The doorbell rings. You weren’t expecting company, so you glance through the window as you move to the front door. You don’t recognize the person standing there with a clipboard in his hand. A neighborhood salesman. Even before you open the door, you are formulating how to politely decline whatever it is he is selling. You are guarded.
Nearly two years later, Jesus is with his disciples and asks them who everyone is saying He is. He then asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter plainly states, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter is a trusted friend. At that point, Jesus begins to reveal that He will “go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” When Peter tells Jesus that He would never have to suffer and die, Jesus recognizes the words—Satan had also tempted Jesus in the wilderness with receiving a kingdom that did not include suffering, if he would only bow to him. At that moment, Jesus spoke to the enemy and rebuked Peter’s words: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
Satan’s most clever disguise was to come through the back door—the door that friends come through--to use a trusted friend to speak the same temptation.
Most of the temptations that Christians face do not come from the world that comes ringing at the front door, because they are guarded against those. Most fall to temptations that come in from close Christian friends that may not be living by God’s truth at that moment—and usually the intentions are quite innocent. Have you ever noticed that gossip sounds so much more gossipy when you overhear strangers talking with each other? But it sounds almost like essential information when coming from a close friend! Or a flirtatious gesture from a stranger feels inappropriate, but the same gesture from a close friend can be dismissed as “nothing”? Or advice from a book by an eastern mystic is immediately seen as opposed to sound doctrine, but the same advice from a pastor sounds so wise? The goal of guarding the back door is not to distrust of our close friends, but to develop a sharp recognition of the temptations that might be coming in the back door with them.
Our enemy is very clever at disguising himself.