One of humankind’s most treasured beliefs is that the universe runs according to basic mechanical principles that we can learn to use to our advantage. The ancient name for this belief is magick. These days it is known as either black magic or white magic, and Christians are especially susceptible to the latter. Many of us have been persuaded that the Bible contains formulas that we can use to improve our lives. That if we mix certain ingredients in certain proportions, we will get to do what we want, how we want, when we want.
If you believe that, you believe in magick.
So how is the way of Christ different? Well, first and foremost, magick operates under the assumption that the universe runs on rails governed by inflexible laws and principles. Then Jesus comes along and describes a universe that does not operate according to inflexible physical and spiritual laws, and for three years he regularly bends and breaks laws that people thought were unbreakable.
In contrast to a universe that operates on mechanical laws and principles, Jesus says the universe operates as a kingdom. A kingdom does not run according to blind forces pushing and pulling one another; it operates through personal relationships. A kingdom, any kingdom, is governed by words that express the mind and intentions of the king of that particular kingdom.
Let’s apply that truth to our universe. For example, how did the earth, sky, and stars come into existence? God spoke them into existence. He said,”Let there be light,” and poof, there was light! Thus the “word of God” expresses the will of God, conveying to us His thoughts and intentions. By the expression of his will, God created all things that were created. This is why Hebrews 11:3 says, It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by God’s word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen. That which was invisible (the Word of God) spoke into existence that which is visible.
A word is a real thing; it can exist and have incredible power. All of us have experienced that in both positive and negative ways, but words, in and of themselves, are invisible. God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, knew that humans could and would misunderstand his word so long as it remained invisible, so at a certain point in the history of the world, the word was made visible. The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
But again, God knows us better than we know ourselves, so he took a radical approach to how he dwelt among us. Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus set his divine authority aside and “made himself nothing.” For the longest time, I thought Jesus intentionally imposed restrictions on himself when he became human, that he gave up some of his power, but I have come to realize that when Jesus made himself nothing he was not restricting his power, but demonstrating it in its fullness. Jesus came in an incredibly gentle way to humankind, and he is still inviting us to stop practicing magick (which God calls idolatry) and set our hearts and minds on learning how to live in Christ.
One last word to those who claim to be followers of Jesus: it’s easy to read about magick and think it only shows up in voodoo ceremonies and witches’ covens, but consider this: some of magick’s greatest practitioners wear crosses and loudly demand health, wealth, and blessings “in Jesus name.”
Others among us opt for a more subtle form of magick: we determine the health of our relationship with God by our circumstances. When bad things happen, we assume we are being punished for violating God’s law. We make the appropriate behavioral modifications and everything is okay again. But this mechanical, magical way of thinking reduces everything down to performance and thwarts the intimate relationship God seeks.
My prayer life was like that for more years than I care to admit. What about you? Have you learned to trust God regardless of circumstances and seek his guidance at every turn, or do you still believe in magick?