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Summary: How to not be overcome by power abusers but to overcome with God’s goodness, love and truth

How the Holy Spirit Convicts Abusers of Power

Illustration:In The Christian Leader, Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came across in Ernest Gordon’s Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened.

"A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point.

"The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers.

"When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors . . (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: ’No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.’"

Don Ratzlaff, The Christian Leader.

1. The Holy Spirit convicts people who focus more on their authority than the Lord’s. The Spirit has a way of exposing people who insist that their followers conform to THEIR way of thinking.

Many of these people do not have genuine spiritual authority given to them from God so they manipulate their way into positions of power. Abusers of power try to artificially manufacture religious power for the sake of their own prideful egos.

Example: Peter wrote, "Be shepherds of God’s flock...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." (I Peter 5:2,3) Ask the Lord to strongly convict anyone who is guilty of abusing their position, power or office for their own selfish ambition.

2. The Holy Spirit identifies people who have any trace of pharisaicalism. The Pharisees posed as authorities on the basis of their religious position. Matthew wrote of Jesus in contrast to the Pharisees, "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law." (Matt. 7:28,29)

Ask the Lord to use whoever or whatever means is necessary to expose those who exhibit any false authority as seen in the Pharisees within your church or organization.


3. The Holy Spirit helps people recognize abusers of power who try to legislate their controls. Leaders who put so much emphasis on obedience and submission to their control will soon be pointed out by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. When the Pharisees saw Jesus and His disciples eating the grain on the Sabbath from the fields, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." Jesus said, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Matt. 12:3,9)

Abusers of power are very fond of using rules, regulations and policies to control people for their purposes. It is only appropriate to obey and submit to leadership when their authority is from God and their stance is consistent with His. Ask the Lord to help the Holy Spirit to teach such abusers of power that we are no longer under the law, but grace.

4. The Holy Spirit brings to the light abusers of power who try to control people with a system of rules, spoken and unspoken. Some religious leaders try to convince people that their authority should never be questioned. They subtly impose an unspoken rule that no one should ever disagree with their leadership or messages. People who are seen to be in disagreement with this kind of leader are "blacklisted" and labeled as rebellious who can expect to receive punishment. This aggressive legalism was seen in the Pharisees who accused Jesus of blaspheming when He said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" (Matt. 9:2-4)

Ask the Lord to help bring to light the legalistic methods of abusers of power in a way that everyone will know that the Lord is fighting your battles for you.

5. The Holy Spirit uncovers any abuser of power who tries to censor speech. Many legalistic leaders try to impose a "wholesome speech" clause in their fellowships.

Only the kinds of messages that are seen to be favorable with the leader are considered to be wholesome. These leaders refuse to accept that any conversation that is not in agreement with their way of thinking is "destructive" to the organization. It is impossible for certain legalistic leaders to accept that sometimes we must just agree to disagree on some matters. The Holy Spirit wants members of each congregation to be united in agreeing on the essentials of their fellowship without having several powerful people impose "pretentious peace" according to their perspectives. Some of these coercive leaders need to remember what James wrote, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1)

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