Several books have come out recently that deal with Satan and his lies (see my review of John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies). There should be even more, since that’s the devil’s main strategy for assaulting God’s people. So, I was happy to work through Jared Wilson’s The Gospel according to Satan. As usual, he offers his casual, down-to-earth prose but scatters in plenty of profound insights. He works through eight of the popular lies that vie for our attention when it comes to the good news. Each one distorts or diminishes the real truth of who God is and what he’s done.
- God just wants you to be happy.
- You only live once.
- You need to live your truth.
- Your feelings are reality.
- Your life is what you make it.
- You need to let go and let God.
- The cross is not about wrath.
- God helps those who help themselves.
What I Loved
If you’ve read any of Wilson’s other books, you’ll know that he approaches theology with an eye on practical application. How do the ideas we have about God and the gospel actually affect our behavior, our daily grind, our thought life? Certainly, the eight lies listed above have a had a profound effect on our culture. Many of us are influenced by these ideas even when we’re not aware of it. I’ve written at length, for instance, about how feelings are not reality (in the context of anxiety), and yet I still battle that on a daily basis. So, while these eight lies might be easy to pass off as patently unbiblical, we need to read with humility. Wilson invites us to do that, even while critiquing these lies.
What I loved most about the book was Wilson’s commitment to biblical truth in the face of attractive ideas from our secular culture. The most potent lies are the ones that most resemble truth, and Satan knows this. He’s planted the lies we see in our culture, even in our Christian culture. When we believe them, we drift further from the faith. And that means we grow more confused about our identity, purpose, and our very approach to daily living. Lies open chasms that threaten to break us apart. The truth of Scripture builds our bridges.
Lots of favorite quotes from this one, but here are some of my top ones.
- “The devil would love for you to be perfectly happy, so long as you are not holy. He knows happily unholy people rob glory from God and go happily to hell” (p. 17).
- “What Satan would love for you to do is spend this life as if that’s all there is. First, he won’t want you to think about death at all, not even if it brings you a sense of dread. The devil likes to traffic in fear, but it’s not his immediate go-to, because he knows that fearful people often cry out for help, which means fearful people are very close to having their ears open to divine rescue. Instead, he wants you to think of death as some far-off thing, not a big deal, certainly nothing that could happen tomorrow or in the next five minutes. He wants you drunk on a sense of immortality” (p. 37).
- “By all means, seize the day if you’re just interested in having a little fun. Seize eternity if you’re interested in living forever” (p. 42).
- “Live once, die twice. Live twice, die once” (p. 43).
- “Yes, how we experience the world matters. At the very least, it tells us something important about ourselves. But how we experience the world doesn’t define what is ultimately true” (p. 69).
- “According to Jesus, what we hear should be more defining of our reality than what we see” (pp. 75-76).
- “The Lord is always more interested in deepening our sense of need for him than he is in giving us reasons not to need him at all” (p. 82).
- “Self-denial is the vessel of Christ’s conquering Spirit. Meekness is weakness weaponized against the spirit of the age and the spirit of the Antichrist, because it is a full-hearted embrace of the reality that Christ’s strength, which is omnipotent, is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9)” (pp. 107-108).
- “The devil loves a bloodless cross. He doesn’t mind a shiny trinket around your neck so long as it’s not a shining treasure in your heart. Satan is afraid of the blood. He knows that it washes sinners clean (Heb. 9:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 7:14), that is speaks the word of justice accomplished (Heb. 12:24). He knows that the bloody cross spells his doom, that on the hill of Golgotha, Christ ‘disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them win him’ (Col. 2:15). And he knows the blood of Christ pays the wrath owed sinners (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 4:10), thereby forever making his accusations against God’s people null and void. The blood of Jesus spells the devil’s doom. Which is why he would love for you to keep your gospel nice and respectable. Tidy. Academic” (pp. 150-151).
What I Would Have Liked
I don’t have much by way of critique. Of course, a book like this brings up all of the ways in which we’re assaulted by lies each day. And so we would naturally want a corresponding truth from Scripture to proclaim in the face of each lie. So, perhaps that’s one thing I would have liked: a path for training my mind with truth. But no book can do everything. John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies attempts to do that, so it’s not as if the need isn’t being addressed. And certainly Wilson does much in this book to reaffirm the biblical truths that we need to be standing on in daily life if we’re going to repel the devil’s approaches.
Should You Read It?
Yup. We don’t just need to know more about God; we need to know more about our enemy. Satan would love for us to think he’s an outdated myth, something we can poke fun of with sketches of a red figure with a trident. But much of the devil’s ethos manifests itself in the lies that are surrounding us, the lies that drift through our minds each day because they drift through our culture each day. This is a book that will help you identify and deconstruct some of the most popular lies in our culture today. Read it carefully, and take notes.
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