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!

Married Life

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 

Ephesians 6:31-32

I’ve had friends fall away from their relationship with Christ just as I’ve had friends get a divorce. The similarities in these two scenarios are striking.

When we get married we happily choose our spouse. What we may not realize is that we will have to continue to choose them. It’s easy enough to choose them when we are in that honeymoon phase and we see them at their best. But what happens when you’re a decade or more into marriage? What happens when they are not at their best and you are not at yours?

The challenge of marriage is not what you will do when everyone is 100%. The challenge is to still choose your spouse when they are running on fumes after sleepless nights with kids, job changes, hospital visits, unpaid bills, credit card debt, misunderstandings, arguments, and life transitions. The challenge is to still choose them after you see all their failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings. It’s much harder to choose them when they change on you and it feels like you’re married to someone completely different. This person standing in front of you isn’t who you signed up for, after all.

In the midst of this, the enemy will often provide you an “out.” The way out of the marriage can come in a variety of forms. It can come as a secret escapism that you hide from your spouse. It can come as the numbing distance of living parallel lives. It can come as an addiction that you try to keep private. It can come in the form of an affair. It can come as a strong desire to throw in the towel and get a divorce. Choosing your spouse will feel like fighting a force that is pulling you apart because that is exactly what is happening. The enemy is intentional.

My point in highlighting this reality of marriage is not to give marriage counseling. My point is that this is the same pattern that applies to our relationship with Jesus. Our intimacy and connection with Him will often go through a similar cycle. We willingly choose Jesus at the beginning of our faith journey, but we will have to continue to choose Him if we want to stay connected to Him. It is a relationship that must be cultivated and cared for.

A decade or two into your relationship with Jesus you will have to decide to choose Him again. Only this time you will not be naive about the obstacles you will face. You will have to choose Jesus not as He invites you to drop your nets and follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20), but you’ll have to choose Him as He invites you to take up your cross and go with Him to Golgotha.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 

Luke 9:23-24

The disciples faced a moment of decision like this with Jesus. They were all so excited to follow Him and witness all the healings and miracles that Jesus performed. They were excited to leave behind their old life and join the Messiah on His quest toward Jerusalem. But then Jesus decided to prune the crowds with a hard teaching, and most of them turned away.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:60, 66-69

Each of us who follow Jesus will face this same question. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” In this moment, we’ll have to deny ourselves, lay down our “right” to understand, give up our plans, and choose Jesus all over again, knowing that we’re not headed to the palace but to the cross.

Will we say “Yes” to Jesus again?

Grow Up In Your Salvation

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3

Getting a taste of the goodness of the Lord causes us to crave more spiritual food. This process of going between hunger and satisfaction is something we physically experience through out the day. We eat and then we get hungry for more. This same dynamic happens spiritually.

And we must continue to feed our souls the spiritual food that it needs because salvation is only the beginning. We are called to “grow up” in our salvation. Maturity was never meant to be an optional part of the Christian life. Salvation is not the finish line but the starting line in our development into a person who looks and acts more like Jesus.

This discipleship, this development and growth in our spiritual life, is vitally important because we were born into a war. We are living in enemy territory and we’ve been commissioned to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Peter goes on to say:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 

1 Peter 2:11

Growing up in our salvation not only means we grow closer to Jesus, but it also means we become more equipped for the battles we face. We get better and better at recognizing the vulnerabilities in our own heart and our own tendencies toward temptation. We get better at recognizing the schemes of the enemy and how he tries to exploit our weaknesses. We train in warfare, learning not only how to defend ourselves but also how to advance and take back ground for the Kingdom of God.

If we never pursue maturity in Christ, we leave ourselves vulnerable, like a newborn baby who never grows up. Instead, we must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”(Hebrews 12:1).