“Narrow is the path that leads to life…” (Matthew 7:14)The word translated “life” is the Greek word zoe which means not only “an active and vigorous life in God” here on Earth, but also the promise of “everlasting life.” Many Christians focus on the fact that they have accepted Jesus as Lord and, in doing so, receive Heaven as their final destination. Meanwhile, in this life, they are not experiencing the abundance of God’s presence which brings both healing and provision.
I have encountered many good-hearted Christians who firmly believe they are on this narrow path, yet they haven’t found healing for themselves or financial blessing. Their families are torn apart from, their children are under assault as are their health and finances. This is a good indication that some of these well-meaning brothers and sisters have fallen prey to one of the biggest dangers of the narrow path: a puffed up soul.
Woe (judgment is coming) to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever and shrewd in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:21)
Yet [mere] knowledge causes people to be puffed up (to bear themselves loftily and be proud)... (1 Corinthians 8:1)The word “knowledge” is the Greek word, gnōsis meaning, knowledge in the ways of God. This verse is talking about being puffed up in what we know about God. This leads to pride which takes place in the soul. When we feed on knowledge and our strength is in the knowledge we have acquired, then it may cause our soul to be "puffed-up" so that it dominates our body instead of our spirit. It isn't that we should not seek knowledge about God. The Bible tells us to do this:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)We should seek knowledge of God and His ways, but placing our trust in this knowledge so that what we know is our strength, that is the danger. Let’s not forget what Paul teaches us:
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)God is Love. Knowledge does us no good without God being dominant in our lives. We must always remember that He should be leading us, not the knowledge we have gained.
No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel can prevail against the LORD. (Proverbs 21:30)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)Gaining knowledge in God’s ways should be pursued, however, as children of God, we need to always be led by the Holy Spirit. When we feed on knowledge the biggest danger for well-meaning Christians is to become “puffed-up” in that limited understanding that we have. This will feed our soul until we are being led by our own voice, which we believe is the Holy Spirit, but is actually our own soul.
God is three parts, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are made in God’s image, tri-part beings: spirit, soul and body:
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)This is the proper order: our spirit should dominate our soul; our soul will then keep our body in line with our spirit which is joined with the Holy Spirit. When we feed our soul with knowledge and become proud of the knowledge we have gained, it will cause our soul to dominate us instead of our spirit.
Many people suffering from this condition may not even realize it. The Word of God is sharper than any sword and can often reveal what lies beneath. We will use the Word to show symptoms of a soul dominating a person.
Signs of a Puffed-up Soul
When we are sick, symptoms often reveal which disease is afflicting our body. There are several key things that are sure indications that you are “puffed up” and being dominated by your soul and not your spirit which is led by the Holy Spirit:
- Formula prayers
- Beliefs unsupported by Scripture
- Charging for things of God
But if anyone teaches otherwise and does not assent to the sound and wholesome messages of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and the teaching which is in agreement with godliness (piety toward God), he is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. (1 Timothy 6:3)Every Christian I have ever encountered, who is not asleep and wandering away from God, claims to be “teachable.” They want to know the things of God, however, often it is only the things that line up with what they already believe that they will receive. If a teaching conflicts with their tradition or with their desires, they want nothing to do with that teaching.
He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words, which result in (produce) envy and jealousy, quarrels and dissension, abuse and insults and slander, and base suspicions, and protracted wrangling and wearing discussion and perpetual friction among men who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth (1 Timothy 6:4)You know that your soul is puffed up when you take offense when a teaching brings correction to your life, your traditions, or to what you believe. When Jesus came, He said of the Pharisees, “Your traditions have made the word of God of no effect.” If you are prone to give insults and slander those that don’t agree with you and thrive on friction the arguing creates, these are signs of a puffed up soul.
When you hear a new teaching that contradicts what you have been brought up with, you should look to the scriptures to see if your beliefs are right. Are you leaning on what has been handed down for generations? Do you believe what your pastor, prophet, or ministers have been teaching you is the right way of doing things more than what the Bible actually says.
I am surprised at the number of Christians who can no longer discuss their differences by stating the scripture we are standing on. Instead, they come into offense. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians about how love behaves because we are supposed to love one another:
(Love) Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; (1 Corinthians 13:5)It says in Colossians 3:13 that we should be “bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” One of the fruits of the Spirit is "patience" it is really the Greek word makrothumia which means long-suffering. When combined with the other fruits, kindness and gentleness, it creates a perfect example of how we should interact with Christians who do not see things they way we do. These are the fruits of the Spirit we should be walking in as we discuss the Word of God.
If no agreement can be had on a topic, then both parties should agree that God can be the Judge, and set it aside. It is only pride that causes us to be offended by a teaching that is different than ours or when what God gives us is not accepted by others. It is not our job to correct and teach one another: the Lord sent the Holy Spirit who is our Teacher and Guide. (John 14:26) Taking offense is the most crippling trap for growth and development of the body of Christ.
Even mature leaders in the body of Christ can fall into this pit. You know your soul is puffed up if a thought close to this ever enters your mind, “Who is this person to say such a thing, to think they can teach me something, correct me… I have been in the ministry since before they were born!”
Self PromotionWhen we promote ourselves, we are taking charge of our destiny instead of trusting God to get us there. This is actually a form of boasting: we want people to know how qualified we are.
Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise and skillful person glory and boast in his wisdom and skill… (Jeremiah 9:23)
To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more...’ (Psalms 45:4)These are just a couple of the many verses that warn us against boasting. Paul warns us about teachers who boast as well:
These people are grumblers and fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (Jude 1:16)There are two very simple ways that good people can slip into self-promotion that puffs up the soul:
TitlesIt seems so innocent. In many cases it seems a necessity. However, we must carefully discern when a title is necessary and when it is giving into pride. Let’s look at this in the context of the natural world:
Jeff is the Chief Executive Officer of a company where the abbreviation CEO often accompanies his name. In reference to the business, it is necessary for John to have CEO next to his name as he is the person in charge. However, if John put CEO next to his name at every luncheon, convention, hotel visit, and even on their Facebook page, well it would be clear that John had an issue of pride in connection with that title. He would be using it as a way to gain influence.It is no different with the things of God. If you insist on putting Pastor, Prophet, Apostle, or Evangelist next to your name outside of where it is absolutely necessary, it is a form of boasting. Look to the Bible as your example. Did any of the prophets even announce themselves as a prophet? We never see Prophet Isaiah, Prophet Ezekiel mentioned. Did Paul refer to himself as Apostle Paul? Jesus fulfilled all the roles listed, yet He never called Himself any of those things. It was up to those who encountered Him to decide what to call Him by the impact of His word and actions and by revelation of the Holy Spirit.
When others see God working through you, the Holy Spirit will tell them what our job is. This is the way the Bible shows it to be. Anything other than this is man trying to influence others, to put forth his own importance, instead of trusting God to anoint his words and move those we are speaking to. Consider repenting and removing any title from your name and let God promote you instead of promoting yourself.
God will tell other people who He has called and anointed. Being called for this particular office wasn’t something I had desired, so I was keeping it under the radar. I had several people show up at my Facebook page and call me by the title God had given me which I only mentioned in a couple of blog articles documenting the miracles connected with my calling. It was a complete shock, but also a confirmation of the calling because God told them who I was, I didn’t announce it. Little did I know that this was actually God’s way.
Declaring QualificationMany of the disciples of Jesus were unlearned fishermen and regular, even sinful people before they followed the Lord. They were not scribes nor Pharisees: those who were schooled in the things of God. Yet, many of our leaders today feel the need to boast about their qualification.
There is a popular teacher whom I have learned much from, however, he continually states, “I have studied prophecy for 80,000 hours...” He claims this because he has been in ministry for 30 years and says he studies the prophecies in the Bible for 8 hours every day… there is just something not right in that claim.
How many pastors have “Dr.” next to their name because they have a Doctorate in Theology? This is walking the path toward becoming a Pharisee or Sadducee. This is another way we fail to trust and rely on God and the Holy Spirit to convince people that we are to speak the truth that comes from Him.
Now what I mean is that as long as the inheritor (heir) is a child and under age, he does not differ from a slave, although he is the master of all the estate... (Galatians 4:1)
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba... (Galatians 4:6)In order to walk in the full authority that our Lord has given us, we must be full-grown sons & daughters of God. It is listening to the Spirit that will bring us to maturity. Remember:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)As we gain knowledge, it is tempting to lean on the understanding we have gained in God’s ways. We create prayers based on a revelation from God, then just keep repeating those same prayers even when the Holy Spirit is no longer guiding us to use them. These are formula prayers. They are not only prayers, but can be disguised as:
- Attacks on the enemy
If we do these things without the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are ordering Him around! We have forgotten that God is in charge and we should be led, not doing the leading. This is being done in many areas of the Church, but we will focus on two:
- Spiritual Warfare
Like most things of God, it starts with an honest revelation from the Holy Spirit. At the core there is truth in these things. They can be used to bring victory for the Kingdom of God and freedom for God’s people if we learn to lean not unto what we know. Instead we need to learn to wait on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
There is no “magic” formula, a set of words, that will solve our problems. Anyone who says, "Just say this prayer and the enemy will be removed from your life" has a puffed up soul because he is leaning on what he has learned instead of listening to the Holy Spirit to see what needs to be done. (See Clearly Defined Unauthorized Authority for more about this)
DeliveranceA formula was created in the deliverance movement of the 70s & 80s. We learned that the name of the Lord and the blood of Jesus could be used to set us free from attacks of the enemy. This was a tremendous revelation from the Holy Spirit, and a much needed weapon. Unfortunately man took this tool into our own power and soon these words were bandied about for everything without any urging from the Holy Spirit.
Most “deliverance” ministries still operate in this way. Books are read to learn the right things to say. The symptoms of demonic interference are diagnosed and the name and the blood are used in an attempt to bring healing or financial breakthrough. When this is done without the guidance of the Holy Spirit it is often unsuccessful.
If it is successful, sometimes it is only temporary because the sins behind the affliction are not revealed. The words of Jesus are never uttered by those doing the deliverance, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11, John 5:14) Without removing the sin from our lives that gives the enemy access, they may return. Read more about this in the article “New and Old Wineskin.”
The enemy may have some rights given to him in the Courts of Heaven. This is why deliverance doesn't work every time by the same method. The Holy Spirit is in Heaven and He will let us know what needs to be done.
Spiritual WarfareIn the article “Clearly Defined Unauthorized Authority” we discuss different ways that we have fallen into the trap of believing that “all authority” is ours when we take Jesus as Lord… If you believe this like I once did, please read that article: CLICK HERE. Consider what you have been taught and what is being stated with scripture. The things discussed in that post definitely puff up the soul.
The simple truth is this: is anyone walking in ALL AUTHORITY? Is there a Christian who has been able to cast our EVERY demon, heal ALL who are sick, or STOP all violence by taking down ALL principalities. I hope you will read the article mentioned and find out exactly what authority has been given to you so you can walk with confidence in it!
Other aspects of what has become known as spiritual warfare are things that also puff up our souls:
Prayer marches are based on the Bible story of Jericho where God’s people were told to march around the city. The book, “Angels on Assignment” by Roland Buck is one of the first novels written about angelic encounters and is very anointed. In it, Pastor Buck talks with an angel about the battle of Jericho; this angel was there.
He said that God has sent his angels to stand on the enormous walls of the city. They waited for the sound of the shofar and when it sounded, they plunged their swords into the wall, taking it down. The key in having victory was that they had heard from God: they were TOLD SPECIFICALLY what to do. It had miraculous results.
We have turned this into a formula conducting prayer marches around cities to pull down principalities and such. There are no massive walls falling from prayer marches because this is an act of the flesh, prompted by the soul and not by God. Anytime we think we have to go somewhere to pray to be more effective, we are leaning on the flesh unless we have heard very strongly from God.
When the soldier came to Jesus and asked Him to pray for his servant to be healed, the soldier said it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to come, if He would just speak the word, the soldier knew it would be done. Jesus declared that this was the highest level of faith in Israel. He also speaks of how we should pray in other verses:
Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already. (Matthew 6:6)We should know that we can pray in our home and God will hear in Heaven and it shall be done. Of course no one will know that we did anything if we do it this way. Our flesh does not like this. It wants attention and credit for what has been done. Our soul wants us to be present and get noticed for our efforts. If we keep reading, we find our Lord instructions confirm this:
But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open. (Matthew 6:7)UNLESS we HEAR direct instructions, it isn’t God, it is our soul speaking to us. If we do not see miraculous results, it was probably our soul. Sometimes God will ask us to step out in an action as a statement of faith, however when it is something that will bring positive attention to us, we need to ask, “Is this the Holy Spirit or my soul?”
Beliefs Unsupported by ScriptureOne of the biggest dangers of having a puffed-up soul is that we may depend on what this minister said or our favorite prophet declared. It doesn’t matter what kinds of visions or miracles are associated with a ministry or a man or woman of God, you must always be willing to search out what they are saying: does it line up with the Bible? We can develop beliefs in doctrine and procedures that are not supported by the Word of God. This will feed our soul instead of feeding our spirit.
I am not immune to this. I have been challenged by others about certain beliefs. My response is always the same:
- I look for what I believe in the Scripture. Sometimes I go to the people I heard it from and see what scripture they give to support their actions.
- If I cannot find scripture to support what I believe, I throw that belief out.
- If there is conflicting information, I carefully research the context of both scriptures: Always let the Bible be your guide.
The new wave in the Church are ascension groups who pray and “enter heaven” any time they choose. Let’s look at what the Bible says about visiting Heaven:
...anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber... (John 10:1)This shows that there is more than one way to enter Heaven: A right way and a wrong way. If you have studied the spiritual realm known as Heaven, you know that it is actually “Heavens,” plural. There is more than one place your spirit can travel to or connect with. One of those places is the Second Heaven where Satan rules. I have actually been there. Here is how it happened:
There are often long gaps between the times the Lord takes me to the Secret Place. In one such gap, I pressed in, determined to spend time in the Secret Place. I listened to my favorite worship music: true praises to the Lord. Then I turned off the music and focused on how much I loved and adored Him.
I pictured Him, the way I saw Him last and sought to be in Heaven with Him. I found myself in the garden I remembered. The Lord was there as was the figure of Abba. However, the interaction with them was just a little “off.” There was no feeling of love and comfort, no peace. When their actions became a little harsh, I knew this wasn’t my loving Father. I forced my eyes open.Satan loves to mimic God. He can appear as a powerful angel of light or as an immense being of power, however, he cannot imitate the love God has for us. If you are joining with others who claim to be able to enter Heaven as they will, please consider that unless our loving Lord is there, it may not be a true picture of where God resides. It may be an imitation created to distract you from the things of God and a close, intimate relationship with Him. Let’s continue reading what John has to say:
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The watchman opens the door for this man, and the sheep listen to his voice and heed it; and he calls his own sheep by name and brings (leads) them out. (John 10:2-3)This describes the true way to enter Heaven. There is only one way to enter heaven: Jesus. He is the Door. Only one is able to open the door that leads to the Heaven where God resides for man: God. He is the Gatekeeper. We cannot open the gate to Heaven whenever we choose, that is up to our Lord. There is no example in the Bible of someone leading a group of people to visit Heaven. It is a puffed up soul when we think of ourselves more than we are by saying we can lead a group into Heaven on a sightseeing tour whenever we choose.
Charging for Things of God… who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit. From such withdraw. (1 Timothy 6:5)
When we continue reading what Paul says to Timothy, we see some additional traits of a puffed-up soul: using the things of God as a source of profit. We are to withdraw from these teachers and men of God. Our Lord showed us how we are to handle the gifts, anointing and wisdom that He gives us:
And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand! Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give. (Matthew 10:7-8)When we preach or teach about God, when we use the gifts of the Spirit and pray for people, we are to do this for free. When we charge for prayer, we are saying that there is something special about us that will get “special” results so we should be paid in advance. This is putting emphasis on the wrong party: our prayers will achieve nothing without God. He is the important part. Without Him we are nothing!
Our Lord made His view on this perfectly clear. One of the few times Jesus was provoked to anger was when He was in the temple. After turning over tables He said:
...to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:16)The temple was where they taught about God and worshiped Him. The doves were used in burnt offerings and sin offerings: an important part of coming before God. Even these were a necessary part of worshiping God, Jesus made it clear that charging for things in His house was not acceptable.
Look at the ministry website where you are learning about God. Does it look like a marketplace?
- Are teachings being sold in book form?
- Are seats in a conference being charged for?
- Is there a charge for prayer (ascension or for the Courts of Heaven)?
If we stop here, with this portion of God’s word, it would be out of context. It is only half of what Jesus was saying. Yes, we should give away what God gives us for free. Then Jesus went on to give further instructions:
Take no gold nor silver nor [even] copper money in your purses (belts); And do not take a provision bag or a wallet for a collection bag for your journey, nor two undergarments, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the workman deserves his support (his living, his food). (Matthew 10:10)Those who are working solely for the Lord were not to take money, food, or even extra shoes which they would need to get next to the village. It was well known among the Jewish culture that if you received something of spiritual value that you should give and acknowledge God with a physical contribution. This would provide for those who brought the message so they could continue the work of God.
This is so very important for God’s people to know. The Bible shows us why:
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)When we acknowledge God, it opens up the way for Him to lead us! If we give first before we see if there is wisdom from God, we miss out on this blessing! What our leaders are doing is putting a kink in God’s system, it stops the flow. This is why charging for things is not God’s way. To find out more, there is an article, “The Deceptiveness of Freely Given.”
Avoid the Puffed Up SoulThese are a few of the things God has pointed out as helping to “Puff up” our soul. Now that you know the trap, it is easy to avoid.
- Simply confess that you now see it according to God’s word
- Repent: turn from it
- Ask for the blood of Jesus to blot this out
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Believers' Boot Camp series
Many people think of boot camp as a place you train for combat. Any veteran will tell you that basic training is about three things:
- Knowing what weapons are available
- Learning how to use those weapons
- Receiving orders and following them
Believer’s Boot Camp series is a collection of books which teach us how to hear more clearly from God with the goal to ready ourselves for a face-to-face meeting with our Lord, Jesus. The series reveals the “weapons and tools” God has given us and how to use them, so we can bring God’s kingdom to Earth. Each book in the series focuses on a single topic to clearly define one tool or weapon from our Heavenly Father.
The series uses the Word of God to reveal all that He has given us through Jesus. The Bible is our instruction manual and the Holy Spirit is our guide to understanding it.