Monday, July 27, 2009

Can Satan Know Our Thoughts?

by Bruce Mills

I have had many friends and acquaintances tell me how Satan was attacking them in their minds, causing them to think about things they shouldn't be thinking about; i.e., lustful thoughts, lewd thoughts, hateful thoughts, vengeful thoughts, and so forth. I was thinking about this recently and pondering whether or not such a statement is accurate. I have concluded that it is not. Let me explain.

Scripture is very clear that God is omniscient and understands and knows our thoughts. Psalm 139:1-4 says, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all." 1 Chron. 28:9 tells us, "the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts." So there is no doubt that God knows what we are thinking at every moment of our lives.

But can we say the same thing about Satan and his demonic forces? The answer is no. There is nothing in Scripture which would tell us that Satan is omniscient, or has the capability of knowing our thoughts or reading our minds. He is extremely adept at predicting our behavior, based on his knowledge of man's sinful nature and desires. So he is quite capable of setting up external temptations for us which, because of our fallen, depraved human nature, we are often lured into.

So how do we explain the terrible thoughts that are filled with lust, filth, anger, malice, revenge, and lewdness that often fill our minds? They are simply the activity of our own fallen flesh. Man is totally depraved; that is to say, every part of man, including his mind and thought processes, have been corrupted and affected by sin. We don't need Satan to attack us to demonstrate that we are completely debased by sin. We need only consider our thoughts, which are outside of Satan's realm of direct attack, to recognize that we are depraved and fatally diseased by sin.

Now, I am not denying that Satan is a master at throwing up some incredibly designed temptations to attract us so that our sinful minds then run wild with wicked thoughts. But he cannot read our minds and thoughts and attack us directly in that area. All of his assaults are external, although many of them lead to internal sinful thoughts.

So what benefit is there in recognizing this? First, it helps us realize that we are far less often the victim of a direct attack by Satan as we are by our own willingness to allow our fallen flesh to control us. We are quite capable of amassing a vast stockpile of sin in our lives without ever being the victim of a direct attack by Satan or one of his demons. The old phrase, "The devil made me do it," just isn't correct. Our sin is far more often the result of our own fallen depraved nature than from an assault by the evil one.

Second, knowing that in contrast to Satan, God is omniscient and knows our every thought should be a strong encouragement and preventive against allowing our minds to dwell on wickedness. God knows every thought we have at every moment, so if we desire to honor Him as we should, we must repent of those evil thoughts and turn our minds to those things which please Him.

Third, this tells us how important it is that we as believers are to be constantly allowing the Holy Spirit to use God's Word as a means of renewing our minds (Rom. 12:1-2, Eph. 4:22-24). When our minds are renewed so that we think about the things that God would desire for us to think about, we are far less susceptible to Satan's temptations when they appear in our lives. We are to put off the old self, put on the new self, and present our body as a living sacrifice to God. That includes our mind.

How do we do that? By constantly pouring God's Word into our minds, so that we begin to think through a biblical grid about every thing we do and every decision we face. Read the Scriptures daily, meditating on each passage, carefully and thoughtfully. Read all of the Word; not just the parts you prefer. Remember, all Scripture is inspired (God-breathed) and profitable for you (2 Tim. 3:16). If you think you are too busy to sit and read, then listen to the Scriptures being read. There are several good translations which are available on CD and mp3 format which you can use. You can even listen on-line here.

My point is that if you wish to gain victory over sin in your life, you must know God's Word. Once your mind is filled with and consumed by Scripture, you will find that whenever you face a temptation, whenever a wicked thought comes into your mind, a particular verse or passage which specifically deals with that issue will come to mind and you can use it to defeat the flesh and gain the victory.

Listening to Christian music which is theologically sound and exalts Christ is another way to fill your mind with thoughts which will protect you from falling victim to Satan's assaults. But be careful in this area; make sure the music is theologically sound. Much of that which is popular today is man-centered rather than Christ exalting. Focus on music that praises God for who He is and what He has done in Christ.

So, don't worry about Satan being able to read your mind--he cannot. Nor does he directly place thoughts in your mind. Those evil thoughts you have are merely the result of your own fallen sinful heart. Just concentrate on renewing your mind with God's Word and walking in obedience to it. When you do that, you will find that when Satan or his demons do place a temptation in front of you, you will be far less susceptible to it than you were before. And you can recall the truths you have placed in your heart from the Bible, and by thinking on those things, you can defeat the enemy and the flesh and bring honor to our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post, Bruce.

You asked the question, "why is this topic important?" I've pulled out a couple points from your writing that I think are very relevant in our culture. How often do we hear someone say, "That was Satan whispering in my ear - that's why I did this or that."

While Satan is the great deceiver, it's too easy to excuse the sin in our lives by pointing the finger at him. Your post reminds me of Paul's words, if I may use them here in this context with regard to sin, that we are "without excuse".

Thanks for your writing and your friendship.