Diversion: A Device of the Devil
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Peter's second epistle, the first chapter. We want to read with you from the second verse:

II Peter 1:

2Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

I would like for us to think about the truth that is impressed upon us in the tenth verse of this paragraph:

II Peter 1:

10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

Notice: “…give diligence to make your calling and election sure:…”

We have been bringing you a series of messages on the devices of the Devil, reminding you that the Devil is very, very clever. He has a number of intricate devices by which he traps us and through which he hinders our service for the Lord and our lives for Christ.

We have thought about a number of these devices thus far. We have thought about the device of doubt, the device of discontent, the device of discouragement, and the device of delusion.

I want us to think together about the device of diversion. I have discovered that a great many Christians have settled the matter of sin as we ordinarily think of it. A great many Christians are not going to get drunk. They are not going to get into some kind of open, overt sin that is frowned upon by everybody as well as by God. The Devil knows that as well as we know it, yet he wants to make our calling as ineffective as he possibly can. He does everything he can to divert us from our original calling and from our original election.

That is the reason the Spirit of God moved the Apostle Peter to say in the passage of Scripture we read in your hearing, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure:…” He is not suggesting here that there is any doubt about your salvation and mine. He is not suggesting that maybe we cannot be sure that we are saved. He is suggesting that the Devil will do everything he can to divert our energy and our time from making our calling and election effective.

This is not the only place in the Bible that such a thing is suggested. For example, in the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews, in the very first verse, we are told that we should make every effort to run the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith.

The Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians emphasized this same thing, saying that he intended to run the race well because not everybody that was in the race would win the prize—only those who ran the race well. (I Cor. 9:24)

When Paul was writing to the Galatian believers, he said to them very pointedly, “You did run well. Who did hinder you?” (Gal. 5:7). And then he said, “This thing is not of God.” That is, the hindrances do not come from God. They come from Satan.

So that we may be on our guard against the Devil, and that we may be able to recognize the diversions which he throws into our pathway, I would like for us to notice a few of them as they are illustrated in the Word of God.

Turn in your Bibles please, to the first book of Kings, the 20th chapter, and notice with me a little parable that was acted out by the prophet of God. In the enacting of this parable, there is portrayed a lesson for each one of us related to the diversions of the Devil—namely, the dereliction of duty. Will you look at verse 35:

I Kings 20:

35And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the Lord, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.
36Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.
37Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.
38So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face.
39And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king: and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver.
40And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.
41And he hasted, and took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets.
42And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.
43And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.

You understand the purpose of this parable. The King of Israel had been ordered by God to slay a wicked king. But instead of slaying him and carrying out God's command, he dilly-dallied, so to speak, until the man was completely out of his hands. God wanted to convey to the king of Israel the seriousness of his offense, so he had the prophet enact the parable that we have read here.

The prophet said, “I was given a man for whose charge I was responsible, but while I was busy here and there, the man escaped. Now what is going to happen to me? They said that it would be my life for his life.” And the king said that that was the way it should be, and that that was the way it would be. The king then recognized in the story of the prophet God's message to his own heart.

I want to say to you that this passage from the Old Testament illustrates one of the unique devices of the Devil for the children of God. Here is something that God wants us to do. It is laid out very plainly before us, but we never get it done. It is not because we do not want to do it. Remember that. It is not because we do not have even a desire to do it. It is not because we are incapable of doing it. It is because the Devil keeps us busy here and there so that we never do get it done.

How serious this can be is illustrated in a passage of Scripture in the book of Proverbs to which I would like for you to turn. This passage is dealing with the matter of personal witness, something that God, I am sure, has spoken about to nearly every one of us in this room at some time or other. It is about some person to whom we should speak, either about his soul or some burden he may be carrying, or to whom a bit of spiritual advice or exhortation should be given. And somehow or other we never get it done. Will you look at the 24th chapter of the book of Proverbs and notice verse 11:

Proverbs 24:

11If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;
12If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

You see, the Devil never does come up alongside you and say, “Don't witness for Christ.” He never comes up alongside you and says, “Don't say a word for Jesus.” He knows better than that. If he did that, you would say immediately, “Old Devil, I am going to witness. That is what I am left here for.”

Instead, the Devil slips up alongside us and says, “Go see that man. You need to witness to him.” And you say, “That is exactly what I am going to do.” And then, when it is all settled in your mind that that is what you are going to do, the Devil slips up alongside you and says, “You know you are awfully busy. He is not going to die today. There will be time to see him tomorrow.” And the first thing you know, your are putting off the thing you know you ought to do.

Look at verse 12 of this chapter. God says, “If there is a man to whom you should speak, and you don't get it done, and something does happen to that man, and you say, ‘Oh, we did not know it. We did not know it. We did not realize what was going to happen. We really meant to. We did not know he was so near death. We did not know the end was so near. We really meant to do something,' then doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And doth not He that keepeth the soul, know it? And shall not He render to every man according to his works?”

What is He saying in this passage of Scripture? He is saying that no matter how much the Devil persuades us to lie to ourselves about what we ought to do, and no matter how much we lie to ourselves about what we ought to do (and the Devil does divert us to such activity), God who ponders our hearts—God who knows what the real thing is—knows exactly what the condition of the thing is. And God is going to bring us into account for it. So you see, the Devil has won his victory.

He has not caused you to go out and get drunk. He has not caused you to go out and kill somebody. He has not caused you to break into some place and steal something so you will get put in jail to ruin your testimony. No, he has not done that. He knows better than to suggest a thing like that to you. But he has caused you to be busy here and there, so that the thing that you needed to get done for Christ could not get done, and you have not accomplished God's purpose in your life.

Akin to this is another thing, a diversion of the Devil, which is described in the 10th chapter of the gospel of Luke. Here is the story of Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha, you will remember, were entertaining the Lord in their home, and Mary decided to sit at the feet of Jesus.

I always must say a word for Mary when we think about this passage of Scripture. So often she is presented as a person who was rather lazy, who would rather sit and listen to Jesus talk and let Martha do all the work. But if you will read this story carefully, you will discover that Mary did her work. She did it, but she did it in a hurry, and she did it so that she would have time to sit at the feet of Jesus. And she was not bothered with all the multitudinous details that can worry a person to death if he is not careful.

Will you notice in the gospel of Luke, chapter 10, verse 40:

Luke 10:

40But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

How many of God's dear children fall into the category of verse 41 of this chapter: anxious (that is, careful), worried, troubled about many things.

Once again, the Devil will not divert you from serving God by getting you into overt sin of some kind. But the Devil will divert you from doing what God would have you do by getting you involved in so many details of ordinary, everyday lives that you will not have time to do the things that God wants you to do.

God does not expect you to be lazy. God does not expect you to be careless. God does not expect you to shirk your responsibility, and He does not expect you to let someone else carry your share of the load. He does not. But He does not want you to get so involved in details that you cannot do the things that He wants you to do. The Devil would like to get you involved in details, and he does.

Time will not permit us to discuss all the many ways the Devil gets you involved in details and causes you to become anxious and troubled about many things. When you are anxious and troubled about many things, you cannot pray the way you ought to pray. When you are anxious and troubled about many things, you do not have the witness and the testimony that you ought to have. Your brow is furrowed, and your disposition is soured. Anything you try to say for the Lord will be ineffective. The Devil knows that. All that he is interested in is in making you ineffective, so he centers your mind on details so that you cannot do the things you should.

There is something else that the Devil uses as a device that causes every one of us to be ineffective, if we are not careful. For want of a better term, I will call that dreaming. We may call it daydreaming. The Devil causes the children of God to get involved either in the past or in the future, and sometimes in both, so that nothing can get done for God that needs to get done.

Turn with me in your Bibles, please, to the Philippian Letter, chapter 3, in which the Apostle Paul warns against this very thing when he was expressing a matter in which he gave diligence to make his calling and election sure. Will you notice in the 13th verse:

Philippians 3:

13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Did you notice the phrase, “Forgetting those things which are behind”? There comes a time in the life of all of us as Christians when we need to forget those things which are behind, both blessings and problems. Yet the Devil loves to divert us from our calling and our election by causing us to dream too much about what has gone on before.

There is a very concrete example of this in the book of Haggai in the Old Testament. Zerubbabel, a faithful man of God, was trying to build the temple of the restoration, and he had a very, very difficult time. He had a difficult time because he did not have enough help. He had a difficult time because he did not have enough money. He had a difficult time because he did not have enough material.

He himself said that the most discouraging thing of the entire enterprise was the hecklers—those who stood by him as he was trying to work, and as he was trying to encourage others to work, and said something like this: “Zerubbabel, you were not living in the days of Solomon's temple, were you?” And Zerubbabel said, “No, I wasn't.” And they said, “Well, Zerubbabel, you surely don't think that this chicken coop you are building can faintly compare to what Solomon's temple was, do you?” And Zerubbabel said, “No, but I am doing the best I can with what I have, and I am dedicating it to the Lord. It is going to be used for His glory.” And they said, “Well, you are wasting your time. The days of great temples are past, and unless you can make a temple like Solomon made, you ought not to be doing anything at all.”

Poor Zerubbabel finally got so discouraged that he fell on his face before God (You can read the whole story in the book of Haggai.) and said, “God, will You shut their mouths? If they are not going to help me, Lord, make them keep quiet, because I have got to get this thing done for You.”

Do you know that it is possible for people to think so much of past blessings that they miss a blessing that is staring them in the face? It is possible for people to compare the present so much with the past that even God would find an insurmountable obstacle in trying to bless them in any way that they would recognize. The Devil knows that, so he gets them to talking about the past, and they completely miss the blessing of the present until they become spiritually starved and spiritually dried-up and have no effective witnessing in their lives and in their testimony.

There is just as much danger in dreaming of the future as there is in dreaming of the past, and a great many people do that. They are thinking so much about the blessing that is going to happen in the future, what is going to be, that they completely forget what is in the present.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Certainly you know that I believe in the prophetic Word, and you may know that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is very dear to my own heart. But the Devil knows that, too, and the Devil would have all of God's children get so involved in talking about the coming of the Lord, and so involved in expecting the coming of the Lord, that they completely forget the present and what is needed now.

There are some people who have been diverted by the Devil into dreaming about the future to the extent that they have done all manner of foolish things related to the coming of the Lord—things such as selling their property and getting the cash because they do not want the Antichrist to have what they have. That is very foolish reasoning, because certainly they will not be able to take the money with them when they are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Some of them are so foolish that they feel as if they cannot be involved in any earthly enterprise, so they get rid of everything they can and trot around dressed in a white sheet so they will be nearer to the Lord when the Rapture occurs.

They are good people. They love the Lord. They are just as saved as you and I, and they are just as anxious to do that which is pleasing to the Lord. But the Devil has made dreamers out of them, dreaming about the future. No, he could not get them to commit murder. He could not get them to commit adultery. He could not get them to steal something, but my, how he gets them to dreaming—dreaming about the future—so that there is absolutely no way to be used of God.

You will remember the story (another concrete illustration of this) presented in the 17th chapter of the gospel of Matthew, the story concerning the Mount of Transfiguration. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John were given a preview of the kingdom age. They were given a preview of the millennial reign of Christ. Peter was carried away with it. He said, “This is wonderful. Who wants to go back to an old dirty earth? Who wants to go back to an old earth that is filled with sin? Lord, let's just build some tents up here. Let's build some dwelling places, and let's stay up here on top of the mountain forever and enjoy the kingdom.”

And what did the Lord Jesus Christ say? You know, the Devil almost won a victory there. The Lord Jesus said, “No, we cannot do that. We cannot stay up here on the mountaintop dreaming about the future. There is a valley at the foot of this mountain, and in this valley there are people who are in great need.” And sure enough, when they got down off the mountain into the valley, they found somebody that nobody but they could help.

You see how the Devil diverts us by getting us to dreaming about the future as well as about the past.

I have one other thing to say to you about the manner in which the Devil diverts us from serving the Lord. For want of a better word, I am going to call that the Devil's detour. My, how often the Devil gets us off the main road onto a bumpy old detour where we have to cut down our speed, and where we cannot accomplish anything effective for the Lord.

Turn with me in your Bibles, please, to the gospel according to Luke, chapter 7. John the Baptist had been put into prison. The Lord Jesus Christ had not openly declared Himself as many thought He should, and a great deal of trouble was occurring as a result. We will pick up our reading of the story with the 19th verse:

Luke 7:

19And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
20When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
21And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.
22Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Will you notice the 23rd verse:

Luke 7:

23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

“Blessed is he who will not stumble because of what he does not understand about Me.” That is what He is saying, and you see how the Devil had detoured John the Baptist. “John the Baptist,” the Lord Jesus Christ said, “was the greatest of men born to women,” and yet here he was on the Devil's detour, ready to give up, ready to say, “What is the use. There is not any point in going on at all.” Why? Because the Devil got John the Baptist to looking at prison walls instead of at Jesus Christ. He got John the Baptist to looking at circumstances instead of the Lord.

The Devil has a way of detouring you and me on the bumpy road of circumstances, instead of the thoroughfare of faith. Notice, he never gets you off the main thoroughfare into some kind of sin. But he gets you off the main thoroughfare onto the detour of circumstances. All you can see all around you are the circumstances, and because you see nothing but the circumstances, you cannot get anything done for God. The first thing you know, you have stumbled. You have fallen.

That is the reason Peter said, “Give diligence, brethren, to make your calling and your election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble.”

We are not talking about the Devil's diverting you into sin. We are talking about the Devil's diverting you into an ineffective Christian testimony. I am sure you will agree with me that there are multitudes of God's children who still go to church, who read their Bibles, who pray and sing, yet who are utterly ineffective for Christ because they have been diverted. They have been diverted by the Devil in relation to forgetting what their duty actually is in relation to multitudinous details, in relation to dreaming, in relation to being detoured from the main thoroughfare of God's plan for their lives. So, be on your guard and watch for the Devil and his diversions for your life.


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