I happened to hear the end of a sermon in which Erwin Lutzer addressed an important question: “How do you distinguish between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the accusations of the devil concerning our sin?” Dr. Lutzer’s answer was short and to the point. The devil enjoys accusing us about things that God has already forgiven. Revelation 12:10 calls Satan the “accuser of our brothers,” who accuses the saints before the Lord day and night. One big part of Satan’s “job description” is making constant accusations against the people of God.
Dr. Lutzer said he does it through our feelings and through our memory by causing us to dwell upon our past sins until we feel so guilty and unclean that we think we cannot pray. Sometimes those feelings of overwhelming guilt cause us to doubt our salvation and tempt us to turn away from the Lord completely. When Satan has done his evil work in us, we sometimes think that we might as well sin again because we are so sinful what difference will one more sin make. These guilt feelings about our past rise up to condemn us again and again, choking off our joy, draining away our faith, cutting away our assurance, robbing us of inner peace, and leaving us confused and depressed.
In answer to the devil’s accusations, we must keep several things in mind. Apart from the grace of God, Satan is absolutely right about who we are. We are truly sinners through and through. Think about the last seven days. You have given the devil plenty of grounds to accuse you. And in yourself, you have no answer for him at all. Your answers to him are just excuses, the rags of your self-righteousness. Does that sound too harsh? I think it is plainly biblical. But it is not the end of the story. God has already made a way for all our sins to be forgiven. “The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin” (1 John 1:7). When God forgives our sins, he remembers them no more (Hebrews 10:17). He casts our sins in the deepest sea (Micah 7:19) and he removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). When we cast ourselves on the mercy of Jesus Christ, our sins are taken away forever.
We should answer the devil as Jesus did, with the Word of God. Every time the devil tempted him, he replied with, “It is written,” and then quoted Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus the Son of God, led by the Spirit of God, fought the devil with the Word of God.
His plan still works today.
When the devil accuses us, he attacks us over and over about things that have already been confessed and forgiven. You cannot change your past, but you don’t have to stay there reliving your sins over and over again. When Satan comes knocking, don’t answer the door. Believe what God has said. Quote the Bible. Remember the promises of God. The devil has no answer for a believer who stands on the Word.