That Which Pertaineth

The ability to reliably distinguish between male and female is critical for healthy community; we’re to treat older men like fathers and younger men as brothers (1Ti 5:1), and women distinctly differently as mothers and sisters (2), so gender should be evident by appearance.

To ensure this, God tells women not to wear clothing which pertains to men, and men not to wear women’s clothing (De 22:5a); this requires us to design gender-specific clothing to help us easily determine gender. As we resist this principle we’re an abomination to God (b), so it’s evidently quite important to get gender-distinction right.

In light of this, how do we relate with men claiming to be women, and women claiming to be men? Acknowledging that God makes us male and female, and that He makes no mistakes, is a good place to begin. (Ge 5:2) Sharing this understanding with those who who are interested is certainly also appropriate. (1Pe 3:15) But is it consistent with the law of love to refer to a woman as he, or to a man as she? (Ro 13:10)

We must be very careful here: our speech should always reflect the nature of God in us (Co 4:6); we ought to say what we mean and mean what we say (Ja 5:12), speaking always in His name (Col 3:17), walking in His steps (1Pe 2:21), doing what He is doing as He lives in us. (Ga 2:20) We shouldn’t compromise in fear (Pr 29:25), nor align our walk with ungodliness (Ep 4:17), but always speak the truth in love. (Ep 4:15)

This doesn’t mean we say whatever we think to everyone we know, without any filter or consideration; not only is this impossible, it’s generally unloving and unwise. We shouldn’t correct those who’re unreceptive (Pr 9:8): give that which is holy only to seekers. (Mt 7:6) We should carefully weigh our words (Ps 39:1), and be more prone to listen than to preach. (Ja 1:19)

Yet when it comes to choosing our words we must own them, and be very deliberate and precise. (Mt 12:36) Using a word pertaining to a female to refer to a male is to expressly violate this basic principle of gender-distinction, akin to providing him a dress, heels, lipstick and jewelry, and helping him put it all on. It is explicitly conforming our behavior to support and encourage perversion, a mindset diametrically opposed to God’s design.

It is inconsistent with the law of love to encourage or enable a person in their own deception, comforting them in a lie they insist on believing. Every man and woman is so by God’s design, a design that’s perfect and good. To actively align our speech with a rejection of this design is to violate the dignity God has bestowed on us, which cannot be consistent with love. To be a friend of the world by conforming ourselves to it’s rebellion to avoid upsetting or offending with the truth is to be an enemy of God, if anything at all is. (Ja 4:4)

Looking for a gender-neutral way* to communicate is perhaps one way to avoid direct conflict; failing to express an opposing view via a neutral expression seems better than actually aligning with perversion. Yet, even this might be viewed as a compromise: when perversion cannot actually be entirely ignored and must be addressed in some way, would Jesus confront it or modify His behavior to accommodate it?

These matters are not easy to sort through, and every situation can be uniquely challenging. God help us navigate these complex issues, and give us wisdom and grace to honor Him!

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Six Days Shalt Thou Labor

The sabbath law includes a command to work six days a week (Ex 20:9), so we should be looking to be productive every day except Saturday.

Working is therefore good for us on every other day, even if we live in a culture mistaking Sunday for sabbath, unless we’re causing weaker saints to stumble, to violate what they mistake to be the sabbath, thus wounding their conscience. (1Co 8:12) In that case we might need to be discrete about it; if we’re a bit creative we can likely figure out a way to worship and fellowship with others and also get some work done on Sunday, resting on Saturday as God commands.

We know work is good because God is good, He designed us to work before the Fall (Ge 2:15), and He proclaimed it to be good. (Ge 1:31)

We can also see in this command that God has a particular job for each one of us: He says, “do all thy work.” There is work that is ours, and work that is not. A large part of being successful in life is figuring out what we’re designed for, finding our calling, identifying the work God has given each of us uniquely to do. It is then that we can apply ourselves, training, equipping, disciplining and preparing ourselves (2Ti_2:21), honing our skills and talents to serve Him with confidence and joy, trusting Him for strength to overcome, and to accomplish (2Co 9:8) what He’s granted us to do. (Eph 6:6)

When we’re living according to our design, obeying and honoring God as well as we can, we’re free, satisfied as we fulfill our purpose, complete in Him. (Col 2:10) It is here that we find meaning and fulfillment. (Php 1:21)

Day after day, as we prayerfully seek to labor for our Lord, working as unto Him (Col 3:23-24), we pursue our destiny: to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:23) There is no higher calling than to please the One Who made us. (Col 1:10)

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Give Not Thy Strength

The first principle king Lemuel’s mother teaches him is: “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” (Pr 31:3) A man devoting a disproportionate amount of strength to pursuing women is one thing; giving away his strength in the process is quite another, and seems to be the larger point in the instruction.

A strong, confident man is naturally attractive to women, and this is a good thing, encouraging men to be strong in body, soul and spirit. (1Co 16:13) God has designed men with this capability and tendency so they can protect and bless women, since women are the weaker gender. (1Pe 3:7) God commands men to pursue strength and develop it (1Co 16:13), so men ought not neglect, compromise or relinquish their strength. (Ps 84:7)

Men should bring their strength to any relationship, especially with a woman, rather than looking to women to strengthen them. Women want to draw strength from men, to sense their confidence and capability, to be able to depend on them, to be supported, defended and protected.

A weak, frail, incompetent man who refuses to strengthen himself as well as he can, sabotaging himself such that he depends on women for validation, does no one any favors in this; it is a perversion of God’s design. In looking for his strength, a woman may quickly sap what little he has, and find him unable to support and stabilize her in a crisis, or worse, find herself dominating and disrespecting him … causing the Word of God to be blasphemed (Tit 2:5) and frustrating them both. (Est 1:17-18)

When a man believes he’s weak without a woman’s affirmation, he buys into the lie that he’s not uniquely fashioned in the likeness of God, made directly in His image for a unique and significant purpose. This undermines his confidence, such that he becomes more fearful of women, more easily threatened and intimidated by them, and dependent on their acceptance in a way that defrauds them both of what God has designed him to be.

The truth is that Man is made in the image and glory of God differently than Woman, and this is good for both men and women. Man is made directly in the image of God (Ge 1:27); Woman is made in the image and glory of Man, in the image of God in Man: she is an image of an image of God. (1Co 11:7) This is intrinsic to God’s design, empowering a synergistic, interdependent one-flesh relationship between husband and wife which enables them to fulfill their mutual destiny together. (Ge 1:28) A man should respect this design, and guard his dignity here for both their sakes. (1Ti 2:11)

In pursuing strength, a wise man looks to God to strengthen him (Ps 18:32); he does not look to women. He is unashamed of involuntary weakness, and will routinely take stock of his particular aptitudes and capabilities, asking God to enable and quicken him (Ps 143:11), always growing stronger. (Pr 24:5) As he pursues God he finds dignity in God’s design, sufficiency in God’s grace (2Co 12:9), and power for his journey in Christ. (Php 4:13)

Though unafraid to face his own weaknesses, a man ought not to seek weakness, voluntarily weakening himself, either by speaking so as to make himself appear inappropriately vulnerable or deficient, or by neglecting to discipline and exercise himself physically, mentally and emotionally. He should always act in a manner that engenders respect (Ec 10:1), both for himself and for others. (1Pe 2:17)

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7) This is true for all of us, for both men and women, but in a day of role-reversal corruption and proliferating anti-male sentiment, this reminder is particularly needful for men.

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Far From the Wicked

Some people are far away from the kingdom of God (Ps 73:27), and some are not. (Mk 12:34) What’s the difference?

Salvation is far from the wicked, because they’re not seeking God’s statutes. (Ps 119:155) They’re at enmity with God because they aren’t subject to His Law (Ro 8:7); their very nature opposes it. (Je 13:23)

Thinking we’re saved, or that we even want to be saved while we’re committed to sin is a contradiction; salvation is from sin (Mt 1:21), not in sin. (Ro 6:1-2) If we intend to sin and are unconcerned about it, we don’t want to be saved from sin at all — just from the consequences.

Coming to God implies wanting to obey Him, desiring to be aligned with Him, to live in intimate fellowship with Him (Jn 14:21); there’s no salvation apart from this. (He 12:14) Regenerate souls delight in God’s Law (Ro 7:22); we keep it as well as we can (Ps 119:94), and ask God to quicken us so we can obey the rest. (Ps 119:35-37)

Spiritual life produces obedience (1Pe 1:2) in those who are God’s workmanship (Ep 2:10); those who hope in God’s salvation do His commandments  (Ps 119:166), obeying unto the transformation of their souls. (Ps 19:7) This is how we identify the children of God. (1Jn 3:10)

Let no one deceive us here (1Jn 3:7-8): unless we repent and turn away from our sin to God we perish. (Lk 13:3) Those who are willfully disobeying or neglecting any part of God’s Law as a manner of life have no hope of eternal life (1Jn 3:6); they’re self-deceived (Ja 1:22) and will be trodden down by God. (Ps 119:118) Those who are dismissing Torah wouldn’t be persuaded to seek God even if someone came back from the dead to persuade them. (Lk 16:31)

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Everlasting Punishment

Fear of suffering eternally in Hell should move us (Jud 1:22-23) to seek the Lord earnestly, striving to enter the Way (Lk 13:23-24), until we know we have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) The infinite cost of failure here makes any other outcome entirely unacceptable to the rational soul.

But is Hell, the second death, actually eternal? What if, as some teach, Hell has an explicit finality to it, where souls don’t suffer forever but are rather extinguished, annihilated, such that they cease to exist? Wouldn’t that be more consistent with a loving God?

Annihilationism is the claim that as the wicked are destroyed (Mt 10:28) they cease to exist, that spiritual death is final and complete, an eradication of body, soul and spirit, producing a state of non-existence. The motive is to frame God as more reasonable and compassionate when eternal torment is not perceived to be justifiable. (Ro 11:33) After all, how could a loving God torture souls eternally? 

To begin, observe that we can destroy something without annihilating it, say, by smashing a computer or a car and rendering it inoperative, incapable of fulfilling its intended purpose, forcing its components into an altered, unusable state.

Similarly, in death (separation of spirit and soul from body) spirit, soul and body continue to exist; none are annihilated. (Lk 16:22) So, verses including death and destroy do not, in themselves, imply Annihilationism.

Further, Annihilationism assumes sin has a finite degree (making infinite punishment unjust) and no benefit in eternal torment (making it unnecessary). But if Man’s unchecked sin is indeed infinite, in both intensity and duration, and if eternal suffering would bring glory to God, prompting worship in the righteous by uniquely revealing the nature of both God and Man, then Annihilationism is problematic. To verify this, let’s search the Scripture.

The Word states, as clearly as anything can be stated, that most souls will suffer consciously for eternity. (Re 14:11) This is not surprising, since we all, when left to ourselves, love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil. (Jn 3:19) This is deeply offensive and dishonoring to God. What should He do about it?

Conventional teaching has been that God angrily casts the wicked into a furnace of fire (Mt 13:42), consigning them there forever because they did not believe on Him in earthly life. (Jn 3:36) This punishment seems so harsh that many struggle to understand how this could possibly be consistent with God’s love and mercy, even if we see it in Scripture. Can anyone truly deserve such an end?

How can God impose this kind of fiery punishment for eternity and yet be loving and just? It is impossible to rightly understand these kinds of things without the proper context; as with many other theological problems, the resolution lies in a full comprehension of the nature of Man.

Everlasting, infinite punishment would only be unjust if the wicked were not infinitely so, if their rebellion were finite in either intensity or duration. Yet, Annihiliationism would explicitly hide this reality from us, such that we could never experience the timeless nature of either God or Man. But isn’t this God’s explicit purpose in Creation, to reveal and glorify Himself? (Ro 9:22-23) If so, how then might eternal punishment reveal and glorify God?

When God has suffered the indignity of our sin long enough, suppose all He does is simply unveil Himself, showing us all Who He is and what He is like, unfiltered, exactly as He is. (Re 20:11) This will distill every place in the universe down to only one: the immediate presence of Almighty God. Infinite depravity will then begin to fully and intimately engage with infinite holiness, justice and love.

This simple unveiling of God changes everything. Whatever is in God and of God is fulfilled and completed (Col 2:10), home at last, while all outside God is incapacitated (Mt 15:13), shaken to the core (He 12:27), unable to function as designed: destroyed.

As this climactic event unfolds, a permanent standoff develops: the wicked remain opposed to God and at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7), while God remains infinitely holy, just and loving. These two natures are entirely irreconcilable; they cannot abide in harmony together, not even a little bit. Each side is absolutely intolerable to the other (Pr 11:20), and they clash with unfathomable violence and intensity. God’s indignant fury fills the wicked with terror (Na 1:6), yet there is no place to hide. The damned begin to suffer the real, ultimate consequence of their rebellion, destroyed by the very glory of the God they despise (2Th 1:9), the inevitable result of their own willful choices and nature.

Since God does not change (Ja 1:17), the only way this stalemate will ever end is if the wicked find it within themselves to repent and turn to God (Je 13:23), otherwise their punishment will indeed be everlasting (Mt 25:46), infinite in both degree and duration, according to their own nature. (Is 33:14)

So, as the wicked stubbornly continue in their unbridled rebellion, drowning in inextinguishable holy fire (Mk 9:43-44), they put their hatred for God on universal display, permanently showcasing themselves before God’s throne for the righteous to observe and contemplate. (Is 66:23-24) They are held by the cords of their own sin (Pr 5:22), in perpetual shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2)

In this state, what should God do? Must He annihilate His enemies in order to be loving and just?

What if the holy arms of a loving God remain forever open (Ro 10:21), even to those in Hell (Re 22:17), offering mercy and pardon to any who will repent and turn to Him? (Is 55:7) And what if we begin to observe, in age after incredible age, that the damned will never return to God (Ps 81:15), not a single one (Ps 14:2-3), no matter what immense suffering their own relentless, stubborn blasphemy (Re 16:9) continually draws down upon their own heads? (Pr 27:22) If God ever does do such a thing, and the wicked play their hand as predicted, who could ever rightly complain against Him? (Re_15:4)

And if God did annihilate His enemies, how would we ever know how infinitely evil human nature truly is (Je 17:9), when God gives us up to fully pursue our own way?

Perhaps it is only then, as we actually experience eternity itself, that we will be enabled to fathom more and more the infinitude of our God (Ps 145:3), to glory in His infinite mercy (Ps 103:11), to experience the true nature of unregenerate Man (Ro 8:7), and agree that it’s inexcusable. (Ro 1:20) Perhaps this will enable us to begin to perceive the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through His Son (Ep 2:7), as we explore the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ep 3:8)

The eternal, infinite, willful, voluntarily self-imposed suffering of the damned will be a continual, tangible reminder of what we all are like without God, and what we all deserve. There will be no self-glory in His presence. (1Co 1:29) We will never forget what our Father has done for us. (1Jn 3:1)

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None Good but God

When a rich young man approaches Jesus Christ to inquire about salvation, he begins by addressing Christ as “Good Master.” (Mt 19:16) Christ replies, as He often does, by questioning the young man: “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (17a)

Christ systematically uses questions to help us think through what we’re doing so we can discover the truth. This case appears to be no different. What is Christ leading the young man to discover?

Some might claim from Christ’s response that He’s rebuking the young man, admitting that He Himself isn’t good because He isn’t God. If this were true, then a rebuke would certainly be appropriate, but it presupposes that Christ is merely human. So, treating this as evidence of Christ’s mere humanity is classic circular reasoning, a logical fallacy.

If we observe carefully, Christ doesn’t actually assert that He isn’t good, or that the young man’s address is inappropriate; the mere question isn’t a condemnation. Christ simply affirms that no one is truly good except God; everyone else is sinful and depraved by nature. So, is the young man acknowledging the divinity and perfection of Christ, or is he flattering a sinful creature like himself? Christ’s challenge is to awaken: either Christ is God, or He isn’t good.

This question challenges us all, does it not? Many are tempted to describe Jesus Christ as merely a good, moral teacher, perhaps the greatest ever, and nothing more. Yet Christ Himself doesn’t leave us this option: He spoke in ways that were totally inappropriate for a mere man. (Jn 8:12, 19, 23, 29, 58)

So, we’re left to choose: either Christ is God, or He wasn’t good; there is no in-between. This is the most profound choice one will ever make, so choose wisely and fully, and then live accordingly.

Unless we find some clear fault in Jesus Christ, some obvious flaw in His character, it’s exceedingly unwise to presume He isn’t Who He claims to be. (Jn_14:6) A Man who foretells His own innocent suffering and death (Mt 16:21), and claims He will raise Himself from the dead (Jn 10:17-18), and then pulls this off — and actually does it — has given us more proof than we could ever need.

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I Am Thy Servant

Those who wrote scripture claimed to be slaves of Christ, to be His loyal servants. (Ro 1:1) Sounds admirable, even holy, so should we be saying the same? Or is it a bit presumptuous for normal people like ourselves to do so? (Ps 119:125) How can we tell?

Well, a loyal servant is always seeking to please their master, never deliberately or carelessly disobeying, consistently doing their best to serve, looking for ways to make their master as happy as possible. Is that your attitude towards Christ?

If not, if there are areas in your life that are off-limits for God, where you are able to obey Him but are knowingly and deliberately refusing to do so as a manner of life, then, no, you are not a servant of God. This defines one as a child of disobedience. (Ep 2:2-3)

Or, are you simply living life for yourself, with little regard for whether you’re pleasing God or not? That’s not much different; those who live like this are Christ’s enemies. (Php 3:18-19).

Those who neglect to obey Christ don’t love Him (Jn 14:21), and those who don’t love Jesus Christ don’t belong to Him (1Co 16:22)

So, yes, every child of God should heartily claim to be a servant of Jesus Christ (Col 3:24), and this won’t just be empty words, it will express the reality of our daily lives. As we choose Christ as Master we are choosing to be His slaves, to gladly do for Him whatever He bids us do. (Lk 6:46) We’re members of Christ (1Co 12:27), part of His very Body; He’s living in and through us — we’re His hands and eyes and feet on Earth: called, chosen and faithful. (Re 17:14)

But it’s also true that our very best may not actually be very good at all. If we’ve not been careful to follow after holiness, purging our hearts and minds of lies and deception, much of what we offer to Christ may, in fact, be wood hay and stubble, consumed in the fire of God’s discerning judgement. (1Co 3:12-13) Pride, ignorance and arrogance can pollute everything we do, such that we’re largely ineffective for Christ.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling (Ps 2:11), continually asking God to show us His Way (Ps 25:4), revealing Himself until we might see Him as He is (1Jn 3:2), and we’re transformed into His image. (2Co 3:18)

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Be Strong

Weakness is something we all experience; it’s unavoidable. We’re born in weakness, and we’ll probably die in weakness. We get sick, injured, tired, eventually old. Weakness makes us feel vulnerable, unable to care for ourselves and others. Why would anyone deliberately choose weakness, choosing to be more vulnerable than necessary?

A couple possibilities are obvious. We might not love ourselves properly, abusing or neglecting ours minds, souls and bodies, thereby causing ourselves to deteriorate into weakness. Similarly, we might not love others, being resentful or envious, and might want to burden others with our physical, emotional or spiritual care. In any case, deliberately choosing weakness like this violates the 2nd Great Command, to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mt 22:39) Love does not choose weakness, either for itself or others.

Yet, even if we love as we ought, we might confuse weakness with humility and find a little virtue in it, seeking to be inordinately dependent. Yet how could this be a virtue when God commands us to be strong? (1Co 16:13) Strength must be aligned with humility; we must strive to be strong and humble at the same time.

The Apostle Paul recognized that when he was weak in ways that were beyond his control, he found the strength he needed in God’s grace. (2Co 12:9-10) But though Paul gloried in scenarios that made him weak, he never deliberately weakened himself, or neglected to be as strong as he could possibly be. This is key.

Strength is the ability or power to act according to one’s potential; the closer we are to being able to live in our ultimate design, the stronger we are. This comprises the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of our being. To willfully neglect strength in any area of our lives is to despise our intrinsic design, our value, our Creator’s benevolent purposes for us. (Col 1:11)

God has designed us such that if we obey Him in exercising ourselves (1Ti 4:7), prayerfully and wisely pushing our current limits to try to improve  (2Pe 1:5-7), we will grow (1Ti 4:8) and He will gird us with strength. (Ps 18:32) Every part of our design is like this; we just have to be willing to discipline ourselves and honor Him, balancing our lives to care for ourselves so we can live according to His calling and election in us.

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To His Own Master

Scripture is perfectly precise; it isn’t overly specific, nor is it inappropriately vague. The detail God has provided is both necessary and sufficient for us; we must not add to it, nor take away from it. (De 4:2)

Yet there are a great variety of circumstances in which we might find ourselves, and a body of law which explicitly detailed how to act in every conceivable setting would be enormous, unthinkably vast, anticipating the impact of undeveloped technologies and innumerable cultural/familial complexities. Composing such a paint-by-the-numbers standard is evidently untenable as we consider the great variety of possible cultural and societal forms that might evolve across time.

Even so, all we need to be fully equipped to please God in every circumstance of life is provided us in the Tanakh, the Old Testament. (2Ti 3:16-17) We may derive from its precepts how God would have us act in every scenario we could ever encounter. It is miraculously precise in this regard, a living Sword, discerning every motive and intent of our hearts. (He 4:12)

So, in extra-biblical matters, which are by definition beyond the scope and obvious spirit of the text of Scripture, we are required and encouraged to use our own judgement and understanding as to how best to follow God, discerning His way for us through the precepts embedded in His Word (Ps 119:104), which He must help us understand (Ps 119:27) as we meditate on them (Ps 119:15) in the Spirit. (1Jn 2:27)

Each of us may, indeed, being at varying points in our journey after God, see things a bit differently from those around us; this is both expected and healthy. God does not want us to blindly defer to others in these kinds of things by failing to seek His wisdom and discernment for ourselves, but to maintain a sense of individual responsibility to walk and to please Him. He tells us to be fully persuaded in our own mind (Ro 14:5), and to be happy in the freedom to obey according to our own conscience. (Ro 14:22)

This kind of spiritual autonomy and individuality does not promote lawlessness, where everyone’s selfishly doing what’s right in their own eyes (De 12:8) in spite of what God says, justifying absolutely anything they like. (Pr 21:2) Such is the way of the world. (Pr 30:12) This kind of liberty only works well in communities of saints, who delight in God’s Law as He is writing it in their hearts.

Neither should we permit our individuality to make us unteachable, disinterested in the insights, wisdom and challenges of others. (He 10:25) It is our great privilege to edify one another, seeking the living Christ in each other as we help each other follow Him. (1Th 5:11) This is the very foundation of spiritual community. (1Co 14:26)

And, to be certain, there are clear guidelines for this kind of spiritual liberty; we must not allow it to become a stumbling block to our weaker brothers. (1Co 8:9) When a brother or sister doesn’t have a mature understanding of God’s Way, and would be tempted to violate their untrained conscience through our example, walking in such liberty violates the law of love and sins against Christ Himself. (1Co 8:12) Further, insisting that others follow our particular understanding when seeking practical consensus in community is likewise stubborn uncharitableness. In such cases, deferring to others, especially the elder and more experienced, is simply wisdom. (Ep 5:21)

The dangerous alternative to God’s design here is to impose universal compliance in matters which God has not clearly specified, effectively adding to His Word through man-made tradition, which subtly — yet inevitably — corrupts our worship (Mk_7:7) and turns us from the truth. (Tit 1:14) It elevates a select group of men above the brotherhood into a place of unhealthy spiritual authority over others, oppressing the saints into delegating their responsibility to discern the optimal application of God’s Word for themselves to these select few. This is entirely contrary to God’s design for our spiritual life.

To be healthy in God, we must each retain a sense of individual accountability to God as our own Master (Ro 14:7-8), and encourage others to do the same. (Rom 14:4). We’re each individually responsible for how we live before Him; if we’re in any kind of error (Ja 1:16), or are misapplying God’s Word in some way, it is no one’s fault but our own.

The head of every man is Jesus Christ (1Co 11:3); we are to be looking unto Him as our Example in every facet of our lives (He 12:2), delegating no step of this precious, eternal walk to anyone else. (1Pe 2:21)

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Give Me this Power

Simon was a sorcerer, using witchcraft to promote himself as a godly man (Ac 8:9-11), until he believed on Christ and was saved. (13) But Simon’s thinking about the nature of spiritual power was still off, and it immediately got him into trouble.

When Simon observed the Holy Spirit falling on people, as Peter and John prayerfully laid hands on them, he offered to pay the apostles for this capability. (Act 8:18-19) But Peter rebuked Simon sharply (Ac 8:20-21) — Simon still had the witchcraft perspective: that we obtain spiritual power via ritual, not relationship.

This is the essence of witchcraft: trying to harness spiritual forces by following a formula or technique. “If I say in Jesus’ Name when I pray then God will answer me.” “If I pray the rosary 10 times and say 20 Hail Mary’s then God will forgive me.” “If I spend X hours in prayer then God will fill me with the Holy Spirit.” “If I stop thinking and start babbling then God will give me supernatural tongues.” All examples of the spirit of witchcraft, treating God like a machine rather than a Person.

Yet spiritual power doesn’t work like this. We don’t get our prayers answered by praying a lot, or by following a formula. (Mt 6:7) God answers prayer as we abide in Him, saturated with His word (Jn 15:7), praying according to God’s heart and will (1Jn 5:14-15) by faith. (Mk 11:22-24) God gives spiritual gifts according to His purposes (1Co 12:11), not to those with the right technique.

Seeking spiritual power apart from God Himself is actually very dangerous business; it’s wickedness that springs from bondage to iniquity. (Ac 8:22-23) The enemy lures us through our discontent, through lust for power and significance, in order to counterfeit God’s gifts in us, so he can wreck havoc in our lives, and in the lives of others, while we’re trying to exalt ourselves. It may seem spiritual on the surface, but it won’t be love, and it will be worse than nothing. (1Co 13:1-2)

Seeking spiritual gifts over the Giver Himself is to miss all. When we rightly understand God we’ll be perfectly satisfied in Him. Like Simon, we may not yet be content in God’s love and forgiveness in Christ, and that He’s given us particular gifts and callings according to His purpose. We may not yet know unspeakable joy in God, how to feed in His majesty. In our unrest, we may stoop to trying to impress others with our pseudo-spirituality, or to trying to manipulate circumstances for our convenience rather than waiting on God to glorify Himself.

Fulfillment and peace is only found in humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, enjoying every moment as His perfect gift, casting all our care upon Him, knowing He cares for us. (1Pe 5:6-7)

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