Believe it or not, Satan plays an enormous role in religion. He is very interested in what happens in churches. We often think of the devil as out there somewhere, maybe on the attack. But do you realize that he may be much closer than you think?
Have you ever considered that Satan goes to church? Is it possible that the devil has weaseled his way into your church?
God’s Word says in Revelation 12:9 that “the great dragon was cast out [of heaven], that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (emphasis added throughout).
How much of the world has the devil misled and conned? Here God says it’s the entire world. And that includes his deception in religion. So if you believe the Bible, you should recognize that Satan has deceived even churches! What are the signs to look for to find out if Satan has infiltrated your church?
Blending truth with error
The Bible reveals some of Satan’s methods in its opening pages. Remember the story of the Garden of Eden where Satan said to Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan then contradicted God, saying, “You will not surely die” (verse 4).
That was a lie. It could be cast as partially true in the sense that Adam and Eve weren’t going to immediately drop dead if they disobeyed God. Yet from the moment of succumbing to sin, their eventual death as its cost would be assured.
So the deception was on. They took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It represented deciding good and evil for themselves under Satan’s influence, leading to a mixed-up morality of truth and lies. And through many half-truths, Satan throughout history has led people to misunderstand God’s words. He wants us to make decisions that lead us away from what’s right.
But you may think, I wouldn’t be misled; my church couldn’t be off track! Yet as we see here with Satan’s first interaction with humanity, he does not come across as all evil all the time. Satan has a scheme, a strategy, and in 1 Peter 5:8 we see another part of that strategy: “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
You’ve probably seen nature shows presenting lions on the hunt. They hide, they’re camouflaged well, they’re opportunistic, and then they strike. In the same way, Satan is evil but not obviously so. He’s deceptive, subtle and cunning.
This is how he actually tried to undermine Jesus Christ as His earthly ministry began. You may be familiar with the story in Matthew 4. Christ was fasting for 40 days and nights, and Satan came to Jesus and tempted Him. He took Jesus from the wilderness to Jerusalem’s towering temple complex and then did something shocking.
He quoted Scripture. He told Christ to go ahead and jump off, and quoted Psalm 91:11-12: “‘He [God] shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
That’s indeed what Scripture says. But did God the Father want Jesus to jump off a building just to prove a point? He did promise angelic protection, but it wasn’t for show.
So here we see Satan presenting the holy Word of God in a totally wrong and evil way, using that to try to trip up Jesus Christ. That’s Satan’s strategy. The devil purposely misrepresents the Word of God. He knows how to use Scripture, but he’ll distort it. He’ll take it out of context; he’ll change the meaning.
So it’s important to ask yourself: How well do I know Scripture? Do I know it well enough to prove a point? Can I justify what I believe and speak the truth?
Many times when the Bible comes up in discussion, the conversation goes something like this: “Hmm, doesn’t the Bible say something about that somewhere? Isn’t it something like this?” Or, “Yeah, I think that might be in the Bible.” And too often it’s out of context, paraphrased, misquoted or even contradictory of what the Bible clearly does say.
Make no mistake: The devil knows the Bible. But he uses it deceitfully.
He did that with Jesus, and he does it with churches. And you’d better know it and be able to apply it correctly or you will be tricked and misled. Pretty scary thought, isn’t it?
Satan teaches a different gospel
It’s interesting that Satan also went to church at the time of the apostles. The apostle Paul wrote to the church congregations in Galatia: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another [as it wasn’t really good news]; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).
Here the apostle Paul knew that Satan was in church to present an entirely different gospel that was a fraudulent message. So does your church teach the true message of Jesus Christ?
Exactly what was that message of Christ? It’s God’s message to mankind. It’s the good news of God’s purpose and plan. It involves mankind’s need for salvation and God’s requirement that we repent from sin, accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, obey His commands, and believe and seek the reality that Christ is going to return to establish His Kingdom on earth so we can be born into the family of God.
Meanwhile, Satan goes to church to spread his influence and mix things up. And sadly, most of what’s called Christianity is built around a false message.
Have you heard this passage at church? It’s a powerful one: “Listen to what the Lord your God demands of you: Worship the Lord and do all that he commands. Love him, serve him with all your heart, and obey all his laws. I am giving them to you today for your benefit” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Good News Translation).
At your church, do you hear much about obedience to God’s laws? Jesus Christ certainly thought it was important. He said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46; compare Matthew 5:19; 7:21; 19:17). The fact is, true religion requires obedience to God’s commandments, which are given for our good.
Satan uses emotion and misdirected feelings
Yes, Satan goes to church, but you have to be on your toes to see that influence. You might be thinking, My church is fun to attend. And when you leave, you feel good about yourself, happy that you’re not wrapped up in dull formalities like some congregations.
I get it. It’s been a tough week. You want to feel positive, you want to be emotionally uplifted. And that’s a good thing. But what is worshiping God all about? Is it about big-screen projections, rock bands and coffee shops?
True worship is so much more than just emotion and entertainment. Satan loves to stir up misdirected feelings. Is everything that feels good actually good for you? Remember, Satan convinced Adam and Eve to take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—to make what was wrong seem the right choice (and see Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). Today he goes to church to deceive, to twist Jesus’ message, to mislead, even perverting how to worship God.
Consider our most popular religious holidays, Christmas and Easter. Do you find those as appropriate worship in the Bible? No. But what days to observe do you find in the Bible? God’s own Holy Days. Yes, God is concerned about when you worship Him. Do you worship any day you choose, or do you worship on God’s Sabbath day (which He defines as lasting from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset)? That’s the day referred to when Jesus said He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).
Remember what happened to Adam and Eve. They were banished and separated from God. Remember that Satan’s most effective tool is deception.
God’s warnings about great deception
The apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy: “In latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons . . .” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Have you ever heard a minister tell you something that doesn’t quite match with what the Bible says? What was your reaction to it? Did you just kind of accept it? Ignore it? What did you do?
Notice that Paul gave another powerful warning in his next letter to Timothy: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
What a powerful reminder! The devil tells a compelling story. It sounds believable. And it even contains some true elements. Because Satan loves to mix it up. He loves to fuse things together, to blend evil with the good. It can be convincing, and his deceptive power makes it more so, but it’s actually fiction—deadly fiction.
Satan’s spiritual frequency
Ephesians 2:2 in the New Living Translation says: “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” Satan is an influential and controlling spirit, working on humanity to produce an atmosphere of evil and rebellion against God.
He’s created a spiritual “wireless network” of sorts, and just like the air that surrounds us, it permeates our world. Just as the air around us is saturated with cell signals and TV and radio waves, the devil wants to control our minds through having us tuned in to his mobile network, his dark web, his evil frequency. Satan saturates the world with his wicked spiritual broadcast of selfishness, sinful attitudes and wrong moods. And our minds are all too receptive to it.
The result? Satan influences humanity—including churches—to misunderstand and end up rejecting God and His law. The apostle Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” He loves the masquerade. He loves to play the game, to disguise himself and be the pretender. Yes, it seems religious, it seems good, it seems to be right. But it isn’t. The world’s religions, including most of Christianity, are built on the wrong foundation—the foundation of Satan’s deception.
Maybe you’re not convinced Satan goes to church. But here’s something to think about. How much do you hear from Christian churches today about sin? Or about its consequences? Maybe you think it’s not that big a deal. But your Bible tells you sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). It’s crossing over the line God has forbidden us to cross.
Yet so many teach that Jesus was just about love and grace. But that doesn’t give the whole picture. When Christ miraculously healed a man, He told him, “Take up your bed and walk” (John 5:8). Is that all He said though? No. Jesus further told him, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (verse 14).
You see, the true message tells the whole story. God’s people must be like God, living God’s way. And whenever we find ourselves out of that perspective, not living God’s way, that’s rebellion. It’s sin, it’s unacceptable to God. Yet that’s human nature through Satan’s corrupting influence.
God’s nature or human nature?
Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now, the effects of the corrupt nature are obvious: illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity . . . hatred, rivalry . . . factions, envy drunkenness, wild partying . . . People who do these kinds of things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (God’s Word Translation).
So what does God say on the matter? Sin is a big deal. And if you’re religious, you should consider whether you are striving to overcome that nature in your life.
There is a solution—repent. But you have to understand what that means. Repentance is heartfelt sorrow for breaking God’s laws and turning away from committing sins. It entails completely surrendering your will to God and really changing the way you think so that it changes your actions. You see more and more what’s so bad about sin and what’s so good about God, His laws and His way of life. And you’re grateful for the awesome sacrifice Jesus Christ paid for your sins.
Does your church teach about true repentance? It’s absolutely required. Acts 26:20 tells us, “All must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do” (NLT). The Bible says obedience is the proof of repentance. So we demonstrate that our repentance is sincere by obeying God.
Of course, that’s the last thing Satan wants you to do. He doesn’t want you to change. But you can overcome his influence and stop bowing to his control.
Following God or human tradition?
Acts 2:38 emphasizes that point and tells us how we can change: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (English Standard Version).
What does this mean? Some think you receive God’s Spirit by simply asking Jesus into your heart. Or maybe you trust an emotional feeling as indicating you have God’s Spirit. Or maybe a minister told you that you have God’s Spirit, or you simply by faith believe it.
Or maybe you answered an altar call and were so overcome by emotion that you wanted to give your life to the Lord. Or maybe you read a little Bible tract and prayed the sinner’s prayer and considered yourself saved from that point on.
Are all these ideas and experiences overtly evil? They seem good and righteous to a great many people. But the devil has his foot in the door even when it comes to the concepts of receiving God’s Spirit. How so? Let’s compare these ideas to what the Bible says.
Acts 8:17 tells us clearly how a person receives God’s Spirit: “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Here it describes people who believed and were baptized, but to receive God’s Spirit they needed to have hands laid on them.
Having a minister of Jesus Christ pray over you and lay hands on you after baptism signifies that a newly baptized member has been set apart by God. That represents the actual manner and moment of receiving the Holy Spirit.
So is that what happened to you? Does your church follow that practice—or some other tradition? Christ was emphatic when it came to human traditions, saying, “For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition” (Mark 7:8, NLT).
Read history and find out what really happened over time. You’ll see that fusing ungodly symbols and dates and manmade holidays and rituals into Christianity brought about an unbiblical religion that is still alive today.
Think about it: False traditions in Christianity. Holidays with Christian-sounding names yet ignoring God’s instruction and His Holy Days. These are more examples of Satan’s mixing of truth and error, making what’s wrong seem right.
Have you looked into these things? You’ll find a powerful statement in Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Human tradition or seeking to obey God?
It’s true. Satan indeed goes to church. I hope you can begin to see how religion has been deceived by the devil and how true worship should be based on what God actually instructs.
Could your thinking have been affected? Don’t let Satan influence you to compromise true biblical belief. Be aware of the warning signs. Ask these questions: Do you, or does your church, truly rely on the entire Bible? Jesus Christ said we are to live “by every word” of God (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4).
Does your church stress obedience to God, following His will and His way? The apostle John wrote: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).
Does your church teach about sin and the need to repent as a requirement to change? Does your church follow the biblical practice of baptism and laying on of hands to receive God’s Spirit? Reread the scriptures above that speak directly to this. They have not changed.
Now’s the time to realize who is determined to bend your thinking away from God. Satan loves to imitate, to present his ideas as truth, but it’s all for his own evil purposes in defying God.
Stand instead among God’s people, defined in Revelation 12:17 as those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
We pray that you will seek, as Jesus said in John 4:23, to “worship the Father in spirit and truth”!