A recent news story reported that there had been a power failure throughout Kenya. Thousands of people were left without electricity when a power surge tripped a transformer and the subsequent power surge overloaded the system.
It was not terrorist sabotage. It was not human error. Nor was it a result of the nation switching on too many kettles at one time. It was all the work of a monkey. A monkey had fallen off a roof onto a transformer and sent the system into overload. The damage one monkey can do!!
In the spiritual realm, Satan is the master of the “monkey on the transformer” strategy. The apostle Paul calls these “monkeys” schemes:
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2.10-11
So what sort of schemes does Satan use?
One scheme Satan uses to attack the church is corporate unforgiveness.
The church in Corinth had to discipline one of its members for serious sin. In the passage quoted above it seems that Paul was concerned that some might be withholding forgiveness, even though the issue had been dealt with. Unforgiveness is a major tactic Satan uses to damage individuals and churches. It’s one monkey that can trip the power in any church or life.
A second monkey that threatens the flow of power in a church or life is that of compromised morality.
Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 1 Corinthians 10.7-8
How sad it is when a Christian leader who has stood for family values becomes embroiled in an adulterous relationship.
No-one, however spiritually mature or spiritually gifted is immune to sexual temptation.
A third scheme that Satan uses is that of criticism, complaining and murmuring.
And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel (1 Corinthians 10.10)
This verse refers back once again to Israel’s experience in the desert. As they faced the tests of desert life rather than trusting God, they defaulted to complaining and criticising.
Often we feel that we have a right to complain or criticise. Jesus clearly states that if you have an issue with someone you go and talk to them about it (Matthew 18). Sadly, many Christians completely ignore what Jesus teaches and backbite and gossip their way through life. What they don’t realise is how destructive their attitudes and actions are – for themselves as much as anyone else.
Paul took this issue so seriously that he addressed it in the same context as that of sexual immorality.
A fourth scheme Satan uses is one that is exceptionally subtle – and exceptionally deadly. It is that of conceited spirituality.
In most of his letters, Paul had to deal with spiritual pride. Sometimes it was legalistic and connected with the Jewish law- the kind of outlook that was so opposed to Jesus during His earthly ministry.
Sometimes it was pride that resulted from spiritual experiences.
You can see both strains in the Christian world today. A professed love for the Word of God can mask a desire to set ourselves above those who don’t have the knowledge we think we have. And spiritual experiences can lead people to feel superior to those who they think are not as enlightened as they are.
As one who has been in the Pentecostal / Charismatic world all his life, it saddens me that in our circles spiritual experiences – genuine ones! – have frequently been the basis of superior attitudes. How astonishing that what God has given to us to enable us to build people up is so easily used to put people down.
We would do well to reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8.1:
Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
Unfortunately spiritual monkeys will be around until Jesus returns. But we can make sure they don’t trip the power in the church.