Christianity 201

August 2, 2019

De-Mystifying Spiritual Warfare

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.


“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

About a year ago we borrowed an item here from the the New Wineskins blog at Patheos by Josh Draffern, and yesterday I decided to see what he’s been writing lately, where I came across this article. I really felt this opened a frequently-discussed topic in a new way, and I hope you’ll agree. Click the title below to read this at source, and bookmark the site so you can make return visits.

What If You Could Take the Mystery Out of Spiritual Warfare?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Growing up as a church kid, there were several Bible passages that continually fascinated me. Whenever the story of David and Goliath was told (1 Samuel 17), I would imagine that I was there in the crowd, watching history unfold. I loved imagining that like Peter I might have had enough faith to walk on water when Jesus gave the invitation (Matthew 14:22-33). Right up near the top was Paul’s picture of spiritual warfare and the description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. The imagery of swords and shields was very compelling for a middle school boy, and the thought of fighting demons seemed like the real life version of all those fairytales I heard growing up where the hero slayed the dragon and saved the princess. For years, that’s where my understanding of spiritual warfare remained: medieval sword fights and imaginary battles with demons.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? When I finished high school and went off to a Christian college I continued to be interested in the topic of spiritual warfare and for the first time was exposed to books outside my narrow field of evangelical teaching. The good news was that there was a whole spectrum of teaching on spiritual warfare out there, especially from the pentecostal and charismatic stripe of Christianity, that claimed to know all sorts of fascinating information about spiritual warfare. The bad news was that too often these books left any semblance of biblical grounding behind and relied on supernatural revelations that changed from book to book. In the end, I was left with little I could trust and less I could understand.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? After college I spent two years overseas in Africa as a missionary through the International Mission Board, the missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. There in Africa I saw two distinct demonic manifestations happen with my first month of being there, moments that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Finally, this seemed like what I had always expected spiritual warfare to be like! But as quickly as they appeared, they dissipated. No more demonic manifestations after that, nothing that fit the stereotypical episode of spiritual warfare. Just normal, mundane, everyday life. Could spiritual warfare exist if nothing extraordinary appeared to be happening?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Once I came back to the United States and began working full-time in local churches as a youth pastor, I began to see the evidence of spiritual warfare all around me. Good Christian marriages were falling apart left and right, entirely preventable divorces were being filed, and kids were left with emotional scars from a broken childhood that would threaten to haunt them for generations. Good kids from good homes were making bad decisions that left life-long consequences. Division and strife riled through churches as the enemy seemingly went unchecked in our midst. Like a dull ache in the back of my head, I knew we were being defeated in spiritual warfare, but I didn’t know how to fight back. Should I purchase a sword and shield? Did I need to go demon hunting or go searching for territorial powers like the books I read in college suggested? Should I wait for an undeniable demonic manifestation and deal with it then? Even after decades following Jesus and reading the Bible, the mystery of spiritual warfare remained simply that: a mystery.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? As the years went by and I became a senior pastor of a local church, I had the opportunity to teach through the armor of God in Ephesians 6 on a number of occasions. In preparation for a message, trying to grasp the armor of God in a way that could help my congregation (and myself) better understand Paul’s teaching on spiritual warfare, I tried a different approach, one I ultimately believe was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Instead of focusing on the pieces of armor, as I had always done and as commentaries always did, I ignored the pieces of armor completely and simply focused on what was attached to the pieces of armor. That small shift changed everything.

When you think of a marriage, if you had to settle on one image or one event that best encapsulates a marriage it would most likely be the wedding day. A wedding is a beautifully scripted ceremony that visually captures and celebrates the love and commitment between a husband and wife. From the flowers and the cake to the wedding dress and corsages, the beauty and elegance of the wedding ceremony celebrates the finest of what a marriage should be. Yet no one would try and make the argument that the only way to properly be married is to dress up every day in your tuxedo or wedding dress and walk down a rose petal strewn church aisle. In fact, if someone made a routine of putting on their wedding dress or tux so they could be married that day, he or she would be missing the whole point. Marriage isn’t the tuxedo or wedding dress, those are merely symbols. It’s the love and commitment represented by the wedding ceremony that’s the key.

When Paul writes to first century Christians to instruct them on the basics of spiritual warfare, he gives them a metaphor to hold onto, a symbol. He describes spiritual warfare in terms that mirrored the physical warfare every reader would have been familiar with. Every first-century believer reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians would have been painfully aware of the power of the Roman soldier. And just as the Roman army conquered the known world of the time, Paul instructed early Christians on how to be just as victorious in the spiritual battles that raged around them. But the pieces of armor have always been a metaphor. It doesn’t make any more sense to think the key to spiritual warfare is putting on pieces of armor than to think that the key to a successful marriage is to wear your wedding dress or wedding tux every single day. The key isn’t the pieces of armor, but what’s attached to the pieces armor. Right there, hiding in plain sight, we discover the steps we need to begin to win the war in the spiritual.

 

This is an excerpt from (hopefully) an upcoming book to be published on spiritual warfare. [For meaningful conversations on this and all my other content, join my Facebook Group: Josh Daffern Digital]

 

May 30, 2019

Compelling Society

How the Christian Vision for Society Points to the Reality of God.

by Clarke Dixon

Are Christians to rebel against governments? Are Christians to submit to governments? Are Christians to take over governments? Does the Christian vision for society lead to a theocracy, where God’s law is the law of the land? Does Christianity promote a beautiful vision for society? If God is real, and Christianity is true, then we should expect beauty and not ugliness. What is the vision?

Are Christians to rebel?

8 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:18-20 (NLT emphasis added)

26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. Acts 5:26-29 (NLT emphasis added)

In the New Testament we find rebellion against the authorities in order to be obedient to God. We can think of the many Christians around the world who disobey the authorities by gathering together as the Church, by telling others about Jesus, sometimes simply by owning a Bible. Let us not just think of the underground Church, let us pray. So yes, we are encouraged to rebel and break the laws when necessary.

Are Christians to submit?

1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Romans 13:1-7 (NLT)

Keep in mind that these words are taken from Paul’s letter to Rome, the seat of power in the ancient world. While the Christians in Rome recognized that “Jesus is Lord” meant  therefore that Caesar is not, there was still a call to respect the authorities. There is an impulse to be good citizens of the land, to be good Romans, or Canadians, as well as good Christians.

We therefore find in the New Testament a balance between respect for the authorities, but also disobedience when necessary.

Are Christians to take over the government, to aim for a “Christian Nation,” to establish a theocracy?

Reading through the entire New Testament we find no encouragement to take over the government, to establish a theocracy. Christianity began as a minority movement and therefore a takeover was not even entertained as a possibility. Even so, neither do we find a longing to do so at some point in the future. What we find is a focus on individuals having a life changing encounter with Christ. We find disciples making disciples. We find the recognition that Jesus already reigns without the need for a coup. There is no need to take over the government, for Jesus is already Lord. There is no need to set up a theocracy, for God is already sovereign.

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven:
“The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15 (NLT)

The place of the Christian is not to enforce laws that make the land look like God’s kingdom. The place of the Christian is to live kingdom focused lives while watching and waiting for God to bring His kingdom.

We find something similar in Old Testament. While there was a call for the establishment of a theocracy, known as Israel, there was no impulse for that theocracy to take over the world. Israel was to be salt and light to the world. Christians today are to be salt and light within the world.

We can have influence on society, but we are to be salt and light, not a hammer and gun. We are to carry a cross, not a sword. Helping people know Jesus is the priority of the Christian, not enforcing non-Christian people to live like Christians, especially not our own vision of what a Christian looks like. Our own idea of a “theocracy” might better be termed a “meocracy.” We are not kings over the land but kingdom people in the land, leading kingdom lives, looking forward to the Kingdom to come. We are disciples making disciples.

As lives are changed, society is changed. Christianity has brought good and beautiful changes to society, yet without a vision for totalitarian control. As an interesting example, consider the nations that are best, and worst, to live in if you are gay. According to one source, here are the ten best in ascending order; Argentina, Belgium, Malta, Germany, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, The Netherlands, Spain, and Canada takes the top spot as the best. From another source, here are the worst in descending order; Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somaliland, Nigeria, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and Mauritania. Notice anything about these two lists? The nations that are considered best have all had Christianity working in the background for a long time, helping to shape the culture, helping to develop a societal vision of love for one’s neighbour. The nations that are considered worst share a history of either Sharia law or communism, Islam or atheism. Rights and freedoms have flourished in lands that have been marinating in Christianity. This speaks positively about Christianity.

To conclude, the New Testament does not promote a vision for society that is to be fought for, that is to be enforced. That could get ugly quite quickly. Unfortunately, being all too human, we Christians have made things get ugly at times. What the New Testament promotes is a vision for how Christians engage with and interact within society, any society. We are to be individuals reaching individuals with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are to be disciples making disciples. We are to do good, to love our neighbours. We are to lead Jesus-centred, Spirit-filled, wisdom seeking lives. We are to be kingdom people living kingdom lives, while watching and waiting for the kingdom to come. We are to be good citizens of whatever land we live in. We are to rebel when necessary. Overall, the Bible promotes a beautiful vision for how Christians engage with and live within society. This is another reason Christianity is compelling.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

June 18, 2018

Christianity 201: Post #3,000

2 Timothy 2:2

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.  (NLT)

You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. (CEV)

2 Corinthians 3:5

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  (NIV)

By ourselves we are not qualified to claim that anything comes from us. Rather, our credentials come from God (ISV)

I am always surprised when it will occur to me to mention something which I value of prime importance that I wrote about earlier at Thinking Out Loud and then I go there and discover I’ve never put that into print. I’ve spoken about it many, many times, but it never quite made it into writing on that blog, or for that matter, this one.

I think that each of us have what I would call prime spiritual values, things which perhaps aren’t the most important thing — that would be Christ’s death and resurrection — but things that are distinctives or things we feel that God has given us as primary mission or perhaps our primary legacy.

For me, the first scripture above demonstrates what I call the chain of grace. I didn’t invent this term, but it describes the situation whereby person A shares the truth about Jesus with person B, who then accepts that message and passes it on to person C, who then joyfully receives Christ and immediately tells person D.

I got to see this firsthand once, though the story was told backwards. It was a testimony of four high school students. It started with person D, who was so thankful for the influence of person C in their conversion; followed by person C who thanked God for the witness of person B who led them in a prayer of confession and faith; followed by person B who explained to us how they were moved to become a Christian by the care and concern of person A; and then we met person A who shared her story.

It was an electric moment. Decades later, I still wish I had a recording of that.

But that’s how it’s supposed to work. I am entrusting a message to you — the God story — but embedded in that message is the mandate that you will then entrust this message to others. (Who will then pass this message on to others. And so on.)

The second verse above is a reminder that we do this under God’s authority, not our own. We’re not trying to build our empire, but his. We don’t speak what we’ve reasoned, rationalized or otherwise deduced, but what has been given to us. 

We did not make this up.

…Every day at C201 — with the exception of the articles I write myself, and those of our two regular contributors — I go on a mission of hunting and gathering. About half the time it’s triggered by revisiting people whose writings I have found encouraging before, and the other half is a voyage of discovery.

I’m looking for people who have something valid to say to the wide variety of readers we have here which is rooted in scripture and goes beyond the superficial. At the same time, I’ve often included something very straightforward for that reader who lands here and is investigating Christianity for the first time.

There is so much great writing online, and I’m so happy to be in a position to celebrate those gifts and share the fruit of their writing with you here. I know that from one day to the next it might seem rather random — our writers have included Messianic Jews, Catholics, Charismatics, Quakers, Orthodox and ultra-Conservatives — but I hope you’ve found the mix enriching. I also try to break away from North American writers as much as possible to present a broader Christian worldview.

Would it be better to just stay with a single writer or a single theme or a single passage of scripture? Yes. Absolutely. That’s how I started my own devotional life, reading the works of the late Selwyn Hughes from the UK who would spend 60 days on a single theme.

Our mandate here is different. It’s a showcase of what God is doing in the lives of Christians across the internet spectrum.

In that, I hope you also can rejoice. Many of these writers normally get a half-dozen readers per day, but on one day, we can share their thoughts with a much greater readership. Some have far more readers than we do, but there might that one person who has never tapped into their books, podcast or online writing.

God’s family is so much bigger than we can imagine, and he is so active in the lives of his people.

Today, with this our 3,000th post, let’s celebrate that.

 

March 3, 2018

Can Any Christian Do Deliverance Ministry or is it a Specialized Gifting?

This is a question which came up today and I thought I’d share it with you, as this is a topic which, outside of Charismatic and Pentecostal environments, is not discussed among Evangelicals.

The issue is whether or not ‘the average Christian’ when in a situation of spiritual confrontation can move in the power of the Holy Spirit, or if they need to retreat and defer to ‘the experts’ in this area of ministry. An analogy to the movie Ghostbusters, while rather distracting, is not entirely out of place here. Who are you gonna call?

Before we begin, an important question to ask is, ‘Does the person seek healing and deliverance?’ If the person who needs Christ doesn’t particular want Christ’s help — and I’ve met people on both sides of this equation — then you’re possible going to proceed differently.

Another clarification needs to be made between deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare, something we looked at here in January, 2014:

The difference between deliverance and spiritual warfare is that deliverance is dealing with demonic bondages, and getting a person set free, whereas spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations and accusations) that he sends our way. Deliverance involves the breaking up of legal grounds, the tearing down of strongholds (offensive spiritual warfare), and the casting out of demons. Spiritual warfare on the other hand, is dealing with three key things the enemy sends at us: temptations, deception and accusations.

So we need to keep that distinction in mind as we proceed.

Deliverance is certainly similar to the supernatural gifts of the spirit in 1 Cor. 12, yet it is not one of them; of the nine listed, see especially these:

The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles… (12:9-10a)

This certainly gives the believer confidence that part of our ministry can include operating in the supernatural realm. Also, bringing relief to those in need was part of Christ’s mandate as shown in Luke 4:18 (AMP):

The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]

and then he tells us (John 14:12-13)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends out the 72 disciples and then we read in vs. 17:

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”

The tone of the verse suggests a bit of surprise on the part of these short-term missionaries, but also implies something which came naturally or organically because of their connection to Jesus. We get this sense two verses later in 19-20:

[Jesus:] “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

While the last half of the 16th chapter of Mark has been disputed because of manuscript corroboration, it is there we find a ‘spiritual power package’ of instructions including verse 17:

These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.

You have the authority. So why have we relegated deliverance ministry to being a the purview of a very select few?

It might be that this passage brings with it the potential for deliverance ministry failure:

Mark 9.17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19a Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you?…

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil  spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”…

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.

The Pulpit Commentary elaborates:

Though all things are possible to faith, some works are more difficult of accomplishment than others. This kind can mean only this kind of evil spirit, or demons generally. But the latter interpretation is excluded by the fact that the apostles had already exercised successfully their power over devils without special prayer or fasting. The words point to a truth in the spiritual world, that there are different degrees in the Satanic hierarchy (comp. Matthew 12:45); some demons are more malignant than others, and have greater power over the souls of men. In the present case the possession was of long standing; it revolved a terrible bodily malady; it was of an intense and unusual character. The mere word of exorcism, or the name of Jesus, spoken with little spiritual faith, could net overcome the mighty enemy. The exorcist needed special preparation; he must inspire and augment his faith by prayer and self-discipline. Prayer invokes the aid of God, and puts one’s self unreservedly in his hands; fasting subdues the flesh, arouses the soul’s energies, brings into exercise the higher parts of man’s nature. Thus equipped, a man is open to receive power from on high, and can quell the assaults of the evil one. (emphasis added)

Elliott’s Commentary adds:

The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer. The words are noticeable as testifying to the real ground and motive for “fasting,” and to the gain for the higher life to be obtained, when it was accompanied by true prayer, by this act of conquest over the lower nature.

or perhaps this passage from Matthew is in the back of someone’s mind:

17.14b A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”

17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.

19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

We often refer to the website, GotQuestions.org. Some non-Pentecostals or non-Charismatics downplay the need for this as a specialized ministry. Since you’ll find this thinking online in various places, here is a sample from their site:

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the whole armor of God…

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so…

…It is interesting that we have no record of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to cast out demons…[and then the commentary goes on to list a rather significant number of ‘exceptions.’ Hmmm…]

Did we answer the question at the top of the page?

I think the issue here is not the office or title of the person rebuking the evil spirits, but rather the preparation of the person entering into such a ministry.

Of course, some situations are extremely short notice. We don’t know exactly when we might find ourselves seeing or being part of a direct demonic confrontation. I believe in those situations, a person who has heard God’s word on this subject, and is thereby aware of the powers that exist should resolve to act in whatever timely opportunity is available. (But I also believe God will give you some foreknowledge to be prepared to do so.)

In other parts of the world, I’m told that demonic activity is much more acute; much more visible. People in those situations don’t need to be told what they’re dealing with, they see its effects.

So the answer is both: It is a ministry that is the specialty of some pastors and Christian leaders, but it is also within the reach of any Christ-follower who has prepared themselves for the task.

Do you want to take this on?

It’s definitely worth remembering that the seventy-two were sent out in pairs. That might be a better way to apprentice in this type of ministry.


In any deliverance situation, there’s also the issue of providing ‘filling’ to someone whose ‘casting out’ of something has created a void or a whole. In Matthew we read the words of Jesus,

12.43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

There are some good resources online on this topic, be discerning as you search however, and recognize that there are differences of opinion on this issues from different theological traditions.


Scriptures today were all NLT (just because) except where indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

April 23, 2016

Why Stop at Just Casting Out Demons?

NIrV: Matthew 8:30 Not very far away, a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Go!” So the demons came out of the men and went into the pigs.


NIrV Matthew 8:43 “What happens when an evil spirit comes out of a person? It goes through dry areas looking for a place to rest. But it doesn’t find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives there, it finds the house empty. The house has been swept clean and put in order. 45 Then the evil spirit goes and takes with it seven other spirits more evil than itself. They go in and live there. That person is worse off than before. That is how it will be with the evil people of today.”

If you can cast them out, why not totally annihilate them? Today we return to the writing of pastor, author and Bible translator Christopher R. Smith at the blog Good Question. Due to changes in his life, he is no longer updating this blog, but the resources remain available, presented in a Q&A format. Click the title below to link to this one directly:

Why didn’t Jesus destroy demons when he cast them out?

Q. In any of the situations where Jesus cast out demons, why didn’t he kill them so they would not enter another person?

Matthew’s gospel relates how, when Jesus was casting out demons in the region of the Gadarenes, they cried out, “Son of God, what do you want with us? Have you come here to punish us before the time for us to be judged?” The encounters between Jesus and demons described in the gospels are typically brief and cryptic, but we can at least tell from this one that God has set a time for demons to be judged and punished. But as these demons knew, that time had not yet come during the ministry of Jesus, and they successfully appealed to be sent into a herd of pigs instead.

destroying demonsThe reasons why Jesus allowed such demons to continue to roam the earth, at least for a while, have to do, I believe, with the need for there to be freedom in order for people to make the choice to love God and others. God could have removed all sources of suffering and discord in the world, but this would have been at the cost of making true freedom impossible and depriving the world of the fruits of freedom, including love, courage, creativity, and so forth.

One of Jesus’ parables shows how God wanted people to respond instead to the fact that demons remained at large even after they had been cast out of their victims.  Jesus said, “What happens when an evil spirit comes out of a person? It goes through dry areas looking for a place to rest. But it doesn’t find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives there, it finds the house empty. The house has been swept clean and put in order. Then the evil spirit goes and takes with it seven other spirits more evil than itself. They go in and live there. That person is worse off than before.”

Jesus actually told this parable about his own generation as a whole, to illustrate how, by rejecting his true message of the kingdom of God, they were leaving themselves open to the influence of false messiahs who would lead them astray into destruction.  (This happened during the two Jewish-Roman wars in the decades that followed.) But for the parable to make this point by application, its story needs to make a valid point of its own, and that is that people who have been freed from a demon are responsible themselves to fill their lives with godly and wholesome influences that will discourage any demons from ever returning.

In other words, while Jesus didn’t destroy the demons he cast out, he brought the truth of the kingdom of God, and ultimately he sent the Holy Spirit, to occupy the place the demons had left so that they would never try to fill it again.  And I think this is how we need to think about all of the evil and destructive influences around us as we live in these “in-between times,” when the kingdom of God has already been inaugurated but not yet completely established.  God has not yet removed all these influences from the earth.  But he has sent other influences that can effectively displace them in our own lives, and increasingly in our world, if we recognize and accept our responsibility to welcome and cultivate these life-giving endowments.

 

January 23, 2014

True and False Prophets

I was well into preparing yesterday’s message when I came across this article by Isaac Guiterrez. At first I wanted to just run the link as a postscript, but then I decided everyone should see the whole article. This appeared at the blog of Enduring Faith Ministries and I encourage you to read this at source and then look around at other subjects covered.

Today,we continue our series of articles on “Understanding the Last Days”. I want to direct our focus on what the Word of God says about knowing how to recognize true and false prophets. There are many claiming to be prophets of God. One of the major factors that has plagued the church is the abuse and misuse of prophecy. Some has used it for fame and riches and others have used it for their own benefits.

How many self-proclaimed prophets are out there? In my years of ministry I’ve seen many. They all believe that they have been called of God to bring a word of correction and judgment to the church.  I walked also strongly in the prophetic but I used it wrongly. I brought judgement instead of edification. Well God had to humble me by taking out of ministry for some time. Just recently I’ve been receiving invitations to come back to the church to bring the ministry of prophetic evangelism to the local churches. What I learned as helped me understand how prophecy is to be handled. Praise God because I have a new revelation not just head knowledge of the prophetic. It’s time that we walk in building others up. God must send you before you run out on your own and became a prophet to the church. We have to many loose cannon prophets.

In  Jeremiah’s time they were so called prophets of God but they were not sent by God.

“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. Jeremiah 32:21-22

As you continue to read this chapter you find out that God is not at all pleased with false prophets.

Jesus warned of false prophets. This is one of the reasons it is important for us to recognize a true prophet, so we can then recognize a false prophet.

 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. (Mark 13:5-6)

If the prophecy does not point toward or lead to God, if it does not uplift Jesus, then the source is not from God and is false.

True Prophecy testifies of Jesus Christ

Revelation 19:10  And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Jesus is the spirit of prophecy

 But what about the prophets who say that they have been called of God but answer to no one?

 Our our day and age there are many people going around proclaiming they are prophets of God and believe they can only hear from God and have no accountability to any spiritual leader, ministry, or organization.  Many people are following the word of these prophets only.  Here are some questions to consider when someone is prophesying:

  • Who are they?
  •  To what organizations do they belong? 
  •  Who do they answer to?
  • Is there any way for correction or someone to hold them accountable for their actions?

To me a red flag goes up when a prophet wants to prophesy to me and they haven’t  submitted to spiritual authority. This can lead to serious problems.  Everyone is required to submit to spiritual authority for it keeps us in line and from making oneself a proclaimed prophet.  It is not only dangerous to the prophet but to those who listen to them. Three things that self-proclaimed prophets are in danger of:

  • It angers God
  • It misleads men
  • It divides you within yourself

It takes a revelation from God for someone to realize that they are in rebellion. A great book about understanding spiritual authority is by Watchman Nee.

One of my spiritual leaders gave me this [Spiritual Authority] book and it opened my eyes to understanding spiritual authority and why it is important. It gave me awake up call to the importance of being under the protection of  spiritual authority. Even though I have a ministry of my own, I have a hand full of spiritual leaders that I’m accountable too. They keep me in line, focused, and responsible for what I do. We need to recognize that God put these leaders of spiritual of authority for a reason. To many ministries I seen that operate under no spiritual authority, operate out of their homes, and believe they have been called of God to start a church. If the leader is in rebellion then also the whole congregation is as well.

Where is what Paul the Apostle says:

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. -1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

I like what the Amplified Bible explains it:

Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them [continually recognizing their authority over you], for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account [of their trust]. [Do your part to] let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you [either]. Hebrews 13:17 AMP Bible

A spiritual authority keeps watch over our souls. If we choose to be a parking lot prophet then we open ourselves up to pride.

What is the Office of a Prophet?

The Office of a Prophet still exists though many believe it was done away with in the New Testament.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” Eph. 4:11

This cannot be denied for these offices were given (Eph 4:11) in the NT  and for what reason?: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Eph 4:12).  For the perfecting and edifying of the saints,

Does the church need perfecting and edifying today? Of course we do! This clear Biblical statement goes against and discredits those who say that these special ministries have been done away in the New Testament, it is NOT SO, for both Peter and Paul confirm them in the NT.

So in all essence, prophecy is important to build, encourage, and help us live a Godly and Holy life.

Scriptures on Prophecy

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pe 1:20-21)

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” (Rom 12:6)

“Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” (1Ti 4:14)

“Pursue love, and seek eagerly the spiritual things, but rather that you may prophesy.” (1Co 14:1) 

“For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1Co 14:31-33)

According to the Word of God, a prophet word or prophecy must be in line with scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and subject to those they are accountable too.

In my experiences I’ve watched and seen as those calling themselves prophets spoke curses, threats, and judgement brought great damage and harm to the body of Christ. That is not the only reasons why God put the prophets in the church.

Prophecy should be pure, accurate, building up your faith, and bringing us closer to walking in holiness and righteousness of Christ.

What does prophecy do in the believer’s life?

  • Prophecy was intended to reveal a message from the True God
  • Prophecy was intended to encourage obedience
  • Prophecy was intended to give hope
  • Prophecy was intended to encourage trust in God

Prophecy was not just intended for certain holy men but it was given to the church to encourage one another. It’s not only a message of the end-times, or doom, or even correction but it’s about building the body of Christ not tearing it down. Prophecy was intended to bring hope and a lead back to Jesus. We need to understand  it more than ever before.

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…

August 21, 2012

Qualities Desired for Local Church Leadership

This is part two of a two-part article begun yesterday

There are some attributes that should not be found by people in leadership.

First, they should not be confused. Sounds a bit strange, but there are a lot of people who aren’t ‘set’ or ‘fixed’ or ‘firm’ on key doctrines or matters of responsible Christian ethics. Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy:

“Some have wandered away from [a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith] and turned to meaningless talk.  They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (I Tim 1: 6,7)

Second they should not be immature. In the epistle to the Hebrews we read,

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food.” (Heb. 5:12)

The spiritual leader must desire the deeper things of God. His/her diet should be two-pound prime rib, not two-percent milk.

Third, they should not be inconsistent. Their walk must match their talk. God hates hypocrisy. To echo a verse in Revelation, He would rather we be one thing or the other, but not dabbling in spiritual things and then living an unholy life in the world. James writes,

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (Jam. 3:1)

So what kind of person is God looking for?

Each one of the above negatives implies a positive:

  • authority
  • maturity
  • consistency

The leader must also have a clear understanding of the role to which he is called.

  • There is the traditional role of Pastor or Missionary
  • There are parachurch organizations which offer the option of service that is linked to particular aspect of ministry (social service, camp ministry, pregnancy centers, counseling, inter-church youth events, Christian radio, Bible translation, medical ministries, Christian school, etc.)
  • There is the bi-vocational route which allows you to serve God while earning income as a secretary, doctor, pilot, printer, shipper, salesperson, etc.
  • Others have a role that is even less defined in a career sense, but participate actively in organizations such as The Gideons, Youth for Christ, Compassion, etc.; or are a Sunday School teacher; or give of themselves to serve on a church board or a committee of a Christian agency or mission organization.

There is also the need for certain, called Christ-followers to take their place in the community as civic or political leaders. Others are called to be creative, cultural innovators in the arts and media. There is a place for Christian engineers, administrators, professors, lawyers, designers and entrepreneurs. The qualities which bring a Christ-centeredness to this work will always be spiritual attributes, not things measured by academic laurels.

But now, we’ve saved the best for the last…

There are two things which God can use more than anything; and they both begin in the heart. With these two qualities, the weakest among us can become effective, fruitful, dynamic leaders.

The first is a compassionate heart.  The desire to lead must be cultivated in an atmosphere filled with a love both for God’s people and the unsaved. The spirit of caring should be instantly recognizable. Although the command to love is given to all disciples, the person in leadership needs a double dose.

The second is a servant’s heart. In the kingdom of God, greatness is achieved only through humility. One gets to be the president of the company only by doing the janitor’s work. Too many people are clamoring to be religious superstars without realizing that in God’s scheme of things, the last often become first, and the foolish often confound the wise.  The spiritual leaders God is most seeking — the ones he really needs — won’t be bestselling authors, recording artists or Christian television celebrities. Discard those aspirations; that’s not spiritual reality.

And if you want to go deeper on leadership, Chapter three of the first letter to Timothy is also full of a number of qualifications for leadership applicable to the New Testament church. All the requirements listed would make good criteria for selecting spiritual leadership.

Going back to yesterday’s post, I certainly don’t want to leave the conclusion that Bible colleges and seminaries are not helpful. For many, it’s a good place to begin, for the spiritual attributes one needs will only be found through intense study of God’s Word.

However, it just might be that there is someone reading this who has never studied theology, philosophy, Biblical Greek or Hebrew; yet you know as you sit comfortably in church week after week that God has a major task for you if you will only submit your availability to Him. You know what it is to experience a restlessness that doesn’t want to settle until you answer that strong feeling that you need to be doing something more. I hope you are encouraged to step up; starting in your local assembly or spiritual community.

There may also be someone reading this who is already in a recognizable position in Christian leadership, but you know deep down that lately you’re merely “playing Church.” It’s become routine; you play your part flawlessly by rote. It’s not too late. Ask God to give you a heart full of compassion that can be poured out in humble service: A compassionate, servant’s heart. That determination will direct you to the actual shape a renewed ministry role will take in your life.

Finally, a word to the young (and young in the faith). Don’t wait. Paul’s first letter to Timothy offers good advice to tomorrow’s Christian leaders:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.  (I Tim: 5:4)

~PW

February 19, 2011

The Right Type of Name-Dropping

Here’s a bonus post for today, the first of two.

Carlos Whittaker: 

After standing in a room tonight with a hundred or so AMAZING people who all are “somebody”, I realized again…
It’s not who you know…It’s Who you serve.

At the end of the day it is not about getting “the deal”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the song”
At the end of the day it’s not about meeting “the man”
At the end of the day it’s not about your church hitting “that number”
At the end of the day it’s not about speaking at “the conference”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the book”
At the end of the day it’s not about losing “those pounds”
At the end of the day it’s not about being invited to “that party”
At the end of the day it’s not about being on “the list”
At the end of the day it’s not about opening for “that band”
At the end of the day it’s not about dating “that girl/guy”
At the end of the day it’s not about hitting “those stats”
At the end of the day it’s not about getting “that award”
At the end of the day it’s not about selling “that number of copies”
At the end of the day it’s not about creating “the perfect sermon series”
At the end of the day it’s not about solving “that problem”
At the end of the day it’s not about preaching “that message”
At the end of the day it’s not about shmoozing “those reps”
At the end of the day it’s not about everyone lifting “those hands”
At the end of the day it’s not about praying “that prayer”

All that crap is just crap.
It does not matter.
It is not your identity.
It will ALL go away.
But what will not go away is that moment that you stopped believing all your self righteous lies and found your identity in Christ alone.
Not the deal, the song, the man, that number, the conference, the book, those pounds, that party, the list, that band, that girl/guy, those stats, that award, that number of copies, the perfect sermon series, that problem, that message, those reps, those hands, or that prayer.

It is about Christ in you the hope of Glory.
So let’s make a deal.
For today, myself included, let’s not drop one name, not unless it’s His.

Carlos Whittaker blogs at Ragamuffin Soul. See this post here, or check out the rest of the blog with this link.