Can Satan put thoughts in our minds that can be used to tempt us to sin?
This is really a tough question and many Bible students would probably offer different opinions. The issue, as always, is what does the Bible teach us on such issues? So I’ll share a few thoughts on this.
I can think of no passage which specifically states that Satan can do this by directly tampering with our minds, i.e., inserting thoughts apart from some instrument, but he certainly has a multitude of ways by which he seeks to influence our thought processes through the world system over which he rules as the one called the god (ruler) of this world or age (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31). This seems to be the general focus of Scripture on his many schemes, temptation, and deceptions.
Ephesians 6:16 speaks of the flaming arrows sent by the wicked one (Satan). This may simply refer, however, to the varied external temptations and testings by which he seeks to control or influence our minds through what we see, read, and hear. Due to his great power and cunning, however, it could possibly go beyond this.
We all wonder at times just where some of our thoughts come from and it may be that, if we are not as focused on the Lord and His truth as we should be, Satan through his demon hosts can somehow raise thoughts and questions in our minds. John 13:2 is a passage which may support this, though we aren’t told just how the devil put it into Judas’ heart to betray the Savior. This could simply refer to the culmination of the processes of external temptations that affected Judas’ own thinking because of his failure to respond and truly believe in Christ. In John 13:27 we are told that Satan entered Judas, but this was after the statement of 13:2.
James 1:14 tells us that ultimately, all temptation to sin comes from our own sinful nature. Satan simply seeks to influence that nature in any way he can. Genesis 3 gives us a picture of the way Satan operates. He uses instruments through which he seeks to speak and present his nefarious ideas and temptations. But James later promises us that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. We resist him by drawing near to the Lord through prayer, fellowship with other Christians, and by the careful open-hearted study of the Word (cf. Jam 4:7-8).
People, of course, can tamper with demonic things (the occult, mediums, fortunetellers, Ouija boards, even drugs, etc.) and through these avenues come more and more under Satan’s influence and control even to the point of demon possession, but this is by choice. When people fail to respond to God’s grace, they open themselves up to greater and greater control by the devil. The greater that control, the more likely is his ability to control one’s mind or thinking processes.