The Holy Spirit With a Drawn Sword
Well, now, that being established, the next thing follows - again an extraordinary thing. This One, as Prince of the host of the Lord, is standing with His sword drawn in His hand. 'Oh, this is battle, is it?' This is warfare, is it?' And so immediately the Holy Spirit takes charge and there is complete capitulation to Him. The battle is on. Make no mistake about it. Whatever you think about being baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and all that that may imply - whatever else it is going to mean, it means immediate and unceasing conflict. It may mean other things, but it means that - a warfare from which there is no discharge, an army from which there is no retiring. Here you will never be pensioned off. You are in it to the end.
Was it not like that with the Lord Jesus? It begins there - Jordan, the open heaven, the Holy Spirit, the wilderness, the devil. Immediately - "Then was Jesus led up" (Mark says 'driven', or 'impelled') "of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1). No sooner had the heavens been cleft for the advent of the Spirit, on that day called Pentecost, than the war was on. The Church was precipitated into it, and has never been out of it since. If it has, it has been to its own spiritual loss. Somehow this Lordship of the Holy Spirit immediately issues in that. The sword is in hand, and it will never be sheathed until the day's task is done.
Yes, but that is language. The Holy Spirit is not very interested in carnal and physical warfare. The warfare, the conflict, will be after His own kind. It will be spiritual, it will be after the spirit - because spiritual forces are in possession; and therefore it is spiritual warfare that is going to dispossess. That is one reason why it is so actually and truly a battle. The point hardly needs laboring. We know it. We know that there is not one step, one foot, of spiritual attainment that is not contested; not one movement or even gesture in the direction of spiritual increase but what there is conflict. It is true. It is spiritual warfare, and the nature of it is altogether beyond our power to comprehend. We think it will come one way - it comes another. It never comes where we expect and in the forms which we think we would recognize. The fact is that we rarely recognize the devil in his assaults. They seem to be so covered in either accident or mishap, or something going wrong - but you have only got to judge of the effect in relation to spiritual life, and you know there is something more of design and intelligence in it than mere circumstances of life. It is spiritual warfare. The Holy Spirit has precipitated this.
Do understand that; it explains so much. How constantly the enemy works by the 'blind spot'! I think that probably by far the greater proportion of his success today is by blind spots among the Lord's people. Prejudice is called 'caution', suspicion is 'being watchful' - good names for bad things. The enemy is a past master at that. Your prejudice may be your blind spot which the devil has created. He has found the possibility of creating that, and it is standing right in the way of your own spiritual and heavenly fullness. The Lord's people are caught in that snare today, the world over. Enlargement and increase spiritually, in a heavenly way, is being withstood and frustrated by the prejudices and suspicions of God's people. "An enemy hath done this."
Why is it that the letter to the Ephesians, with all the heavenly fullness presented and in view, and the spiritual conflict in relation to it shown, the Apostle prays that the "eyes of their hearts may be enlightened" to see? What is that necessary? Because of this blinding work and these blind spots; because all can be lost by a prejudice, a bit of closed mind, a bit of suspicion, a bit of false fear, instead of trusting the Holy Spirit and knowing the anointing within which will "teach you concerning all things" (1 John 2:27) and show you what is right and what is wrong. You feel you must fortify yourself 'in case', and you may be fortifying yourself against the Holy Spirit. That is what so many are doing. That is the realm of the conflict. Spiritually it is like that. It is very sinister and subtle.
But there is another aspect to this spiritual conflict. Why does the Holy Spirit bring that about? Why does the Holy Spirit precipitate it? You would think that it would come from the enemy quite naturally, but why does the Holy Spirit start it up, or make Himself the occasion of it, every time? We have seen it in the case of the Lord Jesus. Deliberately - for it is a definite and positive and precise statement: "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" - the Holy Spirit takes the matter in hand to precipitate it, to bring it about. He did it with the Church - deliberately, knowing what He was doing. The effect of it is as though the Holy Spirit said, 'Now I am going to lead them into battle forthwith, straightway'. Why?
Well, for one thing, because this is a spiritual matter, a spiritual inheritance, because there are spiritual forces in possession and they have to be ousted; but also because we only grow spiritually by conflict. The Lord is interested in us. It is perhaps rather difficult for us, if a speaker stands on a platform and says, 'You are having a bad time because the Lord is interested in you; the devil is being allowed a lot of leash to assail you because the Lord has His highest interests in your well-being' - it is perhaps difficult for us to accept such a statement. The next time the enemy comes and begins to do his terrible work, you will be the last to say, 'Oh, the Lord loves me today'! We do not do that. But is it not a fact, its it not true to experience, true to history, and therefore true to principle, that we never make any progress spiritually, never increase at all, never grow at all, never go on at all, except by conflict? It is true. The only way we grow is by having something to overcome, where our spiritual life has somehow to get on top of something. It is a law in nature and in grace. There is no progress without contest. Would to God that we should be able to look at it like that every time! We believe it may be true as a fact - but, oh, save us from being involved in that truth!
(continued with # 31)