Self-Limiting

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking a little about the incarnation–God becoming human in the person of Jesus. Nothing can limit or contain God except Himself. When Jesus became human in the incarnation, it was a gigantic act of self-limitation on the part of God. The One who was once omnipresent, self-limited to a time and place in history. The One who never experienced pain, hunger, or thirst, self-limited Himself into a human body that experienced all the basic human needs for food and sleep. He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.

Does this mean that Jesus wasn’t the fullness of God?

No. Colossians 2:9 is clear, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Imagine a dad playing basketball with his young son. If he is a good dad, he will “self-limit” the amount of force and skill that he exerts. He does this out of love for his son. Does this mean that in this moment he is “less” of a dad? Quite the opposite. In the dad’s loving self-limitation he is fully himself and maybe even the best version of himself because his love is tangibly on display. The same is true of Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15).

What about God’s omniscience and power? Did God self-limit those in the incarnation?

I believe He did.

It is true that we see Jesus know things He couldn’t know without supernatural insight. We also see Jesus do incredible miracles that He couldn’t do without divine power. Yet, I believe that what we see in Jesus is a tiny fraction of God’s total omniscience and power. I believe Jesus only did that which is possible to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. He only did that which was possible for a human to do who is completely filled and empowered by the Spirit and perfectly connected to the Father. In other words, I believe Jesus did these things as a perfect human conduit of the power of the Spirit not as God the Son.

Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” after His baptism as He was led into the desert to be tempted. Then, having been victorious over Satan in the desert, Luke 4:14 says that Jesus returned to start His ministry “in the power of the Spirit.” It’s not until this happens that we start to see Jesus do miracles, healings, and deliverances. So I believe that the “supernatural” aspect of Jesus’s ministry was Him acting as a human fully empowered by the Spirit and completely connected to the Father. I don’t believe they are instances of Him flexing is divinity (though He had every right to as God the Son). So even His miracles are an aspect of His self-limitation.

We know that the power He could have displayed could have been so much more overwhelming. Jesus even said, leading up to the cross, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?“(Matthew 26:53). There was so much more power that could have been unleashed but wasn’t. Again we see Jesus’s self-limitation.

Though Jesus knew things about people that He couldn’t have known without supernatural help (see John 1:47-48 & 4:16-18, Luke 5:22 & 9:47), I believe this was Him operating in what the apostle Paul would later call gifts of the Spirit like words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Yet, we still see that Jesus self-limited His foreknowledge when He talks to His disciples about the end times and says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Jesus’s self-limitation in the incarnation was a radical act of love toward us. It also leaves us followers of Jesus without excuse. We can no longer write-off parts of Jesus’s ministry with the statement, “Yeah, well, He was God.” We sometimes like to think Jesus’s divinity gets us off the hook from having to operate like Jesus did in the fullness of the Spirit. But, though He could have operated out of His divinity, I don’t believe He did. Everything He did He did as a human fully surrendered to the Father and fully empowered by the Spirit. And though we will never be the perfect conduit of the Spirit that Jesus was, we are still called to be a conduit just the same.

Washing Feet – Revisited

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 

John 13:6-15

I love when the Lord shows me something new in a passage of scripture I’ve read a hundred times. I read the above passage the other day and felt like the Lord showed me something new. We tend to think of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet as an act of humble service whereby He then instructs His disciple to do the same for each other (that is, serve each other). But consider that there’s more that Jesus is addressing here. 

We know that Jesus isn’t just talking about personal hygiene. And I believe He’s talking about more than just service. When He’s talking about taking a bath, He’s really talking about baptism/salvation. He’s talking about the cleansing of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

And when Jesus is talking about washing feet, He’s talking about the regular cleansing that we need even after we are saved. Jesus said, “Those who have had a bath (been saved) need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” Meaning, we who are followers of Jesus have already been forgiven of all of our sin, and yet we still need a regular kind of cleansing because of our regular contact with sin and the contaminants of the world. We’ve been cleansed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out (our spiritual bath), yet we still get the muck and grime of the world on us simply by walking daily in the world. After we have had a “bath” we don’t need to get saved over and over again, but we do need a different kind of cleansing. We do need a foot washing.

We see this same kind of “dual cleansing” demonstrated by the priests at the Temple. First, they offered the sacrifices of animals to account for their sin. The spilling of blood addressed their guilt from sin. Yet, the priests also had to wash in the wash basin before entering the Holy Place. The washing with water addressed anything they may have had contact with that made them “unclean.” And these wash basins were made from bronze mirrors. They would have literally seen a reflection of themselves as they washed away the contaminants of the world with water. I don’t think it was an accident that a time of reflection accompanied this time of cleansing.

Jesus introduces a new kind of “dual cleansing” for the new priesthood of believers. First, baptism represents the full and total cleansing of our life from sin. Jesus’s blood is what would enable the Holy Spirit to come and bathe us in righteousness from the inside out. Then, a foot washing, which represents the ongoing need for forgiveness, repentance, and cleansing from the muck of the world.

Not only do we need a spiritual “foot washing,” a regular kind of repentance and cleansing, but this cleansing is something we believers can offer to each other. Jesus commands, “…you also should wash one another’s feet.” We not only are called to serve each other humbly, but we are called to participate in helping each other stay clean. The cleansing water is the Holy Spirit, and He does what only the Spirit can do. Yet, we can participate in this by metaphorically washing each other’s feet.

I have seen the reality of this kind of cleansing happen over and over in the prayer ministry we have at our church. People come in for prayer with the muck of sin and the muck of the world caked on them. They feel ashamed and defeated. They feel oppressed and depressed. They know there is more to this Christian life than what they are experiencing but they just can’t seem to tap into it. They are followers of Jesus who have been bathed in the waters of baptism, but they still need a foot washing for their soul.

Then we start praying, and the increased Presence of the Holy Spirit begins to be poured out. We as prayer ministers bend low to wash feet and the cleansing power of the Spirit does His work. I watch as time and again people get set free from sin, free from shame, free from unforgiveness and hurt, free from the heavy weight pressing down on their shoulders, free from the heaviness on their chest that keeps them from taking a full breath. As the cleansing water of the Spirit is poured out, the Light comes, lightness is felt, freedom is experienced, hope returns, and a cleansing takes place right in front of us.

When Jesus taught us to wash each other’s feet, I do think he had in mind humble service. But I also think He had in mind ministry that brings freedom and cleansing, ministry that one believer can offer to another. We have the honor of ushering in the cleansing power of the Spirit for each other if we are willing to bend low. This ministry of cleansing is the ministry of washing feet and inviting the Holy Spirit to come and wash souls.

Carrying God’s Presence

Imagine God calls you into something through a prophetic word. You have a special assignment from Jesus. This assignment is so unexpected that the Lord actually uses supernatural divine revelation to bring it about. God tells someone else ahead of time what will happen and that person then tells you. And then, God’s prophetic word through this person comes about. It actually happens! As unexpected and unlikely as it seems, God brings about the word spoken over your life!

Now imagine that the divine calling that came through this prophetic word is that you will carry the very Presence of God on you and release it to other people. You will be the conduit through which people will experience a tangible encounter with Jesus. Other people will have an encounter with God because of the tangible Presence of God resting on you. This is your calling! Can you imagine?

Have you ever experienced something like this?

How special would you feel if this was you? How uniquely chosen would you feel? How honored would you feel? How humbled would you be? How overwhelmed at the enormity of this responsibility?

Yet, I am reminded that there is someone who had this exact thing happen to them in the Gospels. It was a donkey.

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

Luke 19:29-35

Jesus spoke a prophetic word to His disciples about what they would find. He called this donkey out ahead of time through a word. And what was the divine calling? It would be to carry the very Presence of God into Jerusalem so that the people of Jerusalem could have an encounter with their Savior.

We who have been called out by a prophetic word, we who bear the heavy responsibility and incredible honor of being a conduit of God’s power and Presence, need to remember that we are very much like that donkey.

We are special and unique and loved and called. We are honored and humbled and surprised that God would use us. Yet, our main task is simply that of the donkey. We simply carry the Presence of God to others. He does all the rest. We can’t save, or heal, or deliver, or empower, or comfort. But Jesus does all of that and more. Our job is to carry His Presence, follow His lead as He pulls on the reins, and do what He asks us to do. Then we watch as Jesus does the miraculous all around us.

A minister named Dr. Randy Clark operates in an astounding measure of God’s power. I love his prayer. Let it be ours!

“God! Let your eye fall on me, for I want to be totally yielded. I want to be that person through whom you can show yourself strong. I want to be the coin in your pocket for you to spend any way you want. I want your glory to rest on me. I want to be the donkey that you ride on. I just want to be yielded, God, and I want to believe that I can be the person that you clothe yourself with. I want to believe, God, that I can be mightily used in your kingdom. God, in my heart I am saying to you, please, look upon me and let your grace fall upon me because I want to reveal your glory. Show yourself strong through my life.” 

Dr. Randy Clark, Spend and Be Spent

An Ancient & Rediscovered Evangelism

…the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demonized man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:35-39

No one could help this man. Scripture says that “for a long time” he hadn’t worn proper clothes or even lived in a house. The locals had tried to contain this man full of demons with shackles and chains but his demonization gave him supernatural strength. Nothing seemed to help.

No one needed to convince this man that the spirit realm was real. No one needed to convince him that there were supernatural things that happened in the natural world. He was living this reality; he was being tormented by these demons daily.

When Jesus shows up, the response by the demons living inside this man is telling. They cause the man to shout at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28)

A couple things to notice here. First, the very thing that they were doing to this man, torturing him, is what they were afraid that Jesus would do to them. In other words, just as the man had no power over the demons, the demons had no power over Jesus.

Secondly, they call Jesus the Son of the Most High God. There were other “gods”––we might call them demonically-backed idols (read 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:19-21 & Revelation 9:20)––but the demons knew that there was only one Most High God.

What I find so fascinating about this encounter with Jesus is that this demonized man gets totally delivered and completely restored to his right mind, and the result is that he essentially becomes an evangelist to his hometown.

I believe this connection between deliverance ministry and evangelism will only grow in the coming years in the American church. I’m already seeing it happen. People are dabbling in the spirit realm and then finding themselves bound by darkness and harassed by demons. They don’t need convincing that the spirit realm and the supernatural are real. They are fully convinced that the spirit realm is real because they experience the dark side of it daily.

They have nightmares and night terrors regularly. They are racked by fear and can feel evil presences around them. They feel like they are being haunted or attacked by spirits, but they don’t know what to do about it. They visit mediums and fortune-tellers but they don’t seem to help. These so-called “spirit guides” actually make the problem worse. Even more darkness is hanging around after a visit with them.

What a spiritually harassed person needs is someone with answers as to how to get free. What they need is someone with the kind of authority and power that can break the demonic chains in their life. What they need is the Name that is above every other name, the Son of the Most High God, Jesus. They need followers of Jesus who carry His name, His delegated authority, and the power of the Holy Spirit to come alongside them and show them how to get free from all the darkness.

And when they get free, they will go and tell their story to their friends and family! When they get free, they will go and declare that only Jesus was able to rescue them from the hauntings, from the darkness, from the nightmares and spiritual oppression. When they get free, they will become the next generation of evangelists to a culture that already believes in the supernatural but has only experienced the kingdom of darkness. When they get free, they will become ambassadors of the freedom, power, and love that can only come from the Kingdom of Light and the name of Jesus!

…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:11-14

Twenty Years Later

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    “He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.

Psalm 10:12-14

I had just come down to the living room and turned on the TV. Every channel was covering the same news story. I was in a little apartment by myself in Texas. A couple weeks prior, I had moved my entire life from Baltimore, Maryland to Waco, Texas in order to attend seminary. I had decided to skip my morning class that Tuesday and sleep in a little. It only took me a few minutes of watching to realize that nothing would ever be the same.

Here I was a guy sitting in central Texas who was born and raised in the northeast and went to college in the northeast watching multiple terrorist attacks happen in the northeast. I felt powerless. I had a strange sense of wanting to get home and yet simultaneously glad that I wasn’t there. I was worried about my friends and family and wondered where they were. While the Twin Towers were three hours from my house, the Pentagon was only 45 minutes away. Where Flight 93 crashed was only two hours from my college.

Disbelief. Shock. Anger. More disbelief. More shock. Horror. Helplessness. These feelings cycled through on repeat. I was glued to the TV. I remember not wanting to even go to the bathroom because I had to bear witness to the Pearl Harbor of my generation.

The second plane hit the second tower. Somebody do something! The second tower fell first. Oh my goodness! The first tower fell second. Get out of there! Clouds of ash. People covered in blood and ash. People wandering around disoriented. News broadcasters speechless. Lord, have mercy.

I watched all day. I watched until there wasn’t anything left to watch and then I kept watching. I was alone in that little apartment and yet, somehow, I was also deeply connected to the rest of the country who was also watching in horror. In shock. In disbelief. And we all knew.

Nothing would ever be the same.

Pro-Life Movement

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Both my mom and my mother-in-law raised three children of their own, worked full-time as nurses, and still found time to volunteer countless hours at crisis pregnancy centers to help young mothers in need. They are just two among hundreds of thousands of pro-life women who do the same.

I have a number of pro-life friends who have decided not only to raise their own biological children but also to foster and adopt children in need. They are among the hundreds of thousands of pro-life families doing the same.  

Many women who have had an abortion––who have felt the pain and suffering that happens during and after an abortion––are now pro-life advocates. They don’t want other women to be misinformed about the realities of abortion and the devastation that it can cause. They want to bring hope and redemption. This is the pro-life movement. 

“If you’re going to be pro-life, be pro-life for the whole life.” 

I hear my pro-choice friends say this a lot and I couldn’t agree more. But I can’t think of a single pro-life person that I know that isn’t pro-life for the whole life. Sometimes it seems like when my pro-choice friends picture the pro-life movement they picture someone like the Monopoly guy with a top hat and a monocle longing to take away women’s rights. This and many other images are, of course, false caricatures. 

The truth is that the pro-life movement is filled with people like my mom and mother-in-law who give countless hours to those in need; it’s filled with families who foster and adopt, and filled with women who have had abortions. This is who makes up the pro-life movement that is so often ridiculed and belittled by the other side.

The pro-life movement that I know and love tries to fully embrace and live out these words:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Chosenness & Selectivity

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 

Mark 9:2

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. 

Mark 9:30-31

In Mark 9 we see Jesus choose to be exclusive on two back-to-back occasions. First, only Peter, James and John were invited up the mountain to see Jesus transfigured before them. Then, Jesus intentionally tried to avoid the crowds who needed ministry because “he was teaching his disciples.”

Peter, James, and John were Jesus’s inner circle. They were the ones Jesus wanted with Him when His soul was in turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:32-33). Jesus repeatedly picked these three men out from the rest of the twelve disciples.

Jesus also was unapologetic about choosing the twelve over the crowds. When Jesus wanted to spend extra time on discipleship, teaching the twelve disciples the deeper things of the Kingdom of God, Jesus didn’t mind intentionally avoiding the crowds.

This theme of “intentional chosenness” demonstrated by Jesus continues a theme we see throughout the Old Testament as God chose Israel as His chosen people. One of God’s main strategies throughout the Bible is to choose a small number of people in order that they might absorb the DNA of the Kingdom and then bless the rest of the world with it.

But this selectivity on the part of Jesus flies in the face of our sense of democratic equality. Shouldn’t everyone have been invited up the mountain with Jesus? How is that fair? Shouldn’t they at least vote on who gets to see Jesus transfigured?

And why would Jesus go incognito in trying to avoid people who are genuinely in need? Why did the disciples get an “unfair” amount of time with Him? Shouldn’t Jesus have made Himself more available to the poor huddled masses?

The truth is that good leadership demands that we pick and choose who to pour our lives into. We have to admit our limitations of time, energy, and resources. So the best leaders are selective. The point is multiplication. Invest in a few who will then, in turn, invest in a few, and the chain reaction impacts more people than one person could have otherwise.

So what looks like unfair selectivity and favoritism on the surface is actually powerful wisdom on display. If Jesus had spread Himself “equally” to everyone, no one would have had the depth needed to carry the DNA of the Kingdom after Jesus was gone.

In our culture we rightly champion equality because it is the closest approximation we can muster to the love and servanthood that is found in the Kingdom of God. But sometimes the unintended by-product is that this good principle of equality gets applied in ways that actually does more harm than good. Everyone should be treated with the same amount of love and respect, but that doesn’t mean we give our time and energy to everyone in the same way.

When it comes to good leadership, there are times we must employ “intentional selectivity” with our time and a kind of “purposeful chosenness” with people. “Equality” cannot be the driving principle behind how we spend our time. “Investment” needs to be the driving principle. We need to ask ourselves, “Who can we pour our lives into in such a way that it multiplies the work and impact of the Kingdom of God?”

No Demilitarized Zone

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…

Mark 9:43-47

What Jesus says here is so extreme! What in the world is He talking about?

First, we have to understand that this is hyperbole. Jesus is exaggerating to make a point. He doesn’t want people to literally cut things off. Jesus is trying to drive home the point that pruning unhealthy parts of our life is necessary in a life of following Jesus because there is no middle ground (also see John 15:1-6).

Jesus is trying to convey the severity of this truth: if we haven’t surrendered a part of our life to the Kingdom fo God then it has been surrendered to hell. And the gangrene of hell spreads.

We tend to frame things as if there is some neutral ground that is available to us. Jesus makes clear that there isn’t. We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or not?” But that is a false choice. The true question is, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or continue to submit it to the enemy?”

We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I step out in faith or remain safe in my comfort zone?” But if the Lord has asked us to do something then the true question is, “Should I step out in faith or continue to feed and cultivate the weeds of unbelief in my life?”

There is a war between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God and we are the battle ground. This war has no DMZ. What isn’t actively surrendered to the Kingdom of God in our life is already being used by the kingdom of darkness for the enemy’s purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying. The apostle Paul described it this way:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…

Ephesians 6:10-13

This lie that there is some magical middle ground, some objective neutral territory, some spiritual Switzerland is one of the most prevalent lies swirling around the Church. Jesus knew this lie would be tempting to believe because no one wants to face open warfare. Appeasement is so alluring in the face of open conflict. And this is why Jesus used language that would shock us back into reality. He knew only this kind of hyperbole would be enough to break through our biases expose us to the truth.

Sacrifice Something

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

Mark 8:1-3

Jesus had already fed one large crowd (Mark 6:30-46) with just a few loaves and fishes. Once again He and the disciples found themselves with a large crowd that needed food.

Jesus essentially hosted what, today, we would call a conference. People were there receiving healing and deliverance and listening to Him teach for three days. Some of them had walked a long distance to be there. Most of them had long since run out of the food that they brought with them.

What follows is another incredible miracle of seven loaves of bread being multiplied to feed a crowd of 4000 men plus women and children. Jesus’s compassion for the people sparked another miraculous event. Yet, there is another ingredient in this equation that needs to be recognized.

There is a pattern in the Gospels of God moving powerfully when people make personal sacrifices to get to Jesus. There is something about people traveling long distances, or going without food, or risking their social standing, or digging through a roof that touches the heart of Jesus. The kind of faith that is willing to sacrifice something pleases God.

I have seen this Kingdom principle play out in our own time. I’ve seen people sacrifice time, money and effort in order to get to a conference, and I have watched as God honored that sacrifice by moving powerfully in their lives. I have seen a number of people sacrifice a whole day driving up from Virginia in order to receive prayer from our prayer team. I’ve watched as God honored that sacrifice by moving powerfully in their lives during the prayer times.

There is something about being willing to travel. There is something about being willing to sacrifice time and money for the sake of our pursuit of intimacy with Jesus. There is something about getting out of our comfort zone and being obedient. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

King David had sinned against the Lord. He was then instructed by the prophet Gad to go up to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and built an altar to the Lord there. When King David got there, Araunah offered to give him the threshing floor rather than have the king purchase it. Araunah was even going to throw in the oxen for the burnt offering for free as well. We learn something important from King David’s response:

…the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

2 Samuel 24:24

We see here again this principle of the Kingdom of God. For it to be an offering to the Lord, it should cost us something. And when it costs us something, God is honored by it. God is moved by sacrificial action that costs us something.

God is not a vending machine where we sacrifice something to get what we want. But He is a loving Father whose heart is moved by people willing to pay the price to pursue Him.

The Children’s Bread

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Mark 7:24-30

A woman outside of the covenant––a woman who wasn’t a part of the people of God––asked Jesus to do deliverance on her young daughter. The phrase, “little daughter” in the Greek likely means the girl was 12-years-old or younger. The mom had likely heard about Jesus’s ability to set people free from demonic torment from news that had spread from Galilee. Jesus had done a lot of ministry is northwest Galilee (like in the town of Chorazin) which was only a two and a half days walk from Tyre.

We learn a lot from Jesus’s initial response. Jesus used the analogy of bread and essentially called deliverance ministry “the children’s bread.” In other words, Jesus was announcing that ministry which sets people free from demonic torment was primarily for those inside the covenant, for those who are members of the people of God.

Think about the implications of this! At the time, the people of God were the Jewish people. But since then, Jesus has expanded the people of God to include Gentiles under the new covenant. Those who believe in Jesus and surrender their life to Him are the new people of God. This is how Paul explained it to the Galatians:

for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:27-29

That means “the children’s bread,” which is ministry that casts out demons so that people are free from demonic torment and oppression, is primarily meant for the people of God today (that is, followers of Jesus). It is part of the inheritance of the Kingdom, the ability to experience freedom from demonic torment. It is one of the perks of being in the family of God!

After people discover that I do a lot of deliverance ministry, sometimes a person will ask me, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a Christian?” First, I try to make it clear that I am not able to cast anything out of anyone on my own (see Acts 19:13-16). I am simply operating in the delegated authority of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We get to do that as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Demons aren’t scared of me, but they are terrified of Christ in me, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

But, secondly, I let them know that I’ve only cast demons out of Christians. Deliverance ministry is the children’s bread. It’s not that I wouldn’t pray for an unbeliever to be set free from demonic oppression, but they would then need to give their life to Jesus to stay free. The Holy Spirit must backfill any area vacated by a demon. If not, the person can end up worse off than they were before. Jesus warned us about someone whose inner life is “unoccupied” by the Holy Spirit.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. 

Matthew 12:43-45

We also learn from Jesus’s interaction with the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter that children can sometimes be attacked and affected by demons. Demonization isn’t like the movies. It is often much more hidden and subtle than that. And we as the church need to know how to help a person get free. Jesus paid for their freedom, and we must learn how to enforce what Jesus enacted by His death and resurrection.

The good news is that there are a number of churches awakening to this reality in the Kingdom of God. This week I met with leaders from five different churches in Northern Virginia who have themselves experienced deliverance and who want to learn how to bring deliverance ministry to their congregations. People all over this country are hungry for real freedom, real life-change. They are hungry to experience more of the full, abundant life that is promised to us in the gospel, not only for themselves but for their friends, family, and church community.