By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
We all know that Satan is our adversary who seeks those who he may devour. I would say that in our spiritual battles sometimes we give Satan too much credit and often blame him or ascribe to him power and authority that he simply does not have. One of those areas deals with when we ask ourselves, can Satan read our minds? You will be happy to know the answer to this question is, no, he can’t, but saying it is not enough. We need to consider Scripture to understand this topic better.
What does Satan know about us?
In order to answer the question can Satan read our minds, we need to understand what Satan actually knows about us. When the Bible speaks about the mind it is often referring to the heart. They are often tied together and sometimes used interchangeably. A very famous proverb says this.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he… - Proverbs 23:7
Since this is true here is what Satan knows about us. He knows our tendencies, our weaknesses, and our areas of temptation that we may be prone to. This type of information that he knows about us is not because Satan can read our minds, but because he is a master at studying our behavior. Satan can’t read what is in your mind, but he can see what you do and the choices and decisions you make. If he should attack you, he creates his plan of attack based on the areas of your life he has seen, by your behavior and choices, where you are most vulnerable.
How does Satan engage people?
There are not a lot of places in the Bible where we can read about Satan’s interaction with humans but there is one very famous incident that gives us some insight.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:1-5
I am sure you are probably aware of this story regarding the fall. I want to show you one thing about Satan from this encounter that will help you learn a little more about him and reveal whether or nor Satan can read our minds.
Can Satan read our minds, or is he a thought influencer?
In this encounter with Eve, there is no indication that Satan can read minds. There is however every indication that Satan can influence thoughts. In his opening question in this conversation notice that he asked Eve a question. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The purpose in asking the question was simply to begin to influence her thoughts and her thinking. This is not unusual because he still uses the same tactics today. He may bombard you with questions with the sole purpose of influencing your thoughts. For example, here are some thought influencing types of questions.
- Do you think God still loves you after what you did?
- Everyone else is getting credit and recognition, don’t you deserve recognition too?
- That person is a Christian and they are doing it, so it must be okay for you to do it as well?
- You know this is what you really want so why not go and get it?
The list of these types of questions can go on and on but they are all designed to influence your thoughts. When these questions pop up in your mind it may appear Satan can read your mind, but the truth is he is responding to your demonstrated patterns of behavior. Remember Satan is not a mind reader, but he is a thought influencer.
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Why is thought influence so important?
Knowing that Satan will attempt to influence your thoughts may cause you to ask why this is so important? Let’s remember what I said earlier about the heart and mind often being used in scripture interchangeably. With that consider this verse from Proverbs.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23
The reason Satan seeks to influence your thoughts is because he knows that is your control center. Everything you do comes from the things you think about. There has never been a decision or choice you have made without thinking about it. Some you have thought about momentarily and others you have thought about for long periods of time, nevertheless the choice you made was after you thought about it. The same thing was true of Eve in the garden. Satan influenced her thoughts. She considered the options, and she made a decision based on the influence that happened on her thoughts. This doesn’t just happen to Eve this happens to all of us. Consider what James says.
But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – James 1:14-15
This pattern of sin begins with an enticement or an evil desire. Guess where that evil desire comes from? You got it, from your thoughts. Therefore, Satan will attempt to influence your thoughts because if he can do that successfully, it will ultimately lead to your actions.
How does Satan know what to tempt us with?
When Satan is trying to influence our thoughts, he is going to make an appeal to three areas of our lives.
1. An appeal to our flesh.
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1 John 2:16
Typically, when we fall into sin it will come under one of these categories because these are the things our flesh gravitates towards.
2. An appeal to our fears.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8
He will seek to appeal to our fears because he knows that when fear kicks in, anxiety and worry go up and often we will shrink back from what or who we are supposed to be.
3. An appeal to our faith.
He will seek to get us to question, as he did with Eve, did God really say?
I want you to understand why he uses these tactics and how they play into his ultimate goal. Let me sum these three up like this.
- When you fall into sin, it will destroy you.
- When you are overwhelmed with fear, it will disarm you.
- When you are overcome by doubt, it will discourage you.
The bottom line whether it is sin, fear, or doubt his goal is to render you ineffective for the kingdom of God. If you are in Christ, he knows he can’t have you, so he opts for the next best thing. He tries to make your witness and testimony of no value, or to discourage you with fear and doubt so you lose all desire to share your testimony with anyone else. He cannot do that by reading your mind, but he can do that by influencing your thoughts.
So, can Satan read our minds? No – but he is a formidable opponent, and it is up to us to be aware of his methods and schemes. Hopefully you will stop wondering if Satan can read your mind and start realizing that he will attempt to influence your thoughts. When you recognize this, then you can begin to put up a barrier and be aware of all the thoughts that flow in and out of your mind. That’s why God’s word is so important and why you must pay attention to everything that you allow in and what you spend time dwelling on. As you guard your heart you setup a defense so that Satan cannot breakthrough, because while he cannot read your mind, if he influences your thoughts eventually it will show up in your actions. So, guard your heart or mind because this is one way you can overcome the schemes of the enemy.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.