Majoring in Life
Satan is out to kill you or deceive you. This lesson includes a list of his common falsehoods.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 16: Master of Murder, Lord of Lies
(Pointing a finger in the face of Satan's schemes)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
"What's the matter, Cunningham?" the voice rumbled over the hallway's din. "Didn't you enjoy my class?"
Steve Cunningham spun on his heel, book bag whirling behind him. "Sorry, sir?"
"My class," his professor repeated, irritated. "Did you not enjoy it?"
"Not particularly, sir. Why?"
"Do you ever enjoy one of my classes?"
"No, sir. I'm afraid not."
The professor drew closer, his eyes a hard squint. "Why did you even select the course if everything I say offends your sensibilities?"
"It's a requirement for my degree." Steve said with a crooked smile, shrugging his shoulders.
"And am I right in thinking that your sensibilities are offended by what I teach?"
"I'm not sure I'd call it ‘offended.’ I just don't believe most of what you say."
Steve stared at the mixed array of pens and combs in his professor's pocket while his mind raced, searching for an appropriate response. Lord, help me.
The professor took another step forward. "For example?"
"Well," Steve began, still grasping. “That bit from Nietzsche, claiming man reaches his highest potential through mastery of his fellow man—I don't buy it. Pure bunkum in my books." Steve bit his lip, wishing he'd left out that last bit. "Bunkum" was this prof’s favorite word.
"I see." The words were stiff. "Since you have so summarily dismissed the philosophies of one of the world's greatest minds, what is it you do accept?" The professor pulled a pen from his pocket, absently toying with it.
"I go with the words of the greatest mind that ever lived," Steve began, scrambling through his memory banks. What was that verse, Lord? He gazed at his toes, desperate for inspiration.
An awkward silence followed. The words wouldn't come.
"Look at me, young man," the professor demanded.
As Steve reluctantly raised his head, the professor tapped him on the chest with his pen. "Who is this ‘greatest mind that ever lived’?"
Steve swallowed hard. "He's the man who said"—the words came to him in a flash—“‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ I'll take him over Nietzsche any day."
"I should have guessed you were a Jesus freak!" the professor spat. Then he paused, gauging Steve's reaction. Steve wasn't sure what to say. He blinked.
"So, since you follow this purported incarnation of truth, and since I reject him entirely, you must see me as the king of liars." The statement was half question, half challenge.
Steve Cunningham shifted the book bag on his shoulder, ready for a quick escape. "No, sir. Not at all. You're just one of his unwitting mouthpieces."
A Two-Rabbit Bag
The devil has only two tricks in his repertoire: murder and lies. Jesus described him by saying,
"He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44, NLT).
However Satan's approach appears on the surface, at its heart it always turns out to be one of these two vicious tactics. Either he's out to kill you, or he's going to try to deceive you. That is helpful to understand.
Sobered by the thought that Satan wants to kill you? Good. You're obeying God's Word:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8, KJV).
Drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex are three of his weapons of choice against your age group. If he can't get you to OD, or wrap your pickup around an oak tree, he'll take you slowly with an STD. Those aren't his only weapons, of course. Others include foolish dares, red Corvettes, unnecessary heroics, and bottles of sleeping pills. He's a master assassin.
And he's likely to invite you to your own funeral with some pretty obvious lies:
- "It's risky, yeah. But if you're going to join this fraternity, suck it up and take the challenge."
- "Can't you get this thing to go any faster?"
- "But everyone does this on their twenty-first birthday."
Even Jesus had to ward off Satan's attempt at assassination prior to the cross:
"Go ahead and jump. God will send angels to catch you" (Matthew 4:6).
Be sober. Stay sober. Don't get paranoid, but do remember, an angel of death roams nearby.
Satan's deceptions are the real challenge. Most Christian youth are mature enough to avoid the pitfalls the devil has laid out to kill them. But when it comes to big fibs and little ones, the snares of Satan are legion.
The instruments the devil uses to propagate his lies are almost as numerous as the lies themselves: music, magazines, movies, TV, radio, theater, newspapers, advertisements, video games, novels, textbooks, professors, talk show hosts, sports celebrities, movie stars, acquaintances, false prophets, well-meaning-but-misled preachers, and false religions and cults—for starters. Oh, don't forget this: www.one-deep-pile-of-bunkum.com.
Understand that the individuals the devil uses usually aren't monsters out to serve you a fat, black lie. That would be too obvious. Instead, Satan sells his deceptions packaged in the guise of nice people, mixed with as much truth as possible. More powerful still, the lies people distribute on the devil's behalf are generally convictions they sincerely accept. That's what makes Satan's scams so believable. The more truth and sincerity your Enemy can mix with any given deception, the more effective it becomes.
Even a good friend can be used to lead you astray. She may have the best of intentions, but the suggestion "That guy is perfect for you" may not come from God. If she goes on to insist that "anything goes, as long as your love for each other is sincere," you can be certain your friend has swallowed a fat hook, one the devil gleefully dangles in your face. The apostle Peter was used by Satan in an attempt to deceive Jesus, the very person Peter longed to serve and follow (Matthew 16:21-23).
It's no great exaggeration to say that the devil tries to "hook" you a thousand times a day.
Unhooking Lies Already Swallowed
Be convinced of this: In your eighteen-plus years of existence, you have swallowed a string of lies. That's not a guilt trip; that's reality. Many of the decisions you make are being jerked around by unseen hooks in your mind. It's impossible, as mere humans, to have completely avoided every one of Satan's shams.
Fully aware of the problem, God wants to take you somewhere:
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5, KJV).
In other words, God wants you to think the way Christ thinks. No lies or deceptions in Jesus' mind. That's a wonderful place to be.
To get you there, God has to do some major renovations. Paul put it this way:
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).
God's primary means of bringing about this mind renewal—unhooking the lies, so to speak—is his Word.
Only truth can undo untruth. Jesus, while praying for you, asked his Father this: "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). Here's a loose translation for the phrase "sanctify them": Get them untangled from Satan's net of deception.
The degree to which you allow your mind to remain riddled with ideas, values, and slogans that come from the devil is the measure to which your existence will be confusing, empty, and outright miserable. A life based on lies is unhappy. No way around it.
That's why you desperately need—on a steady basis—to meditate on the Scriptures. “Truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The deeper your appreciation of God's Word, the greater your freedom. Don't be passive in your pursuit of truth. Be hungry.
Satan's Hooks—Out Where You Can See Them
Paul talks about being aware of the devil's schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). It's sometimes helpful to put your enemy's lies down in black and white, unmasking them for the folly that they are. Here's a short encyclopedia of common falsehoods found today. These are deceptions Satan sells day in, day out. He knows that if he pushes a lie often enough, most people will buy it. If you think you've heard and heeded any of the following sales pitches, allow God's Word to do its job. Root the lie out. Find a true way of thinking.
There is no absolute truth.
Anyone who believes otherwise has spent the last fifty years in a cave. Forget about the guy who said,
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
And never mind the fact that "there is no absolute truth" is a statement that contradicts itself. That's a glitch we'll sort out in our next marketing meeting.
It's all good.
Anything works as long as you're sincere about it. Don't think about how ridiculous that sounds; just get out there and go for it. Your heart's in it, so it'll turn out just fine.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Don't pay attention to that. Death is good, too. Any Goth knows that.
Fitting in is the only thing that matters.
So if you're a Christian, keep it low key. Wouldn't want anyone to be asking you about Jesus, would you? Others might overhear, and that would be totally embarrassing.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Come on! Do you know how many people are listening to you? Any idea the amount of gossip you're generating?
College is for experiencing.
So go ahead and dive in. You're free to sample the whole, juicy smorgasbord. Mom's not looking, Dad's not around, and your pastor's too far away to care.
"I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil" (Romans 16:19). Give me a break. How can you know if it's truly evil, if you haven't tried it first? Put that Bible down!
Only once never hurts.
No one's ever been killed the first time they enjoyed a meth mirage—at least not according to my records. You've never watched a nice horror flick? Get a life! You've gotta see one just to say you have. There's nothing wrong with trying anything once.
"Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" (Genesis 3:11). Er, ah, yeah, right. But that was a long time ago.
Halfway does no harm.
So if you smoke but don't inhale, how's that a problem? It takes four drinks to get drunk; you can surely handle three—and one little extra sip. Just plagiarize a couple of pages; no one will notice. And if you both keep your clothes on, you can have most of the fun without the guilt, right?
"But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don't think of ways to indulge your evil desires" (Romans 13:14, NLT). Who said anything about indulging? Halfway is not indulging—really.
Your body is your own.
Yours to do with as you please. Have at it. You can always have a doctor fix anything you don't like later.
"You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Oh, my, you aren't considering that ludicrous option, are you?
Now is all that counts.
Does tomorrow ever matter? Of course not. Don't give it a second thought. Live for today. Gorge, belch, and be oh-so-merry. Life is short, and then you disappear. Who cares about anything that comes after that?
"Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Would you quit thinking such depressing thoughts!
Knowing is the same as doing.
So suck up the sermon. Cram your brain full of Bible trivia. Just don't let them change the way you live—or anything radical like that.
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). Watch out. That Book wants to control your life!
Lazy is cool.
So relax until the cows calve horses. You wouldn't want to get too excited about life. Enthusiasm about anything short of meeting Tom Cruise or Gwyneth Paltrow is a waste of energy. Do your absolute best to get maximum results out of minimum action. People will stand amazed at your smooth effortlessness.
"Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically" (Romans 12:11, NLT). I'm telling you, that overblown Book will contradict anything I have to say.
I don't need to hear that again.
Once is plenty, especially when it comes to religious stuff. How many times have you heard: "For God so loved the world... "? Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. You'd think they were trying to sell you something.
"So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory" (2 Peter 1:12-13). You really know how to make a demon's life miserable, you know that?
Warding Off the Devil's Darts
No matter how many lies Satan has hooked you with already, he does not slow down. The rush of untruth presses on. The devil hasn't merely pawned you lies in the distant past; he continues to attack you with them in the ongoing present.
Consider this verse: “Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). Those "flaming arrows" are thoughts, little lies, which Satan launches into your mind during the course of a day. He and his fallen host—we're talking millions of demons here—have nothing better to do than run around telling lies, as many and as fast as they can. That's their 24/7 vocation because they don't need to eat, sleep, or take potty breaks.
They like their job.
If your imagination conjures up an imp sitting on your shoulder, whispering sweet, evil little nothings into your ear all day long, that's fine. It's not really like that, but the picture may help you understand. One way or another, Satan and his unholy pals are itching to stick you with their barbs.
Unless you have an active faith—a shield you're constantly holding in ready position—those lies are going to get you. Whoosh, thunk! Whoosh, thunk! Heh-heh-heh! Stick him some more! Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
Now, what does "an active faith" look like?
Second Corinthians 10:5 provides a good model:
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Think of an active faith as a strict gatekeeper for your mind, one who is deeply concerned about what comes in to occupy it. He wants your brain to be a safe, healthy environment.
Now imagine the thousands of thoughts you have in a day, all lined up, waiting to enter the castle that is your mind. Some of those thoughts bring good tidings and no danger. Others, however, conceal a poisoned dagger.
As each thought steps up, the gatekeeper pulls it aside and frisks it, checking it against truth. Does this thought help my master in his desire to know God? Will it enable him to obey Christ more? Your gatekeeper firmly challenges everything you see and hear.
Run that by me again. Is that true? What does God say? I'll have to check it out.
If a thought or idea passes inspection, it is allowed full entry. But if it is unmasked as a lie, it is taken captive, imprisoned, and not allowed to wander freely in your mind.
Equipping Your Gatekeeper
An active faith—an excellent gatekeeper—is what the Bereans had. After eagerly hearing Paul preach, they "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). What a great attitude!
You can bet Satan had a hard time fooling them. Their example is yours to follow.