Some years ago, I wrote about a blind spot in contemporary theology. In our church, we have just enjoyed a series about the Holy Spirit. In preaching this series, my mind has returned to this apparent blind spot. Yes, we know that Satan hates Jesus, marriage, and evangelism. But perhaps we should also consider his hatred for the Holy Spirit.
There is a logically obvious connection here. Satan hates God. The Holy Spirit is God, so therefore, Satan must hate the Holy Spirit. But it will be helpful to move past the obvious and ponder the specific reasons.
In the World
We see the enemy’s work as we look at the world around us. For example, we see cults, and we see secular society. In the cults, there is always an undermining of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. So, God gets twisted from a gloriously loving tri-unity into a solitary and monadic power broker. As portrayed by the cults, God can even seem devilish and antagonistic. Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes just an impersonal force.
In secular society, the idea of God is also twisted into a perversion and caricature of reality. As society bombards the population with elevated notions of personal autonomy and a corrupted morality, the convicting work of the Spirit is directly opposed. People are coached not to feel guilty for sin, yet many are convinced they should feel hopelessly guilty for who they are.
In the Church
We also see the enemy’s work as we look within the church. It would be nice to imagine that his attack would lose energy once people become followers of Jesus. Reality reminds us that this is never the case. Does the enemy stop attacking marriage once people know Jesus? Are we no longer tempted to sin once we are believers? Of course not. We must then assume the enemy’s antagonism to the Holy Spirit will also continue within the church setting.
What is the enemy’s strategy to undermine the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives?
Christians seem to feel a pull in one of two directions — both of which are away from the reality of the Spirit’s work. Both directions negate that the Holy Spirit is a divine person rather they portray him as a mere impersonal force. Both distract believers from a beautiful and central element of the Christian life.
The first pull is to restrict the Holy Spirit into a power-focused force. The Spirit becomes the fuel for Christian living and sometimes the power for spectacular displays of personal anointing. Undoubtedly, there is truth in the mix here. Still, the corruption seems to come with respect to the focus’s emphasis and direction. The power, or lack thereof, tends to become the emphasis in Christian life and ministry. People caught up with a power caricature of the Spirit tend to focus either on the Spirit or themselves.
The second pull is to turn the Holy Spirit into a silent and benign figure. The Spirit is assumed to be at work in the ordinary things of church life through various means. There is truth in the mix here as well. He is indeed at work as we read the Bible, hear preaching, etc., but the problem seems to follow this focus’s emphasis and direction. The emphasis on Christian life and ministry can quickly shift to my habits and personal commitments. People buying into a means caricature of the Spirit may focus on themselves and their diligence.
The Work of the Spirit
The pre-eminent role of the Spirit is that of a communicator, specifically relational communication between the Father and the Son, God and us, and believers in the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is primarily concerned with the power of love, not some love of power. He pours God’s love into our hearts and baptises us into Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is a continual growth in Christ-like character. He gifts us to build up the body of Christ so that we might point each other to the head, who is Christ.
This is the critical issue with the Spirit — he wants to lift the eyes of our hearts to Christ. That is why Satan so despises the work of the Spirit. By forcing the focus onto us or the Spirit himself, the enemy seeks to undermine the Christ-ward gaze of true Holy Spirituality.
The Holy Spirit seems to be a blind spot for many. Where the Spirit is relegated or twisted in some way, the bottom line will always drift towards an autonomous and self-driven “spirituality” (which was The Lie back in Genesis 3, of course).
Perhaps, we would do well to ponder the spiritual attack against the Holy Spirit. I suspect that we would find our hearts drawn to Christ in the process. After all, this is the goal of the Holy Spirit, not to mention the great fear of the enemy!
This year’s journey through the Psalms has reached the Psalms of Ascent: