When we come before the Lord God Almighty in prayer asking “Lord, IF ……” we are generally coming before God in rebellion and with no understanding of what we are actually saying to Him. When we pray, “Lord IF You will do this, then I will do that,” then we are seeking to negotiate with God and in doing so treat him with the utmost disrespect. You may wish to read our article on this very topic entitled “Negotiating with God” for more information on this aspect of rebellion, which covers the ‘negotiation’ between Abraham (over the destruction of Sodom) and Jephthah (personal success) and God.
In Matthew 24:4, Jesus warned His disciples “and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you,” for this is just precisely what Satan does. Satan did it in the beginning , he does it now and he will do it at the end of this age, as we are warned in Revelation 20:8 and told “… he [Satan] will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle….” Revelation 12:9 adds saying “… the great dragon was cast out, the old serpent called Devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole world….”
John 8:44 gives a clear explanation of who Satan is and how he operates saying:
“You are of the Devil as father, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and did not abide in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
When we start using the words of the enemy, we start to lie and start to deceive, intentionally or otherwise. Peter asks Ananias in Acts 5:3 “why has Satan filled your heart for you to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” Ananias and his wife had just sold a piece of land and donated most of the money to the church, however they told the church in a prideful way such that the church understood they has donated all of the money. Ananias probably thought it a minor matter, if he even thought of it at all; but he and his wife died immediately, for lying to the Holy Spirit.
Satan has been at this game since the very beginning, as we read in Genesis 3:1
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, Is it so that God has said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
You can see the tactic of Satan exposed here – asking and deceiving and bringing doubt and pride into Eve, asking her ” Is it really so?” “Did God really say that?” Satan is getting Eve to test God; to put God and His word on the defensive. When we test God, we are in prideful rebellion for we are asserting that we are equal in status with Him, the maker of all that has been made.
Eventually, Satan met his match as he sought to overcome Jesus. This encounter is recorded for us in the Bible and is commonly known as The Temptations of Jesus. Let’s look at them and see how Jesus overcame them:
First, Matthew 4:3 “And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
Jesus replied in v4:4 saying “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Satan tried again after taking Jesus up to a pinnacle of the Jerusalem Temple, Matthew 4:6, “And he said to Him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down. For it is written, “He shall give His angels charge concerning You, and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest at any time You dash Your foot against a stone.”
Jesus replies in v4:7 saying “It is written again, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
Satan tried to overcome Jesus a third time, taking Him up to a very high mountain and showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glories, and in Matthew 4:9 “… he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus again replied to Satan by quoting the Word of the Lord, as he said in v4:10 “Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”
What happened next? Matthew 4:11 answers this “Then the Devil left Him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” Jesus defeated Satan, not by the power of God the Father, or by the power of the Holy Spirit, or by the power of His own Personhood as part of the Holy Trinity, but by the power of the written Word of God alone. This is the same power to which we as Christians also have free and unrestricted access; and it is the Christian Holy Bible! We just need to learn it, live it and use it!
Remember what Second Timothy 3:16-17 says about God’s Holy Bible:
“All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.”
In His replies to Satan above, Jesus demonstrated the power of the Word of God firsthand and so effectively, that “the Devil left Him.”
The deceptive words of Satan are clearly seen in his attempted conquest over Jesus: “If……. If…… If…..” As Christians, as children of the living God, we ought not to come before God with the calculative and manipulative words of God’s enemy. Instead, we ought to come before Father God in due reverence and humility for Who and What He is.