I recently watched the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, The Woman in Black. This was a ghost story, complete with haunted house. When it was all over, I found it odd that the incidents in the haunted house were not really explained. For instance, how did the toys start up on their own? Was it normal for people to hear footsteps in the upper room, but upon investigating, see no one? Several times the lead character saw a hand or face on the other side of a window, but looking again, found no one there. Looking out of window to the grounds below, he could see a woman in black in a cemetery, but looking again, found her mysteriously gone.
None of this is explained. I expect eyes will roll as veteran horror-movie fans respond with, “Well, it’s a haunted house! What else do you expect? Things will go bump in the night!”
My response to that is: What are the rules for ghosts and haunted houses? How do you know that there should be steps pounding away upstairs? How do you know that footsteps of mud should track into the house that were not there a few seconds ago? “That’s just story license! It’s all part of the entertainment!”
We suspend our disbelief because we expect these kinds of things in the spiritual world of haunted houses. It comes with the territory. But what are the rules of operation? By what (super)natural laws does it operate? These are not stupid questions, for many people are involved in occult practices because they don’t know the deadly rules in place that affect their souls.
The Bible shows us that the spiritual world has rules. Satan can work in this world, but only according to the rules. For instance, the Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b). The book of Job in the Old Testament shows us that the Devil can go only as far as God allows him to go, and no more (Job 1, 2). The spiritual world follows rules, and the rules are laid out in the Bible.
When we don’t read the Bible, we think that because something is spiritual, then anything goes. The laws are amorphous, ambiguous, even contradictory, simply because it is mystical. You can’t pin them down (OK, you can pin some of them down). If it’s mystical, you can expect just about anything to happen, simply because it is “mystical.”
People are in the occult, believing in various strains of mysticism, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, and the like. (I used to dabble in the occult before I was a Christian, and strange things happened to me, so I am not saying that all of it is smoke and mirrors.) The occult has certainties; where God has specifically forbidden its practice (Isaiah 8:19), you can be sure your enemy is running a deceptive show to draw you away from a close union with God the Father. Where the occult practice directly contradicts the truths found in the Bible, then the father of lies, the Devil, is actively at work to warp your thinking with error and turn you from seeking eternal life in Jesus.
The Bible is full of rules for a fruitful spiritual life. If we deny ourselves and carry our cross to follow Christ (Matt. 16:24-25), then we are on the right path; we understand the work of the Messiah/Christ God sent; we are working in concert with the Holy Spirit whom He sent. His work is to save us from our sin (Matt. 1:21); if we follow Him for another reason, we have been deceived.
Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If we put anything else in place of “Christ” in this statement, then we have been deceived. For instance, we could put a hobby or other pursuit there. The spiritual rule is plain: If Christ is not at the center of our lives, on the throne of our hearts, then we’re following an idol that cannot save us.
We are in a spiritual journey. What are the rules? How do we grow in faith and fruitfulness? How do we resist the enemy? How do we draw closer to God? How do we serve God? By what rules will He judge us? There are rules and conditions for all these things, just as they exist for the natural world. God has built in cause and effect into the spiritual world.
So what are consequences of following spiritual trends that go against the Bible? According to the book of Revelation, in the last days, people following the occult will not be able to repent and escape judgment (Rev. 9:21). Please read your Bible carefully and learn these rules. Many people are falling into spiritual foolishness, spiraling down into the pit. We won’t understand the whole Bible, but we can follow what we do know.