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The Devil made me do it

By Richard Gunther


I was in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, one day, when I heard some terrible violin music. The source was a flustered, shouting, evangelising woman, who played and preached with 'gusto', drawing a crowd not for any gift of eloquence or musical ability, but because of the bizarre spectacle she presented. I have no doubt that God uses any and all instruments in His work, but this must have been one of the most amusing and entertaining.

As the woman worked, she placed her violin on the bricks behind her and then, forgetting where she had placed it, stepped back. Her foot went through the violin and broke it. Infuriated the woman waved the broken instrument about shouting "The devil made me do that!' then she stalked off, talking angrily to herself.

Years later I pondered whether the devil is able to make someone place their foot through a violin, and if so, what other things might the devil be doing, right at this moment. Perhaps, if he is so powerful, he is making me write this essay against him?

The first instance of the devil making humans do something is in the Garden of Eden, but it is clear that in this case, the humans are freewill agents. They listen to the devil, and then act on what he tells them. There is no force used at all. The humans are the makers of their own misery, and the devil is merely the catalyst.

In fact, you might even say he played a useful role, because he gave Adam the opportunity to prove his allegiance to God.

"Now the serpent (Satan, the rebellious angel) was more subtle (cunning, clever) than any beast of the field (animal) which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yea, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Genesis 3:1

Satan questions God's Word. He also suggests that God may have been misguided in withholding certain fruit. He allows Eve to add to God's original command ("nor shall you touch it"), and He accuses God of holding back blessings ("for God knows that . . .").

But Satan actually does no more than suggest things. It is entirely the human's fault that things go wrong.

So Satan's work is a little like this:

Picture a stadium, full of men. They have come to watch their favourite rugby team, the Stormers, win a grand final. In the crowd a trickster has hidden a small microphone, with a speaker under a seat several metres away. At a crucial moment in the game the trickster says "The Stormers are wimps!" Immediately the men who hear the message start to look around for the traitor. They accuse each other of betrayal. They begin to hit each other, and a massive brawl follows. Many are injured and the whole game is ruined.

Now, picking this event apart, we see that :

1. The trickster used no force,

2. The humans reacted and caused their own misery,

3. The first cause of the ruined game was the trickster, but the main cause was the crowd.

Now see how these three principles are applied in the New Testament :

"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

For if (someone comes preaching another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well (receive it). 2 Corinthians 11:2

Three of the devil's tricks are here outlined :

1. Another kind of preaching,

2. Another kind of spirit,

3. Another kind of gospel.

These three tricks are all verbal or literal - that is, spoken or written. None of them uses physical force. As Paul goes on to say:

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness". 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

From the above we can see that there is a right and a wrong way type of preaching, and there are true ministers of the Word and false ministers. There is also a true and a false gospel (Gal.1). But notice also that there are different "spirits" (2).

The Greek word here means "evil spirits" or "demons", "angels" or "spirit-beings", as in Mark 7:25-29 - the girl who had an unclean spirit, and Luke 10:17-20 - when the seventy returned and said they found that even the "spirits" were subject to them.

Which means that there must be men and women in the Church, who are actually speaking the lies of Satan from the pulpit, or in the Sunday school rooms, or in Bible Classes, or the home-churches.

And the only way these fakes can be discerned is by carefully comparing what they say or write with what the Bible says. The Bible is the only reliable standard by which these things can be measured, so it is no surprise that many modern Church leaders encourage the people to go more on 'feelings', 'visions' and 'insights' than what the Bible actually says.

Now we come to another aspect of this discussion. We have already seen that Satan uses lies, questions, assertions and other forms of interrogation to cause people to turn aside from the truth, but how does he do this? Through our thoughts, or through manipulation of our sinful human nature.

In the example of the trickster at the rugby match, the fact that the crowd reacted violently was not the trickster's fault. All he did was manipulate something that was already inherent in the crowd - violence, anger, revenge, resentment, etc.

In the case of Satan, it is very difficult to sort out how much trouble comes directly from him, and how much from those he manipulates.

Like a gardener preparing to plant seeds, Satan already has a very fertile soil - the human heart. As Jesus said : "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies . . ." Matthew 15:19. So there is no point in humans blaming Satan for everything.

In the garden, Satan and the humans were both punished, so God does not overlook the tempter while he deals with the tempted. And we know that it is not a sin to be tempted - but it is a sin the moment we react to temptation.

In many cases, Satan tempts only one person, and then sits back to watch the chain reaction, as that one person carries on the work. One evil man (or woman) can do a tremendous amount of harm, once they are set on their way - for example Charles Darwin, with 'Origin of the Species', or Karl Marx, with 'Das capital', or Mao Tse Tung, with the Little Red Book, or Adolf Hitler, with 'Mein Kampf', or Prince Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, or Muhammed, founder of the Islamic faith. In every case, these individuals rejected the Word of God and elevated their own ideas above it, and in every case, millions of people accepted the lies and errors and were misled.

But even godly, sincere people can be led astray. Take king David, for example, a man who tried to please God. One day a proud thought came into his head that he should see how great, and powerful he was :

"And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel". 1 Chronicles 21:1

As a result, David started to look away from the Lord and instead he began to admire his own military forces. As a result, after many months of gracefully waiting for David to wake up to his error, God finally moved in and began to punish David.

When Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem, Jesus said :

"Get behind me, Satan: you are an offence to me: for you savour (want, like the smell of) not the things that be of God, but those that be of men". Matthew 16:23

It was Peter's words which brought this rebuke. Was Peter suddenly transformed into Satan? No. Was Peter filled with demons? No. Peter was simply saying something which Satan might have said. This principle runs through the whole New Testament. People can easily mimic Satan because they share his rebellious nature.

And logically, since God created only a finite number of angels, and none of them are omnipresent, Satan must be at only one place at one time. If Satan is in Russia, ha cannot be on the Canary Islands. Demons are very limited in their movements, so they have to make as much trouble as possible with the minimum effort - like the trickster with the single hidden speaker. It is humans who make most of the trouble.

Another way in which Satan does not work, but which is sometimes attributed to him, is through the everyday, 'normal' things of life.

I know, from experience, how hard it is to have an uninterrupted 'Family Time'. The phone rings, or a pot boils over, or a truck backfires loudly on the road outside, or the cat wants in, or the dog wants out, or a mouse scratches under the floor, or a possum runs across the roof, or someone has a coughing fit, or one of the children can't find their Bible, or someone is hungry, or . . . every possible interruption occurs, every time. Are all these things Satanic? Of course not! But they are effective blockers of the Word. It is illogical, and actually quite comical, to think that every distraction in our lives is Satan working.

But there are other ways which are definitely spiritual in nature.

Take, for example, the person who attends a 'tent meeting'. The gospel is preached loud and clear, and the person goes home, thinking seriously about receiving Christ.

But on the way home, thoughts seem to rise in his head. Thoughts comprising human reasoning, doubt, criticism. Thoughts which gradually dissect the message and reduce it to a pile of rubbish. By the time the person reaches the security of the familiar, the appeal at the meeting has faded away.

"And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts". Mark 4:15

So it is a combination of Satan plus human nature plus human reasoning which works against God, and the three are often so tightly interwoven it is impossible to pull them apart.

A good case of the above was Judas. Here was a man who loved money more than he loved Jesus. For whatever reason he decided, finally, to go for the money. The Bible puts it this way :

"Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot". Luke 22:3

"And after the sop Satan entered into him". John 13:27

Another two people are mentioned in Scripture who also fall into the same category - Ananais and Sapphira.

"But Peter said, Ananais, Including his wife Sapphira) why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" Acts 5:3

All ignorance is attributed to Satan, because satan has worked from the year 0 to keep God's truth from people. This is why today there are cultures bound and in bondage to all sorts of strange ideas - Aboriginal 'Dreamtime', myths, legends, witch-doctors, animism, witchcraft, medicine men, etc, etc.

"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness (ignorance) to light (understanding the truth), and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith . . .". Acts 26:18

Another verse which suggests Satan's ability to manipulate our thoughts is 1 Corinthians 7:5 "Do not defraud each other (That is, do not withhold your bodies from each other), except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency".

How might Satan tempt a man and woman? By suggesting to them, in their thoughts, all sorts of sexual fantasies. Most men (and hopefully most women) are honest enough to admit that they think about sex frequently, and not always in the right context. Satan, apparently, can intrude some of these thoughts in his attempt to lead Christians away from good morals.

Another area is forgiveness. If Christians do not forgive, then Satan may intrude into their thinking all sorts of nasty ideas :

"To whom you forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Corinthians 2:10,11

Unfortunately, it often appears that we, the Church as a whole, are extremely ignorant of Satan's devices or tricks. - judging by the huge number of Christians who have been caught up in the various movements over the years - the infighting, anger, division, the adoption of unscriptural practises and ideas which Christians have embraced, and the leaders who have been soundly exposed by the media..

In conclusion, it seems that to be led astray by Satan all one needs to do is either follow one's sinful nature, or disobey God's Word. Satan, or demons may be there to help, but it seems that they may not even be anything but spectators - like the trickster at the rugby match.

Satan himself is only one angel, who can be at only one place at a time, so his name is used generically. Any demon may be 'Satan', and any act of rebellion against God may be called Satanic. This is why the Bible says :

"For some are already turned aside after Satan". 1 Timothy 5:15


"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness". 1 John 5:19


"The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him". Revelation 12:9

Satan has only as much power over us as we give him. The best and only way to eradicate him is to obey God. The more we obey God, the less damage Satan can do anywhere. So, in the same way that Adam and Eve had the opportunity to be king and queen of this planet, we Christians are given the chance to be God's Royal Family - but we must obey God to gain this title, and that means constant vigilance.

"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

"I have written to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one". 1 John 2:14

If young people can do it, anyone can!

So the woman in Cathedral Square put her foot through her violin because she was clumsy. Satan might have been there, but it is not really his business to destroy violins - despite the terrible sound they might make. Let us be careful just who we blame in life.

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