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.

New Law

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 

Romans 8:1-2

When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we can mistakenly think we moved from the Law to “no law.” But this is a misunderstanding of the covenants. The first covenant was governed by the Law of Moses. Yet, the new covenant is governed by new laws, laws that are far superior because they are from a superior Kingdom. Jesus told us that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The new laws of the Kingdom of God have come to fulfill and supersede the old covenant laws.

For instance, the law of the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. A superior law has come to fulfill and supersede the old law. The law of the Spirit is greater than the law of sin and death. Both laws are “true” but the law of the Spirit takes precedent over the law of sin. Because of this, not only are we able to be saved, but we are able to now live in a holiness would could never attain under the old law.

Likewise, the apostle Paul writes, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law“(Romans 13:8). So the new law of love has fulfilled the old covenant list of commandments. Leif Hetland always says that, in this new covenant, the law of love replaces the love of law. Peter put it this way, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins“(1 Peter 4:8).

There are many laws of the Kingdom of God that arrived with Jesus and remain with the Spirit. These new laws fulfill and supersede both the laws of Moses and the laws of the kingdom of this world. The fact that righteousness now comes by grace through faith in Jesus rather than through works is an example of this. Another example is that the law of resurrection life supersedes the law of death. When someone gets miraculously healed, the law of the Kingdom of God has fulfilled and superseded the laws of physics in our world. Miracles are signs that a superior law is at work.

In the Kingdom of God, the law of forgiveness fulfills and supersedes laws of justice and retribution. Likewise, the laws of the Kingdom state that the first will be last and the humble will be exalted. Basically, what Jesus was trying to teach in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was about this new law that fulfills and supersede the old law.

The new laws of the Kingdom feel strange to us because they are so different than how our world operates. They feel foreign because they come from a foreign Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Yet, they are far superior to the current laws that govern our world. The gospel has not only set us free from the old law of Moses, but it has set us free to embrace the new and superior laws of the Kingdom.

Inoculation

My friends and family who are now fully vaccinated are feeling a unique sense of freedom and empowerment right now. People they couldn’t go see they are now seeing. Trips they had delayed they are now taking. Teachers are now back in the classroom. Grandparents are buying plane tickets to see their grandkids. The vaccine has now given them a superpower against COVID-19. Even if exposed to the coronavirus, they have a 90% chance of not getting sick. And if they happen to be in the 10%, they will only get a very mild case that will resolve quickly.

If you are not yet vaccinated, imagine that feeling. The feeling of freedom and empowerment. The feeling of safety and security. The feeling of being at an advantage rather than a disadvantage to this pandemic.

Christians should know this feeling well. This should be the feeling we have about having the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We have been given a great advantage in this world, but many of us are not taking advantage of our advantage. We have been given an incredible dose of freedom and power, safety and security. We have the Spirit of living God living in us, changing us, freeing us from sin, empowering us to live as Jesus lived. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Romans 8:11

Imagine someone gets vaccinated and yet still lives as if they are not. This is how some Christians are living in regards to the Spirit. Or imagine getting the first dose and never going back for the second. This is how some Christians are living who have the Spirit and are saved but who do not live filled with the Spirit. The Spirit reveals things to us that only God knows. We have access to the wisdom, the knowledge, and the power of God through the Spirit. But are we accessing what we’ve been given access to?

The apostle Paul tried to tell the Corinthians just how amazing it is that we now have the Holy Spirit.

…as it is written:
What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived
[Isaiah 64:4]
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-14

Do you know all that was given to you when you received the Holy Spirit? You are now a conduit of the Kingdom of God on the earth. You’ve been given power over sin. You’ve been given the right to be called a child of God. You are a vessel of God’s power to heal, deliver, and save. The Light of the world lives in you making you the light of the world. The wisdom of God for the problems of this world are waiting to be downloaded to your heart and mind so that you can bring answers that no one else has thought of.

The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”[Isaiah 40:13]
But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:15-16

Maybe it’s time we revisit all that we’ve been given when we were given the Holy Spirit.

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).

Keep Praying

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…

Ephesians 1:18

What happens when we pray for people who aren’t making the best decisions in their life? How do our prayers affect them?

In eternity, we will have free will, yet we will only choose what is good. I believe this will happen for two reasons. First, our completely purified and redeemed hearts will only desire what is good. Secondly, we will only have good options to choose from.

When you pray for people, you release the Kingdom into their life. I believe this does two things. First, it provides their hearts the option to explore different desires, good desires, that they may not have considered before. They can now choose to follow desires that align with the Kingdom of God that they didn’t have access to before. Secondly, it provides external options to choose from that weren’t there before.

Imagine the person you are praying for in a convenience store full of junk food. Your prayer for them releases in them a craving for fruit. Your prayer also introduces a fruit and vegetable stand from the farmer’s market into the convenience store. Your prayer for them doesn’t force them to make a better choice but it does provide for them better options.

Keep praying.

Mary Magdalene

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… 

Luke 8:1-2

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

When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.  Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured.

Luke 8:35-36

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

Acts 16:16-18

In the last four years the Lord has given me the opportunity to be involved in deliverance ministry. I did not seek this out. God placed me in situation after situation where the person in front of me was being oppressed by demonic spirits, and I was faced with the choice to either walk away, leaving the person in their tormented state, or to do something about it. I would pray for people and watch as they contorted, screamed, dry-heaved, shook or coughed violently. I would command the demon to leave in Jesus’s name and it would. The person would walk away more free than they’ve ever felt before.

Over time, I began to learn the nuances of deliverance ministry–how demons get in people, how they fight to stay there, and the inner healing needed in most deliverance situations. What started as a clumsy trust in the power of the name of Jesus has been refined by the Holy Spirit into a regular part of my pastoral ministry. Before the coronavirus and the social distancing orders, I was praying for one to two people a week. In most of these cases, multiple demons would lift off of people during our prayer sessions. Most times they leave quietly and without fanfare, and other times they leave in a way that is more dramatic and violent.

When I describe all of this, people either look at me in disbelief or are often curious why I would want to do this. But this is like asking a nurse why they would want to clean up a bedpan. The point of all of this is not really about the demons. It’s about seeing God’s children set free. It’s about seeing the oppressed have their chains drop off of them for the first time in decades all because of the powerful name of Jesus. It’s about being a conduit of the love of the Father as people experience in tangible form how much God loves them.

One of the best depictions of this reality can be seen in the first episode of the show The Chosen. The first episode is free and you can watch it here. In episode 1, we watch a beautiful retelling of the stories of the people who would have known Jesus best. And while we get to know Peter, Andrew, Matthew and Nicodemus, the emphasis of episode 1 is around the life of Mary Magdalene. If you want to know why I am so passionate about deliverance ministry, watch this episode all the way to the end.

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!

Sins of the father

That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

Judges 6:25-26

Notice what the Lord asks of Gideon before He sends Gideon on his mission to fight the Midianites. Earlier, Gideon had encountered the presence of the Lord and first offered Him a personal offering. This offering functioned as a burnt offering as it was totally consumed when the “fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread” (Judges 6:21). Burnt offerings were about atonement and consecration of the person offering it.

If personal cleansing and atonement were enough, this first offering would have been sufficient. But the also Lord asks Gideon to address the sin in his family line. He was commanded to do a three-fold action to address the generational sin in his family.

First, he was to tear down the altars to the false gods. Then, he was to build a proper altar to the Lord. Finally, he was to offer a burnt offering for the generational sin of his family line.

We can’t miss this truth. I have seen this reality over and over in the people to whom I minister. We must first seek forgiveness for our own sin. That is essential. But too much of evangelical and progressive Christianity stops there. We have little understanding of how generational sin effects our lives.

In the spirit realm, everything operates by authority. Parents have authority over their children and function as a kind of umbrella of protection over them. When parents and grandparents sin and never get forgiveness and freedom from that sin, there is created a hole in the umbrella. The enemy can gain access to the family line through this open door.

God is a God of the generations, not just the individual person. We Americans struggle with this concept because of our hyper-individualism. The bible tells us that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The generations are intentionally connected (that’s why you see those long genealogies in scripture listing the ancestors) as a means to pass blessing. The whole point of connecting the generations was so that blessing could flow from one generation to the next and increase with each generation. Satan finds ways to hijack the family line so that he can pass down cursing and sin instead of blessing and favor.

If we find patterns of sin cycling in our families down through the generations, we need to address it. We need to apply the blood of Jesus to that cycle and that sin so that we and our children can experience freedom from it. Like the doorposts on the first night of Passover in Egypt, it’s not enough just to have the blood of the lamb, we must apply the blood of the lamb. We must renounce the generational sin, break the generational curse that sin has created, and cancel any assignment of the enemy against us.

We must do what the Lord commanded Gideon to do. We must tear down the false gods, worship the true God–Jesus Christ–and submit that part of our life to Him as a living sacrifice. Because sin of the 4th generation back can still affect us, it’s helpful to start back at the 4th generation and work your way forward to the 3rd generation, your grandparents and your parents. Below is a prayer adapted from a minister named Rodney Hogue that you can pray to help with this.

BREAKING GENERATIONAL CURSES

In the name of Jesus, I declare the blood of Jesus to stand between me and the 4th generation, the 3rd generation, my grandparents, and my parents generation as a wall of separation. I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of the sins of those generations. I call to me my righteous inheritance and the blessings of those generations. Amen!

Rodney Hogue, Empowered Workbook

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.