Dr. Thomas B. Warren, the great Christian preacher and philosopher, once preached a sermon about the various things that the devil desires for us to do and to become. I have adapted Warren’s remarks here, showing that the devil has a multi-layered plan for us:
- Initially the devil wants us to be atheists, because he knows that no atheist can be saved (Hebrews 11:6). This is ironic, because Satan himself knows that God exists (James 2:19).
- But if the devil cannot get us to be atheistic, he will try to get us to be agnostic. That is, he will urge us to take the position that it cannot be known whether God exists. The devil knows that nobody who fails to be convicted about God’s reality will be saved (Matthew 7:23; 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 John 3:1).
- But if the devil cannot get us to be agnostic, he will try to get us to be deistic. That is, he will get us to believe in an impersonal God who never interferes in the course of human events or natural events. No miracles, no revelation, no direct providence. The devil knows that a deistic person does not believe in the God of the Bible and cannot be saved (1 John 4:16; Jude 21).
- But if the devil cannot get us to be deistic, he will try to get us to think that it is impossible to know anything for sure—especially God’s will. A person under this satanic influence is likely to say, “You can’t be sure about that!,” or “That’s just your interpretation!,” or “I’m always studying to learn what God’s will on that subject is.” The devil knows that such a person is “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7), and that such a person cannot be saved (Romans 2:8).
- But if the devil cannot get us to think that it is impossible to know God’s will, then the devil will try to get us to think that everybody has a right to his or her own sincere opinion, i.e., to think that anybody who is sincere in believing in God will be saved. The devil knows that such a position opposes God, because God has all authority to tell us what to believe and think. Mere sincerity does not lead to salvation (Acts 23:1).
- But if the devil cannot get us to think that everybody has a right to his or her own opinion, then the devil will try to keep us from actually obeying the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). He will suggest that we can do it later (2 Corinthians 6:2).
- But if the devil cannot keep us from obeying the gospel, then he will try to get us to reject straightaway the message we have just obeyed (Luke 8:6).
- But if the devil cannot get us to reject what we have just obeyed, he will try to get us to be lazy in our Christian service (Revelation 3:14-22).
- But if the devil cannot keep us lazy in our service, then he will try to get us to be zealous for our own opinions, to be arrogant, divisive, lost troublemakers (Romans 12:16; Galatians 5:15).
But if the devil cannot cause us to be either lukewarm or divisive, then he will have to give up and allow us to be saved by Jesus. He will flee from us because we will have resisted him (James 4:7). It is up to us to choose whether we will do what the devil wants us to do, or what Christ wants us to do, i.e., to take advantage of the salvation He offers (2 Peter 3:9).