The writer was once the unwilling witness of a city’s being taken over by diversionary tactics. After sporadic attacks over a period of eighteen months, a detachment of Japanese made a strong show of strength from the north, including air bombings, artillery barrages, and probing units of foot soldiers. Against all of this the Chinese put up a strong defense.
Then, during the night, while there was every evidence of a renewed attack from the north at daylight, a small detachment of Japanese soldiers rapidly advanced by a circuitous route; after quickly dispersing the Chinese guarding the outskirts of the southern sector, they stormed and took the city. The Chinese soldiers retreated in disorder to the east.
Individual Christians, and the Church, are constantly subjected to the diversionary tactics of Satan. This is not being written for those who deny the personality of the Devil or his devious methods of attack. It is written for those who by bitter experience are aware of his devices but who even so are prone to succumb to his wiles and in so doing find their minds and hearts diverted from Christian truth and objectives.
Only too often Satan shifts our attention to trivialities, or to the peripheral areas of Christianity, because of our own ignorance of the content of the faith. Christianity is a body of truth to be believed and a way of life, all of which centers in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. If men can be turned aside from these truths, if the essential meanings of these truths can be perverted, if extraneous matters can bring us to ignoring them, if we become obsessed with anything that dims the primary object of our Lord’s intervention in the affairs of men—then Satan has won a major victory.
The Church (and this applies as well to Christians) can be diverted from her divinely appointed task by involvement with the cares of the world and the pleasures of secular living, by the deceitfulness of material things.
She can become enamored with the pomp and pageantry of ecclesiastical meetings and leave the Lord of glory outside the door.
She can confuse her message and forget that her primary task is not reformation, but proclaiming God’s plan of redemption.
She can forget or ignore her spiritual mission and become involved in secular matters to the eternal loss of countless souls.
She can become so intent on temporal welfare that she forgets the eternal destiny of man and fails to tell him of the way, the truth, and the life.
Satan has diverted us when we look for reformation without redemption, secular rather than spiritual values, immediate rather than eternal welfare. Unless eternity looms large in our thinking, human relations are out of perspective; social righteousness will not become a reality apart from lives transformed by the Living Christ.
Within the theological world there is always the danger of permitting theory to take precedence over fact, of setting philosophical reasoning over simple faith and human speculation above divine revelation.
The rose of the Gospel message can be destroyed by picking apart its content so that the petals of truth cease to have the fragrance of personal relevance. Simple faith must transcend presuppositions and men’s opinions.
Satan diverts whenever we permit the human element to take precedence over the divine, for not by “signs” or “wisdom” can spiritual truth be seen or become relevant at the personal level.
Once the Christ of man’s opinion is substituted for the Christ revealed in Scriptures one of Satan’s major battles has been won, for the Christ of man’s imagination then obscures the Christ of history and the Christ of personal experience.
We are fighting a battle that must be fought in every generation, although as the pace of life accelerates it seems as though the Devil is increasingly active. Can it be that John’s prophecy—“But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows his time is short!” (Rev. 12:12b, RSV)—is being fulfilled today?
We are confronted not only with the diversions of strange doctrines that subvert the faith of many but also with assaults on the citadels of decency, which go to the point of glorifying what is evil, even bestial. The words of Paul search and convict today: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (Rom. 1:24, 25).
Within the Church Satan diverts by substitution: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:8, 9). Our Lord’s quoting of this passage from Isaiah is echoed by Paul as he warned the Colossian Christians: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines?” (Col. 2:20, 21.)
The world has for centuries seen a Church in which accretions, assumptions, and distortions have had full sway. Today we are witnessing some changes in that system, and many Protestants, diverted from the distinctives of their own faith, are in danger of being lulled into an ever growing ecumenical heresy—that ecclesiastical organization takes precedence over Christian truth.
Paul speaks of “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of “diverse and strange teachings” (13:9). All of these are carefully calculated diversions of the Evil One.
With a continuing battle, with the cleverly devised diversions of Satan, how can the Christians stand? How can the Church continue true to her mission?
There must be a source of reference, an anchor of the soul, a divine revelation that is preeminent over every human thought and motive. God has not left himself without a witness. He has given us his Holy Word, the revelation of his Son in that Word. He has given us the Holy Spirit, and all around us we see the evidences of his eternal power and deity. He has provided the communicating line of prayer and the warning radar of minds and hearts surrendered to him and filled by the Spirit of the risen and living Christ.
The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of the diversionary tactics of Satan. He set his sights on Christ crucified, dead, buried, risen, ascended, and coming again; and because of this he could say near the end of life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
Every victory Paul won we too can win. But we must know the enemy and his tactics; otherwise we will be diverted from the way God has laid out for us.
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