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False Gods

False Gods

In the preceding chapters we have established two impor-tant facts concerning curses that proceed from God. First, they are one of the main ways in which He brings judgement on the rebellious and the ungodly. Second, the basic cause of such curses is the failure to hear God's voice and do what He says- or, in one simple word, disobedience.

Disobedience can take many forms. It is natural, therefore, to ask: What are some of the main forms of disobedience that particularly provoke God's curse? The Bible leaves no doubt about the answer. The form of disobedience which most surely and inevitably provokes God's curse is the breaking of the first two of the Ten Command-ments, which are stated in Exodus 20:1-5:

And God spoke all these words, saying:

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me. .

What are the two sins God specifies here? The first is acknowledging any other god before - or besides - the Lord. It is not enough to acknowledge the Lord as the first or greatest of all gods. We must acknowledge that He is the only true God. There is no other besides Him. In Isaiah 45:21 the Lord declares with great emphasis:

"There is no other God besides Me,

A just God and a Saviour; There is none besides Me."

The second sin, described in the next commandment, is the making of any artificial representation of God and offering worship to it. In Romans 1:20-23 Paul analyses what is involved in the breaking of these two commandments:

For since the creation of the world God's invisible quali-ties - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Those who acknowledge false gods and practise idol wor-ship have deliberately rejected the clear revelation of God available to them through creation. Instead, they have chosen to worship idols that become progressively debased. First, they take human form, but from there they descend to birds, then to animals and finally to reptiles. This exactly describes the practices of ancient Egypt. Three of their main gods w the vulture, the jackal and the cobra. Our human minds are slow to understand the awful wickedness of idol worship. The true God, revealed first in creation and then more fully in Scripture, is holy, awesome, glorious: omnipotent. To represent Him in the likeness of any created being - whether human or animal - is to offer Him a deliberate insult. It is a calculated provocation of His wrath.

Let me illustrate this by a crude example

Suppose someone were to find a cockroach crawling on the floor, photograph it, and then display the photograph over the title: Derek Prince. I would surely interpret this as an insult deliberately aimed at me. How immeasurably worse is the insult offered to God by those who give His name not merely to the noblest of His creatures, but even to the most debased! God's judgement on the breaking of these first two com-mandments bears the characteristic mark of a curse: it contin-ues from generation to generation, at least as far as the fourth generation. In some nations and some cultures, the practice of worshipping false gods goes back over hundreds and even thousands of years, compounding the effect many times over.

A person who comes from such a background is heir to a curse that may be compared to a weed planted in his life, linking him to satanic forces outside himself. This weed has two kinds of roots: one long tap root going straight down-ward, and the other less powerful lateral roots stretching out in various directions. The tap root represents the influence of ancestors who worshipped false gods. The lateral roots repre-sent other influences to which the person has been exposed in his own lifetime, either through various sins he has committed, or through his own attachment to false gods, or in various other ways.

Before he can enjoy true liberty and the fullness of the new creation in Christ, this weed must be completely pulled out, with all its roots. The most important root, and the one hardest to deal with, is the tap root that links him to many generations who have worshipped false gods. Nothing but the supernatu-ral grace and power of God can effectively remove all these roots. But thank God, there is hope in the promise of Jesus in Matthew 15:13:

"Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted."

The sins which bring this generation curse, however, do not stop short at the more obvious forms of idolatry. They include a second, wider range of practices which are not necessarily openly idolatrous, or even religious. Because their true nature is concealed by deceptive terminology, they are appropriately described as occult (derived from a Latin word meaning "hidden" or "covered over"). These occult practices have always held a powerful fascination' for fallen man, never more so than in the present generation.

Two of the strongest cravings of human nature are the desire for knowledge and the desire for power. Up to a certain point, man is able to satisfy these cravings from natural sources and by natural means. If he is not fully satisfied by what he obtains in this way, he will turn inevitably to supernatural sources. It is at this point that he easily becomes entrapped in the occult. The reason for this is that there are actually only two available sources of supernatural knowledge and power in the universe: either God or Satan. Every form of supernatural knowledge or power that does not proceed from God, there-fore, necessarily proceeds from Satan. If derived from God, it is legitimate; if derived from Satan, it is illegitimate.

Since God's kingdom is the kingdom of light,

His servants know whom they are serving and what they are doing. On the other hand, since Satan's kingdom is a kingdom of darkness most of those in his kingdom do not know the true identity the one whom they are serving, or the true nature of what they are doing. It was this craving for illegitimate knowledge that prompted man's first transgression in the Garden of Eden. God had se an invisible boundary between him and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When man crossed this boundary, he himself in Satan's territory and became a captive of Satan. Even since then, the same kind of craving for illegitimate knowledge or power has continually lured men into an area where Sail

It is significant that the word "fascination" is derived from a Latin v that means "to bewitch" is able to take them captive at his will (see 2 Timothy 2:26). As already stated, the generic name for this area is "the occult". Those who trespass in this area are seeking from Satan the supernatural knowledge or power which God does not permit man to seek from any other source but Himself. In so doing, they are, in fact, acknowledging Satan as a god besides the one true God, and are thus breaking the first of the Ten Command-ments. In this way they are exposing themselves to the curse God has pronounced on all who break this commandment - a curse that extends as far as the fourth generation.

This conclusion is so important that it needs to be re--emphasised: all who become involved in the occult are exposing themselves to the curse pronounced on those who break the first commandment. In various passages the Bible describes the act of turning to false gods as "spiritual adultery", and condemns it as an even greater sin than physical adultery. Understood in this way, the warnings given in the book of Proverbs against involvement with an "immoral woman" - or an adulteress - apply to in-volvement in the occult. In Proverbs 5:3-6 this immoral woman is depicted as alluring and fascinating in her initial approaches, yet causing final ruin to those whom she seduces:

For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell. Lest you ponder her path of life -Her ways are unstable; You do not know them.

The final statement is particularly illuminating: "Her ways are unstable; you do not know them." No limit can be set to the forms of deception practised in the occult. As soon as one is exposed, another emerges in its place. It is, therefore, impos-sible to give a complete or definitive list of the various types of occult practices. It is, however, possible to identify and briefly describe the following three main branches: witchcraft, divi-nation, and sorcery.

Witchcraft is the power branch of the occult.

Its root is exposed by a brief statement in I Samuel 15:23: "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. . ." Witchcraft is an expression of man's rebellion against God. It is man's attempt to gain his own ends without submitting to God's law. Its driving force is a desire to control people and circumstances. To gain this end it may use either psychological pressures or psychic tech-niques, or a combination of both. There are three key words that expose the activity of witch-craft: manipulate, intimidate, dominate. Domination is its ultimate purpose. Manipulation and intimidation are alterna-tive ways of achieving this purpose. Wherever people use verbal or non-verbal tactics to manipulate, intimidate and dominate those around them, witchcraft is at work.

In its simplest form, witchcraft is merely an expression of the corrupt, rebellious nature of fallen humanity. In Galatians 5:20, in the King James Version, it is listed - with idolatry -among "the works of the flesh". There are probably few people who have not resorted at some time or other to witch-craft in this form. This is only "the tip of the iceberg", however. It is charac-teristic of Satan that he exploits this "work of the flesh" as an opening for supernatural, demonic power that emanates the kingdom of darkness. Through this opening, he moves in and takes control of men and women, making them tools of his evil purposes and slaves of his kingdom. The result is witch-craft practised as an occult art, operating primarily through spells and curses.

The other two forms of the occult - divination and sorcery - are motivated by the same basic desire: to control people and circumstances. Divination is the knowledge branch of the occult, offering many different forms of knowledge which cannot be obtain by purely natural means. In its commonest form, as fortune-telling, it offers supernatural knowledge of the future. It also includes all false forms of religious revelation that claim a supernatural source. Sorcery operates through material objects or through other ways of impacting the physical senses, such as drugs or music. In Revelation 9:21 the word for "sorceress" is directly derived from the Greek word for drugs. In 2 Timothy 3:13 Paul warns that at the close of this age "evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." The word translated "impostors" means literally "enchanters". Chant-ing - or incantation - has always been a technique of sorcery. The contemporary drug culture, with its accompaniment of "heavy metal" rock music, is a vivid example of two forms of sorcery working together. The following is a brief list of various categories under which the "tools" of sorcery may be classified:

Any objects associated with idolatrous worship, whether pagan or professing to be Christian.

Any objects representing any kind of false religion or cult or satanic practice.

Any objects upon which a practitioner of the occult has invoked supernatural power. (Even if this power is ostensibly directed towards a "good" purpose, such as healing, its source makes it the channel of a curse.) · Any objects that are the expression of superstition, such as horseshoes, "lucky" coins, figures of "saints" and so on. The following are some specific forms of the occult preva-lent in our contemporary culture:

1. The Power Branch of the Occult

Acupressure, acupuncture, astral projection, hypnosis, levitation, martial arts (those that invoke supernatural spiritual power), mind control, mind dynamics, parakinesis, ta-bletipping, telekinesis, "touch" healing, witchcraft.

2. The Knowledge Branch of the Occult

Astrology, automatic writing, "channelling," clairaudience (hearing "voices"), clairvoyance, crystal balls, diagnosing by colour therapy or a pendulum, divining, ESP, handwriting analysis, horoscopes, iridology, kabbala, mediums, mind-reading, numerology, omens, palmistry, phrenology, seances, tarot cards, tea leaf reading, telepathy, "witching". Also all books that teach occult practices. Also included under this heading are all false religions or cults which claim supernatural revelation but contradict the Bible. Distinguishing between true and false in this realm is like distinguishing between straight and crooked in the natu-ral realm. Once we have established a standard of what is straight, we know that anything departing from that standard is crooked. It makes no difference whether it varies by one degree or by ninety degrees. It is crooked.

In the spiritual realm, the Bible is the standard of that which is straight - that is, true. Anything that departs from the Bible is false. Whether it departs by little or much is relatively unim-portant. Some of the subtlest deceptions are those that appear to differ only a little from the Bible. Particularly dangerous are religions that misrepresent the Person, the nature or the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The New Testament, for example, presents Jesus as "God manifest in the flesh", but Jehovah's Witnesses teach that He was a created being. Again, Islam rejects the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God, and denies that He ever actually died on the cross. Yet the atoning death of Jesus is the only basis on which man can claim forgiveness of sins.

The following are some of the many false religions or cults that are active today: Anthroposophy, Black Mass, Children of God, Christadelphians, Christian Science, Freemasonry, Inner Peace Movement, Jehovah's Witnesses (Dawn Bible Students), Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), New Age movement, Religious Science, Rosicrucianism, Scientol-ogy, Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Unification Church (Moonies, One World Crusade), Unitarian Church, World-wide Church of God (founded by Herbert W. Armstrong). Also, Eastern religions or cults, such as Bahai, Buddhism, Confucianism, Divine Light Mission, gurus, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, Transcendental Meditation, yoga.

3. The Branch of the Occult Operating through Physical Objects, etc.

Amulets, ankhs (an ankh is a cross with a ring at the top), birthstones, charms (e.g. for wart removal), crystals used for healing, hallucinogenic drugs, "heavy metal" rock records or cassettes, hex signs, "lucky" symbols (e.g. inverted horse-shoes), ouija boards, pagan fetishes or religious artefacts, plan-chettes, talismans, zodiac charms. God's estimate of those who are involved in the kinds of practices listed above is stated plainly in Deuteronomy 18:10-13 (NIV):

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.

Notice that those who engage in these occult practices are classed in the same category with those who sacrifice their children in the fire to pagan gods. Under the law of Moses, the mandatory penalty for all such practices was death. It is important to recognise that books can be channels of occult power. When the professing Christians in Ephesus were confronted through the ministry of Paul with the reality of Satan's power, their reaction was dramatic:

Many of those who believed now came and openly con-fessed their evil deeds. A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas2. (Acts 19:18-19, NIV)

The only appropriate way to deal with such occult material is to destroy it completely - by fire or by whatever means may be most suitable - even though the value of the material de-stroyed may be very great. It has already been pointed out that the occult, like the immoral woman", is constantly changing its ways. There-fore, no final or exhaustive list of occult practices can ever be offered. Over many years I have sought to help people with prob-lems that had not been resolved by the type of counselling or ministry normally offered by the majority of churches today. So far as I could tell, these people's problems were not due to lack of sincerity or earnestness. In fad, they often seemed to be more earnest and sincere than many regular churchgoers who manifested no obvious problems.

In the cases where I did succeed in helping such people, I almost invariably discovered some root of involvement with the occult in their backgrounds. Often they themselves did not see this as a potential cause of their problems. Yet once the occult root was exposed and dealt with, it was usually com-paratively easy to resolve the other, more obvious problems. A simple but vivid example comes to my mind. In a home prayer meeting, I found myself next to a young man in his early twenties. We had not met before, but I felt led to ask him, "Have you received the Holy Spirit?" "Yes," he replied, but then added rather wistfully, "but I

A drachma was about a day's wage.

At today's rates in the United States, the total amount could be as much as $200,000. don't speak in tongues." Clearly he felt there was something lacking in his experience

Without discussing any further the issue of tongues, I asked him, "Did you ever visit a fortune-teller?" He reflected for a moment, and then said, "Yes, once, when I was about fifteen. But I only did it as a joke. I didn't really believe in it." "But still," I pressed him, "you did actually have your fortune told?" "Yes," he acknowledged rather reluctantly, and then added defensively, "but I didn't mean anything by it."

"Would you be willing to confess that as a sin,"

I said, "and ask God to forgive you and release you from its consequences?" When he agreed to this, I led him in a simple prayer, in which he confessed his visit to the fortune-teller as a sin, and asked God to forgive him and release him from its conse-quences. Then, without a further word of explanation, I put my hand on his shoulder and asked God to release the Holy Spirit within him. Instantly, without hesitation or stammering, he began to speak clearly and fluently in an unknown tongue. In a few moments he was lost in the presence of God, oblivious to all that was going on around him. The invisible barrier in his life had been removed!

Since then, I have reflected many times on my brief encoun-ter with that young man. His problem was not lack of earnest-ness or sincerity. It was a failure to recognise the nature of his act in visiting the fortune-teller. He did not understand that in God's sight he had been guilty of spiritual adultery. Suppose I had asked him, "Did you ever commit adultery with a married woman?" He would never have replied, "Yes, but I only did it as a joke.... I didn't mean anything by it."

Countless multitudes of people today are in a similar situ-ation. Many of them are churchgoers. Yet, through ignorance, they have trespassed in the area of the occult and have become involved in a sin which is worse than physical adultery. Until they recognise the true nature of what they have done, they must continue under the shadow of the curse which God has pronounced on all who turn away from Him to false gods.

Furthermore, the same shadow may continue to rest over the lives of the next four generations of their descendants. When confronted with these issues, Christians sometimes respond, "But I didn't know that I was doing anything wrong." My reply is to point out that in 1 Timothy 1:13-15 Paul de-scribes himself as "the chief of sinners" for sins which he committed "ignorantly in unbelief". Ignorance does not ab-solve us from the guilt of our sins, but it may dispose God to show us mercy if we repent and turn to Him.

All of us, without exception, need to consider carefully how these principles may apply in our lives. In the first two of the Ten Commandments God has pronounced His judgement on two specific sins: turning to any false god besides the one true God; and making and worshipping any artificial representa-tion of God. These two sins include the whole area of the occult. God's judgement on those who commit them, as we have seen, extends to the four generations following.

Conversely, any one of the four generations preceding us, by having committed these sins, could be the cause of a curse over us in our generation. Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and sixteen great-great-grandparents. This makes a total of thirty persons, any one of whom might be the cause of a curse over our life. How many of us would be in a position to guarantee that none of our thirty immediate ancestors was ever involved in any form of idolatry or the occult?

Thank God He has provided a way of release from any curse that might have come from this source! Thank God we can avail ourselves of His provision! In the final day of reckoning, God will not hold against us the fact that our ancestors brought a curse upon us, but He will hold us guilty if we refuse to avail ourselves of the provision He has made for us to be released from such a curse.