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By Dr. Mary Craig
Have you ever wanted to hear from God but it just seemed a stumbling block was in your way? Have you found yourself feeling like you were marked, like there was just something on you that was against you all the time? Were you running well but now find you are being hindered so as not to obey the truth, like there might be a little leaven in the lump?
Paul told the Galatians that what they were being persuaded into believing was not coming of Him that calls them, namely Jesus Christ. He urges the Galatians not to use the liberty into which they were called as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. He goes on to say in Galatians 5 to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh, for they are contrary the one to the other so that you cannot do the things that you would. He then identifies the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit and then says that "they that are Christís have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."
In this article, I want to address iniquity. Oh, you say, yes. Jesus was bruised for our iniquities and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53.5, 6, 11) God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. His promise in the new covenant is that our sins and our iniquities He remembers no more. (Hebrews 8 and 10, e.g.)
Fine. What happens when your very life depends on it? What happens when Satan comes as the Angel of the Bottomless Pit seeking to torment and destroy you, all around you, your ministry? What will be your answer to his accusations, to his testing of your beliefs? And when Jesus comes, will He find faith?
Weíre heading for Chile, Argentina, and Antarctica soon. Antarctica will be the last continent called in for Christ. People do live there, people from many different countries. This mission deals with foundations and with the earth. So the Holy Spirit has been dealing in my life with foundations and with the soil of my soul.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputes not iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalm 32.1, 2)
Iniquity. The word comes from a Hebrew word avon and means to lean towards in a wicked, perverse or crooked way. Iniquity in the NT comes from Greek words indicating lawlessness, wickedness, anti-law, unrighteousness, without law or contrary to law. We might consider it willful transgressions committed against the conscience with a high hand against God.
God declares unto man what is his thought. (Amos 4.13) In Amos, God calls Israel to "prepare to meet your God." (Amos 4.12) God was saying to be straight or erect before Him, to be honest. This goes deeper than transgression, stepping over the line, or sin, missing the mark. Iniquity deals with the condition of the heart and mind, a leaning towards perversity impelled by a strong inner desire.
God knows the secret things. 2 Thessalonians 2.7 calls iniquity a mystery that even now is working alongside the mystery of godliness. Lucifer has it. The once anointed cherub that covers was perfect in his ways until iniquity was found in him. He became filled with violence and profane. Iniquity caused him to fall from his God-given state. (Ezekiel 28) His desires to ascend into heaven, to exalt his throne above the stars of God, to sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north, to ascend above the heights of the clouds, and to be like the Most High brought him down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14)
Lest we think it is only a problem of devils, remember. Psalm 51.5 reveals that we are shapen in iniquity and in sin our mothers conceive us. Jesus said in John 8.44 to the scribes and Pharisees that they were of their father the devil and that the lusts (desires) of their father they will do. Jesus says not everyone saying to Him, Lord, Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven. It takes doing the will of His Father which is in heaven. To some, Jesus will say He never knew them. "Depart from Me you that work iniquity." (Matthew 7.21-23) He warned the scribes and Pharisees of their hypocrisy. The outside looked clean and righteous, but inside was uncleanness, hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23.27, 28)
Be careful when you make great swelling "I will" statements. In an examination of the heart, God might find selfish ambition, self-assertion, self-promotion, pride, self on the throne, and ultimately the desire to kill the Creator and take His place.
Sometimes we forget who God is, that He doesnít change. We donít come to God ever on our own terms. God says how we approach Him, how He is to be worshipped. (Matthew 15.8)
In the Book of Acts, a man named Simon, a sorcerer, heard Philip preaching in Samaria. He believed and was baptized and continued with Philip and wondered at the miracles and signs which were done. Then Peter and John came down to Samaria and laid hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that through laying on of the apostlesí hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money. He wanted the power so that he could lay hands on people and have them receive the Holy Spirit. "But Peter said to him, Your money perish with you, because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness [kakia; depravity, malignity, evil], and pray God, if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.[adikia; wrongfulness of character; iniquity]" (Acts 8.20-23) Even today, we call this desire to hawk the gifts of the Holy Spirit "simony." If Simon could buy the gift of God with money, he could sell it for money. Perish the thought! The gifts of God are to be shared, not sold.
Sometimes things start to happen that we donít like. We may start to ask, like Judah, why? What is our iniquity? What is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God? Godís answer in Jeremiah 16.10, 11 was, "Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken Me, and have not kept My law." In Isaiah 1 God tells Judah and Jerusalem that He cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. They are a burden. So, He will hide His eyes from them and though they make many prayers, He will not listen because their hands are full of blood.
We may come to God seeking direction and guidance from the Lord. We may appear godly, like the elders of Israel who came to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14) But God knows whether or not lies lurk inside, idols in the heart, bondages to sin indulged behind closed doors. Since the purpose of the law is grace (Galatians 3.17) in that it was given to a redeemed people, sin acts against the goodness and grace of God.
This is the war raging in the soul. No one sees it but you and God. Iím talking about a desire that entices and excites, robbing your relationship with God. Iím talking about a stumbling block of iniquity. "[They] have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faceÖ" (Ezekiel 14.3) It captivates. It deceives. It clings to you and you cling to it. It has become the lie that is accepted as truth. It colors your thinking. It blinds you. It binds you.
Perversion in the heart can cause that desire to take on its own voice. That iniquity will mark you and testify against you. God will answer you, but get this: "ÖI the Lord will answer him that comes according to the multitude of his idols." (Ezekiel 14.4) God answers according to the lust, according to that desire, according to the iniquity. God answered Israelís desire for a king according to their idolatrous hearts which were full of unbelief. God did the same when the Children of Israel inquired of the Lord in the wilderness, begging for meat. That iniquity in the heart causes you to misread the Word, to interpret what you read through eyes full of iniquity. Finally, everything will confirm you in your deception and tell you itís okay. (See 1 Kings 22 for another example.)
Does this happen now? Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2, speaks to the brethren of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He urges them not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled by spirit, by word, or by letter from the apostles. He warns of the falling away and the son of perdition, of the mystery of iniquity already at work. There will be those who will not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved. God will send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, and they will perish.
So stand firm and hold to the gospel. Iniquities can become a burden so heavy that they rise above your head. (Psalm 38.4) They overtake so that youíre not able to look up and your heart fails you. (Psalm 40.12) For iniquity, men sell themselves. (Isaiah 50.1) They separate a person from God and God does not hear because sins have hidden His face from you. (Isaiah 59.2) Iniquities cause good to be withheld from you. (Jeremiah 5.25) Iniquity causes you to pine away and affects the bones.
Iniquities must be subdued. We must make our prayer to God to be turned from our iniquities and to understand His truth. We must appeal to the Lord for compassion and that He will subdue our iniquities. God raised up His Servant Jesus and sent Him to bless us, in turning away every one of us from our iniquities. (Acts 3.26) It is in mercy and truth that atonement is provided for iniquity. And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil. (Proverbs 16.6) Therefore, we acknowledge our iniquity and that we have not obeyed Godís voice. (Jeremiah 3.13) We are called to repent and turn from all our transgressions so that iniquity will not be our ruin. (Ezekiel 18.30) We must stop trusting in our own righteousness, stop rebelling, stop departing from Godís precepts and judgments. We must pray that God will remove iniquity from us and clothe us with robes of righteousness. (Zechariah 3.4)
How does one depart from iniquity? Letís see what the Scriptures say. One departs from iniquity:
And how will you do this? There is only one way. It is by placing your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, believing all that the Word says He is and has done in regards to iniquity, e.g., Isaiah 53. It begins with a clear embrace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, acknowledging your need for forgiveness, pardon, and removal of iniquity, sin, transgression, and trespass. Only the Blood of Jesus can purge the conscience from dead works to serve the Living God. Only the Blood of Jesus can sprinkle an evil conscience and make us acceptable to a holy God. Only the Blood of Jesus can pay for our blood guilt, the guilt of our sin and shame. Only the Blood of Jesus spilled from His Body offered up unto the Father can close the door to the devilís accusations and lies in our ears.
We must know the gospel and Jesus Christ, the focus of the gospelówhy He came, what He did, where He is now, what He wants from us today.
Jesus warned of the beginning of sorrows, a time when many be offended and shall betray one another and hate one another and many false prophets shall rise and deceive many. "And because iniquity [anomia] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Matthew 24.12) It will take enduring to the end.
Paul knew this. He was saved, saved, saved. He knew that one is justified by faith and that he had peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew of the righteousness imputed by faith, that by one manís offense death reigned by one, but how the gift of righteousness reigns in life by one, Jesus Christ. He knew that as by one manís disobedience many were made sinners, so also by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Thus we can stand before God and raise our head before Him.
And yet we are told that because we are already saved, we are to depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2.19) This is where faith and belief come in. We must believe the truth of what already is. We are to know, Paul tells us in Romans 6, that we are servants to whatever we yield ourselves to obey, whether it be sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness. We are to obey from the heart. We have been made free and so are not to yield our members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity but to righteousness unto holiness. (Romans 6.19) Thereís not profit in it, and bad fruit. The sin nature still remains. It dwells inside waiting for an opportunity, wanting us to yield to its desires, and bear fruit, the works of the flesh (Galatians 5) We are not to mind the things of the flesh but to mind the things of the Spirit. We donít owe the flesh anything. That sin nature is an enemy of the soul and is to be mortified. (Romans 8)
Desires are tricky. Itís easy to be deceived. We must take our desires and allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light upon them and let Him reveal to us the secret sins, the hidden idols in our hearts. If we say we have no sin, we lie. We deceive ourselves. And Satan will jump on that perverse desire in a flash to feed it in hopes it will grow into a cord, a bond of iniquity to corrupt and kill. He feeds bitterness, the love of money, desires for revenge, desires for more, desires for self-whatever.
Iniquity is lawlessness. God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We ought to love one another and dwell in God. This takes knowing and believing the love God has for us. As we focus on Godís love, we will find a new desire welling up within. That will be the desire to know God and His ways, the desire to be holy as God is holy, the desire to obey God and listen to His voice and no other voice, the desire to terminate our hostility toward God, the desire to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. We will want to keep the covenant.
As the devil came harping, I sought the Lord. He led me to ask forgiveness for any and all ways in which I and the Body of Christ had tempted God to do evil, had tempted others to do evil, and for being an instrument of death in my [our] own life and the life of the Body. I prayed to have the mark of iniquity removed as I had been marked with the brand mark of Jesus Christ and sealed by God.
In allowing the Holy Spirit to deal with iniquity, things began to break loose. The Holy Spirit can reveal to us our motives, our impure thoughts, our "I will" assertions, our ungodly desires which could move us onward in wickedness. And then, perhaps, we will find ourselves satisfied with all that God has for us in Jesus so as not to fall into emptiness resulting in idolatry. And then, just maybe, our love will not grow cold and we will find ourselves rooted and grounded in love, vessels of honor and fit for the Masterís use.
Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal,
The Lord knows them that are His; and,
Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver,
But also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor,
Sanctified, and meet for the masterís use, and prepared unto every godly work.
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity,
Peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heartÖ.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God
Peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,
who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2.19-22, 25, 26)
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