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Charismatic Witchcraft

written by Asher Intrater
July 06, 2007

Wanting the Power of God for the Wrong Reasons

In the revival at Samaria, we learn of two mistakes: one more relevant to evangelicals, and one to charismatics. After the gospel had been preached there, apostles from Jerusalem went down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:16-17 – For [the Holy Spirit] had not yet fallen on any of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Yeshua). Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Many evangelicals miss the work of the Holy Spirit because they believe that everyone receives the fullness of the Spirit at the time of new birth. However, in this verse it is clear that there are two distinct experiences: one is salvation and the other is the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Those two events can happen at the same time, but not always.

The great “evangelical” preacher Apollos received instruction on salvation from Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:26), but missed instruction on baptism of the Holy Spirit from Paul (Acts 19:1-2).

Among those saved at Samaria was a sorcerer named Simon. When he saw the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he was excited to get that same power. However his MOTIVES were wrong. Peter told him to repent and said, “your heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21). He wanted the right thing for the wrong reasons.

The wrong motives of Simon may be divided into three types:

  1. Pride: He wanted to be known as the man of “the great power of God” (verse 9). How many ministers today are motivated by spiritual pride, wanting others to see them as the anointed man of power of the hour?
  2. Greed: He thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money (verse 20). What he was interested in was selling the anointing of God. How many ministers today want to use testimonies of the power of God in a way that will bring in more offerings?
  3. Jealousy: When Simon saw the anointing of the apostles, he was “poisoned by bitterness” (verse 23). How many of us hide envy in our hearts when we see another minister succeed? We say “halleluyah,” and then secretly wish he would fail.

These sinful motives were part of Simon’s life before he was saved. The power of God became a temptation for him to fall back into his old character faults. Operating in the power of the Holy Spirit while covering up character faults, may inflate us into a super-spiritual hype, which is not any better than sorcery.

This temptation is so dangerous that it can result in losing salvation, even while preaching and doing miracles. Matthew 7:22-23 – Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast our demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.” The word “many” in this passage is particularly frightening. This is a wide spread phenomenon, not a rare occurrence.

Any blessing of God can be a temptation. Wisdom can lead to intellectual pride. Beauty can lead to lust. Prosperity can lead to greed. The more we are blessed, the more we have to guard our purity. The more our hearts stay pure, the more God can pour out His blessings. Since the anointing of the Holy Spirit is such a special blessing, it can also become a very subtle temptation.

When the devil tempted Yeshua (Matthew 4, Luke 4), he did not appeal to drugs, sex, or violence, but to the very anointing that Yeshua was destined to walk in. “Turn this stone into bread” – Yeshua later turned water into wine, and fed thousands with bread and fish. “Jump off the Temple” – Yeshua would be crucified and raised from the dead as the greatest miracle in history. “Rule the kingdoms of this world” – Yeshua will certainly rule the world in the Messianic kingdom to come (John 18:37; Revelation 11:15; 20:4).

Our gifts and calling, our anointing and destiny, our desire for successful ministry must all be brought to the cross. After they have “died” and been “resurrected,” they will bear much more fruit (John 12:24). The cross purifies us; the resurrection empowers us. As the cross precedes the resurrection; so does purity precede genuine miracle power. After Yeshua prayed, fasted, and withstood the temptations of the devil, He came back in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14). The word of God penetrates our hearts so that we will have the right motives (Hebrews 4:12).

We are commanded to do miracles as part of the Great Commission (Mark 16:17; Matthew 10:8). We are to desire the gifts and pursue God’s glory (I Corinthians 14:1; Romans 2:7). Lack of miraculous healings are an indication of unbelief (Matthew 17:20) and lack of love (Matthew 14:14). True fear of the Lord will result in miracles (Acts 2:43; Acts 5:11-12). Signs and wonders were the universal confirmation of the gospel message (Mark 16:20; Romans 15:19; Hebrews 2:4). We are to pray for the boldness to do them (Acts 4:30).

There is a double work of the Holy Spirit here. We can miss it on either side. We can become cynical, doubting the reality of miracles, and not paying the price to pursue them. Or we can pursue them out of selfish ambition.

Philippians 1:15-18 – Some indeed preach Messiah from envy and strife, and some from goodwill. The former from selfish ambition… the latter out of love. What then? In every way, Messiah is preached; and in this I rejoice.

Preaching out of wrong motives is one mistake; being bitter about those who are doing so is another. Being resentful about famous ministers is just as hypocritical as being a phony minister yourself. Some people are more focused on criticizing others than they are on believing in Jesus. What is the answer? Keep preaching in love, and stay joyful, even if others seem to be wrongly motivated. 

Let us not make excuses for the lack of miracle power. Now is the time to break through in boldness, with genuine faith and a pure heart.

Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.

He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.

Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.

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