Tricks of the Devil
How to Smell a Snare before you feel it
By Eugene Prewitt
- Baby and bath-water trick
- Gospel can’t work for me trick
- God is too kind to condemn good people trick
- The freedom trick
- The Shoved down my throat trick
- The hypocrites trick
- The later trick
- I can’t understand those things trick
- This is how I am trick
- That is how they are trick
- I see where you are going trick
- I won’t like heaven; it won’t be fun trick
- You can’t prove it trick
- I’m rich and doing evangelism trick
- I thank you, oh God, that I am balanced and level-headed and not like this Pharisee…trick
- Authorities disagree trick
- The informed and intelligent judge trick
- It doesn’t affect me that way trick
- God told me trick
- I prayed and prayed trick a
- I prayed and prayed trick b
- I’m called to do what I like trick
- God let it happen trick
- The slippery slope trick a
- The slippery slope trick b
- First duty is to my family trick
- I will go and minister to my friends trick
- I don’t need anyone to teach me trick
- You can find what you are looking for trick
- I’ll witness by living a good life trick
- You are judged by what you know trick
- More people will accept the truth this way trick
- I can’t take it any longer trick
- What counts is a personal relationship trick
- The Bible, not Ellen White trick
- God is blessing trick
- Boy-Girl bag of tricks
- 1. Baby and bath-water trick
This snare has historically been one of the most effective. Martin Luther was once confronted with a group of men that recommended ditching the Bible and having direct communication with the Spirit. They were fanatics from Zwickau. He rejected them and their silly ideas. One of their ideas: infant baptism does not count for anything. In olden days water for bathing was hauled to the home from the well and was discarded when all had taken their bath. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” was a proverb arising from that era. It illustrated the danger of discarding something precious in your hurry to be rid of something repulsive.
Luther threw the metaphorical baby truth out with the bathwater of false prophecy. The false logic sounds like this, “If a weirdo is teaching it, it must be false.” If we are willing to reject an idea simply because it comes from a source that spews out error, we are easy prey. All Satan needs to do to dupe us is to have a quack tell us the truth.
- 2. Gospel can’t work for me trick
How do you know the gospel doesn’t work for you? The Bible didn’t tell you that. The trick often works this way: A man tries the gospel, as he understands it. He does not have the victory he expects. He tries again, harder this time, but falls after a short while. His best efforts meet with the same misfortune, and he eventually concludes that, though it works for others, it just can’t work for him. The conclusion seems inescapable. What else could he believe? The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The cause of his failure might be any number of things. Often one of the other tricks discussed below has led the offender into a cycle of failure and despondency. Reader, the fact that God has bothered to start a work in your heart is evidence enough that He is willing and able to finish it. Have you grasped the beauty of the cross? Do you understand the force of the will? Are you certain you comprehend faith? Keep searching
- 3. God is too kind to condemn good people trick
This is one of the most shallow of the tricks. It carries a terrible presupposition about how God separates the sheep from the goats. Is it an arbitrary decision on His part that excludes men from bliss? Are unregenerate men condemned because Jesus was not kind enough to spare them? Heaven is shut against them by their unfitness for its holiness. A man must be born again.
- 4. The freedom trick
Imagine two horses in a large corral. Prairie and forest, vale and rivulet wind through the fenced-in area. One horse romps and trots at pleasure through the open land. The other, ever near the barbed wire, circles the corral feeling ever the confining nature of his prison. Though the same boundaries keep in both horses, one has freedom, and the other bondage. The irony is that the one looking for freedom is the one that feels the bondage. The young man or young woman that is asking at every turn “what is wrong with that?” “Why can’t I go there?” and other similar questions is pacing the fence. Someday, maybe, he will find the answers to his questions to be so inadequate that he will jump the fence. In the mean time his is an abject bondage. If he would ask the question “what is best?” and back away from the fence into the open pasture, he might share the freedom of the first horse. There is room for joy and peace and activity in the corral established for our safety. The limitations are felt by the would-be-wanderer alone. The gray areas near the edge of the fence are also causes of confusion and strife. Avoid them. Ask not “what will Jesus put up with?” but “What would make Him most happy?”
- 5. The Shoved down my throat trick
This delusion has a counterpart, the they-will-accept-it-if-we-force-them-to-do-it-long-enough trick. But here we wish to consider the falsehood from the perspective of the one being forced to do right. This is a form of the first trick. The dirty bath water here is often the method used to instruct the young. When young people rise up in rebellion against the methods used to teach them they often unwittingly throw baby truth out with the suds. If we allow ourselves to be swayed from the right and from life by the manipulative methods of those that believe in the right, we are sitting as easy targets. Satan has plenty of truth-teachers prepared by long practice to disgust your soul. One must judge truth on its own basis if he would find it at last.
A few hundred years ago Roman “Christians” made an unprovoked attack on the Northmen of Scandanavia. Unprepared for the onslaught the surprised heathen suffered heavy losses. They heard the departing praises to the Christian God for the triumph. That was no mistake on the part of the Romans. They knew what would happen next. The Northmen soon gathered their forces and prepared for a counter attack. But where were Christians to attack? In Great Britain. And so the Celtic church became the victim of a terrible slaughter planned by the Romans and executed by ignorant Northmen that had played right into the trap. It was a misdirected revenge on innocent men and women. The Celtic Christians bore no spiritual relation to the barabaric soldiers of the Roman legions.
Would you take revenged on God and His counsels for the way “Christians” have treated you? Please don’t take it out on Him. He is not to blame for their mistakes. His counsels were written for your well-being. If you turn from them, your vengeance will injure no one as much as yourself.
- 6. The hypocrites trick
By now you might recognize this as a variation on the theme. The devil has long converted hypocrites to the truth for no other purpose than to turn off truth seekers. If you are looking for a church with few hypocrites, you will find one that Satan does not care to corrupt. Truth always has and always will attract men without a heart religion. But are you sure you know who the hypocrites are? Be careful. See trick number 15.
- 7. The later trick
We make our best decisions when we have the most accurate information making the deepest impression on us. You might imagine a man outside of the ark screaming for admittance for himself and the four-year old daughter on his back. That mental picture shows the danger of putting off ‘til tomorrow spiritual decisions that should be made today. Satan knows that when the mind is convicted to make an important decision for God that the best thing he can do is stall for time. The answer “almost you persuade me to be a Christian,” will be followed ever so surely by a weakening of the impressions of the moment. The many thoughts that combined together nearly lead a man to yield are forgotten one by one. The trick is to lead men to put off a decision until they forget the things that would have prompted them to make a good one. The way to dodge the snare is to do right at the very first opportunity.
- 8. I can’t understand those things trick
The Bible teaches that the gospel has been written in such a way that the wayfaring man, though a fool need not misunderstand. Satan has a growing lack of demon power on this earth. Human population has soared an astounding 600% in the last 130 years. During the same period of time the demonic forces have grown by 0%. Rather than try to man each human with a personal demon, he has adopted the delegation method. He leads most men and women to feel that they can not understand the Bible for themselves. And he leads a few others, chosen if possible for their pliability, to feel that they understand it better than most. The former very naturally follow the latter and all the local imps have left to do is keep the leader under their influence. Don’t be fooled. The same God that teaches the eagles to find their prey will teach his children to find Him in His word. Learning, degrees, positions, these things may add influence to a man, but they do not give him an edge on spiritual discernment.
- 9. This is how I am trick
This one is intimately related to the kindred “I need to find myself” trick. “Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life. The impossibility lies in your own will. If you will not, then you can not overcome. The real difficulty arises from the corruption of an unsanctified heart, and an unwillingness to submit to the control of God.” COL p. 331. The way we are has only a limited relation to what we must become. As the mind becomes like that thing on which it mediates, there is nothing so prone to slow down character development than studying to find one’s self. “A fool hath no delight in understanding but that his heart may discover itself.” Pr. 18:2.
- 10. That is how they are trick
This fallacy is the demonic equivalent to man’s famous straw-man argument. The soul under attack is led to believe that the reason men adopt high standards and self-denying lifestyles is that they are constituted that way. The presupposition is that conservative people become that way due to a natural bent, and liberals bend that way for similar reasons. The power of the Word of God to change lives is ignored. The fact that those that strive most earnestly to bring their lives into conformity to the scriptures all move in the same spiritual direction is dismissed as evidence that they are of the conservative frame of mind. The Word is undermined by this opinion. Serious arguments are dismissed, rather than considered, with the brief excuse that the one presenting them “is just that way.” When men will not seriously study, they will be seriously wrong. Arguments and reasons, the basis or critical thinking in its positive sense, militate against the various deceptions of Satan. He is careful to avoid the dead-end of road of meeting them one by one with lies. The “that is how they are” trick is one his ways of doing away with all of them at the same time.
- 11. I see where you are going trick
Truth has components that are both simple and complex. The latter thoughts require connected reasoning on the part of those arriving at them. If you were to try to persuade a man that the seventh day is the Sabbath and should be kept, you might begin by defining sin as the transgression of the law. As one that considers himself to be a budding intellectual your listener might quickly perceive that to accept the definition is, by and by, to accept the conclusion that the Sabbath must be kept. He does not want to get there and begins to resist points that he might readily have admitted under any other circumstance. Now imagine that on your side are 20 arguments to his 3 counter arguments. If all 23 arguments were on the table at once, the truth could be readily seen. But by jumping ahead in the train of thought, the hapless listener has managed to keep at all times a maximum of four thoughts on the table—his three and one of yours. At each point he feel very justified in resisting your conclusion, for his arguments outweigh your argument. If you would know the truth or falsity of an idea you will do better to hear the arguments for and against it, follow the thoughts, and to postpone a conclusion until you have time to study the reasons. Do not be so afraid of losing the argument as of losing the truth.
- 12. I won’t like heaven; it won’t be fun trick
Who gave men the ability to enjoy music, flowers, warmth, and mangos? Who made the heart in such a way that it could be excited, the lungs with the power to laugh, and the eyes with the power to wink? Was it an ambiguous force in nature that gave men an ability to enjoy high-speed travel? The fact that sin has degenerated our powers and changed our tastes should encourage us. Our resurrected frames will be stronger; our passions more fiery, our intellect brighter. And our ability to enjoy will exceed anything experienced here. Do not suspect that the God who gave us such an abundance of active and passive pleasures would not equip us to enjoy them in heaven.
- 13. You can’t prove it trick
One hundred and sixty years ago there were a few people that thought that smoking was unhealthy. They couldn’t prove it, but they saw evidence. No one demands proof when they are warned that a bomb may be in a building. Danger is avoided by caution. We are cautious not because we are sure of loss, but because we are unsure. In our illustration, a man living in 1845 might have asked “is the pleasure of smoking worth the risk that it might be the cause of these gentlemen’s coughing and cancer?” A demand for proof might have lead to a fatal mistake. In spiritual things, Satan often leads souls to demand proof that their chosen vices are truly injurious. Proof is hard to come by and easy to confute. Is a new vice harmless until research shows it otherwise? In the area of music this question has significant repercussions. Evidence has been compiled by several authorities that certain types of music lead to unwanted types of behavior. Others contest the findings. What if the former views are correct? Are we willing to pull the trigger on the music pistol on the whim that we have a 5/6 chance of getting away with our souls? If the man giving evidence in favor of a truth in unacquainted with the best arguments, does it make the truth less true? The only safety from mistake is to go with the evidence and to display caution proportionate to the gravity of the potential loss. You might walk a balance beam and risk falling two feet. But you would not walk it at 2,000 feet. When our eternal life is at stake, do we show a reckless hardihood to demand proof before exercising caution? The Jews in the time of Jesus demanded proof in Matthew 12:38-39 because they didn’t really want to believe.
- 14. I’m rich and doing evangelism trick
The question “What must I do to inherit eternal life” has often been answered by the human heart. In fact, all false religions are variations on the theme of “activity saves.” The message to Laodicea is written to workers for God. Thinking that they are “rich in good works,” even the poorest of Adventists are in danger of neglecting whole-hearted religion. Many that do not know Jesus in a very personal way dedicate hours and dollars into weekly outreach activities. Comparing themselves with the inactive majority they are certain that if anyone is truly Christian, they must be. Beware of that thought. It is a truly justified man in Ez. 33:13 that, after his true conversion is condemned for self-righteousness.
- 15. I thank you, oh God, that I am balanced and level-headed and not like this Pharisee…trick
This idea works with astounding consistency. The plot goes like this: Satan convinces men that the arguments in the church are the result of extremists advocating extreme positions. Then he pulls the parallel trick—the Saduccees are like the liberals today, and the Pharisees are like the conservatives. Whether or not this is true is not relevant to the next step. He convinces men that by avoiding either extreme, they can land atop the narrow way. The way to find truth becomes a balancing act. Now the poor soul has no idea of the fact, but he has just put himself where he can be easily manipulated. If the Devil wants to push him to the right, all he has to do is bring into the man’s association a great deal of very far right people. That makes the manipulee feel a bit left of center, and he moves accordingly. If the Devil would have him give up a few basic reforms, all he needs to do is bring in a host of men and women that militate for giving up all lifestyle issues. The poor soul suddenly feels very conscious of his glaring right of center tendencies. He needs balance. After an adjustment in his position, he is ready for the last step in the trick: Self-congratulation. He is so glad that he is not like the Pharisee in the front pew of his church that he becomes just like the Pharisee in the parable of Jesus—“I thank thee, oh God, that I am not…”
- 16. Authorities disagree trick
By the way, the title of the trick is certainly a truth. Eminent men are at each other’s intellectual throats. Men that have spent thirty years with their noses in Hebrew manuscripts can not come to terms even on the most basic of Christian doctrines. “Therefore said some of the [theologians] ‘This man is not of God, because he keeps not the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?’ And there was a division among them.” Jn. 9:16. Now here is the question—Why can’t they? Satan suggests the answer, “the issues are too complex. The more you study, the more ignorant you realize you are. If educated men can not agree, lesser men would be heady in the extreme to dare an interpretation.” The logic is sound proof if the supposition is accepted. Are the issues honestly too complex? Is that the reason men do not agree? “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not from your desires that fight within you?” James 4:1. It is a lack of spiritual discernment that leaves these men destitute of truth. But hold! Careful how you relegate the trick to the Babylon without. Are there divisive issues in your church that it seems men have been arguing for years? Have you thought that their lack of consensus is evidence that neither side is right? Or that study of the topic is vain? Or that the issues are too complex for you? If so, you are a victim of the trick. Authority does not disagree. You can go straight to it for yourself.
- 17. The informed and intelligent judge trick
This trick is so easy to understand that it is often played by men on each other. It is a variation of the “authorities disagree” trick, but with an element of disciple making. An example might go like this: Rob opens his presentation, “Ladies and gentlemen, great thinkers have studied the writings of Rophart for decades. Most have concluded that the fifth volume of the series is a fraud. Wesson and Peters, great doctors that they are, have ably shown that the fifth volume bears, contrary to the general consensus, distinct evidence of Ruphart’s personal labor. The point that most of Peters’ critics have missed is….” While never stated, there is an implication. The speaker knows more. More than the doctors, for he is evaluating them; more than the critics, and for the same reason. He is informed and intelligent, and intelligent listeners will accept his assertions. Watch this move. The fact that a man has read widely is no evidence that he is right. Others that have read widely disagree.
- 18. It doesn’t affect me that way trick
Giving a child everything he wants will spoil him. But how? In olden times many monarchs were poisoned by very small servings of a deadly substance delivered to them day after day for months. You might ask them after their third tainted meal if they felt a little queasy and hear a jolly “not at all.” Some poison in very small portions does not have immediate perceptible effects. Satan has many slow poisons. Much of the counsel of God has been given to warn us against these things. The Bible presents them as deadly. The Devil makes a sly move here. He makes us aware of hypersensitive people. They can feel the anger rising in them when they listen to that music. We can’t. They had a headache the last time they ate a candy bar. You could eat ten without noticing anything. They became suicidal when they broke up with their boyfriend. You get over it with a few minutes of tears and a resolve to move on. They get drunk on one beer. You can drink three before you get a buzz. It just doesn’t affect you the same way. It is safe for you. It kills slowly, so no worries.
- 19. God told me trick
Be careful how you say that. How do you know God told you? There are three ways that God speaks to us (5T 512). Find what they are. Imagination, feeling, desire, impulse, circumstance, all of these are often confounded with the voice of God. God chooses to lead us by his counsel. He never leads us contrary to that counsel. The trick here often involves a two-step stumble. Both missteps come from impulse. The first impulse comes when we are seeking to know God’s will. The timing of the impulse seems to clothe it in Divinity. But inwardly we know better. But then we are talking to someone about it and without thinking it through we say “and God told me….” We might even know it is an exaggeration, but we said it. Now self is committed and the powers of the mind begin preparing to answer challenges to the claim. We convince ourselves. Impulse wins the day. Our god made it that way.
- 20. I prayed and prayed trick a
Ps 32:8-9. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way, which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Men have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way that God leads his children. He leads them by his counsel. And He enables them to understand it by granting them reason. These powers atrophy in the soul that will not study earnestly. Men would rather have a sign. They would rather have a vision. They would rather just choose what they want if they thought they could get away with it in the judgment. So they do, but they give God veto power. They pray and pray and pray and ask him to close the doors if He does not appreciate their choice. But God does not answer prayers for wisdom and guidance by giving more of the same when the first Wisdom and Guidance is neglected. He does not even respect those insulting prayers enough to give the veto. If you will not follow the counsel, do not pray for guidance. Just chose. You will make the same decision, and won’t be fooled into thinking it was God’s will.
- 21. I prayed and prayed trick b
A few years ago I was talking to a young man that was giving up religion. Religion didn’t work for him. “I prayed and prayed that if God was real that he would make Stephanie like me. Nothing happened.” The forces of evil would throw a party if they could convince everyone that prayer is white magic—that is, a method of controlling forces of the universe for the purpose of doing good. God never agreed to give weak-minded sinfully inclined human beings their every whim. He does not spoil us. If we do not get what we asked for, it is an impotent prayer rather than an impotent God that is to blame. See the chapter “Prayer” in Steps to Christ and James 4:1-4.
- 22. I’m called to do what I like trick
Moses almost fell for this one. He enjoyed many things, but public speaking and Egyptian vacations were not among them. Our Savior had no relish for a life of rejection and personal sorrow. Paul was constrained by the love of Christ to put his life on the line. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed,” was his testimony. 2Co 4:8-9. There are many that, while burdened to know God’s will for their life, have written off the uncomfortable options. Their thoughts find roots in a great truth, namely that God wants His children to be happy. But they siphon that truth through a very narrow-minded filter. God wanted Moses and Paul to have the greatest joy possible in the long term. He often calls men and women to work for him in ways that war against every fiber of their being that they might be fitted for eternity with him. Personal evangelism involves personal rejection, but they that “be teachers shall shine as the brightness of the skies, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Be open. If you are called to a self-denying work for others you must evaluate that call based on your aptitudes, not your attitudes.
- 23. God let it happen trick
A Time magazine a few years ago had on the title the words “God is good; God is all powerful; Evil exists; the Philosopher’s Dilemma.” God can not be blamed for men’s foolish attempt to separate cause and effect. “The curse causeless will not come.” Pr 26:2. The life of man, due to the history of man, brings one caused curse after another. The weakness of the human body, the human mind, the human will, are the results of the choices of our forbears. Accidents, illness, war; these require no vengeance on the part of God. They are life on a planet ceaselessly cursing itself. While a Loving hand watches the pressures of the curse and refuses to let them overwhelm the searching soul, God can not be blamed for any of the pain here. Man let it happen and God did not exterminate him. That is all the blame that Heaven will bear. Thank God for that.
- 24. The slippery slope trick a
When someone is just crossing over the doorstep from pleasure seeking to conscientiousness, he is welcomed by offers of peace and joy. That is what draws him to enter the door at the sacrifice of some cherished pleasures. But just on the worldly side of the gate a band of picketing men carry placards warning of the oppression experienced by everyone entering the narrow opening. “Giving up chicken is just the first step!” “Caffeine today; fun tomorrow!” “Those that enter here must ALWAYS be consistent!” “Admit that its wrong then freedom is gone!” “Want plight? Read White!” The fears seem grounded. But this is only an earthly version of the “I won’t like heaven trick.” The offers of Peace and Joy are substantial, and those that give up “all things” to get them, “count them but trash” that they might win Christ. Part of the deception involves a severe exaggeration of the fun derived from the lessor life-style. While we may enjoy poor food, revealing dress, and any number of other little vices, we do not get that much joy from them. It is partly because we get so little joy in life that we cling with such fervor to the bits that we do get. Give the bits up and you get a meal.
- 25. The slippery slope trick b
At the same moment that Satan portrays the “dangers” of stepping onto the reform slide and entering into a life of ever steeper and faster commitments leading to who knows where, he places the feet of his listeners on a yet steeper slide. The compromise slope is nearly horizontal at its top, and you may walk up and down the slope without even realizing a change of altitude. This gives a sense of security. If compromising on little issues in life doesn’t make any significant difference in your spirituality, why fuss over conscientiousness? But the path of religious life is lined with the wrecks of men that stepped just a few steps too far down and lost their balance. Just at that point where the soul begins to slide, signs on the incline ask those sliding down “why be a hypocrite? If you aren’t going to obey all the way, give it all up.” “You really knew better. Too late now.” “Shame on you! If your mother saw you here…” The soul filled with shame looses nerve and strength to hold on and slow the fall. It is not safe to violate your conscience in little things. Take the high road with no regrets. One other thought—Prayers of repentance and faith do wonders even for those on high-speed declines. God can pick you off the slide. If Satan didn’t know this, he wouldn’t bother placing the hopeless signs all over the path. He fears you might exercise trust.
- 26. First duty is to my family trick
“But your first and most sacred duty is to your family.” 2T 85. Satan often uses truth as groundwork for error. He quoted Ps 91 and God’s promise to keep us from harm before inviting the Messiah to jump from a lofty height. The mistake often made here is in the method to be employed in helping our family. Will we, by leaving our appointed task to return home and aid them, impress them with the urgency that we feel? “If Lot himself had manifested no hesitancy to obey the angels’ warning, but had earnestly fled toward the mountains, without one word of pleading or remonstrance, his wife also would have made her escape. The influence of his example would have saved her from the sin that sealed her doom. But his hesitancy and delay caused her to lightly regard the divine warning.” PP 161. When our kin see us making decisions that could cost us our friends and dearest relations in the service of God, they will know that the truth means something to us. Speaking of punctuality and decision in the work of God, Ellen White wrote, “Never should the cause of God be left to suffer, in a single particular, because of our earthly friends or dearest relatives.” 3T 499.
- 27. I will go and minister to my friends trick
This is the opposite side of the “I am called to do what I want” false coin. The dupe reasons that he can do God’s work anywhere in the world and he might as well do it among his buddies. This thought is not always errant. Jesus told the Gadarene to return and show his friends the great things that God had done for him. But when it is a violation of Romans 13:14, “make no provision for the flesh,” it is foolhardy decision that has led to the spiritual apostasy of thousands. “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17. Children that will one day make good soldiers make poor fodder in the mean time. If they have recently left the vices of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, immorality, and idleness, do not send them back to minister to their own until they have grown strong in the faith. The author writes from sad experience on this point.
- 28. I don’t need anyone to teach me trick
Founded on I Jn 2:27 this argument neglects to mention the immediate context of seducing teachers (v. 26). The very writing of this Epistle of John is evidence that true teaching was needed. The point of the verse is that the members were not at the mercy of their false teachers. They could go to inspiration for themselves. That they were inclined to credit unfounded assertions is evidenced in the fact that they were being seduced. Far different counsel is written to those heady and high-minded men who would think it weakness to say “How can I [understand] except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:31. We need each other. God designed the church that way very much on purpose. Not even Paul, the recently renamed Saul, aspired to spiritual independence in his newly converted state. In vision he was told, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Acts 9:6. Not an angel, but God’s servant Ananias became his tutor.
- 29. You can find what you are looking for trick
The deception is the old “did God really say you shouldn’t eat it?” It paints God’s counsel as narrow and restrictive. “You can find what you are looking for.” “Just weed out the error and accept the truth.” “Just find the good friends that are there.” “Sally is there and she is doing fine.” This trick is used most often on young people making decisions that will affect their entire future. Satan and God and angels good and bad all know how easily the values gained during childhood may be thrown off in adolescence. When God has given counsel that such and such a course of action is unpleasing to Him, to say “you can [do that] if you are careful to look for the good and resist the evil.” But being careful is a character issue. If one is not careful enough to search his heart for the sins that separate him from heaven; if he is not careful enough to study the Bible earnestly to know God’s counsel; what magic will render him careful enough to resist the influences of those that are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God? In the first person, if you go and escape with your soul, who will follow your example and lose theirs? And if God has outlined a different plan for his children, how do you know that you will be just as well off to make your own? In your educational planning, has God asked you to aim at a mere absence of corruption? How will you answer for the things that you might have known about his Word had you followed his Testimonies and entered a school of his choosing? If you are looking to put searching for the kingdom first, God will show you where to do your looking as well as for what to be looking.
- 30. I’ll witness by living a good life
The trick here is that living the good life involves active as well as passive witnessing. If you are not actively witnessing, you are not living a good life, and are not being a good witness.
- 31. You are judged by what you know trick
A more accurate statement would be “you are judged by what you might have known had you lived up to your privileges.” Willful ignorance is not winked at. Those that neglect to study lest they should find light and be challenged by it are responsible for it nonetheless. “This is the condemnation that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light.” Jn. 3:19.
- 32. More people will accept the truth this way trick
This is how Satan pushes the church to the outer boundaries of the gray areas. Centuries were taken by Satan to change the Sabbath. It progressed from keeping Sabbath Holy, to Keeping Sabbath Holy and Sunday Fun. From there, it was Sabbath Solemn and Sunday Blessed. Finally Sabbath was scorned and Sunday was Holy. There are lessons we can learn from history. Two paragraphs from the Great Controversy, pp. 289-290, when meditated on, will be sufficient comment on this trick.
The English Reformers, while renouncing the doctrines of Romanism, had retained many of its forms. Thus though the authority and the creed of Rome were rejected, not a few of her customs and ceremonies were incorporated into the worship of the Church of England. It was claimed that these things were not matters of conscience; that though they were not commanded in Scripture, and hence were nonessential, yet not being forbidden, they were not intrinsically evil. Their observance tended to narrow the gulf, which separated the reformed churches from Rome, and it was urged that they would promote the acceptance of the Protestant faith by Romanists.
To the conservative and compromising, these arguments seemed conclusive. But there was another class that did not so judge. The fact that these customs “tended to bridge over the chasm between Rome and the Reformation” (Martyn, volume 5, page 22), was in their view a conclusive argument against retaining them. They looked upon them as badges of the slavery from which they had been delivered and to which they had no disposition to return. They reasoned that God has in His word established the regulations governing His worship, and that men are not at liberty to add to these or to detract from them. The very beginning of the great apostasy was in seeking to supplement the authority of God by that of the church. Rome began by enjoining what God had not forbidden, and she ended by forbidding what He had explicitly enjoined.
- 33. I can’t take it any longer trick
Though the overwhelmed soul rarely thinks it through, this is a denial of I Cor. 10:13, “But God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it.” Judge God to be faithful, tempted soul. You may feel as if you will die, but God will not fail. Do not give up.
- 34. What counts is a personal relationship trick
Fuzzy facts facilitate fallacies and foster farces. A personal relationship with our Savior that involves the indwelling of his Spirit in a regenerated heart is of the utmost value. Those that have it will be saved, and those that are found in the judgment without it will be lost. Then why is “relationship” here in a list of tricks? Because the fuzzy definition given to relationship often lends itself to demonic purposes. Those that Satan suspects of being honest Christians he leads to feel that their relationship is too weak. They don’t know enough scripture yet. They haven’t arrived. They still find themselves with sins to repent of each morning. And those that Satan suspects of being hollow Christians (no Holy Spirit inside) he leads to feel confident that their relationship is healthy. They spend time with God everyday “and delight to do his will as a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the commandments of God.” Is. 58:2. And “relationship” is used as an excuse for ignoring the details of God’s counsel. What would your mother think if she asked you to clean up your room and you said “no mother, I don’t want to. I just want to have a relationship with you.” The Bible defines our love relationship with Jesus in terms that are not as fuzzy. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
- 35. The Bible, not Ellen White trick
Though the words are very different, in method and principle this deception differs little from the “what counts is a personal relationship” trick. Except in those that have had little opportunity to test the claims of Ellen White, these words often show a preference of the fuzzy to the concrete. This paragraph will certainly not attempt to summarize Ellen White and Her Critics. Suffice here to say that if a man claims to believe and follow the Bible wholly, then he must accept as authoritative the writings of non-canonical prophets. If the Bible says “do what they say,” and the reader replies, “no, I will only do what you, my Bible, say,” he is manifestly inconsistent. He does not obey the Bible. And do men dare to tie God’s hands and say, “I will not believe any light you send me unless it is in the Bible,” when the Bible foretold that God would speak to his last-day church through dreams and visions. If they are willing to resist the Spirit, we must not join them. The “Bible only, not Ellen White” trick is a farce when spoken by those that believe her to be heaven sent.
- 36. God is blessing trick
When men make a decision the haunting question lingers on, “was it the right one? Is this God’s will?” When the decision has been made in harmony with God’s counsel and within the bounds of both his guidelines and the powers of reason that He has given, we should leave regrets behind. But when we have ignored the counsel, we must beware the prosperity deception. Not all that glitters is gold. And not all that turns to gold is from God. Most of the wealth of this world has ever been in wicked hands and the Devil is not so stingy as to withhold capital from those that would be confirmed in wickedness by receiving it. If you build where God counsels you not to build and a man pays off your mortgage, please do not feel that heaven has bankrolled your godless project. If you enroll is a school that treats God’s counsels with the same carelessness that you did when enrolling and some benefactor pays your tuition, don’t insult with God with your praise. If prosperity were a mark of heavenly approbation Jesus might have had reason to doubt his calling.
- 37. Boy-Girl bag of tricks
As I do not propose to write a book in addition to this pamphlet, I must be ever so brief on this bag of tricks. Here is a short list of tricks that I have seen the devil use repeatedly and with astonishing success.
- I can help him trick
- But he has a good heart trick
- He respects my beliefs trick
- I need someone trick
- God led us together trick
- I’m not serious trick
- [oblivious] trick
Just a word on this topic: While young people are forming their characters and shaping their values, often in their late teens and early twenties, it often happens that they change direction several times. Students heading “down” and students heading “up” may cross paths in the process and be about the “same” when they do, except in the direction they are moving. It is at this very time that Satan works feverishly to engross the mind of the poor youth. He binds them together, for he knows that their continued movement will lead to difference and misery in the home. And these tricks draw much from a lack of faith in our Creator. While heaven has been working for years to prepare a match for the type of young lady that Sally will become, Satan knows that she will not be ready for a year or two yet. Then he puts all his powers to the task of linking her with someone less than ideal and at the less than ideal time to prevent the ultimate blessing that heaven would bestow. Young man, young lady, be patient, be slow, give you time to grow. Make your big decisions without reference to the one that courts your affections. Let your big decisions bring you to the one for you. You make yourself easy prey if you let the “one for you” bring you to your big decisions.
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