What does the bible say about witches, witchcraft and the occult? How do New Age practices like meditation and Hatha Yoga fit with Christianity? Christ centered yoga?

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What does the bible say about mystical experiences and New Age mysticism in Christianity, Satan, the devil, demons, magic, sorcery, witches, witchcraft and the occult? How do New Age practices like meditation and Hatha Yoga fit with Christianity? Christ or Christian centered Yoga and God's plan for salvation?

3~ Detractors From The Simplicity Of Salvation

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God's Messiah graphic Mystical Experiences

The God of the Universe appeared to us objectively in the fullness of time in the incarnation of the man Jesus the Christ and revealed to us His divine nature. He clearly and simply told us his plan of salvation which involves believing and trusting that Jesus was God incarnate. "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him" (John 3:36, NASB)." The analogy has been drawn of an ant hill with a bulldozer headed straight for it. If you wanted to warn the ants of the danger, the best way for you, as a human observer, would be, if you were able to, to become an ant and warn the ants of the impending danger. In the same way God incarnated as a man, not only to warn us of the danger of an eternity without him but to reveal Himself to us and offer us the opportunity of an eternity with Him.

We may not approve of this plan of salvation with its emphasis on belief and trust in the God man Jesus, but it is the Master Designer’s plan and the only plan which leads to eternal life. It is a plan custom tailored for humanity by God.

Human beings, however, do not necessarily accept this divinely engineered plan. They prefer to create their own systems of salvation. These systems are man’s and not God’s creations. C.S. Lewis tells us: "You are a bundle of self-centered fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self conceit, all doomed to death" ( Mere Christianity , "Let’s Pretend"). Timothy instructs us that in the last days, "men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power" (2 Timothy 3:2-5). In Christianity the self is considered fallen and in need of redemption.

Yet it is out of the Self that mystical experiences sprout. Freidrich Nietzche, the proud atheist who glorified man, said, "You do not love yourselves sufficiently" (Freidrich Nietzche, Thus Spake Zarathustra , p.75). Out of his self-centered world view came the concept of "superman", man unrestrained by God’s ennobling principles, a ruthless man unrestrained by moral absolutes, a man which inspired the Nazis to exterminate millions as undesirable creatures.

New Age doctrines are centered on experiencing various "states of consciousness". New Age, influenced by Hinduism and Zen, teaches that we are all gods. We’ve just forgotten we are. New Age teaches that by reaching within, into our selves, through meditation and yoga, we can realize and tap into our divine natures. The God of the New Age is an impersonal force underlying everything. In this sense God and the creation are one. To get in tune with this God force, expounds New Age, all we have to do is tap into it, very much like an electrical plug taps into an electrical socket. Plugging in involves "centering" on ourselves. We are told the answer is within. By unfolding our consciousness we will attain Godhood. God is a subjective experience.

Christianity teaches that the Creator of the Universe in an infinitely intelligent, loving, approachable personality. This Creator is outside and separate from his creation.

Establishing a relationship with God is an objective transaction. By accepting, trusting and believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God we enter into a contractual relationship with the God of the Universe who comes to indwell in us in the person of the Holy Spirit and gives us eternal life (John 15:26, John 16:7). In Christianity our relationship with God is an objective affair, not based on mood or feelings.

Steve Kumar in his helpful book Christianity for Skeptics states, "The underlying presupposition behind the view that reality can only be experienced is the notion that experience proves reality. But does subjective experience prove what we believe? When we reflect on experience it is worth remembering the remarks of philosopher Bertrand Russell who said, ‘We can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes.’ People who seek to prove their metaphysical beliefs on the basis of experience think metaphysics and experience are synonymous. What they fail to see is that experience is something one has and metaphysics is the interpretation of that experience. One should also remember that experiences are capable of many interpretations."

"By starting from experience one simply has no means of checking his or her experience, for the simple reason that a subjective experience is too soft a ground to build the foundation of one’s eternal hope. Subjectivism cannot be the basis for truth." "Carl Jung’s striking remarks should be heeded, ‘We can never decide definitely whether a person is really enlightened, or whether he merely imagines it, we have no criterion of this’(Suzuki, Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Foreward, p.15). How can one be sure that it is God he is experiencing and not the devil, the Holy Spirit and not an evil spirit?"

Steve Kumar cautions us that the danger of mystical experience should not be overlooked. He cites the experience of a former yoga master and guru who came to understand the powers of darkness in mystical experience:

"I advanced in the occult sphere so fast that I soon became the youngest guru in the

Western Hemisphere, and one of the most advanced and powerful. Twice a week I taught yoga on television. Hatha-Yoga sounds like a nice simple set of exercises; everyone thinks it is just gymnastics. I want to warn that it is just the beginning of a devilish trap. After I became an instructor in Hatha-Yoga, my guru showed me that the only thing these exercises do is open your appetite for the occult. They are like marijuana; they usually lead you on to a drug that is worse and stronger, binding you so completely that only Christ can deliver you. Many people think that occult power is just the power of the mind. This is not true. There is a point beyond which the power of the mind ends and the demonic power takes over" (Quoted in Colin Weightman and Robert W. McCarthy , A Mirage from the East (Adelaide, Australia: Lutheran Publishing House, 1977, p.8).

The author of this website was sincerely practicing meditation and yoga for six years. Because of the power he initially experienced, he was convinced he had found the answer to his spiritual quest. He felt man could in fact become god and lift himself by his own bootstraps, that we are in fact gods that only need to tap within to actualize it. However, meditation and yoga proved addictive. Trying to quit the second year proved impossible and resulted in severe withdrawal symptoms including trembling, cold sweats, and tension. Unable to function without his meditation "fix", he nevertheless fully committed to the path of eastern mysticism. The end result of six years of meditation and yoga, including intensive courses, was total disillusionment. He ended up in a cold, sterile, dark space. None of the promises of bliss and harmony with one’s environment materialized. Only by accepting Christ as his personal Savior, was he able to find true love, peace and life. The path he’d been on did not lead to life but suffocation. As Paul said, "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2Corinthians 11:14, NASB).

Kumar quotes Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield, "He who begins by seeking God within himself may end by confusing himself with God" (B.B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1952), p. 455.

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God's Messiah graphicNew Age Mysticism in Christianity?

Acorn Decoration: for a Bible quote for the Christian about evil distractions (like Satan, evil spirits, witches, witchcraft, yoga) from Christianity belief of God's plan for our salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. (Hebrews 13:8-9) Acorn Decoration: for a Bible quote for the Christian about evil distractions (like Satan, evil spirits, witches, witchcraft, yoga) from Christianity belief of God's plan for our salvation through Jesus Christ.

The criticism has been made that influenced by New Age mysticism an emphasis on personal spiritual experience has crept into the Christian Church., in some churches to such an extent that individual "revelation" and "prophecies" are given more weight than the Word of God, the Bible. To the extent that the focus of worship, in study and song, is shifted from God to sinful man, Christianity is weakened, polluted, and compromised. Instead of worshipping God, we spend week in and week out learning "how to" better achieve happiness, success, the right career choice, or finding the right mate. Certainly the Bible is quoted, but the emphasis is on man rather than God. God is merely an "ad on" much like dressing is to a salad or salt to a plate of spaghetti. God becomes a tool to personal self fulfillment. Mid week Bible studies are not spent in analyzing and digesting the Word of God, but in giving one another dubious "words of edification and prophecy." The majesty of God is replaced by an exercise of "Christian" shamanism.

To shift worship from God, who is the only object worthy of worship, to "spiritual" subjective experiences is very deceptive. In this spiritual movement we have tens of thousands giving weekly "prophecies" to their brethren supposedly under the "leading" of the Holy Spirit. Yet, what percentage of these prophecies are accurate and of the ones which were accurate how many were truly inspired by God? What percentage of the people prayed for are healed and of the ones who are healed how many are healed by the power of God?

God cannot be put in a box. God is not limited. If the God outside of time chooses to incarnate as a man to reveal Himself to us, so be it. And He is more than capable of giving us accurate prophecies, as is evidenced throughout the Bible, or healing the sick. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the future (John 16:13). Jesus said, "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father" (John 14:11-12). These works undoubtedly include healing since healing the sick was approximately one third of Jesus’s ministry.

The Apostle Paul expounds on the varieties of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: "For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:8-11, NASB).

Certainly God through the Holy Spirit works supernaturally in the Church. On the other hand deception is also present. Why else would some receive the gift of discerning false spirits within the Church body?

How do we recognize the operation of deceiving spirits in the Church body? Jesus tells us, "There is no good tree which produces bad fruit; nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart," (Luke 6:43-45, NASB).

Looking at the fruit of an individual’s life we obtain a valuable insight as to whether an individual claiming the gift of prophecy is credible. If that person is not faithful to his or her spouse, is contentious, argumentative, manipulative, exhibits little love and concern for others, loves money, is uncharitable, is bitter, has a troubled family life, acts one way at church and another at home or in business, that person’s credibility as a prophet should be seriously questioned. No matter how noble and lofty may this individual’s prophecies be, because this person does not live a sanctified life, his or her ministry is built on quicksand and his or her messages are most likely flawed.

False prophets can also be recognized because their prophecies are wrong, inaccurate. In Old Testament times false prophets were stoned to death. If false prophets are stoned today there would be countless rockpiles dotting the landscape including those of politicians, "miracle" healers, and authors of speculative works on Bible prophecy.

Jesus encourages us to love one another, point out the errant ways of fellow human beings, and forgive them. Only when they persist in their unacceptable behavior, are we to ask them to leave the Church.

C.S. Lewis points out that theology, an understanding of the Word of God, the Bible, is practical whereas feelings lead nowhere. He recounts an old, hard-bitten officer who stood up while he was giving a talk to the R.A.F. on theology and said, "I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!" ( Mere Christianity , "Making and Begetting").

Lewis goes on to say that he believed the man probably had a real experience with God in the desert and when this man turned to the Christian creeds, he was turning from something real to something less real. However, Lewis points out, the creeds of Christian theology, are like a map. Experiences may be more fun, "But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God - experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused."

"And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere . There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion - all about feeling God in nature, and so on - is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map" (italics mine).

Theology is practical. Yes, it tells us Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher, but he is also the Son of God and God Himself in the body of a man. By looking at Jesus, we understand the loving nature of God. By believing and trusting in Jesus, we have eternal life. We will not get eternal life from visualization, positive thinking, meditation, yoga, laughing uncontrollably and barking in church, getting healed by a guru, whether Hindu or charismatic Christian. It is theology which is the straight and narrow road which leads to redemption, salvation and freedom from the bondage of sin and spiritual counterfeits. The goal of Christian theology reduced to incisive simplicity is believing and trusting Jesus Christ as the Son of God

I will proceed to quote from my book Succeed With Solomon’s Principles on this line of thought (Herring, Michael, Succeed With Solomon’s Principles , Winepress Publishers, Enumclaw, Washington, 1998, p.175-176):

"Beliefs are extremely powerful, and this particular belief determines your success in eternity. This particular belief is so empowering it will remove the uncertainty and fear of death. Believing in the Son of Man can be more appropriately defined as ‘believing on.’ Through faith you are leaning on him. You are counting on him to guide you and make you grow."

"Again the issue is how can you believe in a Higher Power you cannot see. Reach out on a dare for this Higher Power to manifest itself in your life or circumstances. You will see a positive change. Just by reaching out you have nothing to lose. You have everything to lose if you don’t reach out. You will miss out on the opportunity to establish a relationship of love with the Master of the Universe. You will greatly limit your possibilities for success, a success that is not just limited to the income you make and the type of car you drive, but a success attained by fulfilling your spiritual purpose on this planet."

"Your priorities will fall into place. You will no longer be a chicken running around with its head cut off. You will receive spiritual insight on what you’re meant to accomplish and the hope to attain it. You will receive spiritual balance and focus. You will distinguish what is worth striving for from what is frivolous."

"You will no longer need a guru lording it over you through a spiritual con game. Their game is, 'I know something you need to know, but before I tell you, you will have to learn my techniques, go through my franchised set of initiations, accept my world view, and in the process give me a lot of money.’ Keep in mind that some gurus come in business suits. As I pointed out earlier, you don’t need a lot of overhead to sell ideas and beliefs."

"You may have heard the story of the Western seeker who goes to the Himalayas in search of a guru he’s heard about. He makes his way through deserts, swamps, jungle and dysentery. He finally finds the wise sage sitting in a lotus position in a cave and bows down to him. After a few days the wise sage turns to him and asks, ‘How can I help you, my son?’"

'I have come to find the meaning of life, oh master,’ answers the seeker. The guru rolls his eyes inward, hums a chant and then slowly opens his mouth. He speaks very softly, so the seeker stretches his neck to hear.’"

"Life is a banana, my son."

"The seeker can’t believe what he’s heard. His temper explodes, 'After all the trouble I went through to find you, the heat, the sickness, the mosquitoes, you have the nerve to tell me life is a banana?'"

"The guru snaps out of his semi-trance, wide eyed. ‘You mean it isn’t?’"

"This is the game being played by gurus, ‘spiritual mentors,’ worldly philosophies. You can ask questions, but don’t con others and yourself by proclaiming you have the answers when you don’t have anything. There are plenty of foxes out there on the prowl more than willing to raid the chicken coop of your mind and the green backs in your wallet. They create their ‘systems’ out of thin air."

"The Son of Man does not charge anything for his system. You don’t need to do yoga, fast, chant, meditate or practice various forms of biofeedback and self-programming. His system is basically, ‘Believe on me and I will transform your inner being. I will turn you into a new person and give you abundant hope.’"

"The Master of the Universe establishes this system and as such it works. Try it. It’s free. What do you have to lose except infinite success?" (note success is earlier defined as fulfilling God’s purpose for your life)."

"He was humble and gentle. He did not ride in a stretch limousine or a private jet plane. He rode a donkey and died a brutal death on a cross, rather than forsake his claim that he was the Son of God. Will your guru die to give you life?"

The Higher Power we need to reach out to is the Infinite Power, a loving personal God, and not an impersonal "force."

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God's Messiah graphicThe Lure of the New Age

If Jesus is the Son of God, then any philosophy or creed making a contradictory claim is a counterfeit. Most attacks on the Christian faith focus on the Trinity such as: 1) Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, wise, an avatar, and enlightened master but not God incarnate, 2) yes, Jesus was a son of god, but we are all sons of god and we just have to realize it, visualize it, internalize this realization, or connect with the god power inside all of us, 3) God cannot have a son, 4) by leading a good life and following the precepts of our church, like Jesus, we will inherit and rule over our own world after leaving this earthly life, 5) there are many gods out there beside Jesus and they are all positive manifestations of the god-force, 6) Jesus mastered hidden knowledge which we can master as well and become like him etc...etc...

The permutations and combinations of twisting the Truth are endless and have a tendency of reappearing throughout history. They range from those sects which are Look Alike, they appear to be Christian except they deny the Trinity, to those that are man centered (such as the mind sciences), to those that worship demonic entities in the guise of gods (such as spiritism, the worship of the powers of nature in an ecological context, repeating mantras to spiritual entities, witchcraft). It is not necessary to become an expert in the many facets of delusion unless, of course, one were trying to reach a member of a particular sect with the Truth. The approach should not be to get exhausted cursing the darkness but to turn on the light with Truth.

As already documented Jesus was his own best advocate. He angered the people of his day because he claimed to be one with God and chose to die horribly on a cross rather than deny this claim. Jesus still angers those who do not believe and trust in him. Instead of confronting Jesus’ claim directly many seek to take away from it or twist it. If Jesus is not one with God but "one of the boys" then his sacrifice on the cross would not have been a "perfect" sacrifice as he would have been tainted with sin and his death would not have atoned for the sin of the human race. Furthermore, had Jesus been "one of the boys" he wouldn’t have resurrected as sin would have kept him in the grave.

To deny that Jesus was one with God or to claim he was but so are we is to dilute and destroy the entire purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God. God is just and abides by his rules. The rebellion of Adam and Eve brought sin and death to the entire creation. By incarnating as a man God showed his mercy by taking on the penalty of sin and death. No mere human is an acceptable sacrifice for sin. The resurrection is the most powerful evidence for faith in Jesus Christ. All of the world’s great prophets are in their graves, their flesh long decomposed. Only the Son of God, a historical fact, resurrected bodily.

In the interests of brevity, rather than doing a protracted tour-de-force through the world’s religions and cults, let us examine the basic precepts of New Age which unfortunately embodies the core beliefs non Christian humanity is moving toward. The word "unfortunately" is used because New Age, in contrast to monotheism, deifies man, and as such is severely flawed and will exhibit all of man’s ruthlessness. The Nazis believed they were building a thousand year Reich. They believed in the higher man, the superman, denying the existence of God. New Age believes this also. Such a world view has no room for love and compassion. It will only lead mankind into bestial totalitarianism, all the more brutal because of intrusive, technology based control systems.

New Age beliefs are compared to Christian precepts as follows:

 

New Age

Christian

Nature of God:

God is an impersonal force or energy.

God is three Persons in One.

Nature of World:

Everything in the universe is made of the same energy and is interrelated, including God.

God created the universe and is distinct and separate from His Creation.

Metaphysics:

All reality is a unified whole. All things are of one divine essence.

God is outside space and time.

Truth:

Is within. Knowledge is relative to your state of consciousness or awareness and as such is in flux with your processing of "reality."

Truth is revealed in the Bible, 66 books written over 1500 years by more than 40 human authors from three continents in three languages but containing One Integrated Message System with similar ideas, themes, concepts and structure.

Reality

The world is a veil of illusion. You create your own reality.

The world is real and has absolute, physical form. There are serious penalties in denying its reality.

Ethics:

Relativistic. Do what you feel is right.

Absolute. The Law is in all our hearts. We are created with a conscience, an inner compass. We know right from wrong, and the Word of God, the Bible, guides us.

Creation:

Evolved, an impersonal machine which builds on itself.

Crafted by the Hand of God, orderly with universal laws. Filled with beauty and variety, but subject to entropy (decay) since the Fall.

Man's nature:

A sleeping, spiritual being with god potential.

Made in the image of God, but fallen.

Human Problem:

Failure to develop your consciousness and realize true potential.

Original sin which taints all humans, no matter how righteous.

Answer to human problem

Unfolding your consciousness through yoga, meditation, chants, dancing, developing mind powers. Salvation is based on works in the occult and supernatural.

Trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s only son, the only incarnation of God. Salvation is free gift from Creator of the Universe.

Death:

Temporary extinguishing of life which will result in reincarnation to work out karma or patterns of attachment to physical world. Once karma is resolved death results in oblivion in Brahman, the "snuffing out" of the self in Nirvana.

Man must die once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Entrance to eternal life in heaven (1Cor.13:12) or hell (Luke 16:23).

The important thing to realize when comparing the New Age world view or, to use the most abused word in current techno-talk, paradigm, is that the Christian world view is based on verifiable reality based on historical evidence (nature of God, personality of God, incarnation as Jesus, works of Jesus, Jesus’s claims, His resurrection, the willingness of the apostles to die as martyrs, changed lives of those who accept Jesus Christ, nature of Creation, laws of physics, science of genetics , etc... ) while the New Age world view is based on a lie, teaching us we can become gods through our own initiative and appealing to our pride. New Age’s lure is the same the serpent told Eve in the Garden, that she would become as God by eating of the fruit. Instead, by defying God, she and Adam were cursed, cast from the garden and experienced pain, disease, toil and death. The consequences of not accepting God’s free gift of salvation are tragic and gruesome, an eternity of suffering.

From New Age’s perspective, the consequences of denying New Age’s beliefs are minimal, perhaps an illusory incarnation as a toad, while those of denying Christian reality are eternal . Hell is not a fabrication. Jesus, the Son of God, refers to hell more than anyone else. He describes hell as a place for unsaved sinners, "where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED" (Mark 9:48, NASB). Hell is such an awful place outside the space time continuum that God Himself incarnated as a man so that by believing in Him you would be spared an eternity in that location. Hell was not designed for man, but for Lucifer, his fallen angels, and death itself (Revelation 20:14).

The goal of New Age is total dissolution of one’s self into the void which is Brahman, the underlying ether which envelops everything. Buddhism teaches that an individual attains Nirvana when the agglomeration of wants and desires which constitute "self" are snuffed out and "self" ceases to be. Only then, according to Buddhism, does an individual escape the wheel of suffering resulting from reincarnation.

Christianity teaches that you only live once. After that comes judgment. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our sin in loathsome to God. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Through Christ’s death God demonstrated His love toward us (Romans 5:8). No matter how devoid of love you may feel and no matter how terrible the sins you may have committed, God still loves you.

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God's Messiah graphic(A Place Called Heaven - The Reward of Salvation)

Jesus tells you, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20). By believing in Jesus Christ and receiving him, we have the right to become children of God (John 1:12) with all the associated blessings, including an eternity in heaven at the termination of our earthly existence.

At death, you retain your personality and will receive a new superhuman spiritual body which does not get sick or die (1 Corinthians 15:39). All those who become Christ’s are promised the same body as his - a body from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:53), the type of body which can enter God’s kingdom and live forever (1 Corinthians 15:51).

Heaven in not a state of mind but a tangible place. Paul was caught up into heaven and described it as a place which a man is not permitted to speak (2 Corinthians 12:4). Revelation 21-22 tells us of a new heaven and a new earth and describes the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. The city is laid out as a square, fifteen hundred miles each side. Its walls are of jasper and the city is pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones are of precious stones and the twelve gates are twelve pearls; each one of the gates is a single pearl. There is no temple in the new Jerusalem for the Lord God and the Lamb (Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:36)) are its temple. The city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God illumines it, and its lamp is the Lamb. To this city the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and the honor of the nations. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life shall enter the new Jerusalem. The unclean, those who practice abomination and lying will not enter.

A river of the water of life, clear as crystal, shall flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street and on either side of the river is the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding fruit every month, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. There shall no longer be any cure and His bond-servants shall serve Him and see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall no longer be night and artificial lights or light from the sun will not be needed because the Lord God shall illumine them, and they shall reign forever and ever.

The new Jerusalem is a reflection of the new heaven from which it descends. It is described as made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. It is the tabernacle of God among man and God shall dwell among men, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them. He shall wipe away every tear. There shall no longer be death, mourning, crying, pain.

In his vision John describes He who sits on the throne as saying, "Behold, I am making all things new ..... It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:5-8, NASB).

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God's Messiah graphicSigns and Wonders

We are all becoming ensnared by experiences. Relativistic morals taught in public schools in the United States teach children to do what "feels right" yet absolute principles such as the ten commandments which teach children right from wrong cannot be displayed. The argument is made that displaying such commandments are an interference of the church in state affairs. Children, who thrive on structure and direction, are left without guidance. Then, we are surprised when confused children shoot their innocent classmates!

Our increasing fascination with what "feels right" has left us rudderless spiritually, unable to discern the real from the counterfeit. Even science, so dependent on the physical, is left perplexed when faced with the paranormal. Science, unlike Christianity, does not categorize supernatural experiences as coming from God or from Lucifer, the father of lies.

Paul talks about a "lawless one" who will come with the activity of Satan. He calls this man the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, who will appear during the apostasy prior to "the day of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-12, NASB). This man "who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4, NASB) will come with "all power and signs and false wonders" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9, NASB). The Lord will slay him with the breath of His mouth, but prior to this "those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" will be sorely deceived. We are clearly told here that signs and wonders are not necessarily from God.

The scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, after the many miracles he had already performed, and Jesus answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40, NASB). Jesus was referring to his death and resurrection after three days.

His annoyance at being asked for a sign after the incredible signs he had already given them should give us caution not to lust after signs and wonders, constantly testing a loving God who has already proven Himself in history. The Church today has been infected with the "sign and wonders" bug, as if God were a circus performer who will jump through hoops at our slightest bidding. Certainly God is omnipotent and can and does heal the sick or gives us words of prophecy, but to expect God to "perform" at the bid and call of unrepentant, sinful, egotistical, fleshly humans demeans him and is sacrilegious.

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God's Messiah graphicA Spirit of Delusion

Those who persist in having God "perform" are inviting the spirit of deception in their midst. By turning God into a genie they are limiting Him and in fact receiving much less than He has purposed for them. They are relating to God in a superficial, carnal, selfish manner. By trying to manipulate God’s supposed "spiritual laws" to achieve success through vivid mental imaging of your desired objective, through positive thinking, through positive affirmation you are imposing your will rather than God’s will for your life and are in essence practicing witchcraft through the "power of the will," as Adolf Hitler called it. You are empowering deluding spirits, fallen angels, to operate in your life and eventually destroy you.

Jesus warns us that in the great tribulation, the time of God’s judgment in the latter days, a time when we may very well be approaching rapidly, "false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray" (Mark 13:22). For entire congregations to lust after signs and wonders and for Christians to flock to services of "preacher-entertainers" who supposedly perform signs and wonders is dangerous. It is important to note that individuals in church bodies with their professed "gifts of the spirit" are just as culpable as high profile "preacher-entertainer" types. The weekly Bible studies where everyone prophesies over everybody else are just as suspect.

The primary purpose of Christian assembly is worshipping God and studying the Word of God. It should be God centered and not man centered. If healing, prophecy, words of knowledge, tongues with interpretation manifest themselves in an orderly fashion in a God centered service, so be it, but if the service revolves on simply "signs and wonders," the gifts themselves, rather than the glorification of God, we are very susceptible to a delusion. We are literally "whoring" after supernatural manifestations which are very likely not from God. C.S. Lewis labels this "whoring" a "lust for the occult".

With respect to faith ministries, it is important that we have faith in God, as Jesus directed us, not faith in man or faith in our own faith, which turns into a self-hyping works trip. As a Christian once said, "I am a man of little faith, but I have a great God!" God can heal. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. He loves us and whether he heals us or not we should love him. We can’t force him to heal us through "formulas," including "faith" formulas.

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God's Messiah graphicWitches, Witchcraft, the Occult

In the past forty years, there has been a resurgent interest in witchcraft in all its multifaceted guises. The main thrust has been presenting witchcraft as an innocent, entertaining subject in literature and in movies.

As usual 95% of Christians fail to use discernment, yield to media manipulation, and embrace this “sugar coated” siren of witchcraft along with the deluded mass of the population little heeding a wide array of Biblical admonitions not to open the door to Satan who comes to devour as a roaring lion. Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have you, to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31) and that’s exactly what Satan will do if we don’t ask before reading a book, watching a movie, entering a relationship or pursuing any course of action “What would Jesus do?”

Witchcraft involves the manipulation of the demonic host, through incantations and the casting of spells. Witchcraft can also involve communication with demonic spirits impersonating the dead, "familiar spirits". The Bible clearly teaches that the dead cannot communicate with the living as there is a great chasm separating the dead from the living (Luke 16:26). As discarnate spirit entities these demons possess knowledge regarding the activities of humans and have a limited to ability to foretell the future.

Here are a few of the scriptures regarding witchcraft:

The Old and New Testaments treat witchcraft as an evil, rebellious, and loathsome practice. Those who practiced it were not tolerated. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” (Exodus 22:18).

Moses cautioned the children of Israel: “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable way of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices 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 those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord has not permitted you to do so” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

With respect to the evil king Manasseh who reigned in Jerusalem fifty five years the Bible states: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, followed the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 33:2). “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33:6).

When Samuel reproved King Saul, he compared rebellion to the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Witchcraft includes both divination and idolatry.“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king” (1 Samuel 15:23). If Saul was rejected by God for rebellion and arrogance so will a modern day person who practices or permits himself or herself to be entertained by witchcraft and idolatry.

The Living Bible clearly addresses the fate of those who delve or as C. S. Lewis labeled “lust” for the occult: “The Lord has rejected you because you welcome foreigners from the East who practice magic and communicate with evil spirits” (Isaiah 2:6). “Crawl into the caves in the rocks and hide in terror from his glorious majesty, for the day is coming when your proud looks will be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted. On that day the Lord of Hosts will move against the proud and haughty and bring them to dust… All the glory of mankind will bow low; the pride of men will like in the dust, and the Lord alone will be exalted. And all idols will be utterly abolished and destroyed” (Isaiah 2:10-18).

Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 ascribes witchcraft as a deed of the flesh. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It is interesting to note that Paul’s warning is to the churches of Galatia whose members are already Christians. They are warned that by engaging in sinful conduct they would not inherit the kingdom of God. The warning is to those who have accepted Christ. The modern day Christian who is entertained or allows his or her children to be entertained and/or participate in the works of the flesh, which includes witchcraft, should give serious heed to this warning.

White magic and black magic are not acceptable in Christianity and there is no such thing as “cheap grace”. Christ died on the cross to forgive us for our sins, yet there is no excuse to take sin lightly. Engaging in any sin including sorcery opens one to demonic oppression and with persistent sinful conduct possession.

One cannot rationalize that one is not engaged in witchcraft but merely being entertained by books or movies whose characters participate in witchcraft, even though the protagonists are “good” witches.

The protagonist Harry Potter in the best selling Harry Potter series of books and current movie attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to become a wizard. Harry and his friends are taking classes in casting spells, magical drafts and potions, transfiguration, history of magic, magical theory etc… They are learning to become “good” wizards and witches. Evil is represented by the “Dark Side,” reminiscent of the “Dark Side” of the Force in “Star Wars,” and embodied (or disembodied and seeking to re-embody) in Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed Harry’s parents.

Harry is characterized as an average boy who has been oppressed by his very normal aunt and uncle and his cousin, reminiscent of Cinderella’s oppression at home. The very normal family members are exaggeratedly oppressive.

From a Christian paradigm the problem with Harry is that salvation from his predicament comes from leaving home learning witchcraft, a condemned practice. Children interact with ghosts such as the Friar and Professor Binns, a ghost who teaches the History of Magic. Professor Binns was a very old professor who had fallen asleep by a staff room fire and went to teach the next morning, leaving his body behind.

Christianity teaches that witchcraft, even charming, candy coated witchcraft, is evil and that redemption only comes through Jesus Christ and certainly not from the occult. Communication with the dead is actually communication with demons or “fallen angels.” Casting spells is prohibited.

In Christianity, salvation does not come through witchcraft but by accepting the Son of God. Good is what is of God and comes from worshiping Him. “Innocent” or “mechanical” witchcraft is still witchcraft and as such dark. Exposing one’s children to a heavy dose of the supernatural, even if portrayed through the activities of appealing characters, is not acceptable. The siren call of the occult in children’s movies and cartoons can be appealing. Poltergeists, ghosts, flying broomsticks, werewolves, vampires, witches, giants, bats, goblins, haunted hallways may be captivating but they can instill a spirit of fear. They can certainly be “dark and heavy” and exposure to the occult can be addictive. This writer is a case in point having been involved in séances, palmistry, astrology and eastern meditation prior to accepting Jesus Christ. Interest in the occult started with late night “Chiller” movies and supernatural comic books.

Aside from a dark supernatural dimension there is the good supernatural dimension represented by the Heavenly Kingdom (God, His cherubim and the angelic host). For the most part this good supernatural dimension is rarely portrayed in children’s cartoons or recent popular literature. How often do we see angels on Saturday morning cartoons? The elves in the “Lord of the Rings” are such angelic type beings who frighten Sauron’s Black Riders pursuing Frodo.

Parents have a responsibility to screen what their children watch. Studies have shown that children and adults who watch regular violence on the screen become desensitized to it. The same applies with intensive exposure to the occult. Jesus said, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2).

So what can be said of the Christian entertained by the occult? The analogy can be drawn to the person who is not engaged in immoral sex but is being entertained by pornographic books or magazines. There is no such thing as a Christian “voyeur.” What is sinful to a child is sinful to an adult. Christ does not respect the “adult” bookstore nor the “adult” voyeur. Those who deal in darkness will be engulfed by it. Poison is poison. A little recreational poison can be as lethal as a lot of poison from the hand of an assassin. There is no such thing as a recreational séance (channeling session).

For all those who have engaged in sinful conduct including occult or sexual voyeurism there is only one avenue for cleansing, nothing less than the atoning blood of Jesus. Both the non Christian and the Christian need to repent of their sins by asking God to forgive them. The non Christian needs to invite Jesus through a simple prayer to take charge of his/her life (“Jesus I accept your sacrifice for me on the cross. Forgive me for my sins. Please come into my life and take charge. Help me walk in your light”).

Take a lesson from the sorcerers and witches who came to a saving knowledge of Christ in Acts 19:19, “And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” All occult objects should be destroyed as these items are vehicles or “windows” for occult activity and oppression. They are literally magnets, which draw the demonic host.

God is not an evil God. He is not vengeful, but in the Bible he has given us a mechanic’s manual for our well being. If we insist on placing lemonade in our engine instead of oil we’ll destroy it. If we don’t obey God’s admonitions against witchcraft, sexual conduct and promiscuity, rage, envy, and substance abuse we’ll destroy our bodies and condemn our souls for eternity. You may not believe in God, but violation of his principles will nevertheless bring destruction. Witchcraft may be very alluring and comforting for you. It may give you success and power. It may give you the “warm fuzzies.” Nevertheless it’s evil and dangerous just as the serpent was to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

For those who have had extensive occult involvement including the actual practice of witchcraft it would be advisable to seek the counsel of a pastor of a spirit filled Christ centered church involved in the deliverance ministry. Keep in mind that you have power over all demonic principalities in the name of Jesus once you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior and are covered by His blood (“Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” Luke 10:17).

In the 1950’s Science replaced God. There was an ensuing spiritual hunger, which sought expression in the counterculture of the 1960’s and 1970’s through drugs, Eastern religions, and sexual promiscuity. This led to materialism and the cult of the self of the 1980’s and 1990’s. None of these substitutes can replace man’s deep spiritual hunger. The absence of God can only be replaced with the presence of God, and certainly not by a counterfeit such as witchcraft. Witchcraft is like illicit sex, it may offer thrills and gratification for a time but only a personal relationship with the God of the Universe through his Son Jesus Christ will satisfy, bring joy, and life eternal.

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God's Messiah graphicDemonic Control of the Saints

This section will examine if those who have had a sincere salvation experience can be demonized if not possessed.

The Holy Spirit who indwells the believer is the power of God. He is "greater" than Satan and his hosts who are "in the world".

1 John 4:4 tells us: "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And he put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:20-23).

"In Christ, the believer is regenerated (John 3:3,5), justified (Romans 5:1), baptized by the Spirit into union with His Lord (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-4), indwelt by the Spirit forever (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and positionally filled with the Christ (Colossians 2:9-10). All these might undertakings guarantee that those whom Christ has redeemed can never be taken away from Christ by Satan and demons."

Nevertheless, "a demon may gain control of the body of a Christian as a squatter when the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is seriously grieved by sin or quenched by rank disobedience or open rebellion against God’s will. Certainly by permitting heinous sin or indulging in occultism or occult religion or yielding to some other transgression, a believer limits the protection that is his in Christ."

"The situation may be compared to a man who owns a house. If he completely controls it and occupies it, no one, of course, can move in without his approval. But if he does not occupy all the rooms and is lax concerning who visits and how long they stay, he may soon find himself with an illegal dweller or two who may prove very difficult to get rid of. In fact, it may be impossible to expel them except by physical force or recourse to the law" (Unger, Merrill, What Demons Can Do To Saints. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991).

Regarding a man who had his father’s wife Paul states in 1 Corinthians 5:5: "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Here we are dealing with a sinning saint who is turned over to Satan who has "the power of death" (Hebrews 2:14). Satan can kill the physical body of this seriously sinning Christian, yet his spirit is saved! Satan cannot inflict spiritual death upon the believer who possesses spiritual life as only God has the power to "destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). 1 John 5:16b states: "There is a sin leading to death."

It is interesting to note that in 1 John 5:18 John states: "We know that no one who is born of God sins, but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him." Statistics in the US show that Christians are just as prone to sexual immorality or opening themselves to bondage through pornography as non Christians.

Without going into the issue of at what point a sinner gains salvation, it can be concluded from this verse that if someone sins, including a believer, the evil one can "touch him." It should be added that we are all saved by grace, the grace of God who took our sins by incarnating as a man to die on a cross to pay the penalty as a substitutionary sacrifice for all sin, and but for that grace represented by the blood of Jesus we, including the most pious evangelist, would be condemned to an eternity without God. In our own flesh and spirit we all fall short of the glory of God. That’s why we need the redeemer Jesus Christ, who is the "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). As Jesus said in John 10:30 "I and the Father are one," and in John 8:58 "before Abraham was born, I AM."

In his book Victory in Christ Charles Trumbull states, "Do not think that I am suggesting any mistaken, unbalanced theory that, when a man receives Christ as the fullness of his life, he cannot sin again. The ‘life that is Christ’ still leaves our free will; with that free will we can resist Christ; and my life, since the new experience of which I speak (the full realization that "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me"), has recorded sins of such resistance. But I have learned that the restoration after failure can be supernaturally blessed, instantaneous, and complete. I have learned that, as I trust Christ in surrender, there need be no fighting against sin, but complete freedom from the power and even the desire of sin. I have learned that this freedom, this more than conquering, is sustained in unbroken continuance as I simply recognize that Christ is my cleansing, reigning life."

That Satan can exert his influence upon believers is illustrated in Luke 22:31: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat." Luke 22:24 relates a dispute among the apostles "as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest." Perhaps this dispute resulting from the sin of pride empowered Satan to make such a request. Jesus continues, "but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

Satan made a similar request of God regarding Job asking the Lord, "Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face" (Job 1:10-11). The Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." Then Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and began afflicting Job. This was not mild spiritual harassment. One of the afflictions was a great wind, which came from the wilderness and destroyed the house of Job’s oldest son, killing all his sons and daughters who were visiting.

Peter cautions, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Peter is addressing believers, the church, including "shepherds of the flock of God," and elders (1Peter 5:1-3). To be devoured by a lion means to be seized by the beast’s jaws in a tight vise, torn apart, masticated, digested and excreted. It is a ruthless, murderous procedure where one is put under the lion’s dominion and control and painfully destroyed. Speaking of Satan Jesus said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

Conclusion:

A Christian, once genuinely saved involving a sincere repentance, cannot lose his salvation, but this Christian can experience demonic attack, harassment and, if this Christian strays from Christ into sin (whether it be through extended anger, jealousy, covetousness, lust, drugs, alcoholism, greed, occult involvement, exposing oneself to violent, occult, or lustful movies, books, and records) can experience various degrees of demonic "overshadowing" of the mind which, although not total possession, represent partial occupation. Our bodies are the temple of God and we have God given free will. This "overshadowing" will drive us further into sin to eventual physical destruction.

Those who accept Christ and undergo a genuine salvation experience are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless we can subsequently backslide and cede the territory of our mind and bodies to sin, opening a door to demonic entry and bondage. We have the choice to return to the pigpen from which we were delivered or enter another pigpen and wallow in its filth. Doing so opens the door to demonic spiritual "squatters," who, as Unger stated "may be impossible to expel them except by physical force or recourse to the law."

When a sinner comes to Christ through a sincere repentance the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, moves in and cleans house. In most cases this is immediate as light cannot coexist with darkness. In some cases the process takes longer. The house is cleaned. However, the light can be quenched by the darkness if it runs out of fuel. As Jesus said the demons, having once been evicted, will return in greater force if permitted. Christians who persist in sin cut themselves from the source of their spiritual empowerment and eventually die in their sin. Nevertheless, having had a sincere repentance they are saved by God’s grace. Only God can judge who is genuinely saved and who thinks they are saved but leads a sinful life. The tree is judged by the fruit it bears and if the fruit is consistently vile, the tree will be cut and burned.

Jesus spent nearly a third of his ministry delivering people from demonic bondage. Deliverance is a critical, serious ministry. Making light of it, such as the recent "coughing demons" charismatic craze, did cripples the Church . To say that backslidden Christians cannot be demonized by sin is naïve and not addressing the problem hurts the Church. Possession is a case of extreme demonization. Can a backslidden Christian fall into extreme evil? The answer is yes as God has granted us free will. The logical conclusion then is that such a person can be enslaved by sin and possessed. The good news is that deliverance is always available in the name and by the power of the blood of Jesus for the willing.

1) Luke 13:10 "And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double and could not straighten up at all".

Jesus called her over and said, "Woman, you are freed from your sickness."

In Luke 13:16 Jesus calls this woman "a daughter of Abraham," a God-fearing woman of faith, a believer, with a spiritual problem.

Take note that this woman wasn’t protected by demonic control by being inside a synagogue. The walls of a church nor the walls of a synagogue provide protection from demonic influence. If plaster walls don’t protect you from demonic influence or attack, why should a thin layer of skin.

The spiritual world is not subject to such natural barriers, nor is it limited by the laws of physics.

Granted this event occurred before the cross and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but it is an indication that believers can be subject to demonic bondage.

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God's Messiah graphicYoga

Yoga is pervasive. Yoga is in the east and the west. Yoga classes are offered in Central Africa, in Russia, in Australia. Flyers for yoga are on university bulletin boards, in health food stores, in the elevators of high rise apartment buildings in downtown Los Angeles, and even as part of some YMCA physical education programs. Is yoga merely a physical exercise?

Regarding the yoga asanas or physical postures Swami Vivekananda writes in his book Raja Yoga : "A series of exercises, physical and mental, is to be gone through every day until certain higher states are reached. Nerve currents will have to be dispatched and given a new channel. New sorts of vibrations will begin: the whole constitution will be remodeled, as it were."

In Yoga: The Method of Re-Intergation Alain Danielou, a French scholar on yoga, writes that the real import of yoga is as "a process of control of the gross body which aims at freeing the subtle body." The subtle body is regarded as extremely complex and consisting of 72,000 invisible psychic channels called nadis corresponding to the physical or gross body. The subtle body and the physical body are connected at seven primary points or chakras ranging from the top of the head to the base of the spine.

The chakras are believed to control the consciousness of an individual. Manipulating the spine through various yoga postures is believed to increase the energy flow from the subtle body altering the consciousness of the individual. Kundalini yoga and hatha yoga directly manipulate the charkas through their various postures and breathing exercises.

In a mind over body relationship mantra yoga also seeks to alter consciousness of an individual by the repetition of mantras, which Guru Dev, the guru of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, considered the "favorite names of the gods". Mantras are repeated silently or audibly up to several hours and produce altered states of consciousness.

Yoga is bound up in Eastern religious metaphysics and is not an innocent form of relaxing the body and the mind. The goal of yoga is the same as that of Hinduism, which is realizing that one is Brahman, the underlying impersonal God of the Universe in Hinduism. According to Psychic Forces and Occult Shock (Wilson and Weldon): "The physical exercises of yoga are designed to prepare the body for the psychospiritual change vital to inculcating this idea (the realization that one is Brahman) into the consciousness and being of the person. Hence talk of separating yoga practice from theory is meaningless. From a Christian perspective, whether the two can safely be divided is doubtful. 'I do yoga, but Hinduism isn't involved,' is an incorrect statement."

A Spiritual Counterfeits Project (Berkeley, California) publication on "Yoga" states: "For while it may suit the secular fancy to espouse only that selected aspect (the physical) of yoga which fits the bourgeois notion of what yoga is supposed to do (i.e. make a beautiful body), the fact still remains that even physical yoga is inextricably bound up in the whole of Eastern religious metaphysics. In fact, it is quite accurate to say that physical yoga and Indian metaphysics are mutually interdependent; you really can't have one without the other."

In the Shankara tradition, which pervades most of contemporary Hinduism, the raindrop is pictured as the symbol of the individual self and the ocean is the symbol of the universal soul (J.Isamu Yamamoto, SCP Newsletter). "The absorption of the raindrop into the ocean is symbolic of the absorption of the person into the impersonal universe. After people attain enlightenment, they lose their identities and become one with the all. Absorption is the goal of the monist Hindu" (J.Isamu Yamamoto, SCP Newsletter , March-April 1983).

"The candle flame is a Buddhist image of the individual; it is the light of life that flickers in the darkness of sorrow. The quest of each ardent Buddhist is to extinguish their own flame. They seek not merely a physical death but a death that will deliver them from both the physical and spiritual life. Extinction is the goal of the traditional Buddhist" (J. Isamu Yamamoto, SCP Newsletter , op.cit.).

For this author more persuasive than any authority is the author's personal experience in mantra yoga, hatha yoga, and kundalini yoga. Definite altered states of consciousness are produced by yoga. However, these states of consciousness while initially anesthetic became with constant yoga practice progressively more oppressive resulting in a disassociation from the external world. Sensory input was accentuated and produced an overreaction to external stimuli resulting in anxiety. On intensive asana-meditation courses the author experienced several blackouts during mantra meditation sessions which lasted up to an hour and a half. No consciousness of elapsed time and no memory of what had transpired during the blackout existed after such an experience.

Coping with these altered states of consciousness produced in the author mounting tension making him easily upset by trifles (slamming of a door, the screeching of a jet fighter plane, traffic). In many ways the meditation/yoga experience is the classic experience of anxiety disorder so well documented by the Australian doctor Claire Weekes in her classic book Hope and Help For Your Nerves , which also offers the best non clinical approach for curing anxiety disorder of which panic attacks are common symptoms.

Meditation and yoga in many instances cause anxiety disorder. This author's experience is that the techniques result in feelings of unreality, feelings of personality disintegration, and depression. It is the author's belief that many of the so-called "advanced states of consciousness" are no more than the result of extreme sensitization, a state in which our nerves react in an exaggerated way to stress induced by the yoga/meditation techniques, producing an overshadowing sensory unreality similar to those induced by consciousness altering drugs.

Yoga is marketed in the guise of an innocent, healthful technique, but it is far from it. H. Rieker warns: "Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity," and that if the breath is "prematurely exhausted, there is immediate danger of death for the yogi" (Rieker, The Yoga of Light (Los Angeles: Dawn House) 1974, p. 135). Blackouts, strange trance states, or insanity are listed from even "the slightest mistake…" of practicing yoga. Swami Prabhavananda's Yoga and Mysticism lists brain injury, incurable disease, and insanity as potential hazards of wrong yoga practice.

If one is experiencing stress and needs to relax there are many ways to do this such as going for a walk, a picture show, playing sports, going out for dinner, taking a vacation than pursuing yoga. To strengthen one's body you can lift weights, run, swim etc… rather than doing yoga postures.

In Psychic Forces and Occult Shock Wilson and Weldon state, "Yoga is really pure occultism, as any number of yoga and occult texts prove (R. S. Mishra's Yoga Sutras and Fundamentals of Yoga , J. Brennan's Astral Doorways and H. Chaudhuri's Philosophy of Meditation are footnoted). Occult abilities are very common from yoga practice, and the numerous dangers of occultism are evident from many studies (K. Koch's Christian Counseling and Occultism is footnoted). The yoga scholar and Sanskrit authority, Mishra, states: 'In conclusion, it may be said that behind every psychic investigation, behind mysticism, occultism, etc., knowingly or unknowingly, the yoga system is present. (Mishra, op.cit.)'" Kurt Koch in his various excellent books correlates delving with the occult with subsequent experiences of anxiety and depression sometimes resulting in suicide.

The Bible informs us that God created Adam of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Man is a created, separate being. Man can have a relationship with the Living God by accepting His Son, God's physical incarnation, Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach that through yoga man can attain progressive higher levels of consciousness so that man will realize he is one with God and merge with Brahman as Hinduism teaches or that man's personality can be extinguished as a flame is extinguished as Buddhism teaches. The Bible does not mention or recognize yoga or any system where man can become one with God.

God is so far above man that man cannot work his way up to God through his own actions. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve man is fatally flawed. He is born in sin. But God so loved man that he provided a plan of redemption. God Himself became man (John 1:14) to provide the perfect sacrifice to atone for man's sin. The perfect sacrifice had to be God Himself as only God is without sin. Accepting God's provision for sin, his Son, gives man an eternal life in God's presence. The earthly body is shed and replaced with an eternal body at death. Man does not become nor does he merge with God. Salvation is a free gift given by grace, and not something which has to be worked for.

Both Hinduism and Buddhism believe in reincarnation, the transmigration of souls from one body to the next over time. One reincarnates to overcome one's karma or one's attachment to the material world and the recurring patterns which bind one to the material world. Only by elevating one's consciousness through yoga and piercing the "veil of illusion," which is the material world, can one transcend and merge with Brahman or snuff out one's flame and attain Nirvana.

The Bible teaches that man lives once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For those who have accepted Christ there is no judgment as the decision has been made to spend eternity with the source of all goodness, joy, and purity, the personal God of the Universe. For those who never knew Christ God will judge with absolute fairness, but for those who have rejected Christ eternity will be spent in a horrible place where God does not exist, a place to which Jesus referred to more than anyone else in the Bible, a place of eternal agony … hell (Mark 9:48).

Yoga is not a panacea, it is a system where man tries to work his way to God. Yoga is not necessary and all of man's works are nothing but dirty rags before the righteousness of God. Why spend one's life in bondage chasing a mirage, spending countless hours doing yoga exercises and meditating, hoping to pull oneself off samsara, the wheel of reincarnation. Man can never become God. Because of the sin of Adam man dies. What mortal man can compare to even an angel of God? Daniel saw the angel Gabriel and here is his awesome description:

"I looked up and suddenly there before me stood a person robed in linen garments, with a belt of purest gold around his waist, and glowing lustrous skin! From his face came blinding flashes like lightning, and his eyes were pools of fire; his arms and feet shone like polished brass, and his voice was like the roaring of a vast multitude of people. I, Daniel, alone saw this great vision; the men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly filled with unreasoning terror and ran to hide and I was left alone. When I saw this frightening vision my strength left me, and I grew pale and weak with fright. (Daniel 10: 5-8, Living Bible)."

Man doesn't have to become God. God stretches forth His hand (Revelation 3:20) and all you have to do is take it by making a conscious decision to accept Jesus Christ. Ask him humbly to take charge of your life in simple words. Then the Holy Spirit will indwell you and you will have peace, joy, and certainty. Only then will you shed your old cocoon and experience God's metamorphosis.

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