The Holy Spirit vs. Satan. It seems like a odd contrast to make. But it’s valid. Consider the ministry of Jesus report by Mark. Jesus was wandering and bringing the kingdom demonstrating his power by healing the sick, forgiving sins, and freeing the captive. In one such situation, Jesus heals a man possessed with a demon and is accused of being possessed with a demon himself.
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:22-30)
The religious establishment of Jesus’s day are making accusations about the very nature of his ministry. It’s ironic that Satan means accuser and these sinners are accusing the Messiah.
When I talk with people about their feeling of shame and guilt and just generally about their sin, I often hear something along these lines: “I just feel so overwhelmed. I’m so depressed. Every time I meditate on the gospel and feel like I’ve worked through these heavy feelings, they come back and I feel like I’m being accused of all my old sin.”
And generally as I listen and ask questions, the conversation comes back to one central question, “How do I know when the Spirit is working and when it’s just Satan discouraging me?” That’s an important question. Doesn’t the Spirit convict us of sin?
There’s a simple but fundamental distinction.
Satan always accuses the sons and daughters of God.
The Spirit always convicts of sins pushing us towards repentance and drawing us into the arms of Jesus.
This fundamental distinction has done for battle against depression than anything else. When I sin and I start to hear accusations of my unfitness as a father or husband, or when I hear that I’m not fit to be called a son of God, I know that’s Satan hurling his fiery darts and my response is always the same.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:31-35)
And when my heart is pushing me to ask for forgiveness and restore relationships after sin, I know this without a doubt is the work of the Spirit and I rejoice, therefore, at the loving discipline of my heavenly Father.
Brothers and sisters, boldly answers the accusations of Satan with the truth of the gospel. When he screeches out his hateful lies respond like so, “You’re right I do not merit the love of my Father but Jesus does and he has died in my place. He has given me his righteousness. And now my Father has said no one can accuse or condemn me. He has called me son and I am his. And no one, especially not you, can separate me from his love. You have done your worst on the cross and you have been founding wanting. By the power of the cross I am dead to sin and alive in Christ. So take your leave!”