In this series on spiritual guidance, we have noted that the Spirit of God does lead individuals and have addressed how the Spirit leads. But knowing that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, how can we discern the true from the false? Recognizing the genuine is vital to discerning the counterfeit, and thus, noting the ways of the Spirit in genuine guidance will help us discern the ways of the enemy in counterfeit guidance.

The Holy Spirit leads. Evil spirits push. The New Testament describes those who are “led” by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14: Gal. 5:18). Therefore, guidance that drives, pushes, or even nags like a bug buzzing in your ear is counterfeit. Though the Spirit can speak with urgency, the push of counterfeit guidance does not allow time to “try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). If there is no time to obey the command to test the spirits, the guidance is not from the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit speaks, there will be a growing conviction or “convincement.” In contrast to this (and even to the common impulsiveness of the flesh), there is a compulsiveness that marks a satanic counterfeit.

The Holy Spirit imparts peace; evil spirits agitate. “The fruit of the Spirit is…peace” (Gal. 5:22). “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). The Spirit’s peace emanates from the spirit level of your being as a deep knowledge based on truth. Any counterfeit peace is feeling-oriented and merely on the soul level. Holy Spirit leadership involves the light, life and liberty of peace. The counterfeit prompts in a confusing, haphazard fashion that irritates and ultimately eliminates peace when one is compelled to abandon the position of resting in Christ. Confusion is a sure sign of counterfeit.

A Witness from Within
Communication with the Holy Spirit begins within your innermost being. The true is always an inner man appeal. “The Spirit” bears “witness with our spirit” (Rom. 8:16). When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, He speaks to your innermost being. Evil spirits, however, appeal to the outer man. They approach from without, from the circumference of your being.

Consider a time when you believed God was leading you to trust Him for something. You exercised faith in the matter, and clearly, He brought it to pass. Such a scenario has its beginnings in true Spirit-to-spirit communication in the center of your being. Compare that to a time when you believed you were led to trust God for something and it clearly did not come to pass. The source of that leading would have been a counterfeit impression from somewhere along the circumference of your being. Discerning between these points of origin will enable a believer to recognize true, unshakeable, deep knowing that is centered in the spirit and will facilitate identifying and refusing the false surface impressions arising from without.

Also, in keeping with this principle of inner man versus outer man, incidents involving audible voices in the physical sense or visible manifestations are generally a sign of counterfeit. Though such are “real” experiences, they poorly imitate true spiritual hearing or seeing.

The story of Elisha offers a glimpse of the genuine when he prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant, and God enabled him to see the horses and chariots of fire of His army (2 Kings 6:15-17). Before Elisha’s petition, the servant saw the physical enemy, but the Lord’s spiritual host was hidden from view. The prophet’s prayer allowed him to see what he previously could not, and as with any true spiritual seeing or hearing, not everyone in the vicinity joined in the experience because the seeing and hearing was of a spiritual, non-physical nature.

Active Cooperation
The Holy Spirit also leads through active cooperation. Evil spirits, however, take advantage of a passive instrument. In other words, the Holy Spirit works through your cooperating faculties, but evil spirits work around them. Passivity, especially of the mind and the will, is a playground for the enemy. This explains why hypnosis, drug use and such are so dangerous. God neither violates the human will nor allows evil spirits to do so. It is when a believer wills the mind or resign the will to enter a passive condition that the powers of darkness take advantage. In contrast with this, the Holy Spirit seeks to use our minds, wills and bodies in an active, cooperative partnership.

Guidance coming from the Holy Spirit works through normal thinking processes. Working from the inside out, the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23) works through your mind, which indicates that the Spirit works through your thinking and not around it. Counterfeit guidance will look to bypass the normal thinking process. If an impression is presented to your mind like a green light or similar effect that encourages responding without normal thinking, reject it as a counterfeit.

Harmony with the Word
The Holy Spirit works in perfect harmony with the revealed Word of God—the whole of it and not just select portions. Counterfeit guidance often will compile a series of arguments in line with Scripture only to ignore a clear, important truth of the Word of God. If even a single point does not match up with clearly revealed truth in the Word, the guidance is not from God, and entertaining such a deception can cause one to be blinded regarding an explicit truth of Scripture.

Specific Conviction
Holy Spirit conviction is specific and has as its goal cleansing and victory in Christ (1 John 1:7, 9). When the Holy Spirit convicts you of that which grieves Him, you will know exactly what it is so that you can confess your sins. Counterfeit conviction, however, is just a general impression, and the objective of the evil spirits seeking to “convict” is to lead believers toward following the wrong voice and ultimately to damage the testimony of the children of God.

Finally, Holy Spirit conviction is edifying as it offers hope to those who are broken before the Lord (1 John 1:7, 9). Counterfeit conviction is despairing and fosters discouragement by accusing the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Any conviction that prompts you “to throw in the towel” is not from God.

These examples demonstrate how the objective realm of the Word supplies parameters in which the subjective realm of the Spirit operates. Discerning Christians test the spirits according to biblical principles and judge righteously. The spiritual realm is the realm of spirits. When you begin to walk in the Spirit with understanding, you enter more consistently into the spirit or spiritual realm. The phrase “in the heavenlies” where Christ sits far above the enemy (Eph. 1:20-21) translates from the same words rendered “in high places” wherein are “spiritual [hosts of] wickedness” (Eph. 6:12). Therefore, in the supernatural realm, you must discern between the Holy Spirit and evil spirits or you can be greatly deceived. If you do not understand that in the supernatural realm there is the Holy Spirit and there are evil spirits, you may embrace anything in that realm as if it were the Holy Spirit. In this way, the enemy could eventually lead you, even though you mean well, to discredit the cause of Christ. This caution must be understood and heeded by seekers of a real relationship with the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, if you trust the Holy Spirit to bring you along in your discernment, He will. Over time (and sometimes through learning the hard way), you will mature in your spiritual discernment. Trust your spiritual guide—the Holy Spirit.

John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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