Who’s Voice Is That Anyway?
As I looked into the mirror this morning I found myself in a moment of deep, contemplating study. The question: where does our positive affirmations and/or self-doubts originate? My complicated little exercise began to yield fruit as I linked positive affirmations to conviction of the Holy Spirit, and self-doubt to persecution and condemnation from the adversary.
Later on, I came to understand that there are many subtle differences between conviction and persecution that I had never really noticed before. The first things to enter my mind were all the countless times throughout the day when I either felt regret or blame in relation to the decisions I had made. Whose voice is that anyway, the Holy Spirit or the other guy?
I’m sure all of us (at one time or another) can identify with the feeling that there must be an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. As usual, when the Spirit is urging us into action the accuser can sometimes be heard admonishing opposition. These attacks can come during Bible study or even during prayer time!
Now, it isn’t always easy to tell who’s who in times of stress–especially in moments of frustration when we decide to neglect any serious thoughts to the spiritual consequences of our actions. Moreover, discerning the truth behind a message is made even more difficult when the conflicting advice has a similar ring to it.
Many people may take this as just an amusing little cartoon and nothing more. But the astonishing fact is, this depiction is a fairly accurate example of how the father of lies uses a slight change of nuance to skew and confuse the true meaning of the Holy Spirit. As the master of deceit he knows this is an effective snare with which to entangle us. He’s only been at it since the dawn of mankind. Satan’s motto surely is, “If it ain’t broke, keep deceiving with it.”
Sowing Seeds of Doubt
In Gen. 3:1 we see the first evidence of Satan hard at work sowing the seeds of doubt as he whispers in Eve’s ear a question: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree in the garden’?” (NKJV) In v. 3 Eve confirms God’s Word, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” But this is far from an innocent inquiry as to what God said. The sinister plot unfolds in v. 4 when deception is planted and Satan essentially calls God a liar. “You will surely not die,” he says. Now in v. 5 those seeds begin to germinate and undermine God’s commandment by appealing to Eve’s sense of pride and fairness. Satan boasts, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” In the final analysis, before the Fall, v. 6 shows us in painfully exquisite detail how doubt has not only taken root, but is now fully matured. It reads: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for eating, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Eve first contemplates disobedience, then acts out in defiance.
Take notice how Satan deviously manipulates the truth with his own subtle twist of lies blended in. Our eyes were opened alright: we stood naked in the Garden of Eden and watched with our newfound knowledge in shame as the world around us changed forever.
Let’s break down a few examples of this–where we try to discern who’s voice is speaking to us–and see if we can identify the spiritual message and its underlying meaning, along with our behavior patterns and how we’re affected by them:
1. “What kind of Christian example are you setting?” Spiritual Message: (Conviction) Be thoughtful to your actions and the effect it has on those around you. Who is speaking? The Holy Spirit. Underlying Meaning: The Spirit is asking us to take a honest look at our behavior and see if it matches up to the teachings of Christ. Behavior Patterns: Meekness, service, concern. Effect: If we’re humble this should build self-esteem in us. On others, it sets Christ-like example.
2. “What kind of Christian does that?” Spiritual Message: (Persecution/Condemnation) You’re damaged goods, weak and worthless. Who is speaking? The Adversary. Underlying Message: Satan is asking us to compare ourselves with one another as the measure of Christian values. “Look to self or others, not Christ.” Behavior Patterns: Blaming, anger, selfishness. Effect: This creates self-doubt and other symptoms like depression, destructive anxiety, etc. When we take God out of the equation there’s nothing left.
3. “Walk a mile in their shoes.” Spiritual Message: Know what it means to feel empathy. Who is speaking? The Holy Spirit. Underlying Message: The Spirit is challenging us to put ourselves in our brother or sister’s place. Behavior Patterns: sharing, love, togetherness. Effect: We truly find one another when we become one with Christ Jesus.
4. “Look our for yourself.” Spiritual Message: You’re the only thing in the world that matters. Who is speaking? The Adversary. Underlying Message: Satan wants your focus on the material things in life. Behavior Patterns: egotism, selfishness, conceit. Affect: Drives a wedge between yourself and others.
At this point, you’re likely getting the hang of how to figure out who is speaking. One produces life and joy–the fruits of the Spirit. The other produces darkness, destructive negativity, selfishness, and depression–the fruits of the flesh. Lets look at a few more with the voices plainly labeled:
5. The Holy Spirit: “This is not the way.” Spiritual Message: Pray for divine guidance. Underlying Meaning: The Spirit is asking us to pay attention to our walk with Christ. Are you trying to enter through the narrow gate or the broad one? Behavior Pattern: complacency, inattentiveness. Effect: If the Spirit is successful, this might be just the thing we need to nudge us back on track.
6. The Adversary: “Do what feels good.” Spiritual Message: Your desires and cravings are paramount. Underlying Meaning: Satan wants you to be preoccupied with things of the flesh. Behavior Pattern: defiance, drug and/or alcohol abuse. Effect: “For to be carnally minded is death.” (Rom. 8:6)
7. The Holy Spirit: “Act out of love.” Spiritual Message: Love one another, love the Lord your God, love your enemies, love your neighbor. Underlying Meaning: The Spirit wants us to have charity in our hearts like Christ does. Behavior Patterns: fellowship, sacrifice, devotion.
Effect: Love brings us in unity in Christ.
8. The Adversary: “They’ll get what’s coming to them, especially if you make sure they get what’s coming to them.” Spiritual Message: Revenge is sweet. Underlying Meaning: Satan wants us to take matters into our own hands and become vigilantes. Behavior Patterns: Retaliation, plotting, vindictiveness. Effect: Judgment belongs to the Lord, when we take revenge we’re pretty much saying that we know better than Him.
9. The Holy Spirit: “What does Christ do?” Spiritual Message: Seek the highest authority there is! Underlying Meaning: The Holy Spirit is asking us to look at the perfect example, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Behavior Patterns: submission, acts of faith, emulation. Effect: When we have Christ Jesus in us we set an example to others; “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12) We are sharing our hope.
10. The Adversary: “Christ who?” Spiritual Message: (Despair) There was no Christ, there was no resurrection, there is no hope. Underlying Meaning: Satan is a defeated enemy, and he will do anything to confuse, undermine, cause doubt, instill fear, mock, belittle, and destroy our walk in Christ. Behavior Pattern: Denial, prideful, mocker. Effect: Those who are spiritually desolate are like the leaven that Jesus spoke of in (Matt. 16:6). We must always be on our guard because just a little can effect the whole bunch.
Now the idea of having an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other sounds a little less crazy than when we first started. Let’s recap some of the things we have thought about today and see if we can find Biblical examples that prove that conviction from the Holy Spirit and persecutions, attacks of condemnation of the adversary really do occur.
Conviction from the Holy Spirit
The story of the adulterous woman found in John 8:3-11 is one of my personal favorites, and it is a wonderful representation of the Holy Spirit hard at work. The Pharisees (through an adversarial spirit) were bent on finding fault in Jesus. Dragging the adulterous woman into the temple they begin (v. 5) by saying, “Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?” Attempting to bait Jesus into saying something that was contrary to law was a futile endeavor as we see in v. 7 when the roles are reversed. Jesus tells them, “He who is without sin among you, let him through at stone at her first.” What a sight it must of been to see everyone standing around with their mouths wide open! Now watch as persecution and condemnation turns to conviction after the Holy Spirit exposes the adversary’s evil intent. Continuing this study in v. 9 we read, “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.”
Can you picture this scene? The Bible doesn’t expand on this as a fact, but I’d be willing to bet that those ol’ Pharisees almost tripped over one another on the way out the door. Clearly, when faced with the truth of the Holy Spirit, the adversary doesn’t stand a chance. Once he fled, the Pharisees, who were convicted in their shame, weren’t very far behind. James 4:7 is pretty straightforward on this subject, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Persecution and Condemnation from the Adversary
In 1 Tim 6:9 we discover the persecuting, corrupting spirit of greed. Our example begins with, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
There’s a ton of stuff going on here but I believe the key term in this verse is “desire.” While some people might believe this desire completely originates from within us alone, I would surely argue that we were aided by a vacuum of godlessness. If God isn’t in our life, who or what takes His place? In this case, I think it’s safe to say that “the spirit of greed” does. We find clues that support this idea in the next phrase “fall into temptation.” Who tempts us if not the adversary?
Wrapping things up in v. 10 we read, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Are we being told that money is evil? No, of course not. But the love of money will bring us all kinds of sorrows. It’s this kind of desire for materialistic things that brings the risk of destruction.
Remember Eve in the Garden? She too found something more desirable than the love of God (Gen. 3:16). Could the spirit of greed have been a root in the beginning as well? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it sure gives us something to ponder.
After much thought on the subject, I’m convinced that we are governed (in part) by the things on which we focus. This leaves our thoughts, desires, values, and emotions susceptible to the misdirection of the enemy or the guiding power of the Holy Spirit, depending upon whom we are placing our focus. So let us be sure the next time we hear that little voice evaluate the message first, then we can make Christ-like choices.
Dear Heavenly Father, may Christ dwell in our lives by the power of His Holy Spirit. Be our guide and our hope, O Father God. Let us praise you in our hearts and our actions. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Your Brother in Christ,