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Struggling with our inner darkness9 months ago
If the accuser is working overtime in your life during the current lock down, Stewart Fyfe helps us to understand the work of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, who stands up for us, stands by us and is full of mercy
How is lockdown going with you? How is it with your soul?
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I’m really enjoying lockdown. But if I’m honest, alongside the good stuff, I’m also struggling with my own inner darkness. There have been nights lying awake giving myself a good kicking, listening to the dark voices of self-destruction and reproach.
Despite being in Easter, these days are sometimes more like Lent and the time Jesus spent in isolation in the wilderness. He was also wrestling with the dark voices that questioned his vocation, his value and his identity. But the bit of that story that’s often overlooked is what led him into the wilderness in the first place. Right at the start of his public ministry, Jesus is baptised and hears his heavenly Father’s voice clearly. And He says three things: (1) you are my son; (2) I love you; and (3) I am pleased with you.
“And immediately” says Mark, “the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness.” What was happening there? Jesus was wrestling with the two voices, the voice of darkness and the voice of light, the voice of his Father. The amazing thing about Jesus is that he was able to believe the voice of his Father completely and not listen to the Accuser at all.
Of course, we don’t find that so easy to do, but Jesus has told us that, when we face our own wrestling with those voices, we are not alone. He has given us an advocate, the Holy Spirit. I used to be an advocate in my former life. An advocate speaks up for you, tells your story fairly and then argues against the false accusations you might face. And behind the scenes, your advocate helps you to reflect on the truth and face what you might have done wrong, away from the accusing glare of the court.
There are various places where the Bible uses Courtroom language. The Holy Spirit is our advocate, Jesus is our Judge and the name Satan means “the accuser.” We hear the voice of that Accuser every time we listen to the dark voices of self-destruction and reproach.
So how do we deal with it? Well, the first thing we need to know is that hearing that voice is not our fault. It’s not our voice and we don’t control it. But we can control how we respond to it.
So the second thing we need to know is that we have an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us and He speaks up for us in these situations. When the accusations are unfair, he argues back for us. So let Him do the fighting for you. Let Him answer the Accuser and listen to what He says about you. You know what He says about you, because it’s the same thing He said when He appeared at Jesus’ baptism: (1) you’re my child; (2) I love you; and (3) I am pleased with you.
And even when it’s true that we’ve got things wrong, fallen into sin and made a mess of things, the Advocate convicts us of our sin with gentleness and light, away from the glare of accusation.
And the third thing I think we need to do in those situations is to submit to the Judgment of God. People are often afraid of God’s Judgment because they fear it will be harsh. But ours is the harsh Judgment, not God's. The Bible speaks of God’s Judgment as Judgment for us, not against us. It’s not our condemnation, but our vindication against our accuser. “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?” asks Paul in Romans 8. “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” The judge of our lives is the very same Jesus who died to save us.
So when the Accuser is right in his accusations, our Judge replies, “Yes, I took the punishment for that one. That’s dealt with. No more condemnation.” And when the Accuser’s accusations are unfair, the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, speaks the truth over us and the Judge agrees and pronounces Judgement for us, against our Accuser.
So, when wrestling with the two voices of darkness and light, I offer this simple spiritual exercise. When the Accuser hurls accusations against you, firstly invite the Holy Spirit to come and speak his truth deep in your heart. He doesn’t force himself on us, so you need to take the initiative to invite him.
Secondly, listen to what your advocate says: You’re my child, I love you and I am pleased with you.
And thirdly, rest on the Judgment of God. No-one else is fit to judge you: not the world around you, not even your own self. By submitting to the judgment of God, you will be judged fairly, with mercy and with love, for your Judge is the very one who died for you, who implants his resurrection life within you, and who sent you his Holy Spirit, to be your Advocate, always on your side.
So whatever wrestlings lie in your path during lockdown, let your Advocate speak for you and be at peace.