Over the course of my life I have of course had many changes. As a young and inexperienced Christian I was convinced that the devil was everywhere and tempting every one. As I grew I came to realize that is not the case at all. To give Satan credit to be everywhere is to assign him more power than is his due. It is to allow him far more influence that he could exert on his own. Over my years of faith, I think that I have figured out how he does work however.
First, Satan does not need to make us believe in him, he simply needs to make us doubt God. This is the lie in the garden to Eve and the same lie he continues to tell us. We have the word of God in the scriptures, we have the example of God in the life of Christ. Doubt is what leads us to wrong action, to argument, to discord and disunity. Why do we argue in our churches? Because we doubt God. We believe our position is correct, but rather than be loving, yet firm about it, we accuse and fight. This is because we doubt God. We doubt that He who began the good work will continue it. We doubt that the Holy Spirit will convict us and others of sin. We doubt that we are all on the path to being conformed to the likeness of Christ. We doubt God. We believe the lie.
Secondly, Satan has used two tricks that are inter related. He has convinced many of us that he does not really exist. This may be his greatest trick really. Without the adversary of God, we look for adversaries elsewhere. Without the spiritual forces of wickedness to stand against, we stand against each other. Satan is alive and well. The other trick he has used to great effect is convincing us that he is around every corner and the sole source of evil in the world. I have become convinced that at least 95% of the evil in the world has been conceived and enacted by mankind. The devil does not need to work so hard because we do it for him. By thinking that the devil is behind every evil in the world, we are assigning an omnipotence to him that is God’s and God’s alone. We are buying into his claim to be as God. It is no accident that Satan has chosen two extremes for his deception, as I believe that is indeed where he lives and thrives. Extremes allow for one thing and one thing only. An extreme can allow for love and grace or it can allow for rigid adherence to “the rules”, but it can not allow both. God, through Christ, provided the example for allowing mercy, grace and love, within the boundaries of a life that pleases God. Extremes allow for one part of scripture, Christ allows for all parts of it.
Satan told a lie once. He told it to Eve, it lead to doubt, and then sin entered the world. Take the story literally, or as a metaphor, but make no mistake, Satan was the author of that lie and all the doubts that came with it. Satan told a lie once, and to dispel it, The Truth had to come to earth, suffer, die and be resurrected, so that we could understand. Satan told a lie once, and to often we have repeated it over and over again by doubting God. Satan told a lie once and all to often we continue to whisper it to ourselves and those we encounter by the lives we live, the actions we take and the words we speak.