Romans 8:12, 13
We are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die
When I was in the Navy, we called the captain of our ship “the Old Man.” Our Old Man was tough and crusty and nobody liked him. He used to go out drinking with all his chiefs while belittling and harassing his junior officers and making life miserable for the rest of us. He was not a good example of a naval officer. So when our Old Man got transferred to another ship, we all rejoiced. It was a great day for our ship.
Then we got a new skipper–a new Old Man. The old Old Man no longer had any authority over us; he was gone–completely out of the picture. But I was trained under that Old Man. So how do you think I related to the new Old Man? At first I responded to him just like I had been conditioned to respond to the old skipper. I tiptoed around him expecting him to bite my head off. That’s how I had lived for two years around my first skipper.
But as I got to know the new skipper, I realized that he wasn’t a crusty old tyrant like my old Old Man. He wasn’t out to harass his crew; he was a good guy, really concerned about us. But I had been programmed for two years to react a certain way when I saw a captain’s braids. I didn’t need to react that way any longer, but it took several months to recondition myself to the new skipper.
You also once served under a cruel, self-serving skipper: your old sinful self with its sinful nature. The admiral of that fleet is Satan himself, the prince of darkness. But by God’s grace you have been transferred into Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13). You now have a new skipper: your new self which is infused with the divine nature of Jesus Christ, your new admiral. As a child of God, a saint, you are no longer under the authority of your old Old Man. He is dead, buried, gone forever.
So why do you still react as if your old skipper were still in control of your behavior? We’ll answer that question tomorrow.
Prayer: Praise You, Lord, that my relationship with my old skipper, that old sinful self, is gone. I choose to live today in the realty of my new nature in Christ.
1 Timothy 2:5
There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
The fourth unifying factor of the New Age Movement is a cosmic evolutionary optimism . There is a New Age coming. There will be a new world order with a one-world government. New Agers believe in a progressive unification of world consciousness eventually reaching the “omega point.” This is a counterfeit kingdom and we know who its prince is.
Fifth, New Agers create their own reality . They believe they can determine reality by what they believe, so by changing what they believe, they can change reality. There are no moral absolutes because there is no distinction between good and evil.
Sixth, New Agers make contact with the kingdom of darkness . Calling a medium a “channeler” and a demon a “spirit guide” has not changed the reality of what they are. They are in contact with the god of this world instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Recently I received a call from a lady who was concerned about the turn of events in a small group she was attending. It had started out as a group of supposedly Christian women. The one woman began to function as a medium, and they thought they were hearing from God. They recorded six hours of videotape, and in that six hours, five different personalities can be identified in the medium. The group was convinced they were hearing from God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and two angels.
The lady functioning as a medium was later identified as not being a Christian. In the tape her eyes roll back in a trancelike state. At one point a voice says through her, “It’s going to snow here tomorrow.” I’m surprised that when it didn’t snow the next day, they couldn’t see the snow job being done on them!
How can a thinking person, professing to be a Christian, consider this as anything other than demonization? But it isn’t just lonely homemakers who are being deceived. This deception is invading every area of society today.
Prayer: Father, keep me alert to the deception of New Age thinking around me, and help me dismiss the darkness I encounter with the light of Your truth.
Psalm 83:18 NIV
Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD–that you alone are the Most High over all the earth
The New Age Movement is very attractive to the natural man who has become disillusioned with organized religion and Western rationalism. He desires spiritual reality but doesn’t want to give up materialism, deal with his moral problems, or come under authority.
I’ve discovered six unifying factors in New Age thinking. We will consider three of them today and three tomorrow.
The first is monism –the belief that all is one and one is all. It says we all swim in one great cosmic ocean. History is not the story of humanity’s fall into sin and its restoration by God’s saving grace. Rather, it is humanity’s fall into ignorance and the gradual ascent into enlightenment.
Monism is a counterfeit to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17:21. That unity is possible only when we are united together in Christian fellowship.
Second, all is God . If all is one, including God, then one must conclude that all is God–trees, snails, books and people are all of one divine essence. A personal God is abandoned in favor of an impersonal energy force or consciousness, and if God is no longer personal, He doesn’t have to be served.
New Agers say, “When I was a little child, I believed in God. When I began to mature, I stopped believing in God. Then I grew up and realized that I was God.”
A third unifying factor refers to a change in consciousness . If we are God, we need to know we are God. We must become cosmically conscious, also called “at-one-ment” (a counterfeit of atonement), self-realization, god-realization, enlightenment, or attunement. Their faith has no object, neither does their meditation, so it becomes an inward journey. To us, the essential issue is not whether we believe or mediate, but who we believe in and what we meditate upon. We believe God and meditate upon His law day and night.
Prayer: Lord, I affirm that I am nothing, can do nothing, and will amount to nothing apart from You. You are the object of my faith and life today.
Bring them [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord
What are parents, Sunday school teachers, youth workers, and pastors to do in the face of Satan’s assault on the minds of our children? Let’s begin by stating what we can’t do.
First, we can’t bury our heads in the sand. This is not the time to respond in denial or claim that our Christian kids are immune to this kind of problem. Satan’s seductive activities are aimed at destroying the church at its point of greatest vulnerability: the family. The enemy is after Christian families in general and the families of Christian leaders in particular. Half of all my counseling regarding demonic influence has been with Christian leaders and their families.
Second, we can’t run in fear. Remember: Thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan is a defeated foe. The war against the seduction of our children is a winnable war. If we retreat instead of advance, we forfeit ground to the enemy that doesn’t belong to him. We must exert our authority in Jesus Christ and claim His victory in the lives of our children.
How can we do that?
First, we must become aware of the spiritual nature of the world we live in. Our children are growing up in a seductive world. Many of the things that surround them are subtly influenced by the New Age Movement, the occult, and Satanism.
Second, we need to understand how parents and parenting styles can either assist or block the resolution of a child’s spiritual conflicts. If a child comes from a dysfunctional home, it’s rather pointless to deal with his problem only to send him back into the home that caused the problem in the first place.
Third, we need definite strategies for protecting our children from spiritual assault and helping them resolve their spiritual conflicts. This is a winnable war, and it is a war we must win for the sake of our kids and the cause of Christ.
Prayer: Dear Father, keep me alert to spiritual opposition and bondage in my children, and equip me to assist them in appropriating Your freedom.
You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
Claire attended a church college ministry I was involved in several years ago. On a physical, material level, Claire had absolutely nothing going for her. She had a dumpy figure and a bad complexion. Her father was a drunken bum who had deserted his family. Her mother worked two menial jobs just to make ends meet. Her older brother, a drug addict, was always in and out of the house.
When I first met Claire I was sure she was the ultimate wallflower. I didn’t think there was any way she could compete for acceptance in a college-aged society which is attracted to physical beauty and material success. But to my delight, I learned that everybody in the group liked Claire and loved to be around her. She had lots of friends. And eventually she married the nicest guy in our college department.
What was her secret? Claire simply believed what she perceived herself to be: a child of God. She accepted herself for who God said she was in Christ, and she confidently committed herself to God’s great goal for her life: to be conformed to His image and to love people. She wasn’t a threat to anyone. Instead, she was so positive and caring toward others that everyone loved her.
Claire’s experiences illustrate the importance of establishing our Christian lives on what we believe instead of how we behave. She knew that she couldn’t compete with the world, so she gladly accepted her spiritual heritage, believed God, and lived accordingly. We need a firm grip on God’s Word before we will experience much success at practical Christianity. We need to understand who we are as a result of who God is and what He has done. A productive Christian behavior system is the byproduct of a solid Christian belief system, not the other way around.
Prayer: Thank You for the Claires in my world, Lord, who reflect Your beauty. Forgive me for focusing on myself instead of looking to You and seeking Your eternal qualities.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Paul warned us against the deception which comes through demonic influence (1 Timothy 4:1). John also cautioned us to test the spirits and to distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirit of error (1 John 4:1-6). Satan’s demonic forces are at work attempting to pollute your mind with lies in order to keep you from walking in the truth. Hannah Whitehall Smith wrote:
There are the voices of evil and deceiving spirits, who lie in wait to entrap every traveler entering these higher regions of spiritual life. . . . These spiritual enemies, whoever or whatever they may be, must necessarily communicate with us by means of our spiritual faculties, and their voices, as the voice of God, are an inward impression made upon our spirit. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit may tell us by impressions what the will of God is concerning us, so also will these spiritual enemies tell us by impression what is their will concerning us, though not, of course, giving it their name” (Quoted from Martin Wells Knapp, Impressions , Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishing, Inc., 1984, pp. 14-15).
Due to the deceptive nature of his impressions, Satan’s voice may not always be detected objectively. You need to pray in order to disassociate yourself from deceiving spirits.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I commit myself unreservedly to Your will. If I have been deceived in any way, I pray that You will open my eyes to the deception. I command in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that all deceiving spirits depart from me, and I renounce and reject all counterfeit gifts (or any other spiritual phenomena). Lord, if it is from You, bless it and cause it to grow that Your body may be blessed and edified through it.
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free
When I was a boy on the farm, my dad, my brother and I would visit our neighbor’s farm to share produce and labor. The neighbor had a yappy little dog that scared the socks off me. When it came barking around the corner, my dad and brother stood their ground, but I ran. Guess who the dog chased! I escaped to the top of our pickup truck while the little dog yapped at me from the ground.
Everyone except me could see that the little dog had no power over me except what I gave it. Furthermore, it had no inherent power to throw me up on the pickup; it was my belief that put me up there. That dog controlled me by using my mind, my emotions, my will, and my muscles, all of which were motivated by fear. Finally I gathered up my courage, jumped off the pickup, and kicked a small rock at the mutt. Lo and behold, it ran!
Satan is like that yappy little dog: deceiving people into fearing him more than God. His power is in the lie. He is the father of lies (John 8:44) who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and consequently the whole world is under the influence of the evil one (1 John 5:19). He can do nothing about your position in Christ, but if he can deceive you into believing his lies about you and God, you will spend a lot of time on top of the pickup truck! You don’t have to outshout him or outmuscle him to be free of his influence. You just have to outtruth him. Believe, declare, and act upon the truth of God’s Word, and you will thwart Satan’s strategy.
I have learned from the Scriptures and my experience that truth is the liberating agent. The power of Satan is in the lie, and the power of the believer is in knowing the truth. We are to pursue truth, not power.
Prayer: Father God, when Satan is badgering and confusing me, remind me that Your Holy Spirit within me is greater than all the evil around me.
2 Corinthians 11:14, 15
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness
Another common misconception of the spiritual world is that demonic influence is only evident in extreme or violent behavior and gross sin . Most Christians suffering from demonic activity lead relatively normal lives while experiencing serious personal and interpersonal problems for which no cause or solution has been found. Since they relegate satanic involvement only to mass murderers or violent sex criminals, these ordinary problem-plagued individuals wonder what’s wrong with them and why they can’t just “do better.”
Satan’s first and foremost strategy is deception. It is not the few raving demoniacs who are causing the church to be ineffective, but Satan’s subtle deception and intrusion into the lives of “normal” believers. One Christian psychotherapist who attended my conference on spiritual conflicts and counseling said, “I discovered that two-thirds of my clients were having problems because they were being deceived by Satan–and so was I!”
A final misconception that must be dispelled is that freedom from spiritual bondage is the result of a power encounter with demonic forces . Freedom from spiritual conflicts and bondage is not a power encounter; it’s a truth encounter. Satan is a deceiver, and he will work undercover at all costs. But the truth of God’s Word exposes him and his lie. His demons are like cockroaches that scurry for the shadows when the light comes on. Satan’s power is in the lie, and when his lie is exposed by the truth, his plans are foiled.
When God first disciplined the early church in Acts 5, He did so in a dramatic way. Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (verse 3). God wanted the church to know that Satan the deceiver can ruin us if he can get us to believe and live a lie. If I could infiltrate a church, a committee, or a person undetected, and deceive them into believing a lie, I could control their lives! That’s exactly what Satan is doing, and his lie is the focus of the battle.
Prayer: Lord, enable me to stay alert to the enemy’s wiles and arm myself with Your truth.
How can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man?
Another common misconception of the spiritual world is that some problems are psychological and some are spiritual. This misconception implies a division between the human soul and spirit, which does not exist. There is no inner conflict which is not psychological, because there is never a time when your mind, emotions and will are not involved. Similarly, there is no problem which is not spiritual. There is no time when God is not present or when it is safe for you to take off the armor of God. The tendency is to polarize into a deliverance ministry, ignoring the realities of the physical realm, or a psychotherapeutic ministry, ignoring the spiritual realm.
Dr. Paul Hiebert, a missions specialist, contends that, as long as believers accept a two-tier worldview with God confined to the supernatural and the natural world operating for all practical purposes according to autonomous scientific laws, Christianity will continue to be a secularizing force in the world. If your worldview does not recognize the activity of the god of this world in human problems, it is at best incomplete and at worst a distortion of reality.
Another misconception is that Christian aren’t subject to demon activity . The prevailing belief among evangelicals today is that Christians cannot be severely oppressed by demons. Even the suggestion that demonic influence can be part of the problem often prompts the hasty disclaimer, “Impossible! I’m a Christian!”
Nothing has done greater damage to diagnosing spiritual problems than this untruth. If Satan can’t touch the church, why are we instructed to put on the armor of God, to resist the devil, to stand firm, and to be alert? If we aren’t susceptible to being wounded or trapped by Satan, why does Paul describe our relationship to the powers of darkness as a wrestling match? Those who deny the enemy’s potential for destruction are the most vulnerable to it.
Prayer: Father, I don’t want to be ignorant in matters of the spiritual world. Remove all blinders from my eyes so I may see clearly and share the truth with others.
1 Peter 5:8
Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour
Here’s another common misconception about the spiritual world that must be dispelled: What the early church called demonic activity we now understand to be mental illness. One counselor argued, “There is no way his problem can be demonic; he’s a paranoid schizophrenic.” Simply accepting secular psychology’s definition of a human problem in no way establishes the actual cause of the problem. Terms such as schizophrenia, paranoia, psychosis, etc. are merely labels classifying symptoms.
But what or who is causing the symptoms? Is it a neurological or hormonal problem, or perhaps a chemical imbalance? Certainly these options must be explored. But what if no physical cause is found? Then it must be a psychological problem. But which school of psychology do you choose: biblical or secular? Why not explore the possibility that the problem may be spiritual?
We should not be surprised that secular psychologists, limited to a natural worldview, supply only natural explanations for mental problems. They offer their explanation from a viewpoint with no concept of God, much less the demonic. Even many Christians who vociferously reject the scientific community’s explanation for the origin of the species naively accept the secular psychologist’s explanation of mental illness. Research based on the scientific method of investigation of human spiritual problems is not wrong; it’s just incomplete. It ignores the reality of the spiritual world because neither God nor the devil submit to our methods of investigation.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is.” Science is inadequate to explain matters of faith. We must trust God’s Word to explain the reality of the spiritual world.
Prayer: I praise You, Father, that I don’t have to accept fallible man’s knowledge as the last word on life. I know Your Word stands above all human reasoning and will remain forever in heaven.