Lenten Classics – Resisting the devil


During each week of Lent this year, we are posting an excerpt from a classic writing on Christian spirituality, followed by some questions for personal reflection.

Today’s post comes from John Chrysostom (305-407) the archbishop of Constantinople. This excerpt comes from one of John’s sermons, titled “Dead to Sin”.

John Chrysostom:

We must remember that we deal with a crafty enemy. If we were suddenly aware of a serpent nestling in our bed, we would go to great lengths to kill it. But when the devil nestles in our souls, we tell ourselves we are in no danger, and thus we lie at ease. Why? Because we do not see him and his intent with our mortal eyes.

This is why we must rouse ourselves and be more serious. Fighting an enemy we can see makes it easy to be on guard, but one that cannot be seen we will not easily escape. Also know that the devil has no desire for open combat (for he would surely be defeated), but rather, under appearance of friendship, intends to inject the venom of his malice.

For example, the devil used Job’s wife under the guise of love for her husband; Jephthah, too, he persuaded under the pretext of religion to slay his daughter, offering a sacrifice the law forbade. It was the same with Adam, for the devil put on the air of being concerned for Adam’s well-being, saying that his eyes ‘shall be opened’ by eating from the tree.

Be on your guard and arm yourself with weapons of the Spirit. Become acquainted with the devil’s plans that you may keep from getting caught in his traps, and instead, expose him. Paul got the better of the devil because he was ‘not ignorant of his devices.’ Learn and avoid the devil’s strategies, so that after obtaining victory over him, we may, whether in this present life or in that which is to come, be proclaimed conquerors and obtain those unalloyed blessings.

Personal reflection: 

  • Do you agree with Chrysostom that the devil is a crafty enemy who seeks to deceive us? Why or why not?
  • What subtle strategies might the devil use to entice you to drift from the Lord?
  • What would it look like for you to “be on your guard and arm yourself with weapons of the Spirit”? What practical steps can you take to resist the devil’s schemes?