Derek finishes this week’s study by looking at how witchcraft can gain control within the church through legalism and the works of the flesh. When this happens, we find we are no longer trusting in the supernatural grace and power of God. Instead, we are trusting what we can do in our own strength.
The final result is stated in verse 10.
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.”
In other words, Paul says, “If you are going back to achieve righteousness by keeping the law, remember, you have got to keep the whole law all the time or you are under a curse, because when Israel came into the land of Canaan, one of the first things they had to do was to pronounce a curse upon themselves if they did not keep the whole law all the time.” See, keeping a little bit of the law some of the time does not do you any good. If you are going to be justified by keeping the law, you have to keep the whole law all the time. And none of us, in God’s sight, can ever be justified by the works of the law. It is a deception of Satan. It is a deception that appeals primarily to human pride. As Paul says, Abraham, if he had been justified by works, would have had something to boast of. But not before God, because it says, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” You see, basically all of us would like to have something to boast of. In some way or other we would like to be a little more righteous than our neighbor. And if we have a set of rules that we are keeping, somehow we can convince ourselves that makes us righteous.
When I was in the British army years ago and came to know the Lord, I became a witness for the Lord and because I lived a life that was so different from my fellow soldiers, lots of them would come up and talk to me and I would tell them, “No, I did not get religious, I got saved.” And then I would tell them about salvation. You know, the first reaction of almost everyone was that they’d start to give me a little list of the rules they kept. And each one had a list tailored to his own particular life, you understand. In other words, the first reaction of man confronted with God’s demand for righteousness is, “I’ll keep a law.” I have said many places, and sometimes I’ve shocked Christians: Christianity is not a set of rules. Once we reduce it to that, we have lost the vision of the cross. And we have lost the power of God.
Now, why does Satan want to obscure the cross? Let me just interject this: I personally, as I travel around most of the earth and I minister to Christians of many different backgrounds, I think there are two main needs in the church. The first is to restore the centrality of the cross of Jesus to its rightful place, because that is the one thing that totally distinguishes Christianity from any other religion. There is nothing like it in any other religion. And when we displace the cross and its uniqueness we just go back to living by a set of rules. Human psychology. See, psychology can tell you what’s wrong but cannot enable you to do what’s right. That power comes only from one source, which is the cross.
The other, and its a related problem, is the church needs to give Jesus back His headship, because God made Him head over all things to the church. And the problem is that basically the church does not really acknowledge the headship of Jesus. The head is the thing that makes the decisions, the body follows. In how many churches are the decisions really made by Jesus through the Holy Spirit? How many churches actually ever invite Jesus to make the decisions? Let alone listen what He has to say. What’s the problem? What is the force at work? You tell me. Witchcraft, that’s right.
You see, I have given you a diagnosis. If you will use this diagnosis it will totally change your attitude and your perspective on many of the things that concern you most closely. Because Satan likes to operate in the dark. He does not like people to know what he is doing or how he’s doing it. I tell you that I have faced tremendous personal opposition to preaching this particular message here tonight and I know why. Because this message is bringing out into the light the things that Satan does not want to be brought out into the light. Whether it is the nature of witchcraft in the natural as a work of the flesh or whether it is the nature of witchcraft in the supernatural. And the last thing he wants is for Christians to realize that witchcraft is at work in the church.
Why does Satan want to obscure the cross? Let me give you three reasons. It is the only basis of all God’s provision for His redeemed people. There is no other basis. Hebrews 10:14 says:
“For by one sacrifice God has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
By the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross God has done all that will ever be needed for any human being in any period of history. It is all done through the cross.
Now our appropriation of the cross is progressive. We are being sanctified. What Jesus has done is perfect, finished, complete. But our appropriation is progressive. I don’t believe there is a single person here, myself included, who has yet appropriated all that has been available to us through the cross. But if we will go through the process of sanctification, being made holy, being conformed to God, thinking God’s thoughts, living His way, we will appropriate more and more. But if witchcraft moves in, witchcraft will obscure the cross and although we should be living as children of the King, we will begin living like beggars and paupers. Because all the benefits that God has provided come to us solely on the basis of the cross.
Satan is very astute. He knows exactly what to strike at. He knows that if he can obscure the cross, he has the church at his mercy.
The second reason is that the cross was the means of Satan’s total defeat. I cannot go into all the Scriptures but through the cross Jesus ministered a total, eternal, irreversible defeat to Satan. Satan cannot change that. But what he can try to do is conceal the fact from us so that we no longer live in the victory because we don’t realize the victory that was won for us.
The third feature of the cross is that it is the only source of power for real Christian living. You can quote the Sermon on the Mount as much as you like and all sorts of psychiatrists will say that is the way that people ought to live, but the only way we get the ability to live that way is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Because His sacrifice dealt with the old man, the fleshly nature. Paul says, “Our old man was crucified with Him.” He says a little later on in Galatians, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” Until you learn to apply the cross to your carnal nature it masters you. You cannot master it. Paul says in Romans 6, “Our old man was crucified that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.” That’s the provision of the cross.
I have mentioned, I have an Anglican background and I thank God for many wonderful things that came to me through that, but I know some of you here would appreciate this, but in those days, which is long ago, we used to have the general confession about 11:15 every Sunday morning and one of the things we used to say was, “Pardon us, miserable offenders.” And I used to look at the people around me and think, “Well, that is surely a good description.” But I thought to myself, “What good is religion if it only makes you a miserable offender?” And my ultimate conclusion was, “I can be an offender without religion and not so miserable.” So that was what I did. But you see, another thing I said to myself was, “I confessed my sins on Sunday morning but I know I’m going to go out this week and commit the same sins. Am I pleasing God by confessing sins I’m going to go on committing?” Now, I was not insincere. I was just ignorant. I did not know that there had been a provision made to put that old rebel inside me to death. But it’s made through the cross.
Now let me read what I’ve written here: Instead of the power that comes from the cross, witchcraft substitutes fleshly effort and legalistic means. You make ten rules and people don’t keep them. So you say, “We’ll have twenty rules,” and they keep still fewer; so you made forty rules. But making rules does not make people righteous. Did you know that? Judaism today has 613 commandments. One of my grandsons is part of a very ultra-religious orthodox Jewish group and they say, “We keep 32 of them,” and they keep more than anybody else. The truth of the matter is, we can have all the rules, but we don’t keep them. Going back to rules is the effect of witchcraft in our lives. I personally believe that this has happened in almost every major section of the church. You can disagree with me. I think every major move of God in the church produced something that was significant, lively, powerful, but within a generation or two they lost the vision of the cross and they went into carnal effort and rules and organization and such things.
Let me close by quoting Jeremiah 17:
“Cursed is the man who makes flesh his arm, who trusts in man and whose heart departs from the Lord.”
See, that’s the curse that witchcraft brings upon the church. We are no longer trusting in the supernatural grace and power of God; we are trusting in the best we can do with our own efforts.