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I was asked what the title of my message would be this morning. I was taken unaware, as usual, but I announced it would be “Witchcraft Unveiled.” That’s what I’m going to do my best to talk about. Over the last few days I have been trying to explain to you the absolute perfection of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, that it covered every need that could ever arise in the life of any of us. It was a perfect work. I explained to you that through it Jesus administered a total, eternal, irrevocable defeat to Satan and his kingdom. I want to say those words again. A total, eternal, irrevocable defeat to Satan and his kingdom.
Now, if you were the devil, what would you do about that? You would do your best to undermine the work of the cross. You’d do your best to obscure the work of the cross because once the work of the cross is obscured, you can reassert your control over humanity. And that’s precisely what the devil did, has done and is doing. I think in a certain sense, his primary aim is to obscure what was accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross. Because, if we once grasp it, the devil is defeated.
This theme is dealt with by Paul in Galatians. This is the theme of Galatians. I’m going to read a few verses from Galatians 3. In fact, I’m going to begin by reading just verse 1.
“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?”
There are some versions that are a little shorter because they’re two alternative texts. But don’t worry about that, the essence of it is there, whichever version you read.
I want to point out to you that rather strange question, “Who has bewitched you.” I want to point out on the basis of my knowledge of Greek, that’s the standard Greek word for “to bewitch.” It’s not a metaphor. The literal meaning of it is “to smite with the eye.” It’s used in connection with the evil eye.
Some years ago a priest from the Greek Orthodox church who was baptized in the Holy Spirit came to me for prayer because he felt that somebody had put the evil eye upon him. He told me the Greek word, ?vas-can-nee-ah?, which is the same word that’s used here in Galatians. Who has bewitched you?
If you go on reading, and we will in a little while, you’ll see that these Galatians had been saved, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and saw God working miracles among them. In other words, they were just as Charismatic as any of you or as I am. Nevertheless, Paul said they had been bewitched. What I’m pointing out is the fact that you’ve been saved, baptized in the Spirit and experienced miracles is no guarantee that you will not be bewitched.
This is very real to me because in l963 in Seattle, Washington, I took over the pastorate of a church. I was very inexperienced, I’d only been about six months in the United States and I had a lot to learn about American church life. I got the invitation from the, quote, “Board” of this church to come and be the pastor. They told me that all twelve members of the board had unanimously agreed to invite me. So, with my first wife and our little African daughter, we set out on the long journey from Minneapolis to Seattle.
When I arrived there I discovered that the church had been in deep trouble. Furthermore, that the twelve members of the Board were the only people left in the church. Furthermore, after I’d been there one month there was only one member left on the Board! Now, I cannot go into all the details what had happened to that church, it had been split and the previous pastor’s wife had fallen in love with one of the Board members. The Board member had divorced his wife, the pastor’s wife had divorced her husband the pastor, and the pastor’s wife and the Board member married. She was now leading the church—at least, had been up to the time I arrived. I have never encountered a group of people like that. They were sweet, good people. They were Pentecostal but it was like they were numb, they were just incapable of responding. I’d never encountered anything.
And I went to God in desperation, “God, what is the problem?” And he directed me to Galatians 3:1, “Who has bewitched you?” I saw that that congregation which at that time had numbered about 200 people, was bewitched by the wife of the previous pastor. I’m not going to go into the details but it was a tremendous revelation to me. Once I realized the true problem, my first wife and I battled it through in prayer. We won, there was a breakthrough, and God rescued that church. But it would never have happened if God hadn’t revealed to me the unseen force that I was dealing with in that Pentecostal church.
I don’t know how many of you know or have heard the phrase “the fifth column.” You have? I find that most people today don’t know how it originated because you’re not as old as I am. But in l936 there was a civil war in Spain between the left wing and the right wing. And as a result, the Spaniards were fighting one another. At one point, a certain Spanish general was besieging a Spanish city. The second general came to him and said, “What is your plan to take this city?” The first general replied, “I have four columns advancing on the city. One from the north, one from the south, one from the east and one from the west.” Then he paused and said, “But it’s my fifth column I’m expecting to take the city for me.” So the second general said, “Where is your fifth column?” And he replied, “Inside the city.” So, the fifth column is that which is inside, working against the people amongst who it is.
Now, that is Satan’s tactic to destroy the church. He has never been able to defeat the church from without. But once he gets a fifth column inside, then he says, “It’s my fifth column that will take the city.” In a sense, witchcraft is the fifth column inside the church.
Let me just show you the results of witchcraft in this situation in the Galatian church. First of all, notice what they’d been through. Verse 2:
“This only I want to hear from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?”
So they had received the Holy Spirit. And then he said in verse 5:
“Therefore He who supplied the Spirit to you [that’s God] and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the Law or by the hearing of faith?”
So, not only had they received the Holy Spirit but they had miracles being worked amongst them. I want you to grasp the fact they were just as Charismatic or Pentecostal as any of us here today. Okay? So don’t just sit back and say it couldn’t happen to me because I’m baptized in the Spirit. As a matter of fact, in a certain sense, you’re the number one target because you’re the one who threatens Satan the most. He’s going to use all his plans against you.
What were the results, what was the expression, how did Paul know they were bewitched? Well, he said it’s very clear. Verse 2:
“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing of faith?”
What had happened? They’d received salvation and the Holy Spirit through the free grace of God by faith, and then teachers had come along from a Jewish background who had tried to convince them that in order to be saved they had to keep the Law of Moses. They had started to try to keep the law. Paul says, “Stop and think for a moment. Was it by keeping the Law of Moses that you received the Holy Spirit or was it by hearing with faith the message?” And then he said in verse 3:
“Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
So, very simply stated, the marks of the work of witchcraft in that church were two things: legalism and carnality. Okay? I want to tell you that in my opinion, wherever you encounter legalism, somewhere behind it is witchcraft. I personally believe legalism is the greatest single threat to the purposes of God. Not immorality or drunkenness, but legalism.
It’s very interesting, if you read Paul’s epistles, Galatians is the only epistle that he didn’t begin by thanking God for the people he was writing to. When he wrote to the Corinthian church there was drunkenness at the Lord’s table, there was incest, there was immorality; and he still began by thanking God for the grace of God given to that church. But when he got to Galatians, he was so worked up he didn’t give any thanks. He said, “I marvel you are so soon turning away from the grace of God.” What was the problem? Legalism. Paul viewed it as a much greater threat than immorality or drunkenness—not that we ever suggest those are to be condoned.
Now let me offer you a definition of legalism because it tends to be a word that we use to attack other groups that do things differently. It’s one of those abusive words like “liberal” or “left-wing” or “conservative.” Whichever way you happen to be slanted, you use—or “fundamentalist,” that’s another favorite word to abuse people with. See?
Well, let’s not do it that way. I’ll give you two definitions of legalism. First of all, legalism is attempting to achieve righteousness with God by observing any set of rules. Okay? And God has ruled that out. He has said by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight. It’s impossible.
The other aspect of legalism—they boil down to the same thing—is adding other requirements to the requirements God has stated for achieving righteousness with Him. All right? Adding extra requirements. And the requirements for achieving righteousness with God are very simply stated at the end of Romans 4.
“If you believe in Him who delivered Jesus our Lord to death for our offenses, and raised Him again from the dead for our justification, you are righteous.”
All right? There is no other way to achieve righteousness with God and nothing else can be added. No person, no church, no group, no preacher has any authority to add any other requirement to achieving righteousness with God than those which are stated in the New Testament. So legalism is either attempting to achieve righteousness with God by observing any set of rules whatever, or it’s adding to the requirements which God has stated in the New Testament.
Now, the results are a curse. Okay? We’re dealing with very basic and tremendously important issues. Paul doesn’t go far in Galatians 3 before he comes to the curse. Galatians 3:10:
“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 which are written in the book of the Law to do them.’”
In other words, if you’re going to seek to achieve righteousness by keeping the law, you have to keep the whole law all the time, not some of it some of the time. And if you set yourself to do that and committed yourself to do it and don’t do it, you come under a curse.
See, the three things we’re dealing with are legalism, carnality and a curse. And that’s the ultimate object of witchcraft, is to bring you under a curse because curses are the main tools of witchcraft—curses and spells.
Now we’ll go back to a scripture we looked at earlier, Jeremiah 17:5.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength of his arm, whose heart departs from the Lord.’”
Notice this is a man who has known the Lord because his heart could not depart from the Lord if he’d never known the Lord. So this is someone who’s known God and His supernatural grace and then has turned away to relying on his own efforts. You see what I’m saying? God has pronounced a curse on that. That’s precisely what happened in the Galatian church. They had known the supernatural grace of God, they’d received the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way, they had experienced miracles and then they had been deceived into turning back to relying on their own righteous acts and efforts. They came under a curse.
Now, you’ve got as much right to your opinion as I have but according to my observation, this is the condition of the great majority of the professing Christian church today. The church is under a curse. Because, whether you take the Lutherans or the Methodists or the Baptists or the Pentecostals, all those groups were initiated by a sovereign, supernatural act of God’s grace. They never would have come into being without it. We wouldn’t have heard of them in history without that. It’s up to you to decide, but I suggest to you that in many cases the people that represent those groups today have turned away from the supernatural grace of God and returned to trying to do it by human efforts and human power. I’m not their judge, I just present that picture to you, I leave it to you to decide.
You say the Pentecostals are not like that. How well do you know them? I mean, I’ve been one for 47 years. I would say the Pentecostal movement began with a tremendous supernatural visitation of God. But in some ways and some cases, Pentecostals are the most legalistic of all today. Is that right? You can’t tell me otherwise, I’ve pastored them, I know them. God bless them, they’re dear people but in many cases they’ve come under deception. What is the power that’s deceived them? Witchcraft, that’s right. It’s brought them under a curse.
You see, if you go back for a moment to Satan’s tactics, without reading it in the Old Testament, when Israel had arrived on the borders of the Promised Land and were encamped next to the area of Moab, the king of Moab was frightened of them. So he sent for Balaam who was a practicing witch doctor and said, “Curse these people because I can’t beat them in war. But if you curse them, maybe I’ll be able to beat them afterwards.” Balaam came along and you know, he wanted to curse them and God wouldn’t let him. So four times, instead of cursing them he blessed them. Balak, the king of Moab, got very angry with him and Balaam said, “I told you I can’t say a thing except what God gives me.”
But, if you read on—and it doesn’t appear immediately in Numbers, but it’s there—Balaam said to Balak, “Now listen, I couldn’t curse them because God has blessed them. But if you get them to disobey God and begin to be carnal, then God will curse them.” And that’s precisely what he did. Do you remember? He tempted them into fornication and adultery with the daughters of Moab and worshipping the gods of Moab. The result was 23,000 died in one day under the judgment of God. So you understand, if we are in the full will and blessing of God, we’re impervious to Satan’s curses. Praise God. If you study that passage you’ll find that Balaam had a vision of Israel in divine order, abiding in their tents in rows like trees planted by the river courses. You see, when God’s people are in divine order, Satan can’t touch us. So Balaam said, “Just get them to act contrary to God and He’ll touch them. You won’t have to do it.”
Essentially, that’s his tactic against the church. While the church is in divine order, Satan can’t touch us. But, if he can get us out of divine order and going contrary to God’s word, then we come under a curse pronounced by God because it’s God who said, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his armor, and whose heart departs from the Lord.” But it’s witchcraft that’s behind it.
Now, I don’t like using vague terms that people can use anyway they want to attack somebody else—which is a kind of practice amongst religious people. So I want to try to define witchcraft. I want to give you a picture of witchcraft. First of all, let me say both in the Old Testament and the New, there are a number of different words that are used. It would be too complicated to try to define the words and they’re rather complicated. There are at least five words in the Old Testament that describe different aspects of witchcraft. I’d rather stay with the English language and I suggest to you that in this whole area which we can call witchcraft, there are three main operations. First of all, there’s witchcraft which operates through spells and curses primarily. It’s what you’d call “the power of.”
Then there’s divination or, in simple language, fortune telling which is the predictive arm which seeks to tell people the future. And there’s a deep longing in every human heart to know what’s going to happen next. Millions of people are hooked by the desire to find out what’s going to happen next, they go to fortune tellers. The biblical word is divination. Whenever you do that, you’ve given Satan a certain measure of control over your life.
I have discovered by experience that what happens when a person goes to a fortune teller is not that they don’t get anything. Believe me, they have supernatural insight. But it’s not from God. And what will really happen is they will pronounce Satan’s destiny on you. And if you believe them, it may well come to pass. We had a tragic story come to pass. We had a tragic story that happened in, let’s say, Scotland less than three years ago. A young married woman went to a fortune teller—I think just out of curiosity. The fortune teller told her that she would very early be widowed. And within a year her husband who was working on rigs in the North Sea, was drowned. Then she came to the Lord and she was tormented with this agonizing question, “Did I bring this on my husband by going to that fortune teller?” I didn’t get involved in answering that question. I’m thankful I didn’t because I think, in a way, she did bring it on her husband. She opened the door to a Satanic force to come into that home.
I’ll tell you a personal experience. Years ago in Faith Tabernacle—Don, where we almost met—I was ministering one day and a lady came up to me and she told me she’d been a medium but that she had repented and that she wanted to be delivered. I didn’t feel she’d really repented so I said, “I’m not convinced of your repentance. Go away and come back.” I think about two weeks later she came back again and said, “I’ve repented.” I still wasn’t convinced but I thought I can’t refuse to help her. I began to try to administer deliverance to her and she got a certain measure of deliverance but it was really hard going. I think it was hard going because she hadn’t really met the conditions. So I stopped and leaned against what they call the altar rail of the church and she suddenly said to me, “I see you in a car and it’s wrecked against a tree.” Thank God I was on the alert. I realized that was the divining spirit in that woman, you see? I said, “I’m not going to be in any car that’s going to be wrecked against a tree.” Thirty years have passed and I’ve never been in such a car. All right? But, suppose I had said, “Oh, isn’t that awful! I’m going to be in a car that’s going to be wrecked against a tree.” I would have submitted to Satan’s destiny for me, you understand? I could easily believe it could have happened.
Then the third form of this total occult area is sorcery. There are different ways of using these words, I’m just giving you provisional definitions. Sorcery operates through things to gain control of people. Like potions, charms, talismans, any little thing that you put anywhere on your body to protect you from evil—that’s sorcery. The cross can even be sorcery in some cases. It depends on the motives and the attitude behind it. Another very important form of sorcery is drugs. The whole drug cult is sorcery. And it’s not new. African witch doctors have been doing this for hundreds of years. Another unsuspected form of sorcery is the use of music. Again, this is traditional. In Africa they’ll beat the drums and beat the drums with a certain rhythm till it’s absolutely got you under its control.
I lived in Africa where we heard the drums every night. Believe me, it took a certain amount of determination not to come under the influence of that Satanic rhythm. Today there are literally millions of young people who are under the power of sorcery through rock music and other such things. You watch them. They’ll go into their room—I mean, I’ve brought up teenagers, I know. They go into their room, turn on this music, sit there for two hours and come out. Their eyes are—they’re staring, they’re out of touch with reality, they’ve come under a power.
We had an interesting experience, Ruth and I, when we were praying for the sick some years ago in the city of Detroit. First of all, I got involved in talking about curses and I wasn’t really teaching about curses at that time. Anyhow, we ended up by asking the people who wanted to be released from a curse to be released. And most of the people stood up. Then we got people coming forward on the platform to be prayed for healing. A young woman of about 18 came forward and there was that sort of dreamy look in her eyes which nearly always indicates the occult. So before we prayed for her we wanted to find out what it was. I think she was honest. We said, “Have you been in the occult?” She said no. “Never had your palm read?” No. “Never read the horoscopes?” We went through a whole list of things. Nothing. Then God gave Ruth a word of knowledge and she said, “Rock music?” And the woman went flat on her back without her even touching her, see? That was the way that sorcery had gained control over her. If you have a lot of rock music records, my advice to you is if you want to live for God, go out and burn them. If you want to live for God.
Now I’m going to try and explain to you the essential nature of witchcraft and we’ll turn to a passage in 1Samuel 15. I’d like to go into the background but time doesn’t permit. 1Samuel 15:23, these are words spoken by Samuel to King Saul.
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
It speaks there about two very sinful attitudes: rebellion and stubbornness. It gives God’s evaluation of them both. Let’s consider for a moment stubbornness. It says stubbornness is a form of idolatry. I’ll tell you one kind of idolatry, the stubborn person makes idols out of his own opinions. There’s a lot of stubborn people in the church. They won’t change no matter what you show them out of the Bible because they’ve made idols of their own opinions. We won’t have drunkards and people like that in the church but the church is full of stubborn people. In God’s sight they are idolaters.
Let’s not deal with stubbornness, we’ll deal with rebellion. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Rebellion and witchcraft are twins. In ministering deliverance I’ve discovered wherever you find one, you better start looking for the other. They’re very seldom separated. If the person is delivered from rebellion, the next thing you need to check on is witchcraft. And if it’s witchcraft, check on rebellion.
I want to show you how it works. Rebellion is the rejection of the righteous government of God in your life. Okay? So, you’ve thrown off God’s authority but you can’t exist without authority. I mean, we have to have authority to exist. So some alternative form of authority moves in. Divine authority is supported by divine power. But illegitimate authority is supported by illegitimate power. What’s the illegitimate power that’s supports illegitimate authority? Witchcraft, that’s right. So that’s how they’re related.
Now, witchcraft has two aspects. Many people don’t realize it’s listed as a work of the flesh. It is an aspect of the fallen human nature. Turn to Galatians 5:19 and following.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, [not always to the person who has them but to everybody else] which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, and sorcery.”
But the Old King James Version says “witchcraft.” Whichever you have, you’ve got the same thing. It’s all one package deal. So, witchcraft is a work of the flesh. That means it’s an expression of the unregenerate nature of fallen man. It’s what naturally comes out of our fleshly nature. It is a substitute for real authority to maintain illegitimate authority. Okay? You see what I’m saying?
And we encounter it in all sorts of places. It’s very familiar to us but we haven’t identified it. For instance, in the family. Whether you like it or not, God has established a divine order of authority. Christ is the head of the man, the man is the head of the wife, and together they’re responsible for the children. So it’s God, Christ, man, wife, children. It’s a descending chain of authority which comes from God Himself. No one has ever been authorized to set that aside. But, millions of people want to set it aside because it doesn’t suit them. It doesn’t suit their rebellious nature. You see? Fallen man is a rebel by nature. So children don’t want to obey their parents. How do they deal with the situation? You’ve all encountered this.
Let me say that the three most descriptive words of the operation of witchcraft are manipulate, intimidate, and dominate. Dominate is the end. There are two roots: manipulate or intimidate. The weaker one will manipulate, the stronger one may intimidate. But the goal is the same. So we have this—I think of a little girl years ago that lived next to us when we first came to Britain from Israel. This good Pentecostal couple had a little daughter of about 3. In those days people did their grocery shopping on Saturday night. We hadn’t yet reached the stage where you do it on Friday night. And so they dressed the little girl up, go out Saturday night grocery shopping—she was as happy as could be. Sunday morning they were going to go to the Pentecostal church and when they tried to dress that little girl up, she would lie on the floor, kick her legs in the air and scream, and they had a battle. She wasn’t old enough to reason this out but there was something in her that didn’t mind going to the grocery store but strongly objected going to the church. What was that? Witchcraft. Okay. And she manipulated her parents.
You see, it isn’t the size of the person, it’s the size of the spirit in the person. And a very small person can have a very strong spirit. How many of your parents know that? Don’t put your hand up! Okay? See, when we think we’re just dealing with the flesh, we don’t know where we’re at. We’ve got to look through the flesh which is a veil, to the spiritual thing that’s inside.
My friend Bob Mumford gave an example years ago. He said a little six week old baby is wet, needs its “nappie” changed. I just have get the right word, all right? So it cries, all right? Along comes Mother, changes it, picks it up, cuddles it. Well, it wants to be cuddled. So next time it wants to be cuddled, its nappie is not wet but it cries so its mother will come along and cuddle it. What is that? Manipulation, that’s right. You don’t have to be old to be a manipulator. It’s born in us, it’s part of our carnal nature.
Well, wives can manipulate their husbands. They don’t get their own way so they throw a fit of tears. Let me say basically, moods are usually ways of manipulating other people. “You don’t really love me, you haven’t bought me a new dress.” And so on. I mean, I’m not good at doing it! It’s not my nature, I never was like that. But anything that undermines the husband’s authority, any spiritual force, is illegitimate, see? So, what is it? Witchcraft. I’m not talking about a demon at the moment, although it could easily be a demon. What I’m talking about is the expression of man’s own carnal, rebellious nature.
Don’t let’s leave husbands out. A husband wants his way, maybe the husband and the father. He’s impatient so, when he doesn’t get his way he gets angry and he makes himself so unpleasant with his anger and his shouting that the rest of the family says anything for peace. All right? We just won’t make him angry again. So what is he? He’s getting his own way.
There’s dozens of different ways but what we’re talking about is an illegitimate way of getting what you want. See, the legitimate way between husband and wife is to be open and honest with one another. The wife says, “I don’t think you should have said that.” The husband says, “Well, maybe you’re right but...” They openly discuss it, settle it. But witchcraft bypasses that and has another way to get what it wants. Do you understand? It never acts openly, it never comes out and says, “This is the way it is, now let’s settle it.” It’s a crooked thing, it bypasses, it twists.
Many, many women are not the least bit aware that they’re operating in witchcraft. Millions of women in our contemporary culture have never known any other way to operate. That’s all they’ve ever seen in their mothers and grandmothers and whoever. They don’t know there’s another way.
I think of a family that I knew once, dear people. They were all good Christians: mother, father, five children. But, when the mother was—I think she was a born manipulator. I don’t think she was aware of it. She really sincerely loved God. But whenever things went against her will in the family she got migraines. I mean, intense migraines. And she would go back to the bed and lie there for two or three days and everybody would tiptoe around the house, “Don’t make a noise, Mother’s got migraines.” What happened? She got her way, see? Anything rather than face Mother’s migraines. I think there were two spirits at work there; one was witchcraft and the other was infirmity. And they kind of had a plan to operate.
If you really want two pictures from the Bible of witchcraft on a higher level, one is Delilah, the other is Jezebel. You see, Samson was, in a sense, the strong man of the Bible. But Delilah was stronger than Samson. “You don’t really love me, you haven’t told me where’s your secret?” And it says she pressed upon him, she wore him out, she cried, she had moods. And ultimate, she beat him down. I want to tell you that there are few men strong enough to deal with witchcraft in a woman. Very, very few. I have seen really strong men who could be president of a bank or something like that but when it came to dealing with a wife, they were manipulated.
The other was Jezebel. Jezebel, she was not by any means sweet. But, she knew how to get her husband Ahab to do what she wanted. And in reality, she took over ruling Israel. You see? Usurpation, illegitimate authority.
Incidentally, it’s interesting that Jezebel is referred to in the New Testament inside the church in Revelation 2. So is Balaam. So, the New Testament warns us this thing is going to infiltrate the church.
Then let’s take church relationships. They are a fertile field for manipulation. A pastor can manipulate his church members. He can threaten them with God’s disfavor if they do something he doesn’t want. “If you leave this church, you’ll never prosper.” What’s that? Intimidation.
But it goes both ways. You have this young, not very experienced Pentecostal pastor and this rather small congregation. There are two super-spiritual ladies in the congregation. And always beware of the super-spiritual, let me tell you that right now. Because really spiritual people are not super-spiritual. So whenever he steps out of line—which means that he does what they don’t want—one of them gets a message in tongues and the other gets interpretation. I mean, I’m not speculating, I have been in situations and that’s the way it was. What is that? That’s not the Holy Spirit, what is it? Witchcraft, that’s right.
Another very common way is a man has built his own ministry. He’s been strong and successful and has achieved a lot but he takes the credit for it, you see? Which is a mistake. And God deals with most of his ministering servants like he dealt with Abraham. He gives him Isaac and then he says one day, “Now I want Isaac back.” Abraham said, “God, he’s my only son. You gave him to me, I could have never had such a son. I know he’s mine. God, you couldn’t possibly want him back, I won’t give him back.” Thank God Abraham didn’t do that. He said, “Here you are, God. You gave him, I give him back.”
I have observed in many ministries—I’m not saying in all ministries—after a man has reached a certain point, God says, “I want your Isaac, please. Lay it on the altar.” There are two ways to react and I’ve seen both. One is, “This is MY ministry. I built it. Nobody else can take it. I’m the only one. I won’t.” The other is, “God, you gave it to me, here it is. I give it to you back.” I’ve noticed what will happen. The man who gives it back to God usually has the experience of Abraham: God gives it back again. But it’s blessed. You see? God didn’t bless Isaac until Abraham had offered him to God. Then he says, “In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed.” That’s Isaac. So what we truly surrender to God comes back blessed and multiplied.
You can’t snub the Holy Spirit and say, “Now come back and help me, I’ve got a need.” The Holy Spirit is very sensitive. So what happens with such a man is he tends to move into a different spiritual realm. He becomes self-assertive, dictatorial, critical, critical of other ministries and exploits and manipulates the people who move under him. If I cared to, I could give you a list of names. I’m not going to, it’s not my business.
But I’m just pointing out, I want you to see how real and relevant are the things I’m talking about. They’re not things that happen in some other country or on some other planet, they’re things that are happening all around us in the church the way it is now, and in our homes and families. Witchcraft never came to do any of us any good. Remember what Jesus said, “The thief only comes to steal, to kill, to destroy.” If you entertain the thief, you can expect him to do just those three things. You’ve been warned.
Secondly, witchcraft is not merely a work of the flesh but it is an evil, spiritual power. I think that power had moved into the Galatian church. When Paul said “who has bewitched you,” he might have been talking about certain individual ministers or ministries but I think beyond that he saw an inroad into the church of dark, Satanic forces. So I want to now briefly, if I can, explain to you the nature of witchcraft.
God called Ruth and me to fight witchcraft. In fact, I think I’ll just tell you briefly how it happened. Shortly after we were married in l979 we were in a conference which was a family conference. In the middle of this conference a young man came out with a prophecy. I don’t know who he was, I hadn’t seen him before and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him again. Fortunately, the prophecy was recorded on tape. I later saw it in a typed form. But in essence, God said this: “All that I’ve been doing up to now against witchcraft is nothing but preliminary skirmishes. But from now on, I’m declaring total war on witchcraft.” Then he said, “The reason is because witchcraft has millions of men bound whom I need in my end-tine army.” And then there came this part to it, “You will encounter people who are under curses which have been passed down from generation to generation. But you do not need to be afraid because you will be able to release them.”
Now, that was in l979, I had no understanding about curses whatever. But from that time onwards, that which was predicted has happened exactly as predicted. So, to me this is confirmation that that prophecy was from God. I always like to have some kind of objective check. I don’t believe a prophecy just because somebody gives it.
And you see, let me explain my feelings. If God is making all out war on witchcraft, I don’t want to be aligned with witchcraft. I’m afraid of God in that sense. So, I really do everything I can, Ruth and I between us, to identify witchcraft and not to let it gain any access to us or control over us. And you’d be amazed how many different avenues the devil has to get it in. It’s not like he’s tried once and failed, so he gives up. On the contrary. We have to be continually on our guard.
Let me say one thing just by the way. Beware of people who make you feel guilty. Generally speaking, that’s not God. It’s the favorite tactic of witchcraft. “You didn’t treat me right.” “You know, I needed your help and you didn’t help me.” You’d be surprised how many people come to a preacher and try to make him feel guilty. If I tried to help all the people that asked me to help them individually, I would have been in the grave by now. So I’ve learned. I mean, I don’t have anything against those people but I say, “You subtle, insinuating, deceiving force—I’m not going to play your game.” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be compassionate people.
The ultimate rebel and the original rebel is Satan. As I’ve tried to describe in previous meetings, he has set up a kingdom of rebels in the heavenlies where he rules over rebellious angels. And their supreme motivation is to go against anything God does, to resist God’s purposes and God’s people in the earth.
Because it’s an illegitimate authority, it has to be supported by illegitimate power. What is the power that supports Satan’s kingdom? Witchcraft. That’s it, witchcraft. If you look at it historically, witchcraft is the normal religion of unredeemed humanity all over the earth no matter where you go. In Britain before the gospel came, Druidism and many other things. In Africa, in Asia, everywhere. Many, many different forms, many different practices, but the same spiritual force in all of them relating to an illegitimate kingdom that exercises illegitimate power. In fact, when you really come down to it there are only two possible religions: the true religion, worshipping the true God; or a false religion dominated by Satan’s kingdom and under the control of witchcraft. This makes things so much simpler.
Included in this are all forms of the occult. They are all different ways of relating to Satan’s kingdom. You go to a fortune teller, he is or she is a representative of Satan’s kingdom. You go to a, quote, “healer,” he is a representative of Satan’s kingdom. He has power. Don’t be so naive as to suppose all supernatural power comes from God because it doesn’t. There are two sources of supernatural power. One is God and the other is the devil. And any supernatural power that does not come from God does come from the devil. You can know if it comes from God because the access to it is only one way which is Jesus, that’s right—and the cross. Thank you for saying that.
In the church the expression of witchcraft, the normal, primary expression is legalism. Okay? See, I just have to say according to my understanding, which is limited, much the greatest threat to the work of God is legalism. You might say it’s immorality and carnality. But, as a matter of fact, legalism actually promotes those things. You see, if you’re always telling people you must not lust, and that’s all you give them, what happens? You’re feeding lust. Paul said if the commandment hadn’t said, “Thou shalt not covet,” I wouldn’t have know what covetousness is. See, negative rules operate in the area of the flesh and they feed the very thing that they’re supposed to prevent. Is that right? You think that over.
See, people feel if we don’t make enough rules, we won’t keep the people under control. Well, they make 15 rules and the people are still not under control, so they make 30 rules and they’re still not under control. So then they make 60 rules. Understand? But the more rules you make to make people good, the more you feed the carnal nature. And the carnal nature is incapable of producing good. You see that? I think I have to convince you of that. Look in Galatians for a moment, chapter 5. Galatians 5, beginning at verse 19. We’ve looked at it already.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambition, dissentions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like...”
You see if you can find one good thing in that list. See, the flesh is corrupt and it cannot bring forth good fruit. Jesus said a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. So, anything that feeds or strengthens the carnal nature simply produces more of the works of the flesh. The hardest thing to convince religious people is that it’s not safe to go by rules. They think we don’t have enough rules so let’s make more. But it doesn’t work.
What is the alternative? Be led by the Holy Spirit. Everybody knows that’s terribly risky. Suppose He doesn’t lead me right! See, I’m not telling you to be lawless or immoral. What I’m telling you is rules of morality do not make people moral. But, the Holy Spirit will never lead you to do something evil. So the alternative to legalism is not antinomianism—that is, having no law—it is being led by the Holy Spirit. And I want to tell you on the basis of God’s word, that’s the only way you’ll achieve righteousness. If you trust in your own flesh and keeping your sets of rules, the flesh will produce what it always produces. There’s no alternatives.
I’ve said that witchcraft produces and supports an illegitimate authority because it’s the expression of rebellion. See what I’m saying. I want to give you a little list of things in the church which are produced illegally. I’ll give you the alternatives.
Witchcraft promotes the carnal and suppresses the spiritual. Okay? In terms of Old Testament patterns, witchcraft puts Ishmael over Isaac. See?
Now as I read this outline for myself yesterday evening, I had a revelation. I said to myself that’s precisely what Islam has done. You may not know it, but they teach that Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac, he sacrificed Ishmael, that Ishmael is the appointed heir. I mean, I’ve known this a long while but I suddenly realized that’s precisely what witchcraft does. It puts Ishmael over Isaac. Of course, there’s a lot more Ishmaels than just Islam. Anything you do of your own initiative that’s not initiated by God through the Holy Spirit will be an Ishmael. Jesus never did anything in His own initiative. He said, “I never do anything except what I see the Father doing.” And the moment we start to initiate something that isn’t initiated by God, we’re going to produce an Ishmael. And really, Abraham’s experience should warn us because 4,000 years ago Abraham produced Ishmael. And for 4,000 years the appointed seed of Abraham has had problems with Ishmael. The problems are getting to a climax in the Middle East right now. So, if you don’t want 4,000 years of problems, just don’t produce an Ishmael. But if you produce something that’s initiated by you and not by God, it will be an Ishmael. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The next thing is witchcraft produces theology and sets it over revelation. Okay? Theology is set above revelation. I think that, in a way, is one of the major problems of the church. I’d have to say frankly most seminaries today are putting out servants of Satan. That’s a shocking statement but it’s really the source of most of the problems of the church. Because, they’re exalting human thinking above divine revelation. Okay? What’s the force that does that? You see when you take the veil away what you get.
Witchcraft in the church exalts education above discipling. You go to a theological seminary or even a Bible school and you sit for three years in class and you get a lot of head knowledge. What does knowledge do? Puffs up. All right. So you’ve got a lot of proud, arrogant people who really have no idea of how to handle practical problems. Jesus didn’t do that. He made his disciples follow behind him and serve him. You see, if you don’t combine training with serving, you’re going to produce the wrong results. The only safeguard against giving people knowledge is making them serve. Is that right? I think it is.
The next thing that witchcraft does is exalt psychology above discernment. So you don’t go and get a word of knowledge but you get a psychological treatment. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He didn’t ask her when she was born, whether she’d had problems with her parents, whether there was a social stigma in her life. He just said, “You’ve had five husbands.” And that’s all He needed to say. One word of knowledge saved a whole lot of psychology. Is that right?
I have a dear friend in Australia who is a very successful pastor, has a big church and a lot of young men working under him. He told me just recently the last time we were there, “I decided to tell my young men to get rid of all the textbooks on psychology and have nothing but the Bible.” He said, “I had a couple that had been coming to me for counseling for years because they had problems in their marriage.” He said, “Next time they came I said to the man, `Now listen, the Bible says love your wife. You’re not loving your wife, you’re not obeying the Bible.’” He said to the wife, “It says submit to your husband. You’re not submitting to your husband. You’re not obeying the Bible. So, don’t come to me anymore until you obey the Bible.” And he sent them away.
Witchcraft exalts program above supernatural direction. The apostles never made a program for evangelizing Judea. They just got kicked out by the Holy Spirit. There was no program that sent Philip to Samaria, he just turned up. Okay? We’re nearly at the end, be patient.
Witchcraft exalts eloquence above supernatural power. Jesus never gave his disciples training in homiletics, did you notice that? Finney said, “All the homiletical training that I’ve ever seen has had one aim—to make people speak as if they really meant what they were saying.” So if you really mean what you’re saying, bypass the homiletics. That’s not altogether true, that could be an exaggeration.
Let’s look at what Paul said for a moment in 1Corinthians 2. Paul was a very highly educated man and he says:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
He said, “I am not going to let witchcraft obscure Jesus and the cross.” It’s interesting because he’d been to Athens before he went to Corinth, and in Athens he tried to meet the people on their own ground. He quoted Greek poets, he met them on an intellectual basis. The results were very disappointing. So I suppose somewhere between Athens and Corinth Paul said, “That’s the end of that. From now on all I’m going to do is present Jesus crucified.” And the results in Corinth were tremendous. One of the largest churches in the early world sprung up in Corinth. But he had to make a decision. “I determine not to know anything, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” That’s the one thing that witchcraft does not want revealed, is Jesus crucified.
“I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power...”
Those are the alternatives. Human eloquence or supernatural demonstration.
Two more, witchcraft exalts reasoning above the walk of faith. So you sit down and you work out what you ought to be doing. God doesn’t deal with us that way. He leads us step by step in a walk of faith. And as He dealt with Abraham He deals with you. He doesn’t tell us where we’re going to go, He doesn’t tell us what’s going to happen. He just says, “This is the next move.” And when we walk in faith we have the supernatural attestation of the Holy Spirit with us. When we rely on our own reasoning, all we get is what reason can do.
And finally, witchcraft exalts legalism above love. Wouldn’t you agree that most legalistic, religious people are very unloving? Basically we shy away from them, we don’t want them wagging their finger at us and telling us don’t do this and don’t do that. They’re very critical of others. Anybody that doesn’t keep their set of rules is wrong. And there are lots of different sets of rules nowadays.
Let me just look for a moment in Galatians 5:6:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love.”
What’s the only thing that really matters? Faith working through love. And notice what kind of faith. It’s not a theological faith, it’s not a faith that majors on doctrinal hairsplitting; it’s a faith that operates through love.
I think I’ll close with my little story that I tell at places. This is not my story, I don’t have any stories of my own, I just borrow them from other preachers. I won’t embarrass the man that I got it from by telling you who he was. A mother was arguing with her son and the mother told the son he ought to go to church. The son said he didn’t want to go to church. The son said to the mother, “I don’t like those people and they don’t like me. Why should I go to church? Give me two reasons.” And the mother said, “Well, first of all, you’re 40 years old. And second, you’re the pastor of the church.”