Satan’s Strategy #12: Faithless Friends
Satan persuades us to cultivate close friendships with ungodly peers.
Even unbelievers know that bad company corrupts good morals. The Bible bristles with instructions to avoid close relationships with ungodly men (e.g. Proverbs 1:10-15; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Negative peer pressure is not just a threat to teenagers; in any stage of life, the influences of non-Christian peers are often powerful temptations to sin. Brooks is blunt: "Guilt or grief is all that good gracious souls get by conversing with wicked men."
Of course, Christians are commanded to take the gospel to lost people. You cannot be salt and light in the world unless you are somewhat in contact with the world. Evangelism frequently necessitates bridge-building to non-Christians. Isolating oneself from the unsaved and shunning all contact with the lost vents a believer from fulfilling the Great Commission.
But who are your close friends? In whom do you confide? In whose company do you delight? In whom do you confide? To whom do you go for help? Those who would be close to your soul must be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan frequently tempts believers through non-Christian "When a Christian forges a close relationship with an unsaved person, Satan effectively acquires an assistant.
How many Christian men have failed to serve God because they have been diverted by recreations with their unbelieving friends!
How many Christian women are unhappy because their unbelieving friends encouraged them to be discontented!
How many Christian marriages have been damaged by infidelity because of the illicit seductions of friends!
How many Christian teens have fallen into immoral behavior because they were pressured to do so by their unbelieving friends!
How many believers have had their zeal for Christ dampened by various "unequally yoked" relationships!
Far too many sad stories of sin begin like the sad story of sin in King David's own family: “But Amnon had a friend...” (2 Samuel 13:3) When we can put a demonic face on temptations, they are somewhat easier to resist. When those temptations come from the smiling face of a friend, however, they seem more harmless.
Ships must sometimes navigate dangerous rocks and coral reefs, but wise captains never make it a habit of lingering around dangerous places. Captains who deliberately and needlessly steer close to rocks and reefs are not skillful; they are reckless and foolish. The same is true of Christians. We can't evangelize the lost unless we know some lost people. Yet Satan encourages us to steer close to ungodly men—and stay close to them—because he knows it increases the chances of us making a shipwreck of our faith. If Satan had his way, believers would be forever dealing with temptations that come from the hands of their human friends.
Minister to lost men, show compassion to them, and take the gospel to them. But Brooks reminds us that we must also consider how Scripture characterizes lost men: they are (writes Brooks) scorpions, vipers, thorns, briars, thistles, and brambles. Be aware that Satan will tempt you through them.
Soldiers who train on safe, stateside military bases need not be vigilant. The enemy is miles away. There is no immediate danger to their lives. Their training exercises are controlled by (mostly) friendly instructors. Soldiers on stateside military bases can complete their combat training in a lackadaisical manner and not suffer fatal consequences. Of course, the situation changes dramatically when the soldiers are deployed on the battlefield. Now there is an enemy nearby. Vigilance is necessary. No soldier expects the enemy to approach him in broad daylight and announce, “I am the enemy. I'll give you a few moments to prepare, and then I'll attack.” And the soldier who cannot detect the enemy's moves and respond to them quickly may pay for his mistake with his life.
Every Christian is currently engaged in a spiritual war. Believers are not on the spiritual equivalent of a safe stateside military base; on the contrary, we are deployed and in the battle. The Enemy is nearby, and he is not merely a piece of doctrine; he is a roaring lion who prowls about, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We confront this enemy daily, whether we realize it or not. Even now, Satan is using one or more of the devices described in our series to tempt you to sin.
Vigilance is necessary. If we are ignorant of Satan's devices—if he can tempt us without our even knowing we are facing demonic temptation—then we have little hope of resisting those temptations, avoiding sin, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Three steps are necessary if believers are to respond to temptation biblically:
First, recognize that temptation is Satan's handiwork and not just some subjective yearning inside you. You must cultivate the ability to unmask the Tempter's lies and deceptions. Resisting temptation is the front line in Christian spiritual warfare: you are called to put on the full armor of God and show up for battle. When it comes to temptation, ignorance is disastrous.
Second, reject the common belief that the devil makes you sin. “The devil made me do it” makes for a good advertising jingle, but terrible theology. Satan can only tempt; if you sin, it is because you choose to do so. The Christian need never surrender to Satan. He is not omnipotent, nor are his temptations as irresistible. When you resist the devil, he flees (James 4:7). "There is no external power in the universe that can cause a rational being to sin," writes John Murray. “That movement, that decision, comes from within."
Third, either flee temptation or fight against it when you have identified it. This is easier said than done. Denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Christ is a narrow road, and there’s no magic formula to make the pursuit of holiness easy. We can know all about Satan's temptation devices and yet still choose to yield to temptation (and thereby sin).
Rest assured, however, that God has provided all the resources necessary to enable you to resist temptation. The Son of God appeared for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). God gives spiritual armor so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). The risen Christ is a sympathetic High Priest who comes to the aid of those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15). No temptation is so powerful that we must yield to it; God always provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). When you make use of these resources by faith, you can resist the devil—and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Previous posts in this series:
- Peeking Into the Devil's Playbook
- Satan’s Strategy #1: Bait and Hook
- Satan's Strategy #2: Sin That Seems Virtuous
- Satan's Strategy #3: Downplay the Danger
- Satan's Strategy #4: Great Men Sin
- Satan's Strategy #5: God Doesn't Judge
- Satan's Strategy #6: Just Say Sorry
- Satan's Strategy #7: What's to Fear?
- Satan's Strategy #8: Be Happy
- Satan's Strategy #9: Saints Suffer
- Satan's Strategy #10: He's Worse
- Satan's Strategy #11: Stay in the Dark
Robert Spinney (PhD, Vanderbilt) is professor of History at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches American history and historiography. He is the author of City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago and World War II in Nashville: Transformation of the Homefront, as well as an American history textbook and numerous ministry-related booklets. Dr. Spinney formerly served as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, TN, and at Winchester Baptist Church in Winchester, VA.
Our Ancient Foe, edited by Ron Kohl
Podcast: "A Place to Belong"
"The Labyrinth of Temptation": Calvin on Genesis 22 by Aaron Denlinger
"Lead Us Not Into Temptation" by Mark Johnston
Editor's Note: This series has been republish with the author's permission. Find Peeking Into the Devil's Playbook and other booklets from the author here.