By Bonnie Ricks
Galatians 3:1-5 NIV
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing - if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Sorcery and magic were common in Paul's time. Acts 8:9-25 NIV tells of a man named Simon who practiced sorcery in Samaria, his many "wonders" causing people to say that he was the "divine power known as the Great Power." On Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12 NIV), Paul was confronted by Elymas the sorcerer, whom Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, struck blind. Now Paul talks to the Galatians as though they had been bewitched. Magicians and sorcerers used both optical illusions and Satan's powers to perform "miracles." People were fascinated and drawn to these people, without realizing the true source of their power.
Sorcery and magic aren't dead. They're alive and well and living in the world today. Consider psychics, those folks who have become so popular that they even have their own TV programs and telephone call-in lines. Millions of dollars are given over to psychic research every year, not to mention the millions spent by consumers at $4.98 a minute on the telephone. Paranormal matters are becoming a matter of course, with one television special after another on the subject. And it's the rare individual who does not know his or her astrological sign, including Christians who see nothing wrong with reading their daily horoscope in the paper. People who are otherwise normal, sane and rational human beings, listen to "spirit guides" and indulge in "guided imagery." The "Force" espoused by Star Wars is the identical "divine power known as the Great Power" spoken of in Acts. And Halloween is the second highest commercial boon for retailers in the United States every year.
This bewitching is not just limited to the secular world, but has crept into our churches one by one. More and more people are being turned away from the simplicity of faith in Jesus toward New Age philosophy. Buying into not only some churches' theology, but also New Age mysticism, people seem more ready to believe in their ability to become gods - or to believe that they already are - than to believe in the one and only God Almighty who created them.
Still others have turned God into a big "vending machine" in the sky who is forced to dispense whatever the requester asks for, if he/she only asks the right way, using the right "formula" for prayer, and exhibits enough "faith".
Perhaps most maligned of all, though, is the sufficiency of Jesus' death on the cross. Unable to accept the fact that Jesus did all the "work" at Calvary, people (and churches) insist on adding to what He did, either through additional requirements for salvation ("good works") or payment for one's own sins in one way or other, the worst of which is the shedding of one's own blood.
Don't be bewitched. Don't allow Satan's deception to pull you into a fascination with his deceptive tricks. Study God's word and let it abide in you, building up your armor against the bewitching ways of the devil.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. [Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV]
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