In John 10:27, Jesus stated, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Earlier on, he said in verses 1-5:
- “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.“
In verse 10, in comparing the devil’s wicked intention to his pure motive, he also stated “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
This is very informative in helping Christians decipher what is God’s voice and what is the devil’s. Whatever the enemy says, even if there is truth in it, the intent is always to steal, kill and destroy what pertains to you. He uses his words to try to derail your purpose, to steal your joy, your peace and faith in the Lord and to make you feel stuck in a hopeless situation. He NEVER points you to the solution, which is Jesus Christ. He never tells you that the Bible has the answers to your problem and that if you pray to God about your issue, that he can help. No.
On the other hand, when God’s speaks, even if it is to rebuke you or to bring conviction, it is so that you would have life and have it more abundantly.
I have observed that on occasions when I feel most down and out and desperately seek the Lord’s intervention in prayer, soon after, there is a particular person that the enemy uses, planted conveniently it seems, in my path, not to help, encourage, edify or build up but to use words to make me feel guilty, down and focused on the problem.
It happened some time ago and today, it happened again. The person suddenly informed me that something was not adding up with me, meaning that there was something wrong with me and I had problems. Truth be told, there is much wrong with me and I have many problems! Daily, I am under attack by the enemy, the world and my own wicked flesh and would have surely fainted by now, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in this land of the living! (Psalm 27:13) That very morning, I had poured my heart out in prayer to the Lord, asking him to please intervene in my situation and to help me because I admit that I have problems!
The statement is therefore true but the motive behind the statement, which is always to get me feeling discouraged, despondent, overwhelmed and to cast my faith away, is what bothers me.
His timing is also always at strategic moments, when something happens or I say something that the enemy hates. For example, that very day, I had indicated, that I was a person that people had given up for dead but that God would make the difference. I even said that I was like Lazarus, even after four days of stinking. Not surprisingly, later that evening, after mentioning an incident that had occurred to him and some other people, he made the accusatory statement.
The individual does not realize it but each time he comes with his accusatory words, it reminds me of the one who loves to accuse the brethren. He does not know it but by his actions, he reveals each time, who sent him.
The Lord has allowed it yes but he can’t have sent him, as the Lord convicts and then points us in the direction of his Son, the solution. This man however ,never does that. He throws the insulting statement out without any interest in helping me with whatever he thinks may be my problem. He has no interest in praying for me about my issues or in lending a helping hand, only to say something insulting (which may well be true) and hope that I will wallow in grief, condemnation and hopelessness over it.
Shortly after the incident, a few lines came to mind and so I typed it up, so that I could remember it for the next time the enemy comes. I wrote:
- When the enemy screams with elation:
- You have a PROBLEM, you have a PROBLEM, you have a PROBLEM!
- Say: That may be true but I know:
- WHO can solve them, WHO can solve them, WHO can solve them!
I have resolved therefore, to take the issue to the Lord and every statement of accusation that the person makes and say, Lord, this is true what this person has said. I admit it. You already know it because I have brought the issue to you before. Please help me with this. Help me to overcome.
See, yes I feel broken but I know the one that is able to mend broken pieces. Yes I’m a mess but I know the one who is able to clean up my mess. Yes I feel weak but I know the one who is strong. Yes I am in need of change but I know the God who can transform lives. Yes I don’t have the solution to my problems but I know the problem solver! I therefore have no reason to feel hopeless and in despair but hopeful and joy-filled! For greater is he that is in me, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
See, God is not in the accusation business. That is what the devil and his minions (some cleverly disguised as Christians) do. God will point out your issues and convict but not maliciously as the devil does or to get some warped sense of satisfaction or delight in your pain. He points out your issue and then directs you to his Word because he wants you to be helped and to be healed.
It is so important to discern the Lord’s voice from the enemy’s voice. The enemy may have something said to you that is true about you but he says it in an accusatory way, reaping delight in the situation and rejoicing in whatever you are going through. He says it hoping that you will feel condemned and will just give up. When someone throws statements at you therefore, without any desire to help you with whatever they perceive you may be going through, know that it is the devil that has commissioned them, to send you those words, in the hope that you will focus on the problem and not the Saviour, who is the God of all hope, the all powerful one and who can solve EVERY issue you face.
On CONVICTION which comes from God, versus CONDEMNATION which definitely comes from the devil, another Christian writer states:
Conviction and condemnation can feel similar for a Christian. Conviction is from God and is necessary for joy. It should be cultivated. Condemnation is from Satan. It is a lie and should be resisted and thrown off. How do we tell the difference in our own lives?…
Satan will do whatever he can to drive a wedge between a believer and God. He asked questions to make Eve doubt God’s goodness and love. He tried to steal Job’s joy in God. In Zechariah 3 he comes into the courtroom of God to accuse Israelites of their sins. Apart from Christ, all people deserve condemnation. You sinned against a sinless God and rightly deserve His damnation. Christ on the cross took the wrath and condemnation of everyone He would save. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). That doesn’t stop Satan from trying to make us feel condemned.
It is hard trying to identify thoughts and feelings of condemnation and cast them out of our lives (2 Corinthians 10:5) because it is easy to confuse satanic condemnation with Holy Spirit conviction. Conviction is a good thing for Christians when we sin. It’s like pain signals if we touch a hot stove. Pain isn’t fun, but it is necessary and can protect joy. So can conviction.
When we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). He lets us know by convicting us. This conviction is meant to lead us to repentance. How are these two realities similar? Conviction and condemnation both make people grieve. Conviction brings a godly grief that leads to repentance and joy. Condemnation produces a worldly grief leading to death. In the earliest stages of conviction and condemnation, the grief can feel identical…
CONDEMNATION is usually hazy, hateful and hopeless. Usually when Satan brings feelings of condemnation to a Christian they are vague. There is a general thought that “Something is wrong with me!” It often has to do with shame. Some say shame means feeling bad about who I am. Guilt means feeling bad about what I did…Condemnation often traffics in hazy, vague shame.
Condemnation is always hateful for a Christian. Satan hates you… as he hated Job. He can’t steal salvation, but he can steal joy and assurance of salvation if we let him. He wants to hurt, not help; burden, not bless. It is like spiritual waterboarding where Satan is trying to smother any glimpse of God’s goodness and love. He tries to drown people in their sins.
Lastly condemnation is hopeless. It brings the sense that you are a lost cause. You are chained to your sins forever. You will never change. God doesn’t care for you. He has cast you off eternally. Condemnation is always a lie for anyone in Christ…
Condemnation can feel like a cloud of shame hanging over your whole being that you can’t even explain.
CONVICTION in most ways is the opposite of condemnation. Conviction is high-definition clarity, helpful and hopeful… Conviction is usually very specific. It may be a precise thought in your mind such as “I need to quit watching that new show on Netflix I like because it’s got too much sexual content.” Conviction is clear enough to give you a path to truly move forward in repentance.
Conviction is rooted in love not hate. God loves you and wants the best for you. He brings conviction in your life to convince you of a better way. He is getting your attention to protect and bless you. When I discipline my young child for running towards a busy street aimlessly, my correction of him was driven by my delight in him. We should be overwhelmingly grateful for the conviction and correction the Holy Spirit brings to His people.
Lastly, conviction is hopeful. It does not leave people in the doldrums. It brings with it an atmosphere that seems to say “Why will you persevere in sin and shame? God has a better way. Repent now and run to the wide open arms of a loving and merciful Savior.” Godly grief over sin is the waiting room that leads to repentance. It’s a great thing to be rejoiced in!
Another writer, Dr. M. Bengtson also provides valuable information on the issue. She wrote:
1. God’s voice will convict but in love, whereas the enemy’s voice will bring guilt and condemnation.
2. God’s voice will encourage and reassure, whereas the enemy’s voice will discourage and frighten.
3. God’s voice will lead, guide, and still. The enemy will push and rush.
4. God’s voice will calm us. The enemy will make us obsess and worry.
5. God’s voice will bring comfort. The enemy’s voice will bring chaos and compromise.
6. God’s voice will bring clarity and confirmation. The enemy’s voice brings confusion.
7. God’s voice will bring Christ closer. The enemy’s voice brings controlling spirits.
By “controlling spirits”, I think she means strongholds like fear, anxiety, self-consciousness, bitterness, shame, unforgiveness and the like, which try to cripple the person from functioning effectively.
The Word of God reminds us in Isaiah 59:19, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.”
May the Spirit of the Lord lift up a standard against our foe and may he help us to overcome. May he help us to discern and distinguish what is his voice, from what is the enemy’s voice, even when it arises within. May we embrace the Lord’s voice and cast off the enemy’s voice, by faith. And although that old devil intends what is said for evil, by the grace of God, may it be turned around for good! (Genesis 50:20).
In retrospect, that is exactly what the Lord has enabled me to do. Although the comment hurt, I did not wallow in grief like I did on the last occasion when the person attacked me with his words. Instead, I resolved to take the issue to the Lord in prayer, knowing that he could help me and I sat in front of my computer and wrote this Article, to remind myself of truth and to help countless others! Praise the Lord!
(Written on 11th June, 2023)