There is no doubt that Satan knows the power of God’s word to change us. He works tirelessly to take away the seeds of Scripture planted in us (see Mark 4:14-15). He knows that the Bible, in the hands of the Holy
Spirit, is lethal against his tactics. Consider this excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in which a chief demon seeks to mentor a trainee demon in how to hurt the faith of believers:
“Don’t let him open the Enemy’s book. Have him think he’s not feeling spiritual enough. Suggest that it’s too complicated. Tell him he’s too tired. Be vigilant — five minutes of prayerful reading can set him back months (Rom 10:17).”
Satan knows that the Bible is integral to our mission here on this earth (John 17:14-19). He knows that the Bible sanctifies us and makes us holy (specifically focus on John 17:17). He knows that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). He knows that when we see Jesus by faith that we will transform more into His image by the Spirit’s power (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So, what does he want to do? He wants to do all that it takes to keep us out of the Bible. How does he do that? There are certainly many things he does but here are eight ways which we commonly see today:
Distracts you with your phone, social media, video games, Netflix, YouTube
Name whatever it is that distracts you most—that is what Satan is using. Here’s the thing, many of the objects that he uses are good in themselves. He loves to use good things to distract us from ultimate things.
Practical Tip: Turn your phone over during your devotions. If someone REALLY needs you then they will get you.
Busyness with friends, school, work, sports, clubs, parenting, schedules, etc.
How often do we find ourselves saying, “Well, I didn’t have time to get in the Word today.” Satan loves this tactic. Our day is a busy day. We are constantly on the go and we hardly like to stop. How often our Enemy likes to use our busyness and our productivity to actually keep us away from the Word that transforms us into the image of Christ.
Practical Tip: Schedule your devotions and guard that time with your life. Seek to have a consistent time and place in order to build a better habit.
Boredom by saying, “I already know this.”
How many of us get to our devotions and immediately look at the text (say John 3:16 for example) and respond with, “I already got this one.” How little do we simmer over the text and bring out the rich flavors that are in the Word! Can we really look at God’s love and say, “Yea, I know that already”? Satan will use our familiarity and cause us to think that that Bible is somehow boring. We pay attention to that which captivates us most and if there is the seed within that gives fruit to the thought that the Bible is boring then Satan has won a battle in our hearts.
Practical Tip: 1) Change up your Bible reading plan (if you’re doing bigger portions, change to smaller portions or vice versa). 2) Pick up other books that show you how amazing the Bible is (try Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God At His Word or D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There)
Lesser works with devotional books (although good but not enough)
Let me set this straight: Devotional books are good and very helpful when they are from authors that bring out the rich treasures of the Bible. Let me repeat: Solid, biblical devotional books are good. But, they are not Scripture. Nothing replaces meditating over the Bible itself. No one can outdo the Holy Spirit in His work. I don’t care who the author is, no one can do what the Holy Spirit does as He takes the Word into our hearts and sheds abroad the love of God. There are many times that Satan uses good and great devotional books to keep us away from meditating on the Bible. There are too many people who read more of their devotional books than they read the Bible. Satan loves to keep us in the devotional books and away from the Bible because he knows that the Bible will make us radically God-centered and Christ-like. Satan loves shallow Christians because shallow Christians are no threat to his kingdom. In order to keep making Christians shallow, he keeps us in anything other than the Bible.
Practical Tip: Only use devotional books to help stir up your heart to get you into the Bible more. Do not settle for a devotional book that gives you one short verse to read but forces you to focus more of your attention on what they have to say. Pick up a devotional book that helps you understand the Bible better. We perish for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
Unbelief in the Bible’s relevance, power, sufficiency, and necessity
When we think that the Bible is relevant for today, powerful to change us, sufficient for our problems, or necessary for our daily living then Satan has won another battle. He loves to have us think that we can go today without reading our Bible. He works one day at a time to keep you each day away from the Scripture. He wants you to think that the Bible won’t address what you need to hear. He tries to convince you that you aren’t really changing whenever you meditate on God’s Word. He wants to persuade you that you’re fine on your own.
Practical Tip: 1) Don’t measure your growth in short intervals. Rather, spend time in the Bible each day, studying to know what it is really saying, and after 6 months, 1 year, 5 years reflect on your life. 2) Read biographies of Christians who have been changed by God (Augustine’s Confessions, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Martin Luther, Susannah Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael) 3) Read good books on biblical counseling that address this issue (such as: The Dynamic Heart: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre, You Can Change by Tim Chester, or Cross Talk: Where Life and Scripture Meet by Michael Emlet)
Mislead you into thinking other things work better
We often run to other “fixes” to take our minds off of our problems. Some run to exercising (literally, they run their problems away) and some to venting to others (they want to talk their problems away). There are even Christian counselors who try to tell us that we need something “more” than the Bible. There is certainly a big trend in the evangelical world that sees therapy as the answer to inner change. Satan loves to get us to think that anything or anyone is better than the Bible. He wants us to think that if we merely take our minds off of the problem things go away. He often fools us into thinking that counseling (as great and necessary [yes, necessary at times] that biblical counseling is!) is a replacement to ourselves getting in the Bible. He wants to help us feel like we don’t need to the Bible and therefore keeps us from it.
Practical Tip: Pray that God would show you the amazing power that is in the Bible. Pray that the Holy Spirit would take that Word into your heart to show you the wondrous things that are in His words. Listen to the testimonies of others who have been transformed by the gospel. Test God and His Word for yourself and see if He won’t change you.
Grant self-confidence by thinking you’re fine without it for a day
This is somewhat of a repeat from earlier but a necessary repeat. Satan loves to get us to think that we’re really OK without the Bible today. He wants us to think that there really isn’t too much going on in our lives for us to have to get in the Bible today. Satan wants us to see the Bible merely as medicine. We only need it if we’re sick. Self-confidence is a killer to our devotional lives.
Practical Tip: Study the doctrine of total depravity. I mean, really study it. Just spend time and write down 30 reflections on John 15:5 and Ephesians 2:1-2.
Keep you only reading it and never meditating on it and memorizing it
”Knowledge of the Word of God will not profit you, unless you frequently listen to it and meditate upon it.” Sound controversial? Well, it’s from the Puritan pastor Walter Marshall in his book The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification which is considered a classic on the subject. Satan loves to keep you merely reading the Bible. Besides, unbelievers read the Bible too. Once again, let me set the record straight once more: The Holy Spirit does use our Bible reading to convert us and sanctify us. But, we shouldn’t be satisfied with only a short and shallow reading of the Bible. What unbelievers don’t do is meditate on it in the power of the Spirit. Christians apply the Bible to their lives and Satan hates it when you do this. He hates it when you apply the gospel of free grace to your sinful life. If you defeat all his other ways, he wants you merely to read the Bible and get on with your day. He doesn’t want you to wrestle with it, apply it, meditate on it, study it, or teach it.
Practical Tip: Let your Bible reading goal be for thoughtful and slow reading. Ask good questions of the Bible when you read it. Try to summarize what the main point of your reading is and then think about how that main point applies to your life today.