It is not always that easy for us to discover sectarian spirits which, indeed, infiltrated the Church from her very beginning, as the apostle Paul prophesied,
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30 ESV)
Looking at the RCC, the distortion of Scripture is readily identifiable, since the Spirit of Christ indeed left their leaders, who adhered to the idea that (pagan) tradition could be at eye level with Scripture, long since. Also, adding self-invented sacraments and works to mere faith in Christ, who alone can save us from our sins, was definitely the outcome of listening to evil spirits.
But how can we discern evil spirits masquerading themselves as if coming from the Lord Jesus Christ right at the outset?
I would not claim that discerning the spirits were a walk in the park for me because I often struggled for days with coming to grips as to several writings I had read. The biggest difficulty seems to me being the fact that Satan mingles truth and lies in such a clever way, so that initially you can often find solely a slight, scarcely perceptible, modification of the truth.
A sectarian spirit often reveals himself whenever confronted with a person/believer questioning his convictions. That kind of spirit will be glad (possibly even ‘mesmerized’) about everyone who shares his convictions or admires him for spreading the “truth”, but he will oppose, or at least ignore, those voices who put a question mark over his revelations.
Without going into detail here, I would like to warn about “Christian” spirits who emphasize certain aspects of Scripture while simultaneously neglecting others. Or to put it differently, we must be careful to take the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) into account, and not to focus on exclusively certain areas, such as
(1) Prosperity – related to our current time and life here on earth and promising a better worldly life through Christ (health and wealth gospel)
(2) Eschatology – wedded to a terrifying end time view seemingly coming to pass soon (not only Jehovah’s Witnesses often proved being mistaken with their prophecies of the near future)
(3) Nothing But Grace – carries the risk of settling back and falling asleep
As for the last approach on “Nothing but grace”, one might also ask, “Why should one try to please the Lord who allegedly had done EVERYTHING on our behalf?” What Jesus did (atonement and resurrection), is the foundation of our faith, i.e., justification without our own works involved. But sanctification empowered by His Spirit is a process that changes our whole thinking and doing while we are beholding Him who leads us in and through the Spirit.
Maintaining a single-sided biblical focus for quite some time, will finally confuse any real truth ever believed before and will lead into a sectarian black and white thinking. Pride and arrogance go hand in hand with it, and loving those who don’t believe in what we do will finally be an impossible thing to do. However, being impressed by our Savior – and nobody else but Him – whenever we find ourselves in danger of being ensnared, will set us free, since in the dark of the night He will be by our side…
In order to illustrate my theoretical approach, I would like to add my personal testimony here.
Generally speaking, I have believed in God for my whole life, though not with focus on Jesus as I have been doing since 1995. Roman Catholic belief with which I was raised was neither interesting nor convincing to me. It was not until 1998, after a near death experience which opened the eyes of my heart, that I realized I slid into a Pentecostal-charismatic sect that was extremely eschatologically oriented (not the RCC, of course, but a sort of gospel-centered missionary network). However, after all, I still needed two years of working through Scripture and praying to God until I was able to quit the sect. Those evil spirits are actually far more powerful than I would have ever thought. They can bind us to themselves with invisible chains we cannot get rid of on our own; only Jesus can set us free (Jn 8:32-36), as I already mentioned above.
From then on I was eager to find out the truth about false doctrine and false teachers who were listening to evil spirits.
As for these teachers, most of them do not know that they don’t “hear” Christ but Satan as long as they primarily pay attention to traditions of men, to their own good or bad feelings, to different “spiritual” writings of influential personalities, and last but not least, as long as they continue fearing men more than God. In addition to these aforementioned characteristics, you can often see that people who are mesmerized by the power of God easily believe any power to be of divine origin, as it had been the case with Simon’s adherents (Acts 8:9-10). Also, I guess 2 Thes 2:9 ought to be brought in here as well.
It is not my intention to judge anyone who finds himself in this trap because I know those evil spirits myself. And indeed, I DO know that those demons are clever spiritual beings who urge men to use Scripture a little bit differently than it ought to be used by us. Their special plan is to distract and kidnap our spirit when we offer no resistance. Therefore we ought to take heed of the following advice.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:17 ESV)
While Scripture should be the light on our path that shows us the way we should go (Ps 119:105), evil spirits announce their misinterpretation of “truth” before they try to confirm it arbitrarily with Scriptures taken out of context. This is, in fact, very confusing, especially for believers who are not familiar with the Bible, just as it was in my case back then. Here lies a danger that must not be underestimated unless we cling to Christ as our first and most important counselor in all things. Christ’s Spirit and His anointing (1 Jn 2:27) will doubtlessly lead everyone who walks humbly before Him into all the truth (Jn 16:13) and will show him those Scriptures that reveal the truth about certain things. In these matters, as in all things (!), God shows no partiality (Rom 2:11; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25, and others),
“for everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Mt 7:8; Lk 11:10 ESV)
The outcome of listening to evil spirits is always destruction. That means, eventually, that our souls won’t feel God’s peace, love, and joy any more. Rather, we become both disoriented and fearful, we suffer from extremely contradictory feelings like hatred vs. euphoria, or self-centered elitist thinking (culminating in megalomania) vs. sinking into insignificance. But as soon as we are struggling to seek the Lord more than men and their approval, He preserves us from letting us fall into those temptations any longer. Jesus commanded,
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41)
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18)
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25)
Indeed, we’re only half alive and lonely without His protection, and without His LOVE that is better than anything else men could ever offer us in our time here on earth.
Dear reader, feel free to weigh in and add your own thoughts so that the Body of Christ may build itself up – in love (Eph 4:16). Every commenter is welcome on my blog, that means, Christians as well as non-Christians. I will try to reply to you as the Lord leads me and I am curious to know what God is speaking through you. The only things I do not like are when someone attacks God and utters blasphemous statements or when others (esp. commenters) are being attacked. Furthermore, I am going to delete comments which flood my blogs without any reference to my articles or poems or to the replies of other commenters on here. Thank you for your understanding!