I believe one of Satan’s clever tools is the pendulum swing. Suppose one believes a certain doctrine, and then they discover the true doctrine that shows their current doctrine to be false. Now, because he couldn’t stop them from learning about the truth, and at this point also not able to keep them from believing it, he says, “Oh, yeah, you’re right! That old doctrine sure was false! Now move on into this true doctrine…that’s it…and…….keep going”, whereby he helps them along past the true nature or meaning or degree of the true doctrine to a place the Bible never intended regarding it, and thus has got that person basically again, believing something false.
For example, someone learns biblical truths from someone or a group of people perhaps, and the later finds out that person or those people are incorrect about other things, and so Satan comes along and says,
“Look at the people who gave you this idea…wow, are they wrong about those other things, so this thing they led you to, it must be wrong too…you need to run far from this!
and so the person decides to reject everything they learned from these other people, even though the original belief was true, and you end up with the proverbial “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” scenario. This is why it’s important to study the Bible and let it be our guide in all matters of truth, not just what someone might say.
Another example might be the following: a person might come to believe in the doctrines of grace, whereby man has no ability to come to God of his own, unless the Father draw him. This would be against a free-will theology that declares man has an absolute free will to decide to choose God and spiritual things. So, they reject that idea, and adopt the doctrines of grace into their belief system.
So far so good. But then, the devil whispers,
“Hey, if God is sovereign over everything, then everything is set in stone, so, honestly, there sure seems no real good reason to pray or try to witness to anyone. I mean, either God’s going to save them or not, and there’s nothing you can really do, no?”
Or, “Well, now that you’re saved and can’t lose your salvation, why all the fuss about trying to live a holy life? You’re already going to heaven, right?”
Or, “Since all graces come from Christ, they aren’t really yours, so there’s no real need to ask for them to be continued, increased, or for help with them. I mean, there’s nothing you can really do anyway, because they’re not your graces, they’re His, and this would end up making your salvation works based, yes?”
which can lead to believe falsehoods and losing any kind of efforts toward actual holy Christian living, or working by using means (prayer, Bible study, etc.) to grow in grace (as commanded in 2 Peter 3:18).
Or he might tempt the other way,
“Now that you have the TRUTH, everyone needs to know this! You need to make sure and get out there, and make sure everyone knows the truth. It doesn’t matter what they say back, just don’t let them dance around it…make sure you stand up and fight against them with the TRUTH!”
Or, “Oh, these people are just so blind! Just so ignorant sheep! You don’t have time for such weak people! Tell them to get away from you, they’re not worth your time!”
which leads to a self-righteous, condemning, impatient, un-loving, horrible manner toward people — a terrible attitude that I believe besmirches Christ’s name and example, and can end up actually hindering someone from learning the truth. And I know, because this is a path I have sadly tread in the past, to a degree, although I have tried to apologize as I’ve been able.
Another example might be modest dress. A woman decides she should dress modestly as she believes the Bible would have, but in a very strict way, especially because of how immodest she sees the culture around her, including no patterns, one solid color, dresses down to the ankles, all of which in themselves is not unbiblical. And the woman believes that everyone around her should dress that strictly, and tells them that it’s not right for them to not do so.
But then Satan might say,
“Oh, look how extreme that is…you’re under such bondage! Throw off those chains!”
Or, “Oh, that’s all under the law — you’re under grace now, so, really, you’re free from obeying those things in the Bible now, as long as you’re not committing adultery or some such, wouldn’t you reason so?”
Or, “Is that much modesty really necessary? I mean, one solid color? Two colors isn’t ok? Dressed down to the middle of the calves isn’t ok? Aren’t you being a little overboard?”
and then she comes to agree with one or more of those, such as it was a little extreme, and that she should back off from the degree at least some but still being biblical, and that the degree of modesty could be a doubtful disputation Paul discusses in Romans 14:1-6.
But, in her journey away from one color and dresses to the ankles, the devil prompts again,
“Well look, all this modest dress only brought you such horrid bondage…anything close to that is just the same thing. Plus, look at everyone else around you. There’s no harm in changing a little more, right?
And then a year later, “Still too much bondage, and remember how extreme and condemning of others you were before. And, it’s only a little bit away from where you are now…and that skirt is just so cute, don’t you think? It’s just a little more anyway, no?
And then another year later, “Oh, it’s just a little step away from where you are now. After all, it’s only showing your arms, and men aren’t standing there staring at that part of the body, yes?
so that after even many years of this compromise, and even the temptations of vanity as well, the woman ends up in form-fitting jeans or shorts and tank tops, and is essentially dressing like she used to or worse, immodestly, and in concert with how the world defines (in their ungodliness) modesty. And while this is more of a slippery slope issue, it can start with the fact that the pendulum of an absolutism in the issue was perhaps initially swung too far, even in the right direction.
In these things, Satan’s just fine with it all, because he’s got the person off center, veered away from the actual path of truth that lies between the extremes. If he can keep someone there, it doesn’t matter to him, because in the end, he’s still got them off the narrow path of truth.
And as noted in the above scenario, this can occur over a very long period of time, where each step is almost not noticeable from the last step taken.
It’s difficult to not let this happen, especially if emotions or the like are involved in the initial discovery of being too far to one side. Our carnal self jumps in, and we can overreact, and throw out any doctrine or life-belief we might have once held, even strongly.
However, I believe we must be diligent and on the lookout for, what I believe is, a wile of the devil. It’s a difficult path, but graciously, the Lord has provided His Word to us, which we must continuously study, asking Him for direction and guidance in all things, and to keep us on the path of truth and obedience:
Psa 119:105 – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.“
Deut 5:32 – “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.“
Prov 4:27 – “Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.“
And I believe with God’s help as He directs us, we must maintain that journey on the narrow path, regardless of the devil’s lies and the world’s pull to godlessness:
Luke 9:62 – “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.“
May God grant us to study His Word diligently, the application of His Word to our heart and minds by His Spirit, and the courage and strength to live out His laws and statutes.