Captivated by middlemen
Has anyone ever told you: I have a word for you? Or God told me to tell you…God showed me..
If you have, then you have encountered what I am referring to as a spiritual middleman. These middlemen purport to hear from God for the sake of others, and to perceive things about people that “ turn out to be true”. Many undiscerning Christians fall prey to these middlemen and are held captive by them. As a result, they miss getting all that God has in store for them: an intimate relationship.Some of the reasons that might lead to this deception include spiritual immaturity, spiritual laziness, deception, unrepentant heart and ignorance of who God is.
Spiritual immaturity is at the heart of spiritual middlemanship. Many churches are not focused on discipleship like Paul and the early church leaders were in proclaiming Christ “warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col 1:28). Instead many churches are involved in deceptive teaching such as are propagated by the prosperity movement and fake spiritual healers, to mention a few. The Christians caught in this webs of deception fail to hear the entirety of the counsel of God and remain spiritual babies who have neither been fed pure spiritual milk nor are in any state to move on to the maturity of eating meat. These spiritual babies, like nestlings, need someone to forage and regurgitate spiritual food for them. All they do is open their mouths and imbibe whatever is given them without question or deeper inquiry. Since the middleman wants to maintain the status of spiritual superiority, they ensure that the person remains a babe, never making progress in their spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth is a paradox. On one hand christians are asked “ to work out their salvation with fear and trembling” while on the other they are called to trust wholly on God for “ It is He who wills to act according to His good purposes” (Phil 2:13). This working out of faith requires work on the part of christians. It holds Christians responsible for their spiritual growth through the pursuit of spiritual disciplines that keep the spiritual life vibrant such as reading the word, meditation, prayer, fasting, giving, service etc. When Christians abdicate this responsibility to pursue growth, it creates a gap which the predatorial middlemen can pounce on. As a consequence of their indolence, these Christians fail to know God and His ways and fail to recognise the voice of God for themselves or discern His will for their lives.It this ignorance that makes them fall prey to middlemen who may “seem” to know God better and to have a “direct” line to God. So whenever they need guidance on any matter they go to a designated “ prophet or “apostle “ to discern for them, pray for them or prophesy for them. All their lives they remain babies drinking only impure milk and never grow deeper.
The other category of those who fall prey to spiritual middleman are the foolish, who, though they know the word, do not follow it. They want more and are looking for deeper truths or more spiritual churches. They begin listening to dissenting messages being peddled by the middlemen, who promise more than the gospel promises.The Galatians and Colossians fell under such a deception. Though Paul had taught them the way of salvation, and they had experienced the truth of the gospel, they departed from it to follow lies. This was a result of middleman who pointed them to a different gospel: that instead of relying on Christ’s finished work on the cross for salvation, they needed to be circumcised too and to live ascetic lives respectively. These philosophies sounded good and put the hearers under a spell, until Paul awoke them by exposing them for what they were: deceptions of people who were seeking glory for themselves and not Christ.
The fourth category of those who resort to middlemen are the unrepentant. Because these people harbour unrepented sin they fail to hear the voice of God:”If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” ( Psalm 66:18). When they pray, their prayers are unanswered and when they seek for guidance, God is silent and seems so far away. Even if they know they have sinned and that God cannot listen to the prayers of those who harbour sin, they refuse to repent. They erroneously perceive the silence of God as a go ahead to seek a spiritual middleman, to do business with God on their behalf. King Saul is a prime example of one who experienced the silence of God because of his unrepentant heart. Instead of getting right with God, he resorted to seeking the help of a medium, the witch of Endor ( 1 Sam 28). He did this to his detriment as do those who rebel from God and seek help from elsewhere.
At the root of seeking middlemen is the spirit of fear. We see this spirit of fear enacted at Mt Horeb when the Israelites begged Moses: “Speak to us yourself and we will listen…But do not let God speak to us, or we will die.”( Exodus 20:19). This request based on what they had experienced of the consuming wrath of God, blinded them from other aspects of God’s character such as His compassion and desire to relate to them intimately.God acceded to their prayer so that for decades, He spoke to them through Moses. As a consequence of his constant interaction with God, Moses ended ended up having an enviable relationship with God:God spoke to him as a man speaks to his friend while to others as behind a veil ( Exodus 33:11).Fear kept the Israelites from enjoying an intimate relationship with God which is why for centuries God spoke to them through mediators until the appointed time when he would send his Son, Jesus Christ. Through him the veil of separation was torn and the throne of Grace of Grace was made accessible to every believer of every generation. No longer is there a need for spiritual middlemen.
Consequently, those who have fallen prey to spiritual middleman need our sympathy , not our condemnation. Prayer is the best way to reach out to a friend who is being/ has been drawn into the web of deception. Prayer touches heaven and in return God touches the heart of the “bewitched” friend. But it must not stop at prayer;we must love our “ bewitched” brother or sister enough to point out their error as Paul did to the Galatians. And above all, as we pray, rebuke and even teach, we must be on guard against falling for a spiritual middleman as Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “ whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.”