The Attacks of Satan
In view of the significance of our spirit, which is the site of communion between the Holy Spirit and the saints, should we marvel if Satan is most unwilling to let us know the functions of the spirit for fear we may follow it? The enemy aims to confine the saint’s life within the soul and to quench his spirit. He will give many strange physical sensations to believers and fill their mind with various wandering thoughts. He intends to confuse one’s spiritual awareness by these sensations and thoughts. While confused, God’s children are incompetent to distinguish what is of the spirit and what emanates from the soul. Satan well recognizes that victories of believers rest in their knowing how to “read” their spiritual sense (alas! how many are ignorant of this principle). He musters his whole force to attack the believer’s spirit.
Let us reiterate that in such spiritual warfare Christians must never make any move according to their feelings or sudden thoughts. Never assume that such thoughts cannot be wrong because we have already prayed. It is a mistake to consider every notion which comes to us in prayer as being of God. We seem to innocently think that prayer can right the wrong and that whatever has been prayed out is bound to be all right. True, we have sought the will of God, but it does not mean necessarily that we have already known His will. God makes it known to our spirit, not to our mind.
Satan employs even more drastic measures against believers than that of enticing them into living by the soul instead of following the spirit. Upon succeeding in luring them—through their thoughts or feelings—to live by the outward man, Satan adopts the next step of pretending to be a spirit in them. He will create many deceptive feelings in the believers in order to confuse their spiritual senses. If they are ignorant of the wiles of the enemy, they just may allow their spirit to be suppressed until it ceases to function. And then they heed this counterfeit feeling as though they were still following the spirit. Once their spiritual sense grows dull, Satan proceeds further in his deceit. He injects into their minds the thought that now God is leading them by their renewed mind, thus subtly covering up the fault of men in not using their spirit as well as covering up the work of the enemy. As soon as man’s spirit ceases to operate, the Holy Spirit can no longer find any cooperative element within him; naturally then, all resources from God are cut off. And it is hence impossible for such ones to continue to experience true spiritual life.
Should Christians be insensitive to their condition, Satan assaults them even more mercilessly. He may either mislead them (at a time when they are unconscious of the presence of God) into thinking they are living by faith, or make them suffer without a cause under the delusion that they are suffering with Christ in their spirit. Wherefore Satan by means of a false spirit deceives believers into obeying his will. Such experiences occur to spiritual but undiscerning Christians.
Spiritual ones ought to possess spiritual knowledge so that all their movements can be governed by spiritual reasoning. They should not act impulsively according to fleeting emotion or flashing thought. They should never be in haste. Every action must be scrutinized with spiritual insight in order that only what is approved by the spirit’s intuitive knowledge is permitted. Nothing should be done which is propelled by excited feeling or abrupt thought; everything must be carefully and quietly examined before it is executed.
To examine and test our walk is a very important element in following the spirit. Believers should not while away their spiritual life foolishly; they must examine carefully all thoughts, feelings, etc., which come to them in order to discern whether these arise from God or from themselves. The natural inclination is to take life easy, to adapt oneself to whatever happens. If so, one will often welcome what the enemy has arranged. Usually we do not investigate these matters, but Scripture commands us to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5.21). Herein lies both a characteristic and a strength of spiritual believers. They “interpret spiritual truths in spiritual language” (1 Cor. 2.13 RSV marginal). The word “interpret” here means in the original “compare” (RSV marginal), “mixing” or “putting together” (Darby note), or “determined” (Darby note). The Holy Spirit purposely gives spiritual believers such power for them to use to test anything which enters their life; otherwise, under the manifold deceits of the evil spirit, it would be most difficult to live.