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WHICH s/SPIRIT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

by Jacques More

We are told by John:


. . . test the spirits . . .

1 John 4:1


This is an article about the need to do that and how.

But before I go there I will split hairs. When I say "Which s/Spirit are you listening to?" it could be understood, don't listen or, do not hear, but what I am after explaining is, don't go on to obey the voice of the enemy. And by the enemy of course I am referring to demons or evil spirits: whichever you prefer to call them. It is ok to hear them; not to heed them.

I will explain how it is ok to hear them. We know that in the wilderness Satan tempted Jesus:


. . . Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4:1


So from this we know two important things relevant to this discussion. One is that it is not bad to hear (listen in that sense) the enemy speaking to you. And second, if Jesus was talked to by the enemy then we should expect it too. It is what you do with what he (the enemy) says, that is important.


In the Christian life and even more so, in the Spirit filled Christian life, sensitivity to the spiritual is heightened. By Spirit filled I am referring to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and I have written separately about that in my article What is Baptism in the Holy Spirit?


This increased access to spiritual things to the mind of a person causes a greater hearing of things: both from the Lord and from the enemy. What tends to happen is without discernment the enemy is often mistaken to be the Lord speaking and thus the person will get involved in (sometimes) good things at the expense of the best. Or, the person is made to do something ahead of a proper 'natural' time. That is very common. Let alone all the other more usual stuff from the enemy like enticement to sin or influence to believe false doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1). Or, worry attacks, fear attacks leading to panics and anxiety, guilt attacks leading to condemnation, etc…


So does the enemy speak often to us?

Often is misleading, regularly is more accurate: Yes, I believe so. When Jesus was tempted in the desert as mentioned above this was a one off special occasion, but we are then told:


And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

Luke 4:13 KJV


This was one season only. But, there were more. Indeed when Peter spoke to Jesus and against what He had just been explaining, Jesus perceived the enemy at work and He said,


Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

Matthew 16:23


Jesus knew how to test the spirits and only just a few moments after complimenting Peter on hearing from the Father, He now instead told him off for uttering from another spirit. James tells us how to respond to the enemy's voice:


Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

James 4:7


When you resist the enemy, you are refusing to accept what he says, he then flees. But, don't be fooled into thinking he is gone for good. It will only be the current season in which you have fought that he flees from. Jesus said,


A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.

Matthew 10:24


Of course this is a reference to persecution and the fact that what Jesus endured we are not to expect to be exempt from. But I believe as the above passages show that this is also true of the enemy's access to us when he attempts to influence us: his speaking in order to divert us from God and His ways. He tried it with Jesus and he tries it on with us. So our job is as Paul put it, to be:


. . . bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5


The enemy speaks to us just like the Lord through the means of our thought life. To our minds, through dreams sometimes and, through other's words: as the example with Peter and Jesus above. What Paul just wrote is good to help us see this is a spiritual battlefield involving the mind:


For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. . .

2 Corinthians 10:4-5


It is the thought life that is the battleground. And it is our responsibility to take captive every thought not in line with Jesus.


The challenge

Once it is recognised that the enemy is involved in this activity of feeding the thought life, then the practise is to go against what he says.


So, the remaining issue now is one of discernment. How do you recognise it is the enemy, or the Lord, or just your very own thoughts?

These are the three main activities prevalent in the mind. How can you tell which is whose?

If the hurdle is passed that the enemy does regularly have an input in the lives of Christians, just as he did with Jesus: it happens regularly to all Christians, then the remaining issue is to discern the voices and then heed the good one and resist the bad one: Knowing how to deal with these things. So as John put it we need to:


. . . test the spirits . . .

1 John 4:1


The simplest and easiest way is to know what is being said and line it up with what is known as right and wrong. If the feeling is of hate and desire to murder, then of course that is wrong and needs to be resisted. That is the means to kick out such a feeling. By resisting it and deciding that is not what you want in your life. This is effectively what the Lord told Cain right at the beginning:


If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And it's desire is for you, but you should rule over it.

Genesis 4:7


By resisting the sin's call to act you disarm its hold on you. It is of note that sin is personified in what the Lord said to Cain. My understanding of this is more in terms of evil spirits identifying with a particular sinful activity than the deed itself being a type of person. Either way, it is resisting the feeling, the urge, the overriding influence or pressure to do evil which is the crux. But, conversely by heeding it you are less able to overcome later as you have welcomed it. It thereby begins to make a home in you. However, your ability to return or resist is never removed fully: it may be hidden and quenched as Paul said, but it is always there to some extent. Paul spoke of this ability being severely hampered in terms of a conscience sealed up:


. . . having their own conscience seared with a hot iron . . .

1 Timothy 4:2


And Jesus spoke of what 'one had' as being taken away. This signifies that 'we all had it' in the first place. So our use of it enables our retention of it. I will need to expand on this: to explain it. Jesus said:


For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

Matthew 13:12


This is in fact a fundamental principle. So important, that Jesus is quoted 5 times as saying it in the gospels. But is it preached about? Is it understood? Not very much is the answer.


At first glance it appears unfair. If you have something more is given you, but if you have nothing what you do have is removed. But, this is not material things Jesus is referring to. It is a spiritual principle. And this principle - this law if you will - is important in establishing an effective means of discerning what the enemy says to you as a believer. Indeed deception, it is often thought, you should counteract just by education. This is not so. The most educated and wise people are amongst the deceived. This is because the enemy has been listened to and the matter is not just intellectual, but spiritual. The answer to deception is education with a right attitude of heart: with the right type of desire for truth in the heart. Education on its own is not the answer.


So what is Jesus referring to?

He is referring to the desire in the heart to do what is right, to sincerely knowing the truth, to truly love God. If you have this, then more ability will be given you and you will have abundance. But, if you do not have pure motive in your heart, what you do have - even your very ability to choose - will appear unusable as you enter the realm of deception. It will still be with you - the freedom to choose - but your heart will cause you not to see, to be blinded thus not able to choose the good from the bad. This is why Jesus taught in parables:


. . . Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.

Matthew 13:15


Jesus knew the ability remained, but because of their inner choice to not desire the truth: their motives being impure, in order to "respect that" freedom, He spoke in parables thus it was their own hearts that prevented them from understanding and turning. But, Jesus turned (in His speech) to His disciples and then said:


But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear. . .

Matthew 13:16


So the first step to effective discernment is having the right heart. This is why James started the mention of resisting the enemy with humbling yourself before God first.


Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

James 4:7


If this is a regular practise in your daily life then, you are doing this first step anyway. If your daily habit is to spend time with your God, then you are in a place of humility before your God which is of value in this matter: If not all the way through your day, at the very least at that part of your day. This then enables the Lord to highlight what the enemy may have put your way. Your spirit may be spoken to by the Lord. At all times the enemy may speak, the Lord however is into having a relationship and as such needs to be invited, welcomed, asked; not assumed upon. He has self-control; the enemy does not. So that He will not always speak immediately into a situation if not asked.


. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23


Not only is this useful to know about God - that He has self-control - and thus how important it is we spend time with Him, but it is a valuable aspect of recognising the enemy when he speaks. What the enemy says will not involve self-control on his part. He will pressure, cajole, squeeze, with a thought or feeling to get you to do or believe something. The Lord will not. The Lord instead returns to mention something again (though to a limited amount of times). This latter point is relevant in that if you do not want to hear Him, the Lord will also not go on.


Jesus leads His sheep; He does not 'drive' them!


But His heart remains the same, so if you do seek His face you will find Him repeating what He may have said a long time ago.


. . . many are called, but few are up to it.

Matthew 20:16 JM


See my article The meaning of eklektos for the translation: "few are quality"


The call remains the same, but often the fulfilment does not occur or is not seen since the response to the call is down to the individual.

So pressure to do something which does not allow for your choice is invariably the enemy trying to influence you. If he can't wait for a day to do this thing, then it is not normally the Lord. This is the spirit of the voice I am talking about: A regular facet of the enemy's ways. But the Lord does at times require us to act quickly and do something within a brief time frame. Usually in these times it is our personal fear or laziness that prevents us to act. It normally involves our conscience and thus is God's speaking revealed. The enemy does not use the conscience; he uses guilt. There is a difference.


These are useful aspects to know when trying to recognise what is going on in our minds, our hearts, our feelings... Sometimes these things are too strong, or they feel that way. But, if in doubt just say, 'Lord. I am not sure this is you, I will wait a while'. He will understand. If it is Him, He will then open your mind to a passage of the bible or something that will encourage you to understand this is Him. If not, anything the enemy gives extra will also with it have a 'pressure' indicator. You must because it needs to happen now to prove things, etc…

It is the opposite with the Lord because,


. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

2 Corinthians 3:17


There is freedom, release where Jesus is. There is peace and He is gentle.

So the thought, the word or suggestion received can be discerned as to what source, what spirit is speaking by the tone and manner of voice. It is the fruit of the voice that tells us the source. Pressure, compulsion is the enemy's; conviction, gentle persuasion is the Lord's.


The important thing is to sincerely desire righteousness, talk to God with absolute honesty with Him and yourself, asking for His help and then watch for the tell-tale pressure or the simple conviction and inspiration. If in doubt wait, quieten your heart and soon the tone will tell the source. But, don't be fooled in thinking the enemy never speaks. He does regularly. But so does the Lord.


A powerful weapon

Just as Jesus used the Scripture to respond to the Devil in the wilderness, so the bible is like a sword and is most effective in resisting the enemy once he is recognised as speaking or trying to influence. If you do not know a scripture to 'speak into' your current situation ask the Lord for one. How you receive that is also important to recognise. The enemy loves to string passages together - usually out of context - to 'convince' the person of his cause. I recommend my article The Characteristics of deception to help in recognising that type of scripture giving. If you have been following such a 'string' of passages for some time and do not know it, you may find my article Making an idol useful in recognising such. I will leave you now with a verse that I have often found helpful to fight with:


. . . seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Matthew 6:33



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Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 2004. All Rights Reserved.

· The Early Church Fathers and Predestination
· The Impossibility of Evolution
· Harry Potter - The Catalyst
· Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
· The Characteristics of Deception
· What About Tithing?