The Wiles of the Devil.
I BELIEVE it to be one of the chief points in my ministry to expose the wiles of the devil. The principal forces in the universe are out of sight, and therefore out of mind. The force of gravity is so great, that it holds the stars in their courses; but the power of the devil is so much greater than this. He drives many spiritual stars out of their courses. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, in high (or heavenly) places." Who sees these principalities and powers? Beelzebub himself is unseen, yet he is the very god of this world; more worshipped than the true God; gets more loyalty than any monarch. Alas, he has all flesh, all nature, on his side. But there is One who sees him, and has known him from the beginning, Who saw him when he was Lucifer, Son of the Morning; saw him fall like lightning out of Heaven, saw him in Paradise tempting Eve, saw him accusing Job, and Joshua the high priest, Who overcame him in the wilderness, and in Whom the tempter came and found nothing. He saw the devil scheming against the disciples, and said, with something like abruptness, ''Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." Satan desires to have us also; and he is allowed to have us, to sift us, just as he obtained Job.
There is not a man whom God approves, but Satan desired to have him, and has him, to try him; and the higher he is in the church, the more sure Satan is to desire, and to have him. "Satan hath desired to have you'' (plural)—all the disciples. But Simon heads the list. The original is a comprehensive word; it includes the demand and the grant of all the apostles, but especially their chief. Jesus knew what a bold man he was; none needed warning so much as he; bravery and self-confidense bring danger. "Simon, Simon,—double, like a post-man's knock; so, "Martha, Martha." We are slow to hear, and almost all need to be called twice. Satan desired to have Christ and had Him; but got nothing out of Him. He was "a green tree," that Satan's sparks could not set on fire; but we are dry wood, that easily blaze. He seeks to knock the officers off. "Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Are there any shepherds here? Satan desires to have you, that he may sift you. This does not mean a round sieve with holes in it; but a winnowing machine—for the wind to blow away the chaff.
The Lord Jesus Christ uses a fan also and will thoroughly purge His floor. We must come under the devil's fan, and under Christ's fan. I thank God, His fan is very different from the devil's fan. Satan's temptations are the black soap with which God washes His saints white. Satan tempts to destroy—God tries to purify. As sure as a man professes Christ, Satan will sift and God will sift; Christendom will be sifted by the devil and by God. It will be seen who of all the millions calling Jesus Lord, are Christ's true servants. Millions will be blown like chaff into everlasting fire.
But Jesus says, "I have prayed for thee.'' It is a transaction already past; but because the sifting time is near, He gives warning, and now look out, look out. Three turns of the devil's fan blew Judas right away. First, he was angry when rebuked. Are you angry when rebuked? If so, it is a bad sign. David said, "Let the righteous smite me." He complained of the woman's waste of the ointment. Jesus said, "Let her alone." This made Judas angry. By another turn, Satan injects the thought of betraying Him—he let a little thief in at the window, and the little thief lets a big thief in at the door. Satan enters into him, and Judas is blown right out of the threshing floor. The others all forsook Him and fled, but they didn't go far; they drifted about the barn-floor but were not blown out. Under the devil's fan, Peter cursed and swore. Is he not as bad as Judas? No! essentially better. We may judge of actions; not of the guilt of actions. Peter never ceased to love Christ in his heart, though through fear, he denied Him. Judas never began to love Christ. Do you love Him? Judas loved the bag much better than Christ; Peter, when Christ looked upon him, went out and wept bitterly. Peter came back because Christ prayed for him. His return hung on that prayer; so in John 17. He prayed that his faith might not fail. We are kept by the power of God through faith. We are to resist the devil, steadfast in the faith; then he will flee away. For he is a coward and hates resistance. The mere threads of an educational faith can easily be snapped; but the cable of the faith of God's elect will endure every strain and the vessel will never drift on to a lee-shore. Peter could stand up and say to Christ's face "Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Though I have sinned, Thou knowest that I love Thee." Can you say so? Some of us have gone through much experience; how have we seen Satan's fan going round, and how many preachers have been blown out of the pulpit, lower than the pew. There is not one of us, of any long standing in the church of God, but has been stirred by the devil's blast; and we owe it to Christ's prayer, and "the faith of God's elect," that we have not followed Judas, Simon Magus, and Demas. Yea, the weakest saint shall endure to the end through the efficacy of Christ's intercession. And mark me, as in Peter's case, so in ours, the intercession always anticipates the temptation; and hence, "the fiery darts of the wicked one" always fall blunted against the shield of faith, and we are made more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
"Grace and Truth" 1926.