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12 Ways to Engage in Spiritual Warfare (Like a Puritan)

  • Paul Tautges counselingoneanother.com
12 Ways to Engage in Spiritual Warfare (Like a Puritan)

In my continued reading of A Puritan Theology, I found the chapter "The Puritans on Demons" sobering. It says, "The Puritans viewed human history as one continual conflict with evil spiritual powers." This is one reason I have so long appreciated the writings of the Puritans: they were people who were not afraid to expose the devices of the evil one. Therefore, we find much help from them for the spiritual warfare that belongs to those who truly belong to Christ.

Spiritual warfare calls us to be watchful because Satan's chief means of destroying people is through deception ("Genesis 3:1-5","13"; "John 8:44"; "Revelation 12:9"). A Puritan clergyman, William Spurstowe wrote, "We ought rather to be all the more watchful since we have such a serpent to deal with that can hide his deadly poison with a beautiful and shining skin."

William Spurstowe cataloged many of Satan's devices. Here are 12 of those devices as well as remedies for them from Spurstowe's "The Wiles of Satan" and from other Puritan writers.

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Device 1: Satan's use of small sins

Device 1: Satan's use of small sins

“Satan leads men from lesser sins to greater. People usually think of lesser sins as nothing more serious than a cold. But Spurstowe warned, ‘Small sins are as the priming of a post or pillar, that prepare it to better receive those other colors that are to be laid upon it.’ Small sins leach away our fear of God and hatred of sin.”

Remedy: “‘Take heed of giving place to the devil’ (Eph 4:27). If you let the serpent’s head into your house, his whole body will quickly follow.”

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Device 2: Satan's persistence

Device 2: Satan's persistence

"The devil persistently urges men to a particular sin. He inserts evil thoughts in the mind (John 13:2) He persistently presses until men succumb, as Delilah did with Samson (Judg 16:16).”

Remedy: Reject the promises of sin. For those who prefer peace with sin rather than war against the devil, Puritan pastor, Samuel Ruthrerford, wrote, ‘The devil’s war is better than the devil’s peace.’”

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Device 3: Satan's strategy

Device 3: Satan's strategy

“Satan makes a strategic retreat for a time to draw us out of our position of strength…he permits us a momentary victory to ‘swell the heart with pride.”

Remedy: “Christians in this world should not live like rich men in a king’s court but like soldiers in the camps of war.”

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Device 4: Sin's false appearance

Device 4: Sin's false appearance

“Satan clothes evil with false appearances (Isa 5:20). He dyes sin with the colors of virtue so that greed becomes frugality, and lukewarmness appears to be moderation.”

Remedy: “We must love the truth of the Bible. ‘Truth is the food of the soul,’ Spurstowe said. Another Puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, said, ‘A man may lawfully sell his house, land, and jewels, but truth is a jewel that exceeds all price, and must not be sold.’”

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Device 5: The temptation of worldly delights

Device 5: The temptation of worldly delights

“Satan ensnares men with lawful things. With this ploy, a quiet stream will carry more boats over the waterfall than noisy rapids. Richard Gilpin, a Puritan pastor, said that ‘worldly delights’ are ‘Satan's great engine of temptation.’”

Remedy: “Spurstowe urged caution in the use of things that might prove to be temptations…’Our hearts are [gun] powder, and therefore we must take heed of sparks.’”

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Devices 6 and 7: False revelations and the element of surprise

Devices 6 and 7: False revelations and the element of surprise

“Fallen angels exalt new revelations and miracles, while putting down the Scriptures and ordinary ministers of the church. New revelations appeal to people’s pride by making them think they are closer to God than others.”

Remedy: “[Jonathan] Edwards warned that not all experiences are from Christ, even if they cannot be explained by mere human influences. He said, ‘There are other spirits who have influence on the minds of men, besides the Holy Ghost.’”

“The demons surprise or shock people with temptations. They make them think no one else has experienced such temptations before.” 

Remedy: “Spurstowe wrote, ‘Suspect yourself prone to every sin; do not repose anything on constitution or temperament.”

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Device 8: Temptation to fight with spells instead of Scripture

Device 8: Temptation to fight with spells instead of Scripture

“The devil encourages us to fight him with charms and sacred objects. But Scriptures written on jewelry or clothing are nothing compared to Scripture that is written on our hearts.”

Remedy: “Spurstowe wrote, ‘Do not think that these things will frighten the devil; rather look up to God.’ He urged, ‘Be abundant in the use of prayer.’”

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Devices 9 and 10: Confusion about repentance

Devices 9 and 10: Confusion about repentance

“Satan attacks the conscience and assurance of believers with false reasoning. He might use a false syllogism such as, ‘This sin cannot remain in a true child of God. But it remains in you. Therefore you are not a true child of God.’”

Remedy: “Spurstowe said true conversion is not determined by whether sin remains in us, but whether sin reigns in us.”

“The tempter entices people with the promise that they can repent easily after sinning.” 

Remedy: “‘Repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power.’ Repentance is a great grace from God.’”

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Device 11: Confusion about our callings

Device 11: Confusion about our callings

“The devil seeks to make our calling as Christians clash with our calling to a particular field of work. He urges us to do devotions when we should be doing our jobs, or got to work when we should be worshipping God.”

Remedy: “Spurstowe called believers to ‘diligence and industry in our calling,’ as a bird is much safer from attack when it is flying than when it is sitting in a tree.’”

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Device 12: Satan's lies about sin

Device 12: Satan's lies about sin

“Satan drives men from one extreme to the other. He pushes believers’ pendulum from presumptuous sin to despair over sin, and from neglect of religious duties to ‘such a rigorous tyranny that makes many to groan under them.’”

Remedy: “Spurstowe said, ‘Faith leaves both extremes and closes with [embracing] God according to the rule of the Word.’”

Paul Tautges has served Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as pastor since 1992. He is also an adjunct professor of biblical counseling and conference speaker. Paul has authored eight books including Counsel One Another, Comfort Those Who Grieve, The Discipline of Mercy, and Brass Heavens. He is also the editor of the popular Help! discipleship counseling booklet series (24 titles). Paul is a NANC Fellow and a Council Board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He and his wife Karen are the parents of ten children. Paul blogs regularly at counselingoneanother.com. This article originally appeared at counselingoneanother.com. Used with Permission. 

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