Stratego is quality. Cross Guess Who? with Risk, and you’ve pretty much got Stratego. It’s a game for two players. The aim is simple: capture your rival’s flag. But, this simple aim requires careful strategy. Soldiers, castles, spies, and generals all must be carefully regimented, if you’re going to win.
But, here’s the catch: you’ve no idea where your opponent’s pieces are. All you can see is the identical back of each of their pieces. You’ve got to move; you’ve got to attack. But, you’ve got no idea what you’re attacking! Every move is risk.
Is your life like Stratego? When it comes to fighting sin, are you wandering blind about the battlefield? Have you carefully considered Satan’s strategies? Sin’s tactics? Your heart’s weak-spots? If not, you’re at risk.
Thomas Brooks was concerned. In his seventeenth century generation, Christians increasingly appeared oblivious to the necessity of mortifying sin. And those that did had no idea where to start. So, in Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Brooks wants all Christians to consider Christ, Scripture, their own hearts, and Satan’s strategies (or devices), to help them identify sinful patterns, and encourage them – by Christ’s mighty sin-crushing power – to mortify them.
In this series of posts, we’re considering Satan’s devices, and then considering the remedies put forward by God in Scripture (see part one here).
Device #1: Satan shows us the bait, but he hides the hook.
If you’re currently human, you’ve experienced temptation. You’ve been shown the pleasure, the profit, the exceedingly sweet comfort you’d delight in, if you just put down your convictions for two seconds, and grabbed hold of that sin. There’s no catch, right?
The catch; the hook is hidden. Your brain refuses to connect “the wrath and misery that certainly follow the committing of sin” with what you’re about to do. Isn’t this how our first parents fell? “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
This is the bait. Satan promised that their minds would be opened to moral joy. He hides the hook. His intention was never joy; it was shame and confusion. He gave them an apple, and it was paradise they exchanged for it. The bait was displayed; the hook was hidden.
And, if you think about it, this is how Satan tempted Jesus. He offered Christ all glory, without suffering, provided Jesus disobeyed His Father and bowed down. But, Jesus resisted. In Christ, we’re joined to this victory. We don’t have to fall for the bait. There are, in Christ, remedies against this device.
Remedy #1: Don’t play with the bait.
“Don’t play with your food!”, my parents often shouted when I tried to build potato castles. “Don’t play games with your food”, because they knew the gravy-based disasters that would inevitably unfold. Stop fooling around with the bait Satan extends. Don’t entertain it. Don’t play with it. “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9b). That word, “abhor”; it means to hate with horror.
Go as far as you can from the bait held out before you. Flee lies. Retreat from lust. Vacate the premises, before anger explodes. Running as far as you can from the appearance of evil is the wisest and safest thing to do. Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife; David didn’t retreat from his roof. Joseph avoided the bait, and therefore the hook; David swallowed bait and hook in one gulp. Sin is infectious. Give it a little ground, and it attacks your conscience like a virus. Stay away from the bait, and from a distance you’ll see the hook. Don’t play with the bait, so you don’t fall for the hook.
Remedy #2: seriously consider how sin is bitter-sweet.
There’s a sweetshop in Dublin which sells the world’s sourest sweet. Take more than one at once, and your throat might blister. But, you don’t taste the bitterness at first. For just a moment, it tastes fine. But, then; all you’re left with is the throat-blistering sourness.
Sin is like this bitter sweet. At first, sin tastes alright. Our conscience isn’t that pricked. Our lives don’t seem much worse. But, for the believer, that sweetness is momentary. In fact, that sweetness is an illusion; “sin is just a seeming sweet”. The mirage quickly fades, leaving only lasting shame, sorrow, horror and terror. You’ve got to think about this. You’ve got to seriously consider how vile sin is. It is a “murdering morsel”; with every bite it kills you. So, don’t try it. Recognise how disgusting sin is; how momentary the pleasure it offers is.
Job puts it well: “Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth, yet his food is turned in his stomach; it is the venom of cobras within him” (Job 20:12-14). Don’t “meddle with the murdering morsels of sin”. They give you no nourishment. They give you no comfort. They fully satisfy none of your desires. All sin does is tear your stomach. Sin is poison to your soul. It’s bitter, masquerading as sweet.
Finally, Remedy #3: seriously consider how sin is bewitchingly deceitful.
Sin is the great deceit. The greatest lie the devil ever pulled isn’t convincing the world that he doesn’t exist; it’s that sin is beneficial, virtuous, and self-improving. Sin “will kiss the soul, and pretend fair to the soul, and yet betray the soul forever”. We’ve just considered sin as an infectious poison, which attacks your conscience to destroy your soul. How does it achieve this? By spreading bewitching deceit. It convinces us that it is absolutely integral to our personality. It seduces us with lies: Sin convinces us that our sin is exceedingly useful. It assures us of the lunacy of trying even to fathom our lives without particular sins: “I was born this way; it’s part of me”, “I can’t change that; that would totally ruin me”.
Antiquity tells of Theotimus, whom doctors told to cease from “drunkenness and uncleanness”, or he’d lose his eyes. His reply typifies someone bewitched by sin’s bait; it points clearly to one who has swallowed sin’s hook and savours sin’s lies. “You’ll lose your eyes”, Theotimus’s reply: “then farewell, sweet light”.
Sin bewitches us with deception. It makes us rejoice in its vainglory, while it crushes our windpipe, stops our breath and kills us. If you’re totally bewitched by sin, you’re only giving Satan the Accuser grounds to accuse you. If you don’t see the hook, and allow the bait to seduce you into grabbing it, then it’ll make you rather lose God, Christ, heaven and your own soul before you let go. So, don’t be deceived. Understand that sin kills secretly, insensibly and eternally. Cling to the fountain of truth; not the broken and ruined cisterns of sin.
So, Satan loves the bait and hook. If we’re going to fight, we can only do it in Christ’s strength. We need Jesus to open our eyes to the reality of sin. It is bitter and deceitful, and so we must flee it. Prayerfully consider your own heart, asking: am I being deceived by sin? Do I know how bitter sin is? Am I fooling around with sinfulness? My prayer is that we see the hook behind the bait, and cling closer to Christ in our efforts to kill sin.