In a previous chapter we have seen the way of deliverance from possession by evil spirits. The great question here is, how to be victorious over the powers of darkness as a whole. How to have authority, and victory over the wicked spirits in place of their mastery over the believer; who, having learnt the devices of the enemy, and the way of deliverance, is now deeply concerned that others should be set free, and brought into the place of victory "over all the power of the enemy." For this he must now understand that the degree of Christ's "authority" the Spirit of God will energize him to exercise over the spirits of evil, will be according to the degree of victory he has over them in the personal conflict, which he must now settle down to face in the sphere of the spiritual life into which he has emerged.
The believer needs to have thorough knowledge and understanding of their ways and works, and of the laws of the spirit, and how to keep in mastery of spirit in all the vicissitudes of life. As there are (1) degrees of deception, and degrees of possession and deliverance from possession; so there are (2) degrees of victory over the devil; (3) degrees of temptation, and victory over temptation. The power to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the wielding of Christ's authority will also be in degrees, and gained according to the aggressive spiritual strength obtained by overcoming the devil in his various workings; just as victory over sin deepens in its strength as the man overcomes temptation to sin; and victory over the world (1 John 5: 4-5) is increasingly known by faith in the Son of God. These degrees of overcoming power with the consequent degree of reward, are to be clearly seen in the Lord's call to the churches recorded in the Apocalypse. Degrees also of the future authority in the reigning with Christ are indicated in His words in one parable, "Be thou ruler over ten cities . . over five . ." (Luke 19: 17-19).
The believer delivered from deception and possession by the spirits of evil, must now learn to walk in personal victory over the devil at every point, if he is to have the fullest victory over the powers of darkness. For this, just as he needs to know the Lord Christ in all the aspects of His Name and character, so as to draw upon His power in living union with Him, so the believer must learn to know the adversary in his various workings, as described in his names and character, that he may be able to discern his presence, and all his wicked spirits, wheresoever they may be, either in attacks upon himself, in others, or working as "world-rulers" of the darkness in the world.
Victory over the Devil as a Tempter, and all his temptations personally, direct and indirect, must be learnt by the believer in experimental reality; remembering that all "temptations" are not recognizable as temptations, nor are they always visible, for half their power lies in their being hidden. A believer thinks that he will be as conscious of the approach of temptation, as of a person coming into the room, hence the children of God are only fighting a small proportion of the devil's workings; that is, only what they are conscious of as supernatural workings of evil.
Because their knowledge of the devil's character and methods of working is limited and circumscribed, many true children of God only recognize "temptation" when the nature of the thing presented is visibly evil, and according to their limited knowledge of evil, so they do not recognize the Tempter and his temptations when they come under the guise of natural or physical, or lawful and apparent "good."
When the prince of darkness and his emissaries come as angels of light, they clothe themselves in light, which, in their case, stands for evil. It is a "light" which is really darkness. They come in the guise of good. Darkness is opposed to light, ignorance is opposed to knowledge, falsehood is opposed to truth. Darkness is a term applied to evil morality and moral darkness. The believer may need to discern evil spirits in the realm of the supposed good. That which comes to them as "light" may be darkness. The apparently "good" may be really evil; the apparent "help" which they cling to may be really a hindrance.note 1 For instance, a difficulty in work may arise out of accepting a degree of weakness,note 2which is really the result of demon possession; so while desiring strength the believer may fulfil conditions which make him weak. The devil then tempts him because he is weak, and he succumbs.
There needs to be a choice between good and evil perpetually by every man, and the priests of old were specially called to discern and teach the people the difference between "the holy and the common," the "unclean and the clean" (Ezek. 40: 23). Yet is the Church of Christ to-day able thus to discern what is good, and what is evil? Does she not continually fall into the snare of calling good evil, and evil good? Because the thoughts of God's people are governed by ignorance,note 3and limited knowledge, they call the works of God, of the devil; and the works of the devil, of God, and they are not taught the need of learning to discern the difference between the "unclean and the clean", nor how to decide for themselves what is of God, or what is of the devil, although they are unknowingly compelled to make a choice every moment of the day.
Neither do all believers know that they have a choice between good and good, i.e., between the lesser and the greater good; and the devil often entangles them here.
There are unseen temptations, and temptations in the unseen. Physical temptations, soulish temptations, spiritual temptations; direct and indirect temptations, as with Christ when He was directly tempted in the wilderness, or indirectly through Peter. The believer must not only resist the devil when he tempts visibly, or attacks consciously, but BY CONSTANT PRAYER HE MUST BRING TO LIGHT HIS HIDDEN AND COVERED TEMPTATIONS, knowing that he is a "Tempter," and therefore is always planning temptation for the believer. Those who thus, by prayer, bring to light these hidden workings, are by experience, widening their horizon in knowledge of his work as a Tempter, and becoming better able to co- work with the Spirit of God in the deliverance of others from the power of the enemy; for in order to be victorious over the powers of darkness, it is essential to be able to recognize what they are doing. Paul, on one occasion, did not say "circumstances," but "Satan hindered me" (1 Thess. 2: 18), because he was able to recognize when circumstances, or the Holy Spirit (Acts 16: 6), or Satan, hindered or restrained him in his life and service.
There are degrees also in the results of temptation. After the wilderness temptation, which settled vast and eternal issues, the devil left Christ, but he returned to Him again and again with other degrees of temptation (John 12: 27; Matt. 22: 15) both direct and indirect.
There is also a difference between the "temptations" and "attacks" of the Tempter, as may again be seen in the life of Christ. "Temptation" is a scheme or a plot, or compulsion on the part of the Tempter to cause another to do evil, whether consciously or unconsciously; but an attack is an onslaught on the person, either in life, character, or circumstances, e.g., the devil made an onslaught on the Lord through the villagers, when they sought to hurl Him over the brow of the hill (Luke 4: 29); when His family brought a charge of insanity against Him (Mark 3: 21); and when He was charged with demon possession by His enemies (John 10: 20; Matt. 12: 24).
Temptation, moreover, means suffering, as we see again in the life of Christ, for it is written, "He suffered being tempted" (Heb. 2: 18), and believers must not think they will reach a period when they will not feel the suffering of temptation, as this is a wrong conception, which gives ground to the enemy for tormenting and attacking them without cause.
For perpetual victory, therefore, the believer must unceasingly be on guard against the Tempter, praying for his hidden temptations to be revealed. The degree of understanding his working will be determined by the degree of victory experienced, for "In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird." We have given in preceding chapters much knowledge needed by the believer, if he is to gain victory over every aspect of the Tempter's workings, but especially does he require power of discrimination between what is temptation from the Tempter working upon the uncrucified "old man"; tempting through the things of the world (1 John 2: 15, 16; 5: 4, 5); and temptation direct from the spirits of evil.
In temptation the crucial point is for the tempted one to know whether the temptation is the work of an evil spirit having gained access to him,note 4or from the evil nature. This alone can be discerned by the experimental knowledge of Romans 6 as the basis of the life. Temptation from the fallen nature should be dealt with on the foundation of "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6: 11), and practical obedience to the resulting command "Let not sin reign in your mortal body." In the hour of temptation to sin--to visible, known sin--the believer should take his stand on Romans 6: 6, as his deliberate position of faith, and in obedience to Romans 6: 11, declare his undeviating choice and attitude as death to sin, in death union with Christ. If this choice is the expression of his real will, and the temptation to sin does not cease, he should then deal with the spirits of evil, who may be seeking to awaken sinful desires (Jas. 1: 14), or to counterfeit them.note 5For they can counterfeit the old nature in evil desire, evil thoughts, evil words,note 6evil presentations, and many honest believers think they are battling with the workings of the old nature, when these things are given by evil spirits. But if the believer is not standing actively on Romans 6, the "counterfeits" are not necessary, for the old fallen creation is always open to be wrought upon by the powers of darkness.
VICTORY OVER THE DEVIL AS AN ACCUSER: The difference between the accusation of the enemy and his temptations, is that the latter is an effort on his part to compel, or draw the man into sin; and the former is a charge of transgression. Temptation is an effort to cause the man to transgress the law, accusation is an effort to place the believer in the guilty position of having transgressed the law. Evil spirits want the man to be wrong, that they may accuse and punish him for being wrong. "Accusation" can be a counterfeit of conviction--the true conviction of the Spirit of God. It is important that the believer should know when the charge of transgression is made, whether it is a Divine conviction, or a Satanic accusation.
(1) The devil may accuse when the man is truly guilty; (2) he may accuse when the man is not guilty, and cause him to think, and believe that he is guilty; (3) he may endeavour to pass on his accusations as a conviction, and cause the man to think that it comes from the evil nature, when he is not guilty at all.
Evil spirits are able to infuse a sense of guilt. Sin itself comes from the evil nature within, but it is not forced into the personality from without, apart from the person.note 7How can the believer tell if evil spirits are at the back of involuntary sin? If the man is right with God, standing on Romans 6, with no deliberate yielding to known sin, then any manifestation of sin coming back again unaccountably, may be dealt with as from evil spirits.
The believer must therefore never accept an accusation--or a charge, supernaturally made, of having transgressed--unless he is fully convinced by intelligent knowledge and clear decision that he has done so; for if he accepts the charge when innocent, he will suffer as much as if he had really transgressed. He must also be on guard to refuse any compulsory drive to "confession"note 8of sin to others, which may be the forcing of the enemy to pass on his lying accusations.
The believer should maintain neutrality to accusations,note 9until he is sure of their real source, and if the man knows he is guilty, he should at once go to God on the ground of 1 John 1: 9, and refuse to be lashed by the devil, as he is not the judge of God's children, nor is he deputed as God's messenger to make the charge of wrong. The Holy Spirit alone is commissioned by God to convict of sin.
The steps in the working of evil spirits in their accusations and false charges, are these, when the believer accepts their accusations:--
(1) The believer thinks and believes he is guilty;
(2) Evil spirits cause him to feel guilty;
(3) They cause him, then, to appear guilty;
(4) They cause him then to be actually guiltynote 10through believing their lies, it matters not whether he is guilty or not in the first instance.
Malicious spirits try to make the man feel guilty by their nagging accusations, so as to make him act, or appear guilty before others; at the same moment flashing, or suggesting to others the very things about which they are accusing him, without any cause.note 11 All such "feelings" should be investigated by the believer. Feeling wrong is not enough for a man to say he is wrong, or the Accuser to accuse him of being wrong. The man says he "feels" wrong. He should ask "Is the feeling right?" He may feel wrong, and be right; and "feel" right, and be wrong. Therefore he should investigate, and examine the question honestly, "Am I wrong?"
There are physical, soulish, and spiritual "feelings."note 12Evil spirits can inject feelings into either of these departments. Their aim is to move the man by "feelings" to substitute these for the action of his mind, so that the believer is governed by the deceiving spirits through his feelings. Also to substitute feelings for the consciencenote 13in its recognition of right and wrong. If believers "feel" they can do a thing, they do it, without asking whether it be right or wrong, if it is not visibly sinful. For victory over the deceitful enemy, it is essential that the children of God cease to be guided by "feelings" in their actions.
Again: If believers in any course of action "feel relief," they think that sense of relief is a sign that they have been doing God's will. But a man gets rest when his work is done, not only in the spiritual, but in ordinary life. A "sense of relief" in any line of action, is no criterion that it is in the will of God. The action must be judged by itself, and not merely by its effects upon the doer of it. For instance, a believer says he "felt happy" after doing such and such a thing, and that it was "a proof that he was doing the will of God"; but peace and rest and relief are no proof at all of being in God's will. Believers also think that if they do some action that the devil wants them to do, they will "feel condemned" at once, but they overlook the fact that Satan can give pleasant feelings.note 14
There are innumerable variations of feelings caused by evil spirits, from countless attacks, and countless false suggestions, which call forth all the spiritual discernment of the believer, and his understanding of spiritual things, to recognize them.
The devil as a Tempter very quickly becomes the Accuser, even if he does not succeed in getting the man to yield to his temptations. As we have seen, deceiving spirits can cause apparent "sin" to be manifested to the consciousness of a believer, and then lash and accuse the man for their own workings. They counterfeit some sin, which may be called with sadness, "my besetting sin,"note 15 in the believer's life; and as long as it is believed to be sin from the evil nature, no "confessing" or seeking victory over it, will cause it to pass away. They can also hide behind real sin.
A sense of guiltlessness does not necessarily lead to absolute happiness, for even with the peace of conscious innocence there may be suffering, and the suffering have its source in some sin which is not known.note 16 Walking by known light, and measuring his guiltlessness by his knowledge of known sin, is very dangerous to him who desires a fathomless peace, for it leads only to superficial rest, which may be disturbed at any moment by the attacks of the Accuser, who directs his darts to a joint in the armour of peace, hidden from the believer's view.
For obtaining victory over the Deceiver's accusing spirits, spiritual believers should, therefore, understand clearly whether any consciousness of sin, is the result of real transgression, or is caused by evil spirits.note 17If the believer accepts the consciousness of sin, as from himself, when it is not, he at once leaves his position of death to sin, and reckons himself alive to it. This explains why many who have truly known victory over sin by the "reckon" of Romans 6: 11, surrender their basis, and lose the position of victory; because the Accuser has counterfeited some manifestation of "self" or "sin," and then accused the man of it, with the taunt that " Romans 6 does not work," and by this device made him surrender his basis of victory, causing him to fall into confusion, and condemnation, as into a pit of miry clay and darkness.
On the other hand, if the believer in the slightest degree is tempted to treat sin lightly, or attribute it to evil spirits when it is from himself, he is equally on false ground, and lays himself open to the old fallen nature regaining mastery over him with redoubled force. The warfare against Satan must be accompanied with a vigorous, unflinching warfare against sin. Any known sin must not be tolerated for a moment. Whether it be from the fallen nature, or from evil spirits forcing it into the man, it MUST BE CAST OFF AND PUT AWAY; on the basis of Rom. 6: 6 and 12.note 18
Two misconceptions which give great advantage to the watching enemy are the thoughts in many believers' minds, that if a Christian commits sin he will at once (1) know it himself, or (2) that God will tell him. They, therefore, expect God to tell them when they are right or wrong, instead of seeking light and knowledge according to John 3: 21.
Believers seeking victory over all the deceptions of the enemy, must take an active part in dealing with sin. Based upon a wrong conception of "death" they may have thought that God would remove sin out of their lives for them, with the result that they have failed to actively co-work with Him in dealing with evil, within and in their environment, in others and in the world.