Beginning Grateful

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

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; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:16-20

Jesus sent out the seventy-two to do the stuff of ministry. Their privilege, and ours, is that not only did they get to operate in the authority of Christ but they got to be His ambassadors. Anyone who listened to them teach about the Kingdom was listening to Jesus. Anyone who rejected them was rejecting Jesus. As Jesus was sent by the Father to represent the Father, Jesus was sending them to represent Jesus. He does the same with us.

And notice where gratitude is supposed to start. When we operate in the authority of Christ as the ambassadors of Christ our gratitude can’t be dependent on ministry results. No doubt, I have experienced the thrill of seeing the power of God move and people get set free from demonic darkness. I see this almost weekly. It is a wonder and a miracle, and it is an absolute privilege to be Jesus’s hands and feet in those moments. But Jesus teaches us here in this scripture passage that our gratitude can’t start there.

Jesus wants our gratitude to start much further back. The greatest miracle is our own salvation. The greatest miracle is that Jesus took our punishment upon himself and, in exchange, gave us His peace. Our gratitude begins with the ridiculous notion that I am forgiven for all of my sin, not because of something I have done, but because of what God has done for me. My name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. And not only am I washed clean of my sin because of the blood of Jesus, but I am given new life because of His resurrection from the grave. Gratitude begins here.

When life and ministry get hard, we have to return to this point of gratitude. We have to return to the basics of being grateful that we have been given eternal life, though we didn’t deserve it. Everything else is icing on the cake. This life is a blip on the radar screen of eternity. James says it this way, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

If we can go back and be grateful for our salvation, then we can begin to be grateful for the rest of life. Rather than complaining about the hardships of life, we can begin to be grateful that we even have a life. Rather than grumbling about work, we can be grateful that we have a job and an income. Rather than complaining about friends and family, we can be grateful for their love and presence in our life. Rather than wishing we were used by God in different ways or better ways, we can be grateful that we are being used by God at all. What an incredible privilege that God would use someone like me! This is how John said it:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

1 John 3:1-2

And I love how Paul says something similar in his letter to his protege Timothy:

I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:13-17

May we echo the words of John and Paul in our own hearts. May our gratitude start at the ground level of the cross. May it begin at the point of our salvation and grow from there.

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.

Uneven

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Spring has sprung. Flowers are blooming and trees are budding. The dead of winter is giving way to the new green life of spring. One thing that is true of plants that is also true of our life with Christ is that growth is progressive but uneven.

Sometimes we expect that if a person is mature in one area of life, they are mature in all areas of life, but this just isn’t how maturity works. As we grow in Christ, we tend to grow in fits and starts. We grow in pockets. One pocket of our life in Jesus can be really well developed while other pockets are left under-developed. Growth is uneven.

In Matthew 12:44, Jesus describes our inner life like a house. Just like an actual house, there can be some rooms that are clean and in order and other rooms that are moldy and messy, full of asbestos dust and toxins.

We see this all the time at our church as we pray for people. People with certain parts of their life fully surrendered to the Lord also have parts of their life that are still in bondage to the enemy. Though the house belongs to the Holy Spirit (He has the title and deed – 1 Cor. 6:19-20) and many rooms are clean, we’ll still hit pockets of strongholds that need cleaning and deliverance.

Too often the church has bought into the modern worldview comparing humans to machines. But according to the Bible, we are less like machines and more like plants. We need cultivated. And as we grow, we grow unevenly. This is why hunger for the Lord is so important. Hungering for more of God in our lives keeps us praying the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24. It invites us to ask the Lord to expose the dark rooms of our lives to the blinding white light of Christ. Plants need light.

Jesus said it this way:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

Is it time for some spring cleaning in your life? Ask the Lord if there are any unsurrendered pockets of your life with Christ. Ask Him to search you and reveal any inner rooms that are dark and moldy. Ask Christ to bring His blinding white light to expose any offensive way in you and to lead you in the way everlasting.

Full of Joy

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…

…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; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Luke 10:1, 17-21

Jesus sent out 72 disciples to go ahead of him, town to town, doing the same ministry He was doing. They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had arrived and was well within their reach. They were to heal the sick and cast out demons. Then they were to report their experiences back to Jesus.

Don’t forget who Jesus is sending to do this. These are fishermen not Pharisees. These are not experts in the Law. These are not theologians and Bible teachers. These are farmers and stay-at-home moms. These are tax-collectors and women with questionable backgrounds. These are blacksmiths and shepherd boys.

When they return, did you notice that they return with joy. Doing ministry in the power and authority of Jesus was not burdensome to them. Though they didn’t take a purse or bag, though they were like sheep among wolves (Luke 10:3-4), they still returned with joy! And they were completely shocked that demons submitted to them in Jesus’s name.

Demons didn’t submit to the religious leaders and teachers of the law. Demons didn’t even submit to the high priest. Demons didn’t submit to the magicians, mediums, or fortune-tellers. And yet, in the name of Jesus, demons submitted to these no-named, low-status disciples. It was astounding! And it wasn’t because of them, but because they were given the delegated authority of Jesus.

Jesus reminds them to keep their focus in the right place. He doesn’t want them to be enamored with the reality that they can cast out demons. Jesus knows that focusing on the enemy is just a waste of time. He’s not worth that kind of focus. Instead, Jesus wanted their focus to be on the Lord and that they walk in His authority because of their salvation.

And notice how excited Jesus is for the 72 disciples returning from ministry. Scripture says Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” Can’t you just see the huge smile on Jesus’s face as each of them tell their stories of healing people, delivering people from demons, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He would have been beaming like a proud papa.

Then Jesus turns toward heaven and thanks the Father that He made all of this possible. The Father had revealed the power and authority of His Kingdom to bankers and bakers, wine-makers and carpenters, and not to the religious elite. The Father was pleased to have the enormous power and authority of heaven flow through people of low status, people with little more social status than children, instead of those the world considered learned and wise. And this reality brought Jesus so much joy!

And it still brings Him so much joy today! He’s still doing this very thing today!

As a follower of Jesus, you were designed to carry the authority and power of Jesus. You were created to see the impossible become possible. God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Before Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, Jesus talked about how joy would come when their prayers were answered.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24

That is how prayer was designed to work. We ask in the name of Jesus–the delegated authority of Jesus–and we receive what we asked. When that prayer gets answered right in front of us, we are filled with joy by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus was. We were meant to proclaim the Kingdom in the authority of Jesus. We were meant to see the sick healed and the oppressed set free from the demonic. We were designed to operate in the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

And when we see people come to know Jesus, when we see people healed, when we see people set free, we get filled with joy! There is so much joy in seeing God’s Kingdom break through on earth as it is in heaven. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, joy is also a fruit of supernatural ministry. It’s the fruit of seeing God move powerfully through our prayers.

One of the Twelve

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 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. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 

Luke 22:1-5

I have seen this strategy of the enemy over and over again. Satan didn’t need to enter the Pharisees or the chief priests. He already had them as allies. Satan didn’t need to enter the temple guards. They were already at his disposal. But, in order to get to Jesus, satan had to enter Judas, one of the Twelve.

I have found that the enemy often attacks those who are the greatest threat to his kingdom of darkness. If he already has people as obedient servants, he doesn’t need to waste time or resources on them. Yet, those who are a real threat to the kingdom of darkness and don’t know it–don’t yet know their true identity–this is who he tries to heavily demonize. Satan had to try to enter one of the Twelve, but he had to go after the one who didn’t yet know who they were.

During deliverance sessions, if someone is a Christian and they are heavily demonized, we often discover that they are incredibly gifted. They have the potential to be incredibly powerful in the Kingdom of God, but ever since they were young, they were abused, lied to, or neglected. In other words, their identity is in shambles. If they ever found out who they really are in Christ, they would be an absolutely destructive force against the darkness. So the strategy of the enemy is to torment them to the point that they hate themselves and just want to die. The last thing satan can allow is for them to discover who they really are. Like a young superhero before they fully understand their powers, these people have to be taken out early.

But what if they get free from their demons? What if they start to understand who they are in Christ? What if the Light starts to break through the darkness? It’s not just that these folks go from being demonized to being free. It’s that they go from being buried under darkness to becoming supernovas in God’s Kingdom.

Some might think that if a Christian is heavily demonized, they must be really messed up. And there is truth in that. But the greater truth is that they are heavily demonized because they are so dangerous to the kingdom of darkness; they just don’t know it yet. They don’t know who God has created them to be or what their gifts are. And because satan does know, he tries to torment them into powerlessness before they can become dangerous.

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!

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?

Consequences of a Miracle

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus expected people who had experienced or witnessed miracles performed by Him to respond in repentance and faith. Every time Jesus would heal a broken body, cast out a demon, cleanse a leper, or raise the dead it was a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God on earth. Repentance and faith are the natural responses to the invasion of the Kingdom.

Yet, instead of repentance and faith, many people responded only with curiosity and amazement. Unfortunately, many people still do. While curiosity and amazement are normal reactions to the miraculous, if it stops there–if it never gives birth to repentance and faith–then the condition of the heart is not where it needs to be.

If a skeptical, unbelieving heart is confronted with a legitimate miracle, that person stands at a crossroads. They can continue in unbelief or they can repent for their unbelief and choose faith. Jesus expects the latter.

We live in a culture that thinks it’s okay to justify our unbelief by continuing to ask for more evidence. We get piles and piles of evidence and still ask for more. We give our unbelief names like “caution” and “wisdom.” But we don’t admit to what it really is: a hardness of heart, a lack of faith.

Miracles, signs and wonders are dangerous in this way. They put everyone involved at a spiritual fork in the road. It’s one thing to waver in doubt having never been exposed to healings, miracles or deliverance. But once you are confronted with a miracle, there’s no more wiggle room. You either believe or you reject. You either repent for your unbelief or you walk away shackled to your unbelief. There’s no more in-between. And there are severe consequences for staying in your unbelief.

Are you still wavering in doubt and unbelief?

Have you embraced the miraculous or would you feel right at home in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?

Body-Soul-Spirit Connection

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

Throughout the Gospels, when we see the English translation “demon-possessed,” it is the Greek word “daimonizomai.” More property translated, it would be “demonized.” Unfortunately, horror movies and media have given the American culture a certain mental picture of someone who is “demon-possessed.” Most people think of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-17; Luke 8:26-37) in chains looking more animal than human. Or they think of some person levitating off of a bed with their head spinning as they puke everywhere.

This is not a biblical way to understanding the affect of a demon on a person or in a person. Instead of translating it “demon-possessed,” which gives the impression that the demon is in complete control over the whole person, we should be translating it closer to the Greek text with the word “demonized.”

Properly understood, the word “demonized” speaks to a spectrum of influence that demons can have on a person’s life. A person can be demonized and only be affected in one or two areas of their life. It could show up in a chronic sin, an addiction, or a particular relational our interpersonal dysfunction (like the inability to control one’s anger, or eating, or the inability to show grace, etc).

Demonization starts with what we might call “attachment.” Picture a vulture clinging onto the outside of a person with their tallons. If it continues it can move inside and establish a “stronghold.” This would be an area of a person’s thinking and/or feeling that is fortified with lies, allowing the demon to remain. If we picture a person as a house (Matthew 12:25-29, 43-45), this would be a demon taking up residence in one or two rooms.

If this continues, demonic influence can spread to other parts of a person’s life and become “oppression.” Oppression is where many demons have access and influence over many, if not most, areas of a person’s life. If the person does not have the Holy Spirit in them because they are not followers of Jesus, then oppression quickly becomes possession.

If the Holy Spirit is there, it cannot be possession because the person belongs to the Lord. But severe oppression can occur even in Christians. Jesus owns the deed to the house but the rooms are full of demons. The Holy Spirit has not been given full access, through surrender, to all the rooms of the house.

So, demonization can describe a whole spectrum of demonic influence and control over a person’s life. This man who was mute in Matthew 9 was physically impacted by the demonic entities in his life. Some physical ailments have physical causes, but some have spiritual causes. In western culture, many people have a real struggle attributing spiritual causes to physical ailments. In this case, a mute spirit was causing this man’s inability to speak.

Had the issue been a physical problem–maybe a misfiring between the speech center of the brain and the muscles in the mouth, tongue and vocal cords–then Jesus would have performed a healing. We see Jesus heal people all the time. When it is a physical cause to a physical problem, healing prayer is what we see from Jesus. But that’s not what happens here.

Instead, in response to a physical problem–the inability to speak–Jesus casts out a demon. Not only is this concept difficult for people who have been steeped in rationalism (like most western Christians) but also for people who have been steeped in religiosity (like the Pharisees and many Christians today).

The Pharisees attributed Jesus’s ability to heal the man by driving out a demon to Jesus Himself being demonic. We see this same argument from cessationists in the Church today. They attribute many signs, wonders and miracles that come from the Holy Spirit to Satan trying to deceive the Church. It’s really unfortunate that they think the enemy is more powerful than the Holy Spirit when it comes to the miraculous.

I personally have seen a number of physical ailments healed by casting out spirits of affliction. One of the assignments of certain demons is not just to attack people’s mind, will, and emotions but also to attack the physical body. Not all physical ailments are demonic, but some are. It takes wisdom, and sometimes the gift of discerning the spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10), to know the difference. There is a greater overlap between our body, soul, and spirit than most people in western culture are willing to admit.

Next time you need physical healing, ask the Lord if the physical ailment has a spiritual cause. If it is a spirit of affliction attacking that part of your body, command it to leave in Jesus’ name! If while commanding it to leave, you notice the pain increase or move to a different part of your body, you can be sure you are dealing with a demonic spirit. Keep chasing it out of your body with commands until it leaves in Jesus’ name!