Deceit: Present the bait and hide the hook
It may seem unnecessary, obvious – stating that Satan fishes with a hook. This is the tool of the trade. Deceit is the angler’s approach.
But the reason for this declaration will become clear as you read on. Thomas Brooks wants us to know that the devil’s technique of choice reveals his character.
Satan’s first device to draw the soul into sin is, to present the bait and hide the hook; to present the golden cup and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin and to hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin.
When a moment equals eternity
“Sin will always make you go further than you want to go, stay longer than you want to stay, and pay more than you want to pay.” (Unknown)
The thing about this whole bait-and-hook motif – both the fish and the angler have a meal in mind. Both seek sustenance, satiety. But only the angler sees the long game.
One of my pastors, a man to whom I looked up and in whose teaching I found great spiritual nourishment once said something very profound: “Sin is fun.”
Now, that’s not the deepest, most complex theological statement ever. And yet, it is.
Sin wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t desire to engage in it, or if it wasn’t more fun to avoid what we know we should do. To our sin-clouded eyes, the prospect of pleasure looks better than its consequences look unpleasant.
The sin that so easily entangles us is usually nothing more than a fleeting moment. Isn’t it amazing and terrifying how a lightning-quick thought or act can set our lives on a years-long course of misery?
Sin is like a tiny spark that sets a whole forest ablaze. It’s a single cancer cell that ravages an entire body. It’s a meager line of code that corrupts a worldwide computer network.
‘Have at thee now’
In a scene at the conclusion of Hamlet, the titular character duels with his nemesis, Laertes. Hamlet is unaware that Claudio has laced his sword with poison. Even a minor cut will lead to death.
In one production of Hamlet I saw, Laertes flicked his sword at Hamlet on the line, “Have at thee now,” even before the proper duel began. This subtle aggression draws blood. Our protagonist’s fate is sealed. Hamlet is a dead man fighting a battle he can no longer win.
Laertes doesn’t care about the rules. He isn’t interested in honor or valor. He just wants Hamlet dead.
And that is sin. It doesn’t fight fairly, doesn’t care about the rules, and has no “stun” setting. Satan shoots to kill, with a gun that looks from a distance like a warm hand extended in friendship. He deceives.
Thomas Brooks was wise enough to have seen sin for what it truly is, likely through a combination of studying God’s Word and simply living life as a Spirit-led man. Thankfully he has left this helpful guide for us to follow so many generations later.
That’s the great thing about such timeless theological works: Although some of the language may sound archaic, their truths still apply.
Here are Brooks’ four remedies against Satan’s “bait-and-switch” deceptions.
Remedy 1: Stay back from the ledge
One the largest man-made holes in the world lies in Siberia, Russia, It is the Mirny diamond mine, an abandoned pit more than 1,700 feet deep and nearly three quarters of a mile wide.
Some photos of Mirny are terrifying. A normal-looking city, with a gaping hole next to it, big enough to swallow a large portion of it.
One would hope “Don’t go near the pit” is one of the first phrases Mirnese children learn.
I have a fear of heights bad enough that I won’t approach a plate-glass window a more than a few stories up. Those videos of crazy people illegally walking around the tops of skyscrapers make me ill, even watching in two dimensions. You don’t have to warn me twice about staying away from ledges.
How much easier it would be for Christians if those things that tempt us to sin would horrify us as much as falling into a 1,700-foot pit!
Those things that lure us must become things that repel us. The sights that tantalize us must become those that make us want to clasp our hands over our eyes. But we become dull to the dangers of sin. It’s like the television and movie violence that sickened us when we were kids; now it’s just part of the entertainment.
The sad truth is that it often takes succumbing to the actual sin and its consequences for us to know to avoid it from then on. This is not advocating sin, but acknowledging the reality of how hard a lesson we must sometimes learn.
Remedy 2: Ignore the sweet exterior and mind the bitter core
Drug manufacturers often coat pills with a sweetener to make getting them down more pleasant.
I once needed a pain reliever to overcome a headache. So I placed the pill in my mouth, only to realize I had no cup of water nearby.
The taste of that pill was actually quite pleasant. It reminded me of those little round candies we used to get in those cellophane pouches in our Halloween trick-or-treat bags.
And then the sweetness wore off. Before I could get that cup of water, I spat the now-bitter pill onto the floor. The deceit of medicine posing as candy.
A fish only sees the bait, not the hook. And we at first only see the the candy-coating of sin, not the poisonous interior. Growing in spiritual maturity will include an increasing discernment regarding these tempting but deadly delights.
Remedy 3: Remember that sin’s losses outweigh its gains
Fifteen minutes of pleasure for a lifetime of regret and a broken family. Short-term financial gain for years of joblessness. One level of social or political advancement for the loss of a longtime friendship. These are the exchanges we make for sin.
A wrong, split-second decision while driving can destroy property and break fragile bodies. Just a slight miscalculation or momentary gaze away from the road can cost years of physical recovery, or worse – untold grief and loss.
When we give in to sin, we tend to exaggerate its benefits. The closer we get to the charm of the forbidden fruit, the harder it is to focus on the forest full of thorns and thickets around us.
It’s only when we’re willing to step away from the intoxication of sin that we regain our sober vision and realize the jeopardy in which we placed ourselves.
Remedy 4: Remember that sin reflects its creator
Not long ago a famous pastor and author was caught in a gross display of serial adultery. He lost his position and influence. There followed a seemingly sincere repentance and effort to turn his life around.
Then even more unconfessed sin surfaced. This time the former pastor refused to confess or repent. Book sellers pulled every one of his titles from their shelves, despite glowing reviews and high sales figures. The man’s spiritual hypocrisy tainted his teachings.
The nonprofit organization this man founded also ceased to exist. Its employees and board members scattered.
Because of his flawed character, everything that bore this man’s name became worthless.
When we toy with sin, we come into contact with the handiwork of the Devil himself. His mark is on every deceit, every lure, every hook. To buy into his product is to associate ourselves with his brand.
Giving into sin is mimicking the one who has been sinning from the beginning.
Even the sternest warnings are hard to hear and remember when in the throes of sin’s early benefits. It helps to keep these remedies regularly in mind as we go about our day. The deceit will come. The bait will appear before our eyes. Let’s remember who waits on the other end of the line.
Tactic and intent
I stated at the beginning of this post that Satan fishes with a hook. Why bring this up?
Because the enemy’s tactic says something about his intent. He is the deceiver. He offers what looks like a treat but which is actually a trap. And an angler’s always tailors his bait to his quarry of choice. Satan knows just the right morsel to place on the hook.
But this is in contrast with the Lord Jesus.
When the Lord called Peter and Andrew, John and James, what were they doing? What did he tell them to do when they had caught no fish all night? “Cast your nets on the other side.” And the haul was so great it nearly brought the boat down.
Jesus doesn’t fish with a hook. He’s not about deceit, trickery, or motivating through fleshly desire. Jesus fishes with a net. He casts it wide and brings in all the fish He can.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50, ESV)
The Lord doesn’t wait for us to come to him according to our desires. He comes to us according to his, according to the plan he and his Father put in place before the world began.
He casts the net wide and brings us in. Jesus is not a deceiver but a seeker. He doesn’t wait for us to want what he has. Jesus draws us in and gives us himself.