Several years ago,after one Sunday service, I noticed that some of our most faithful people, who had much freedom to use their gifts, were wildly reacting to even the idea they should be accountable for how they were using them. Our style was to adjust as we went ,allowing people space to make mistakes.Maybe they thought if it was a spiritual gift, they would administer it perfectly. Amid complaining, grumbling and backbiting, some seemed convinced I or someone else was “the problem”,not them,and they had plenty of thoughts about it.Instead of desiring input and wanting to grow, they indicated they would rather leave their self-described “callings” than make the slightest adjustment. This level of immaturity I was seeing was shocking among those I considered mature. Disappointing was not the word for it.The first thing a disciple should be is a learner, not one who has “arrived.” It seemed like we had very few disciples (learners) there.
Dismayed, I couldn’t eat so I came home and went into my office, and laid face down in front of my desk on the carpet crying out to God, asking, “What’s going on, God? What is this I’m seeing? Why are these people who looked so good seem to be pulling back,some even falling away?” I then started crying, my heart crushed, thinking of each and every one of them and how they could be so deceived. I was sobbing uncontrollably when suddenly I had what I would call an open vision. Instead of being on the floor of my office facing my desk I was in the throne room of God. My office carpet became clear gold and what formerly was my desk became the Throne of The Holy One. I didn’t look up but saw His feet of bronze brightly gleaming like hot light. I was wailing in intercession at His feet, perplexed by the question I’d been asking Him all afternoon, “what is this, God?” I continued pleading with Him for an answer when suddenly I heard His booming voice welling up in my spirit. I heard the audible voice of God say: “Lawlessness”.
In an instant I got a panoramic view of how this lawlessness had already affected me, our church and other people. I also how insidious and pervasive it was and how it pervaded the world system and culture, the foundation of the American Church and then I was shocked by what the Lord revealed would need to occur to expose it. The Lord revealed to me that a “falling away” was coming to some people we cared about to reveal it and if they responded and repented they would see and overcome it. Then just as quick as the vision came, it was over and I was back in my office again on the floor crying, tears running down my face. In real time, 45 minutes had passed but it seemed between a second to hours.
After this I went on a quest to find what this lawlessness was and how it had to be dealt with. It was clear to me that lawlessness was one of the key enemies hindering the kingdom of God arising in the church. Here are a few things the Lord showed me while I was before Him that afternoon and since then.
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy (falling away) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 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… For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)
So What Is Lawlessness?
The Greek word here is ANOMIA, which translated means lawless deed. Lawlessness is spoken of in Hebrews 1:9: “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” The Bible teaches that lawlessness is:
A spirit that embodies all that is not righteous; it is unholy and a place where evil is allowed to breed; a demonic atmosphere that pervades the earth; (2 Timothy 3:1-5) The last days will be permeated by a climate of lawlessness. The world system, or Greek word Kosmos (1 John 2:16) is caught up in this spirit; similar to that described in Judges 17:6, where “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
An attitude of disobedience – (2 Corinthians 10:4-6) –“for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” (Ephesians 5:6) “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
The essence of the antichrist spirit, which is self will: “I will” (Isaiah 14:10-12) “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
It is the opposite of righteousness and a religious counterfeit. Lawlessness is the antithesis of love and intimacy for the Lord, substituting activity for intimacy, religious duty for devotion, fanatical zeal for passionate fervor for Him. It substitutes a religious act for honest relationship. Saul and David are good examples. The Lord said David was a man who was ‘after His own heart’. King Saul, when he saw that the Word of the Lord thru Samuel was being delayed in coming, that the Philistine armies were massing and the people scattering, committed a lawless deed of religious duty bringing the sacrifice reserved only for the priest. (2 Samuel 17:22,23) This was the lawless act that sealed his fate and he lost his place as king because of the Lord’s anger at this.
Lawlessness is not anarchy as we might think or necessarily the lack of rules or government, but lawlessness is described in scripture as sin, the violation of God’s ways and missing the mark of God’s standard. It is better described as iniquity or self-will; a governing of our lives apart from God, His Word, His ways and His Spirit. Doing sacrificial religious acts outwardly, yet rebelling inwardly against the heart intent of God’s will. It is living out of one’s own rules, laws and ways: doing what seems right in one’s own eyes. (Judges 17:6) It resists true intimacy and knowledge of God. “I never knew you” (Matthew24: 12)
This last day lawlessness is the seedbed for the manifestation of the antichrist spirit revealed in the form of a person or persons, the son of lawlessness, the Bible calls him. Just as Jesus Christ is the Son of righteousness the antichrist is the son of lawlessness. While many of the church get bogged down looking for one end time person,the antichrist,it is wiser to not add to scripture that say many of these “antichrists” have come into the world. There will be many different ones we see in all area of culture.
“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” (1John 2:18)
Fanatical, religious devotion to sacrificial causes born out of self-will is a clear earmark of this spirit. We’ve all seen news reports of how radical Islamic jihadist groups like ISIS are so convinced in their own minds they their cause is just and that they are doing Allah’s will by going into an Orlando nightclub and killing all the gay people. In their dark networks they allow this spirit to operate through them to steal, kill and destroy without seemingly any constructive reason or to serve any logical purpose. This spirit will stop at nothing and even commit suicide to serve its cause and have its way. It will destroy rather than build, curse rather than bless.
Revelations 9:11 speak of this destroying spirit: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.” Both these words mean a destroyer or destroying angel. Destroying things and destruction makes little sense to a rational person, but this spirit inflames the zeal and fanaticism of religious people, turning them from just excited zealots to fanatical martyrs for a cause born out of a judgmental, religious mindset. This fanatical zeal reasons, “It is better to tear things down that I can’t control”. “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10)
This lawlessness is actually alive and well in 2017 America where immigration laws are not enforced, the rule of law is ignored and a form of anarchy that suppresses free speech is now commonly taught in our colleges and universities. Instead of bastions of illumination to educate and enlighten young adults, they have become places where people are taught radical leftist ideology and a view that anybody who disagrees is a racist bigot, NAZI and deserves to be killed. Now, college campuses have created a seedbed for this lawlessness. And they are so brainwashed they can’t even hear anything that doesn’t fit into this ideology of victimization and groupthink because if it doesn’t conform to their zealous view of how it should look or function, they’re so fanatically committed to their ideology they will stop at next to nothing, including suppressing speech to be “safe”.
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 13:41)– “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness….”(Matthew 7:22&23)
It is worked and must be energized by this self-will. The delusion that works this kind of deception is so pervasive that normal definitions don’t apply. Black is white, up is down and evil is anything opposing its ideology. Agape love is absent. It is essentially religious and zealous, invoking this behavior as righteousness. Because love is sincere and involves an honest giving of oneself without pretense, true love and lawlessness can’t coexist. Jesus said in this description, there appears to be much outward appearance of righteousness, while the inside is FULL of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”(Mat. 23:28)
“And because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold”. “Let love be without hypocrisy.” (Romans 12:9)
It is a mystery the way it appears, because in the case with Lucifer himself, his lawlessness manifested after countless eons of time, in the most beautiful of all beings who spent all his time ministering to the Lord as the “covering cherub”? If this kind of lawlessness can be revealed in him, should we then be shocked when we see this even among God’s people? No, we shouldn’t. Another point is that while outwardly things might appear right and good in those under the delusion of it, there is inwardly another agenda that violates God’s true desires and purpose.
“For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” (Romans 6:19)
It truly is mysterious how outwardly there can be individuals who attempt to be pursuing moral and religious purity, but all the while there is an unbroken religious will within.
Earmarks of a Lawless Spirit
While we know these end time strongholds are of a spiritual nature and we do not battle against flesh and blood, we still will see these manifestations in people, in human beings. Here are the earmarks:
Super-spiritual – They are patronizing and display a condescending attitude, especially to those in positions of legitimate spiritual authority. They keep a distance, acting detached and aloof, as if they have the “last word” with God. “He who separates himself seeks his own desire… He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1)
EXTREME - Fanatically, they are willing to blow up things that have been built by another rather than not get their own way. (for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness 2 Corinthians 6:14) The same spirit that causes divorce, splits churches and destroys; Judas is a good example of this kind of self-pity leading to death.
Sacrificial – This is a perversion of the concept of true sacrifice, like the sacrifice God the Father made through His Son for the purpose of redemption. This is a sharp contrast to the actions of the king of Moab In 2 Kings. “When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom; but they could not. Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land.” (2 Kings3: 26&27) The king of Moab was willing to sacrifice everything even his son to get revenge and prevent being defeated by Israel. Acts like the martyr.
Judgmental and critical – This spirit can be brought in many times by outsiders who come to spy out the liberty of others. (Jude 1:11-22); Paul called them “false brethren” (Galatians 2:4). These persons have a mindset that judges everything out of their own personal subjectivity and experience. This can be a danger for those with legitimate budding prophetic people who tend to hear God so subjectively.
Committed – Totally committed to whatever cause he or she might have and believe in. Many times the “cause” came about as the result of being rejected, wounded. They made personal vows, like “I’ll never do that again…” “On a bandwagon” Tends to be a “one-issue” person. The spirit insists on having it’s own way.
A strife-filled mouth – “A perverse man spreads strife and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” (Proverbs 16:27&28) (Matthew 12:30) They lack the self-control not to talk so they talk and have opinions about everything.
Love of Money – They clearly have an agenda and it involves money. Remember, Judas sold out Christ for only 30 pieces of silver. While there might be a noble talk about sacrifice and “giving the Lord everything”, it’s really more about money and the pursuit of it…“between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:5) It is interesting that John’s Revelation included a world system where buying and selling was all regulated by this spirit.
We are NOT battling flesh and blood or people, but spiritual forces at work behind the scenes that work on people,so we must never forget that. (Eph 6:12) There is no question that for the present church to have a KINGDOM culture we must evict this spirit in the thinking and lifestyle of ourselves and the people we serve.But it will require a major confrontation and it can only be overcome by truth and humility.
Personalities - Most people say change is a good thing and that it’s good to get a fresh view or perspective on things. Some personality types thrive on it and can’t live without a lot of it. Like the seasons, the weather, fashion and the times, it is normal for things to come and go and that’s what change is. Like Bob Dylan famously sang, ”The times they are a ‘changin”…. Other personality types resist it because to them it means they can’t count on things they depend on. When tried and true areas they relied on in their life are gone, like friendships, a good job or even a familiar store or website they liked is suddenly gone, it can be a crushing experience for certain kinds of people.
Politics - Barack Obama was elected 8 years ago as the country faced an economic crisis on a promise of hope and change, promising to end the Iraq war, broaden access to health care and change the way Washington works. He said, “not red or blue states but the United States!” Of course as we now know, little of that change ever happened and instead, he enacted changes that created great insecurity for much of the country. Closed factories with good jobs lost, mid-east chaos with a refugee crisis caused by his CIA-led Arab Spring, homegrown terror, racial riots and a loss of a national identity were created with his “change”. So this led to the rise of Donald Trump, who basically promised he would stabilize and restore America. 8 years later we see Obama was largely elected out of idealism for a post-racial US. Trump was elected due to worries people had over a languishing economy, a need for competence, pragmatism and a restored US created by Obama.
Change can be good but change just for the sake of change can be disastrous. Many people threaten their happy lives because they think they’re not happy enough so they long for change, any change. Convinced they are shouldn’t be content they opt for a change. Singles sometimes want a change from the single life they are living so they marry the first person that comes along and is really interested in them. This might end up being a huge mistake.
Being a pastor over the years I have witnessed many people so desperate to change something in their lives they destroyed a good marriage, ended lifelong friendships, robbed people of their retirements, split churches and bankrupted businesses. The fruit of a “change to get something needed” led to catastrophic consequences not just for themselves but those around them. Violation of promises made and oaths given for some kind of short-term gratification are all too common. Sometimes fear and desperation move people to make decisions that can rarely be undone.
Proverbs 24:21 My son, fear the Lord and the king; do not associate with those who are given to change.
Psalms 15:4-5 He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.He who does these things shall never be moved.
The second passage above actually equates some change as compromising your word, akin to corruption for the sake of personal gain.
Business - On Wall Street what investors look for is stability and consistency. Change and unexpected events scare the market because many transactions require a commitment that lasts a long time like 10 YR T-bills or mortgages. If your lender on your home mortgage came to you in a year or two after buying a home and said, “I changed my mind about your mortgage, I now want you to pay me 10 % instead of 4%. Sorry it’s not personal, but business.” You would freak out. Stability in agreements is needed.
Harvard business review did a study and found the vast majority of people have legitimate reasons to be resistant to change in 10 different areas. Sometimes the people don’t want change they want options or something different. Businesses have to move rapidly to adapt but most have has found if companies bring about changes too quickly, even really good ones, they can lose business and customers. So in the area of business many changes happen behind the scenes and out of sight. Too many visible changes that adversely affect people’s sense of comfort are harmful.
Some people get bored without change and would rather die than not change. Helpful change for the sake of resolving lingering problems is good and necessary. Mow that yard! Reorganize and edit that basement! Get a better job! Go back to school! But making foundational changes to your life without wisely considering how it will affect other things can cause you to waste valuable time and ruin valuable relationships or even your marriage. So before you throw out the baby to get rid of that dirty bathwater you can’t stand, determine if that the changes pass these tests:
1) Consider the short and long-range consequences.
Is it a cosmetic change like a coat of paint? or is it foundational, like digging up your home’s slab to expand or change a room? You should count the cost of any decision or it could cost you a wasted 2 years. Luke 14:28-30 tells us we must consider the cost.
2) Determine what is valued and precious and what is not. Proverbs 6 describes the passing pleasures of a night of adultery then the horrible consequences in people’s lives later.
3) Determine the consequences on all of your relationships. I have watched as people have walked away from wonderful relationships in churches because of an arrogant dispute over a point of view they don’t even remember years later. Community and family trumps doctrinal purity.
4) Will this change bring about more love, joy and righteousness, more godly character in me and others? Will I walk in peace because of it? Or is this a self-centered trip to make myself feel relief awhile? Relief isn’t peace and an absence of the cause of stress doesn’t ultimately remove the stress. “Why does this stress me?”, is the question to ask myself. A lot of people who lack peace, try to avoid things that bring a lack of peace, editing things and even people out of their lives. Yet sooner or later they will find peace only comes out of their being at peace with God. Changes that any of us make to avoid God’s dealings with us will fail. Don’t waste years finding this out.
5) Finally, does this change violate my conscience, the Word of God or ethics? Over the years I have watched as people justify doing the craziest things to change something that bothered them in their life. Desperate, they break a covenant they made with God to get “relief”? Are they robbing others because they made unwise financial decisions? Short-term inconvenience to be a person of your Word is more important than getting relief now! Scripture is especially clear: to defraud someone financially, emotionally or relationally is dishonest and serious to the Lord.
Changes can be really good but we should make sure we don’t change or compromise the foundations of a righteous life to do so.
Pastor Marc Lawson
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