Shavuot and Pentecost. The Spirit vs. the Computer Virus.

So today, God answered a prayer of mine. This “answer” was a two and a half hour conversation with “Mike” from Apple care, while he carefully tried to ferret out and extract malware from my laptop.

How on earth is that an answer to prayer? I’m glad you asked. I have been praying– reluctantly– that God would educate me, in just the right proportion, about spiritual warfare.

Now, I know that spiritual warfare is a big, amorphous, difficult topic. It’s been overblown, outplayed, and contrived by some who have loved to herald their prowess and stature as spiritual warriors. And by others it has been reduced and boxed up as little more than a Christian jargon idiom that has about as much flavor as a communion wafer.

Well, “Mike,” my Apple genius gave me a little education today about how malware and viruses work on computers and what their goals are. Let me narrate and then unpack.

According to my Apple genius, malware and viruses are decidedly different in their goals. Simply put viruses destroy computers. They completely annihilate them. That’s it. Boring and brutal. Malware on the other hand “takes over” computers. The point of malware is to nestle into your computer, steal your personal information for fraudulent purposes, and to slowly take control of the operating system.

Mac’s supposedly cannot get viruses. Mac’s have built-in protection from viruses that would obliterate them. They can, however get malware. While “Mike,” my Apple genius took me through folder after folder checking for unnecessary, suspicious, and known-to-be-harmful downloads in my system, I noticed that with every step we took to rid my laptop of the malware, we lost more control over my desktop. The malware was reacting to our efforts to unseat it!

At first I had control over my cursor arrow, then I didn’t, then the arrow disappeared all together and in it’s place a little blue ring was bouncing around my screen against my commands. I asked, “Is there a person operating the malware in my computer?”

I was told “no,” that malware is created, written code, a logarithm, that once released just does what it’s made for. I said, “but it’s reacting to you being here, and accessing my screen. It is taking more control, and blocking our efforts the closer we get to find it.”

“Well-written malware, like all technology, can have a degree of artificial intelligence and can seem like some person in a dark room is running it.”

Because the malware was reacting so strongly to our efforts to trash it, we had to go into “safe mode.” Safe mode requires a special key-combo to log into your laptop and allows you to move freely without the malware’s interference. You can only do so much in safe mode, because it is separate from your main user profile. So you can clean up a lot, but eventually you have to go back and confront the malware head-on with special malware software.

Fittingly, the software’s logo is a warrior’s helmet pretty similar to Gerard Butler’s in 300. This special reinforcement warrior cut through the malware’s defense but in the end, the malware was sophisticated enough, and had been in my computer long enough, that I had to wipe my laptop clean.

With a clean computer, malware flushed out with the rest, I now have the task before me of watching out for identity theft and fraudulent behavior in my accounts. The malware had been watching my passwords by controlling my internet activity– actually its maneuvers to steal my identity was the final frustration with my computer’s performance that got me to call for help.

And for me that is a near complete education about the battle we face that “is not against flesh and blood.”

Here are some really confidence-building things that I see from comparing my computer virus to the spiritual realm:

  1. Christians, like Mac’s, can’t get viruses that destroy, only malware that controls. We don’t need to fear death, but we should be aware of defeat.
  2. Just like the malware reacted to my Apple genius cleaning up my laptop, our spiritual enemies react to God’s cleaning up in our lives, and will try to block us even more the more free we get.
  3. Malware is created, artificial intelligence. I love this one. I recently came across a writer that said “God and Satan are not equals. Satan is created. God is not.” Forces against us do not have “real” intelligence. They operate in a similar type of bondage to what we do before we are in Christ. True intelligence to move and respond in real time, requires the freedom we receive in Christ. We have a big advantage in that!
  4. We get to hide in “safe-mode” to get spiritual work done away from malicious forces. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of my God, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God in whom I trust,” Psalm 91:1-2.
  5. Just like the software that we downloaded to cut through the code that we couldn’t see or didn’t have skill to find, we have warrior angels and heavenly hosts that the Lord orders to our aid. “For he will give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your way. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you don’t even strike your foot on a stone,” Psalm 91:11-12.
  6. And of course, at the end of the day, after all our battling, after all our efforts, if nothing can be done, if nothing can be saved: it is all wiped clean so that it is in fact, all saved.
  7. Yet, even then, there is still need to be diligent, because when you see your identity in Christ being challenged, distorted, misused– made fraudulent– then you know that you yourself have been restored, but what was stolen from you before salvation is still being used against you. And little by little as these red flags arise, you address the issue and take back your identity, take back your riches, and become a whole, inviolable person, complete and un-breached.

So why share this testimony during Shavuot/Pentecost? Well, because many of us want to live in the Spirit, under the Spirit, but according to the Law.

You want to know what I mean? We want freedom in Christ from sin, guilt, shame, and legalism. We want to be empowered by the gifts of the Spirit. We want to be impactful for Christ in measurable ways. But we don’t want the Spirit or the spiritual to be real.

We want this wonderful transforming gift that Jesus gave us, as he said, “I am sending someone greater than me to help you,” (John 14; 16.) At the same time though, we don’t want that transformation to be supernatural– we’d like for it to very much come through natural processes.

Well, that is the Law.

Natural processes are legalistic processes. They are governed by physics and morality and reason. And because they are governed by those laws, they are limited by those laws.

We also know that, of course, we are in a natural world, so we can’t just throw the natural “Law Baby” out with the bath water, which is why I personally still have great respect and honor for the place of the Law in Christian life and devotion.

But there is an irreplaceable, irrepressible importance to seeing the spiritual as real, if you are to embrace the Holy Spirit as real, and to operate in that glorious, victorious “safe-mode.”

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation,” Psalm 91:14-16.

I often feel afraid of this topic, and these things, but maybe that’s because I believe more in malware’s realness than I do in my Apple Genius’s realness.


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