Satan has been lying since the beginning of creation, and he has become very good at it. If you want evidence of his craftiness, consider this: Satan lures us every day with the same two lies (he has zero originality!)—and even though both sentiments have proven time and time again to be fraudulent and harmful to us, we are still tempted to believe them.
As if that’s not striking enough, what if I told you that these two lies are contradictory to one another? Yes, within a matter of seconds, Satan often gets us to believe two polar opposite, completely contradictory notions. Here’s how it works:
Lie #1: Temptation (Satan downplays sin)
First, Satan—the Tempter—downplays sin. He tempts you with statements like,
- Do it (or believe it)! It’s not a big deal!
- You deserve this!
- This is what’s best for you!
- This is what will make you happy!
- No need to resist—God will forgive you anyway!
Then you sin.
Immediately—without a moment’s hesitation—Satan reverses his course. You glance over the shoulder from which the Tempter once whispered promises of happiness and God’s awaiting grace, but now he’s gone. Suddenly you hear hissing from the opposite shoulder—words of guilt and shame. The Tempter is now the Accuser.
Lie #2: Accusation (Satan downplays God’s grace)
Next, Satan downplays God’s grace. He tempts you with statements like,
- You did that?? That’s a huge deal!
- Fool! How could you think you deserved that? Shame on you!
- That was the worst thing you could’ve done!
- You’ll never have joy again!
- God will never forgive you!
Notice that the claims Satan makes in accusation are often in direct contradiction to those he speaks in temptation. Yet we believe him again. Somehow—just moments after being conned by Satan’s fraud—we are already biting into his next hook.
We are not ignorant of the devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11)
This is Satan’s game plan: He tempts us to do or believe something, then he accuses us when we do. His vile service is a running subscription with no earthly expiration date; it may be hidden at times but it’s never dormant. Satan is always sowing seeds of temptation or accusation. Often both.
Of course, Satan doesn’t need us to sin today to bring harm. The Accuser loves to use our past mistakes and sins against us. Satan’s favorite words are, “Look what you’ve done!”—and he’s perfectly content pointing to regrets from years ago. As long as we are looking at what we’ve done—whether from 20 minutes ago or 20 years ago—we aren’t looking at what Christ has done for us. That’s a win in Satan’s book.
In one sense, Satan already has more than enough ammunition to accuse us for a lifetime. Sure, he will never stop tempting us to sin and doubt God’s promises. But as life goes on, Satan often makes accusation his primary method of attack. As Tim Keller put it, “Accusation is the main problem that we [face] from the forces of darkness, even more than temptation.”
Our defense when Satan tempts us to despair
Here’s the good news: While we are often weak and vulnerable to the lies of Satan, we have a strong Defender who fights for us—and his victory is sure. In fact, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8; see also Hebrews 2:14-15). The same Christ who brings peace to us brings destruction to Satan (Romans 16:20)—this is central to his mission!
If you want a beautiful picture of Christ defending you in the midst of Satan’s accusations, read Zechariah 3. When Satan accuses us (v. 1), Jesus stands by us (v. 5), rebuking and silencing the devil’s accusations (v. 2). Through Christ, Satan is disarmed (Colossians 2:13-15), crushed (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20), overcome (1 John 4:4), conquered, thrown down, and defeated (Revelation 12:9-11).
Rejoice, Christian! In the presence of the slain Lamb of God, Satan’s accusations against you have no power (Zechariah 3:1-10; Colossians 1:22; Revelation 12:9-11). Does Satan charge you of sin? Jesus came to take away sin (1 John 3:5). Does Satan charge you of being a sinner? Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Does Satan charge you of being weak? Ungodly? Sinful? Rebellious? These are the exact categories of people Jesus came to deliver (Romans 5:6-11). Does Satan charge you of weak faith? Weak faith in a strong Savior is saving faith (Mark 9:20-24). Does Satan charge you with wasting your life? Christ will redeem the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25-28) and will bend all things for your good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Does Satan call you worthless or unloved? God himself tells you otherwise (Isaiah 43:4; Colossians 3:12). Does Satan tell you God has left you? He is irrefutably wrong (Hebrews 13:5). Does Satan bring any charge against you? He will fail; no one will lift a finger against God’s people or separate them from his love (Romans 8:31-39). Yes, because of Christ we can confidently sing,
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.
At the word of Christ, the Accuser is instantly silenced. Through Christ, we are already free from sin’s penalty (Romans 8:1) and power (Romans 6:1-14), and one day we will be freed from its very presence (1 John 3:1-3; Colossians 1:22; Revelation 22:3). Rejoice in this glorious hope!
The ironic truth behind Satan’s lies
Satan’s accusations contain a glorious twist of irony: they are actually the first verse of every believer’s joyful song of redemption. Fortified by gospel hope, we don’t need to silence Satan’s charges of our sinfulness—we can actually join him in singing and remind him of the rest of the gospel refrain! (I provide two examples at the bottom of this page.) Thus when Satan accuses us, saying, “You are a sinner!” we can tell him we agree! As Martin Luther famously put it,
“When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!’”
Victory in the blood of the Lamb
Believer, do not forget this: We conquer the Accuser not by trying harder or promising to do better, but by boldly claiming the blood of the Lamb (Hebrews 4:14-16; Revelation 12:11). To quote another precious hymn, “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.”
As long as we are looking at Jesus—the Truth himself—Satan’s lies have no power. Let’s rejoice afresh today in Christ’s victory!
Read “Five Habits That Kill Contentment” here.
Read “Four Burdens Jesus Never Asked You to Carry” here.
Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.
Read “In Suffering, God is Not (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.
Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.
Satan’s accusations are the first verse of every believer’s song of redemption!
[RED: Satan and Saints sing together]
[BLUE: Saints sing alone]
All I Have Is Christ
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
His Mercy is More
What riches of kindness
He lavished on us
His blood was the payment
His life was the cost
We stood ‘neath a debt
We could never afford
Our sins they are many
His mercy is more
- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
- C.S. Lewis, Perelandra
- Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
- Tim Keller, “Accuser and the Advocate” (sermon)
- Zechariah 3:1-10—A beautiful picture of Christ defending us against the accusations of Satan.
- Ephesians 6:10-20—God gives us armor to protect us from Satan’s attacks.