Creating a Clean Heart
As we have discussed, in Scripture “the flesh” is a metaphor for the
carnal nature of fallen man which is in opposition to the Spirit of God. The
attributes of this carnal nature are listed in Galatians 5:17-21:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality,
impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger,
disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I
forewarn you just as I have forewarned you thatthose who practice such
things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is so crucial that this base nature be overcome by Christians, that
we are told in the last verse above that we will not inherit the kingdom of
God as long as we practice these things. The removal of that nature is
referred to as our spiritual circumcision, which is the circumcision of our
heart, as we read in Romans 2:27-29 last week. So we want to take the time
to look at each of these works of the flesh, and how they are to be cut out
of our life. After that we will examine how they are replaced by the fruit
of the Spirit, which is the Christlike nature. That is our goal, not to just
rid ourselves of the evil, but to fill our hearts with God.
The first work of the flesh that is listed is “immorality.” This
includes fornication, which is having sex outside of marriage, and adultery,
which is having sex with someone other than your spouse. It also includes
homosexual sex, which the Bible calls not only a sin, but a perversion and
an abomination. These are sins; they are forbidden, and under no
circumstances are acceptable behavior for a Christian.
Does this mean that anyone who has ever fallen to one of these cannot
inherit the kingdom of God? No. There is grace for those who stumble and the
forgiveness of sin if we repent and seek the forgiveness of God through His
atonement. However, it is a different story for those who “practice” these
things. That implies the continual, repeated sin that is not repented of.
A second question would be whether a Christian who falls into repeated
affairs or a lengthy affair cannot be saved because they have practiced
these things. This is a good question and one that is certainly worthy of
examination. It is addressed in a number of Scriptures, but we will look at
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have
tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put
Him to open shame.
There is obviously a line that can be crossed where it becomes
impossible to renew one again to repentance. This also implies that if
someone can still repent, they must not have crossed that line.
The key is if they can still repent. Repentance is more than just
feeling sorry for having committed the sin, and is more than asking
forgiveness-it means to renounce the sin and turn away from it, resolving
not to do it again. So if someone can still repent, they can be forgiven and
they can still inherit the kingdom of God.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another day after day, as long
as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the
deceitfulness of sin.”
Sin does harden the heart toward repentance or makes it harder to
repent. Sin is also deceitful, and those who practice it often become so
deceived that they no longer see it as sin, and therefore cannot repent of
it. I have witnessed this process with far too many, even with those who had
an extraordinary anointing and have been mightily used by God. In fact, it
seems that the more anointed you are when you fall into sin, the faster the
hardening takes place and the deeper the deception is.
I know one such very anointed man of God who engaged in lengthy
homosexual relationships lasting for years. When it was exposed, the depth
of his hardness of heart and the level of deception was astonishing. Every
conceivable homosexual act was performed repeatedly, but because he was only
involved with one partner at a time he became enraged when it was even
implied that he was a homosexual! He had begun to call the sinful acts
“fellowship” and ways that he was helping his partners “to get free of their
homophobia.” Could he really believe anything that foolish? It seems that he
Though this man finally admitted to everything when confronted with
the evidence, there is a difference between admitting something and
repenting of it. This was a man that was known all over the world for the
powerful spiritual gifts that operated through him, and his knowledge of the
ways of the Spirit. However, when this sin was exposed I have personally
never witnessed more irrational thinking than what came out of this man. We
must never underestimate the power of sin to deceive. The greater we think
we are in the Lord and the more pride we have in that, the more vulnerable
we can be and the further we can fall when we do.
I am convinced that the church today has some of the greatest leaders
that it has had since the first century. There are great problems in the
church today, but there are also many more reasons for great hope. I have
had to deal with some very ugly things in the church, and in some leaders,
but this has by no means shaken my faith in their ultimately becoming a
bride without spot or wrinkle. As we do have to take a few weeks to examine
the works of the flesh and what practicing them can lead to, keep in mind
that we are going to get to the fruit of the Spirit, and the great things
that are right now going on in the church.
We must also keep in mind Galatians 6:1,”Brethren, even if a man is
caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a
spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be
tempted.” “Any trespass” covers a lot. We must also have as our goal the
restoration of any one who falls into any sin. As stated above, there
obviously is a line that can be crossed when it becomes impossible for one
to repent. However, it is my opinion that only the Lord knows when this has
been done. Therefore, regardless of how deep the darkness is that one falls
into, it is my resolve to hope and pray for their repentance and do anything
I can to help them as the Lord gives me the grace. I have learned repeatedly
that His grace and mercy reaches much further than my own.
So that we can understand just how deceptive sin can be, I will share
some of my own experiences. I once happened upon a whole movement that is
very large and seems to be helping a lot of people, especially the poor and
oppressed. However, the leaders believe that the more anointed you are the
more concubines you need, which they claim is why King David and Solomon
needed so many.
Of course, this group claimed that only “the mature” could understand
this kind of “revelation” so it was not taught openly. The level of
immorality and perversion in this movement would rival any cult. Deception
has so seeped into their other teachings and practices that they may in fact
now be a cult, renouncing or perverting the very basic doctrines of the
faith. I felt that this whole perversion began with the leader falling into
an affair, but instead of repenting, he tried to justify it. Again, sin is
deceitful, and if you practice it you will be deceived.
I know a number of professional athletes who had to quit going to
church because of pastors hitting on their wives. What are those shepherds
going to say to the Lord on the judgment day for having done this to His
I am sharing these things here because they are common enough that
many innocent souls in pursuit of the Lord do sometimes happen upon this
kind of foolishness in a church or movement. If you do, flee! When weird
practices start to manifest in a group, leave as fast as you can. Such will
almost always try to bind you to them with a control spirit, guilt, and
fears that you will miss the will of God for your life, that you are
“touching the anointed,” or other yokes of bondage. Do not listen to them,
do not fear them, and do not let them control you-leave as fast as you can.
Do not stay to try to help others. It is very unlikely that you will be able
to help anyone by staying, but will be putting yourself and your family in
Again, these are extreme examples that I have seen with those who I do
think had extraordinary anointing from the Lord. So when sin entered, it led
to an even deeper and extraordinary deception and perversion. I can
understand why, seeing this, some would determine to not want to be in
leadership or grow in their anointing. This is not the answer because then
the devil has already won. The answer is to heed the warning of I
Corinthians 10:12: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he
If we ever start to think that we are so wise and strong in the Lord
that we cannot fall, then a fall is inevitable. Pride caused the devil to
fall in the first place and it is at the root of almost every fall since.
There seems to be a pride that many who are used with a great anointing
sometimes get, thereby thinking they are somehow special and can get away
with such things because of the way God has used them. This is a terrible
presumption that the Lord Jesus Himself addressed in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom
of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy
in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me,
you who practice lawlessness.'”
Lawlessness is the result of rationalizing away the clear Word of God.
It is the tendency to bend the rules in order to get way with something.
That tendency is also called “craftiness” in Scripture and was the very
first attribute given to describe the devil in the Garden. Once you start
down the path of bending the rules, you have opened the door very wide to
Satan, and he will come through it.
I have been told by Christian leaders that when I preach these things
a great fear comes upon them. I hope it does. I hope that it has come upon
all who read this, for your sake. We need a good, healthy dose of the fear
of the Lord. As we are told in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the
beginning of wisdom.” We are told in Proverbs 8:13,”The fear of the LORD is
to hate evil, pride and arrogance and the evil way.” “The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom,” and those who stay on the path of life never
lose it. However, it is not the highest form of wisdom-love is.
We should fear the consequences of sin, understanding that God’s
judgment is going to come upon the world for these things. However, we
should hate sin even more because of what it does to the One we love-and
what sin did to Him on the cross, which He bore for our redemption. How
could anyone who has truly beheld the cross not hate that which caused our
King so much pain?
Please again read the following Scriptures, and please carefully read
all Scripture quotations. The Scriptures are the Word of God and are far
more powerful for changing us than anything I could write. If any of these
verses especially speak to you about a stronghold in your life, write them
down on three by five cards and read them as often as you need to in order
to combat the temptations in your life. It is the truth of His Word that
sets us free!
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free
from the law of sin and of death.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God
did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering
for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the
things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things
of the Spirit.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the
Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does
not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and
those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the
Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of
Christ, he does not belong to Him.
And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in
you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your
mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Romans 8:2-11).
Trust me, we will get to some more encouraging and edifying principles
of how our hearts are purified and changed, but it is necessary for us to
understand sin and that it is the path to death. If you want to live, turn
from sin, and to the One Who alone is Life. He will give us His own Holy
Spirit so that we can live free from the yoke of sin, and live in
righteousness, holiness, and the truth.
Last week we began a more in-depth look at Galatians 5:18-21,starting with
the first work of the flesh that is listed there, “immorality.” This week we
will look at the next two, which are “impurity” and “sensuality.” Impurity
is the lustful gratification of our own flesh through such things as
pornography, fantasizing, masturbation, etc. Sensuality is the tendency to
try to be sexually attractive to someone other than our spouse, causing us
to, in the very least, become stumbling blocks to others.
One can be attractive without being sensual. There is a dignity and honor
with which the sons and daughters of the King of kings should behave. The
apostle Paul stated it powerfully in I Thessalonians 4:3-8:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you
abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.
For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in
Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who
gives His Holy Spirit to you.
There are some foolish souls who believe that because they have never
committed an actual act of immorality that they are living a holy life, when
in fact they are addicted to pornography or practicing other impure or
sensual behavior. This is a deception that can also lead to the hardness of
heart and kinds of deception that we discussed last week.
First, we need to understand that sex was created by God as a special gift
to mankind, as a wonderful way for a man and woman to bond and express their
love for each other when in a committed marriage relationship. It should not
be a taboo subject in the church, but if it were taught rightly, with the
dignity and honor that it deserves, the devil would not have the opportunity
that he does to pervert it.
Sex in marriage edifies. Sex outside of marriage destroys. It is that
simple. Sex outside of marriage may briefly gratify one physically, but
there will be inevitable emotional and spiritual damage done, every time.
You may not think it does, but the thief is using it to pervert your soul
and move you further from the most fulfilling relationship that you could
have ever had on the earth, which God has planned for you.
Likewise, impurity and sensuality do damage our souls by setting us on a
course of being led by lust rather than love. Lust and love are in
opposition to each other. Lust is motivated by self-centeredness, and love
is motivated by care for others. To the degree that lust is able to grip our
lives, we will be in opposition to the Spirit of God, who is Love. Impurity
and sensuality are the primary ways that lust gains an entrance into our
lives and is a primary way that will be used to keep us from growing up into
Christ. As we are told in Romans 6:19:
For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to
lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members
as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
As this verse illuminates, impurity is one of the primary open doors to
lawlessness, which will be one of the greatest evils to come upon the world
at the end of this age. If we start compromising with our own bodies, which
are temples of the Holy Spirit, then we will soon start compromising the
clear truth of the Word of God. We will then be led more by self-will than
by the Spirit. As the apostle also wrote in Romans 6:1-11:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
have been baptized into His death?
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in
order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death,
certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection,
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of
sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with
Him knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die
again; death no longer is master over Him.
For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life
that He lives, He lives to God.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ
Being free from the sins of impurity and sensuality are the result of our
loving God more than the desires of our flesh. If we will take them to the
cross, they will be resurrected into something far more fulfilling than
anything our lusts could ever produce-a relationship where we can become one
in body, soul, and spirit. The Lord wants to give us life and give it far
more abundantly than we can even imagine. That is why recent studies have
shown consistently that Christians tend to have far better sex lives than
non-Christians. The Christians who do not have fulfilling sex lives are
almost always the ones who have slipped into some form of seeking sexual
gratification in an illegal way.
Lust can never really satisfy us, but rather will always keep us seeking
satisfaction without any possibility of ever really getting it. Love alone
can lead to our true satisfaction. Love is what the Lord wants for us, which
is the guiding motivation of our life. This is first a love for Him by which
we would never want to do anything that is displeasing to Him, and then such
a love for others that we would never want to use anyone selfishly in any
With the overwhelming onslaught of sensuality in the West, it will take a
supreme devotion to keep pure in this environment. I believe this may be one
reason why the Lord gave His greatest promises to the overcomers of the
church at Laodicea, the last church that He addressed, and which in many
ways was a prophecy to the last day church. Our love for the Lord and our
love for others will have to grow correspondingly if we are going to assault
the lust, impurity, and sensuality in our times. It will be possibly the
greatest battle, but perhaps it is also the greatest opportunity.
In all things remember this-love is the answer. This is not just a cliché.
As we will study in a few weeks, the answer to overcoming evil is being
filled with the Spirit and growing in the fruit of the Spirit. For now we
must resolve to never rationalize the clear Word of God. We must call sin
what it is-sin. It is not justifiable under any circumstances. It will lead
to death in all circumstances. Life is found by loving God and loving one
As we have been taking a more in-depth look at the works of the flesh listed
in Galatians 5:18-21, covering immorality, impurity, and sensuality, we will
continue this week with the next in the list-idolatry.
We may think that no one worships idols anymore, but in fact it is very
widespread in every nation and culture, including all of the nations of the
West, and even among Christians. How could any Christian ever fall to
worshiping idols? This is one of the most important questions we can ask as
this is one of the most subtle and devastating sins of the heart that can
befall many Christians.
An idol is not just an inanimate object that one bows down to and
worships-it is anything that we put our trust or our affections in above
God. This can include our money, jobs, education, country, spouse, children,
sports, pastor, favorite teacher, favorite author, or just about anything.
It is no accident that famous athletes and entertainers are often called
“idols,” as many people’s affection for them and devotion to them can easily
eclipse their affection and devotion for God.
Idolatry comes in many forms. Of course, probably the most common idols in
the West are wealth or material possessions, which the book of Revelation
explains will be one of the ultimate idols in the last days. That is why the
mark of the beast is an economic mark, determining if we can buy, sell, or
trade. It is imperative for Christians to have sound teaching and a strong
foundation in how they handle their money and possessions.
However, some of the most deceptive and devastating forms of idolatry that
have gained a widespread following in the church are the worship of the
things of God in place of God. There are many Christians who worship the
church more than God. There are many who worship the Bible, prayer, the
gifts of the Spirit, etc. more than they worship God.
It is common for those who are in “the ministry” to let the ministry become
the focus of their devotion over their personal relationship to the Lord.
This has happened to me frequently and was the reason why I left the
ministry for seven years-I felt that my personal relationship to God had
become increasingly shallow. I also felt that I had to get my relationship
to God back or I would ultimately be a failure regardless of how many people
I “led to the Lord,” who in fact were being led more to me.
Even ministry for God becomes an idol when it becomes our main devotion
instead of the means to God that it is meant to be. For this reason, I have
heard some preachers say that we should seek the Giver and not the gifts.
This may sound wise, but is in fact contradictory to the Scripture which
tells us to seek the gifts. Such an overreaction can actually lead to even
worse transgressions. As the Lord Jesus Himself made clear to us, if we do
not seek to know and use the gifts that He has given to us, we are guilty of
burying the talents, which are the ones He called, “wicked, lazy slaves!”
Again, there is a ditch on either side of the path of life. Those who are
prone to overreact to extremes will inevitably fall to the opposite extreme.
It is wisdom to seek the Giver more than the gifts, but it is not only
wisdom, it is obedience to His Word to seek the gifts as well. Those who
understand spiritual gifts come to understand that seeking the gifts is in
fact one way that we seek God Himself. The gifts of the Spirit are God
Himself working through us.
The wise seek everything that they can receive from God, but they seek God
Himself even more. Those who foolishly think that they will not seek
anything from God, but just trust Him to give them what He wants them to
have, have a very flawed understanding of His ways. He only gives to those
who care enough to ask. Some do not want to seek the gifts or other benefits
from God until they feel like they deserve it. That is the root of a
religious spirit, not the Spirit of God. We can never deserve anything from
God, and we would never receive anything from Him, including our salvation,
if we had to wait until we deserved it. Those who hold to such unbiblical
teachings or practices inevitably become bound and deceived by a religious
spirit that they serve in place of God.
We should settle it now that we will never be wise enough, mature enough, or
righteous enough to deserve anything from God, but that we are going to
pursue everything He will give to us! We do not want to be like the elder
brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son who had access to all that his
father had, but did not use it, and because of this became jealous of his
brother who did. Such is a root of jealousy, and jealousy is one of the most
deadly sins. We are told that envy was the reason why Jesus was crucified.
We are coming to the Lord as foolish and unrighteous as the prodigal son,
and we do not deserve to even be a slave in His house, but we would be
foolish to turn down a single thing God wants to give us, including the full
inheritance as a son.
However, we do not want to come to Him presumptuously either. Some think
that they can claim or demand their inheritance, which the Word is also
clear is a tragic mistake. Again, there is a ditch on either side of the
path of life. We come to Him as sons and daughters, but also with humility,
having the utmost respect for our Father, but also knowing how undeserving
we are, just as the prodigal was. We should also come asking Him to give us
the wisdom to handle His gifts and resources rightly, realizing that we are
not wise or righteous enough for any of this without Him.
We also must pursue Him more than anything He can give us. Erskine Holt, who
recently passed away after more than half century of traveling and
ministering, and who I consider possibly the first true apostle I ever met,
once told me a story that I will never forget. He had just returned home
from an extensive trip and had spent almost a whole day seeking a perfect
gift for his wife. When he walked in he gave it to her and could not wait
for her to open it. She looked at the package and threw it in the trash
saying, “I don’t want a gift-I want you!”
Of course that meant more to him than her joy in any gift that he could have
ever given her. I asked him the same question you may be thinking, and yes,
she did later dig the gift out of the trash. Gifts are good too, but they
must never become greater than our love for God or His people.
Anything that we have affection for or trust in can begin to eclipse God in
our affections and trust. However, the way to avoid idolatry is not to love
these less, but to love God more. It is also wrong to not put some trust in
other people, but we must always trust in God more. If we love God more than
we love others, we will love them more than we would otherwise. If we trust
God more than we trust anyone or anything else, we are free to trust others
far more than we would otherwise.
The things that we love and have a hope or trust in are usually gifts from
God that He wants us to appreciate and love. As we are told in Psalm 37:4-5:
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your
heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.”
The Lord loves to give good gifts to His children. He loves to see their
delight in the gifts. He just does not want the gifts to eclipse our love
for Him and delight in Him.
Mike Bickle has been one of my favorite preachers and people since I first
met him back in 1988. I think few people have a passion for the Lord like
Mike does. He lives for prayer and may have logged more time in prayer rooms
than anyone else alive today. However, when he started the prayer movement
called the International House of Prayer (IHOP), he had the wisdom to call
it “the harp and bowl” ministry, combining worship and intercession. All
prayer that is just intercession without the affection of worship can become
a dead form very easily and can itself become an idol. It is a good thing to
see this model of prayer and worship combined sweeping across the worldwide
body of Christ.
The point of these teachings is not just so we learn some things, but so we
will be changed by them, becoming vessels fit for the Master’s use. We are
examining these works of the flesh so we can repent of any way that they may
have a grip on our lives. The answer to sexual lust is not to give up sex,
but to develop a healthy sex life with your spouse, or if you do not have a
spouse, as the Scripture implores, get one! (see I Corinthians 7:9)
The answer to idolatry is not to give up having affection for anyone or
anything else, but to love God more. He is more interesting, wonderful,
attractive, compelling, and desirable than anything or anyone else. Let us
not keep depriving ourselves by not taking full advantage of the
relationship that we can have with Him. Your day or your life will only be
successful to the degree that you have walked with Him. We might measure the
success of our life by how we have loved God in it.
This may seem like quite a diversion from our study of end time
prophecies to be doing such an extensive study of the works of the flesh
listed in Galatians 5:18-21.However, this understanding is essential if we
are going to be prepared for the end times, or for today. It is far more
important to be abiding in the Lord than just understanding what is going to
happen in these times. It is only by abiding in Him so that we see with His
eyes, hear with His ears, and begin to understand with His heart, that we
can see and understand anything correctly, including biblical prophecies.
The next work of the flesh that is listed in this text in Galatians is
“sorcery” or “witchcraft” (KJV). Certainly no true Christian would ever
become involved in witchcraft, but the truth is that most are, even if
unknowingly. How can this be?
First, we often think of witchcraft in its extreme forms of black
magic and devil worshipers. But, like many of the works of evil, there is
often subtle, seemingly harmless, or even benevolent forms of them that
entrap those who really do not mean to bring harm to anyone. They may even
have good intentions, but are in fact using a form of witchcraft
So we need to begin by defining just what witchcraft is. Such
spiritual definitions will seldom be found in any dictionary, but we need to
consider them from what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:12-16:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit
who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God,
which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but
in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God;
for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they
are spiritually appraised.
But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is
appraised by no man.
For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ.
For this reason I sought a definition of witchcraft that was a work of
the flesh many years ago. However, when Paul says here that “we have the
mind of Christ” (not that he did personally), he was referring to something
we should have corporately. Therefore, I always look for others to have
parts of a definition that I do not have. This also means that what I am
about to share with you may be incomplete, but I think that it is accurate.
Witchcraft is counterfeit spiritual authority. It is using any spirit
other than the Holy Spirit to manipulate or control others with. This can be
done to accomplish our own purpose, or even a noble purpose, and even
something we feel called to do for the Lord. We may wonder how someone would
try to use witchcraft or soul power to accomplish the works of God, but many
try, which has caused some of the worst spiritual disasters in church
history right up to the present. A noble purpose does not justify evil
means. Tacking the Lord’s name onto a project does not mean that the Lord is
The Lord, being the King of kings, above all rule, authority, power,
and dominion, moves with a certain dignity and class in all that He does
that is far above such things as trying to manipulate others, or use a
dominating form of control. So are those who move by His Spirit in true
As stated, it is not only possible, but common for people to try to
accomplish the purposes of God using what is in fact counterfeit spiritual
authority or witchcraft. They manipulate people into giving to their cause,
or use a form of control spirit to keep them committed and to get the job
done. These are houses that we may claim are being built for the Lord, but
He will not bless them with His manifest presence. This is like King David
trying to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem on a new ox cart. Oxen speak of
natural strength in Scripture, and we often think we can bring God to our
place in our own strength. David paid the price for this foolishness, and so
do many well-meaning, but misled, Christians.
My daughter and I recently stopped in some used car lots to find her
something to drive at college. Two of them were a joy to visit and the
salespeople delightful. They wanted to sell us a car, but we did not feel
any pressure at all. The third car dealer we visited was the opposite. I do
not remember ever being subjected to such base manipulation in any potential
business transaction. As we left, my daughter said she felt “slimed.” The
whole experience was similar to what I think it would be like to get your
hand caught in a meat grinder. I resolved to never step foot on their
property again and would certainly never buy a car from them. You could feel
hype and manipulation throughout that business. Sadly, it reminded me of
some churches I have been in. The salesmen felt like some preachers I have
I am not trying to be negative toward the church, because, like the
previous two car dealers we went to, most are not like the third one.
However, the reason that the third car dealer can stay in business and the
reason that churches which are like it stay open, is because of a great
number of people who allow themselves to be manipulated and controlled. As
Paul the apostle lamented in II Corinthians 11:20:
For you bear with anyone if he enslaves you, if he devours you, if
he takes advantage of you, if he exalts himself, if he hits you in the face.
The Corinthian church is still thought of as “the carnal church,” and
the above is probably how such forms of base carnality, or works of the
flesh, manifested themselves in this church. They were probably the result
of the kind of authority they responded to-carnal people respond to carnal
Now we can continue to reproach the Corinthian church in our hearts
and teachings, but it is likely that if they existed today they would be the
most spiritual church on the planet in spite of their many flaws. Because
most people do in fact live in a place of basic carnality, including most
Christians as recent studies have proven, car dealers and churches like I
briefly described above not only continue in business, but actually thrive.
However, one thing we can count on, many temporary successes will prove to
be ultimate failures, as we are told inI Corinthians 3:10-13:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise
master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let
each man be careful how he builds upon it.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it,
because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the
quality of each man’s work.
Works or accomplishments that are the fruit of the works of the flesh
or carnal strength will have to be maintained by the flesh. The bigger such
works become, the more striving that will be required to maintain them, and
so the manipulation and control grows, until the leaders and the people
break under the pressure. This is where you find the long train through
history of devastated works and people who were supposed to be doing the
work of the Lord.
In politics, business, and sometimes even in family relations, these
forms of manipulation and control can seem to be almost the fabric upon
which all human relations are built. This is true to a large degree in this
age. It will not be true of the kingdom, or those works that really are
being built by the King.
I have dealt with this form of witchcraft very superficially, as we
have in fact dealt with the other works of the flesh superficially as well.
We cannot go but so deep in a short format such as this. However, I do want
to touch on one more increasingly popular form of witchcraft-that is the use
The words “sorcery” and “witchcraft” both mean to call on or conjure
other spirits, which God’s people have always been strictly forbidden to do.
We cannot serve the Lord and demons. It is noteworthy that the Greek word
translated “sorcery,” and “witchcraft” in the New Testament is pharmakeia,
from which we derive our English word “pharmacy.”
There is a reason why a large part of black magic involves making
concoctions that supposedly empower those who take them with supernatural
powers. It works. Does this mean that taking drugs can open us up to demons?
We need to distinguish between those that are meant to provide healing to
our bodies and those that are for the purpose of altering our consciousness.
However, if we are purposely taking mind altering drugs, we can open
ourselves to demonic oppression. Continued practice can lead to increasing
oppression that leads to demonic possession to the degree that we no longer
have control over ourselves, but the devil does.
Of course this study could itself be a book, and deserves far more
attention than we can give to it here. There is a co-relation between the
increasing debauchery of our times and the increasing use of illegal drugs.
This is a gate of hell through which the devil is pouring through. Do not
open this gate to him in your own life.
Let us also resolve that we do not want one thing in our life that God
does not want us to have. Therefore, we will pursue what we are to have, and
the works that we are to do by His Spirit, which is always recognized by the
fruit of the Spirit.
This week we continue our study of the works of the flesh with “enmities.”
The Greek word that is translated here is thumos, which is sometimes
translated “fierceness indignation, wrath, hostility, or hatred.” In my
search of the Scriptures I have only found two things that are legal for us
to hate-sin and unrighteousness. To hate anything or anyone else actually
opens the door for evil to prevail, not righteousness.
Does this mean that we should not hate the devil? Does God hate the devil?
Would He tell us to love our enemies and then hate His? The Lord hates the
devil’s works, and He hates man’s evil works, the sin and unrighteousness,
but He does not hate the devil, and He does not hate even the most evil men.
In fact, the Scriptures are clear that He loves all men and desires for them
to be saved. Will they be cast into the lake of fire? Yes. However, they
will not be cast into it out of hatred, but because He has to do that which
will forever purge evil and unrighteousness from His creation.
My point is that we must also rise above taking offenses against us
personally. As we are told in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not
against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against
the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of
wickedness in the heavenly places.” When people wrong us or do evil things,
we must rise above taking it as a personal offense and know that there is
something much bigger behind it. Anger or hatred will blind us to the truth,
or what is truly happening. If we are going to see anything accurately, we
must see through the eyes of the Spirit, and that means we will see through
the fruit of the Spirit.
Now we may think that our victory is to cast down those principalities and
any evil thing that is causing people to do evil to one another. Ultimately,
that is true, but the immediate victory may have more to do with us
personally. The Lord is not doing this evil thing to us, but He is allowing
it. The reason why He allows any bad thing to happen to His people is for
the sake of conforming us to the image of His Son. Our victory in the
situation will come when we love that person, or people, in spite of any
wrong done to us. This is not permitting evil, but as we are instructed in
Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
We are also told that Satan will not cast out Satan. This means that hatred
or retaliation will not resolve the first wrong committed. In fact, when we
respond in the wrong spirit it actually multiplies the evil in the situation
and gives the devil even more power over it. As the Lord Himself explained
in Matthew 12:28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the
kingdom of God has come upon you.”
There is no room in a Christian for enmity or hatred of another person
regardless of what they have done. Does this mean that we should have
compassion on the devil? No. Neither does it mean that we should have
compassion on those who are doing evil, but it may. There is a difference
between love and compassion, though true compassion is always rooted in
love. I do not want to over-complicate this issue, but there are options in
how we respond to them. However, it is never an option to let hatred or
enmity get a place in our lives.
There are times when we must turn the other cheek to evil, and there are
times when it is biblically right to seek to recover damages from those who
have wrongly attacked us. However, when this is the right path we must still
do it in the right spirit, not out of retaliation, but for the sake of such
things as being a good steward of what has been entrusted to us, or even to
help wake up the person who is doing evil.
Does this mean that Christians should be free to sue those who have wronged
them? Yes. There are times when it is right to do this. It is essentially
what Paul the apostle did when he appealed to Caesar. He was suing the
nation of Israel for wrongly accusing and attacking him. However, he was not
doing this to retaliate against Israel. As he wrote to the Romans before
arriving there for his trial, he said that he loved the Jews so much he
would even give up his own salvation if it would result in them being saved.
He was actually suing them because he loved them and he wanted the truth to
come out about what they were doing, or he simply did not feel that in this
situation he should give into the injustice.
Again, there is a ditch on either side of the path of life. We are not to
hate anyone, because we do not want hatred to get any grip on us, but that
does not mean we cannot defend ourselves when wronged. As stated, we just
have to do it in the right spirit, when we are allowed to do it. Paul, and
the other apostles, often defended themselves against others who wrongly
accused them. However, it does seem that they were only doing this for the
sake of those who were being deceived by the accusers, not out of
self-preservation. There is a difference.
We need to also recognize the times that the Lord does not want us to defend
ourselves, but rather to turn the other cheek, etc. Sometimes this is
because He wants to defend us, which is always much better. Sometimes He
just wants the situation to work a deeper character change in us, maybe
dealing with our pride. In these cases He may not defend us, which will seem
like allowing evil and injustice to prevail, but He has a higher purpose,
which can include such things as making us more humble so that He can
entrust us with more grace or authority. Regardless of whether the Lord
chooses to defend us or not, in every case He wants us to abide in His
Spirit, which means “love, peace, patience…”
Any person, including Christians, who give themselves to bitterness or
resentment, will end up doing much evil and hurting many people. We must
learn to recognize that every chance we have to become resentful is also a
chance to grow in the nature of Christ, who did not become resentful of even
the ones who nailed Him to the cross, but actually suffered all that He did
for their sake. If we are going to become like Him, which is the basic
calling of every Christian, we must learn to take up our crosses every day,
resolving to also lay down our own lives, our own rights, and maybe our own
reputations, for the sake of even those who are attacking us.
I was recently asked “to discern” some statements by a man who was upset by
a conference in Kansas City that some friends of mine had hosted, and had
therefore “left the prophetic movement” (whatever that means). The
statements that I was shown were so full of enmity that I was shocked any
Christian could not discern the source of them. The truth is not many
Christians have discernment in such things. However, there is one biblical
measure of discernment that is very clear in James 3:13-18:
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior
his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not
be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly,
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle,
reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who
With just a little investigation into the man who wrote with such enmity
against the conference in Kansas City, its hosts, and then the whole
prophetic movement, was that he had sought to be recognized and given a
platform at the conference in order to steer it in the direction he thought
it should go. He was so pushy and full of the wrong spirit that they refused
to give him any platform, and he got offended. I was not there, but this was
the report I received from everyone who was there, and it sure sounds like
selfish ambition, jealousy, and as is clearly stated above, is not the
wisdom that comes down from above, but below.
If this man has in fact removed himself from any association with the
prophetic, I think we should be thankful, at least until he repents and
humbles himself. We cannot allow people like that to hijack our conferences,
our churches, or our movements. When this happens, like it did with the
abortion movement, it will end up in defeat.
I concur that abortion is one of the greatest evils of our time, and
probably reflects the greatest depravity to which the human soul can fall.
Even the beasts will sacrifice their own lives to protect their young; for
us to slay our young when they are in the most helpless state is possibly
the greatest reflection of how low mankind has actually fallen. However,
when I see Christians raging with obvious hatred against young women who are
going to have an abortion, or those who perform them, I know that we are
going to lose that battle. If we are going to cast out that spirit we must,
as the Lord said, do it by the Spirit of God. Hatred or rage are not listed
in the fruits of the Spirit, and will never be a part of what He does. I
personally feel that the church in America could have already won the war
against abortion if so many of the leaders of the anti-abortion movement had
not been so full of enmity, but had rather resolved to not return evil for
evil, but to overcome evil with good with the right Spirit.
The same is true in the battle against homosexuality. The homosexuals who
are demanding total tolerance from everyone else seem to be by far the most
intolerant of any group. When confronted, I have never witnessed more rage
and more cruelty than what has come out of homosexual activists, except
maybe what comes out of Christians who start giving into enmity and
responding in the same spirit. The evil is multiplied in both, and the
consequences will not favor the kingdom of God in that case.
We will never be able to cast out that spirit by our rage and intolerance.
This does not mean that we compromise with what the Bible clearly states is
a sin, and even calls a perversion and an abomination. I do not intend to
ever compromise that, but I have and will continue to apologize to
homosexuals for the way some Christians have treated them. I will always try
to treat even the most extreme homosexual activists with dignity and
respect, as I will every other human being that was made in the image of
God. I do not intend to compromise my convictions about the sin, and the
desperate need of the sinner for the salvation of the cross, but I have
likewise resolved to love even those who are gripped in the worst
As we are told in James 1:19-20, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to
speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the
righteousness of God.” Do not let enmity have any place in your life. When
it tries to get a grip on you today, which it surely will because the Lord
will honor us with the opportunity to take up our cross, and “overcome evil
with good” (Romans 12:21).