After reading the rest of chapter 5 (Satan’s Main target) in E.M. Bounds book “Guide to Spiritual Warfare” I had to quote it for our instruction. what you read is found on pages 45-50, from the kindle version of “Guide to Spiritual Warfare“
The Material Deception
We have been taught to regard the principles of church prosperity as those items that can be seen only in a statistical column. We seek to impress an age geared to the objectivity of secular facts and figures. However, the most vital spiritual conditions and gains cannot be reduced to figures. For this reason, they are left out of the numerical column, and, after a while, they are neither noted nor observed. If we do not change our methods, our ideas concerning the strength of the local church will become worldly. No matter how imposing our material results may be, or how magnificent and prosperous the secular arm of the church appears, we must go deeper than these for its strength. We must proclaim and reiterate with increased emphasis that the strength of the church does not lie in these things.
These are the gilded delusions that we mistake for the true riches. While we are vainly saying, “[We are] rich, and increased with goods,” God has written that we are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Wealth and prosperity may be the costly spices and splendid decorations that embalm and entomb our spirituality. True strength lies in the godliness of the people. The personal holiness of the members of each church is the only true measure of strength. Any other test offends God, dishonors Christ, grieves the Holy Spirit, and degrades religion.
A church can often make the best showing of material strength when death in its deadliest form is feeding on its vital organs. There is hardly a more damaging delusion than to judge the conditions of a church by its material prosperity or church-related activity. Spiritual barrenness and rottenness in a church are generally hidden by a pleasant exterior and unusual growth. However, a spiritual church converts people from sin soundly, clearly, and fully. Then it puts them on the road to holiness, where they strive to walk in a way that is pleasing to God.
This spirituality is not to be kept in a corner of the church but is to be its primary and only business. God’s church must continue to do this work of converting sinners and perfecting saints in holiness. Whenever this work becomes secondary, or other interests are held to be its equivalent, then the church becomes worldly. When material interests are emphasized, they come into prominence. Then the world comes to the throne and sways the scepter of Satan.
There is no surer way to make the church worldly than to put its material prosperity in the forefront. This is the surest way to put Satan in charge. It is easy for material assessments to become priority by emphasizing them until the opinion is created that these things are most important. When collecting money, building churches, and counting attendance become the evidence of church prosperity, then the world has a strong foothold, and Satan has achieved his purpose.
Creating a Human Institution
Another scheme of Satan is to eliminate from the church all the humble, self-denying ordinances that are offensive to unsanctified tastes and unregenerate hearts. He seeks to reduce the church to a mere human institution—popular, natural, fleshly, and pleasing.
Satan has no scheme that can more thoroughly thwart God’s high and holy purposes than transforming His church into a human institution according to man’s views. God’s right arm is thereby paralyzed, the body of Christ becomes the body of Satan, and light is turned into darkness and life into death. Men who have religious leadership positions are often blinded by a false attachment to what they think is truth and what they consider honors Christ. They are found trying to eliminate from the teaching of Christ those painful, offensive, unpopular, and self-denying features to which the Gospel owes all its saving beauty and power, and which stamp it as divine.
From the life of Peter we have a painful and most instructive warning:
“From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.(Matthew 16:21–27)”
Here is a lesson for all times and for all people. An apostle had become the mouthpiece of Satan! What an alarming, horrible, and revolting picture! An apostle, zealous for his Master’s glory, advocated with fire and force a scheme that would forever destroy that glory! The apostle Peter became Satan’s agent!
This is the same apostle who had just made the inspired confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” that placed him in highest honor with Christ and the church! Before the words of that divine and marvelous confession had died from his lips, this same apostle became the advocate of plans that would nullify his confession and destroy the eternal foundations of the church.
The Easy Way
Peter, a chief apostle, advocated schemes that would have discrowned Christ of His messiahship and brought heaven’s favorite plan to a disastrous and shameful end! What destructive impulse compelled Peter? Satan entered him and, for the time being, achieved his purposes. But Christ reproved Peter, and in the reproof struck a crushing blow at Satan. “
Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23) is a reminder and duplicate of Jesus’ response to Satan during the wilderness temptation. “Thou art an offence [“stumblingblock,” rv] unto me” (v. 23), He said. The temptation through Peter was the Devil’s trigger to catch Christ in his trap, but Jesus saw through it. “Thou savourest not the things which be of God, but those that be of men” (v. 23). The Devil was not in sight. Man appeared, but Satan’s views were pressed to the front.
The things that men savor in church planning and church life are against God’s plan. The high and holy principles of self-denial, godly living, and surrender to Christ are all against men’s view of Christianity. The Devil seeks to destroy the church indirectly. Men’s views eliminate all the unpopular principles of the Cross—self-denial, life surrender, and separation from the world. When this is done, the Devil runs the church. Then the church becomes popular, self-satisfying, modern, and progressive. But it is the Devil’s church, founded on principles pleasing in every way to flesh and blood.
If this occurs, Christ is no longer in the church. There is no crucifixion of self, no crucifixion of the world, no second coming of Christ, no eternal judgment, no everlasting hell, no eternal heaven. Nothing is left that reminds us of God, because everything reeks of man. Man makes it the Devil’s church by turning Christ’s church over to human leaders. The world is sought and gained in the Devil’s church, but the soul and heaven are lost to eternity.
The very heart of this disgraceful apostasy, this dethroning of Christ and enthroning of the Devil, is to remove the Holy Spirit from His leadership in the church. Satan’s plan is to put unspiritual men in leadership to direct the church. Men of great ability and men with the powers of leadership have often displaced God’s leadership. The ambition for leadership and the enthronement of human leaders is the doom and seal of apostasy. There is no leadership in God’s church except the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The man who has the most of God’s Spirit is God’s chosen leader. He is zealous for the Spirit’s sovereignty, ambitious to be the least, the slave of all.