deception, discerning the spirits, ecstasy, exhortation, experience, eyes of the heart, feeling, God's guidance, joy, Matthew Henry, peace, sensual experience, spiritual blessings, T.A. Sparks, the new self, the old self, worldly spirits
Are we still looking for continued peace, joy, and wellbeing? If we only learn to listen to His Spirit’s guidance more closely and more often, we will experience all of God’s blessings in an ever increasing measure, for it is written,
But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’
But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. (Jer 7:23-24 ESV)
In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Jer 7:21-28 we read,
The promise is very encouraging. Let God’s will be your rule, and his favour shall be your happiness. God was displeased with disobedience. We understand the gospel as little as the Jews understood the law, if we think that even the sacrifice of Christ lessens our obligation to obey.
Isn’t it amazing that God becomes our personal God simply because of our obedience toward His will? You see, it does not depend on our self-will. We may claim to be Christians and that we all believe in the same God. However, if we refuse to listen to His Spirit’s voice, He won’t be our God and we won’t be His people as verse 23 immediately suggests. Not easy to digest, is it? If Jesus Christ’s father is not our God because of our disobedience toward His leading, who then might our spiritual father be?
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (Jn 8:42-45 ESV)
Interesting, isn’t it? They did not believe Jesus BECAUSE He told them the truth. They wanted to believe a lie because their character was already closely related to Satan’s – without them knowing about it, of course. Brothers and sisters, that is a horrible deception when we believe we have known God, yet it was Satan whom we called our god because he, the devil, fulfilled our carnal desires. Digging deeper into this very topic, I want to begin with a quote from T. Austin Sparks, once again, in order to point to the possibility that we might have believed a lie although we thought our or others’ spiritual experiences were of divine origin. TAS said,
Whenever God in Christ is revealed in the inner man, deception and Satan’s power are destroyed, and the man is set free. Against this inshining, Satan works by every conceivable means, ranging from open assault to destroy the messengers, to beautiful substitutes for the truth.
Beautiful substitutes for the truth… Hmm… What could these substitutes be and, if they truly exist, what do they look like? At first they must appear in some way or other appealing to us since, if not, would we call them “beautiful”? Furthermore, if they only offer a substitute for the truth instead of the truth itself, how could this fact escape our notice?
To begin with, we can say that which is appealing to the natural man is disgusting to the spiritual man. Our flesh is attracted by what we perceive with our senses to be beautiful, by watching nature, a sunset, or human beings, for instance. And what feels good to our bodies is appealing to us as well. This is not wrong in itself since God put a longing for beauty and enjoyment into our very hearts. However, our God is Spirit, not flesh!
Whether the spirits of people of who we think they are beautiful are really beautiful too is of no interest to the natural man. Just think about the big sellout of beauty in advertising and especially pornography. The body (flesh) has become like a good that can be advertized and sold. I did not mention this in order to condemn anyone who is still attached to these things because I know that God does not condemn us, either. Instead, He gives us a new heart and mind that are no longer interested in the way this world (and its ruler Satan) present their” truth”.
As for beautiful bodies, it is the exact opposite for those whose spirits have been enlightened by God. If they see physically beautiful persons, they do not feel attracted by the flesh (body) any more. But when they sense God’s Spirit in other people, this observation makes their hearts leap with joy. Furthermore, they are attracted by their spirits only! That means, the appearance is of no interest for the spiritual man who knows that it is only the heart that matters.
From hence, we might as well assume that Satan can easily capture the carnal Christian by deluding the soulish and sensual life of the old self nature. Since, if the old man has died, Satan’s possibilities to deceive are no longer effective. Instead, the spiritual man who always beholds God in Christ “knows” the truth because God’s Spirit teaches his enlightened human spirit on a permanent level. I am going to offer you now another quote from T. Austin Sparks, taken from another article.
How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there. What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence—the dress and tinsel—and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world. We have been in it and know the reactions afterward.
How hollow, how empty; Dead Sea fruit! The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is ‘real life’ to so many. This soul-world is the devil’s imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.
Yes, TAS is right! Playing beautiful music, singing songs, even experiencing ecstatic feelings in one’s body can make you feel happy for a certain time. And you might be inclined to believe that God was the author of what you have felt. Maybe He was at times, but not necessarily so. Having been part of the Pentecostal Church and of the Charismatic movement, I know how this deception works. Once you are in it, you can hardly sense the difference between God and Satan any longer unless God opens up the eyes of your heart and sets you free, which is a both necessary and painful process to come to grips with. Wherever we do not see Christians being changed continually, but remaining on the same spiritual level for years, we may know that there is something wrong with them. They are spiritual babies that never grew up into Him and thus can neither share His sufferings nor enjoy the glory of God. God who never sleeps works through His Spirit in His children 24/7 in order to change them because He longs to see the perfection of His Son realized in His sons and daughters so that they can finally join Him in His eternal life (see Jn 17:3) and blessings, even now, even here, even today…
Although the last quote from TAS below does not sound that hopeful at first sight, I thought I should add it on here, though. We may not believe that deception would be an intrinsically unnatural phenomenon for us. Au contraire, deception is closely related to our Old Adam nature until God finally lets us share in His divine spiritual sight. TAS said,
Man is by nature now a deceived creature. Deception is deception, and the deceived never know it until they are enlightened or delivered. It is like a disease. There are forms of mental sickness which cause those who are so suffering to believe certain things which to the healthy mind are ridiculous and impossible. It is useless to argue with them, and futile to try to convince them of the untruth of their beliefs. Indeed, it is cruel at times to oppose them. If you are to live with them in any measure of peace and be at all helpful, you have to take the attitude of agreeing with them and deal with the situation along some other line. Otherwise it is going to be continual clash. The only way to change their convictions is to heal their sickness.