You have an enemy. His name is Satan (also known as Adversary, Accuser, Deceiver) and his goal is simple: destroy your life.
Satan has been around for a long time, way longer than us. He started out well, as an angel of light. He was essentially the "worship leader" of the angels in heaven. But his worship of God became overshadowed by his worship of himself, and such pride got him kicked out of heaven (along with the rest of his worship band; about one-third of the angels).
Ever since Satan's "fall" he has been intent on one thing: destroying the God he once worshiped. This is where his focus on you and me comes in.
God created mankind in His own image. We read the following in the first chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26a, 27)
We (humans) are the only part of creation that bears this special mark of God; we are created unique, distinct from everything else in the universe. And this is why Satan hates us: we look something like our heavenly Father.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, He placed them in a beautiful garden and said, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16b, 17)
They had freedom with only one restriction. (Can you imagine?) God gave humans a choice: trust God and live or trust anything else and die. This is the leverage point Satan seized upon in order to try and destroy humans, and thus try and mar the image of God.
In this story of mankind's fall into sin, Satan employs three tactics that he still uses today to seek to destroy God's image bearers. Learn to recognize these tactics and you will do well in fighting against Satan's destructive force in your life.
Tactic 1: Distraction/Doubt
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
Satan's first tactic to destroy God's image bearers was distraction and doubt. He asked Eve a question to plant a seed, not to gain information. He wanted to distract Eve just enough from God's Word so that she would begin to spin additional questions about God's trustworthiness.
This tactic is still used all the time today. God's Word says one thing, yet Satan brings a question to plant the tiniest seed of doubt as to whether God's Word is trustworthy or even good.
Some examples might be:
Did God actually say marriage is the covenant union of only a man and a woman?
Did God actually say that racism is always a sin?
Did God actually say all human life is sacred at every stage of development?
Did God actually say that Jesus Christ is the only way to be forgiven of sin and have eternal life?
Satan is a master at planting seeds of doubt and then watering them with seemingly endless twisted modifiers to God's Word. And this is where his second tactic comes in.
Tactic 2: Distortion
Notice how Satan completely flips the script of what God actually said.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?" (3:1, emphasis mine)
The simple answer is: No, God did not actually say that!
God said: "You may surely eat of every tree... except one."
Satan distorted God to say: "You shall not eat of any tree."
It's stark, but subtle. God actually invites Adam and Eve to focus on all the freedom He has given them, and also pay attention to the one danger. Satan, conversely, entices Eve to focus on the one restriction and ignore completely the vast freedom God has granted.
Let's continue the story to see even more of Satan's tactic of distortion.
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:2-3)
Eve gives a decent answer, but it's incomplete. Satan's first tactic seems to be working. She has already forgotten bits of God's Word. The seed of distraction and doubt is steering her ever so slightly away from the truth.
God said they could "surely" (or "freely") eat from the trees in the garden. She omitted this small, but significant qualifier. She also added something God never explicitly said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "neither shall you touch it."
Anytime we add to or subtract from God's Word, the meaning will eventually become distorted. And Satan smiles.
His distortion continued.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Satan flat out contradicts God's Word when he says "you will not surely die," for God said plainly, "for in the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die."
This is the moment of truth for Eve (and us). Trust God and His Word or trust Satan and his word. This is how every decision of life ultimately boils down.
For many of us, much of the time, the tactics of Satan have the same effect on us as they did on Eve (and Adam) below.
Tactic 3: Division
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:6-7)
Satan's seeds of distraction and doubt drew Eve's attention away from God's Word just enough for him to plant a few more seeds of doubt by distorting and flat-out contradicting God's Word. With each question and contradiction Eve's focus was diverting from God (and freedom) to sin (and death).
And as soon as Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit a separation of cosmic proportions was established. Immediately there was a division between husband and wife; they became self-conscious of their nakedness and sought to hide their bodies from each other.
But more than just a marital division occurred. Heaven and earth were separated. God's image bearers chose the way of the Deceiver instead of their Creator. Life would never be the same again. And life would also have an expiration. Every human being born from Adam will surely die. God's Word was true after all.
Satan, the great Deceiver, is intent on destroying your life and mine. He literally hates us! He uses the same tactics today that he used in the beginning: distraction/doubt, distortion, and division.
Where in your own life do you see the enemy's tactics? Has he planted seeds of doubt about God's goodness and trustworthiness? Has he distorted God's Word, causing you to omit or add things that fundamentally alter its meaning and effectiveness? Where has Satan created division between you and God, or you and others, or even you and yourself?
Do battle today to reclaim ground the enemy has stolen. Because of God's grace and the power of the resurrected Christ, your life does not have to be destroyed.
Trust fully in God's Word.
Repent of sin.
Pursue unity with God and others.
It's true you have an enemy. But it's also true you have Savior in Jesus Christ, the One who conquered sin and death -- and Satan! In Christ, you have hope and joy -- and the freedom your soul was made for from the beginning.