THE CRIPPLING SPIRIT
For eighteen years this woman came to church bent over. Crippled.
She had been faithful, loved the Lord, a “daughter of Abraham.” I guess you could say she was “saved.”
Eighteen years is a long time. Everybody had accepted her condition. I suppose in a way, she had learned to live with it. I’m sure she wished everyday that she could stand straight, but had realized that nothing could be done.
But this was no ordinary crippling. She had been crippled “by a spirit.” It doesn’t say its was an “evil spirit,” it was just a “spirit.”
Most of us would assume that eighteen years previous she was just walking along one day and this “spirit” just came upon her and jumped on her to afflict her. She was just an innocent woman, minding her own business when this “spirit” comes along and bends her over.
But that’s not the way it happens. Spirits just don’t attack us unawares. The movie “The Exorcist” would lead you to believe this can happen to just anyone.
But spirits cannot go where they are not invited. Somewhere along the line, we are confronted with decision about an attitude, or a principle of faith that we just cannot accept. God usually is trying to teach us something about living our lives for Him that will improve our servanthood, and draw us closer to Him. But what happens is we have a preset line of thought about this particular subject, and we just can’t give it up. Maybe it is something we have been taught all our lives, and we have taken it for the gospel truth, but the problem is that it doesn’t square with scripture, and we just can’t adjust to the new light that God is showing us.
Or maybe it is a preconceived set of notions about life, or the church, or view of ourselves that we cherish, but has no basis in the truth. God is trying take us to a new plane of living, but we refuse to go.
So we stay where we are, trying to stop change and live on a plane of unreality that leaves us open to “spirits.”
And these “spirits can cripple us. They limit our effectiveness. This daughter of Abraham continued to love the Lord, but by allowing this spirit to coexist with her, she limited her ability to function in life, and limit her effectiveness in the Kingdom.
Here are some of the spirits that can cripple us.
I. A LEGALISTIC SPIRIT
Jesus said: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)
The basis of our Christian experience is love. Out of love comes the commandments. But the tendency, as time passes, we grow cold in our relationship to God. Love fades, but the commandments remain. Every action of ourselves and others is not interpreted in the light of love, but in the light of the law. And that is exactly what Jesus preached against.
This spirit of legalism is a crippling spirit, for it saps us of the love, tenderness, patience and gentleness that we need to not only get along with others but to minister to them
II. AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT
How many times have we heard the phrase, “That person just makes me sick!” Our unwillingness to forgive someone who has hurt us can actually make us sick!
I have had people tell me, “When I get around so and so I get a headache!” That’s a spirit that can really cripple us! Studies have shown that people who carry grudges (admitted or not) have significantly reduced life spans and greater incidences of disease.
The Scripture tells us that this woman was physically bent over. Human relationships are very hard to maintain. Our method of communication is faulty at best. No spoken language can completely express our thoughts and feelings. It’s like two ships sailing together in a storm, sometimes we bump up against each other. It is natural that we are going to get hurt along the way. When we refuse to forgive, the person that is hurt the worse is us. By forgiving those who have hurt us, we get rid of the spirit that can cripple us.
III. THE CARNAL SPIRIT
The most damaging spirit in this world is the one we are born with. The carnal spirit. It is described as the “Old Man”, “Enmity with God”, etc. This is the spirit that puts “self” on the throne of our hearts. We are then in a constant struggle with God over the control of our lives. We understand what Paul meant in Romans 7:15-18 when he said, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”
What we do know is that we do not have to live in Romans chapter 7, we can go on to Romans chapter 8: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Unless we ask God to sanctify us holy, to remove this law of sin from our being, we will remain truly crippled. We cannot maintain our Christian experience for long with the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The spirits that cripple us are just like a disease, we need to be healed. Jesus called this woman forward and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”
The scripture doesn’t tell us what caused this woman to be crippled, nor give us any details of her mind on this day.
But I can imagine this: For eighteen years she has been bent over, not being able to see the sky, or look someone in the eye. Every sabbath she has come, looking for hope, but it was not until the church invited Jesus in and allowed Him to teach, allowed Him to share His gospel, to be with them, that she was healed.
When the church seeks God, asks for His presence and His Holy Spirit to invade our lives, cleanse us, and lift us up to a new plane of living, it’s amazing how crippling spirits seem to disappear!