Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

    Everyone born into this world strives to obtain and maintain some form of power. In our personal lives, from birth to death we struggle to gain power over our lives on many different fronts depending on what our greatest goals, conflicts and challenges are. Concerning power over a person’s physical well-being means gaining knowledge of how the body functions, the part good nutrition plays, and how natural remedies work. In the financial domain wealth is power, and the wealthier a person is the more power he or she enjoys. Of course, in the criminal sphere (this could include the political arena, especially in our corrupt day and age) power is everything. The bottom line is, the fallen disposition of human beings craves the power to be independent, call the shots in one’s own life, and maintain the right to oneself. The underlying motivation to live as we please, for sustained and fortified independence, results in an insatiable quest for power. How else can one make his or her fondest and most cherished dreams and desires a reality? However, there is a price to pay for such power, and that price is one’s relationship with God. While some may achieve a certain amount of power in this present world, there is one thing they will never have power over, and that is the reality of death.

      The well-known poem “Invictus” by English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) sums up the philosophy of the independent spirit:  “Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Indeed we are the ultimate “master of our fate” because we have the freedom to choose whom we will serve; that is, either self, sin and Satan, or the Lord Jesus Christ.

When did humanity’s lust for power begin? Let’s go back to the beginning—to the Garden of Eden. According to Job 31:33 and Hosea 6:7, Adam desired in his heart for the power to be the “captain of his fate.” His longing for independence surfaced when he deliberately ate the forbidden fruit, an action which was a statement of his inner condition. Eve, on the other hand, fell for Satan’s lie. From there she determined by outward appearance that the fruit was good, and she believed that the tree would make her wise, even as God. All of this was followed by her decision to eat it as she undoubtedly felt that the Lord was withholding something good from her and Adam. Her motives were not so much to gain independence from the Lord as to gain wisdom. Adam, on the other hand, wanted power over his own life. Of course, they both died spiritually the moment they ate of it, which God, in His foreknowledge, knew would happen. Thus the way was paved for the Savior and Redeemer to step out of eternity and into time in order to be the sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and to defeat Satan and his armies.

      The quest for power generally falls into four categories: 1) Those who are lovers of self and the world. These people try to maintain the power to be independent from God, which means choosing to live life on their own terms. People who strive to “gain the whole world” at the peril of their own souls fall into this category; 2) This group is made up of semi-religious people who try to maintain the power to be independent of the Lordship of Christ. Such people are double-minded, merely “tacking Jesus on to their lives,” while giving Him lip service. These people want to benefit from the promises of God, yet refuse to repent of their sins and be converted to righteousness. With one foot firmly planted in the world, and the other planted in pseudo Christianity, these people may talk the talk, but in reality are not completely sold out, committed Christians; 3) The third group are those who seek supernatural power from the occult. 4) Genuine believers who are endued with power from on high.

      We find examples in the Bible of people who could fit in any one of these four categories. In the first category, take, for example, Cain, who “went out from the presence of the LORD.” Cain had no regard for the Lord God, or his own brother, whom he slew. The only person he cared about was himself, and if you follow his descendants, they carried on Cain’s legacy as a lover of the world. Ishmael is an example of a person who mocked and disregarded God’s promises, yet God was with him for Abraham’s sake. Ishmael was the forefather of the Arabs, including Mohammad. Consider Esau who also loved the world, and despised his birthright (to be in the lineage of Christ). Esau married pagan women, the third one being Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. Many of the kings of Israel lived independent of God, loving power and the world, and brought much misery and destruction upon the entire nation.

      Although people in the first category are comfortable living in the world, and for the world, not all are atheists or agnostics; rather, many of these people see themselves as being “good” people who do “good things” and who have no problem, when the occasion arises (such as a personal or national tragedy or emergency) mentioning God. Their use, however, of His name is in a casual, generic, non-threatening, “politically correct” sense. For example, Muslims, Mormons, Mind-science cults, Freemasons, Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood stars, and ungodly politicians (to name just a few) talk about “God,” but which god are they referring to?  Such people become extremely uncomfortable, or even agitated if someone begins to talk about the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is a direct threat to their independent way of thinking and doing, for in order to truly become born again, a person must humble him or herself and give up the right (power) over his or her own life. No person can truly belong to Christ and be “the master of his or her fate, and the captain of his or her soul.” Either Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.

      In the second category we find people who want spiritual power, such as Lot who, even though his soul was “vexed” by the abominations around him, made no effort to flee with his family to another location. His goal was to follow Abraham, not seek for his own relationship with the living God. As for the children of Israel, the Bible tell us of the many instances when they would offer sacrifices to both the Lord and idols. These people may have been “religious” but they were far from “righteous” and they paid a high price for their independent ways. Another example of someone who had power over the nation Israel and who wanted God’s blessings, yet refused to obey Him, is King Saul. He even went so far as to look to the occult and consult a medium for help. Judas Iscariot is another example of someone who followed Jesus for three years, but his heart was never converted. Paul spoke of Demas who forsook him, because he loved “this present world.” Sadly, churches across this land are filled with such people who hang on to their independence (power over their own lives) while claiming to be saved and on their way to heaven where they will “be with their loved ones” who were just as lost as they are.

      The third category is a major one. Spiritualism and occultism are gaining a momentum that should be alarming to every one who belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that in the spiritual realm power either comes from the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness over which Satan presides. In 1 john 4:1 we are warned, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” The problem is, few Christians know how to test or discern spirits, and the fact that many don’t even want to learn how to test the spirits is disturbing.

      Fascination with the supernatural is gaining momentum. Young children are exposed to witchcraft through books (such as the Harry Potter series), games, movies, demonic toys, music, and art, among other things. It is as if a rising tide of demonic filth is forming a deadly tsunami that threatens to obliterate anything and everything that consists of the Holy Spirit and truth. People of all ages are drawn to the supernatural world due to the mysterious power that it possesses. This power is greatly desired by those who want to gain power over, not only their own lives, but the lives of others as well, which is basic witchcraft. Those who feel weak, or insecure, crave a power that will make them feel strong and invincible. Those who feel superior and wiser than others, or who have an insatiable curiosity to explore and experience the deepest esoteric secrets of the occult pursue such topics as “hidden knowledge,” “wisdom of the ancients,” “secrets of levitation,” “Universal Life Force Alignment Meditation” (or any of the scores of New Age meditation methods, too numerous to mention here),  “hyperdimensional realities,” “astral projection,” or the extensive realm of metaphysics, just to name a few.

      To try and illustrate the vastness of the occult, and the supernatural power of the kingdom of darkness, picture, if you will, an enormous tree that symbolizes and embodies every facet of this unseen realm. The roots reach downward into the blackness of Satanism from whence the tree draws its authority and power. Upon each limb, branch, twig, and bud could be written a different occult, mystical, hidden mystery or supernatural belief, practice, teaching, lodge, group, coven, religion or movement, and yet, this “tree” is growing and expanding so rapidly that only God knows the extent of it. When the King of king returns to establish His kingdom on earth, “…he will destroy … the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations,” Isaiah 25:7.

      Rayola and I have concluded that the kingdom of darkness is as boundless as the bottomless pit itself. Therefore, there would be no end to the books and articles that could be written exploring, researching, and exposing the tangled and interwoven web of lies and deception of this evil kingdom which, on the surface, often displays a beautiful and alluring illusion of light, wisdom, knowledge, and power. The fruit of it, however, is death and destruction.

      People who look to any area of the occult in order to acquire power open themselves up to Satan and the demonic world where forces beyond their understanding and control are quick to enter in and take over. We have met people who were so deeply steeped in the power that demons granted to them that, even though they lived in constant fear and torment, refused to humble themselves before the Lord Jesus Christ and be set free. In the early stages of toying with occult power, a person is given just enough taste of power to cause him or her to believe that this power will be theirs to command. The appetite for more power grows as he or she wades deeper and deeper into the tantalizing labyrinth of hidden knowledge and mysteries. The trap is subtle, alluring, deceptive, and deadly. Obviously, this type of power comes with the high price (in this world and the next) of loss of freedom, as well as personal control over the power that possesses its victims. Whereas God sets us free, and endues us with the power from on High through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the person who has (usually unwittingly) exchanged his or her soul for the power granted by Satan’s kingdom has lost the freedom to control his or her own life, even though for a time he or she may blissfully imagine that he or she is indeed in control. Thus we see that the person who operates in Satan’s (or demons’) power has no personal authority because Satan retains that authority over his subjects. Whatever power such a person may operate in is always ultimately controlled by Satan.

      By contrast, the power of the child of God is established and backed up by the living Word, the Godhead, the everlasting God, possessor of heaven and earth. This power is unshakeable, immovable, indestructible, and is the ultimate authority and power over all that is, both visible and invisible. Therefore, the Spirit-filled Christian who knows his or her God, knows the Word, and knows his or her authority in Christ has the power to resist the enemy when attacked, to overcome and stand.

      It is vital that God’s people learn how to discern and test spirits as well as continue to “watch and pray” as the days grow darker. Discernment must not be left in the parking lot with our car when we attend church! Every church has its share of wrong spirits that must be discerned and properly dealt with as the Lord leads for the sake of the flock of God.

      As for opening up to the power of the “other side,” people need to be aware of anything that produces an altered consciousness such as the following: Mental telepathy, self-trances, astral projection, and transcendental meditation; any mind altering drug (including mind-altering prescription drugs) which is the sorcery mentioned in the Bible that men will not repent of in the last days; any of the numerous forms of New Age and/or Eastern methods of meditation, (this includes “centering,” “soaking prayer,” “contemplative meditation,” found in the “emergent” and modernist churches); hard rock music, vain repetition in worship (“7-11” singing, that is, seven short phrases sung eleven times), chanting, hypnotic drumbeats and shamanism; any form of witchcraft which includes automatic writing (a form of channeling), visualization (visualizing and concentrating on what you want, or used as a power to influence or control, which is basic witchcraft), positive confession (such as Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Schuller, etc. teach) and other mind-science beliefs and practices.

      Of course magic, tarot cards, the Ouija board, Dungeons and Dragons, reading tea leaves, palm reading, astrology, and all other such forms of prognostication are open doors to demonic forces. Séances and attempts to communicate with the dead are wide open doors for demonic oppression or possession as well. The bottom line is, if a teaching, belief or practice is contrary to the Word of God, does not exalt the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, and/or is of the wrong spirit, then it must ALL be rejected as belonging to the kingdom of darkness. In this day and age of the social gospel (humanism) and liberal, progressive thinking, it is easy to be swayed by anything, even such things as “white witchcraft” if “good works” are involved.

      The bottom line is, people who seek after any type of, or measure of, power other than from the Kingdom of God do so in order to become a god themselves. After all, isn’t this what Satan promised Eve? “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” Genesis 3:5.

      The last, but not least category of those who seek power are those who have received power from God. John 1:12 declares, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” As Christians, we do not have power because we sought for power alone, but because we sought for, and received, salvation and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. We have no power in and of ourselves to make ourselves the “sons of God; rather, it is God who gives those who believe the power to become His children.

      Even though “enlightened” people scoff at the idea of Satan, or the belief that he does indeed have great power, the Bible makes it clear that he does in fact possess great power. Consider this: if Satan didn’t exist, who was Jesus talking to in His temptation in the wilderness? Luke 4:5-7 records one of the temptations Satan presented to Jesus, “And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” (Emphasis added.) When Jesus spoke to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, He spoke of Satan’s power, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” Acts 26:18. (Emphasis added.)

      Countless Christians today long to have spiritual power! The question is, why do they want power? There has been a great movement within Christendom since the 1940’s for supernatural power among different groups who profess themselves to be Christians. Their quest for power is in the area of signs and wonders, which includes different outward manifestations of what they claim is the Holy Spirit regardless of how strange, bizarre, frightening and out of order they are. Many focus on the power to heal everybody and everything, anywhere at any time in an outward show of so-called “power.” All of this is contrary to the purpose for which God sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, for we read in Acts 1:8a Jesus’ reason for this power, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me…” (Emphasis added.) The purpose for this power is to be witnesses (martyrs) of Jesus Christ. God gives His power to those who go forth bearing precious seed (the Word), proclaiming the Gospel, which “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes,” (Romans 1:16) and the power to withstand all the power of the enemy, stand in His power to resist Satan (Luke 10:19), and to overcome him. “And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony (witness); and they loved not their lives unto the death” Revelation 12:11. (Additions added.)

      Do you want power? If so, ask the Lord to show you the motives of your heart. If your heart is humble and pure, and your only desire is to see God glorified, then you can ask the Lord for the power to be His witness, and servant. If signs and miracles follow you (see Mark 16:17, 18) give God all the glory, for it is done through His power. Otherwise, you are seeking power for your own agenda, which makes you wide open to receive power from the wrong source. This is one of the reasons many people end up with a religious spirit, or a mixed spirit, which brings confusion on those in the church who don’t discern it for what it is.

      As Christians, we are given His power to become the sons of God, in order to live by His power, and have power to proclaim the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. If we are fearful, we have this promise, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7. Finally, always remember that the believer’s power to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil is established by the authority of God and His eternal Word.