“The devil cannot command, he can only influence.” I heard those words from a recent devotional, and they stuck with me. To issue a command, one must hold a position of power over subordinates. When God, the ultimate Sovereign, made the earth, He delegated His authority over it to humankind, not the devil [Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 115:16]. Consequently, Satan cannot compel us to do anything against our will on earth. However, he can influence us to do his bidding. He does so primarily by suggesting alluring ideas which pander to ungodly desires. His aim is ultimately to destroy our relationship with God, which spells death for us.
We see an illustration of this demonic strategy in Genesis 3. The serpent initially challenged what God said. Then, he proposed a deceitful alternative to Eve that played to an ungodly desire [Genesis 3:1-5]. He first corrupted Eve’s mind with the idea that she could be like God. With that thought ensconced in her mind, she saw evil as good and delightful and chose it [Genesis 3:6]. Often, arts and media portray Satan as a scary creature we’d see coming, but he’s seldom described that way in Scripture. Of course, Satan has no redeeming features. If we saw him as he truly is, we’d be so disgusted and appalled we probably wouldn’t engage him in conversation. He knows this too. As such, he’s much more likely to approach us in an appealing disguise [2 Corinthians 11:14].
As with Eve, Satan focuses most of his attention on corrupting our minds for a simple reason: Our minds influence our words and actions. He succeeds when we think, speak and act contrary to God’s word. As Jesus taught, our thoughts determine what we say, and our motives determine what we do [Matthew 12:34-35]. Thoughts and motives crystallise in the mind before they manifest. We may speak and act contrary to our convictions for a time, but pressure always reveals what we truly believe. So, if you want to know who you are, study what you say and do, especially under stress. It’s equally worthwhile assessing the origin of our thoughts and motives. One way of doing this is examining the desires they pander to and the responses they elicit in us. Do they encourage the manifestation of the passions of the flesh or fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:17-23]?
A 2010 movie called Inception centred on a thief offered a chance to wipe his criminal record by implanting one man’s idea in another man’s subconscious. That’s a great illustration of how the devil seeks to influence us. It could come as a seemingly caring suggestion from a friend [Mark 8:31-33] or through a movie, an advert, a song, etc. Essentially, anything we perceive with our natural senses, especially our eyes and ears, could potentially be a corrupted transmission. In the movie, the actors used a totem to distinguish the dream world (deception) from the real one (truth). But for Christians, our totem is God’s word because reality is always what God says it is. However, the challenge is whether we believe God enough to think, speak and act in alignment with His word so that His reality can become ours. Remember, life eventually reveals the agency influencing our thoughts and motives.
Centuries ago, a psalmist wrote: “I’ve hidden Your word in my heart (mind) that I may not sin against You” [Psalm 119:11]. In essence, the psalmist diligently tested the conformity of his thoughts and motives to God’s word and ruthlessly eliminated whatever was contradictory to it [2 Corinthians 10:3-6]. He didn’t let an ungodly idea land because it would invariably lead to sin. Such vigilance is vital, especially in today’s world, because ungodly subliminal messages bombard us daily. Consequently, Scripture instructs the believer to guard his heart (mind) with all diligence because it determines the course of his life [Proverbs 4:23]. Like David, we must regularly invite God to examine our thoughts and motives [Psalm 139:23-24]. Then, when His Spirit convicts us about something, we must quickly repent so that we don’t give Satan any opportunity [Ephesians 4:27].
The Christian walk isn’t a passive affair. Our enemy is constantly on the prowl [1 Peter 5:8]. He’s not after our health, relationships, money or any material thing in our lives. He’s a spirit, so material things are worthless to him. He is, however, after our souls. He doesn’t fight fair and will employ any means to corrupt our minds and ultimately influence what we believe so that we sin, wreck our relationship with God and die [Romans 6:23]. But we need not fear because God isn’t watching idly. He has revealed Satan’s strategy to us, put His Holy Spirit within us, given us authority to destroy the works of darkness in His name, and put Satan to flight [Mark 16:17-18]. The devil is impotent against a Spirit-filled believer steeped in God’s word, living by faith [1 John 5:4].
Our minds are battlefields where the wars for our destinies rage daily. Whether we believe it or not, the devil is covertly scheming, seeking ways to implant ungodly ideas in us that will take us out of God’s will for our lives. Often, this thief sneaks in to corrupt our thoughts and motives without our knowledge, especially when we’re distracted by the demands of life or ungodly desires. On the other hand, God will only influence our thoughts, motives, words, and actions if we actively let Him by studying His word [Joshua 1:8] and yielding unreservedly to the leading of His Spirit [Romans 8:5-17]. We can know who’s influencing us by examining our thoughts through the prism of Philippians 4:8. My advice this week is simple: diligently assess the ideas ensconced in your mind and how they got there. Then ruthlessly expel anything at odds with that verse because its origin is not of God.