This week, I am writing about an area which it is easy to overlook. It is the area of guarding or protecting ourselves from spiritual, demonic and destructive attacks. These come in many forms, but I will focus on four areas today.
The word ACTS is a well-known acronym which highlights a form of prayer:
Adoration – Coming to the Lord first with praise humbling ourselves before Him and ascribing glory and majesty, strength and power to Father, Son and Spirit.
Confession – Next, opening ourselves up before Him and confessing our sins, weaknesses and failures; knowing that as we do so He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all wrongdoing.
Thanksgiving – Then thanking Him for forgiveness in Christ, who He is, what He has done for us, and what He will do for us.
Supplication – Finally, actually praying bringing to Him our requests for others, our church, ourselves and our nation. This should be done in dialogue with God, both speaking and listening. The listening can be done as we read our daily portions of the Bible, as well as in reflection on things on our minds, discerning the voice of the Spirit in worship, in our minds, through our emotions, through others, through church, through nature, through outside sources.
I want to use ACTS as an acronym in a different way today. ACTS = Attacks – Challenges – Temptations/Tests – Soulish.
Attacks come in all sorts of guises. They can come directly from Satan. He searches for a weak spot in our character, personality or soul. Once he finds that spot, he then puts incredible pressure on us often by misquoting Scripture or influencing us bringing confusion, fear and anxiety into our lives.
Satan often comes along familiar pathways into our lives; if it worked before, why change his angle of attack now? This type of attack often comes out of the blue, unexpectedly, and often when a good thing has happened to us or through us.
After Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, and the coming of the Holy Spirit like a Dove upon Him, that same Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-14).
Mark tells us that the Spirit ‘drove’ Jesus into the battle ground to be tempted (Mark 1:12-13). This is a very different view of the authority and power of the Spirit from the meek and timid dove often portrayed. The Spirit was testing Jesus to see if He would remain obedient to God’s will and purposes, or use His divinity to circumvent the tough times in His ministry.
Jesus was not a robot, nor a God with only partial human feelings. He was the God-man, fully divine and fully human. Jesus the man had to learn, just as we do, that the power and blessing of God on our lives are not for our own advancement or prestige, but to expand the Kingdom and obey the Father’s will.
Back to Luke’s account, we see in Satan’s temptations, actual attacks against the person, integrity, character and spiritual maturity of Jesus. When Satan withdrew from the battle ground, Jesus then exited it in the power of the same Spirit to begin His ministry. He withstood the attack, and learned through it.
A second type of attack is that recorded in Numbers 16, where Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses’ and Aaron’s authority. They attacked Moses specifically in three ways:
- They questioned his position – we didn’t appoint you to lead us. Look, we have 250 key leaders with us – you need to share the leadership of the nation with us.
- They questioned his vision – you are leading us into a dead end place that we do not know or like, away from the good things we had in Egypt.
- We are just as good and holy as you – you are stopping us fulfilling our destiny. We have the right to act as priests also, after all, we are Levites too; we don’t just want to work at the Tabernacle, and minister to the people.
God’s swift response was terrifying and Hs judgement irrevocable. This was an open attack against God’s appointed leaders. The attack appeared noble and just, but it was really a rebellion and an attempted coup, a power grab.
Attacks can appear noble on the outside, but often the lust for power, control, or money can be behind it; even sadly, sometimes, it is motivated by sexual lust as people desire to gain authority and positions of trust to then abuse that same trust.
Challenges often come in the form of a lack of something. We haven’t enough money, or enough of the right people, or enough time, or we are not in the right area, or we are so preoccupied with preserving everything that we don’t have the time to think about growth, expansion, improvement and vision.
As Stuart Briscoe says, our attitude determines how we respond to such challenges. We either are overwhelmed by all the lack, or we see, in what we do have, the chance for development and something better.
This is a faith journey. We either believe in God’s provision putting in place godly principles of biblical stewardship, or we don’t. It is living with a ‘can do’ attitude instead of a, ‘we can’t do this’ attitude.
Above, I already have referred to what is known as the ‘Temptations of Christ.’ They were extraordinary and open temptations. In it was also a test of Jesus by the Spirit. Remember, God never tempts anyone to do wrong, but He often does test us to see what we will do when the pressure is on. He already knows what we will do, but He is revealing to us what we are really like in a stressful setting.
Our temptations often come subtly – in a quiet, clever, indirect way. Instead of openly confronting us, as Satan did with Jesus, he comes unnoticed.
In James there is an interesting passage, 1:13-15, NIVUK, ‘When tempted, no-one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.’
Facing temptation is not sin; it is when we dwell on it and then act on it that it becomes sin. As I have already written above, God does not tempt, for He Himself is never tempted by sin – He hates sin and cannot even look upon it.
When we have a lust or desire, Satan makes sure and gives us a push in that direction by what he brings into our minds or imaginations, by what we see, hear and feel, by what other people say to us or the impression we have of what they are thinking without saying.
As John Blanchard so wisely put it, ‘dragged away’ carries ‘the picture of a wild animal being lured from a place of safety to a place where it can be attacked or captured.’ That is what Satan seeks to do to us.
Then comes the insidious element, ‘and enticed.’ The word used, deleazomenos, is the same as that used in fishing. The fish, seeing the glint of the hook and being attracted to it, bites; once he does so, he is trapped or hooked.
As long as we resist and avoid the allure, we are safe; once we satisfy the craving, we are trapped by sin. Sin makes us powerless and defenceless against our sinful inclinations, Satan, the world, and self’s selfish needs and control.
The final element I want to speak about today is this idea of the soulish. The Greek word is psuchikos, which carries the meaning of that which is driven by the sensual, our base passions, by that which is off the spiritual realm, with a lower case ‘s;’ in other words, not of the Holy Spirit, but from other spiritual forces of darkness.
The word can be properly rendered, ‘soulish.’ It is used five time in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 2:14, where it is translated, as an ‘unspiritual person’ or ‘a person without the Spirit;’ 15:44, 46, where it is translated a ‘natural man or person.’ James 3:15, where it states, ‘Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic;’ ‘unspiritual.’ And finally, Jude 19, Sensual persons: or soulish.
Psuchikos or soulish is rightly understood as the middle word of a group of three: carnal, soulish and spiritual. In Latin it is carnalis, animalis, spiritalis.
The carnal person is ruled by the physical world and all its trappings.
The soulish or animalistic person by the unseen things such as human reasoning and affections. Those driven by the soulish are affected by the world of the senses and the base elemental forces and spirits. This is the world of religion without the Holy Spirit; of false religions, cults, the paranormal, the fads that seem to come and go like the sea tides and which drive the fashion, entertainment and music industries.
Because the soulish are not ruled by the Spirit – they rely on their own base charisma or power, or another power to accomplish things. There has always been a problem with false fire amongst God’s people (Leviticus 10:1).
The word of God is able to divide and judge between soulish and truly spiritual. A soulish ministry magnifies man or woman, and manufactures entertaining results. Whereas, the Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ and only He can truly satisfy our born-again spirits.
It is important to know that we will be regularly attacked by the enemy of our souls. He, his minions, and the world and its powers hate the truly spiritual, born of the Spirit.
Immersing oneself in the word, in prayer as dialogue with God, in fellowship and prayer with others – seeking to live in the Spirit’s fullness, worshipping, witnessing to Jesus, fellowshipping together with other believers, serving the Lord Jesus, His people and the world around us, and living out the faith as a good Christian are key ingredients in our defence.
Next week D.V, I will explore this topic further and think about the importance of accountability, obedience, God-ordained levels of authority, and holiness in the battle we face.
Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, ourselves, and the world’s allure. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Grace and peace