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Understanding the Dark World: Sorcery: Satanic or Sinful Fleshly? Galatians 5:19
Paul J. Bucknell
Some good meaning Christians have not rightly understood the danger of the dark side. They have stripped sorcery from its black power and pretended it to be non-existent. They believe it to be merely an act of fleshly desires. They support this perspective by bringing our attention to the scripture passage in Galatians 5:19-20 saying,
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, ... (Galatians 5:19)
We agree with the fact that the flesh indulges in sorcery if it can. Galatians 5:19-20 speaks powerfully about how the flesh (the old heart) tries to satisfy its own desire even at the cost to others. The flesh will not only use sorcery but sensuality, hatred, immorality and other things to get its own way.
They conclude that because the scripture asserts that sorcery is of the flesh then it is not at all connected with evil powers. This is a mistake.
First of all, we should acknowledge that behind the desire to explore the world of darkness is often a quest to manipulate things to one's own advantage. The evil one has repeatedly used man's preference for self to adventure into the occult. In many cases, it is the quest for more powers to manipulate situations to one's own advantage. The flesh's desire might be lustful, jealousy or plain pride.
Simon the sorcerer desired more power. We can see his 'flesh' or 'old nature' at work in this honest account. He was a highly sought out sorcerer who practiced magic. Because of his powers, he impressed the people and claimed to be someone great. The people were so astonished by his magical arts, that they actually called him, 'The Great Power of God.'
When he came to know the Lord, he put aside his magical work. There was, however, a fleshly groping for more power that Simon didn't have. He saw the power which came about by the laying on of hands and desired it.
Where there is sorcery, there is that work of the flesh in which one is trying to gain power and control for its own gain. The desire for power to manipulate others is from the flesh. The flesh will use sorcery like other things to get what it wants. This is opposite to God's Spirit who does only God's will through helping others.
But we need to ask, is their any real black magic behind sorcery? Is Satan involved?
Although we better understand the personal reasons people indulge in magic, we also need to see that this does not rule out the usage of the devil's powers. Fleshly desires do cause us to get involved in witchcraft, but this does not mean the devil has no powers nor that man is not entangling himself in those powers.
Satan is after our heart. He will bring a whole host of seductive thoughts to our minds in order to foster a greater inclination to lust after women. In the same way, we see that the evil one can entice man with certain magical powers. He wants these powers often to take advantage of others. Galatians 5:19 is not saying that evil spirits are nonexistent, but only that the flesh is often willing to cooperate with the evil spirits for its own selfish purpose! This is what attracts many people into the area of deep magic and the occult.
We must obtain a right heart to rid of the influence of sorcery. This is done by adopting an opposing attitude from what we had before.
First identify the evil (fleshly) motivation. Write it down. Then write down the opposite. The Spirit runs opposite to the flesh. Commit yourself to thinking and carrying out these opposing ways which are the ways of God.
For example, if we desired to control people, then we need to humble ourselves and focus on serving the needs of others without any sorts of demands. We can give money to others, treat others better than ourselves, etc. We can even make ourselves the 'secret' servants of others. We can anticipate what needs they might have and do it (such as moving chairs, picking something up for them, etc. - don't forget to first ask permission!)
We must not only cut off any connection with evil spirits but repent from our desire to take advantage of others. We must identify the sin and its motivation. When we see it as a work of the flesh, we can repent from it and adopt the Spirit's work in our heart. (See sidebar.)
A person might get rid of his magic books, but if his heart still desires such powers to gain control over the minds or pockets of others, then he will drift right back into the familiar patterns of sorcery. Listen to Simon's evil words.
Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.
But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity. (Acts 8:14-25)
Once the heart is rightly focused, then the evil spirits have no place to carry out their evil deeds. Their influence will be cut off because they no longer can deceive the person through their fleshly thoughts and activities. Read the temptation of Eve or Jesus and refresh your minds on how Satan used man's desires to get them to listen to him.
When we deal with sorcery, occult or other such 'black' magic, we must recognize there is both the fleshly sin and the devil's promise of power. In order to effectively deal with these problems, we must repent of our heart's inclination to do evil as well as our willingness to employ 'dark' powers to do things that do not please the Lord.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988