Spiritual warfare is the Christian concept that the Devil and demons attempt to thwart Good and the will of God.

How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

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  • How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

    Sinclair Ferguson

    How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.

    John Owen suggests four ways in which the Spirit and the serpent are to be distinguished:
    1. The leading of the Spirit, he says, is regular, that is, according to the regulum: the rule of Scripture. The Spirit does not work in us to give us a new rule of life, but to help us understand and apply the rule contained in Scripture. Thus, the fundamental question to ask about any guidance will be: Is this course of action consistent with the Word of God?
    2. The commands of the Spirit are not grievous. They are in harmony with the Word, and the Word is in harmony with the believer as new creation. The Christian believer consciously submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked by struggle, pain, and sorrow. Christ’s yoke fits well; His burden never crushes the spirit. (Matthew 11:28-30)
    3. The “motions” of the Spirit are orderly. Just as God’s covenant is ordered in all things and secure, (2 Samuel 23:5) so the promised gift of that covenant, the indwelling Spirit, is orderly in the way in which He deals with us. Restlessness is not a mark of communion with the Spirit but of the activity of the evil one. Perhaps Owen had particular members of his congregations in mind when he wrote:


    We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.”

    The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.

    How, then, does the Spirit act on the believer? The Spirit comes to us as an earnest, a pledge, a down payment on final redemption. He is here and now the foretaste of future glory. But His presence is also an indication of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience.

    Owen here writes in sharp contrast to those who spoke of release from the influence of indwelling sin and struggle through the liberty of the Spirit. Precisely because He is the firstfruits and not yet the final harvest, there is a sense in which the indwelling of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s groaning: “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) The presence of the Spirit brings us already a foretaste of future glory, but also, simultaneously, creates within us a sense of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience. This, for Owen, is how communion with the Spirit—understood biblically—brings joy into the life of the believer and yet a deep sense that the fullness of joy is not yet.

  • #2
    In today's world the majority listen to Satan's voice disguised as God. Sadly, around 99% of Christians today are unable to discern & distinguish the difference between The Devil and God speaking. Why is this ? Because very few take the time to study their Bibles. So they are easily deceived and have accepted doctrines of demons as being truth. And furthermore, many have no spiritual wisdom to begin with. This can only be attained by submitting to God. 1 Corinthians 2:15.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Solo4God View Post
      In today's world the majority listen to Satan's voice disguised as God. Sadly, around 99% of Christians today are unable to discern & distinguish the difference between The Devil and God speaking. Why is this ? Because very few take the time to study their Bibles. So they are easily deceived and have accepted doctrines of demons as being truth. And furthermore, many have no spiritual wisdom to begin with. This can only be attained by submitting to God. 1 Corinthians 2:15.
      Hi Solo4God,

      Welcome to Cf.

      I believe you're right, people with no or little knowledge of the bible are more susceptible towards being misguided or worse, taken advantage of - whether by a religious or spiritual leader. I think some people actually place too much trust in person(s), giving them too much credit and benefit of the doubt when they should indeed be searching the Scriptures to see whether the things they say are true. On the other extreme, people with no or little education believe they know too much, and do not listen to anyone or thing that actually deserves credibility such as ecumenical creeds, confessions, and councils which should ultimately point back to Scripture as our authority. Scripture isn't meant to be used to give us authority, but to be the authority over us, and not one individual or church body is exempt. Scripture is not downloaded into the minds of Christians through some Matrix style dump, but takes time and commitment.

      God bless,
      William
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      • #4
        That guilty feeling... is it of God or of Satan? I recognize feelings of guilt as conviction by the Holy Spirit. Some Christians, especially Pentecostal leaders, teach that feelings of guilt is "Satan trying to remind you of your past sins" (paradoxically, these same teachers often to teach us that we're all sinners but that we shouldn't feel guilty for being sinners). Nothing that leads you to repentance is of Satan. But, that which leads you away from repentance is of Satan.

        Nothing that leads you to God or obedience to scripture is of Satan. Anything that leads you way is of Satan.
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        • #5

          Well I myself had a huge problem with condemnation (still do sometimes) and as Cornelius stated above any voice that will lead you into fear and away from Christ is not of God, the Holy Spirit will always lead you straight to Jesus Christ and to repentance
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          • #6
            I'm too sometimes be tempted that I've done wrong in stopping believing Hinduism and following a relationship with God and sometimes tempted that there is no God but Holy Spirit is the one which leads to repentance and rebuilds trust in Jesus
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            • #7
              It is important to know what the Bible says and have an accurate understanding of the character of God. Nothing the Spirit tells us will ever contradict the Bible or be in any way outside the character of God.

              Lacking this understanding is when someone is most easily deceived. Someone I once knew would often say that God told them to do this or that, but at times he ended up not following through on something he said he would do. That's how we could recognize he was not really listening to God all the time, because God does not change His mind.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by DancingLady View Post
                It is important to know what the Bible says and have an accurate understanding of the character of God. Nothing the Spirit tells us will ever contradict the Bible or be in any way outside the character of God.
                I agree with that, however sometimes the answer is not in the Bible. For example we ask a question, should we go this way or that, and get an answer, however the answer can not be tested against the Bible.

                This is where I have sometimes struggled, questioning if I am being led by God into my destiny, or being deceived by satan into a snake pit.
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                • #9
                  Sure we could cross-check our choices with the literal verses of the Biblie, but that would take an impractical amount of time, especially in circumstances when one needs to act fast. The verses of the Bible have been writen for a society millenias away from ours, which includes concepts like slavery, etc as if it were perfectly fine to enslave and exploit the labour of another person.
                  So if I assumed I had an accurate understanding of the character of God (the blasphemy that such a statement is), that would mean my opinion of slavery comes in contrast to the viewpoint of the Bible.
                  All in all, what I want to say is that I prefer to act with my heart geared towards love of other people, whoevery they are, or whatever they believe in. This is the mindset of acting that makes me feel less guilty, in knowing that if I happen to make a wrong choice and harmed someone due to my ignorance, I'm willing to rectify myself and do better.
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                  • #10
                    You know, in times of despair or suffering, it might be difficult to know which is the voice of the Holy Spirit or the Serpent. When you're in pain, it can be quite difficult to rationalise why all this is happening. I know because I've been there, I've lost people that I've loved and during those times, I won't deny, that I have been tempted to question God's motives. And during those times, I think I've been tempted to sway away from my belief and faith because I don't think all of that's happened were fair. But in the end, my faith in God prevailed and I still trusted in him despite the circumstances.

                    During those times, I have been swayed by the serpent... But my learnings from the bible and my faith in God saved me. I know that taking the other path would lead me to a bad decision and a bad life. And that's how you distinguish if it's the Holy Spirit or it's the Serpent that's guiding you. The Holy Spirit won't ever lead you to a path where you would be hurt more or where you will be lead away from God. Despite the situations you've been in, the Holy Spirit would be there to lead you back to God because that is always the right way.
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