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by S. D. Gordon
There are certain clear marks by which suggestions that originate from Satan can be differentiated from the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
First of all, Satan always suggests a doubt of God's love. The suggestion may come directly, or it may come subtly in a way that at first you don't think of it that way. But as you watch keenly, you will find that the practical effect of his suggestion is to make you hold back from doing something, because of an element of doubt about God.
In contrast, the leading of the Holy Spirit always brings a quiet, confiding sense of trust in God.
A second mark is that suggestions from Satan are always essentially selfish. It may not appear so on the surface. But when it is sifted, you will find that it is so. Satan is very subtle here. The suggestion that Peter made to avoid the cross, and the desire of the bread-filled multitude to make Jesus a king, were both designed to save Jesus from suffering.
In contrast, the leading of the Spirit always gives us a passion for God Himself. And that passion pushes self clear out of the way, so that it may not hinder God's plan.
A third mark: Satan generally seeks to make you hurry. There may be times when he worries you with a slow, dragging process, when that suits his purposes. But usually he will seek to rush you off your feet with a sudden, quick movement. He showed our Lord all the kingdoms of the world `in a moment of time' (Lk.4:5). His voice in Eden kept egging Eve on to do something.
In contrast, God never moves in a hurry. He may move swiftly, but never hurriedly or hastily. There is a quiet, steady moving onwards, when the Holy Spirit leads us.
A fourth mark is close to what we have just considered. Satan's suggestions tend to make you restless. This is a sure test for all ambitious plans that you make. Any trace or taint of feverish restlessness or agitation is a fairly sure indication of the presence of Satan.
In sharp contrast, the leading of the Spirit always makes us quiet (at rest), clear and deliberate. Our Master's touch still has the same power and effect as when He touched the hand of Peter's mother-in-law: the fever leaves immediately.
A fifth mark: Satan is fond of flattering you. There was a touch of flattery in the wilderness suggestion that our Lord could make bread out of stones. Jesus could certainly have made bread out of stones, if He had been led by the Spirit to do that. But such a reminder of one's power has a touch of flattery about it. This is a sure mark. It always indicates the presence of Satan.
In contrast, the Holy Spirit never flatters. He may lead us to a proper recognition of the gifts and abilities that we have been given. But with it, there will always be the reminding sense that they are always from God, and are to be used as sacred trust. Further, the Spirit will remind us that these gifts are not to be used, apart from His leading.
A sixth mark of Satan's presence is fear. He makes us afraid. We hold back from doing something because of a sense of dread. The fear that makes us afraid is a certain mark of Satan being nearby.
In contrast, the voice of the Spirit always brings a quiet sense of confidence in God. The presence of God may bring a sense of awe and reverence, but never of fear. When God speaks, we are willing to undertake even the impossible, we are prepared to dare and even to endure, with perfect confidence in the outcome.
A seventh unfailing mark of Satan's presence is a sense of mental or spiritual depression, This depression may be caused by overtired nerves. And then, simple food, fresh air, enough sleep and exercise, and a sense of God's purpose for one's life, can play a big part in driving the depression away. But Satan often attacks earnest, godly people with depression.
In contrast, wherever the presence of God is, there will always be peace and joy. These are the fruit of the Spirit.
An eighth mark is one that we should always take note of keenly. Satan is fond of taking people to extremes. He pushes everything right out of its true proportion. A right thing pushed out of its right place can become a wrong thing. Satan likes the pendulum to swing first to one extreme, and then to the other.
Truth, out of relation to other truths, becomes error.
Truth is fact held in right relation with the whole circle of related truth. The great doctrinal controversies that have brought sad divisions among God's people through the centuries, have been largely due to an undue emphasis on some aspect of truth that was pushed out of its due relation to other truth. In reaction to this, others placed undue emphasis on the opposite aspects of truth, and thus went to the other extreme.
The message of the cross and of the second coming of our Lord have all been taken to extremes by religious fanatics. And thus the glorious truth of God itself is brought into contempt in the eyes of others. Error is always, flashy, spectacular and erratic. Truth however loves the quiet dress and speech.
In contrast to all this, it must be noted that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of sanity (wisdom). No one is so balanced and so sane in his judgments as the man who is controlled by the Spirit of God.
These are some of the marks by which Satan's suggestions can be identified. But we are not now to go around eyeing everyone we meet with suspicion!
On the other hand, let us quietly and steadily go on the way that our Lord points out to us, with our face turned toward His face, our hearts ever in tune with His heart, and our hands ever stretched out in glad, warm service to the needy. And our Lord will guide us safely past every snare, as we keep close to Him, and press on along the path that He shows us.
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