by Jeannette Haley
In my recent article “The Most Dangerous People in the World,” based on 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we learned that we are living in perilous times due to people who are “lovers of their own selves” and are filled with evil. The decisive factor is verse 5, which states, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” In other words, do not keep company with such people for they are dangerous. They may appear to be godly, but they have their own religious cause or agenda, religious spirit, religious pride or religious indoctrination. In denying the “power” of true godliness, such people are denying the Holy Spirit, the “dunamis” (miraculous power, miracles, might, ability, power, and strength).
Concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” John 16:8-11. Religious sinners (as I call them) want to be accepted in religious circles, play the religious game or either become leaders within an established church, or found their own “church.” They reject the Holy Spirit because He brings reproof, conviction, and judgment. Such people do not believe on the real Jesus of the Bible because they cannot accept the fact that He is God incarnate, and that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” There is, therefore, no other way, no other truth, and no other life. You cannot have Jesus as “a” way, or Jesus as “a” truth, or Jesus as “a” life. He is who He is, and those who do not believe in who He is, but who “preach another Jesus, receive another spirit, or receive another gospel” are damned. (See 2 Corinthians 11:2-4.)
Those who deny the Holy Spirit have never received a love for the truth, but they are more than willing to open themselves up to the spiritual realm dominated by the angel of light (Satan). Such people eagerly embrace a counterfeit, or antichrist, spirit because it gives them a false feeling of power and importance by feeding their pride. In addition, they feel superior to others because of the “spiritual mysteries and secrets” that are fed to them by these unseen entities. Furthermore, there is no conviction of their sins and wickedness as outlined in 2 Timothy 3, and all the while, they give an outward appearance of godliness (or Christianity), having opened themselves up to familiar spirits, spirit guides, or demons. We have met such people—who claim to be “saved,” but their lack of true repentance, and the fruit of the Spirit, is frightening. There is no point at which you can make them accountable or call them to repentance because of their religious pride and love for themselves in their sins. Such people also lack the fear of God and love for the truth.
The word “form” in this verse (“Having a form of godliness…”) according to Strong’s Concordance, is “morphosis” in Greek and it means “formation, appearance, semblance or formula.” This helps us gain a clearer picture of the different subtle “forms of godliness” or “holiness” that need to be discerned by Christians. For obvious reasons no discernment is necessary for well-known cults, the Papacy, Muslims, Black Liberation Theology, the New Age, or other religious groups who may wear a thin veneer of phony “godliness.”
Taking a closer look at the word “formation,” my Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “an act of giving form or shape to something or of taking form: development: the manner in which a thing is formed: structure.” People with a religious cause, or agenda, can be found everywhere. They naturally gravitate to churches and religious movements. Such people are fully committed to their cause, or agenda, and work hard to develop a structure in which they can realize their ambitious goals. The manner in which they strive to form this structure may involve various approaches, but the one thing they need in order to achieve or accomplish it is people’s involvement. Three of the most powerful methods of enlisting others to further one’s religious agenda are through fear, guilt and an appeal to their pride. It is easy for a charismatic leader to brainwash people who have religious sensibilities, but who are weak in the Word of God, and who lack knowledge of and experience with the Spirit of God. Thus, they are easily manipulated into believing that the “form of godliness” to which they are being exposed is the real deal. One example of this is the Kingdom Dominion, or Kingdom Now movements, which maintain an outward “form” of godliness, but deny the “power thereof.” Their goal is to bring about the literal Kingdom of God on earth themselves, while ignoring what Scripture plainly teaches us. Jesus is the One who will establish His earthly Kingdom when He returns in power and great glory.
Religious agendas and personal causes are not of the Holy Spirit. While personal agendas, personal causes and personal platforms may appear to have a “form of godliness” outwardly, their motivation is fleshly and self-glorifying. Whenever the motivation is wrong, it gives opportunities for Satan and his demons to gain entrance into a person’s life, deceiving him or her into believing that what he or she is experiencing is of God. Such people truly believe that what they are obsessed with is akin to true service for God.
Satan is subtle, as are those who serve him. The Apostle Paul warned, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Furthermore, people who seek after signs and wonders may very well encounter “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” 2 Thessalonians 2:9b because they are wide open to deception.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” Matthew 7:7, 8. The question is, which door is being knocked on? Satan is the “prince of the power of the air,” and his demons are everywhere, ready to answer any “knock” on the wrong door. The mystical world of the occult is readily available to any who are naive, curious, or foolish enough to desire it. There is a very fine line between believing, seeking and receiving from the Holy Spirit, and seeking another spirit for answers through an altered state of consciousness, trance state, (including semi-trance), or concentration (centering), transcendental meditation, hypnosis, hypnotic music and so forth. It takes fear of God, and genuine integrity not to go into that arena for “spiritual power.” We read the fate of such people in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
<pmsonormal”> People with religious spirits come across as superior in all spiritual matters. If allowed, they appoint themselves into leadership roles, which feed their pride. They are usually quick to seize any opportunity that may present itself to be the pastor’s “helper,” or to become the indispensable “worship leader,” or “prayer warrior.” People with religious spirits are quick to attach themselves to people with emotional, mental or spiritual problems so they can be their “great counselor.” Unfortunately, they love to lay hands on people who need or ask for prayer, which can do a lot of spiritual and emotional damage to unsuspecting victims.
Religious spirits are a very real problem in churches and Christian groups. They are “wise in their own conceits.” When confronted in the manner of Paul’s admonition in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good work,” they can become offended or angry, or both.
The next definition of “form” is “semblance,” which is very interesting. It means, “countenance, aspect: phantasmal form: apparition: image, likeness: actual or apparent resemblance: specious appearance: slightest appearance.” Thus, a person with a semblance of godliness is one who is adept at looking the part. It is all a cleverly planned, seductive façade, which is designed to give the appearance of that which is real. Sometimes an actual spirit of light can mask the countenance of this type of person, giving the impression that he or she is truly godly. Religious pride hides behind charisma that is attractive to people who are seeking for extra-biblical spiritual experiences and metaphysical interpretations of the Word of God.
The seduction of such people can be powerful. Unlike the “in-your-face” religious spirit, the seductive image of this individual is cool, quiet and calculating. The detached demeanor of such a person gives the impression that he or she possesses an ethereal spirituality that others lack. This sets the stage for an inordinate attraction that can digress into soul ties, idolatry and bondage.
At last, we come to the final definition, “formula.” This word means, “a set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual: a conventionalized statement intended to express some fundamental truth or principle.” It is quite clear that a set form of religious ceremony or ritual can, and does, appeal to multitudes of people who want to be part of a regular religious experience without becoming personally, or intimately, involved. People also love formulas because it excuses them from being accountable for their own spiritual life; thus, they can ignore such Scriptures as Philippians 2:12b, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Formulas are powerful agents of religious indoctrination that leave no room for the Holy Spirit to bring personal conviction. Ceremonies and rituals are man-made and man-centered; therefore, they are dead and powerless. The sad fact is people who have been indoctrinated through religious formulas and ceremonies believe that these outward works are spiritually beneficial to them even though they remain dead in their sins.
The Lord has given a clear warning to “turn away” from all who have a “form of godliness,” but who deny the power thereof. People want the “power,” but they do not want to pay the price of righteousness, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. (See Hebrews 12:14.) Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8. The power of the Holy Spirit will not rest upon, nor abide in, a defiled heart and life; neither will He, who is the light, have communion with darkness. “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel” 2 Corinthians 6:15. The problem is, so many Christians insist on “casting their pearls” before swine in the hope of converting them. However, those who live in a pigpen of sin, carnality, and worldliness, yet we are commanded to “turn away” from those who are religious enough to have a “form of godliness,” yet who “deny the power thereof.” What we have learned in over two decades of ministry is this: People who think they are saved, and who profess to being Christians, yet who are not truly born again of the Spirit of God, are some of the hardest people in the world to convert. It takes much fasting and prayer, and a mighty move of the Spirit of God plus a powerfully anointed evangelist like Charles Finney to secure the true conversion of religious, or semi-religious, people. The hardest mission field in the world is America.
Paul warned the Corinthians, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” 1 Corinthians 6: 9, 10. Some might ask, “What is the kingdom of God, and how does one serve Christ?” Romans 14:17, 18 sums it up, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”
Where is the power in the Church? Where are the powerful men and women of God? Where are anointed, powerful sermons, ignited by holy fire from Heaven that can save sinners, and set them ablaze for God? Where are hearts agonizing over lost souls? Have we become so brainwashed by humanism and the social gospel that we have forgotten our roots? What are our roots anyway? I’ll tell you what our roots are—our roots are in the cross of Christ. That is where the power is—the cross! You want power? You want to shake the world you live in? You want to make an eternal difference? Then repent of your sins and your pride. Shake off the shackles of forms, appearances, semblances and formulas and get right with God! Go back to the cross, then pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Christ. Obey the Word, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in righteousness. Never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”!