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.

God’s Will

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:12-14

We learn a couple things from Jesus’s teaching here. First, we learn about the loving heart of the Father. God will pursue people in order to restore them. Secondly, we see one of the paradoxes of the will of God. We learn that the Father “is not willing” that any of these little ones should perish. And yet, we know that not everyone is saved. Some are lost even though it is not God’s will.

Peter put it this way:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:8-9

Here we learn again that God doesn’t want anyone to perish. God wants everyone to come to repentance. Yet, we know not all will come to repentance. This is just a reality of the fallen world we live in.

From both of these passages we see both the loving heart of the Father and the fact that His will is not always done on earth. It’s why Jesus had to teach His disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven“(Matthew 6:10). We wouldn’t be instructed by Jesus to pray this if it was somehow automatic. While God’s will is always done in heaven, His will is not always done on earth. So we must pray for His will to be done on earth, and we must walk in obedience to His will so that it may be done on earth.

The freedom that God gifted His creation with has been used to resist His will, rebel against His will, and thwart His will. The freedom to authentically love God as we experience His love for us has been twisted by sin and is now used for evil. That means that many things that happen in the world and many things that happen to us are not the will of God.

Dallas Willard writes, in his book Hearing God, about the erroneous belief that some Christians adopt that states that everything that comes in life is God’s will:

If you wish to know what God would have you do, it is no help at all to be told that whatever comes is his will. For you are at that moment in the position of deciding what is to come. Does it mean that whatever you do will be God’s will? I certainly hope not. If Moses had accepted this view, there would have been no nation of Israel…

Many things that happen are not the will of God…

God’s world is an arena in which we have an indispensable role to play. The issue is not simply what God wants, but also what we want and will. When we accept whatever comes we are not receiving guidance. The fact that something happens does not indicate that it is God’s will.

Dallas Willard, Hearing God, Chapter 3

God desires an authentic relationship with us. He wants to hear from us and wants us to hear from Him. Our actions and our prayers impact the outcome of the future, as does our obedience or disobedience. It matters if you pray. It matters if you obey. It changes things. We are not just fatalistic robots.

Your life in Christ really does matter!

Swept Clean or Free?

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Matthew 12:43-45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack from Both Sides

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:18-19

Do not be surprised if our culture, which is so heavily influenced by the kingdom of darkness, attacks people trying to follow Jesus from both sides. This has always been the strategy of the enemy. This is the strategy we see the enemy employ against Jesus and John the Baptist.

The culture of Jesus’s day found a way to be offended by both John the Baptist, living in the strictest holiness, and Jesus, living in the freedom of grace. John’s holiness was seen as demonic and Jesus’s freedom was seen as sinful.

Our culture is currently following the same strategy of the enemy. Recently it was reported that some politicians were trying to follow the “Billy Graham rule.” This rule is basically a commitment by a man not to be alone with a woman who is not his wife, especially in private settings, as it could lead to accusations of impropriety or actual impropriety. There has been a lot of exposure of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the highest levels of society recently, so this Billy Graham rule seems like a healthy safeguard.

Yet, in response to this desire to honor women and honor their wives, these men were attacked for being sexist. So we have a situation where if a politician is seen being alone with another women who is not his wife, he’s easily attacked with claims of impropriety. Yet, if he tries to safeguard against those accusations, he gets attacked as sexist. If they live in the freedom of grace, they’ll be attacked as morally corrupt. If they hold to a high standard of holiness, they’re called sexists. The “attack from both sides” strategy has been around since Jesus and continues to be alive and well today.

I remember encountering an adolescent version of this in high school. I told my friends that I didn’t want to “hook up” with a particularly attractive girl that was interested in me. As a high school boy, turning down sex with a beautiful girl a year older than you was a radical stand. Yet, because I was striving to live a life of holiness, my classmates who couldn’t understand my stance began to accuse me of being gay.

My response to accusations of being gay was that I didn’t believe homosexuality was God’s design for human sexuality. I told them that I had nothing against a person who is gay, but I disagreed with a lifestyle where one chooses to engage in same-sex sexual activity. This also didn’t fit their paradigm of understanding. They didn’t know what to do with me. So then I started to receive accusations of being homophobic.

Can you see the “attack from both sides” strategy? One minute I am being accused of being gay and the next I’m being accused of being homophobic. This often happens when you try to live a biblical standard of holiness. A life of following Jesus doesn’t make sense to the world. It doesn’t fit all of their neat little judgmental categories. They don’t know which condemning box to put you in. But they did this with Jesus and John the Baptist, so we shouldn’t be surprised if it happens to us.

I fought for and advocated for women in the strongest way possible as I helped to create and launch a nonprofit that addresses human trafficking in the Baltimore area. I stood side-by-side with women who were some of the most progressive, feminist activists I’ve ever met. And as a staunch Pro-Life advocate, I continue to fight for women and their well-being but in a way that is foreign to most of my colleagues in the human trafficking world. I don’t fit into a nice neat category. This is true of most Christians, which is why the strategy of the enemy is often to attack from both sides.

The desire to stop being attacked from both sides often draws Christians into error and compromise. It’s a powerful temptation to want to be liked and thought of as compassionate and insightful by at least one side of the cultural battle. So some Christians begin to compromise truth in order to win favor with one side or the other. But that is not where Jesus stands.

Have you experienced the “attack from both sides” strategy of the enemy in your own life? If so, you’re in good company.

All People

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 

1 Timothy 2:1-6

Paul urged Timothy to pray for all people.

Why?

Because God wants all people to be saved.

How?

Through the one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

What this reveals is that in this broken and fallen world, God’s will is not always done. Jesus gave himself for all people and God wants all people to be saved, and yet not all people are saved. This is why we were taught to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”(Matthew 6:10). We have to pray that God’s will be done on earth because it’s not always done on earth. His will is always done in the heavenly realms but not always on earth.

Why?

Because there are forces that resist God’s will being done on the earth. Ephesians 2 lists three forces that push against God’s will being done on earth.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. 

Ephesians 2:1-3

The three forces that push against the will of God being done on earth are: 1) our flesh–our old self riddled with cravings, desires and thoughts that are sinful; 2) Satan (a.k.a. the ruler of the kingdom of the air)–the one who works in the hearts and minds of those who are disobedient (see Ephesians 6:12); and 3) the ways of the world–the collective societal deception and disobedience that the enemy uses to create corporate strongholds of lies and unbelief.

God did not create humanity to be marionettes. He gave us the freedom to be in an authentic love relationship with Him. Yet, we continually abuse this freedom and usher evil into the world. When we sin and rebel against God, we hand the authority God gave us to rule (Genesis 1:28) to our enemy, and he uses it to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This is why what God wants to happen on the earth doesn’t always happen.

We have to stop blaming God when hard things happen. We need a better understanding of His sovereignty that factors in human freedom and the forces at work against God’s Kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven.