When the Lord is having His way in a body of believers, God’s enemy will be sure to attack. Nothing so threatens the enemy’s kingdom than the church of Jesus Christ being expressed and standing for God’s timeless purpose and Christ’s fullness and headship.
Four things to keep in mind when such attacks occur (notice that I said “when”):
1. The enemy virtually always uses uncrucified flesh as the ground for his attack against a body of believers.
2. Those who are giving ground to the enemy aren’t aware that this is what they are doing: giving ground to him via selfishness and self-gratification.
3. The only way to close the gap is to die to self. God’s enemy has no ground by which to work then. Remember Jesus’ words: “Satan has come, but He has nothing in me.” There was no ground in Him for the enemy to use.
4. The enemy uses lies and deception to hold ground. He’s a master at it. The Scriptures wielded by crucified hands and in the Spirit are a force to break that deception.
Here are priceless words from T. Austin-Sparks on this score:
But this thing is very deeply rooted in us; the subtlety, the imperceptible desire of the flesh for gratification. If we were asked straight out whether we wanted to please ourselves, whether we were after our own personal gratification, whether it was our pleasure and satisfaction that was motivating our lives and directing us, we would at once most vehemently repudiate the suggestion, and probably be very offended with whoever made the suggestion; and yet, beloved, deeper than our deepest honesty, deeper than our truest sincerity, there is that subtle constituent of fallen nature which so often unperceived by the believer himself or herself does just love to be gratified, personally satisfied, and which does not like to be emptied out and have nothing.
Gratification and glory is the very essence of the flesh even when we are engaged in the Lord’s work. To set up something FOR THE LORD, yes, but men point at it and say: “That is his work and her work,” and how we like that! Something that will be a good testimony to faith, a great monument – yes, but subtly the monument to OUR faith. Such is this horrible thing that is always reaching out from beneath, under cover, and, quietly and imperceptibly, taking the glory of the Lord to itself.
The remedy for that is the Body of Christ practically applied in principle. Yes, it is! That is why it is so difficult to live a corporate life with other believers, because you have to be so thoroughly crucified. There is nothing that demands crucifixion more than to live with other Christians all your days. You say: “That is a terrible thing to say,” but you know what I am talking about. You have to defer, refer, consult, submit, let go. In a thousand and one ways you have to put your own likes and dislikes aside if the Lord is to get His end. Oh yes, it is the Body of Christ that is the saving thing.
It is corporate life that is the remedy, but O beloved, that is the way of triumph, the way of victory. It is! It is a mighty remedy for the flesh, a mighty remedy for the work of the Devil, but it does represent the mighty power of God working in us. You see, you can never come into the Body of Christ until you have been crucified. It is because uncrucified flesh has impinged upon the corporate life of believers that there is such contradiction and denial, because the Body represents the exclusion of man, in himself – flesh.
(The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, p. 32)