The Oldest Trick in the Book

Have you ever been fooled by a practical joker? At one point or another, it seems as though we’ve all been the focus of someone’s joke – some in good fun…some not so much. Most times, after everybody has had their laugh it is very easy to think, “I can’t believe I fell for that!” What’s even worse is when you’ve fallen for that same old trick a time or two before. “Won’t I ever learn?” is usually the next thought that scours our mind. Recently, I saw a commercial for someone who fell for “the oldest trick in the book.” You can watch it here:

From this commercial you’d think that some old school practical joker was writing the first volume of how to trick his friends, but there is another book which goes much farther into history to reveal what truly is “the oldest trick in the book.” The book, of course, is the Bible, and the trickster is that old serpent, the Devil. Amazingly, he’s been using the same old tricks for thousands of years and, sadly, those tricks are still very effective.

Who is this trickster? As the antagonist in the Bible’s unfolding drama, Satan hates God and His people and is constantly on the prowl like a roaring lion in search of those he may devour through his nefarious schemes (I Peter 5:8). As an angelic being, Satan, along with his demon-like angels, is supernaturally powerful and brilliant, and he uses all his powers against humanity. Not only is he a liar, a thief, and a distorter (John 10:10), but one of his chief characterizations is that of deception. John describes him as the one “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). In his cunning, he disguises himself as an “angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). In view of this, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness…” (II Corinthians 11:15). Satan has mastered the ability to appear as something good when he truly remains evil.

In spite of these facts, Satan is a defeated foe and a known adversary. We know that Satan follows the same pattern in his affliction of people, referred to in the Bible as the “world system” in I John 2:15-17:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

God has revealed to us that the basis of this system is divided into three categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan works through the evil world system to exploit the fleshly nature that still wars within us (Rom.7:18; Gal.5:19-21). The world, the flesh and the devil are not three separate enemies of the Christian, but are united in an attempt to keep us from God’s salvation or to destroy our fellowship with God. Picture the oppression this way:

Satan's attacks

This trick really is the oldest one that Satan uses because it was first used in the Garden of Eden. Through the subtle serpent, Satan enticed Eve to disobey God by taking the forbidden fruit. His doubtful disposition is seen in his question, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). He openly questioned the Word of God, and his employment of this tactic remains in place to cause people to doubt the validity and authority of the Bible. Secondly, Satan outright denied God’s word. When the Woman stated that the consequence for eating of the tree would be death (referencing Genesis 2:17), Satan lied and said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Then, Satan slips in his appeals through the lust of the eyes, the flesh, and the pride in Genesis 3:5:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

This statement resonated with the Woman. That which was forbidden now had all the alluring appeal necessary to entice her away into sin.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. – Genesis 3:6 (bracketed comments are mine)

The result: SIN. The Woman was deceive and Adam sinned deliberately (I Timothy 2:14). These actions caused Adam and the Woman to experience great shame, fear, and discord (Genesis 3:7-12). It resulted in the immediate loss of fellowship with God (Genesis 3:9), the judgment of God (Genesis 3:14-19), and the separation from the presence of God (Genesis 3:23). Additionally, they would now experience physical aging and eventual death. This acquired sinful nature was passed on to their children, and even those of us alive today have inherited our sin nature from these original parents. All people are sinners before God regardless of condition or class. Sin is a universal problem that has passed upon all people, “for all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin has given us the characteristics of our spiritual “father,” the devil (John 8:44). This wicked “father” holds the race in bondage through the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

How are sinners released from this bondage? Though the preponderance of sin in the world has mutilated God’s creation and damaged man’s relationship with God, God hasn’t forsaken His creation. “Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). Despite the consequences of sin, God’s grace can overcome it. God provides a remedy for such sin for those who have realized the devastating results of sin in their lives and seek reconciliation and restoration with God through Jesus Christ.

If you are living in the bondage of sin having never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins, please get saved today!

How are Christians released from this bondage? Because the Bible has revealed to us “the oldest trick” that Satan continues to use, “we are not ignorant of his devices” (II Corinthians 2:11). We do not have to allow Satan to take advantage of our sinful inclinations. Note these verses:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. – I Peter 5:8-10

Overcoming the devil begins with submission to God. James 4:7 instructs Christians to practice humility and reliance upon God for spiritual victory. Sometimes we reverse the commandment: we begin by resisting in our own strength and forget to submit and depend on God for the spiritual strength. The only way to put on the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17) is to first go to God. As a former Marine, I can relate to this concept. When my weapon was not in use, it was stored in a secure facility on base called the “armory.” When I had a need for it, such as during my annual rifle marksmanship test, I had to go to the armory to receive my weapon. I had to agree to their rules, promise to return it in clean and working order at the end of the day, and even sign a piece of paper to make the agreement official. In essence, I had to submit to their rules or else I wasn’t getting a weapon, and if I didn’t get the weapon, I wouldn’t be prepared to pass my marksmanship test. This same concept applies to our Christian life. If we are going to be properly equipped to pass the “test” that Satan is using to destroy us, then we must go first to “God’s armory,” submit to His rules for our life, and then receive our “armor of God.” Without the armor we cannot face Satan; without submitting to God, we won’t be able to have the armor in the first place.

After submission, the next step is to be alert (sober) and attentive (vigilant) as explained in I Peter 5:8-10. Even when the devil leaves you, he is still on the prowl for another opportunity to exploit your weaknesses. He’s waiting for the day when you are unprotected because you did not go to the “armory” to check out your spiritual armor.

The armor is meant to protect you entirely, though we know that Satan will always use the same three courses of action for each attack. Not protecting three critical areas led to the destruction of Adam and Eve’s home; it could lead to the destruction of our own homes as well.

What areas need to be protected?

Our Eyes: the windows to wandering.

There are things that enter our eyes that are very powerful, though sometimes seem very innocent. Just like our meals, we put on our dinner table what is the most appealing to us. The same applies spiritually: what we place in front of our eyes reveals what appeals to us the most. What other sites on the internet are you viewing? What is the content of the movies and shows you are watching? What causes your head to turn as you drive down the road? Like the Psalmist, we must determine to guard our eyes:

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. – Psalm 101:3

Job, though he had a reputation of uprightness (Job 1:8), he still put boundaries and protections in his life to ensure he kept a clean walk with God:

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? – Job 31:1

We need to get serious about what is set before our eyes. Not doing so could be the first step toward your destruction.

Our Flesh: the doorway to decay.

One of the most disturbing lists in the Bible is found in Galatians 5:19-21. It contains the outpouring of ungodliness that results when our flesh is allowed to rule our lives:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Lust is described as a “burning”. Sin, like those listed above, inflames our passions and causes us to burn with desire. When sin inflames our life, we get burned by it (Can a man take fire into his bosom and his clothes not be burned? – Proverbs 6:27). Yet, all of these can be avoided if we determine to “walk in the Spirit” because then “ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). As we make the Lord Jesus Christ our covering and shield through prayer and the application of Scripture, we will not make “provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).

Our Pride: the path to the pits.

It seems somewhat ironic that the very sin by which Satan fell is the same sin he uses to appeal to us: pride (Isaiah 14:12-13; I Timothy 3:6). Pride is the spirit of independence from God. Someone who is filled with pride is self-reliant and self-confident. It is the booster of one’s self-image, a certain air of egotism and vanity. It can lead people to invest their heart into material wealth. It can show itself in the criticism and ridicule of others. It can rear its ugly head through the selfish and shameless promotion of one’s own interests in business, marriage, or friendships. No matter the manifestation, pride always “goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). And that fall always puts us into the pits:

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me… Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. – Psalm 69:2, 15

How Do I Avoid the Pit? How Do I Get Out of the Pit?

Hopefully, you have spent some time enjoying victory as a Christian and have avoided the tricks of Satan. Make sure that you keep avoiding them as much as you can! However, some of you may have fallen for the devil’s tricks and will need to get out of the pit in which you have fallen. The Lord is gracious to those who call upon Him and allow Him to work in their lives. David, the author of Psalm 40, experienced first-hand that grace as we see in his testimony:

I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. – Psalm 40:1-3

Here’s the most practical thing you can ever do to help yourself against the temptations of the “oldest trick in the book:”
•Make an honest assessment of your areas of struggle, stumble, and lust; then…
•Memorize the verses in the Bible to help you overcome them.

The Principle

If you want to overcome the “oldest trick in the book,” you’ve got to take heed to the Word of God:

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalm 119:9-11

To put a finer point on it, you must know specific verses of Scripture if you want to overcome the specific problems in your life. In Ephesians 6:17, the Bible says that you must take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” In this verse, the “word of God” is not implying a general reference to or knowledge of the Bible in a holistic sense (study the word “logos” in John 1:1 for this type of meaning). Instead, the Greek term translated “word” is the Greek word “rhema,” meaning “a series of words joined to make a sentence.” Basically, this means that you should identify a specific “sentence” or verse from the Bible with which to arm yourself against the attacks of Satan. Again, this demands an honest assessment of the struggle followed by the research to find a verse to help you.

The Practice

Now, it’s time for you to put this into practice. Identify and implement specific boundaries that will prevent you from sinning. Also include some convictions that you need to make in order to strengthen your spiritual walk with God. Memorizing verses will make them immediately available any time you feel tempted to fall into sin. Here are some examples:

Boundaries (Helpful Verse)
I will not watch inappropriate TV (Psalm 101:3)
I will not criticize others (Ephesians 4:29)
I will not buy things I can’t afford (Proverbs 27:23)
I will attend a New Testament church (Ephesians 5:25)
I will choose godly friends (Proverbs 13:20)
I will read my Bible daily (Proverbs 23:12)
I will pray each day (Psalm 5:3)

What areas are you struggling with? What boundaries and convictions do you need to identify and implement? You can be more than a conqueror through the Lord Jesus Christ! Don’t be fooled any longer by the oldest trick in the book! The Lord can and will give you grace if you seek Him for it. Take the time to put the necessary boundaries in your life so you can ensure that you are submissive, alert, and attentive to the victory that you can have over the devil any time you are forced to face him!

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