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.

Region of the Gerasenes

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

Mark 5:1-5

Jesus encountered a heavily demonized man in a Gentile region and a spiritual battle ensued. But the battle was not between Jesus and the demons. That wasn’t even a battle. Jesus immediately and easily cast a legion of demons out of the man. The real battle was over the region. When one reads the full story in Mark 5, it becomes clear that there was a demonic principality who sat over that Gentile region and did not want to be overthrown (Ephesians 6:12).

First, the legion of demons were perfectly fine leaving the man, they just didn’t want to be sent out of the region. “…he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area”(Mark 5:10). These demons had likely operated with impunity and without resistance in that region for centuries. They had gained authority in that region over the people there. And they were likely ruled by a principality who protected them.

Secondly, when the townspeople discover what happened to the man and the pigs, they ask Jesus to leave the region. “…the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region“(Mark 5:17). The people were more terrified of Jesus and His authority than they were of this crazed and demonized man living among the tombs. They likely were Gentiles and had been under the influence of the demonic principality of the region their whole life. They became as afraid of Jesus as the demons were. They needed Jesus to leave because His power and authority were a threat to all that they had normalized.

Third, Jesus was willing to leave because He didn’t want to overthrow the demonic principality of that region and leave a spiritual vacuum. Imagine overthrowing a dictator by force and having no government to replace it. Things end up worse than before. Jesus says as much in Matthew 12:43-45. So instead, Jesus enacts a subversive spiritual revolution through the man that was just delivered of a legion of demons. But the man wanted to go with Jesus. “…the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him“(Mark 5:18).

It’s like the man could still sense the darkness of the region. He knew that darkness all too well. He didn’t want to stay there. He wanted to be near Jesus. He wanted to be near the light, safety, and freedom that enveloped Jesus. He didn’t want to stay in that region still ruled by that old, familiar demonic principality. But Jesus knew that the only way to overthrow a demonic principality was through subversive spiritual revolution. In other words, the principality would be displaced when there was enough people of the Kingdom of God no longer bowing to its demands in that area.

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:19

When we first read about the demonized man with a legion of demons in him and how Jesus set him free, we can think this encounter was all about one man. And in a sense, it was about that one man. But more than that, this was about a region under the rule of the kingdom of darkness. This was about Jesus planting a small seed in the enemy’s garden and watching as it becomes the largest tree in the garden, gradually displacing all the weeds that had grown there.

The spiritual battle was not between Jesus and the demons. That is a fight that is all too easily won by Jesus. The spiritual battle was between the people of that region and the demonic principality calling the shots in that area. That is where the real battle was.

That is where the real battle still is.

Unnatural Wind

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 

Matthew 14:32

Jesus had just multiplied the fish and the loaves and then sent his disciples ahead of him on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stayed behind and spent time with the Father. Then, in the middle of the night, Jesus walks out to them on the water. The wind was already blowing hard by the time Jesus walks out to them.

Once they realize it is Jesus, Peter tells Jesus to invite him out on the water, and Jesus does. Peter walks to him on the water for a few steps but then, seeing the wind, gets afraid. Jesus equates this fear with a lack of faith and escorts Peter back to the boat.

What I had never noticed before is that as soon as Peter and Jesus get in the boat, the wind dies down. If this was a natural storm, the wind wouldn’t just die down as soon as they step into the boat. We can’t know for sure, but this leads me to believe that the wind Peter was so afraid of was not natural. I believe it is possible that the wind was intentionally stirred up by the enemy in order to prevent the emergence of a boat full of faith-filled water-walkers.

I believe the enemy stirred up the wind to attack Peter’s faith (and anyone else who would dare step out in faith). I believe God allowed the wind as a test of Peter’s faith. The enemy was rooting against Peter, not wanting him to even attempt getting out of the boat. The Lord was rooting for Peter, wanting him to overcome his fear by faith.

This wouldn’t be the first time an unnatural wind came against Jesus and the disciples. A short time ago, Jesus was sleeping in the boat when a storm hits. The disciples freak out in fear. Jesus wakes up and speaks to the wind the same way he had previously only spoken to demons. Notice the similarity between how Jesus casts the demon out of the man in the synagogue and how Jesus commands the storm to be quiet.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” After throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, the unclean spirit came out of him.

Mark 1:25-26

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Mark 4:39

The language used in both the deliverance and the calming of the storm is the same. Jesus rebukes both the demon and the wind. Jesus’s command is the same word, “Quiet!” I believe it’s possible that this indicates, when Jesus calms the storm, He was not just rebuking the wind but the demonic force behind the wind. He was commanding the enemy to stop using natural forces in ways that they shouldn’t be used.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that sometimes the storm is just a natural storm that we have to learn to navigate. But sometimes the storm is a targeted attack of the enemy meant to destroy your faith and keep you in the boat. Sometimes the enemy sends things at you that are meant to cause fear and keep you hunkered down. The last thing the enemy wants you to do is get out of the boat. And if you do get out of the boat, he doesn’t want you spending any time out there walking on water with Jesus.

The enemy will also sometimes reduce the wind as soon as you retreat to the boat. He wants you to feel safe and secure in that boat so that you never step out in faith again. We have to remember that when Jesus rebukes the wind, He’s enforcing the peace of the Kingdom. However, when the enemy reduces the wind, he’s just messing with your heart and mind. He’s trying to bring a false comfort, a false peace to lure you into passivity.

Don’t believe it. Jesus alone is the calmer of the storms.

So where do you need to get back out of the boat? Don’t let the fear from last time prevent you from stepping out again this time.

Good Soil

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:3-8

After telling the people the Parable of the Sower, Jesus pulled His disciples aside and explained it (Matthew 13:18-23). The seed is the message about the Kingdom of God. The different soils represent the various conditions of our heart. The fruit produced doesn’t have to do with the quality of the seed but the quality of the soil. And the truths found in this parable are true not only for the message of the Kingdom of God but also the demonstration of the Kingdom.

For instance, why didn’t everyone believe after seeing Jesus do so many miracles, signs, and wonders? They had just witnessed a demonstration of the Kingdom of God coming to earth. How could someone not believe after seeing that? The Parable of the Sower explains it. Witnessing a miracle is a seed of the Kingdom. Our response to a miracle reveals the condition of our hearts.

Jesus’s miracles were not occasional. They were a staple in His life. He was demonstrating the Kingdom everywhere He went. It was not a side ministry. It was His ministry.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:16-17

The Pharisees were particularly bothered when Jesus cast out demons. (This is still true today!) Maybe because they had seen faith-healers before who were easily falsified. But having authority over demons and casting them out was something no one could fake and something they couldn’t do. The soil of their hearts got exposed. Their only recourse was to claim Jesus was demonized Himself and using demons to cast out demons.

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Matthew 9:32-34

A little while later, they accused Him of being demon-possessed again after he delivered another man, so Jesus decided to clarify the situation.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?…But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Matthew 12:25-28

The Kingdom had come in their midst. It had shown up right in front of them in the form of healings and deliverances. People being set free from illness and from demons was supposed to be a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. It was good seed scattered by the Good Sower. It was supposed to be good news that people rejoiced over. Instead, because of their path-hardened hearts, the Pharisees used it as an accusation against Jesus. The very thing that should have been a reason to crown Jesus King of Kings was used against Him to bring a crown of thorns upon His head.

Miracle of Freedom

When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

Acts 8:6-8

We know that it is a miracle when someone is instantly physically healed. But scripture also calls the casting out of an impure spirit a miraculous sign. When demons are evicted from a person in the name of Jesus it is a miracle because nothing else can get a demon to leave.

When Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum and a demonized man stood up and started yelling, Jesus commanded the demon to leave the man. Here’s what happen next:

The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 

Mark 1:26-27

It’s not that Jewish exorcists didn’t have their rituals that attempted to help those who were demonized. That already existed. What astonished people was the authority that Jesus had. He commanded the demon to leave and it left. No ceremony. No ritual. Just authority. Everyone in that synagogue knew that demons didn’t listen to anyone. Demons did what they wanted to do in a person. But they had to listen to Jesus.

Likewise, the early believers walked in the authority of Jesus and were able to cast out demons. It was miraculous because nothing else would make them leave. And this is still true today.

I love science. I come from a family of nurses, pharmacologists and doctors. But medicine will not make a demon leave. Certain drugs will mute the physiological effects of the demons, but it won’t make them leave. In fact, I’ve prayed for a number of medical professionals–nurses, doctors, etc–and cast demons out of them in the name of Jesus.

I regularly encourage people to seek professional counseling and therapy. I’ve seen counseling help some of my friends. But therapy won’t make a demon leave. It can help people reject the lies that the demons are whispering in their ears, but it won’t make the demons leave. In fact, I’ve cast demons out of a number of therapists whose whole occupation is to do professional counseling.

Only the name of Jesus carries the authority to make a demon leave. Only a person walking in relationship with Jesus, in His authority and power, can cast out demons. Some sons of a Jewish priest tried to use the name of Jesus to cast out demons, but they didn’t have a relationship with Jesus or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They got a rude awakening.

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Acts 19:13-16

“Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you.” Every demon knows Jesus and is terrified of Him. And Paul had cast out so many demons that the demonic kingdom of darkness began to learn his name. But the demons knew these sons of Sceva didn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. They could sense their lack of authority and the absence of a relationship with Jesus.

This is what makes deliverance such a miracle. Nothing else in all of creation has the power and authority to make demons leave. The name of Jesus and the authority of that name is it. People have theological debates about the exclusive claims of Christ. But that debate can only happen in a theological ivory tower full of doubt and skepticism. When you’re on the ground fighting for people in spiritual warfare, there is no debate. Christ alone can get people free from demons. Christ alone can save.

And when you’ve seen the truth of this reality first hand, when you’ve witnessed that only the name of Jesus has the power and authority to cast out demons, it confirms what Peter preached to the crowds that day in Jerusalem, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Freedom For All

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Luke 8:1-3

During Jesus’s ministry, the twelve disciples traveled with Him wherever He went. Jesus not only preached to the crowds and healed their sick, but He also had ongoing discipleship conversations with those closest to Him.

Notice the women that were also with Him. The list of women given in this passage either experienced deliverance (being set free from demons) or physical healing (being set free from diseases). Their response to being set free–either from demons or diseases–was to follow Jesus wherever He went, listen to the same teaching The Twelve were getting, and support Jesus and The Twelve out of their own resources. The combination of 1) being set free and 2) ongoing, discipleship community led to radical life transformation.

This is one of the reasons why I believe deliverance happens best in a pastoral context. While people have certainly experienced deliverance from those who specialize in this kind of ministry and in conference settings, I believe the most fruit comes from when people are set free from demons in an ongoing, pastoral, discipleship context.

Mary Magdalene is a great example of this. She was set free from seven demons by Jesus and then followed Him for the next few years. In fact, Jesus so treasured Mary Magdalene that she was the first disciple to bear witness to His resurrection.

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 

Mark 16:9

To date, I’ve been in structured, scheduled prayer sessions with over 35 people where deliverance (casting out demons) was part of the session. I’ve been in a handful of other scenarios that were not structured or scheduled but where deliverance happened. In a few of these situations, the person was heavily oppressed to point where someone from the outside might be able to tell something was wrong. In most cases, however, these sessions were with Christians who no one would suspect are demonized. Here are the reasons I believe deliverance is best done in an ongoing, pastoral, discipleship context:

  1. Deliverance often happens in layers. Trying to cast out all the demons in one session is often too much of a shock to the system. Doing one or two layers at a time ends up being more productive and more lasting in the long run.
  2. Demonic oppression often creates bad habits in a person’s life. Thought patterns and behavior patterns need to be changed after a person gets free from the actual demons. It’s one thing to get free; it’s another thing to stay free. This takes discipleship, accountability, and loving community. Without this, the likelihood of “reoccupation” increases.
  3. Teaching about demonization and deliverance is often a necessary part of deliverance ministry. People must discover not only the demons that are oppressing them but also how they got there. If the open door in their life is not closed, demons will just find a way in again. So, basic instructions about how all of this works is necessary. Most people don’t grow up in churches that teach about this stuff. This kind of teaching happens best in an ongoing, pastoral setting.
  4. Follow up appointments for deliverance not only address the next layer of demonization, but they also empower the person coming for prayer. The person begins to see that they have authority in Christ, and they can cast many demons out of themselves if they know what to do and what to look for. This is a discipleship process that decreases dependency on the “deliverance minister” and increases the confidence and authority in which the person seeking prayer operates.
  5. The power of the testimony of someone who has experienced deliverance is amplified when it is given within their own church community. When people in that church community can see firsthand the “before and after” effect of deliverance, more people begin to take advantage of the freedom offered to us in Christ through deliverance ministry.
  6. Deliverance ministry was meant for the health and protection of the Body of Christ, just as our immune system was meant for health and protection of our physical bodies. When talking to a pagan Gentile woman, Jesus called deliverance ministry “the children’s bread” (Mark 7:26-27). In other words, getting free from demons is something that was always meant to strengthen believers and bring greater health to the Body of Christ, the children of God (Romans 8:14). It was always meant to be done in a church context where there is ongoing pastoral care and discipleship.

If all of this is true, then all pastors everywhere need to be trained in deliverance ministry. This wasn’t meant to be relegated to deliverance specialists or apostolic leaders who speak at conferences. Every church was meant to be equipped to see their members set free from demons.

Imagine how healthy and free the Church would be if there were as many deliverance ministries as there were children’s ministries or women’s ministries. The result would be that the Holy Spirit would fill and transform so many believers that churches would never be the same. There would be widespread revival sweeping through the Church! Come, Lord Jesus!

Leftovers

These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.

Judges 3:1-7

When God used Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land, God gave the Israelites victory in battle. They cleared out or subdued many of the people living there, but not all of them. God gives us two reasons why He left some idolatrous pagans in the land that was supposed to be holy: 1) to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience, and 2) to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands.

In other words, these people and their gods weren’t left in the Promised Land because God thought they should stay. They didn’t belong there. God didn’t want them there. God didn’t want people worshiping idols in the holy land. The worship practices of these pagans were pretty vile (human sacrifices of babies, temple prostitution, etc). God didn’t leave these people there because He wanted Israel to make peace with them. God left these people there because He needed the next generation after Joshua to learn how to fight. God needed them to learn how to trust Him in battle and gain the victory, just as the previous generation did. God gave this new generation an opportunity to be tested and strengthened.

But, instead, this next generation began to adopt the practices of the people in the land. They began to worship their gods and their idols and never learned how to fight. Sounds familiar.

I have seen this truth play out in the lives of Christians over and over again. When a person becomes a Christian, they often find that they feel set free from so many of the old sins that they struggled with. And yet, there may be some areas of their life where they still don’t feel free.

Why does this happen?

It happens for the same reason God left some of the pagan peoples in the Holy Land. Just because you become a follower of Jesus whose sins are forgiven doesn’t mean that every demon is gone or that every demonic stronghold has been addressed.

Yes, you have the Holy Spirit. The land (your life) now belongs to the Lord. And just as the people of God were now dwelling in the Promised Land, the Holy Spirit now dwells in you. The process of sanctification involves gaining freedom from that which is unclean and yet has remained in the land.

For Israel, while the whole land was given to them by God, they still had to go reclaim the lands that had been redeemed. The same is true for followers of Jesus.

Question: By surrendering your life to Jesus, have you been made a 100% new creation? Answer: Yes. You are brand new. You are reborn. All of you has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The work now is reclaiming all that has been redeemed.

But this isn’t bad news. The Lord wants to teach you how to fight. These things were left “in the land” so that you could learn to fight and gain the victory by trusting in Him. These are opportunities to be tested and strengthened. Yet, too often Christians do what Israel did and make peace with these strongholds rather than root them out. Too often Christians begin to worship at the altars of these demonic strongholds rather than giving their full devotion to Christ alone.

I’ve seen this happen in deliverance sessions with people. I have been in prayer sessions where I cast out a number of demons from a Christian person’s life. And yet one or two demons still remain. I can’t seem to get them out. It’s as if God is leaving them “in the land” until the person really wants them out.

Up to this point, the Christian has made too many agreements–has made too much peace–with this demonic entity. And until they break those agreements, reject its presence in their life, and command it to leave (at a heart level, not just an intellectual level) the demon will stay. It has permission to stay. Yet, when the person learns themselves how to fight, the demon leaves immediately.

One time I prayed for a couple hours with a guy, casting out demon after demon. Yet, there was one that wouldn’t leave, and it kept distorting his face. A few days later, he was at home and was tired of this thing in him. So he asked the Holy Spirit what it was and how to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit popped an answer into his mind. So as he was laying down to go to sleep, the guy kicked this demon out of his life on his own. It left immediately! What I was not able to accomplish in a couple hours, he did himself in a few minutes.

Why?

Because God not only wanted to set this guy free (God always wanted him free), but God also wanted to teach this guy how to fight. And now this guy is doubly dangerous. Not only is he free from these demonic things in his life, but now he knows how to fight on his own.

So, are there still strongholds left in your own life?

Freedom is available! You don’t have to assume that the demonic stronghold is “just you.” God wants you free, but He also wants to teach you how to fight. Ask Him if there are things “in the land” that shouldn’t be there. And ask Him how to get rid of them.

They Could Not Heal Him

“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. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“You 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.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith…

Matthew 17:15-20

Other manuscripts of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark have Jesus concluding this story by telling His disciples that this kind of spirit only comes out “by prayer and fasting.”

Noticed that Jesus isn’t upset that the man brought his son to Him for healing. Jesus was happy to heal. And Jesus seemed to be okay with the little faith that the boy’s father had. Jesus was not frustrated with him at all. It was His own disciples that frustrated Him.

I find it fascinating that Jesus’s frustration is that the disciples weren’t able to heal the boy themselves. Clearly, Jesus expected them to be able to do this by now. This completely flips our paradigm of prayer that we typically operate with in American Christianity.

We think our job is just to bring things to Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus expects us to be able to operate in the authority and power that He’s given us. I wonder if Jesus ever gets frustrated with us bringing Him something that He’s already give us the authority and power to deal with ourselves, including healing and deliverance.

Here are Jesus’s expectations of His own disciples: 1) the disciples should have been able to discern that this physical ailment was caused by a demonic spirit, 2) the disciples should have been operating in enough authority and faith to get it to leave, and 3) the disciplines of prayer and fasting should have been a regular part of the disciples’ life so that they were ready for a moment like this.

But the disciples seemingly failed to meet all three of these expectations. I’m sure Jesus was thinking, “What’s going to happen when I ascend back to the Father? What would happen to this boy then?”

The expectations that Jesus had for His disciples then are the same that He has for His disciples today. We’ve been given the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus expects us to be able to operate in both. We’ve been given gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us detect demonic spirits and release healing and deliverance to people around us. We’ve been given the chance to deepen our faith and our intimacy with God through prayer and fasting.

The truth is that Jesus is no longer walking the earth, so there is no Plan B. There is only Plan A. And Plan A is to see the Body of Christ, the Church, be able to operate in the gifts of the Spirit to such a degree that people with this boy’s condition get set free and healed.

We have to become the kind of conduits of deliverance, freedom, and healing that Jesus expects us to be. We need to be ready for moments like this one through our daily prayer life and regular fasting. Our faith needs to grow so that we can confidently release the Kingdom of God in any situation we face.

Until we do, Jesus’s words about His disciples back then are still true for us today, “You unbelieving and perverse generation…how long shall I put up with you?

Swept Clean or Free?

“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. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Matthew 12:43-45

Sometimes I find myself in conversations about ministering to those who are demonized. When I talk about the fact that I’ve cast demons out of a bunch of people, the initial reaction is usually disbelief. After they realize that I am serious and that I have story after story that I can share with them about this reality, disbelief changes to curiosity. While casting out demons fits with everything we see in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, it can be difficult for our minds to comprehend because of western rationalism and materialism.

Occasionally, the question is asked, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a believer? Someone who is a follower of Jesus?” My answer is always, “I’ve only cast demons out of believers. I would be hesitant to cast a demon out of someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus unless they become one soon afterward.” This is usually fairly shocking to the person who asked the question.

In most people’s mind, the image they have of a demonized person is of someone like the Gerasene demoniac who was fully possessed, chained hand and foot, and living in caves. Or the image they have is like something they’ve seen in a horror movie. But what they don’t understand is that there is a continuum of demonization that moves from simple attachment, to internal occupation, to stronghold, to oppression. And if they don’t have the Holy Spirit, it can become possession.

The danger of casting demons out of a person without the Holy Spirit is what we learn from Jesus in the Matthew 12 passage above. When talking about the demonic, Jesus compares our life to a house. One might be able to cast the demon out of one of the rooms of that person’s house, but if Someone stronger doesn’t move into that room, the demon will just come back with his friends. The condition of the person will be worse than before. Just putting the house in order and sweeping it clean (what we see many people do in counseling) isn’t enough. Our lives will simply become a more orderly place for more demons to occupy and oppress.

One time a pagan woman came to Jesus to ask Him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Initially, Jesus denies her request because she is a Gentile. Jesus goes on to describe the ministry of deliverance–casting out demons–as “the children’s bread“(Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27). In other words, the ministry of casting out demons was always meant as a gift for the people of God.

Casting out demons is a cleansing tool meant to be used mostly in the discipleship process of becoming more like Jesus in holiness and purity. Occasionally, it can also be used in evangelism when combined with the message of salvation. But deliverance ministry was always meant to be for the people of God.

Christians should feel no more ashamed of needing deliverance than a sick person should feel ashamed of going to the doctor. In the earliest traditions of the Church, in the first few hundred years, a person received deliverance prayer immediately after they were baptized. The normal process was: 1) surrender one’s life to Jesus, 2) get baptized in water, 3) invite the Holy Spirit to baptize and fill the new believer, and 4)cast out any demons that are there. Most of the church has lost these last two steps. Based on the ineffectiveness and brokenness of the Church today, I believe we need to recapture #3 and #4 as a normal process for the new believer.

Is there an area of your life you struggle to gain victory? A chronic sin? An addiction or compulsion? Self destructive thoughts or behaviors? A temptation that feels impossible to resist? If so, there’s a good change you need deliverance ministry. God’s gift to His people is deliverance ministry. Never be ashamed to take Jesus up on His offer of true freedom!

All About Authority

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Hebrews 13:17

Leaders in the church will have to give an account of how they led. Literally in the Greek text this verse says that leaders “keep watch over your souls.” Their job is to help each member of the body of Christ grow and mature.

Here is how the apostle Paul describes the role and purpose of leaders in the church:

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

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

Ephesians 4:11-14

The goal for leaders in the church is to equip the people for ministry, not just do ministry themselves. The goal is to build up the body of Christ so that people mature and experience the fullness of Christ. The goal is to have a church that isn’t easily swayed by every wind of false teaching that’s out there.

So it is important for the people of the church to have confidence in their leaders and submit to their authority. Authority in the church is not primarily about position. It’s not about titles and degrees. Authority is more relational. It’s about who is loving people well and leading them toward Christ. Authority is about who has been willing to take responsibility to serve others. Regardless of title, the one who has loved well, established relationships, taken responsibility, and served faithfully is the one with the authority.

Sometimes Americans get squeamish when talking about submitting to authority. Our sense of autonomy and individualism doesn’t like talk of submission or authority. And after seeing the abuse of leadership positions and the abuse of authority in the church there is good reason to have hesitations.

Yet, we also need to remember that the entire spirit realm operates by authority. Jesus told us that He has “all authority in heaven and on earth”(Matthew 28:18). He has delegated that authority to us. The disciples were shocked at what happened when they operated in the delegated authority of Jesus.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy…

Luke 10:17-19

I’ve been in a number of situations where members of my prayer team and I were casting out demons. Demons can sense whether you have authority. Like the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16), if a person doesn’t have an intimate relationship with Jesus, demons can sense that the person doesn’t have the authority to drive them out. The only authority that will drive out demons is authority that comes from Jesus. It is delegated authority, and it comes to us through our intimacy and obedience to the Lord. It is His Name that they respond to in fear, not our name.

Likewise, demons can sense whether you believe you have authority. You may have the delegated authority of Jesus because of your relationship with Him, but if you don’t believe you do, they know it. They can sense your confidence in the Name of Jesus or lack thereof. Yet, if you have authority and know you have authority and use that delegated authority properly, demons flee in Jesus’ name!

A Roman centurion seemed to understand how authority works in the spirit realm better than the Jewish people did. Do you remember that time Jesus healed the centurion’s servant?

He (Jesus) was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Luke 7:6-10

Since the spirit realm is structured completely around authority, it makes sense that we would need to submit to the authority of leaders in the church. We just need to make sure we have good leaders in place!