“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Not everything that looks good is good. Consider a poison dart frog of the Amazon rainforests. They are beautiful, brightly colored little frogs. And yet, to touch them could be deadly. Just because Satan is evil, doesn’t mean he always or even often looks the part. Much more often he “disguises himself as an angel of light.” In other words, he looks like something that is good in order to lead us to something that is bad.
This is Fishing 101. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about fishing. But I do at least know this: You want to make whatever you are using as bait as attractive to the fish as possible so they will be enticed to try and grab it. Once they do, you’ve got them. Now all that’s left is to reel them in.
Satan is a master fisherman. He lures us close with things that look really good. They may look good in a lot of different ways too. Indeed, a smart fisherman chooses his bait based on the kind of fish he is trying to attract. Different fish like different bait. Satan has lots of different kinds of bait available to him. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be very fancy. I remember fishing one time using cold hotdogs. We were catching something every time we dropped the hook in the water. For folks who are close to the Lord whom he is trying to tempt away into unfaithfulness and irrelevancy, it might look like something good and righteous. In the same way, his servants disguise themselves as servants of Christ in order to draw away those who are endeavoring to be faithful to Him.
So, what do we do about this? How do we recognize which things are of God and which are just bait? The same way the Secret Service does their primary duty of thwarting counterfeiters. We study what’s real so thoroughly that we can tell when something doesn’t measure up to it. We get to know what’s real to the extent that fantasy always feels at least just a bit wrong. We hold everything up against the image of Christ so we can see what doesn’t measure up. We watch their deeds and don’t merely listen to their words. We pay attention to the kind of fruit their life is bringing to bear. As John writes in his first letter, we test every spirit. The more and better we know our God, the more and better we will recognize the deceptions of our enemy. Let’s get studying so we don’t get caught.