DEAR REV. GRAHAM: Can the devil put ideas into our heads? If he can, then how can we keep it from happening? And if he can't, then where do temptations come from? —M.C.
Dear M.C.: The devil certainly can put temptations before us, and on occasion, he even can plant evil thoughts and desires in our minds, if we let him. He can be very cunning, and often we don't even realize what he's doing.
I think of Judas, for example. He was one of Jesus' band of 12 disciples, and like the others, he had heard Jesus' teaching and seen His miracles. But down inside, Judas had not submitted his life to Jesus; he was only interested in himself. Driven by selfishness and greed, he stole money from the other disciples (see John 12:6), and when the opportunity came to betray Jesus to His enemies, he agreed to do so for 30 silver coins.
Who was responsible for causing him to commit this terrible sin? Was it Satan — or did it come from within Judas' own evil heart? Theologians have pondered that question for centuries — but perhaps the answer is "both". By his selfishness and greed, Judas opened his life to the devil's influence — and just before sneaking away to betray Jesus we read that "Satan entered into him" (John 13:27).
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Don't take Satan lightly — but on the other hand, don't be paralyzed by fear. Instead, put your life into Christ's hands, and learn to walk with Him every day. The closer we are to Christ, the farther we are from the devil and his power to influence us. The Bible says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:7-8).