Saturday, October 10, 2015
Every heresy is built upon (or as it were, around) some true affirmation about God. This is why religious groups claiming the mantle of “true” or “restored” Christian faith can have such an appeal. For they appeal directly to the Bible or some teaching of Jesus Christ but twist or contort the truth to fit into the warped contours of their own theology assumptions. (For example, every one of the heresies which the leadership of the Church dealt with, through Church councils, demonstrates this phenomena. (Indeed, case studies can also easily be done on Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, and many other lesser known religious movements/groups.) The apostle Peter was right to warn the Church of all generations about those who “twist” (Greek: Literally “strangle”) the meaning of the Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:16) to make it appear to affirm what they believe.
Such I would propose is the case in our generation in America. We are obsessed with power and gaining tools by which to secure our own prosperity. If we are going to be honest, we must admit that most of us in Christian circles highly value our own security (usually understand in materialistic terms) and preserving the right to exercise our will in most matters of this life. God can have a significant part of our lives but far too many Christian people quietly retain the right to self-determination even in relationship to God. This is called in Scripture “pride” or “haughtiness.”
A.W. Tozer, somewhere in one his books, wrote insightfully of the propensity of the flesh to try to act spiritual. He was so right! This impulse of American Christians in particular to preserve self-will in spirituality is nothing more than a sin-filled self trying to exercise spiritual power and authority. I would begin to reference biblical references highlighting how much of an insult this attitude is to God but they would fill up a page! Two immediately come to mind: The Lord Jesus’ story of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32; note the full context [21:1-45] illustrates the core of sin of the Jewish religious leaders) and Paul’s extended exhortation to the Corinthian believers (1 Corinthians 1-3).
How subtle is the demons’ lies to us about spirituality! For the central claim to spiritual power of the teachers and practitioners of what I have called “Christian witchcraft” do indeed pick up the truth of what the Lord taught. He plainly taught the disciples that they could, if they have “faith”, ask in prayer and receive the authority to wither fig trees and even move “mountains.” (See Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25) Assuredly, our Lord meant for us to exercise God’s power for good in service to him—to the benefit of other people. For he plainly promised those who genuinely knew and walked in faith through him spiritual insight, wisdom and power to do the works he did and even more (see John 14:12-14).
The key to a right understanding and experiencing the reality of this promise lie in the qualifications the Lord gave (see Mark 11:25). In order to exercise spiritual power, as the Lord himself did when he lived on earth as we do now, we must forgive others. We cannot hold grudges against others and expect God to answer our bold (or just desperate?) prayers.
Do not the Lord’s words here echo passage after passage from Scripture? Does not God require from people a “clean heart” and “clean hands” (see Psalm 15)? Does not James warn about the empty boasting of those who claim faith but do not show corresponding good deeds? (see James 2:14-26; 4:13-17) Did not the Lord warn that there would be some who would claim that they had done great miracles in his name but that he never knew them? And that such persons were in their hearts “lawless”? (see Matthew 7:21-23)
May God keep me from such a terrible end! May God, who is faithful, awaken God’s people in America so they can recognize and repent of secret sins of the heart! For truly to God the Father “all hearts are open, all desires are known and nothing is hid.” (Book of Common Prayer) May God convince us not to hide any longer so we can be healed and cleansed by the power of the blood of Christ. Then we will be an army of the righteous who act from genuine faith and can legitimately exercise the power of God in the Spirit.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
For every fake there is a real article on which it is based. For every forged signature there is an authentic signature. And for every false and empty imitation there is a prior and original action rooted in true experience. This principle is especially true in matters of religion and spirituality.
The nature of spiritual longing forces one to move either toward authenticity or mask wearing. For every person has a fundamental decision to make: Do I want to deal with God and reality as it is? If the answer is no then one has a further choice to wrestle through: Do I completely give up on religious practices or do I maintain the practice so as to appear that I am a “spiritual person”?
Perhaps you think this is odd that someone would consider this choice. Why not simply be authentic and honest about oneself and seek a remedy to one’s moral and/or spiritual challenges? Why not admit that I simply do not know how to relate to God and do not understand about spiritual reality? But this would require humility born of wisdom received from God (James 3:13). The proud person cannot tolerate true humility.
This brings me to the error of “Christian Witchcraft” which has been embedded into the thinking of some who claim the name of Christ. Those entrapped by this false teaching may or may not recognize it for what it is. Some do and continue to teach and model it because they can use it for their own benefit. The Lord and the apostles warned about such people who serve themselves under the cover of doing God’s ministry (for example, see Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 2). Yet my purpose in writing about it is to help clarify why this teaching is false and what the original article (biblical teaching) is which we can embrace.
The Lord promised to his disciples that they would have the right to exercise, in dynamic relationship to God the Father through him, authentic spiritual authority for the good of others (see John 14:12-14). But the truth which he purposely fused together with this promise is that the one exercising this divine authority loves God and seeks to serve God from the heart. We can see this from the fact that he immediately begins to speak at some length about the necessity of the disciples growing in love for God and being receptive to God’s love (John 14:15-21; 1 John 3:18-24). If one truly loves God then that person will be seeking to submit to God in all things. For this is what the Lord himself did (John 5:19-20). And anyone who seeks to represent him as a teacher or doing any ministry involving phenomenal expressions of spiritual power must live as he did and does (1 John 2:3-6).
The line dividing authentic exercising of divine power from witchcraft dressed up in Christian terms is simply the orientation of the heart to God. If one is harboring iniquity or seeking to serve oneself under the guise of religion then by definition one has begun to use Christian ministry (along with the practices related to accessing divine power) for oneself. Dependence and submission to God is merely a pretense that allows such a person to maintain the appearance to fool others. This always ends up destroying the person doing this and bringing great harm to others. For the inner character of persons sold out to doing what God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19) will eventually be expressed in behavior to others.