How does Satan tempt people?

Question:

Dear sir,

I believe I read where possibly you and many others say that Satan can't get into our heads. OK, so while still under the Old Testament, he tempted Job. Then he, I'm assuming, physically tempted Christ. If he brought Jesus up to see the kingdoms of the world, then isn't that physically tempting Jesus? Even if Satan is a spirit, he tempted people. So how? He has to do it either physically or mentally. Which is it? Or how does he tempt us? Where's his power? Please explain.

Thank you so much!


Answer:

Can Satan Read Our Minds?

Satan is no psychic. He cannot read the thoughts of men, only God can do that.

"Whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men, that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You have given to our fathers" (I Kings 8:38-40). Other verses to consider as well are: Proverbs 15:11; II Chronicles 6:30; Psalm 44:20-21; John 2:24-25; Luke 5:22.

How Does Satan Know What Will Tempt Us?

But Satan is an excellent guesser at what you will give into. He knew what Judas Iscariot struggled with, "But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. … During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him" (John 12:4-6; 13:2). Satan had been working on Judas for a while, knowing that he was a greedy person.

Imagine if someone struggled with drinking and you kept putting open beer bottles wherever he went. Eventually that person will give in and sneak a drink and eventually be consumed with the sin. Satan plays on the desires of the heart in the same way, but the desires are already there. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:14-15).

His main work is deceiving people, that is why he is called a deceiver (Revelation 12:9). He makes things look better than they really are, that is why he is called "father of lies" (John 8:44). He prowls around like a lion (I Peter 5:8) for a weak prey, someone given over to their desires and is entangled in their sin, not willing to let them go (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Is Satan Always Successful with His Temptations?

Satan made a good guess on Judas and was right about him willing to betray the Lord. But he made a poor guess about Peter. Peter did end up sinning but still repented and was not lost like Judas. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). We can see that Jesus truly knew Peter's thoughts and intentions and knew he would return. 

You mentioned Job, but notice how Satan could not truly know Job's mind because he didn't end up turning from God as Satan claimed he would, "The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing?  "Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. "But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD" (Job 1:8-12).

God knew Job's mind, and because of that He knew Job's trust was not in possessions but in God alone. However, Satan claimed that if all he had was taken away from him he would turn away from God.

Here is Job's response, "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.  He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God" (Job 1:8-12, 20-22).

Yet, what I want you to realize is that Satan was partially correct. The majority of mankind would forsake God if they lost all they had. That doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that type of knowledge. Job was different because he was a follower of God. Satan is an excellent guesser because he has been around the earth now for about 6,000 years and is extremely intelligent at what he does.

How Does Satan Tempt People?

He would physically appear to people (Genesis 3:1; Matthew 4:1-11). This only happened a few times that we know of: to Adam and Eve, Jesus and possibly Joshua the High Priest in Zechariah's vision. But each time he tried to deceive them by his words. This is nothing new about Satan for he has been a liar, deceiver and a tempter since the beginning of time (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; I Thessalonians 3:5) and that has always been his main power.

With married couples we are told not to deprive each other of sexual relations because Satan sees that as an opportunity to encourage the other to sin (I Corinthians 7:5).

He also could cause physical disasters, influence people around him to do his will and cause the personal decay or disease of one's body, as the situation with Job (Job 1:13-19; 2:7-8). Yet Job had no idea who was really doing it to him.

He also can tempt governments in the world but again this was by deceiving them (Daniel 10:13; Revelation 20:2-3, 7-8).

He spiritually tempts people to sin by guessing at the lust of their heart as he did with Judas, Peter and Job. But notice that Satan did not appear to any of these men. Somehow Satan used his deceiving influence in the spiritual realm to try and cause these men to sin. How does that work? Your guess is as good as mine. We are not told exactly. Yet, we are told that Christians are at war with these evils in the spiritual realm, and God tells us how to battle those temptations from Satan (II Corinthians 1:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18).

by Alan Feaster