There is the wide circle of the world, of mankind and of human nature; and, within that, the smaller circle of religion, whatever the religion may be.
These are realms of conflict when God's full mind is present.
But right at the heart of both of those, there is something else, something that is easily discernible right through the Bible: there is the Satanic.
Now, if Satan is alive to anything, sensitive to anything, touchy about anything, it is on this matter of the place that the Lord Jesus is to have - and to have, not formally, but vitally; not just historically, but spiritually: so that the Lord Jesus becomes not merely a name in history, not merely a figure in history, not merely a teacher in history, not merely a historic factor, but a vital, potent force in this universe, right up to date.
That is the point upon which Satan and his kingdom are most sensitive.
They are alive to any little thing that points in that direction, and they recognize immediately a potential menace to their kingdom.
Human nature is a good playground for that.
Hence the story of missionary martyrs: those who have touched the raw material of human nature with the testimony of Jesus, with all the terrible conflict, suffering and cost.
The natural man - the natural mind, the natural will; that which is merely the soul of man - in moving and working, exercising itself, asserting itself and drawing to itself, in the realm of the things of God, is a splendid playground for the evil forces.
You assert any little bit of your soul life, and see what the Devil will do with it!
You uncover any little bit of your soul life, and see what a wreck Satan will make of you!
It is the whole story of the devastation that results when self-occupation, introspection and self-pity - all the forms of self-life - assert themselves and become accentuated.
Does not the evil one just play havoc with people like that!
They have opened the door, and he is not slow to present himself there for access.
Now, set over against all that - the natural man brought into the spiritual world (if that is a possibility), or into the realm of God's things - of that which is purely and truly spiritual, that which is of the Spirit.
And when those two things come into collision, there is trouble - for they are both great systems - simply because, in the realm which is truly of the Spirit, Satan has no place at all!
'The prince of this world cometh', said Jesus, 'and hath nothing in Me' - the Man who lived in and walked by the Spirit.
In all things, in ALL things, He referred and deferred to the Spirit of the Anointing which was upon Him.
The prince of this world had NOTHING in Him.
Poor Peter was just at the mercy of the Devil, because, with all his sincerity, with all his well-meaning enthusiasm, he moved in his own soul.
His relationship to Christ was one purely of the soul.
When Peter came to be a man under the government of the Holy Spirit, that matter underwent immediate adjustment, and you can almost watch the process of that soul-life of his being brought more and more under control.
Perhaps I should pause to safeguard this, by saying very emphatically that it is not wrong to have a soul.
No, God has given us a soul, and it is our soul which has got to be saved.
But the point is - what is the base upon which and from which we operate, the instrument that we are using, the ground of our living?
Either it is the soul, which is the seat of our SELF-life, in every sense; or it is the spirit, which is the seat of the DIVINE life.
Here, then, is the explanation of the conflict.
Satan works hard to get hold of 'soul'.
He can lead everything out on to a false stream in that way.
A thing that may start in the Spirit, can at some point, without sufficient watchfulness and prayerfulness, be led right out on to a false trail, and end up as something altogether different from what it was at the beginning.
But, to return to this eighteenth chapter of First Kings - Baal and all the rest of it - the heart of the thing is this.
It is not Baal, it is not Ahab, it is not Jezebel: it is the evil powers; and THEY are after this man Elijah.
Behind Jezebel, there are evil forces set upon the destruction of this man, because his very presence means a breach in their kingdom.
He is the man in touch with God, in touch with the Throne.
In him and by him, THAT throne becomes imminent - that throne is present.
And these two thrones, these two kingdoms, are against one another.
~T. Austin Sparks~