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!

Signs, Wonders and Plagues

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2:3-4

The gospel was first announced by Jesus and confirmed by the early apostles. Then God testified to the truth of the gospel by demonstrating signs, wonders and miracles through the Church. God also testified to the truth of the gospel by distributing gifts of the Holy Spirit for the Church to use.

We still have the announcement of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. We still have the confirmation of the early apostles in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, John and others. But if we reject signs, wonders, miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we miss out on half of the ways that God testifies to the truth of the gospel. Paul talks about how vital signs and wonders were in his ministry of delivering the gospel to the Gentiles:

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 

Romans 15:18-19

Signs and wonders have always been a primary way God reveals Himself to humanity. When God was creating for Himself a people by setting the Hebrews free from slavery in Egypt, God performed signs and wonders. Speaking about Pharaoh as God laid out His plan to Moses, God said:

…though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.

Exodus 7:3-4

Before entering the Promised Land, God reminds the people of all that He did for them and gives them this instruction:

 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.

Deuteronomy 6:20-24

My co-pastor reminded me in one of his sermons a few weeks ago that we often call what God did in Egypt “plagues.” But God did not call them that, nor did Israel. To God and His people they were not plagues but “signs and wonders.” Only to Egypt and Pharaoh were these miraculous events “plagues.”

And I have found the same dynamic to be true today. When God heals someone, performs a miracle, or delivers someone from a demon, there will be those who see these things as wonders–signs of God’s imminent Presence, love, compassion and power. Yet, there will also be some who will see the same miracle and react against it as if it was a plague.

The same thing happened with Jesus. Some, usually the downtrodden and poor, celebrated as Jesus healed people and cast out demons. Yet others, usually the religious elite, did not see the miracles as wonders but instead as plagues–moments where Jesus broke the law, moments that threatened their established system of power, moments of offense.

Every time we hear a testimony of a miracle, a healing, or a deliverance, we have that same choice. Are we going to side with Egypt and Pharaoh or God and His people? Are these stories of miracles plagues or wonders? I believe this is essentially the question Jesus was asking the Syro-Phoenician woman who asked Jesus to get rid of the demon who was tormenting her daughter.

(Jesus) answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Matthew 15:24-27

I believe Jesus was seeing if the woman would get offended at God’s decision to heal and deliver the Israelites first before the Gentiles. He even uses somewhat offensive language, referring to Gentiles as dogs, as a way to see if she would react with offended entitlement or humility.

And we also face this kind of test with each testimony of healing and deliverance. Will we get offended at what God is doing, as He heals someone else first? Will entitlement get the best of us? Will offense get the best of us? Will stories of healing become plagues to our hearts? Or, will we respond in hope and humility as this woman did? Will we celebrate miracles as signs and wonders of God’s goodness?

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Matthew 15:28

Hope at Denny’s

Cam and I were exhausted from shaking all night, and we were hungry (see my post called Hand Spun Shakes for the backstory on that). He suggested Denny’s. Cam is prophetic⏤strongly prophetic. Every time Cam “suggested” we go to a particular restaurant or place, it always ended up being a divine appointment. I should have realized this was going to be another one, but I didn’t. All I could think about is eating a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sandwich, a classic late night meal for me from years ago during “study” sessions in seminary. 

Denny’s in Redding is in a shady part of town. We could sense it as we got out of the car. The first thing Cam said was, “Hey, we need to have our guard up.” I knew what he meant. He was saying there was demonic stuff crawling around, and we needed to have our physical and spiritual heads on a swivel. 

On our way toward the restaurant, we walked past the hotel next door. It was called The Red Lion Inn. I commented to Cam as I pointed at the hotel sign, “We’re heading into the lion’s den.” We both laughed, but we couldn’t have predicted how right we were.  

Just as we approached the entry door to Denny’s (mind you it is 11pm at this point) a dad and his young adult daughter were about to enter Denny’s at the same time. I recognized them from Bethel Church earlier that day. Out of all the people there I’m not sure why I recognized them, but I did, so I pointed to them and said, “Hey! Bethel?” They both turned and smiled and acknowledged that they had been there that day. 

They both had a European accent that we would later discover was from Sweden. People from all over the world fly to Bethel for various reasons. They flew in for a week so that the daughter, who’s 21, could check out their school of ministry. The daughter immediately invited us to have dinner with them, which seemed strange at the time. But since the whole trip had been one adventure after another, we agreed and embarked on yet another unexpected adventure. 

The four of us sat at a booth together, and as soon as we sat down I asked them about what led them to Bethel. The dad (we’ll call him Matt to protect his identity) said he had done bible school in the U.S. before moving back to his home country of Switzerland. As soon as the daughter started to share her story (we’ll call her Lulu since that was the affectionate nickname used by her father) all of the alarm bells in Cam’s spirit and my spirit started to go off. We had seen this sort of thing before, unfortunately.  

Lots of things gave it away: her personal story of hearing evil voices and seeing evil things since she was a young girl, her longtime struggle with deep depression and self-hate, her scars from cutting that went up and down both arms, the way her eyes shifted away from me and Cam when she talked, how she would “go away” into a sudden catatonic state while we affirmed her identity in Christ or spoke of the love of the Father or talked about Jesus. All of these were indicators that she was heavily demonized. She was fighting for her life and the demons didn’t want her free. 

Demonization this severe in a Christian is not unlike domestic abuse or human trafficking. The young girl was being tormented daily by many demons that resided within her. She didn’t know how to get free. Yet, she had been demonized for so long, since she was 12 years old according to her story, she also wondered that if she got totally free whether it would make her lonely. She had gotten used to the voices even if they were awful to her. They were some of her only “friends” as odd as that sounds.

There can develop a kind of trauma bonding with demons. The lies and the manipulations can create this toxic bond between the tormentors and the tormented. We saw this a lot in the world of human trafficking when I was a part of a nonprofit that fought against child sex trafficking in the Baltimore region. The dynamic was similar here. The truest part of her, the real Lulu, wanted freedom. But the deceived part of her wasn’t sure it was possible.  

The other interesting thing about Lulu is that she had a really strong seer gift, which means she could see things in the spirit realm. Cam is a seer too. Lulu had been seeing demons and other things in the spirit since she was very young. Lower level seers get glimpses of things. Higher level seers can see things in great detail. Yet, if this gift goes without guidance, instruction and wisdom, this gift can be turned and used against the person who has it. Even worse, it can be recruited into the occult world of witchcraft. This kind of powerful gifting is a threat to the enemy, and so he often goes to great lengths to torment and demonize seers if he can get a foothold. She, unfortunately, gave him all too many footholds and open doors into her life.

We talked as we ate dinner together. We tried to encourage Lulu and her dad. We explained a little about deliverance, and Cam and I tried our best to wait until dinner was over before we set about to get her free. When you can literally see demons (in Cam’s case) and/or sense them (in my case), it is hard to have dinner with them sitting in the booth across from you. We did our best.  

We then adjourned to my favorite ministry room known as the parking lot. Cam told me later that angels were encircled around us out there as demons were moving in to help their “compatriots” residing in the girl. He commanded them to leave in Jesus’s name so we could have room to work. 

We worked through the deliverance process with her and cast out a handful of demons. Most of them were so deeply entrenched that each one took a while to leave. Though the dad had a charismatic church background, he had never seen a deliverance firsthand and certainly not with his daughter. It shook him. 

We didn’t have the time or energy to try to get them all out, so we didn’t try. Instead, we took her hands in ours and imparted everything we could—the increase of the Holy Spirit’s presence, more power, more love, more joy. We could see her confidence growing. Hope was returning as her identity in Christ was being re-established.

When Cam released joy to her it was something to behold. She collapsed in laughter from the sheer overflow of joy that was being downloaded into her soul. Of course, demons don’t like their host so full of joy, so the spirits of despair and depression rose up, yelled obscenities, and gnashed their teeth at Cam. Spirits of despair and depression hate joy, and Cam was releasing a weaponized joy into Lulu that they were powerless to prevent.

During this process, both Cam and I experienced the Father’s love for Lulu. This was His daughter. She was trapped, enslaved, abused and tormented by these demons. He wanted her free, and so did we. She felt the Father’s love too. She kept hugging and holding on to me and Cam. She didn’t want us to leave. Through us she got a taste of the freedom, joy and love of the Kingdom of God. She got a taste of her real identity; she is a warrior princess. She is the one whom Jesus loves. She is a daughter of the King.  

It was nearing 2am so we had to leave. We strongly suggested that Matt take his daughter to the deliverance ministry offered by Bethel Church during the weekdays. We stressed that more ministry was absolutely essential in order for her journey into freedom to continue. We exchanged information and left. During the drive back to the place where we were staying we felt saturated in the love of God for Lulu. She was our sister, and in some ways, our daughter. The love and compassion we felt for her was unusually strong. It wasn’t love we were capable of conjuring up ourselves. It was the Father’s love. It was the compassion of Christ. 

I am happy to report that we got word yesterday that Lulu has a time slot for tomorrow (Friday, March 8th) to receive more deliverance ministry from the Bethel ministry team. Please be praying for her to be totally free and for her identity in Christ to be restored. 

A final postscript to this encounter with Lulu:

One of the more interesting parts of ministering deliverance to a girl who is a seer is that she could see things in the spirit as they were happening. Sporadically throughout the night she would tell us things that she was seeing in the spirit. At one point, she was hugging me tightly and said to Cam and me, “You both have the most beautiful armor on. I see it. It’s beautiful. It looks like Roman armor. And you have helmets on with that thingy on top.” 

I asked, “Helmets with a plume?” 

She said, “Yes, and it is so beautiful with all different colors.” 

Since Cam is also a seer, I asked him about it later. He said that as soon as she started describing the armor he could see it. He said it was beautiful, shiny gold. As he was searching for words, he finally said, “It looked royal!” This is the armor of God. And while not all of us are gifted in a way where we can see it in the spirit, we can all be sure to put it on daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

Who would have thought that a late-night trip to Denny’s would end up in a parking lot deliverance for a daughter from Sweden? Only God. The Father gave us all something that night. It was the beginning of hope and freedom for Lulu and her dad, and it was a download of love and encouragement for me and Cam. Thank you, Jesus!

Freedom

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Notice that we were set free by Christ, we were saved and redeemed, for the purpose of walking in freedom. But also noticed that just because Christ has set us free, it doesn’t mean we automatically walk in freedom. There are things we can walk into that trap and enslave us even in our Christian life.

One thing that keeps us from walking out the freedom that was purchased for us on the cross is what Paul calls, “trying to be justified by the law”(Galatians 5:4). When we try to employ religious practices to earn our righteousness from God, whether they are practices from Judaism, Christianity or false religions, Paul says we, “have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Paul mentions another thing that can keep us from walking in the freedom offered to us by Christ. He writes, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love”(Galatians 5:13). Like ditches on both sides of the road, we should be careful not to fall into religious performance, a version of Pharisaical legalism, nor sinful indulgence, a version of licentiousness and antinomianism. Both are forms of enslavement.

These mindsets and behaviors give away our freedom. They open the door for demoni spirits to enter our lives, set up strongholds, and torment us.

But can Christians have demons?

First, we have to get rid of the idea that being demonized means being “possessed” like the man who lived in the tombs of the Gerasenes from Mark 5:1-20. The word “possession” is not even in the New Testament. The Greek word for when a person is influenced, occupied or tormented by a demon, properly translated, is demonized. And it is clear that demonization happens on a spectrum of severity from harassment to attachment to strongholds to oppression and possession. Demons gain varying levels of influence in various parts of a person’s life.

Christians cannot be possessed because they have been bought at a price and are now owned by Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20). But they can demonized! They can be heavily oppressed by the demonic. They can have various levels of demonic strongholds and attachments in their life. It is said, “A demon can’t have a Christian but a Christian can have many demons.” I know this because I have firsthand experience casting demons out of many Christians.

In fact, the ministry of deliverance (casting out demons) is specifically for those who have the Holy Spirit which can “re-occupy” the part of them that was once occupied by a demon. Jesus himself warned that the Spirit is needed to fill “the house” or the condition of the person will be worse when that demon who was cast out comes back with friends:

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

The freedom that was purchased for us on the cross must be walked out; it must be lived. Just as the Hebrew people had to do more than sacrifice an unblemished lamb on that first Passover night but had to apply the blood to their doorpost, we must apply the blood of Jesus to our lives (Exodus 12:7, 13). We can’t earn our freedom. Jesus won our freedom for us. But we must obediently walk in the freedom that He’s given us so that we don’t fall into the enemy’s snares, traps and enslavements. Paul says it this way, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Public Thought Life

Some of your thoughts are not your own. Some of them did not originate with you. The enemy tries to plant thoughts in our minds that are lies, deception, and/or condemnation. These demonic thoughts projected into our minds are the “flaming arrows of the evil one” mentioned in Ephesians 6:16.  

So, we know the kingdom of darkness can whisper lies to us, but can demons read our thoughts?

I had an encounter once where I was praying for a woman in my church who was physically sick, and I was just praying for healing. As I prayed for healing she had no outward, physical signs of the demonic. Yet, as I prayed, I sensed the Lord highlight the possibility that she had demons in her causing some of the problems. So without saying a word, I shifted in my thoughts from “healing prayer” to “deliverance prayer.”

As soon as I shifted my thoughts and directed them against the demons, even thought I never prayed out loud, she started to have physical manifestations of the demonic. She started to dry-heave and gag (common signs of demons trying to leave the body) just as I turned my thoughts from healing prayer to deliverance mode.  Obviously the demons somehow picked up on the change in my thoughts.

Did they read my thoughts? I’m not sure. I believe that as soon as my thoughts changed from healing prayer to “commanding demons to leave,” something was released out of me in the spirit realm…maybe light or power or something to which the demons reacted. It’s possible that demons can pick up when our thoughts agree with God and when they agree with a lie from the enemy. Maybe there is something released in the spirit realm that they can pick up on from our thoughts and emotions.

This could explain why Jesus was very concerned with our thought life and the condition of our hearts. What if every thought you have and every emotion either repels the kingdom of darkness or invites it. What if every thought you have and every emotion either strengthens the angels around you and the Kingdom of God or diminishes it. This is why we must “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and stop thinking that our thought life is in any way “private.”