06 Dont Give Satan an Opportunity
Don’t Give Satan a Beachhead!
If the believer cultivates in his life any known sin, he is giving Satan an opportunity to get a foothold, a beachhead in his life. Satan will then use this opportunity to invade and take over other areas. Paul warns in Ephesians 4:27, “And do not give the devil an opportunity.” The word translated “opportunity” simply means a place such as a city or a building. But it carries the idea of a foothold or opportunity, a chance to operate. The J. B. Phillips paraphrase of Ephesians 4:27 reads, “Don’t give the devil that sort of foothold.” In the language of warfare we would say, “Don’t give the devil a beachhead.”
It would be well for us to read the entire passage.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have someththg to share with him who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:25-32
Now, let’s consider some of the sins that give Satan a beachhead, and let’s try to understand why.
(1) Lying (verse 25).
Since Satan himself is a liar, it is no surprise that lying opens for him an opportunity to work in our lives (Joh 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.). When you believe the truth, then the Holy Spirit can work in your life. When you believe a lie, then the devil can work in your life. We need to heed
Paul’s counsel in Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Paul gives us a good reason for avoiding deceit: “we are members of one another.” God’s truth builds up the body, but Satan’s lies tear it down. Since we belong to each other, we also affect each other. If there is deceit in my life, I will influence you as a member of his body. Since God is the God of truth, and his Word is truth (John 17:17), and his Spirit is truth (1 John 5:7), it is impossible to be in fellowship with God while you are harboring a lie. Satan tempted Ananias and Sapphira to lie to God and to the church, and God judged them severely (Acts 5:1-11). Keep in mind that their sin was not in keeping back some of the money. Their sin was trying to make people think they were very spiritual when in reality they were hypocrites!
Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)—and for all liars!
Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Revelation 22:15 sharpens the focus even more when it describes deceitful persons as “everyone who loves and practices lying.” In other words, it is not the person who occasionally lies, for even the best Christian might do that (Abraham, for example); but it is the person who makes lying the love of his life and whose entire life is characterized by deceit. Such a person is so like Satan that he must end up where Satan ends up—in hell.
(2) Anger (verse 26).
Satan can be angry!
Rev 12:12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
Rev 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
This fact would suggest that anger in our hearts gives Satan a foothold in our lives. And just as lying and murder go together, so anger and murder go together.
Mat 5:21-22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
To be sure, there is a righteous anger. God expresses anger at sin (Psa 7:11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.). Jesus Christ revealed a righteous anger when he drove the religious merchants out of the temple (Matthew 21:12-16) and when he condemned the hypocritical Pharisees (Matthew 23). It is not enough to love the good; we must also hate the evil.
Psa 97:10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Pro 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Rom 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
However, it is difficult for us as sinful humans to cultivate and exercise a truly righteous anger. Our sinful nature has a way of polluting our emotions so that they often do more harm than good. Aristotle said it perfectly centuries ago: “Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—this is not easy.”
Sinful anger always leads to more sin. Usually when we are angry, we say things for which later we are very sorry. And often we make decisions that turn out to be hurtful to ourselves as well as others. Satan knows this1 so he encourages us to cultivate a sinful anger.
(3) Stealing (verse 28). Satan is a thief.
Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
The experience of two demoniacs of the country of the Gerasenes is a vivid example of how Satan steals from his servants (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20). Satan robbed these men of their sanity, their liberty, their homes (they lived in the graveyard!), their joy, their effective work in life, their reputations, their health (they cut themselves with stones). And Satan would have robbed them of their lives and their souls had they not been set free by Jesus Christ.
Employees who “borrow” things from their employers’ offices are inviting Satan to get a foothold in their lives. The person who can steal a fifteen-cent pencil has the potential of stealing a $15 book or a $150,000 payroll!
Luk 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
Note the tense of the verbs: he is already unrighteous, not “he will be.”
There is no need to list the various ways that we can steal and try to excuse it. Every man knows his own heart. Some people steal time, others rob God by unfaithful giving (Malachi 3:8 if.), and still others hold back money that belongs to others (James 5:1-6).
It is interesting to note the reason Paul gives for the believer working and not stealing: that he may be able to give to others! It is our relationship to others, not only fear of God’s judgment that helps to govern our lives, “for we are members of one another” (verse 25).
(3) Filthy speech (verse 29).
Paul repeats this warning in the next chapter.
Eph 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
He is not forbidding holy, healthy humor; the ability to laugh is a mark of maturity and discernment. A leading missionary executive once said, “I will not send a missionary to the field if he doesn’t have a sense of humor.” Paul is condemning low humor, jesting that is dirty. This kind of speech tears a person down, and God wants our speech to be “good for edification.” Since what we say comes from the heart, impure speech and humor indicates an impure imagination. A person does not have to read pornographic books or see pornographic movies to have a pornographic imagination. If Satan can get us to think about sin, and then talk about sin, he will have an easier time tempting us to commit sin. When we talk freely about filthy things, it takes the edge off our conviction; we get accustomed to it, and soon the barriers are down.
(4) An unforgiving spirit (verses 30-32).
The believer who harbors bitterness and malice in his heart is giving Satan one of his most effective beachheads! These attitudes (and the others mentioned) hinder the Spirit from working in our lives, and this robs us of the power we need to detect and defeat the devil. The old nature delights in breeding this kind of poison.
The only remedy is forgiveness. If someone wrongs you, forgive him from your heart. Jesus gives simple steps to follow in Matthew 18:15-17; and he cautions us to be reconciled as quickly as possible (Matthew 5:23-26). The longer you harbor an unforgiving spirit, the more territory Satan will gain in your life. In my pastoral experience, I have seen homes, Sunday school classes, and whole churches weakened and (in some cases) destroyed by Christians who will not forgive one another. Even if the other party does not forgive you, you forgive him. You cannot force him to be forgiven, but you can see to it that Satan is defeated in your own life.
1Ti 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
Tit 2:3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
Paul commands that the deacons’ wives, and the older women of the church, not be “malicious gossips”; this is the Greek word diabolos, which is translated “devil.” (The word “devil” means “a slanderer, an accuser.”) When believers share in gossip and slander, they are doing the devil’s work for him and giving him a beachhead for additional work! “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” is God’s commandment (Exodus 20:16). Among the six things which the Lord hates is “a false witness who utters lies” (Proverbs 6:19).
Pro 25:18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
Slander can hurt a person up close, as does a club, or farther away, as does a sword, or even at a distance, as does an arrow. But whatever the range, the damage is deadly.
Many of the great and godly men of the Bible suffered because of slander and false witness, including Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Paul, and even our Lord Jesus. Many of the great and godly leaders in church history were slandered by their enemies. It is a painful experience for a dedicated Christian to see and hear his name and ministry maligned, especially when the slander comes from professed believers who pretend to do the Lord’s work by exposing the sins of the saints. How Satan must rejoice when he sees Christians slandering each other in print!
The Word of God tells us how to deal with the sins of the saints.
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
1Pe 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
Pro 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
This does not mean that love ignores sin, or that love condones sin. It simply means that love for the brethren keeps us from exposing sin before the eyes of the world and weak Christians; that it keeps us from capitalizing on a brother’s fall in order to make ourselves look better. “Don’t hang dirty wash out in public,” a wise pastor counseled me years ago, and I have found it to be good counsel. I have also found it wise not to believe everything I hear or read about fellow-Christians until there is proof.
2Co 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
(See also Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15.)
Satan is the slanderer and the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). When you and I slander the saints instead of praying and seeking to cover the sin in love, we are working for the devil. We should not be surprised if he gets a foothold in our lives and turns our weapons against us!
Any sin that we harbor in our lives, that we know is there and yet we refuse to acknowledge and confess, will give Satan a beachhead for further attacks. It has been my experience that this includes material objects that are definitely related to Satanism and the occult. No Christian has any right to possess such objects because they give Satan the foothold he is looking for. When the Ephesian Christians burned their magic books (Acts 19:18-20), they were taking a giant step forward in defeating Satan.
Finally, we must never look upon any sin or questionable object as “a little thing.” Nothing is “little” if Satan can use it to attack you! I recall counseling a Christian student who had an obsession for food. She was ruining her health and her studies, and her anxiety was only making the problem worse. I asked her if she had anything in her possession that was related to the occult. She confessed that she did, and I urged her to get rid of it, confess her sin to the Lord, and claim the victory of Christ over whatever demons were using that object as a beachhead. She did all of this, and the Lord gave her wonderful victory. Illustrations of this kind of victory can be multiplied by pastors who have confronted occult powers.