Satanic operatives, sometimes otherwise known as children
The Puritans dealt comprehensively with the methodologies deployed by Satan, and with appropriate defenses against his devices. The Puritan author to whom I am most indebted at this particular time is latter-day Puritan Sinclair Ferguson. In fact, I find his brief essays in In Christ Alone so profound, vibrant, and viscerally appropriate in their application, that I would suspect that anyone who dismissed them as simplistic, or just for beginners, disdains instruction and despises his own soul (Proverbs 15:32). How I wish I had had Sinclair Ferguson to instruct me as a beginner.
Many of us have, or have had, high-level Satanic operatives in our home in the form of our children. It is acutely painful to be or to see a parent suffering this way, hurtfully manipulated through her own child by the father of lies. And of course, it may not be our children: Satan may have operatives in other family members, or in the workplace, or they may even be seemingly random elements who break into our homes. Satan is versatile, if not original; but he did contrive lying and deceit and thereby introduce sin and misery into the world.
In his chapter titled, “Naming the Enemy,” Rev. Ferguson observes that Satan’s original lie that undermined Eve’s original faithfulness was the lie that God did not really love her, that God did not really want to give her what was best for her (p. 198). His attack on Eve, and ultimately on all of us, was conceived as an attack on God: “He was attacking God’s loving, generous character and accusing Him of being a cynical Creator” (Ibid.). When Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:33), the Lord was speaking not to Peter, but to Satan: “While His physical eyes saw only Simon, His spiritual sight detected and exposed Satan” (p. 199).
In his vain campaign to reconquer heaven, Satan continues to promulgate the lie: our trials, or our not receiving everything we wish for, or seemingly good things gone seemingly horribly wrong, mean that God does not love us. Rev. Ferguson points out that our defense against this deception is Paul’s defense: the cross. The cross is living proof of God’s love, for, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV).
David understood the necessity of invoking God’s gracious help against Satan’s confidence-undermining stratagems: “Remove from me the way of lying, And grant me Your law graciously” (Psalm 119:29). We have to remove from ourselves the whole way of lying, and we have to see deception for what it is, and the true nature of its target. If we can look past the apparent source of pain with spiritual sight and detect Satan and expose his work, then perhaps we can arm ourselves, and let go of the real pain, which is the sense of loss of God’s love, and remember the truth of God’s love, and the proof in his cross of its sureness.