For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23, KJV)
During one of the Keryx ministry weekends at Chippewa Correctional Facility, leadership had assigned me the Saturday night forgiveness service, a service I had done many times prior. While preparing for this service the day before the weekend began, which was a Wednesday, I inserted a brief discourse about rebellion and how we are commanded to forgive – and if we as believers fail to forgive, we are rebelling against God and thus sinning. For the first time, I also planned to use the above Scripture reference – little did I know how God’s providence would once again blow our socks off.
At that prison, 24 prisoners are permitted to attend the weekend. Every prisoner in the prison is eligible to attend, as long as he is not under sanctions restricting his movement within the prison. Prisoners need not be Christian to attend and thus we have prisoners from many belief (and non-belief) systems appear. This was made manifest when early on in the weekend we discovered that three of the 24 were Wiccans. They were all relatively young men, most likely in their 20′s and one was clearly more of a leader than the others. We also found out (from these men themselves) that the one prisoner was the local High Priest. What exactly is entailed in Wicca can be rather vague, but Wicca.com will give some answers. Suffice it to say for our purposes here this it is a form of witchcraft.
Saturday night rolled around and it was time for the forgiveness service – and these three men were still Wiccans and everyone knew it. As mentioned in earlier posts, this service at this prison is conducted in a rather small classroom. Quarters become rather tight when 60-70 volunteers and prisoners are wedged in there. When you stand in front of the prisoners conducting the service, you literally have to watch yourself to keep from stepping on the toes of the men in the front row.
Once all were assembled and it came my time to speak, I stood in front of them and who is in the middle of the front row – the one guy with whom I have to be most careful to not step on his feet? The Wiccan High Priest. He was a very pleasant, congenial young man who paid close attention as I spoke on forgiveness after Jon’s death. There came the time when I cited 1 Samuel 15:23 and stated that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” I can’t tell you if I made an effort to look down at the High Priest as I said it. What I can tell you is what happened afterward.
After the service, those prisoners attending the weekend returned to their housing units for the night. We volunteers and our prisoner helpers adjourned to a classroom for a brief meeting. At the meeting, someone raised their hand and said they had heard that the High Priest was “upset by what was said during the service.” Much concern was then expressed by some that what had been said offended the High Priest and that we should be careful not to offend when speaking. This went on for a few minutes and I remember sitting in the corner, listening, thinking to myself that we have bigger things to worry about than offending a Wiccan by merely quoting Scripture. Then one volunteer raised his hand and I still remember it as clear as day. What did he say? He said he didn’t know why everyone was upset because “I believe ___________ (High priest) needed to hear that. He needed to hear Jeff say that.” Praise God for a man who was willing to stand up for the Word of the Lord.
Concern had already been expressed that perhaps the High Priest was so offended that he may not return in the morning. In our closing prayer, someone did indeed pray that he would return – did he?
Yes, he did.
The next morning as we were waiting to begin the day with another service, a tap came upon my shoulder. I turn around. It’s the High Priest. What does he say? ”Can I talk to you for a minute?” ”Sure,” I responded, and out in the hallway we went.
At this point a book becomes relevant – what is known as the “Book of Shadows.” This is the book a Wiccan uses which contains his/her spells, rituals, etc. The High Priest had mentioned his Book of Shadows to volunteers in more than one conversation over the course of the weekend to this point.
We go to the hallway. I said, “Yes, sir.”
He responds, “I hear that you heard that I was upset about what you said last night in the chapel.”
“Yeah, I heard that.”
“Well, I want you to know something and I wanted to tell you first.”
“What you said last night didn’t bother me. Actually, when I went back to the unit last night I threw my Book of Shadows and all my Wiccan literature in the garbage can.”
We talked briefly and then were called in for the service to begin.
Subsequent to the weekend, this young man attended all the Christian services and even was a prisoner helper on the weekend six months later. Where is he today – physically and spiritually? I don’t know.
Herein lies the power of the Word of God. Augustine was converted by reading Romans 13:13 – a passage that cut directly to his conscience as it related to his licentious lifestyle:
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
Philip explained Isaiah 53 to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 and the eunuch was converted. Great is the power of the Word of God.
There is another issue to address here: confronting people with the Word of God in evangelism as it directly relates to their own sin. Popular opinion within the Christian community today seems to say that we cannot directly address the sin(s) of a pagan because “it’ll turn them off” or “they won’t listen to us if we do that.” The Apostles knew no such strategy. In Acts 2″22-23, Peter directly addresses the sin of the Jews who desired the crucifixion of Christ when he said,
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Peter says “you crucified and killed” “this Jesus.” In another example in Acts, Paul directly addresses the sin of Felix in chapter 24.
Felix had enticed Druscilla away from her first husband and Druscilla appeared to have not divorced her first husband so they were living in sexual sin. In Paul’s discourse, what does he say? The Scripture says Paul reasoned about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment (v. 25).” The word behind “self-control” has special connotations addressing controlling one’s sexual desires. Thayer says the word (“egkrateia”) has the meaning of “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites.” Paul directly addressed sexual sin with a man – and a woman – who were committing sexual sin. Paul was cutting straight to their consciences and we see that at least Felix was affected – Felix became “alarmed” (“trembled,” KJV).
Praise God for the power in His Word.
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