‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. ZECHARIAH 4:6
Many people have someone in their life who is not living a life pleasing to God. Their love for these folks prompts intercession and outreach in an attempt to influence them for the kingdom of God.
The Bible tells us that we should witness to our friends and loved ones regarding the kingdom of God, so these attempts to influence them are normal and biblical.
But, I do think that it is important that we examine our methods to determine if they originate in the Spirit or in the fleshly, emotional realm. It is very easy to reach to someone using methods that are manipulative. Our methods can say a lot about our motives as well, so let’s see if we can learn something about our involvement in other’s lives that will help us interact in a more biblical way.
There is a huge difference between manipulative methods and methods that originate in the Spirit.
Manipulation: exerting shrewd or devious influence especially for one’s own advantage
In our culture, manipulation almost always is spoken of in a negative context. When we are being manipulated by someone, we usually believe that the person doing the manipulation is prompted by a selfish motivation. While manipulative actions can occur out of ignorance, they are often motivated by selfishness or spiritual weakness on the part of the originator.
I know that no one wants to see someone they care about go to hell. Why? Because you love them! The key here is love. If I love, I will not use fleshly methods to manipulate and control others. I will trust the truth spoken in love to bring people to freedom.
Jude 23: “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
This verse does not speak to a change of motives on the part of the evangelist but it speaks about trust in the truth of God’s word. For some people, fear of impending judgment is what causes them to turn to God but it is always God’s kindness that leads them to repentance (Romans 2:4)! If God had not extended grace to the sinner, there would be no way to repent!
Love is our motivation – not fear or pride in our evangelistic ability.
Right motives are essential to the use of the right methods.
Another very important factor in recognizing and rejecting manipulative methods is the presence of total trust in the Holy Spirit.
When looking upon the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, Zechariah saw a vision of a lampstand that was constantly fueled by two olive trees which continually supplied oil to the lamp. God used this vision to show the people of Israel that His purposes are accomplished, not by might, nor by physical ability, but by the Holy Spirit.
When we believe we need quick results, we can resort to emotional and even spiritual manipulation to get people to respond. The use of these methods reveal our lack of trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God.
Another thing to consider is this:
The use of fleshly methods to get results produces fleshly Christians.
God knows exactly what it takes to bring a believer to the end of themselves and their ways. Without spiritual insight, it is difficult for us to discern exactly where a person is in the process of getting saved. We can believe that they must be “at the bottom” at ready to be saved when in reality they still have four more floors to fall before they bottom out.
People can get “uncomfortable” in their circumstances and walk an aisle. We can rejoice and move them from the column of “lost” to “saved” and count them in our totals for the year. Later, we can find out that they responded purely out of emotion instead of conviction.
True transformation comes from a revelation of where we are without God. Without this revelation, true converts are not created.
Revelation that produces true converts comes ONLY by the Holy Spirit. So, if we are going to be free from the use of manipulative methods, we must trust the Holy Spirit and His methods and timing.
I fear the church is going to have to answer to God for the methods we have used on people. We have often used manipulation to get them to do everything from get saved to give money. If revelation birthed out of a love for God is not motivating people to action, then we need to preach salvation and lordship all over again.
Hebrews 6:1: “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.”
Don’t allow fear or selfish motivation to prompt you to use manipulative methods on people.
Speak the truth in love. Pray for their salvation. Be at peace in your trust in God’s ability to save completely.