“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
(2 Corinthians 11:14)

Stetson Kennedy just wanted to serve his country.

He couldn’t enlist in the military during World War 2 because of a bad back, so instead of fighting the Nazis, Stetson decided to focus his efforts towards a different (but also very similar) brand of evil: the Jim Crow South.

At the time, the Ku Klux Klan was going through something of a resurgence. The group had formed in response to the Confederate loss in the Civil War, then had reformed in the 1910’s, only to virtually disband by the early 1930’s. By 1946, the group was again in full swing, and would continue to dominate the South for the next 20 years.

Stetson knew that the local police were afraid to crack down on Klan activities, so he decided on a bolder plan: infiltrate the KKK, learn their members-only secrets, and expose them to the world.

To do that, he turned to the producers of the world-famous Superman radio show for help. He pitched the idea of a story arc where Superman took on the Klan, which the producers immediately took a liking too. Over sixteen episodes, every facet of the Klan was exposed for the entire world to see, from their secret codewords and initiation rites to private rituals and handshakes. Pretty soon, people were showing up to Klan rallies to mock them instead of signing up to join their ranks.

Satan as an Angel of Light

What Stetson realized was that the source of the Klan’s power was their secrecy; people didn’t understand the Klan, so they feared the Klan. Once their deeds were exposed, there was not nearly as much to fear.

Satan operates the same way. The Bible talks about him as “cunning” (2 Corinthians 11:3), a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44), a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).

Despite these attributes, we know very little about what satan actually is. What does he look like? What does he sound like? More importantly, what are his strategies to deceive mankind? What are his favorite tactics and what’s his overall goal?

All of these questions are largely unanswered, and though we can poke around at a few of them, the overall mystique of Satan means our understanding of him is shrouded in fear. He moves in silence, prowling about the world, trying to devour Christians. 

And it scares us senseless.

When Satan Attacks

It’s impossible to list every single way Satan will ever try to deceive us, but what if we could see just a few of his known activities to see how he operates? Doing so would alleviate some of the fear associated with his activities. Fortunately, there are several instances where he is outright exposed for the antagonist he is, despite trying to hide in the hearts of men.

Here are a few:

  • That time he tried to prevent the Cross: “But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:23)
  • Those times he tried to discourage through persecution: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
  • That time he twisted God’s words: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”?’” (Genesis 3:1)
  • That time he argued someone’s faith relied on physical possessions: “Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face’.” (Job 1:9-11)
  • That time he almost used guilt as a weapon: “But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)
  • Finally, that time he tried to beat Paul into rebellion: “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me — to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord athree times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthian 12:7-9).

Satan’s favorite tool is deception. He cloaks sin inside a myriad of different vehicles: discouragement, persecution, guilt, etc. When we experience those events – and especially when we feel them intensely – know that it’s Satan pushing his hardest to pull you away from the love of God. And the more intense the fire, the more fervently Satan feels like he needs to work to claim your soul. Look at it as a round-about compliment.

He is terrible, and should definitely be feared, but not because Satan is some mysterious being that we can’t defend against. Despite the different scenarios described above, Satan generally sticks to a few time-tested tactics that are nonetheless very effective. It’s up to us to resist them, but identifying them will make the job a tad easier.

Last modified: February 24, 2020