Discerning the Enemy
Overcoming Shame and Blame: Lesson 14
If the Lord were the only “outsider” dropping thoughts into us, our lives would be so much simpler, but there is another kingdom speaking to us, seeking to bring us into agreement with its ways of thinking and acting upon the earth. One of the strategies of that other kingdom is to make its thoughts seem like our own thoughts or God’s thoughts—so that wrong thoughts will go unrecognized. Therefore, there is a great need on our part to learn to discern these hidden ways of the enemy and to recognize his voice (the fourth Kingdom Key).
This stronghold of accusation comes early in this sequence of lessons on strongholds because the voice of the Accuser came on the scene early in the Garden and early in our own lives as well. Be on guard! To the one being deceived the condemning thoughts never seem like accusations suggested by an invisible enemy: They always seem like truth-telling about God, self or others coming from our own reasoning process.
Paul said that the Early Church was no longer “ignorant of his devices” concerning the enemy and his ways.[i] We need to make sure those same lights have been turned on for us! For instance, the “voice” of the Accuser has both a content of accusing words and an oppressive tone in the way those thoughts are formed—a nagging pressure beating down, but never building up. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak that way.
The writer of Hebrews says that our discernment grows as our “senses,” not just our minds, are trained by “reason of use.”[ii] Let your spiritual senses, as well as your intellect, become fine-tuned at recognizing the difference. This can only come with time and the Holy Spirit’s help, but don’t worry, you are certain to have plenty of opportunities for practice!
Accusations Separate and Condemn
Many incurable sicknesses are rooted in the areas of separation that accusation produces between God, self and others. Such “stress fractures” break down the body’s health over time just as their physical counterparts do material structures in the natural world.
Accusation is also a block to healing because it invariably leads to bitterness which blocks both healing and answered prayer.[iii] Speaking in a condemning way against the Lord’s anointed servants also brings severe consequences.[iv] Scratch the surface and you will likely find that accusations lie behind all of the deeply implanted false beliefs which cause mental illness, addictions and stress related diseases. Clearly, this is a major realm of the enemy’s operations.
Satan and his kingdom deceive, tempt, destroy and accuse. Every time the enemy seeks to tempt us into agreement with his ways by deceptive thoughts, he is also seeking to divide us from our sources of life and strength, and by so doing, destroy us. Accusation is dangerous precisely because it is so divisive—it is the enemy coming between us and God.
Accusations isolate us by separating us from others and by drawing us away from the peace of Christ.[v] The fruit of accusation can include doubt, confusion, turmoil, fear, suspicion, jealousy, bitter judgment, and a whole lot more. The Accuser divides by using truth with a twist in ways that are hard to recognize and seem very convincing. He works to separate us:
Accusation and condemnation are the exact opposite of what God is doing through Christ. Paul says that God neither accuses, nor condemns us.[ix] His desire is for the one in sin to be gently restored.[x] Until death comes, there is always hope for restoration to God and separation from sins through repentance, grace and faith. We are meant to keep Jesus’ hard won victory and heaven’s hope-filled perspective in our hearts towards everyone.
So let’s settle this once and for all: Accusation and condemnation come from the enemy—not God. Satan measures out his criticisms and charges with just enough apparent truth to hook us—but he always twists our thoughts away from God’s perspective of love and mercy. His activity is described as unrelenting and unceasing.[xi] “Radio Satan” is always “on the air.” Recognizing what's playing and changing channels, will carry us a long way towards overcoming shame and blame.
From Genesis to Revelation
Let’s review how accusation got its start. Satan, whose name means “Adversary,” began with accusations against God’s Word in the
Garden.[xii] Adam and Eve were drawn away from trusting God and fell into separation from God and spiritual death along with it. Although they did not realize it, they now had a new father—the devil—whose nature entered them and whose own image and ways were beginning to distort the Image of God they carried.[xiii]
When the Lord returned to find them, He said something astonishing to Adam: “Who told you that you were naked?”[xiv] God’s question to Adam was meant to open his eyes to see that the Accuser was still speaking to him, no longer through the snake, but through Adam’s own thought processes.[xv]
Under the pressure of inward condemnation, Adam accused Eve of being the reason he chose to sin. His words also carried a veiled accusation against God for giving Eve to him in the first place. Then Eve joined in by accusing the serpent, thus trying to shift blame from herself to the source of her temptation. By one fell swoop the Accuser succeeded in subverting humanity to do his work of accusation for him and they were completely unaware of his instigation![xvi]
Now zoom forward to see how accusation went global. Having established his kingdom through such slight devices of accusation in the Garden, the enemy handily expanded his operations to cover the earth. John on Patmos was given a vision of the Accuser as no longer being a lowly serpent, but a mighty dragon.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:9-10 ESV
Notice that salvation, strength, Kingdom and power come when this formidable enemy is cast down. The choice is ever before us: Will we serve the Accuser or will we make a quality decision to cast down all accusations that try to rise up within us against God, self or others? Let the voice from the Garden become silenced. Turn off “radio Satan” and live in the Kingdom!
Recognize Accusing Thoughts
Accusation is a counterfeit of the true knowledge of God, a wrong use of genuine discernment. The Holy Spirit may indeed allow us to see sin in another person or one’s self, but a spirit of accusation will seek to turn it into bitter judgments that bind the person to their sin and separate us from them.
Learn to recognize the voice of the Accuser—the way self-condemnation speaks to you or the way offended self-righteousness seeks to speak through you to others. We are indeed called to discern good and evil, but one of the greatest evils is to accuse or judge another.[xvii] Accusations work like a secret poison within our soul!
Seek to be aware of where your thoughts are coming from. Check the source! Godly thoughts come from God’s Word, other people (speaking by the Spirit), the Holy Spirit and our renewed mind. Accusing thoughts come from the world, other people (speaking by the enemy), an accusing spirit or our un-renewed mind.
We are meant to cast down “every high thing that exalts itself” against God.[xviii] Accusation is a “high thing” because it elevates us above others in judgment of them and because it “exalts itself” within us against God’s direct command to stop doing it. Overcoming shame and blame can only happen if we recognize these high thoughts as coming from the enemy.
Learn to discern and cast down even your unvoiced accusations against God (anger, unbelief, discouragement); against others (judgments, un-forgiveness, slander); and against self (condemnation, shame, regret). Instead, join with Jesus in continual intercession.[xix] There is always room for one more on the Mercy Seat!
Conviction and Condemnation
Discerning between conviction versus condemnation is also key to living a life of grace, since so much that we most immediately experience of sin is its indwelling presence with us. We don’t want to live in denial, blind to our own faults nor do we want to live burdened by guilt and feelings of self-reproach, blind to the grace of God.
How can you tell the difference between conviction by the Holy Spirit versus condemnation by the enemy? It takes a lot of trial and error, but here are a few guidelines. Conviction shows us the problem and offers a way out; condemnation makes us the problem and seals the exits. Conviction is a gentle voice embracing us with quiet acceptance; condemnation breathes out threats of judgment and displeasure.
Under conviction we may feel sorrow for those we have hurt; under condemnation we feel sorry for ourselves. Conviction leads to life; condemnation leads to death. The difference is dramatic, though often difficult to discern under the pressure of events. Don’t give up and you’ll get it!
I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly way… For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, which brings no regret. But the sorrow of the world works death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 WEB
Condemnation by the enemy
Often heaps on false guilt
No grace exists
Feeling worthless (sorry sinner)
Attacks your person (you’re bad)
Accuses, condemns, reprimands
Darkens your understanding
Fog of general wrongness
Feels heavy and wrong
Will to confess to anything, but you still can’t get free
Conviction by the Spirit
Always points to true guilt
Knows grace exists
Contrition (sorry you sinned)
Targets your sin (that was wrong)
Explains, reasons, corrects
Illuminates your path
Specific wrong is clarified
Feels light and right
May not be ready to repent, but you agree with the truth.
Let’s look at it this way: Repenting of true sins brings restoration and freedom from true guilt. Confess the sin (this requires faith in Christ's shed Blood) and receive God’s mercy.
On the other hand, resisting the accusations of the enemy produces freedom from condemnation. Confess the truth (this requires courage to live what you believe about your right standing with God through Christ) and resist the devil. See the difference? That’s discernment!
If you are still in need of freedom, reconnect quickly and powerfully by taking the Hebrews 4:16 “elevator” to the top: Go boldly to the throne of grace, get the mercy you need to reestablish your heart, get grace to help you believe in the mercy, then stand against the Accuser.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV
The Way to Freedom
Little progress can be made until godly discernment comes so prayer may be needed to recognize judgmental thoughts as being wrong! Also, because we reap what we sow, our accusations aimed against others will hinder our progress at becoming free from the pain of their accusations against us and of our own inward self-condemning thoughts. We must become committed to mercy—all the way around.[xx]
1) As you recognize your own accusing or condemning thoughts against others: Repent, renounce and carry those thoughts captive to Christ, interceding for them instead.
2) As you recognize the pain of accusations against you by others: Forgive them, carrying those thoughts and feelings captive to Christ until your focus on His love for you is restored.
3) As soon as you sense condemnation or feelings of unworthiness weighing you down: Go boldly to the throne of grace to receive the Father’s mercy, then rebuke the Accuser!
Join with Jesus in continual intercession!
Father, help me truly repent of all the accusing thoughts I have cherished towards others and all of the hurtful accusing words I have spoken. Forgive me and break the power of what I have done in agreement with the Accuser and help all those get free of any pain I have caused. Grant that I would become an intercessor for, not an accuser of others. As I become more of a grace-giver who shows mercy to others, may Your mercy capture my heart even where my own sins and sinfulness are concerned. Teach me how to “look up” and let even my failings springboard me into greater joy in the saving love that is streaming to me from Your throne of grace.
Take It to Heart!Don't just give these truths a "head bob"! For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Discerning the Enemy part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 14) and "work out" with exercises, discussion questions, review of main points, digging deeper, more scriptures, model prayers, renunciations/affirmations and practical steps of life application.
Scriptures and Foot Notes
[i] 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
Hebrews 5:14Mark 11:251 Samuel 24:6James 1:14Genesis 3:1-5; Job 1:9
[vii] 1 Corinthians 4:3-4
[viii] Genesis 3:11-13; Job 2:4; Zechariah 3:3; Luke 9:56
[ix] Romans 8:32-35
[x] Galatians 6:1-2
[xi] Revelation 12:7-11
[xii] Genesis 3:1-5
[xiii] John 8:31-38
[xiv] Genesis 3:11
[xv] Teaching and insights stemming from “Who told you?”and accusation as a block to healing from Be In Health® teaching and materials, Dr. Henry W. Wright, Thomaston, Georgia, seminar notes, October 2000.
[xvi] Genesis 3:9-13
[xvii] Hebrews 5:14; Matthew 7:1-5
[xviii] 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
[xix] Hebrews 7:25
[xx] Matthew 5:7, 7:2; Luke 6:38