One of the passages I loved in John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies is where he reinforces Jesus’s description of Satan in John 8. When the devil lies, he’s speaking “his native language” (p. 18). In the Greek, it says he speaks “of his own” or “of himself.” The idea is that deceit isn’t just a behavior choice for Satan; it’s part of his nature. Deceit is his native language. How does he use it in Scripture, and what implications are there for us?
Satan Pushes with His Reallys
We can’t look at all of Scripture, but take just three passages where the devil’s character is on full display: Genesis 3, Job 1–2, and Matthew 4:1–11. In each of these passages, Satan pushes with the reallys. He tries to get his enemies to think that there’s something beneath the words of God. Below, I’ve written some copy for Satan that shows what he was up to with his reallys in these passages.
- Genesis 3:1 — Eve, did God really say you’d die if you ate from that tree? You won’t really die. In fact, God is really trying to hide something from you by keeping you compliant. Strike out on your own! Become like God; that’s what you really want, isn’t it?
- Job 1–2 — God, Job doesn’t really believe in you. He’s just clinging to his good fortune and health. Take those away, and you’ll see what he really thinks.
- Matthew 4:1–11 — Jesus, if you really want to grasp your identity as God’s Son, then do this. Then you’ll really know who you are by experience, not by some divine proclamation.
In each case, God’s words had already been given. God told Adam and Eve what would happen if they ate from the forbidden tree. God told Satan that Job was “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). And God told Jesus that he was the divine Son (Matt. 3:17). Satan tries to push beneath God’s words with his reallys. He tries to get us to believe that there’s possessiveness beneath God’s providence, jesting beneath his judgments, and malice beneath his mercy.
What Satan wants us to chase after has always been the same: autonomy. That’s always where his native language of deceit is pointing us. Here’s Comer again:
Notice that the serpent came at Eve with a simple yet evocative idea (not a weapon): God’s not as good or as wise as he claims to be. He’s holding out on you. If you seize autonomy from God and do your own thing with me, you’ll be better off. . . . The Genesis 3 lie is the paradigmatic lie behind all lies. The deception (or really temptation) is and has always been twofold: (1) to seize autonomy from God and (2) to redefine good and evil based on the voice in our heads and the inclination of our hearts, rather than trust in the loving word of God.
John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, p. 63-64
If Satan can deceive you into striking out on your own (autonomy), away from God and his people (who are always governed by his word), then he’ll have you all to himself. The next question is, “What does he want to do with me?”
Implications for You and Me
Why does Satan push autonomy so much? Brace yourself: so he can pick you off. He’s a sharpshooter. If he can get you to break from the herd of God and his people (held together by God’s speech), he’s got a clear shot to take you out. And that’s what he wants: your death. That may seem dramatic, but that’s the truth. The devil doesn’t want teammates; he wants names crossed off his hit list. And you’re on there; so am I.
The devil is just as aware of our need for community as we are, if not more so, and he uses that awareness to gain the upper hand in the fight, doing all he can to cut us off from community with God’s people and from God himself.
John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, p. 80
Deceit leads to autonomy, which leads to isolation, which leads to death. There’s Satan’s playbook in a nutshell. It’s manifested in millions of ways in each of our lives, but the skeleton of his scheming is identical in each case. Satan keeps coming at us with his reallys. He keeps aiming to push us away from the flock. And one of the most profound reactions we can have to him is rooted in the very nature of God: giving.
I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about your time, your energy, your listening ear, your acts of kindness. Everything we do can be an act of giving. Jesus says, “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Satan says, “Really? You know how good it feels to receive and possess. Don’t you love that ownership, that sense of control and fulfillment? Just stay on that path. You’re good.” If you listen to that, even tacitly with your actions, Satan is separating you from the herd. He’s shouldering you away from God and his people so that he’ll have a better shot at taking you out. This is life and death.
We respond by trusting in the loving word of God. We say, “No, Satan. It’s really better to give than to receive, because that’s what God does, and I’m made in his image, redeemed by the self-giving love of Christ. Get lost and go speak your native language elsewhere. I’m done translating.”
We speak the native language of grace now, from another kingdom. It’s the language of truth that’s been given to each one of us straight from the lips of God. We glorify God by resting in him and giving ourselves to others. There’s no better language to learn.
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