I write quite a lot on this blog about desires. Especially about how when a person becomes a Christian they are given a new set of desires by God, no longer for sin but for righteousness. The Bible describes these two sets of desires as desires from the sinful nature and desires from the Holy Spirit (eg Romans 8:5f).
In our home group last night we were watching a DVD by Wayne Grudem on the subject of angels and demons. It produced a lot of interesting discussion about why we (as basically conservative evangelicals) rarely give any attention to the subject whatsoever, despite there being quite a lot in the Bible. As one person said "it is as if we think that all the angels and demons went on holiday in AD40 and haven't been around much ever since."
But the thing that most struck me in the evening was when Wayne Grudem mentioned John 8 in his talk. Jesus says (NB to the "Jews who had believed in him"! 8:1): "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires (8:44).
So there are another set of desires, according to Jesus, desires from Satan. He says that these include murderous desire, lying, not believing Jesus or hearing what God says. All of which indicate that you don't belong to God.
This is extremely shocking because of who he is speaking to - religious, moral people who, in some sense, have believed in him (clearly not in a saving sense, nor in the sense that they think that, having believed, you actually have to let him be the Lord over what you say and do). The movies might make you think that people with Satanic desires are obviously villainous. Not so here. Here they are apparently very upright self-identified Abraham-followers and Jesus-followers.
That means there are people who seem exemplary in morality and religion but who, in Jesus' words, "have no place for my word" (8:37). There will be people who claim to believe - maybe even think themselves that they believe, as these people seem to have done - but who don't believe. They aren't Christians. In fact they are following Satan. It is a very subtle Satanic ploy to get people to confuse being a Christian (ie following Jesus) with being religious (ie assent to some correct doctrines, do the right rituals and God will accept you). Those who do the first are children of God, those who the second are children of the Devil, according to Jesus.
How can you tell them apart in a church? Jesus seems quite clear that they started to reveal themselves when it actually came down to whether they will do what he says: "if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." In other words the difference isn't that you merely hear and mentally assent to the truth. It's that we do it. The rubber hits the road when we have to decide whether we actually believe this enough to follow and obey. The mark of a Christian is not someone who wants to go to church or pray a lot.
So this morning's blog comes with an urgent appeal to make room for Jesus' words. Not in the sense of hearing them only - that is clearly pointless and useless - but in doing them. People who look like Christians, who self-identify as Christians, but who don't do what he said need to know they are in terrible danger. They may well be demonstrating that they are following desires from Satan.
This is never more so than when Christians are acting or thinking hatefully towards each other. I can think of specific situations where people who say they are Christians are actively refusing to be reconciled to each other. Despite Jesus most specific and important command to love each other. When Jesus says "love" and someone who looks like a Christian says "no, I am not going to submit and obey that", they have to ask some very serious questions about where that impulse is coming from.