Christianity 201

October 16, 2015

Can a Christian Be Possessed by a Demon?

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.
-Matthew 10:8 HCSB

14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.
-Matthew 3:14-15 NASB

If you’re going to read a blog called Christianity 201, you have to expect there are going to be days when we look at issues! This time we’re paying a return visit to Micael Grenholm at the blog Holy Spirit Activism, who responds to today’s somewhat Pentecostal question as only a “charismactivist” (his word) can. Click the title below to read at source.

Can Christians be possessed by demons?

The Assemblies of God (AoG), the biggest Pentecostal denomination in the US, has famously argued that it is impossible for Christians to be possessed; no one who has received the Holy Spirit, they say, can be overtaken by demonic forces. This differs from the view shared by many neo-Pentecostals, charismatics, Catholics as well as many Pentecostals in the majority world (Asia, Africa and Latin America), who all say that Christians might actually become demonized.

When John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, was asked if he believed that Christians could have demons, he provokingly replied “Well yeah, I’ve cast them out of pastors!” His wife Carol wrote in her biography about her husband something like: “When we encountered a demon, we simply cast it out – without checking baptismal records. What else could we do? Wait until they become Hindus and then cast them out?”

Now, AoG-folks and like-minded may object that such allegorical evidence does not mean much compared to arguments from Scripture. Which is generally true, although in this particular case the usual claim concerning extra-Biblical supernatural phenomena – it’s a demonic deception! – is quite counterproductive. But the Bible is always important in theological matters, so let’s have a look. 

In AoG’s position paper on the topic, their arguments can be boiled down to two categories: 1) The Bible never specifically says that Christians are or can be possessed, and 2) The Bible does state that God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13) and that “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), meaning that because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in born-again believers, demonic possession is impossible.

To 1) I would respond that there are examples of faithful believers in God and Jesus who have some pretty serious problems with demons; the woman who had been disabled by a spirit in 18 years was described by Jesus as “a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years”. Being a child of Abraham is not so much about ethnicity, as it is about faith (Gal 3:7). Jesus clearly stated that his closest disciple Peter was briefly overtaken by Satan (Mt 16:23), and even though Judas clearly wasn’t a very good disciple, I think it’s very reasonable to say that he did join Jesus’ team because he actually wanted to follow Jesus radically, since Satan came and possessed him the same day he betrayed his Lord (Lk 22:3-4).

The 2) argument is even weaker: the same reasoning could be applied to sin with quite absurd consequences. God has rescued us from darkness and His Spirit within us is more powerful than the devil – therefore no Christian can sin. Most Christians would agree that it is true that God has rescued us from darkness and that no evil is within the Holy Spirit while it is equally true that we continuously fail to live up to God’s standards and fall in sin.

There is neither sin nor devils in the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit has not 100% control of us yet – that’s why we sin and that’s why some pastors can be demonized. While Christians won’t have the same amount of total possessions as some witch doctors can have – something that the Wimbers observed – we aren’t totally immune to demons unless we make sure that we are constantly sanctified through prayer and fasting.


Go Deeper: Click the title above to see the comments on this one, including a longer one that Micael really liked that offers some historical background.

November 11, 2014

Not the Benefits, But Christ Himself

Several years ago I remember hearing someone say, “The gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit himself.” Yes, it would be nice to be able to share some of the flashy, supernatural spiritual gifts with people and be able to speak words into their lives with insight you could never come by naturally, or be able to lay hands on people and see dramatic physical healing; but in the end, the gift of the Holy Spirit available to everyone is the Spirit’s presence and direction in our lives.

The Message translation of I Corinthians 13:1-4 reads like this:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

In other words,

  • I can be the best speaker
  • I can be the deepest theologian
  • I can be the most powerful intercessor
  • I can be the most generous philanthropist
  • I can be the most noble martyr

but my attitude is terrible it doesn’t matter; and if gifts as powerful as the ones above can be trumped simply by being love-less, then by comparison those gifts aren’t worth a whole lot.

Sunday night I read the very short booklet containing the text of a message given by A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination, simply titled Himself. This was also the title of a hymn that Simpson wrote that is somewhat unknown outside C&MA circles:

HIMSELF
  by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once ’twas painful trying, Now ’tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once ’twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

Once ’twas busy planning, Now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once ’twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking, Now ’tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.

 

The language is now outdated, but you can read the whole text of the message here. (It’s not very long.)

In the hymn above, Simpson summarizes all the things he was seeking after:

  • blessing
  • feeling
  • gifts
  • healing
  • power

and the means he sought to get those things:

  • striving
  • planning
  • working
  • pleading

and what all this left him with:

  • a half salvation
  • anxiety
  • self-centeredness
  • a dying faith

until he saw that the greatest benefit was having Christ Himself:

  • the Lord
  • His word
  • His care
  • perfect trust
  • security
  • peace

Categorically, there is nothing to add to that!

Amplifed Bible – Philippians 3:10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

 

 

October 31, 2014

Wanted: Unity in the Body of Christ

The Church Works Best When We Work Together

Our text today is from Ephesians chapter 4:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.” 

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

We live in a bullet point world, so some of you will appreciate the point-form layout of today’s devotional from Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). I thought some of you might find this “cut to the chase” approach refreshing. To read this at source, click on the title below:

Ephesians 4:1-16, Live worthy of your calling

Introduction

The Christian church is under increasing attack from the world both here in America and abroad. Churches are being destroyed, and Christians are being killed all over.  But we here in America face a different attack, and it is from within the church.  Among many issues that we as Christians need to work on, disunity is one of the more prevalent problems.

Our propensity for division is natural to our sinful natures, and this is why God inspired Paul to tell us to live in a manner worthy of the calling which we have received.

  1. First of all, God wants you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Read verses 1-3. But what does that mean, “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”?).
    1. There are many examples around us of what it means to live in a manner worthy of a calling.
      1. A policeman, when he works, is supposed to be an example of the Law.  He lives worthy of his profession.  He doesn’t steal, and he doesn’t cheat . . . He defends and upholds the Law.
      2. A doctor also is supposed to live worthy of his profession.  He heals the sick.  He cares for those who are ill and seeks to make them well.
      3. A farmer tills the soil and produces food for thousands.  He is called to this task and is gifted to accomplish it.
    2. As a Christian, there are marks of what it means to live a life worthy of the calling.
      1. In this section they are throughout. Look with me at verses 1-3
        1. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance (endure with) to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
        2. Several fruit of the Spirit are listed here:  humility, gentleness, patience, love, and peace.   All for a purpose, unity in the body of Christ.
          1. Therefore, in order for unity to occur in the body of Christ, we Christians need to exhibit humility, gentleness, patience, endurance, love, and peace.
  2. Alright, so God wants you to live in a manner worthy of being called a Christian.  But why? Why does God want you to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another, loving, united, and peaceful?
    1. First of all it is because God has called you all into unity.  (Read verses 4-5: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism”).
    2. The reason that it says “one faith, one Lord, one Baptism” is that it is into one church that you are all baptized; that is, it is into one faith: the Christian faith–Calvinists and Arminians alike, male and female, young and old, immature and mature, black, white, and brown.  One faith as a whole, and one faith in the particulars, one faith in the decisions that a church must make for the purpose of glorifying God, being united in love, and expanding the kingdom of God.
    3. Take for example a Military Unit.
      1. It has one leader; it works as a unit; it moves in one direction; it receives its orders and obeys them.  All those in it work well together because they have been trained to do so.  Sometimes individual members of the group don’t like what they are called to do, but they do it anyway for the greater good.  Therefore, they are able to accomplish a great deal because they act as one.
      2. Didn’t Jesus say, “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one;” (John 17:22).
    4. God wants you to be united because (v. 6) there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
      THE CROSS!

      1. You have been bought, and you are united to Christ.
      2. The same God indwells each of you.  The same Holy Spirit.  If differences of opinion arise, it is not because God is telling us different things; it is because we are not listening.  It is because we are stuck listening to ourselves and not to God.
      3. Now is the time to listen more intently to His will and submit to His will just as Jesus said, “Not My will be done Father, but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42).
  3. God wants you to be united, of one mind, of one body, of one Spirit, of one faith, and of one Lord.
    1. But God simply doesn’t require unity without providing the means to achieve it.
      1. That is why He gave gifts
        1. (v. 11) “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,”
        2. Aan Apostle is a delegate, a messenger, one who is sent forth with orders from God.
        3. A Prophet is someone who is moved by the Spirit of God and who solemnly declares to men what he has received from God by inspiration.
        4. An Evangelist is a bringer of good tidings. It is a name given to the New Testament heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles. They lead people to Christ.
        5. Pastor: A herdsman, a shepherd. He is someone who cares for his flock.
          1. The tasks of a Near Eastern shepherd were to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep; to defend the sheep from attackers; to heal the wounded and sick sheep; to find and save lost or trapped sheep; to love them, and guide them.
          2. During World War II, a shepherd was a pilot who guided another pilot whose plane was partially disabled back to the base or carrier by flying alongside him to maintain visual contact.
          3. So to, the Pastor comes along side to guide, protect, help, and teach the sheep so that they might grow in the grace of God and come to unity in the faith.
        6. A teacher in the New Testament is a person who teaches concerning the things of God and the duties of men.  They teach doctrine and correct people in error.  They are those who in the Christian assemblies undertake the work of teaching with the special assistance of the Holy Spirit.
          1. Note: In the Greek the construction of the last two, pastor and teacher, implies that they are shared by the same person. The Pastor/Teacher is the gifting for one man.
      2. These officers were given to the church by Jesus for a specific purpose.
        1. To prepare you (v.12) . . . for service.
          1. What kind of service?  Spiritual service: prayer, helping, admonishing, teaching, forgiving, loving, being an example of Christ in this world, and bringing glory to God.
          2. To accomplish this you are to be both humble and bold, gentle and determined, patient and strong, bearing with one another in love (verses 2-3), forgiving each other, helping each other, and considering others more important than yourselves.
  4. This unity that Paul is speaking of is for a reason: Maturity
    1. Again we have an issue of “reason”; that is, the reason we are equipped and gifted in this church is (verses 12-13) so that “that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
      1. As members in the body of Christ, we are continually being built up to maturity.
        1. Maturity in persona areas mentioned above: humility, gentleness, bearing with one another, love, peace, etc., so that you can . . .
        2. Mature corporately: The personal maturity leads to corporate maturity.
        3. Maturity in doctrine:  Knowing what is essential and what is not essential.  Knowing what it means to be gracious to others in the body of Christ who do not agree with you in areas of opinion.  Patience and love and peace should be shown to all people in the body of Christ so that we might speak the truth.  That is the result of maturity . . . speaking the truth in love.
  5. Conclusion
    1. In this world of anti-Christian bias we need all the more an extra measure of maturity, of grace, of gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.
    2. Each of you needs to keep your eyes on the one Lord.
    3. Each of you needs to keep your eyes on the one faith.
    4. Each of you needs to seek unity–being knit together in a close group.
      1. Each of you needs to be doing your part.
        1. Reaching Up–Seek God in prayer, study, and reading his word.
        2. Reaching In–Look to one another and find needs.  People in this church are needy and need love and support.  Visitors need to be welcomed and encouraged.
        3. Reaching Out–The community at large awaits the continued demonstration of your love and commitment to Christ.
    5. This is what it means to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

September 21, 2013

Where Cessationists Part Company With The Gospel

Cessationism is the belief that after the apostolic age, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased to operate.  This article is from the blog Internet Monk a few days ago where it appeared as Reconsider Jesus — The Sent Out:

The following is an excerpt from Michael Spencer’s upcoming book: Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark.  This week we are looking at a part of Michael Spencer’s writing and speaking on Mark 6. I accidentally skipped ahead and will be returning to Mark 5 next week.  The material being covered today is on a subject that is important to both my co-editor, Scott Lencke,  and myself:  That is, Spiritual gifts, and their existence today.  In this passage Michael Spencer gives us a taste of some of his own thinking on the matter.  I am hoping that Scott will be able to join us for the discussion in the comments.  Are your views similar?  Quite different?  At Internet Monk a civil discussion is always welcome in the comments.  If you have been thinking at all that you would be interested in purchasing Michael Spencer’s book when it is available, please drop us a note at michaelspencersnewbook@gmail.com.  The more we get expressions of interest, the more attention we will get from publishers.


Mark 6:7-13

Mark 6:7-13. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

…It is very significant for me that Jesus empowers his disciples with his own authority, and specifically gives them power over “unclean spirits.” Jesus’ first miracle, according to Mark, was an exorcism, and the battle with the forces of darkness is never far from Mark’s focus. But this passage must be considered in the subject of whether spiritual gifts and ministries continue today, or did they cease when the “apostolic age” came to an end? This issue is the source of a major split among evangelicals and has been a major issue in my own life and ministry. Without getting on a personal soapbox, I can say that issues such as “Are tongues for today?”, “Does God heal today?” and “Should Christians cast out demons today?” have occupied hours and days of my own study and consideration. Is the Bible actually that confusing on these issues? I really don’t think so. In fact, the cessationist position (that all these gifts and experiences ceased with the apostles) may be well intentioned, but it has robbed the church of what Jesus clearly intended to give to his followers.

In the simple words, “he gave them power,” Mark communicates that Jesus intended for his followers to walk in all the power he ministered in and he intended to share his authority with his followers for the purpose of compassionate Kingdom ministry to the oppressed. When cessationists make the apostles into a special group honored by Jesus above other Christians by giving them power and authority, they go well beyond what scripture teaches. It is true that the apostles are mentioned in passages such as Revelation 21:14 and Ephesians 2:20 -”…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”- in a way that gives them importance within the body of Christ, but these scriptures point to the faithful testimony of the apostles as witnesses of Jesus and the conveyers of the Gospel. Certainly, the New Testament is “Apostolic” in the sense of being written within the circle of the apostles and upon their teaching. Paul mentions the “signs of an apostle” in 2 Corinthians 12:12, but where is the sense that these were exclusive to the apostles or would cease? Paul himself refutes such an idea in I Corinthians 12:4-11, where the manifestation of the Spirit is clearly given to all the body of Christ, as the Lord himself desires. In fact, how does the idea of supernatural ministry being the exclusive domain of the apostles square with I Corinthians 12:28, where miracles and healings are intentionally placed after the ministry of apostles?

Every cessationist I know is frightened by the excesses of the Charismatic/Pentecostal/Third Wave movements. Certainly we ought to be concerned with excess, for it is the work of the devil, discrediting the real. But we ought to be more concerned about a kind of theology that tells the church supernatural means are not available to encounter the powers of evil and the results of sin. Cessationism is the primary culprit in turning the church towards secular and worldly means of doing everything from church growth to pastoral counseling. In some seminaries, secular psychology is accepted with little question, despite its corrupt worldview and self-defining methodology. In many churches, laying on of hands for the sick, anointing with oil or praying against the demonic would get the pastor fired or the church split. Yet, here we have Jesus entrusting his own power and authority to twelve disciples who would hardly be impressive today for their spiritual maturity or wisdom. They simply have faith and are, therefore, empowered for ministry. May God quickly send the day when this will not need to be explained…

September 7, 2012

Unity is Not Uniformity

Joshua Rhone blogs at — wait for it — JoshuaRhone.com, where this post appeared recently as …

Uniformity vs. Unity

In the fourth chapter of his letter to the Ephesian church the apostle Paul writes,

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV)

I spend a lot of time thinking about the church; how the church is structured; and how the members of the body relate to one another. Over the last few years I have found Ephesians 4 to be inescapable, as it in some measure speaks to each of these things.

Recently, I have been particularly captivated by Paul’s understanding regarding the diversity that exists in the body of Christ (the church). Here, Paul identifies five unique ministries — apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Elsewhere, when Paul talks about the body, he goes into even greater detail regarding the uniqueness and variety that God has given to the members of his church.

In looking at this text on this occasion, I have little to no interest regarding the particularities of the ministries. All that matters insofar as I am concerned this evening is that there are multiple and diverse gifts that God gives to the body. He gives these gifts with the expressed intention that: 1) the body of Christ be built up and, 2) the body reach unity. The ultimate desire being a mature people who attain the full measure of Christ.

Where I would like us to focus our attention is on one small word: unity. God’s desire, at least so far as it is summarized by Paul, is that the church reach unity. Extend me the courtesy to say it again: God’s desire is that the church reach unity.

Say it with me, now: UNITY.

Not uniformity.

Unity.

They may not sound or seem all that different. In reality, however, the difference is huge. A uniform thing has an overall sameness. It is homogenous. Unity, by contrast, does not demand sameness. Rather, in unity different and diverse things come together in such a way that they are no longer divided, separated, and/or broken.

God’s desire for the church wasn’t a group of people who look and dress the same. God’s desire wasn’t even for the body to agree on everything. Rather, God’s desire was the the uniqueness and diversity that exists within the body lead to wholeness rather than brokenness.

Wholeness doesn’t come by being the same.

A lack of division doesn’t stem from everyone thinking the same thing.

Unity is the result of multiple and diverse members submitting to Christ and one another in and out of love. Unity comes as we seek not our own interests, but rather the interest of God and the well-being of one another.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the most beautiful and accurate depiction of this. One God. Three Persons. Perfect love. Mutual submission. Blessed Trinity.

~Joshua Rhone

Joshua could use your prayers right now, to learn more click here.