Recognizing A Controlling Spirit In Prophecy
Last week, we began to look at some examples of “unintentional witchcraft” coming through prophesy. I said “I can think of three things which make people susceptible to operating in witchcraft when they prophesy. The first is an unhealthy obsession with what the devil is doing. The second is a spirit of control. The third is ungodly judgement.”
Let’s look at the second of those—a spirit of control.
Control and Legalism
The spirit of control is closely connected to the spirit of legalism. The gospel teaches that we receive the “blessing of Abraham” through faith. It teaches that we relate to God by faith in Jesus, and not through works. Legalism teaches us to relate to God through works. It also teaches that you receive the “blessing of Abraham” through tithing, “submission” to the next level in a hierarchy of authority between you and God, or other works.
Paul dealt forcefully with legalism in the book of Galatians. He called it “witchcraft.”
Galatians 3:1-5 (NRSV) You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
(Check out my post The Law And Witchcraft)
“Your Breakthrough Is Coming”
I shared this story in the post How Do You Measure Your Blessing? A person I know got involved in a legalistic church. She’s the girl who led one of my close friends to the Lord. Let’s call her Anna.
I don’t think they were legalistic in the sense of having a lot of rules. They were legalists because they talked a lot about “God’s blessing” and “breakthrough,” but the way to receive it was through them. You could supposedly receive “your breakthrough” and blessing in every area of your life by tithing to them and submitting to them as “God’s authority” over your life. That was how they manifested the spirit of control. And they emphasized prophecy. A controlling spirit and prophecy are a dangerous combination!
Anna took my friend to this church. My friend wasn’t into it, but Anna loved it! She didn’t stop talking about all the “breakthroughs” that people experienced when they got involved with this church.
After the service, Anna received a “personal prophecy.” The minister told her that God was bringing a wealthy man into her life. Her “breakthrough” was coming.
The Wrong Kind Of “Breakthrough”
Anna followed the prophecy. Her boss began to show her special attention at work. She soon got into a relationship with him.
She got her “breakthrough!” Her boss promoted her and gave her a big raise. She bought a new car. Everything started to “go right” in her life. And she tells everybody about the breakthrough she received at that prophetic church.
There’s a problem. He was a married man. And he still is. She has been in a long-term sexual relationship with a married man for years now. She thinks she is living under God’s blessing.
It’s sad. It’s deception. She got the wrong kind of “breakthrough.”
We should desire financial abundance and seek to prosper. But financial abundance can’t be equated to God’s blessing. Recognize a spirit of witchcraft at work when any person or group implies that you have to go through them to get God’s blessing. Jesus is the only mediator between us and the Father.
(Check out the post Righteousness, Blessing, Salvation for more.)
Unintentional witchcraft operates through prophecy when prophecy encourages us to relate to God through a mediator other than Jesus. It may seem like blessing comes out of it, but it leads to deception. Many have observed that a controlling spirit ends up leading to adultery. This is because leaders who try to control God’s flock are committing spiritual adultery by usurping Christ’s place as the head (and not the figurehead) of his bride the church.
No Hierarchy Of Authority Between You And God
There is no hierarchy of authority between the individual believer and God. No member of the body of Christ has authority over the lives of other Christians. Does that sound like a strong statement? Do you have questions? I made a strong case for this in my book I Am Persuaded. I discovered that so much confusion over this results from a heavy authoritarian bias in scripture translation, even arbitrarily adding words not found in the original text.
I know a guy who for decades felt unsure about if he married the right woman. We couldn’t imagine a better wife for him. But he had been taught that he needed his leaders’ approval and confirmation on who he would marry. The woman he married wasn’t the girl they prophesied to him about.
Many others have felt confusion and even mental torment over decisions encouraged by someone who fancied themselves to be the individual’s “spiritual covering.” Why do I call this “unintentional witchcraft?” A lot of it was unintentional, coming from leaders who really wanted to help. It was the result of some very bad teaching. The combination of bad teaching and “wanting to help” make place for a spirit of control. The aftermath can be devastating.
I’ve experienced this “unintentional witchcraft” related to church leaders interfering in relationships, even though it was much more subtle than them telling me who to marry! I’ve also experienced “unintentional witchcraft” through prophecy which told me I needed man’s special approval to do the things Jesus commanded his disciples to do in scripture. They were prophesying out of bad doctrine.
Many who we regard as heroes of the faith would never have changed nations and brought people groups to Christ if they had considered their leader’s approval to be a requirement. In fact, probably most of them faced opposition from within the established church leadership. They had to obey God and not men. One of the best examples of this is the story of Bruce Olson.
Witchcraft feels like a dark cloud of confusion and negativity coming against you. It can be targeted in a specific area, or general. The biggest aspect of overcoming it is to recognize it as a lie. In order to overcome “unintentional witchcraft” manifested through a control spirit, we need to work through the confusion. If you feel confused about the concepts of “spiritual covering” and “authority,” or the way words such as “rule,” “obey,” and “submit” are used in scripture, I encourage you to check out I Am Persuaded.
Accurate Personal Prophecy
Accurate personal prophecy should confirm what you already sense God speaking to your heart, or it should light a fire in you for something new! It doesn’t manipulate you. It encourages you and highlights what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life.
I remember when a prophet (who didn’t know me very well personally) prophesied at my wedding that my wife and I would care for street children. I wept, because I had been praying for children and volunteering at children’s homes for years. He didn’t know that, but the prophecy encouraged me and confirmed a desire of my heart. He also prophesied about us providing for people like Milton Hershey did. He didn’t know that Milton Hershey is one of my distant relatives, and a big inspiration to me.
I recently prayed for a girl and shared that I saw a mental picture of her going in a boat to reach people for Jesus. I didn’t understand it, but I asked if it meant anything to her. She was considering applying for Mercy Ships!
Prophecy is such a blessing that I would cross the world to visit a Christian group operating in God’s grace to prophesy! We needn’t be afraid of it, but we do need to learn to test it. Missing it on a prophetic word isn’t the same as operating in witchcraft. It’s just missing it! We can step out and grow in spiritual gifts.
Avoid an unhealthy focus on the devil, a spirit of control, and ungodly judgement, and you will avoid operating in “unintentional witchcraft.” Be humble, willing to let your words be tested, and willing to hear if your word speaks to the heart of the person you’re prophesying to. If you want to grow in the “spiritual gift” of prophecy, I highly recommend taking classes at the Inside Out Training And Equipping School.
Next week we’ll talk about the third factor which makes people susceptible to operating in “unintentional witchcraft” when they prophesy—ungodly judgement.