The War Against Satan and Demons Part 2
6. Satan’s Schemes
Demonic Deception In the spring of 1925, Count Victor Lustig, who worked for the French Ministry of Works in Paris, and an American, Daniel Collins, met with five businesspeople in a Paris hotel and explained that the famous Paris landmark, the Eiffel Tower, was in a dangerous condition because of rust. It was being sold for scrap and would have to be pulled down quickly to avoid the public outcry that would inevitably occur. Victor explained that the Ministry of Works was looking for bids from companies from which to sell the scrap. Within a week, the submissions arrived, and Monsieur Poisson's proposal was accepted. Then, Count Victor shared that there was only one problem: he and his secretary required a bribe to help the deal go through the official channels of the French government. A significant amount of cash was exchanged, and the deal was on. Within twenty-four hours, Lustig and Collins were out of the country with the money. It was a big con! Embarrassed and humiliated, Poisson kept the big scam to himself, and he carried on as if nothing had happened. Encouraged by their success, the con men returned to Paris and repeated the fraud on someone else. Deception is a powerful tool of the enemy; in fact, you could say that it is the cornerstone of his operations. Satan is a master of fraud, and his big con is being perpetuated all over the world. He is the ultimate, clever con-man deceiving the world and the Church. Scripture tells us that he deceives the whole world (Revelation 20:3). The sin of abortion, for instance, in my opinion, is carried out under a powerful deception, not only by those committing the act but also by those who are deceived into believing that there is no other solution, no acceptable way forward. Hopelessness leads to many disastrous decisions. The enemy wants to obscure the hope that all of us can find in our Savior, Jesus Christ. The trouble with being under deception is that people don't know they are under deception! After all, people who are in darkness cannot see! Jesus warned us that the Antichrist would deceive many when he comes to power by claiming that he is the Christ (Matthew 24:5; 11). I believe that we are in a period that the Bible calls the last days and that a characteristic of this time is that of deception by demonic forces: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Of course, none of us have heard demons teach, but these evil spirits plant their thoughts into willing slaves and influence their thought life. How can a person discern the things being taught are demonic in origin? Scripture tells us to evaluate everything by the written word of God: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). The Law and Testimony refer to the Bible. Do you search and examine the Scriptures to verify what you are taught? The Berean church that Paul the Apostle planted is an excellent example of checking what is taught by reviewing it in the light of the Word of God: Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). If teaching lines up with the Word of God in its context, then it is safe to trust the speaker's words. Do not allow yourself to be drawn away from the simplicity of trust in Christ and His Word by listening and obeying false teaching not based on the Bible. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). How does Satan deceive the people of God? If Satan were to mislead a child of God, he does it subtly. He would come as a counterfeit, an angel of light. A clever counterfeit must look very similar to the original article to be effective. That is why it is essential to know and to follow the Word of God and let it be your "plumb line" for evaluating what you hear, especially if it is different and takes you away from the centrality and simplicity of the message of Christ. There are those who will sometimes use scriptural principles but distort them to be out of character to the person of Christ. Paul, as he was preparing to leave Asia Minor for the last time, warned the elders of the various churches about false teachers: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). What does it mean to distort? It means to reshape, twist, change something to look completely different from what it should look like. Doctrines of demons refer to people whom the enemy is using in our day that are teaching things that lead men away from the truth of sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Paul the Apostle wrote about such men in his day: 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). These teachers look the part, i.e., they are full of smiles and saying the kinds of things that people love to hear, but the essence of the message leads men to think that they are good enough. There is no call to repentance and faith in Christ's redemptive work and the need to be born-again. Question 1) In our day, how do you see Satan and his servants continuing to masquerade as servants of righteousness or as an angel of light? If you believe we are in the end times, what kinds of things are being taught by deceiving spirits? Satan’s Schemes Just like a master con artist, Satan has planned and schemed to separate as many people from God as he possibly can. It is imperative that we are aware of his strategies: 10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). The context of this passage is about the forgiving of a believer who had been disciplined by the church after being caught in sin. Paul is emphatic that the Church should forgive him and welcome the man back into fellowship so that Satan does not get the better of us by superior ingenuity or cleverness—to outwit us. Unforgiveness and resentment cause a spiritual cancer of bitterness to grow within us as individuals as well as a church body. Satan is very well acquainted with the distance that unforgiveness puts between a man and his God. He strategizes as to how to separate people from one another with a wall of unforgiveness. He knows that unforgiveness will keep us frozen and hold back instead of drawing near to God. Jesus warned that if we want the Father's forgiveness, then we must forgive. “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). I have to be honest and say that, many times in my Christian life, I have been unaware of Satan's schemes, and perhaps, you have been, too. Satan uses many plans and strategies to gain a foothold in a person's life to corrupt their mind and heart slowly. It is often some small sin, but he never stops there. He looks for an entrance through a sin that is not acknowledged, e.g., an area in our lives where we do not agree with God. It is a progression of sins becoming habit-forming that can become a stronghold. Strongholds are difficult to break with merely self-willpower alone. Confession to God and repentance breaks the legal right of the enemy and uproots the thought and act from becoming more deeply entrenched or rooted in the soil of our lives. Marcus Aurelius said, "A man's life is what his thoughts make it." Take care over your thought life, and your soul will prosper. Whoever is suggesting to your mind, your predominant thoughts will govern your immediate action. If you sow a thought, you will reap an act. If you sow an act, you will reap a habit. If you sow a habit, you will reap a character. If you sow a character, you will reap a destiny. Good thoughts that are allowed to take root in the soil of your character will progress to good habits and will ultimately bring great peace to your soul and change your character to one that is Christ-ruled. A progression of evil thoughts that are not rejected, resisted, or cast down will become habits that give power to unseen demonic forces that seek to enslave and destroy your life ultimately. Whenever a person bows down and gives permission to sin, he gives up power and territory to demonic spirits to control and manipulate. It is as if we give demonic spirits “food” to eat which makes them stronger. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). What does it mean to prowl? The picture is of a lion, perhaps unseen, hiding in the shadows, going back and forth with its eyes fixed on its prey, trying to find the right time and a weakness whereby he might attack. The Greek word here translated as devour means to “drink down, gulp entirely and swallow up.” C.S. Lewis writes about Satan’s aims in his fictitious account of an elderly demon, Screwtape, training his nephew, Wormwood, in the undermining of the mind, will, and emotions of Christians. He writes: “To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense.” Demons can only express themselves on earth by using people who respond to their temptations. The more a human being obeys the direction or bidding of an evil thought from demons, the stronger their hold over that person. Different Degrees of Attack by Satan: The religious people of Jesus’ day went through an elaborate ritual of washing their hands before eating anything, thus showing off their cleanliness and self-righteousness from eating anything that would corrupt them. Jesus spoke about what corrupts a man, saying: 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’” 17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) 20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:14-23). Question 2) In your opinion, what is the essence of Jesus’ teaching in this passage? How can the expression of evil change a person? How can someone be made clean? One of the primary ways that Satan and his demons can impact the life of a person is to sow thoughts into his mind, thus affecting his emotions and, ultimately, his will. Your mind is a seedbed that receives seed thoughts from three different sources: God, Satan, and your spirit, i.e., the real you that occupies the tent of your body (2 Corinthians 5:4). Satan would love for us to believe that our thoughts are our own and that we should act on every idea that comes to us. Those that have suicidal tendencies may be suffering from demonic oppression. We know that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Jesus said that He came that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Satan will try to convince a person that there is no hope and then cajole him into self-destruction. Of course, demons are not content with just destroying individuals. In many cases, demons want to express their personalities or use people as a tool or as “food.” The enemy seeks to acquire a beachhead or a foothold in your life. In writing on this theme, the Apostle Paul said, "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Paul is saying by implication that, if you allow yourself in your anger to carry a grudge or if you harbor unforgiveness toward someone, then you can give territory and ground to the devil. First of all, it becomes a foothold, but if not checked by confession, repentance, and forgiveness, it can become a stronghold in your life that will seem to have a power all its own. The English word “foothold” is translated from the original Greek word topos, which means “place,” but it can also mean, as in the Ephesians passage, that we can give a possibility, opportunity, or chance for Satan to gain a foothold in our lives if our anger goes over the top to be resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Let’s look now at the different degrees of bondage or slavery to sin. 1) Foothold. Demons tempt people with lures that draw them away in the hope that they will bite on the temptation. What is a lure? It is a temptation to do something that we usually would not do, but the bait offers some form of reward that appeals to our base nature as humans. A temptation to one person might not appeal to another. From the unseen realm, demons observe a weakness as to what things appeal to us or tempt us, and they can manipulate the situation to offer us the reward. Temptation can be resisted and rejected. Failure to resist and reject the enemy’s temptations will allow the enemy a foothold to ramp up his attack on a person’s soul to the next level. The demon will often wait until a habit is formed, which does not supply the expected high or fulfillment. Often, a person does not realize that he is under spiritual attack by Satan until afterward when the devil then accuses through guilt and shame. When I have been under spiritual attack and tempted, I have often formed a picture in my mind of taking Satan to the end of a pier by the scruff of his neck and booting him off the end! Other times, I have merely said, "Get out of here, Satan." I only do that; I hasten to add when I am alone. I don't want people thinking I am crazy! When I am around people, and a tempting thought comes to me, I imagine grabbing the thought in the air and throwing it to the ground. Do whatever strategy that is successful for you! Fill your mind with good things, and you will find that this also breaks the power of temptation as there is no such "good soil" for temptation in your thoughts. Finally, Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things (Philippians 4:8). The Bible tells us to resist the devil and that he will flee from you (James 4:7). There is an excellent story about Martin Luther, the great reformer of the Christian faith in the 1400s when he was under spiritual attack in Wartburg Castle where he was translating the New Testament into German. The Devil did not want the Scriptures read by the ordinary people and wanted to disturb the sacred work, but when he tried to tempt and distract him, Luther grabbed the ink pot from which he was writing, and he threw it at the evil one's head. Still today, they show the room and the chair where Luther was sitting, and the spot on the wall made by the flying ink. Question 3) Do you have a strategy that you use when tempted in a specific area of your life? Share your plan. 2) Manipulation. In this stage, demons have made a foothold to be a knee hold in the door to your spirit. The door is not yet open to demonic control, but if the vice is not checked, repented, renounced, forgiven, and forsaken, it becomes increasingly harder to resist. It may be alcoholism, drugs, pornography, or pride – you name it! There has been trafficking in the darkness and a level of obedience to the voice of the evil one. This stage is one where habits are formed along the lines of the temptation to which one has surrendered. What is a habit? It is an automatic reaction to a specific situation, a settled or regular tendency, or a practice that is hard to give up. When the enemy manipulates us like this, and we give in, our will becomes shaped by dark, evil forces, making it difficult to say no. 3) Oppression. If a person does not cast down thoughts and imaginations of the mind that we know are evil, the enemy manages to get a level of control of us. Whomever we choose to obey is the one who will rule our lives (Romans 6:16). Sin desires to shape us into its image to become like the one to whom we listen to and obey (Genesis 4:7). A person oppressed often has negative and somewhat pushy thoughts that are suggestive of going down a particular avenue of sin, thoughts that are more compulsive. We could use the Star Wars movies as an analogy to describe what happens to a person who is oppressed by demons. In that movie, the Jedi knights dropped suggestive thoughts into the minds of their enemies that gave them a compulsion to do that which was suggested. A person does have the power to resist but finds it harder to say no. 4) Obsession. In this stage, a person has become the slave to sinful habits and demonic control. When this point is reached, it is quite noticeable to those around the person. They can often seem "weird," or "out there," or just plain different. A believer can sometimes perceive that a person at this stage of obsession is not altogether there but maybe cannot put his finger on what it is. A more mature believer discerns quickly that which is demonic. When a person is demonized to this level, there is often a breakdown in their sanity and ability to reason due to the compulsive nature of the person's character. The demons have control to a degree where thoughts of harm to others and themselves will come to mind. Suicidal people are often at this stage, driven by guilt and wicked thoughts, and unable to find inner peace. There are chemical imbalances that can be at work in some instances, and similar to the area of healing, there may be an overlapping of physical, mental, and spiritual issues. However, it is my opinion that just as physical sickness is linked to emotional and spiritual matters, the same is true of the mental state. Jesus came to bring deliverance to our whole being: body, soul, and spirit. 5) Demonization. The demons (called Legion) that inhabited the Gadarene demoniac had brought him to this point (Mark 5:1-20), i.e., crying out in anguish day and night in the graveyard. He was driven by the demons (Mark 5:5). What people in ancient times once considered sinful is no longer even cared about today—such is the level of control that the enemy has brought the world to (1 John 5:19). When sin has been expressed and allowed to corrupt a soul to this level, the enemy has such a degree of control that, at times, the person's spirit is set to one side and bypassed completely. When that kind of phenomena happens, the person demonized can be in a sort of dream-like state. There are mind-altering drugs that can also bring a person to this point. Sometimes, a different voice can be heard as the demons use the vocal cords of the individual. It can be quite scary to listen to a man's voice coming from a woman! People demonized to this degree often report that they hear destructive voices, although they are not quick to share this with a counselor. Remember the story of the boy whose father told Jesus that he often “falls into the fire and often into the water” (Matthew 17:16). A stronghold of demonic control will often seek to drive the person to suicide. The demons often claim that the person belongs to them at this stage. Demons are liars and not to be trusted. I don’t believe a person is ever too far under Satan’s dominion that he or she cannot be brought back. There are different degrees of bondage to Satan and his demons, but every person on Earth can call on the name of the Lord and be delivered. Those who are in the early stages of being demonized are, I do believe, able to cast down evil thoughts, temptations, and habits. The prophet Isaiah says: “Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:2). I believe it is possible to free oneself at all stages, but often harder due to the level of control given to the enemy. If a person is in the last stages of demonization, it is always best to have a trained team of mature Christians that will minister deliverance. The Scripture is never without hope and deliverance: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). This word, “saved,” is the Greek word Sōzō. It means to be safe, delivered, made whole, preserved from danger, loss or destruction. If you feel you are demonized, you are never without help! Call upon the name of the Lord. Call urgently and with great pathos and feeling, seeking to lay down everything that has got you into such a condition. Renounce every dark deed that has allowed the enemy to gain territory in your life. Repent (“repent” means to have a change of mind concerning your sin, to turn around and live your life toward Christ) and make no excuses to God. Ask Him to forgive you for whatever is heavy on your soul. I don’t believe that God ever leaves us without help. Satan’s Tools We have many examples from the Scriptures of the enemy’s using individuals as tools. We have already looked at Satan’s attempt through the Apostle Peter to turn Christ aside from going to the cross. At the time, Peter was unaware of who was motivating his words. Jesus abruptly spoke to the spirit which was using Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). Judas was an excellent example of someone used as a tool of demonic activity. The sin that overcame him was greed: Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:6). All the demons had to do was supply plenty of reasons to Judas' mind over a period, slowly corrupting his heart and mind until there came the point where Satan had an access point to enter him and use him as a tool to betray the Master. Judas had plenty of evidence to convince him that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, but he chose to harden his heart and remained unwilling to believe. Even after three years of walking in ministry with Jesus, he was still an unbeliever: “‘Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him” (John 6:64). The Scripture says that Satan entered into him: 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus (Luke 22:2-4). When the act of betrayal was over, and Judas saw how he had been duped into being Satan's tool, all that Satan had to do was suggest that Judas was now an enemy and beyond forgiveness. He more than likely had oppressive thoughts after selling Jesus to His enemies, i.e., thoughts that drove Judas to suicide. We don’t know how far Judas was demonized or if Satan entered him as a one-time event to use him, but it seems highly likely that the enemy had gained entry using Judas’ love of money and the deception that went along with stealing out of the moneybag. He had been stealing out of the moneybag for a while and had set his heart and will to sin. He had seen instances of Jesus knowing people’s thoughts, yet he willfully kept stealing from the money bag. He chose his path in life, i.e., that of willful sin, and Christ will not violate a person's will. The fact that Judas could observe the life of Jesus close at hand, and yet remain an unbeliever, shows the depth of hardness of his heart. Was his final act of suicide one of regret, remorse, or merely an act of despair? We cannot be sure, but if we are to observe his life, it was not the life of a believer. It appears that, after Satan had finished with him, he disposed of him merely as a tool that had served its purpose. There was a point of entry that made Judas vulnerable to be that vessel of betrayal. Through his choices and acts of his will, he made himself available to Satan. Of course, there is always the question of predestination versus free will, but the Bible ultimately teaches us that we are responsible for our sins and that if we continue to sin and refuse to repent, we make a larger home for stronger enemies to reside in the temple of our heart (1 Corinthians 6:19). Repentance and forgiveness will wipe the slate clean before God, but it doesn’t mean that sin will not exact a price in our lives. Not all sin will result ultimately in demonization, but what I’m saying is that continual sin and a refusal to repent will bring pain and discipline from God if you are a Christian. If you are a slave to sin in your life, you will open yourself to oppression. In the life of an unbeliever, a strong, stubborn will against God will ultimately end in disaster (Proverbs 29:1). Question 4) What’s the difference between accusation from Satan and the illumination or conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit? One big difference that I find is that when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, it is a gentle voice to which I have to pay attention. He shines His light on my path and makes me aware of something in my life that will hinder me from moving forward with Him. This conviction has nothing to do with His love for me because His love is always constant. It has everything to do with my effectiveness and my ability to abide with Christ and walk with Him and being able to enjoy The abundant life that He gives to me. His conviction brings illumination, i.e., light into my life and upon my path. He always points to something specific, enabling me to agree with Him on the matter and move on. In the instance of accusation from the enemy, the result is nagging guilt that weighs heavily on my soul. It does nothing but impedes my journey, offering me no signposts or help to find my way. Often these accusations and poor self-image are accompanied by a general heaviness and negative feeling about ourselves, our own life. It does not point to any specific solution. This is a primary tool of the enemy to wear down the saints. He wants to remind us of our old identity and keep us blind to our true identity in Christ. I don't think Satan gained entry into Judas' life for the first time on the evening of the Last Supper. It was likely that it happened over a period, perhaps many years before he met Christ, in which he gave way to his desire to thieve his way ahead in life. Again, I refer to C.S. Lewis’ book called The Screwtape Letters. The elderly demon, Screwtape, advises his junior apprentice Wormwood: You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards will do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. Some Helpful Tips
Dedicate your home to God. More than twenty years ago, when we lived in England, we rented an old house in the country that was the servant’s quarters for a large house next door. The first night, my wife Sandy and I had to sleep apart, for there were only two single beds in different rooms, and we did not yet have our double bed moved into the house. During the night, I had a terrible dream that seemed so lifelike that I knew it was demonic. I immediately went and prayed with Sandy, who also had trouble sleeping, and we sensed an evil presence in the house. We took authority in prayer that night until we felt that we could rest. The next morning, we took some olive oil as a symbol and went through the house, room by room, i.e., praying and taking authority over any demonic forces that had been there, making a sign of a cross with the oil in each room, and dedicating our home to the worship of God. We never had a problem since we did that, and each house into which we have moved, we have cleansed and dedicated it to the worship and presence of God as a family.
Do the opposite of what the Devil would like you to do. Jesus put it this way, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The enemy of our soul hopes that we respond with hate toward those that are mistreating us, but Jesus told us to do the opposite of what the enemy would expect us to do. We are to love our enemies by finding practical ways to bless them. Agree with God’s Word.
Praise God in the midst of being oppressed in your thought life. Never underestimate the power of praise in the middle of oppression and darkness. When King Jehoshaphat was attacked by an enemy much more significant than Israel, he went before God and pleaded for His help. God told him he would not have to fight this battle. Jehoshaphat's strategy from the Lord was to send out the worship team at the head of his army, and the enemies of Israel fought against one another (2 Chronicles 20). Demons cannot stand prayer, intercession, or worship.
When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. “Enough said!”
If fear ever assaults you during the night (or at any other time), call on the name of Jesus! The name of Jesus has all authority in the unseen heavenly realms. Sandy, my wife, has sometimes had when she has been spiritually attacked during the night by nightmares or night terrors. More than once, she has been frozen in fear, unable to move. When in trouble like that, speak forth the name of Jesus. If you can’t talk, say it in your mind. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10)..
If hopelessness comes your way seeking to depress you as to your situation, count your blessings to God. There have been dark days in our lives as a couple where we have not known what to do. During such times when we have undergone all kinds of difficulties, we have found it helpful to write down all our blessings for which we are thankful. Don’t just write them down, though; express your gratitude to God for the things with which you have been blessed.
Meditate (think, ruminate or ponder) on Scripture daily. Highlight it in your Bible. Here is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. If it was good for Jesus to quote the Scriptures amid dark times (Matthew 4), then it will do the same for you.
Dedicate your children to God. You don’t have to do that in Church, although I would certainly recommend it. You can do that in the privacy of your bedroom in prayer to the Father. I believe that there is a principle of giving up ownership of all we are and all that we have, including our children. In some way, I think it undercuts Satan's attempts to get at us through attacking our family.
If the enemy comes against you with an accusation, take it to God in prayer. If there is sin in your life, allow this to drive you to the throne of grace and bring the issue to the Father in prayer (Matthew 5:25). Confess your faults to God, taking steps to correct sinful actions. It breaks the power of guilt. Then, remind yourself who you are in Christ and rejoice in His forgiveness. When Satan drops a guilty thought your way, it never points out the method of escape. It just brings a condemnation that hangs over us and makes us feel dreadful. Conviction from God points out something that is wrong, but it also reminds us that the cross is the remedy for all past, present, and future sin. When He convicts us of sin, the Holy Spirit always points to Jesus and His substitutionary finished work on the cross for us. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Keep short accounts before God. Jesus taught that anytime we come to worship and remember that someone has something against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar, go and make things right with the person, and then come back and offer our gift (Matthew 5:24). I would recommend each evening going over the day’s events, asking God to search your heart so that you may get things right with God. King David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). You might also need to get things right with another individual, sometimes making restitution for what you have done. This fulfills Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “that we may be one.”
It would be wise to break up your group into two’s and three’s and pray for one another, especially for those that sensed they were in the cross-hairs of Satan’s schemes of attack. Perhaps close with a reading of scripture something like this one: 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25). Prayer: Father, thank You for all the blessings that have come to us through the cross of Jesus. We pray again for deliverance over anything that our enemy would throw at us. Thank You, also, that You have promised that nothing will harm us by any means (Luke 10:19).
7. The Authority of the Believer The War Against Satan and Demons Ambassadorial Authority for Every Believer. In approaching a subject such as the authority of God, I want to make sure that everyone knows that this is not just for certain individuals whom we may think of as “super-saints.” The issue of authority is important for each believer, and training starts when you say “yes” to Christ Jesus. His Spirit is moving all over planet Earth. As His children, it is essential for us to be involved in His work as we learn to walk with Him. Exercising authority is not just for a chosen few. Whoever is kingdom-minded will seek to do the will of the Father as Jesus did. In addition to the revealed will of God in the Word, we also have His Holy Spirit. Every child of God has access to the Word and the Spirit for the pulling down of strongholds. The call goes out to whoever will take God at His Word and move forward in faith. He leads His children one step at a time, but we rest on Christ’s authority, not our own. Let me illustrate what faith in God and Christ's death and resurrection can do when men and women step out in the power of God by sharing this story from a book called Mega-shift. In his book, Megashift, Author James Rutz shares about three unknown believers who acted in faith and moved in the authority of God. The result was a wonderful testimony of God's power to change the spiritual atmosphere in an area: In 1999, three Bushmen from the Kalahari Desert changed history. They were not movers and shakers of society, but poor illiterates who laced strips of leather to the bottoms of their feet whenever they needed “shoes.” However, they stood out from the crowd in three ways:
They knew God, and they knew how to move His hand, i.e., to convince Him to transform Africa.
They had discovered through conversations with readers and researchers how Africa had come to be known as the Dark Continent, the home of the poorest nations on earth.
Thinking in sync with the Spirit of God, they determined that the continent had had enough of misery, and it was high time to take a stand and reverse the curse.
They found that it was a curse that lay at the root of the problem. Archeologists and anthropologists have lately pieced together—through ancient pottery shards, cave art, etc.—a coherent picture of how Africa was settled and encultured. Long ago, the original settlers came down very slowly from the North through the Rift Valley, a geological crack that runs from the Dead Sea in Israel down toward South Africa. Wherever they set up communities, they made pacts with the local gods—actually demons—putting themselves under the authority of these evil powers. The results have been massive and ghastly. However, the Bushmen knew what to do. They organized a prayer expedition to conduct Spiritual Warfare. Calling together a team of experienced prayer intercessors, including some westerners, they journeyed north 5,000 miles for three months, starting in July at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, and stopping at numerous old sites, mostly along the Rift Valley, to renounce and break the original deals with demons and curses. Every prayer session at every stop was what we call a power confrontation. By far the biggest came in Zimbabwe. After a very long, rough ride in jeeps, the team arrived at Mount Injalele (in-ja-lay-lee) in the Motobo Hills, two thousand square kilometers of reddish granite, and home to the black eagle. Though remote, the region was a popular destination for pilgrims, many that were presidents, kings, or tribal chiefs. For many years, they had come to Injalele to seek advice and guidance. There, an "oracle" supposedly spoke to them out of a large crack on the backside of the mountain. You can safely assume that any advice coming from the crack was of inferior quality. Over the years, it had become such a busy shrine that the witch doctor network across Southern Africa had built four temples around the edges of the crack. So, the team prayed. They worshipped God. They repented for the sins of the people in worshipping demonic gods. They vociferously decreed the downfall of the evil powers and declared ownership of the land transferred to the kingdom of Christ. Then, they went to the next stop. Shortly afterward, God hit and hit hard. Lightning struck all four of the temples and entirely incinerated them! As you can imagine, it was all over the region's newspapers and on everyone's lips. Within two days, the most respected witch doctor in the whole of Southern Africa arrived to assess the damage and see what could be done to restore the site. Though it was a cloudless day, he was struck by lightning and killed on the spot. Then came the storm. You may have seen the damage reports on CNN World News. The most torrential rains in memory lashed a vast region, washing away whole villages and especially devastating the occult sites and witchcraft training centers, which were numerous there. However, in the western areas, the same storm system made the Kalahari blossom like a garden. There, where many Christians lived, the land became transformed into a greenhouse of trees, lush grass, blooming plants, flowing streams, and wild game—virtually unseen for at least a century. The locals were awestruck, and the fear of the Lord fell on the whole territory. When you hear this story, it sounds like it is straight out of the Bible. I think of the challenge that the prophet Elijah had with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). This story is so similar in many ways. The curse of the enemy was real, and the power of God was real and evident to all. I see several important things when I look at this modern story of the power of God. First of all, these were ordinary people who were merely obedient. Secondly, they stood together, and they did not engage in this ministry alone. That is the New Testament pattern. Thirdly, they were individuals who knew how to pray and act in obedience to the revealed will of God. We can make things so complicated, but it does not have to be that way. The Scriptures teach that this is the inheritance of every child of God. This kind of deliverance power is the "children's bread" (Matthew 15:26) that is part of the covenant Christ bought for us at the cross. The Father will give us His instruction if we ask Him and listen to his guidance and voice. Approval does not depend on performance. The performance follows when you understand who you are. When you know you are accepted in the beloved, and you have God's approval, you can move in spiritual authority because you know from where the power comes. People often find a more intimate walk with God merely because of being engaged in His work, alongside Him. Don’t you know that we are called into the Family Business? I remember when my father started taking me out to sea in his fishing boat. I was only six-years-old when I first went on his boat, the Why Worry. I remember him standing beside me helping me to steer the boat. He took me just a few hundred yards from the harbor at first, and when I was ready, I eventually learned to navigate, to steer the boat myself, and to do all of the tasks I had seen my father perform. We live in days when God is accelerating His work as we see the world around us becoming increasingly dark. God promises that, as the darkness increases, so will the light of God (Isaiah 59:19). We live in days when the Father needs "all hands on deck" to pull up the nets. Question 1) Have you ever been in a situation where you felt out of your depth in something that you were asked to do? How did you overcome your inadequacies and become more comfortable? In my early days as a fisherman on the East coast of England, a person didn’t need a license to operate a boat or to fish. When people looked at how young I was and the size of the boat that I was working, it made them nervous due to my youth. I found that it always helped to tell them who my dad was and that I was working with him. Everybody knew who Tom Thomas was, for he was well known all along the East Coast of England. I had the authority to operate his boat and to catch fish. Because of the relationship into which Christ has brought all, everyone who is a Christian has been authorized to go out onto the fishing grounds and catch men and women for God. Your Father has authorized and given you his permission and His blessing. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). The Lord has promised that, because He has been given authority in heaven and earth, so He provides that authority to us believers. He will be with you as you go just as my dad taught me bit by bit. Gifted leaders are to teach the Scriptures, but also to train men and women by having them watch us, and do what we do. This is the way Jesus did ministry. The enemy does not want you to believe that you also have been given authority, for his kingdom will lose ground when you start to live in dependence on God's power. The authority that has been given to Christ now also rests on all believers (Acts 2:38-39; Matthew 28:18). In the thirteen letters of Paul the Apostle, the phrase in Christ, in Him, or related terms, occurs 165 times. I think Paul is trying to communicate a truth of God about something, don’t you? Let’s explore that thought: For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body--whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:13). When you believed and placed your trust in Christ, the simple truth of the above statement was that not only were you born again but also the Spirit of God came and took up residence in the temple of your heart, your spirit (John 3:3). You that belong to Christ have been brought into an organic union with the God of the universe (John 17:22-23). Later on, Paul restates his thought when he says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). In the same way that Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches (John 15:5), so have we been grafted into this spiritual union with God (Romans 11:24), what Paul calls, in Christ Jesus. To be in Christ is to have been brought into a spiritual relationship that is organic—you are joined with Christ, just as you also entered into a spiritual union with your brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16). Restored Authority When our ancestor, Adam, was created he was made in the image of God and given dominion over the Earth. We have lost something since those early days of the human race, for we read that Adam had the mental capacity to provide names for all the animal and bird creation (Genesis 2:19-20). He was also given the responsibility to rule over all that God had made: 26Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Genesis 1:26-28 Emphasis mine). The Hebrew word, radah, translated with our English word “rule,” means to “rule over or subdue.” God gave responsibility and authority over all of creation to Adam and his descendants. I presume that even the king of the beasts, the lion, could be spoken to by man under God’s authority and that the lion would obey. Such was the dominion and authority that man had before the fall in the Garden of Eden. King David, speaking by the Spirit, says something very similar: 3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars, which you have set in place, 4what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet (Psalm 8:3-6 Emphasis mine). The Hebrew word, mashal, translated with the English word, “ruler," in Psalm 8, verse 6, indicates that Adam and we as his descendants are God's managers, governors, or stewards over the earth. Mashal means to “rule, reign, govern, have dominion over and manage.” Humanity was different from the rest of the created beings due to being crowned with glory and honor and made the ruler over the Earth. He alone was created in the image of God and could rule with grace and true justice. He was God's representative. He was created in the image of God showing forth the likeness of the One True God, representing God's heart and will for His creation. Under the inspiration of the Spirit in the verses above, David says that man in his original creation was made a little lower than Elohim, the Hebrew word for God. Many translations render this word differently, and some translate it merely with the English words heavenly beings, but Scripture says that Adam was made just a little lower than God. "Elohim" is the word almost always used for God. Some translations record the change by putting it into the notes at the bottom of the page. How magnificent Adam must have been, crowned with glory and honor, fully equipped by God for his managerial role over the Earth. The passage says that God put everything on Earth under Adam's feet, symbolizing rulership and dominion over all creation (v. 6). The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man (Psalm 115:16 Emphasis mine). The Hebrew word, Nathan, translated with the English word “given,” means to assign. God gave responsibility for the Earth to Adam and his descendants. The earth is the territory over which man has been assigned to rule. Scripture is clear that the Earth belongs to the Lord, but it has been assigned to humankind to govern and manage. This thought of humankind given responsibility is also brought out in Genesis 2:15: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The Hebrew word, shamar, translated with the English words, “take care of,” means: “to keep, guard, protect and preserve, as a watchman cares for his cattle or sheep.” Adam and his race were assigned the task of governing and stewardship over the planet. Question 2) Using the definition of the word, Shamar; “to keep, guard, protect and preserve,” with what do you imagine Adam's race was to do with such authority? What did it mean for Adam and Eve to have "dominion?" As we have already said in a previous study, this dominion of man, I believe, did not last even a night. Satan was quick to usurp and steal man's authority and rulership over the earth. Our forefather, Adam, gave away humanity's right and dominion to rule into the hands of Satan at the Fall of Man. Satan, with impunity, could say to Christ at the temptation, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to" (Luke 4:6). Satan was not offering Jesus something that he did not have. If so, this would not have been a temptation. Satan was offering Jesus something that was in his hands to use as leverage. He sought to tempt Christ to bypass the cross by bowing to him, acting outside of the Father's will. This loss of our rulership and dominion gave to us by God is why the redemption of the earth had to come through a man because the earth was given to Adam's race, and only one of Adam’s race could win it back. Man was the trustee of the earth. Once Adam succumbed to Satan’s temptation to obey him rather than God, the enemy could legally do anything he wanted to any of Adam’s progeny because they had become slaves of Satan due to the slavery to sin. All it took was one act of disobedience. A man had to be found to whom Satan had no claim. That’s why Christ had to be born of a virgin. It is no wonder that the concept of the virgin birth is also under attack and something that the enemy wants to refute as foolish. It is an essential element in the redemption story. The Messiah, the Christ, had to be one of Adam’s race, but Sin could not taint him; otherwise, having Adam’s nature, He would have been owned and dominated by Satan. Christ was 100% man but 100% God as well, being conceived of the Holy Spirit. Satan, therefore, had no claim on the innocent Christ. Divine law says that “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). In other words, when Satan took it upon himself to bring Jesus to the cross, for the first time under the divine law, he became a murderer because Jesus was completely innocent, having never sinned. Satan was stripped of the keys of death and hell at the cross (Revelation 1:18). Every man that makes Christ's death his own by believing and trusting in His death to be the payment for his sin is made righteous before God. Eternal justice was satisfied at the cross. In the courts of heaven, Satan was legally condemned as a murderer because he had no right to kill Jesus due to His sinless life. Just before the cross, Jesus said: Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out (John 12:31). Question 3) What do you think would happen if all Christians everywhere would grasp their authority in Christ? What differences, in your opinion, would this make for individuals and the church worldwide? His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms [the Greek language says, "in the heavenlies"] (Ephesians 3:10). Satan and his angels and demons do not want you to understand the full implications of the verse above. If I understand it correctly, Paul is saying that it is God’s intent and plan for you and me, the Church, to stand in full opposition against demonic rulers and authorities that are invisible around us. We are to declare to them through our faith in God that they no longer have any legal ground on which to stand, that this territory belongs to God and they are to leave. Remember that Christ died for you and as you to win back the dominion and authority we were given at the creation! Not only to buy you out of Satan's power by His death on the cross but also to empower you to stand as a soldier of Christ in full opposition to every evil work around you. We can begin to take the authority that Christ has given us and rule over the evil rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). What did He command them? He commanded them to heal the sick, cast out demons and to preach the gospel (Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:9, 17). Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing…You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it (John 14:12-14). That same authority and power given to the twelve disciples are assigned to each believer. Theologians call this doctrine The Priesthood of All Believers. Satan has no legal right of ownership over us. Paul, the apostle, writes, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). The legal authority Satan once had over us is destroyed. It is only our unbelief that stops the flow of the Spirit's power and authority through us. God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). Do you feel weak? Then God has chosen you to glorify Him by using you! What am I saying? God, in Christ, by His death on the cross, nullified every claim Satan had against any of us that are in Christ. The authority that Satan once exercised against us has passed to the Lord Jesus Christ and all those who are in covenant relationship with Him, i.e., the Body of Christ, the church of the Living God. We are to exercise His authority under the leadership and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. No matter how young or how old we are, we who belong to Christ are made ambassadors of God (2 Corinthians 5:20). In a legal and spiritual sense, we have been given power of attorney to exercise the will of heaven upon the earth. The only hindrance to the exercise of our authority is our lack of faith in God. In the same way that electricity flows over copper cable, so faith is the channel to the authority and power of God to see healings and other supernatural phenomena. Are we going to believe the lies of Satan or the truth of the Word of God? Our Birthright as God's Children It is one thing intellectually to know these truths, but God wants to teach us truth experientially. He desires to bring His Word from our heads to our spirit. “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (Psalm 51:6). Peter knew intellectually, just like the other eleven disciples, that Jesus could stop him sinking into the water if he got out of the security of the boat, but he was the only one of the twelve that got out of the boat and experienced the Lord in a new way. I have to admit, though, that too much of my life has been lived without these truths. Knowledge is authoritative, and these truths as to who you are in Christ, if they are digested spiritually and acted upon, will change the dynamic of your life and those around you. The Bible says that God has given to each of us who are born-again believers a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Along with the measure of faith, He has also given various gifts of the Spirit that each of us may be used to build up one another's faith: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). After Paul went through a list of different gifts that the Spirit gives the body of Christ, he wrote: All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines (1 Corinthians 12:11). You and I who are Christians are powerful instruments of God if we can view ourselves the way God sees us and step out of the security of our boats. The enemy’s hand is heavily involved in sowing thoughts into our minds that there is nothing special about us and that there was no change in our lives when we became Christians. Satan wants to shut a tight lid on us from ever believing what the Scripture says about us, i.e., that we are more than sons of Adam. We are twice-born saints of the Most High God. We are invested with authority and power to destroy the works of the devil just as our Master did. The Scripture says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work” (1 John 3:8). We are representatives of Christ, called to be ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Just as Christ was given authority to destroy the devil’s work, so also are we. The authority and power of our King, Christ Jesus, is behind us as we represent Him in this world, speaking His Word and doing His works. The Lord is ever looking for His people to express their faith in Him: 21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." 24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." 25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. 26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." 27"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour (Matthew 15:21-28). Jesus responded to the woman by not answering her. When prayers that you pray are seemingly not heard, it is wise to persist. This woman persisted for her child. Even the disciples came and complained about her constant cries, heartlessly telling Jesus, in front of the woman, to send her away. Let's get the picture clear in our minds of what was happening here. This woman went to the disciples seeking help; perhaps she thought she would not reach an audience with the King of Kings, but the Lord always has time for people. The disciples moaned to Jesus about her to “send her away, for she keeps crying out after us” (v. 23). When they showed no apparent desire to help her, she came to Jesus. I know it seems strange for our Lord, but Jesus didn’t say a word. Jesus finally spoke into the situation by telling her that His primary mission is to another people group, the Jewish people. Instead of going away, she came closer: “The woman came and knelt before him” (v. 25). She would not be put off! She must have been even more deflated when Jesus told her that it was not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs (Verse 26). I have to believe that there was a twinkle in His eye and a loving smile on His face when He said it because her response was one of great faith, for which, I believe, was what Christ was hoping to see. Faith honors and pleases God more than anything else (Hebrews 11:6). How delighted He was at her response! Her daughter's deliverance and healing were given at that very instant. How often, we don't get what we want from Him merely because we don't persist in going beyond seeming barriers to what we need from the hand of God. Question 4) To what is Jesus referring to when He talks about the “children’s bread?” (v. 26). What would you have done if you were in her shoes? What do you think kept her persisting? Bread is a word that is used in Scripture to describe the staple food of the day. “Give us this day our daily bread” is what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps, if Jesus had been teaching the Lord's Prayer to Asian people, it might have been, "Give us this day our daily rice." How do we interpret what Jesus is saying to the woman? He is intimating that the supernatural works of power, deliverance, and healing are the staple bread of the children of God. She wasn't a child of God because she wasn't born an Israelite, although, since the cross, any Gentile can become a child of God through faith in the finished work of Christ. At that time, the woman didn’t qualify for the children’s bread, i.e., the staple food of being in covenant relationship to the King of Heaven. If you are a child of God by faith in Christ, you do qualify for the children’s bread! You are under the covenant of God. The manifestation of the Spirit’s work is available to each blood-bought child of God. We have not because we ask not (James 4:2). If this woman, who was outside the family of faith, can appeal to the King of Kings for her need for the miraculous power of God to be manifest, how much more should the child of God ask and receive? The problem is not on God's end. He has told us that He will confirm His Word with signs that accompany it (Mark 16:20). We have not because we do not ask in faith. Demons shudder every time a child of God begins to ask God to move supernaturally. When you start to pray, all hell breaks loose to hinder your prayer life, but we must persist in prayer as the woman in the story did. Once a child of God begins to see what power and authority are available to him, the demons and their deceptive game of keeping him believing that he has no power and authority are over. Power and authority over demons is one’s right as a child of God! I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you (Luke 10:19). 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well (Mark 16:17-18. Emphasis mine). It doesn’t mean that we are to go looking for demons. Jesus did the work of His Father, and when there was opposition, He dealt with it. In doing the work of the kingdom, we will encounter resistance, but we have the authority to deal with the opposition as we go with the message of the kingdom. So, I want you to leave with this promise in mind. If you are a child of God, you are in the Family Business. Power and authority have been given to you to be His representative (His ambassador), to speak His Word, and do His works. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12: 32). Prayer: Father, I pray that You would fill me and equip me to take the power and authority that You have given me to a needy world. Come again to me, Lord Jesus. I believe –help me overcome my unbelief. Please teach me how to walk with You, and do Your works.
8. The Armor of God The War Against Satan and Demons During this series, we have looked at many Bible passages that record the fact that there is a cosmic war going on in the unseen heavenly realms right here on Earth, a war that rages on, whether people are aware of it or oblivious to it. If you are a Christian, you cannot escape the fact that you are in a spiritual battle. That which is at stake are the lives of men and women who are much loved by God. God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). As Christians, we have all received our "call-up papers” and are commissioned to play our part by doing all we can to overcome Satan’s schemes and release precious people from his grip and domination. None of us are exempt from this holy task to make known the Gospel and to promote the Kingdom of God. If we had a cure for cancer and kept it to ourselves, it would be a crime against humanity. There is an enemy that has fostered spiritual cancer in our world, and to each of us is given the responsibility of bringing the healing of the disease of sin to the human race. Not all are called to be Bible teachers or pastors, but we all have some part to play. Your role could be in leading small groups, children's or youth work, or involved in outreach to the under-resourced or maybe even in evangelism. There are a million ways the Lord wants to include us, but the main point is that each of us does have a unique task and a unique calling as part of the body of Christ. Being part of the forward movement of the kingdom of God by fulfilling our calling to serve is one of the most effective ways to involve ourselves in this spiritual conflict. 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 (Ephesians 4:16 emphasis mine). Verse 16 says that God uses servant leaders in the church as ligaments. What do ligaments do? They connect bones and hold organs in place. They are the supporting structure of the Body of Christ, but it is the body that builds itself up in love, each part doing its work. Paul had taught a few verses earlier that God has given various leaders, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the assignment of preparing God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12). He said the same to the church at Corinth: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Each of us, as part of the body of Christ, will find ourselves under attack. After all, we have taken on the name of Christ as Christians, and through baptism, we have openly declared our allegiance to Christ. Our enemy, the devil, hates the Lord Jesus Christ, and because of our union with Him, Satan hates us as well. It stands to reason that each of us who are Christians is a target of the spiritual forces set against Christ and the forward advance of the Kingdom of God. We don't all get spiritually attacked to the same degree. Those servant leaders that function as ligaments will receive more of the enemy's time and attention. The enemy seeks to find ways to hinder the work of godly leadership as they equip and teach the body of Christ and help them to grow as Christians: For we wanted to come to you—certainly, I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us (1 Thessalonians 2:18). The passage above speaks of a time when Paul the Apostle, a supporting ligament in the body of Christ, planned to visit the church at Thessalonica, but in some way (we are not told how), Satan stopped him from visiting them and building them up in their faith, so he wrote to them instead. Of course, not all things that hinder our spiritual growth are things that we can blame on the evil one. There are three areas of battle that we as Christians war against, 1) The world system set up against God (1 John 2:15), 2) Our lower sinful nature (Romans 8:5-11), 3) Our enemy, Satan, and his demons. We do suffer the consequences of poor choices when we give in to the dictates of our sinful nature, but there can also be a lack of faithfulness on our part to obey the Lord. Some things happen to us that are orchestrated by unseen demonic influence, Paul himself said so. Question 1) In what ways in the past have you felt that Satan has slowed or stopped your personal growth? How has Satan hindered the work of the church in your town, city, or country? (Romans 1:13; 15:22). Because all of us who are Christians are part of the body of Christ, none of us are exempt from this conflict and attack by demonic forces. The Scripture says that all who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). In other words, there is opposition from evil forces toward each of us, some more, some less, depending on our level of influence and accountability in the body of Christ. To counter these attacks, Paul the Apostle wrote a letter to the Ephesian church about the five forms of defense and the two ways for us to be on the offensive. We will look at the Offensive Weapons of the Believer in our next study. Let’s look at what Paul says about our spiritual armor. The Armor of God 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:10-18). At the time he was writing these words, Paul was under house arrest in Rome. Most scholars believe that he was chained to a Roman soldier while he was writing this letter to the church at Ephesus. He used the Roman soldier’s shield, armor, and sword as a metaphor for what he wanted to teach the Ephesians and all who would read his words about overcoming the attacks of Satan. When we have spiritual armor to protect us, in the same way, the Roman soldier's armor protected him; we will be strong, not in ourselves, but in the Lord and in His mighty power, which is more than a match for any demonic spirit. The Defensive Armor of the Believer As a young believer many years ago, I worked to support my church-planting ministry by working as a painter and decorator. Sometimes, we did sub-contract work together with other painters on significant buildings in the east end of London. I remember working together with some other painters who were also believers. Because of a time crunch on the job, we had to sleep on the situation in our clothes and continue in the morning. In the early morning, as I watched my two friends who were fellow believers, they went through a kind of ritual where they acted through putting on unseen armor while in prayer. If you go through that kind of routine in the morning, I don't want to dissuade you, but I see this armor that Paul talks about as character dispositions. They are not taken off and put on again the next morning. It's not like in a video game where you buy a weapon or armor when you get to a particular stage in the game. This armor about which we are talking is a provision from the Master who has called us to fight. Let’s put it another way. If your nation were to call you up to fight a war, one of the first things you would do would be to go to the quartermaster stores and get your uniform. You don’t buy it; you don’t earn it. It is given to you by the One for whom you are fighting. You don’t tell the quartermaster what kind of armor you would like. He has already thought that through for you and constructed it to His specifications to equip you to face and defeat the enemy you are fighting. Battles are often won or lost on the strength of one’s armor or weaponry. It’s called the Armor of God for a reason. It is not to be the armor of self. I don’t want to trust a helmet of my own making, for it might let me down when there is a crucial blow to the head. I don't want a shield of my willpower; I need an impartation of the kind of faith that God gives. To fight a spiritual enemy, we must have spiritual armor. With those thoughts in mind, let us look now at what our heavenly General would have us put on: (1) The Belt of Truth The Roman soldier's belt kept everything in place. Ancient combat was mainly hand to hand fighting, so loose-fitting clothing was a liability. Before a battle, the Roman soldier would tuck in his clothes and tighten his belt. In Paul's mind, the truth held everything in place in the Christian warrior's life. Question 2) What does Paul mean by the truth, and why is it so important to a Christian? Paul knew that truth is an integral part of spiritual warfare. Without the truth stabilizing us, we come apart when we try and fight against the enemy. There are three ways that we buckle ourselves with the truth. The first is that of knowing the person of Christ who is the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the embodiment of the truth. When we come into a relationship with Him, we come to truth personified. We are set free in our spirit when we know the person of truth (John 8:32). The second thing that Paul could have had on his mind was that we are to buckle ourselves with a worldview that comes from Scripture. Paul the Apostle, when he was saying goodbye to the elders of Ephesus, said, 26"Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:26-27). When we get to grips with knowing the whole truth about who Jesus is and what He has done, Satan has fewer lies and fiery darts to throw at us. The mature Christian can shrug off the deceptive lying tactics of demons. The third thing that Paul may have been referring to in mentioning truth as a belt is that of the absence of lies and deceit in the heart of the Christian. We are to be truthful in the things that we say and in the lives that we live. We are to live a life of integrity. We are to agree with the truth not only by accepting the Word of God but also by living according to it, i.e., choosing to walk in the light of God. We fall under the condemnation of demons when we are knowingly deceitful. In setting out deliberately to be deceptive, we are opening the door to deceit for the "father of lies." Do not be surprised if this provokes more temptation and trials. The enemy loves to catch us in a lie before unbelievers. When we deal in deceit, we are stepping into the enemy’s territory, and in so doing, we make ourselves vulnerable to attack. Our lack of integrity is a tool in the hand of demons to accuse us and cause us to wilt before our enemy's condemnation. If you find yourself in such a situation, agree with God's word quickly. The enemy will have no hold over you; there is no condemnation for those who accept God's provision for forgiveness! (2) The Breastplate of Righteousness When Paul looked at it, a Roman soldier’s breastplate reminded him of how a Christian needs righteousness as a defense of the heart and inner organs. Two possibilities could have been in Paul's mind as he wrote. The first is the need for imputed righteousness. What do we mean by imputed? Imputed means credited to our account as in the case when God spoke to Abraham, our father in the faith, and told him that he would be a father to a multitude of people even though he was old and childless. 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:5-6). Abraham believed in God. What was God's response to Abraham's faith? Scripture says that righteousness was credited to his spiritual bank account (Genesis 15:5-6). Imputed righteousness puts us in right standing before God, allowing Him to come and live within us by His Spirit. Our right standing with God is not due to our efforts; it is given as a gift when we believe (Romans 4:1-8). That's why we love Him so! God has been so generous and kind toward us in dealing with us in this way. God treats each of us as Christians in the same way He handled Abraham. The Lord imputes the righteousness of Christ to us as a gift when we believe in the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross. He died for you and as you. By this, I mean that He hung on the cross for your sins, bearing your sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24). When we believe God’s testimony about the finished work of His Son on the cross, He credits righteousness, i.e., the righteousness of Christ, to our spiritual bank account: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). When the enemy comes to you with accusations of what you have said and done wrong, we can reply that Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” is an accounting term, which means paid in full. He has paid my debt of sin. There is nothing that can be done to add to the righteousness that Christ imparts to us upon believing. It is not ninety-five percent of Jesus' work and five percent of our work. It is all of Jesus! Christ has fully paid the debt. The believer who knows what Christ has done for him can laugh at the enemy's vain attempt at saying that the believer is not good enough. Christ is our righteousness. Paul could also be pointing out that the breastplate of righteousness speaks of walking a life of right living before God. If this is the interpretation to which Paul was referring, he may have been concerned that the enemy’s darts could find a lodging place in the heart of a believer if he or she is not living a life of confession and repentance. We are to walk in the light as He is in the light: 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9). Living in God's forgiveness calls for a life of vulnerability before God and others. The enemy's darts of accusation and condemnation cannot lodge in the heart if one is living a life of obedience and right living before God and his or her brothers and sisters in Christ. However, when we sin, we need to be open and vulnerable to God about it and talk to Him about our sin. Ask Him for forgiveness, and if something was done to someone else, to get it right with that person. Sometimes, restitution is needed. If so, don’t delay in paying it. I remember one occasion when I was a young believer and still working as a commercial fisherman; I was working my father's boat alone one night, which was a dangerous thing to do. There was one particular area called the Stone Banks where lots of fish would feed on the abundant levels of worm found there. I towed my nets several times over the Stone Banks before heading home as it began to be daylight. As the day came, I noticed someone else's trammel nets caught on the Otter Boards of my trawl net. Someone else had laid this long wall of netting across the Stone Banks before it got dark, not knowing that I was going to fish there during the night. The Holy Spirit prompted me to find out who had laid nets there and to go and pay him the cost of new nets. When this thought first came to me, my immediate defensive response to God was to inform the Lord that the other fisherman did not set lights on his buoys, so I was not liable. I did not need to pay him. However, the Holy Spirit would not let me go, and I could not get peace about it. Several hours later, I gave up resisting the Spirit's promptings and went to see Les Smith, the owner of the nets. I confessed to him that I had accidentally destroyed his nets and gave him the money for brand new nets. I still remember the look on his face that someone would do such a thing. He knew that his loss was his fault. It was a testimony that rang around the community of fishermen. Something "different" had happened to Keith Thomas. You can never imagine the joy I felt inside at being obedient to the Spirit and making restitution for something I did that had brought difficulty to someone else’s life. It is right living that honors God. In some situations, the Spirit of God may require you to be accountable to a close friend in your small group who can hold you to account for a particular sin that gets the best of you. Being open to others in this way takes the deception and hypocrisy out of the picture and is a breastplate of righteousness to the enemy’s attacks. Here is what James wrote concerning being vulnerable to other Christians: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16). Question 3) To whom are we to confess our sins? What happens when a person forgets to get things right not only with God but also with others? As our Father, God will at times discipline His people. By His discipline, we see that we are His children (Hebrews 12:7-8). It sure will be more comfortable on us if we have a short account with God and we think of the day's affairs before going to bed at night. Be sensitive to keep your heart clean before God by daily confession and repentance of sin. God's power to say no to sin and temptation has been given to us when we believed and received the Spirit. We are empowered to live a righteous life because we have right standing with God. (3) Feet Fitted with the Gospel of Peace Paul next looks at the Roman soldier’s feet. He sees the caliga or half-boots with nails in them to grip the ground in combat. Without the studs at the bottom of the soles, the Roman soldier would be slipping on the ground when in battle. We cannot stand our ground before our spiritual enemies if we don't have peace with God, and the peace of God. Jesus came as a mediator between God and man. Paul wrote that there was only one mediator between God and man; that person is Jesus the Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). We cannot stand our ground before the enemy without having the peace of God reigning in our hearts. When a man is born again of the Spirit of God (John 3:3), there comes a deep settled peace with God, where the person knows in the depths of his heart that his soul is at rest before God. Paul the apostle said, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Not only does a Christian have peace with God, but he is given the peace of God: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). When a Christian is faced with life-threatening danger, he has a deep settled peace that passes all understanding. Eric Barker was a missionary from Great Britain who had spent over fifty years in Portugal preaching the gospel, often under adverse conditions. During World War Two, the situation became so critical that he took the advice to send his wife and eight children to England for safety. His sister and her three children were evacuated on the same ship. Barker remained behind to conclude some mission matters. The Sunday after Barker's loved ones had left, he stood before the congregation and said, "I've just received word that all my family has arrived safely home." He then proceeded with the service as usual. Later, the full meaning of his words became known to the people. He had been handed a telegram just before the meeting, informing him that a submarine had torpedoed the ship, and everyone on board had drowned. Barker knew that all on board were believers, and the knowledge that his family was enjoying the bliss of heaven enabled him to live above his circumstances in spite of his overwhelming grief. Question 4) Do you have a particular strategy to overcome or counter anxious or worrisome thoughts? Do you have a story of peace in the middle of trying circumstances? Another person who sees the same circumstances and does not have Christ ruling and reigning in his heart finds it difficult not to worry and be anxious. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). People often come to Christ when they see the peace that a Christian has when in tough circumstances. Everyone longs for this kind of peace. It is very evident when you have this peace in your life, especially when you face troubled times. (4) The Shield of Faith The Roman shield that Paul was viewing in the room with him was the scutum, a sizeable door-sized shield that the Roman soldier could fit his whole body behind when arrows, darts, and spears were coming toward him. The size of the shield was around four feet high and two and a half feet wide. It was made of two layers of laminated wood and overlaid with animal hide, linen, and iron. When a fiery dart or arrow pierced the shield, it was snuffed out as it buried itself into the shield. Paul pictures the believer's faith as a spiritual shield. When the enemy fires a dart of accusation, temptation, guilt or any other of those sins in his quiver, the Christian replies with faith in God. What is faith? It is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). We cannot see the heavenly resources that are at our disposal, but we are confident, by faith, that God is with us and He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). When we know the truth of that promise, we can endure all things that the enemy throws at us. Our faith protects us from the lies and discouragements that can so easily wound us. It changes our perspective and colors everything we view, filtering it all through the shield of faith, removing the poisonous darts before they can settle in our hearts and infect us. Another thing that may have been in Paul's mind was how the Roman soldiers used their shields. They moved as a unit of one and interlocked their shields to cover all sides so that they were all protected from arrows as they moved forward. In the same way, we ought to watch out for each other. When we fight the fight of faith, we all benefit from each other. Watch out for your brother and sister in Christ by speaking the truth in love and by caring for one another. We are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). As we support one another in this way, we bolster each other’s effectiveness in this spiritual battle that we fight together. We are not just an “army of one;” we are an army made up of many members, with one Captain of our salvation. (5) The Helmet of Salvation The fifth piece of armor that Paul mentions is the Roman helmet. He typifies it as a helmet of salvation. Perhaps the thought in Paul's mind was that the enemy targets the mind in spiritual warfare. His attack, especially to a young, immature believer, usually seeks to dismiss the very existence of God. Doubts fly through the air in the same way as a sword attacks the head. It is then that you do not want a bag on your head instead of a helmet provided by the heavenly quartermaster. The assurance of salvation is there as protection over the mind. The inner witness of the Spirit that we are God's children protects a person's mind as a helmet protects the head: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children” (Romans 8:16). We can face every demonic attack knowing that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Whatever trial or hardship, persecution, famine, danger or sword that life throws at us, we know that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. Paul says: 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). When we know, deep down, that nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even demonic powers, angels, or demons, our minds are firmly secure in the Lord. Our minds are the most significant battleground, and that is why it is so essential for us to win the battle in our minds. To cover and protect our minds with the helmet of salvation, we immerse our minds in the truth of God’s Word that our salvation is complete and does not rely on us. It is a finished work that God has accomplished for us. Question 5) Which part of your spiritual defensive armor do you most need to strengthen right now? (You may want to break up into groups of two or three and pray for one another after being transparent about your spiritual needs). Prayer: Father, come again to Your children who today read these words. Protect them from the evil one. Grant them a fresh filling today by your Spirit. Help Your children to find their place of service in the Body of Christ. Amen.
9. Offensive Weapons of the Believer The War Against Satan and Demons In the last study, we looked at the defensive armor that God has given us. In this study, we will look at three offensive weapons of the Spirit of God the believer can use in warfare against our evil enemy. There are two that Paul mentions in his letter to the Ephesian church, and one that I see elsewhere in Scripture that also causes chaos to the unseen realm of evil spirits. These three weapons are the Word of God, Prayer, and Praise/Worship. We will look at the sword of the Spirit first, which is the Word of God. 1. The Sword of the Spirit In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote to the believers while chained to a Roman soldier. This soldier’s task was to guard Paul during his house arrest. As Paul observed the Roman soldier's armor, it is possible he was inspired to think of the armor God gives us for our spiritual battles as he pens these words: 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:17-18). The sword attached to the soldier's belt served as a metaphor for the Word of God. The kind of sword Paul mentions is the machaira, the short, double-edged sword, usually only eighteen inches long, razor-sharp, and very light. It was most effective in hand-to-hand combat. This type of weapon was most useful when confronting your enemy at close range, which we, as believers must do, as we sometimes find it necessary to "wrestle" with our enemy, evil spiritual forces in the unseen realms (Ephesians 6:12). This sword was used to parry or deflect every sword thrust by an adversary, but also used as an offensive weapon in the hand of the Roman soldier. We have our Lord Jesus Christ as a model in using this weapon as a defensive and offensive tool against the enemy. When the Holy Spirit led Christ to battle with Satan in the wilderness, in each of the three temptations Jesus used the sword of the Word of God to parry each attack of the enemy. Do not make the mistake of underestimating the power of this weapon. First of all, it is not a weapon of your own making. It is not, for example, the “sword” of Keith Thomas (you may enter your name here), but the sword of the Spirit. Think about that! Unlike an ordinary weapon, this weapon is divine. It is powerful in the hands of the believer and does not depend upon your strength or ability but in the power of the weapon itself. This power is directly connected to the King we serve, and He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! His words used in His name carry His authority. Under the Spirit’s direction, the Word of God applied to a specific situation in which you find yourself has great power. God’s Word is authoritative. Period. He can give you a word in a particular time, which comes to you when you need it. It is Spirit-breathed for the instant you need it. For instance, in my early twenties, I had given my life over to selfish living, just following my impulses and desires. Out of nowhere, it seemed, thoughts about eternity started to surface. (I now understand from where these thoughts came, for it became evident that people were praying for me at this time!) I started to question all sorts of things, e.g., for what was I living? What was I to accomplish while I am on earth? I would try to deal with these thoughts by brushing them aside as they were troubling to me. I tried my best to ignore them. It was not that these thoughts were not important to me, but instead, it was frustrating because I had no answers that satisfied me. Then one day, I discovered a book which spoke about the last days, something in which I was highly interested. God used my curiosity to open my heart to His reality. In that book, the writer was describing the return of Christ, and the separation of believers from unbelievers. I thought that, because I was born in a “Christian country,” I was a Christian, but the writer used one Scripture that hooked me in the heart. It was, “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathers not, scatters” (Matthew 12:30). The writer explained that there is no fence for us on which to sit. You are in God's Kingdom, or you are outside of it. There is no middle ground. All of a sudden, I saw that, when Jesus would come, I would not be in God’s kingdom, for I did not know Christ Jesus. I was like a fish caught on a hook of Scripture. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get off of that hook! God used that Scripture in my life to prod me to seek the truth, and the Lord did not let me have peace until I finally gave my life to Christ. The truth of God’s word through that Scripture woke me up and caused me to continue to search. It changed the course of my life. Martin Luther, the great reformer, had a similar experience with the Word of God stuck in him. He had read the Scripture, “The just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17), but the church at the time believed that a person could enter into eternal life by his good works. While on a trip to Rome, as a religious work to earn peace and forgiveness, he was told that he would get peace inside his heart by climbing on his knees the twenty-eight white marble steps of the Lateran Staircase. As he moved from step to step, the Spirit would not let him go, but at each step, the thought came to his mind, "The just shall live by faith.” He heard this in his mind, repeating with each step, “The just shall live by faith!” He saw that justification [God’s act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin] was by faith alone and not by a man’s works. These truths flew in the face of everything taught at the time, and he was being called by God to raise the banner of God's Word over the traditions of men. This revelation was a turning point for him, and in turn, for those who would hear his words as he returned to Germany a changed man, ignited with a fresh revelation of the Word of God. We have a further example of the power of the Word of God in Scripture. After the resurrection of Christ, on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples came out of the Upper Room where they were filled with the Spirit, the several thousand Jews gathered had the Apostle Peter speak the Word of God to them. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). The Word of God spoken by Peter was like a sword that cut to the inner core of their hearts. Question 1) Has there been a Scripture that the Spirit of God has used in your life? Share how this happened and how you responded to it. Do not underestimate the power of the Word of God that is at work in and through the believer in Christ: 12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 Emphasis mine). In nineteenth-century America, God touched the life of Charles Finney. He was a man that gave himself to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God. The Lord used him much in preaching from church to church. The presence of the Spirit was on him to such a degree that people that heard him would come under great conviction of heart and feel cut to their very inner being. On one occasion when Finney was preaching in a schoolhouse, "Suddenly an awful solemnity fell upon the assembly, and the congregation fell from their seats, crying for mercy." Finney said, "If I had had a sword in each hand I could not have cut them off as fast as they fell. I think the whole congregation was on their knees or prostrated in two minutes." The crying and weeping of the people were so loud that Finney's appeal of Christ's mercy could not be heard. "Finney seemed so anointed with the Holy Spirit that people came under conviction of sin just by looking at him. When holding meetings at Utica, New York, he visited a large factory. At the sight of him, one of the workers, and then another, and then another broke down and wept under a sense of their sins, and finally so many were sobbing and weeping that the machinery had to be stopped while Finney pointed them to Christ.” When we wield the sword of the Spirit, the presence of God, the Word of God, and the authority of God is behind God’s Word, and it inflicts terrible damage on Satan and his demons. As disciples, we are ambassadors of Christ, and the authority of the government of God is behind us. We all have people around us, e.g., spouses, family, friends, and co-workers that over time have steeled themselves against our biblical worldview. They are under the deception of the enemy and have a veil over their hearts: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Be open to the Spirit of God. He can give you a word that will “pierce” through all the lies, which blind you from the light of God’s truth. The Spirit of God knows people’s inner-most thoughts and defenses. He knows their needs and unanswered questions. Ask Him for His inspired words to get past the defenses that the enemy has set up! His words can pierce these defenses and bring them the light of His truth. The more you spend time in the word of God and soak up His words, the easier it will be to have the Spirit of God bring these words to your remembrance. Jesus said: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). We need to be acquainted with the Word of God. When Satan came saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3), Jesus replied by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written: Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Just as the physical body needs bread, the staple diet of the Israelite, so the believer in Christ needs to be sustained by daily meditation on the Word of God to be spiritually healthy and overcome the evil one. The Word of God is a heavenly bread for our spirit. 2. Prayer in the Spirit We could be tempted to think that Paul only mentions one offensive weapon, but It is possible that his second one could not be typified by any part of a Roman soldier's armor, so he mentioned prayer without making an analogy to the Roman soldier. Here is Paul’s second offensive spiritual weapon: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). Question 2) What do you think is in Paul’s mind when he instructs us to pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests? There are some among the Church worldwide who would say that Paul is talking about praying in an unknown tongue. They would remind us of two verses from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian believers: 2For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful (1 Corinthians 14:2, 14). In talking about offensive prayer (Ephesians 6:18), it is my personal belief that Paul is talking about all kinds of Spirit-led and empowered prayer that breaks down every demonic stronghold, not only in people but also in territory that is dominated by demonic spirits. Some of this may be individuals who are led to pray in an unknown tongue but do not discount praying in your own language, as the Spirit influences you. Paul is very clear when he writes that not all Christians speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). The Corinthians were a very gifted group of people, but I can’t see him telling the believers in Ephesus that praying in the Spirit was to pray only in tongues. The Body of Christ is a multi-faceted spiritual organism that uses the gifts and talents of us all to pull down spiritual strongholds through many different kinds of prayer. Spirit-led prayer is always backed up by the authority of God and the presence of the Spirit. We have an example of this type of prayer in Acts 4:23-31 after Peter and John were put in jail by the Jewish leadership for the “crime” of healing the lame man at the gate called Beautiful. The court appearance before the Sanhedrin was set for the next day. Peter, under the control and influence of the Spirit, spoke fearlessly and told the Chief Priests, Scribes, and leaders that they would not stop speaking about Jesus. They were released after many threats. Notice what the believers did after they were threatened: 23When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is you who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David your servant, said, ‘why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? 26‘the kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ.’ 27“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:23-31). The early disciples saw that their fight was not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. How did they respond to this demonic persecution? They prayed passionately with voices raised to God. They didn’t take turns to pray; they all prayed out loud in unison in various kinds of languages as the Spirit led them. In this instance, the very place where the believers were joined together was shaken after they raised their voices to God in Spirit-empowered prayer. The result of this kind of prayer was that the room where they were gathered was shaken under the power of the Spirit as again, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the message of God with boldness. We have a modern-day example of Spirit-led prayer overcoming demonic strongholds over a city in Argentina. In the book by C. Peter Wagner, Warfare Prayer pages 30-34, there is the story of a strategy to reach the city of Resistencia in the northern province of Chaco, Argentina. Ed Silvoso, an Argentinean evangelist, initiated a three-year plan to change the spiritual atmosphere over the city so that people could hear and respond to the Gospel. As of the beginning of 1990, fewer than 6,000 of its 400,000 population were evangelical believers, a mere 1.5 percent. He moved members of his Harvest Evangelism team into Resistencia and for over a year laid a foundation of prayer, spiritual warfare, and leadership training. They had Cindy Jacobs, a lady gifted with intercessory prayer, lead two seminars on warfare prayer. The people responded well and wanted to take authority over their city the next morning. Silvoso writes, A group of 80 showed up and marched into the Plaza de Mayo of Buenos Aires, praying for five hours of intense battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. Among other things, the group sensed a spirit of witchcraft and a spirit of death in the Ministry of Social Welfare building where President Peron’s notorious warlock, Jose Lopez Riga, had maintained his office. When the group left the plaza, they felt a sense of victory. The principalities and powers were not destroyed, but warfare prayer had in some measure begun to weaken the evil hold on Argentina. Over the city of Resistencia, the people all knew the names of the spirits that were ruling over the city. San La Muerte, the spirit of death, was perhaps the most powerful. A large number of citizens of Resistencia were so devoted to San La Muerte that they had little bone images of his idol surgically implanted under their skin or under their nipples, believing the false promise that this will assure them of a "good death." Other spirits of equal rank turned out to be Pombero, a spirit of division who brought terror, especially to children during the siesta time and at night; Curapi, a spirit of sexual perversion, the Queen of Heaven, a religious spirit, who had perverted the true character of the traditional church; and the spirit of Freemasonry, a cleverly disguised form of occult power. Surprisingly, the images of these spirits and their activities were depicted on several large folk art murals in the central plaza of the city. What was the outcome? Ed Silvoso reports that the growth graphs of the churches in Resistencia took a decided turn upward beginning in April when the group prayed in the plaza. In one public event, 250 people were baptized in portable pools. Crowds of almost 17,000 packed into an open field for evangelistic meetings where objects used in occult rituals and witchcraft were burned in a fifty-five-gallon drum each night. Hundreds were healed physically and delivered from demons. At least eighteen new churches started. Most significant of all, the evangelical Christian population of Resistencia virtually doubled in the calendar year of 1990. Perhaps, a weakening sign of the territorial spirits over Resistencia was the tragic fate of the high priestess of the cult of San La Muerte, the spirit of death. Two weeks before the massive evangelistic thrust and after the time of prayer in the center of the city, her bed caught fire. For some reason, the flames seemed to be selective. They consumed only the mattress, the woman, and her statue of San La Muerte! Now, I certainly do not advocate any single person taking on spirits in this way. These believers were over eighty people in one accord and Spirit-led in what they were doing. I am using the story to illustrate the fact that these things are real and that Jesus has won the victory over them at the cross. When the Body of Christ works together under godly inspired leadership, whole towns and cities are won to Christ. Are you a part of a biblical expression of Jesus Christ in your town or city? If not, begin to seek the Lord to show you where you are to fellowship. We need each other. It has always been the pattern. Something special happens when God’s people stand together in unity. It is essential that you have other believers in Christ around you. Being accountable somewhere is a strong defense to you as a believer. It keeps you from being isolated and, therefore, more vulnerable. If you are not yet a believer, perhaps today is your day. The Bible says that today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Why not reach out to Him with all your heart today? Question 3) If the leaders of the church in your city or town called for massive intercessory prayer, such as that spoken of above, would you go? Would you be reluctant to pray out loud? What would it take to move you to a place where you could cry out to God in prayer with others as described in the above passage in Acts? The Lord honors and works through those who lean on Him in difficulties and dependence. He longs to show us that He is our Father and well able to answer our heartfelt Spirit-led prayers. I don’t know about you, but I sense the winds of difficulty blowing this way more and more, and we should be prepared by taking time out of our day to practice impassioned and Spirit-led prayer. 3. The Weapon of Praise. Although Paul does not mention this weapon of the Spirit in his letter to the Ephesians, I think there is a case for bringing it into view when talking about the weapons of the believer. 1Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3). In this case, worship is not used as a weapon but as a means of drawing close to God and dialing down their hearts to listen and expect to hear what the Spirit would say to the Antioch church. How few churches there is today that take time out and genuinely want input from the Spirit of God as to the direction that the church should go! Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail” (Matthew 16:18). Do we ask the Spirit of God to speak and lead and for the Lord to build His church? In this instance in the Book of Acts, worship and prayer took place to get God’s mind on how to build. We should not abandon this method in favor of “big business models.” Many pastors have been disappointed to find that what works in one church, does not work for them. God has a strategy for your city, town, village. He is all you need. Yes, He does use men. He can give you tools and insight. God also wants to lead you by His Spirit! He wants to show you. Join together, and humble yourself. Pray. Listen. Work in unity. He will act. Worship was indeed a weapon used against a demonically inspired attack on Israel by a considerable army formed by a union between the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah at the time, gathered all the people to Jerusalem, and they all began to cry out to the Lord in intense prayer, confessing their inability to defend their families against the attack. God spoke prophetically to them while they were fasting and praying to God for deliverance. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you (2 Chronicles 20:15-17). What was God's plan? The direction given was to have their army have the worship team lead them against the enemy. They were not to fight this battle—God was going to fight for them. Under the direction of the Spirit, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army: 22As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 24When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped (2 Chronicles 20:22-24). What does this teach us? At the Lord’s direction, Spirit-inspired worship took place with the result that the demonically inspired attack was broken down by God moving on behalf of His people, not requiring them to fight at all physically. They were not to compete in their strength, but they relied on His power. The Lord set an ambush for Israel’s enemies, and the enemy fought against one another and destroyed themselves. The power of praise is also illustrated by an incident told by David Wilkerson in one of his books. According to the story, in the early part of his work among the gangs in New York City he encountered a group of boys on a street corner. As he approached them, there were signs that they were preparing to attack. Looking to the Lord for guidance, he continued his advance. At the instant they seemed poised to strike, David suddenly clapped his hands and shouted: "Praise the Lord!" According to the account, the entire gang broke ranks and fled. The only plausible explanation for their action is that these boys were activated by evil spirits who panicked at the shout of praise. But the story which, in my opinion, dwarfs all others in this category concerns a well-documented incident which took place near Holton, Indiana. According to the account, an evangelist had come to the local church for a series of evangelistic services. To be alone for prayer and meditation, the minister went out into a nearby field. He did not know that a dangerous bull was in the area until the attack was underway. When he saw the bull charging it was too late to run to safety, he did not know what to do. He thought he had come to his end. But just before the enraged animal reached him, he shouted, "Praise the Lord!" The bull halted in its tracks immediately turned and fled. At different times in my life, I have sensed God pushing me into situations where I have had to look to Him to take the controls and for me to stand behind Him and watch Him control the situation. I remember the time when Sandy, my wife, and I went on a mission trip to Israel with a return ticket that enabled us to come back after a year. When Sandy became pregnant with our daughter, Anna, we came back after staying just over seven months. Our mission was to love the people of that beautiful land. We did not have money for the entire stay, but enough to begin, and God asked us to trust Him. We knew that He could and would provide for us. We were not disappointed! It was a time of testing, learning, and growing in our faith. God met us supernaturally in so many ways, day by day. We lived by faith, trusting God to meet our needs just as He promised in His Word (Matthew 6:31-33). God uses our difficulties and trials as a way of forcing us to look to Him and trust Him. While in Israel during the early stages of Sandy’s pregnancy, the life of our child, Anna, was threatened. Early bleeding and other symptoms caused us to seek out a doctor in Bethlehem. He had all the latest equipment, and he used ultrasound to listen for a heartbeat. However, he was convinced that there was no heartbeat, that it was, in fact, a tumor. An operation was scheduled, and we went home in shock, not knowing what to think. The confusing part was that we had felt that we had a word from God telling us the name for this baby! She was to be called “Anna,” after Anna, the prophetess, mentioned in Luke 2: 36-38. Why would God give us this word, this hope, only to take it away and replace it with what seemed like a stone? We thought that we had received a blessing from God, only to be faced with a “mountain” of a problem! Sandy and I called our friends at the church that we attended. They all stood with us in prayer. God spoke to us from a Scripture from the Old Testament Book of Zechariah. I will quote from the King James version as that is how it was given to us at the time; “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone of it with shoutings, crying Grace, grace unto it” (Zechariah 4:6-7). Now, I am fully aware that this Scripture speaks of a specific time and a particular act in Scripture. However, this is the marvelous thing about God's Word. Somehow, He can take a word like this and ignite your heart for a particular situation, and that is what He did. Sandy and I stepped out in faith and obedience to what we perceived to be God's Rhema word to us. We laid hands on Sandy's abdomen and spoke the words of the text, "grace, grace" loudly! Afterward, we lifted our voices together in praise and proclamation. We felt a feeling of peace about the whole thing and proceeded with our appointment at the doctors. I do not know what the doctor made of the situation when we returned to his office. He expected to continue with the operation, which would have removed what he thought to be a tumor, but what, in fact, was a baby! Before doing the DNC operation, we asked him to check by doing one more ultrasound before the surgery. The doctor had not planned on doing this, but he could see that Sandy was visibly very distraught, so he agreed. He was astounded to hear the heartbeat, and see the amniotic sac, something that was not visible before. I do not know if the doctor was wrong the first time, or if this was a creative miracle. All I know is that we were given hope through God’s word, and our daughter was a miracle to us! Not every story in our lives has had a triumphant answer like this one. Sometimes, we suffer and do not understand why. In everything, God can be glorified, and in this, there is always victory. When we realize that He sifts everything that comes to us through His own hands, we can trust in His love. Our success is the victory He has already won for us. His strength is our strength; His armor is our armor. He does not ask us to fight this battle by ourselves but offers us His power and His peace amid the storm. The battle indeed does belong to the Lord. *We named our daughter Anna Grace. Anna is a Latin form of the Hebrew name Hannah. It means “favor” or “grace.” We had settled on the name “Anna” before this experience as we chose it from Luke chapter 2 before Sandy even became pregnant. That is why we chose the middle name, Grace, so that her name, in its meaning would be “grace, grace.” It reminds us of how He gave us grace in this situation. Prayer: Thank you, King Jesus, for being the Captain of our Salvation, our High Tower, our Fortress, and our shelter in the storm. For all that You are and all that You do on our behalf, we thank You and give You praise!
Study 9. Fasting: God's Secret Weapon. Growing Faith in God Warm-up Question: What is the most unusual food you have ever eaten? In 1977, I lived for four months in Israel, the first of three times in the Holy Land. Most of the time was spent in Jerusalem, with a few long weekends in Haifa, Beersheba, and Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee. I was staying with a group of about 30 people, mostly young Christians. During this time, I learned a lot about spiritual disciplines. I also experienced a close community and a deep bond of fellowship, which influenced my early years as a new Christian. We would worship three nights a week at the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu on Mount Zion (Galli-cantu means the place of the cock-crow in Latin). This site was where Jesus was held until the morning, the same place where Peter denied that he knew Jesus. The church building was built on the grounds of the residence of Caiaphas, the High Priest in the time of Jesus. The presence of God would be in those meetings, and many times we would see healings. My friends there gave themselves to long fasts, sometimes as much as forty day’s duration on just water. I noticed during the times of fasting that there was a level of faith and power that was beyond what I had experienced. I was a young Christian at the time, but I observed that many of the people I lived with fasted regularly. It seemed to be an essential part of their Christian experience, and I knew that they expected me to fast also. I decided that this was something I needed to learn about and practice. I must admit that even though we had all decided to fast every Monday and Wednesday until sundown, I sometimes broke my fast on a bread roll and a banana when I was away from the group. It was hard to fast when someone else was expecting me to. I needed motivation for fasting. Fasting for the sake of disciplining the body was not enough for me—I love food too much! I had to have a reason to fast. It helped me to understand what the Bible says about fasting. Although we do not hear very much on this topic in the Western Christian church today, it was a vital part of the lives of the early church. Jesus Expected that His Disciples Would Fast Behind our regular twice a week fasting was the desire to be obedient to Jesus on the three things that He has required of all Christians to regularly practice, found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter six, verses 1-18:
The discipline of giving to the needs of those who are without (verses 1-4).
The regular discipline of prayer (verses 5-15).
The discipline of fasting (verses 16-18).
In the second verse, Jesus said, "when you give to the needy,” not “if" you give to the needy. The Lord assumed that we would give to those who are poor. In verse five and again in verse six, he said, "when you pray,” not “if you pray." He assumes that we will pray. Again, in verses sixteen and seventeen, twice he said, “when you fast,” not if you fast. He expected that all Christians would practice these disciplines. We all know that there are significant benefits to giving to the needs of those that have little, and praying for others, but for what reasons should we fast? What are the benefits of fasting? There are spiritual benefits of fasting. The Book of Isaiah, chapter 58, talks about the “fast that God has chosen.” 6“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. 13“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 58:6-14). The Lord says that fasting will “untie the cords of the yoke,” and “set the oppressed free” (v. 6). He also says that “light will break forth like the dawn” and “your healing will quickly appear” (v. 8). Another spiritual benefit that you will experience is that you will be able to hear God’s voice when you cry to Him for help (v. 9). There are also promises of God’s guidance, provision, and strength. You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail (v. 11). If you are experiencing depression, joy will flow over you instead (v. 14). All this through fasting! Some of the tangible benefits you may experience, especially on a fast of several days or more, are detoxification, clarity of mind, and after your initial weakness subsides, one usually experiences a surge in strength and even a feeling of euphoria. When you begin to fast, you may experience dizziness, headache, and constipation. You may also notice an unpleasant taste in your mouth, nausea, and weakness, a natural reaction to the fasting process as your body begins to rid itself of toxins. Fasting cleanses your body and gives your digestive system a rest. When Jesus began His ministry, He first went to John the Baptist and was baptized by him in the River Jordan. “The Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). When He left John the Baptist, He was, “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Many of us would think that if He was full of the Holy Spirit when He left the Jordan River, why didn’t He go straight away to Galilee and start his ministry? Instead, we read that the Spirit led Him into the dry and barren wilderness of Judea and a forty-day fast on nothing but water, where at His weakest point, He was tempted by Satan (Luke 4:2). What were the results of the forty days fast and temptation at the hands of Satan? He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). What do you think is the difference between being full of the Spirit and being under the power of the Spirit? The full potential of the Spirit manifested in Christ after a time of fasting, solitude, and prayer. He was a perfect model for us because of His obedience to the Spirit of God and giving Him full control of His life. Our bodies have a way of dictating to us what it wants. When we fast, we serve notice to our bodies that our spirit is in charge and that our bodies are to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s dictates, not the other way around. Like a stallion has to be brought under control by its rider, so our bodies (if you will allow Him), through fasting, are brought under control by the Holy Spirit. 18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?" 19Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast (Mark 2:18-20). The Pharisees at the time of Christ fasted from sun up till sun down on Mondays and Thursdays, and it was possible that this criticism was leveled at the disciples on one of those days. The Scriptures only required one day of fasting a year on the Jewish people, on the Day of Atonement, a national day of repentance and humbling of the soul (Leviticus 16:29-34). Jesus answered the Pharisees by reminding them that it was traditional for the guests of a wedding to be relieved of all religious duties such as fasting, while they were attending the wedding festivities that went on for the week after the wedding. He saw His time on earth as a time of marriage celebration—not a time of mourning and fasting. While Christ was still on the planet, Jesus wanted to enjoy being with His people and not mandate which days they would fast. When He left and ascended to the Father, then it would be time for them to fast. We are living in that time when Christ's bodily presence is not among us; therefore this is the time mentioned that we are expected to fast, as well as give to the needy and pray. Growing in Faith through Fasting 14When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15"Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." 17"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 20He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." 21But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21). Verse 21 has been taken out of the New International Version by the editors and put at the bottom of the page due to some manuscripts having this verse left out). The purpose for our meditations on Growing Faith has been to discover from the Scriptures our identity in Christ and to reveal to us the power and authority that is available to us as the people of God, being led by the Spirit of God. In the passage above, we see Jesus returning from the Mount of Transfiguration with three of His disciples, Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-13). When they get back down from the mountain to meet up with the nine disciples, Jesus was confronted by a man whose son had a demon that was inducing seizures. I want to be quick to say that not all people who are having seizures have demons! But on this occasion, what the boy's father saw as seizures were a result of demonic infiltration in the boy’s life. This diagnosis becomes clear when one reads the parallel passages found in Mark 9:14-28 and also Luke 9:37-43. When the Lord heard of the nine disciple's failure to cast out the spirit out of the boy, He reacted with disappointment and frustration. He said, "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? (v. 17). Why would Jesus be frustrated and disappointed with the nine disciples? By this time, Jesus had already taught them how to minister in power to heal the sick and to cast out demons. They had already gone out in groups of two to do the works of the kingdom (Luke 9:1-6). But here they are without power and lacking in faith. Jesus was frustrated at them because He wanted them to work under the power of the Holy Spirit, and not rely only on what they could do. He knew that His time on earth with them was limited and He wanted them to get this! Human intelligence and soul energy was not going to change the world. The power of God was, and is, the need of the hour! God’s work needs God’s power. When they asked why they couldn’t cast out the spirit from the boy, He told them it was because of their lack of faith. But then he explained something interesting, which some translations take out from the original Greek. “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Some Greek manuscripts do not include this passage, so the New International Version translators decided to put the passage down at the bottom of the page. The King James Version includes it. I am thankful for this nugget of truth, for it explains that there are some situations we will encounter, which can only be resolved by a greater level of the presence and power of God upon us, which can only come about through a life of regular prayer and fasting. One needs time to fast and pray. It is often not possible to ask a person to come back at a later time so that we could fast and pray. If only the nine had known beforehand that they would encounter a spirit that would resist their commands to come out of the boy, they would have prepared themselves for the encounter. Jesus is advocating a lifestyle of prayer and fasting so that He would always be ready for any situation. I don't believe the words, “this kind,” refers only to a strong evil spirit, I think it refers to stubborn situations that each of us goes through which a normal habit of prayer has not resolved. In these instances, there can be a spiritual stronghold which needs to be broken through prayer and fasting. I like to think of fasting as the Atom Bomb of the Holy Spirit. A desperate situation resolved through desperate measures—fasting. Fasting adds intensity, earnestness, and authority to prayer. Jesus is saying that if they would live a life of prayer and fasting they would have the faith of God to move mountains. I don’t believe that He was talking about literal mountains; He was using a figure of speech concerning situations that are immovable apart from God’s Spirit moving them for us. When Zerubbabel was building the second temple after Israel’s dispersion in Babylon, he had such difficulties in the building work that the prophet Zechariah was sent to him, saying: 6So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. 7"What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!' " 8Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9"The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. (Zechariah 4:6-9). It would not be according to any might that Zerubbabel might be able to pump up by his abilities. In the passage above he was told that God would step into the situation by His Spirit, and the mountain of difficulties would become a level plain as he exercised faith in God. Sure, I do agree that God can move mountains, but I don’t see any occasion where God would expect any of us to speak to real mountains to move out of our way. But He certainly will use us to speak authoritatively to situations that are like immovable mountains and see them become a level plain by God's Spirit. A mountain speaks of something that will not move; a situation where you cannot go around it, you have to go through it. We need the power of God to move the mountain! Is there a stubborn situation in your life or in the life of a close friend or relative that may require fasting and prayer? If you can, share the situation. The Early Church Practiced Fasting 1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3). Acts 11:21 describe the church at Antioch as having a high number of people that turned to the Lord. We see in the passage above that a leadership team of individuals was spending time with God, worshiping and fasting together. Since there were prophetic people amongst them, (v. 1) the Holy Spirit spoke through one of them to release into a unique ministry, Barnabas, the encourager (Acts 4:36), and Saul, also named Paul the Apostle. God spoke to them in a time of worshiping and fasting. They were sent out as a missionary team by the Body of Christ there in Antioch. Twice fasting was mentioned. 21They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. 23Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:21-23). After their first missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul later went back and sought the Lord’s blessing on the new leadership of the young churches by praying and fasting for insight into who were the leaders that God wanted in the governmental position of elders. We cannot tell from the text if it was just Paul and Barnabas that were fasting or the whole church was engaged in the fast together. In 2 Corinthians 11:27, Paul said, “I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.” The words “gone without food” should be translated that Paul had “often fasted.” Just previously he wrote that he involuntarily had known hunger and thirst, but also voluntarily fasted from the food that he had available. The King James Version translates the same passage: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness (2 Corinthians 11:27). If Paul was in a lifestyle of prayer and fasting often, and God used him so powerfully, we need to realize that this same power is available to us today. Perhaps the amount of prayer and fasting that Paul engaged in was the very thing that resulted in the great grace that was upon his life. Yes, God had a plan for Paul. The Lord answers when faith is expressed. Paul had a zealous faith and would not let God go. In one place he wrote: 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul’s testimony was that he found a secret—the weakness of his own strength brought the power of God upon him. He said he delighted in being weak so that Christ's power may rest upon him. One thing is sure; we need the power of God to be at work in the Church of the 21st century. It will take men and women who are dedicated to labor with God's energy at work in them and not the strength of our abilities apart from God's enablement. In another place, Paul writes: To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:29). It is Christ in us, the hope of glory that must do the works of the kingdom. When a man or woman seeks, through prayer and fasting, for God’s Spirit to have the reins of one’s life, then God can get the glory by doing His work through us. Heaven forbid that the Church should seek for the glory that is due only to Christ. That's why Paul could say to the church in Rome: “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:29). He had learned that the Spirit would work powerfully through him as he served the Lord through fasting and prayer. He fully expected that he would come with the Spirit's power. How can fasting be worked into a busy schedule? What would you say to a person who said that they would be too weak to fast and pray? Practical Advice about Fasting
Don't start fasting for more than a day if you have never done it before. Building on success is wise. Start by fasting breakfast and lunch and plan to eat in the evening. Lengthen the amount of time as God leads you.
If you usually drink tea or coffee, plan to kick the caffeine a day early so that the first day of a fast you are not dealing with a massive headache as well as no food in your stomach. I would encourage you to drink only water during fasting. Water helps in the natural cleansing during fasting. There are one or two places where a person fasted having no water, but it is dangerous to go longer than three days without water. Moses was on a supernatural fast when he was with the Lord and fasting food and water. A person can die by going longer than three days without water.
Keep a record of what you are experiencing and the kinds of prayers you are speaking. Later on, when you look back over your time of fasting, you will be much encouraged at the way God has answered prayer during your fast.
If you are on medicine, check with your doctor and let him know what you are doing.
Get hold of some books on fasting to encourage you. One of the best books I have read on fasting is God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis. I can also recommend Mahesh Chavda’s book, The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting, as well as Derek Prince’s book called, Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting.
Set aside normal meal times by going to your room and praying. Being around when food is cooking is challenging to overcome, especially in the first three days of a fast.
Beware of the TV. One becomes aware of how many commercials on food there is on TV.
In the first three or four days, the body burns up many of the toxins that are in our bodies due to the kinds of foods we consume in most western countries. You will feel weakness by the end of the first day until around the fourth day. This burning of the toxins is very healthy for you. During this time your urine becomes yellow, your breath smells horrible, and if it is winter, your body can get cold easily. If you are on a fast of over four days, your strength will return once the toxins are burnt up. Fasting becomes easier at that point.
You will experience greater clarity of mind during fasting. Read the Scriptures often and draw near to God in the midst of your fast.
Fasting is not damaging to your health—fasting is normal to the animal kingdom. The hunger pangs that one starts to experience toward the end of the first day is just the body’s way of telling you that it is time for food. The cravings will die down.
Read chapter 58 of the Book of Isaiah, the section on fasting, and be watchful over your motives.
Fasting breaks bondages of sin and loosens the hold of bad habits and their rulership over your life.
Pray for God to release the gifts of the Spirit in your life. Fasting opens one's life to new spiritual gifts from God because our spirit is humbled and sensitive to the Spirit of God's leading.
Fasting helps in the loss of weight. Be careful that you don't overeat when you return to eating. During the fast, your stomach will shrink, and overeating after a fast can be dangerous. Anytime longer than a six-day fast should be broken with broth or easily digested food.
There are different kinds of fasts. Daniel and his three friends went on a vegetable and water fast (Daniel 1:12). Later on, he fasted for three weeks on no choice food, meat or wine touched his lips (Daniel 10:2-3). Decide for yourself how you are going to fast. Ask God to show you what kind of fast you are to undertake.
Try to avoid heavy exercising or taking long walks. It is easy to get so tired and want to break your fast early.
An average healthy person can fast up to 40 days. Around that time, a person's hunger pangs will return, and at that point, a person starts to starve. Beyond 40 days our bodies begin to consume living cells rather than fat. Jesus fasted for forty days, and at that point, the Bible tells us that He was hungry. When the hunger pangs return, it is time to break your fast. Satan’s temptation of Jesus began at the forty-day mark when the hunger pangs started, tempting Him with bread (Matthew 4:2-3). It seems more than likely that all three temptations came on one day, the last day of His fast.
My Personal Experience of Fasting I have practiced fasting, although not as much as I would like. Each year I try to set apart a few days for prayer and fasting. My fasting has usually been between 3-5 days on just water. Several years ago, my wife and I felt an urgent need to fast and pray for a person close to us. We were led to fast for ten days on water for a person struggling with her faith. We felt this was an attack of the enemy to separate her, not only from us but from her new found faith in Christ. After ten days of prayer and fasting for this individual, she arrived at our door in tearful brokenness. We prayed and talked. Before this knock on the door by her, we had not made contact with her or asked her to come over; the Holy Spirit prompted her to go to our door. It was an answer to prayer. Although this individual still had some difficult years ahead, she returned to her faith in Christ and now has her own stories of answered prayer. Fasting will help to loosen bonds that the enemy has on a person’s life, enabling them