How to Fool the Devil
Satan is our greatest foe, the great deceiver, and without a doubt, our greatest political enemy.
The struggle against sin will be our burden until Christ comes again to reign on Earth. The Christian life is one that attempts to remove sin from our lives to the best of our ability and live in close union with God. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Our fallen nature makes our propensity to sin great, and our task of overcoming our sin one of the most important tasks of our lives.
Satan is our greatest foe, the great deceiver, and without a doubt, our greatest political enemy. He attempts to draw man into sin with his own tricks and has fooled the world into believing that he does not exist. The path to evil is easy-going and may even net one great material comfort and wealth. In contrast, the path to heaven is narrow and difficult. Thus, we need to arm ourselves against temptation with powerful tools in our practical, day-to-day lives, calling upon God to give us the courage in service of Him.
Christians can sometimes get caught up in theology to a degree that they lose sight of the small-scale fights with Satan we encounter everyday. We must truly live like Christ in every second, hour, and day of our lives. This means taking action. Every day is a skirmish with the Devil, and living like Christ spells victory on the battlefield of sin.
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Father Joseph Piper at American University recently gave a homily on this subject, which includes an account of tools that one can use in combating sin. In this homily, Father Joseph told a little known story from Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, using it in his call to action:
There was a man who was a gambler, and he knew it was ruining his life. So one day, he finally said, “Enough! This is destroying me.” He gathered the whole strength of his will and he swore with vehemence, “Starting tomorrow, I will never gamble again. Not even a penny.” That night, he went to gamble for the last time. And, of course, it was not the last time. He lost all his resolve and he never broke the habit. Look how the Devil tricked him into making a big promise…starting tomorrow. He could have tricked the devil. He could have said, “I am a gambler, and I cannot live without it. I plan on spending the rest of my life rolling dice. But tonight, just for one night, I am going to refrain.” And that night he did not gamble. Therefore, he went on tricking the devil, night after night, for the rest of his life.
This captures the essence of the daily battle with sin, its consequences should we lose, and how to break free from its grip. This gambler was going to run his life. He was on the fast track to a shameful grave with not even his family being protected from the consequences of his actions. He firmly resolved to never commit this sin again, starting tomorrow. But there’s the catch. Father Joseph said that “I’lll do it tomorrow” is the devil’s favorite bait. If one is not careful, one will endlessly push off their soul’s needs to tomorrow. When this man, the man of “I’ll do it tomorrow,” dies, his next day will be in hell.
So how does the gambling man fool the Devil? He admits that gambling is exactly the thing he wants to do the most. He radically acknowledges his sinful nature, his propensity to desire sin, and his certainty that it will never leave him. But for one day, he will not do it. Just one day. Then, tomorrow, it is just another day. And all the days of his life, the devil could never take him because he never fell for his oldest and most common trick: “I’ll start tomorrow.”
Ironically, in surrendering to the worst parts of yourself, you see it most clearly. When you see your sin, your worst impulses, habits, or whatever ails you, you will realize these demons are paper tigers, and all the power they have over you is freely given by you when you give it space in your life.
So give sin no space to exist. Say today “no more” not “tomorrow.” Maybe you’ll go back to your sinful ways tomorrow, but that does not matter right now. Right now, you can take a break from sinning. Just for the day. You can go back to being a degenerate tomorrow, if you would like. Framing the battle with sin like this gives you your freedom back. The capacity to sin is in your hands. It is no longer at the whims of the uncertain future circumstances. It is within your will and God’s.
You can only commit sin in the present, so focus solely on the present. Do not focus on preemptive measures to stop future sin. Surely you can do this, but not to the detriment of making your present moment a holy one. Often, young Christians take a much too broad view of their faith. Faith, in its most pure form, is living like Jesus Christ at the present moment in your life until death comes over you.
Focus on now. The present is all you have and it is a gift from God. Tomorrow is in God’s hands. Know your place and stick to your job of making your present life holy and good.
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