The Bible paints a very grim picture concerning Satan, or the devil, the serpent of old. The only bright things about Satan are his pre-fall past (Ez. 28:13-15) and his ability to disguise himself as an angel of light in order to deceive (2nd Cor. 11:14). Everything else is dark, bleak, and hopeless. In fact the Bible teaches that God’s specific goal in creating hell was for the devil and demons (Matt. 25:41). There is no redemption for Satan and demons.
Now, try to put yourself in his place: The place of no hope. The place of knowing that you are headed towards an eternity in the lake of fire and there is nothing you can do to stop it. If that is your future and your heart is filled with hatred towards the living God, then it makes perfect sense that you would do anything you could to get at God through the people whom He redeems, and the human race created in God’s Image.
One of Satan’s greatest weapons in that endeavor is telling lies. Satan is so good at telling lies and deceiving people into believing his lies that Jesus actually called him “the father of lies” (John 8:43-44).
One of the biggest methods in his endeavor to deceive with lies is — taking something God considers good and convincing many that it is bad.
Here are some examples:
(1) God revealing truth to man through His prophets & apostles in scripture is a very good thing. But that truth is exclusive by its very nature.
Thus, Satan has convinced many that truth is relative, which makes them skeptical of God’s truth found in the Bible.
(2) God’s gift of marriage to the human race is a very good thing. In fact in the creation narrative of Genesis 1 we don’t see God pronounce everything “very good” until after creating Adam and Eve, and blessing them, and telling them to be fruitful and multiply through procreation in marriage. But God’s restriction on marriage is also a good thing: Marriage is only approved by God between one man and one woman.
Thus, Satan has progressively convinced millions of people (especially in the west) to expand marriage beyond God’s restriction, to include man with man, and woman with woman. Satan knows such perversion will never be blessed by God but will in fact be judged both now and in eternity; but that’s exactly what he wants — suffering & destruction.
(3) God created sex to be a wonderful thing carried out to our delight within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman. Any guy reading this would heartily agree — Sex is good!
Thus, Satan has convinced millions of people that restricting sex to one man and one woman within marriage is an old, antiquated religious ideal that 21st century post-modern people no longer need. Never mind, the fact that those who embrace all sorts of extra-biblical sexual practices run the risk of unwanted pregnancies, abuse, all sorts of disease, and in many cases death. Yet Satan has convinced the masses that unchecked selfish pleasure is good; just ignore the consequences.
But what about the professing Christian?
It is sad that some Christians never stop to realize that every single day in this world we are in a battle against the enemy of our souls — Satan (Eph. 6:12). Does he use all the same tactics and methods? No. He can’t convince someone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture that truth is relative. He can’t convince someone who believes scripture that any kind of marriage is legitimate. He can’t convince someone who submits to God’s truth that any kind of sex is permissible. Etc. But don’t get it twisted — Satan has other tactics for Christians.
Satan comes into the church to attack Christians. On the practical side he loves to divide Christians within a church and shut it down. Gossip. Backbiting. Scheming. Jealousy. Power struggles. All of these things and more get stirred up by the devil. This doesn’t excuse those who engage in such sinful activities; but we must admit the devil is in the details.
However, his attacks don’t stop there within the church. Satan loves to take biblical doctrine and twist it, change it, or negate it (if he can). One area of attack where Satan has taken something good that God has granted to us, and tried to negate it, is — repentance. We know repentance is a good thing because the Bible says, “…do you not know that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)
In the last decade or so there have been a number of pastors who teach something called “free grace theology.” The name is misleading. It is intended to be. It is intended to be a name that automatically positions any opposition to it as “theology opposed to free grace.” Any good Bible student knows that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing (Eph. 2:8-9). That is grace and it is free. We cannot earn it. But the Bible doesn’t stop with justification by grace alone through faith alone. Scripture teaches of what is to be expected of those who have been saved by grace. In other words scripture has no tolerance for the view that God comes within us at salvation powerfully, and yet He is helpless to change us after salvation. Martin Luther put it best by saying, “Grace alone saves, but that grace that saves is never alone.”
Free grace theology is the view that someone can be saved by grace without ever repenting of their sin, without ever bearing any fruit of Christ, without ever doing any good works for God out of love, without ever being changed in this life. Truth be told none who hold this view (that I know of) encourage people away from those things, but they do tell people that they are saved even if such biblical realities never become their own. And that is not biblical.
I am convinced that the spiritual source behind such a view is Satan, not the God of the Bible. I do not say that such pastors who teach such theology aren’t saved themselves. Though that may be true in some cases (Matt. 7:21-23). But I do believe, at least in this area, such people have been deceived by the enemy of our souls.
The sheer number of New Testament texts that one has to circumvent in order to teach such theology ought to be glaring neon sign screaming, “BAD THEOLOGY”, but alas we as human beings are prone to bring our presuppositions into the Bible. Rare is the person who makes it their constant aim to always reform towards the Bible.
One could write a book just unpacking every New Testament text that concerns repentance, and is opposed to the doctrine that we don’t have to repent. But I will settle for only two.
First, go back to Ephesians 2:8-9.
How many times have you heard someone quote those two verses and stop? In my younger years I was guilty of that myself, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
But read the next word in the next verse, “For…” That little word is a causal conjunction which could be translated “because.” Ephesians 2:10 reads, “Because we are His (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The reason we cannot ever claim that our good works help save us is because it is God who is at work in us leading us into such good works. But if that is the case then it must be said that those who have God within them will inevitably do good works; the works that God prepared for us beforehand. Does Ephesians 2:8-10 fit into a theology that says we can be saved by grace yet never changed by grace? I think not.
2nd Corinthians 12:20-21.
The previous text shows that those who are saved will be changed. This text deals directly with the teaching that we can be saved and yet never repent. In 2nd Corinthians Paul is forced to set forth his pedigree as an apostle in order to combat the false teachers who were influencing some in Corinth (12:11). He did so reluctantly but he did so because he needed this church to recognize his apostolic authority in order to use that authority to combat wrong teaching and unchecked sinful behavior.
In verses 20-21 Paul writes, “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish — that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.”
What is Paul’s fear? That when he comes to visit this church again he finds some practicing unrepentant sin. In fact Paul is concerned that God will humble him by their lack of repentance; and he will have to mourn again because of it.
Why make such a big deal about repentance if it wasn’t important in the Christian life? Why would Paul mourn over their lack of repentance and fear being humbled by God if it wasn’t a necessary aspect of the work of God in a regenerate heart?
One could argue that this just speaks to Paul’s desires and says nothing about the reality of, or lack of salvation, of some in the Corinthian church. But that will not work because one sin on that list Paul mentions is “sexual immorality.” And what was the man in 1st Corinthians 5 guilty of? Fornication or sexual immorality. And what did Paul tell the church to do to that man? Remove him from the church! In fact in 1st Corinthians 5:5 Paul writes, “…deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord.” The implication of Paul’s original wording here is: He doesn’t know whether this man is saved or not. But he is certain that if he is saved, and the church hands him over to Satan, it will inevitably result in his repentance, which it did (2nd Cor. 2). Why would Paul say such a thing if repentance wasn’t a necessary component of genuine conversion? He wouldn’t.
The Christian life is not that of a moment of faith but rather living by faith (Rom. 1:17). The Christian life is not that of a moment of repentance but rather a lifetime of repentance and contrition (1st John 1:9). The Christian life is not all about one decision we make followed by a lifetime of ignoring God, but rather it is a lifetime in which God is all about remaking us into the Image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).
The reason Satan hates repentance is because repentance happens in hearts where God is at work; it happens in hearts that are broken, pliable, contrite, and full of faith in Jesus Christ. Hearts like that are dangerous to Satan and his kingdom of darkness because such hearts are willing to live out what is found therein.
But if Satan can convince some professing Christians that they can have Jesus in their hearts and He will share it with the continual fulfillment of sinful desires without repentance, then the end result is hardened hearts; hardened hearts instead of broken, contrite hearts filled with grace that teaches us to say no to unrighteousness and yes to the Lord (Titus 2:11-14).
My repentance is not perfect but it is real. I praise God regularly for the privilege to repent. I’ve been a Christian for almost 20 years and the older I get the more I hate my sin; and the more I feel assured of my salvation because I could not put to death the deeds of my body (imperfectly but truly) unless God dwells within me and leads me by His Spirit (Rom. 8:12-14). Some sins I am freed of, others I still struggle with at times (like pride, unrighteous anger, jealousy, etc.). Yet God is at work in me (Philippians 2:12-13) and that gives me assurance, as well as makes me grateful for the privilege of repentance (turning away from my sin and back to God).
If we want to take active steps towards not just realizing we are in a battle with the devil, but also gaining more victory, then we ought to be the kind of Christians who embrace the privilege of repentance. Satan will hate it. God loves it. Choose the pleasure of God.