Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the enemy of Christian freedom. The devil is pre-eminently the tempter and the accuser; his name “Satan” means “accuser.” He is called the “accuser of our brothers” (Rev. 12:10) and stands ready to whisper venomous accusations at us no matter what we do. He is the archenemy of God and stands diametrically opposed to God and his image bearers, especially those who follow Christ.
Satan’s mission is to accuse, terrify, and bring guilt to the conscience of believers. He wants us to live in the bondage of despair and performance. At every moment, he seeks to trouble us with false guilt, so that freedom is lost and the conscience is in continual fear and anxiety.
To put it simply, Satan hates you and has a plan to ruin and destroy your life. As Martin Luther put it, “For the devil never stops accusing his conscience. This sly serpent really knows how to present Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Savior, as a lawgiver, judge, and condemner” (Luther’s works, Lectures on Galatians, vol. 26: 37).
It goes something like this: You hear someone who has been sick could use a meal, but your child has a big event that has been scheduled for a while. You decide you cannot make the meal because of the event. Satan accuses, “You are so self-centered you will not adjust your schedule for someone in need.” You decide to make the meal and miss the event. Satan accuses, “You are making the meal because you want to build a reputation as a servant no matter how it breaks your child’s heart.” You decide to stay up all night to make the meal and go to the event. Satan accuses, “You are so prideful you will do anything to be applauded. But what about that meal you refused to make for a needy person a few weeks ago and your child’s event you skipped a while back.”
In other words, it does not matter what you do because Satan hates you. So why do we so often trust his accusations? In Romans 8, the apostle Paul exclaims, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:33-34). Romans begins with a declaration that there is “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), and the chapter closes with the truth that there is not “anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). The Christian gospel allows us to live in the freedom of no condemnation in Christ because there is no separation from the love of Christ.
There is the accuser of the brothers (Rev 12:10) and there is the advocate of the brothers (1 John 2:1). On a daily basis, where is your faith? Which one do you consistently listen to?
Does the accuser or the advocate shape how you think about your life on a daily basis? The accuser is a lair who hates you. The advocate is your loving elder brother, the Savior who paid the penalty for your sins in full. Even when a believer has truly sinned, Martin Luther helpfully exhorts:
Set yourself against Satan and to say: “What is it to you? After all, I did not sin against you, but against my God. I am not your sinner, so what right do you have over me? Therefore if I have sinned and what you are accusing me of is truly a sin—for Satan often terrifies the mind with imaginary sins—then I have sinned against the God who is merciful and patient. I have not sinned against you, nor against the Law, nor against my conscience, nor against any man, nor against any angel; but against God alone. But God is not a devil; He is not a devourer or a carnivore, as you are, terrifying and threatening with death. He is merciful to sinners, perfect and incorruptible, faithful and righteous. Against such a God have I sinned; I have not sinned against a tyrant or a murderer. Therefore as a tyrant and a murderer you have no right over me. God has the right, who is kind and merciful and who therefore forgives the sin of those who confess (Luther’s works, Selected Psalms I, vol. 12: 346-347).
It is clear why Paul says elsewhere, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).
God’s answer to your guilty conscience is the gospel of Jesus Christ, but too often our answer is usually to try to do more to sooth our conscience. Doing so plays into Satan’s strategy. He wants you on a performance treadmill with no off button. Your feeble efforts can add nothing to the finished work of Christ. When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), he meant it. Finished. Completed. Paid in full. Forever: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at David's blog, Prince on Preaching, and is used with permission.