way God made me. Listen to what the word of God says:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:4-7 NASB)

Are we prepared to face the schemes of the devil and have victory that Jesus has won? Are we prepared to wear the full armor of God and use the sword of the spirit?

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