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Stop Blaming the Devil!


When was the last time you ran a reality check on your perceptions of God's Word? Too many believers embrace popular misunderstandings of what God has said rather than the truth. According to Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, understanding God's truth means your perceptions become aligned with God's reality of the thing being perceived. One area in which the perceptions of believers do not line up with the truth relates to our understanding of how we are to deal with the devil. Many Christians believe we should order Satan around with great fervor, frequency and volume.

Satan cooperates with this deception, conceding victories whenever necessary to perpetuate the lie that God's people need to battle him for everything God has promised them. This deception keeps earnest Christians too busy with Satan to focus on humbling and surrendering themselves to God.


 

But God is more concerned about the state of our souls than He is about the devil. He says in His Word, "'If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves [their souls], and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways [of their souls], then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their [souls'] sin and heal their land' " (2 Chr. 7:14, NKJV). The Hebrew word for wicked (ways), ra, includes characteristics of being disagreeable and having an unhappy disposition.

God is telling us that what will bring about the healing of the land is His people's turning away from wrong attitudes and self-centeredness. He does not say anything about warring with Satan to heal the land.

Daniel understood the need for humility and repentance. He prayed and confessed the corporate wrong agreement of God's people when they were in captivity in Babylon: "We have sinned and dealt perversely and done wickedly and have rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances...We have not earnestly begged for forgiveness and entreated the favor of the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and have understanding and become wise in Your truth" (Dan. 9:5,13, The Amplified Bible).

The Israelites had been and still were actively entering into wrong agreements about what God was saying to them through His prophets. These wrong agreements had created "legal" grounds for Satan to establish a territorial dominion over them, controlled by the demonic prince of Persia. Wrong agreement always gives right of access to Satan's workings.

Daniel knew that surrender and obedience were the solutions to the Israelites' bondage. When he sought right agreement with God through confessing the sins of his people and repenting, God swiftly sent the archangels Gabriel and Michael to take out the prince of Persia. Note that God did not say Daniel or the Israelites needed to fight Satan over their bondage.

Plans for Satan's Destruction

It is man's desires for power, status and riches that allow evil spirits to harass human souls. These same desires are cunningly promoted by Satan as requirements for "power-Christian" status.

But is "power Christianity"--constant warring with the enemy--God's plan for Satan's ultimate destruction? I don't think so.

In Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul gives us a clue to God's will for the body of Christ on earth: "To make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (NKJV, emphasis added). The terms "principalities and powers" here mean "demonic forces," as it does in Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Considering 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Daniel 9:5,13 along with Ephesians 3:10, we see an interesting truth emerge. God's manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10) will be made known through the church to principalities, powers and rulers of darkness when the body of Christ comes into alignment with 2 Chronicles 7:14, using Daniel 9:5-13 as a pattern for prayer.

And I believe God's manifold wisdom may be the exact opposite of the charismatic "power-Christianity" being modeled today. Regardless of how contemporary Christian songs portray him as a fool, Satan is quite aware that he will ultimately go down. However, he may not know how he will be brought down.

Perhaps he believes he will be known in eternal history as the only entity with whom God Himself ever had to personally war. But what if God's manifold wisdom is to use His own children, humble lambs with servant-like natures, as conduits of His power to take Satan down? Wouldn't that be the ultimate humiliation--to be defeated by sheeplike believers with no personal strength to match Satan's own destructive powers?

We'd be just God's kids counting on His promises that He would use us to fulfill His great purposes. If Christians could see their lives through the perspective of such a plan, it would help clarify what misunderstandings must be put away in order to be a part.

Surrender and Obey

When we are unaware that our Christian walks are not centered in God's truth, we will often make wrong choices to accommodate our souls' unhealed hurts, unmet needs, fears and doubts. All of us have made wrong choices, as Jonah did when he ran from God, and had to suffer the consequences. But today we're being taught to "rebuke" the consequences of those bad choices.

This is ridiculous. No human being could have rebuked or cast Jonah's whale-sized consequence from him! Yet after Jonah prayed and surrendered his own will, trusting in the mercy of God, God commanded the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land (see Jon. 2:7-10). What a concept!

There is a catch, however. When God delivers you from a tough consequence He expects you to realize that He is delivering you to put you back on track with His will. Beware of casually walking away from a divine intervention in your circumstances to pursue your life in the manner that led you into the whale's belly in the first place! God has little patience for that.

Many struggling Christians are embracing the wrong idea that they can confess away the consequences of their self-willed choices. They are being taught to rebuke or command Satan's "hindrances" out of their paths, with little understanding that most of the hindrances have been self-created.

Brothers and sisters, you cannot command or rebuke consequences out of your way; you must surrender and obey your way through them. Obedience always brings grace to the one who seeks to avoid getting back into the same circumstances.

If you are stiff-necked and stubborn, God may lift His grace and let consequences ride over you like a herd of elephants. Try confessing, casting or commanding elephants out of your path!

Consequences from choosing to believe wrong teaching will almost always have industrial-strength Velcro all over them, sticking to everything we try to do. If we could just admit, "God, nothing I've tried works!" and ask Him, "Why do I keep doing this to myself, and how can I stop?"

I believe He would answer: "You have wrong ideas and are depending on wrong things. You cannot command your way out of a spiritual mess; you have to obey your way out of it! You're going to have to let your wrong understanding go, and trust Me to teach you the truth that will set you free."

Faith, Fear and Finances

Three areas in which we have embraced misunderstanding rather than the truth of what God has said are faith, fear and finances. Extreme teachings on these topics are setting up many Christians for delusion about the source of their troubles and causing them to doubt in God's faithfulness.

Faith is being taught as a force, a weapon to use against Satan and a means of "spiritual financing" for what the human soul wants. Charismatic teachers often say that faith is a tangible spiritual force with the ability to produce natural substance.

But Paul used the Greek word hypostasis ("substance") in Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for," to mean "a steadfast mind having courage, resolve, confidence and trust in God's goodness" (Thayer's). Nothing in Hebrews 11:1 implies a tangible substance that can be produced by what a human mind conceives and desires.

New Testament Greek almost always defines "faith" as "having trust and confidence in the goodness, wisdom and power of God." God has a most excellent future for each one of us here on Earth--good works to do, good paths to walk in and good lives to live (see Eph. 2:10, The Amplified Bible). Stepping fully into this excellent future requires obedience and surrender to His will.

My best prayers seek the alignment of my will on Earth with His will in heaven. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus said, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10, NKJV). So, the best prayer I can pray is: "I bind my will to your will, God. Your will be done."

When I live in accordance with this prayer, I don't have to figure out how to save the world, my family, my bank account or my reputation--or how to save myself from the devil. I just need to obey what God has said. True faith is a place of rest and peace because it trusts an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God to take care of all of the details. He doesn't need my input to get them right.

Regardless of how much faith we have, disobedience to what God has said allows Satan to get involved in our lives. Let me give you an example. Ephesians 4:26 says we are not to let the sun go down on our anger. If we choose to ignore this command and retire with anger still festering in our hearts, we open the door to bitterness, resentment and other evil works.

And justifying our actions does not absolve us of wrongdoing. How often God must wonder, "What part of Ephesians 4:26 don't they get?" Rationalizing and justifying are the timber and bricks of the strongholds in our souls, and Ephesians 4:27 (The Amplified Bible) tells of their consequence: They give the devil a foothold in us. Satan uses such access to attack believers in spite of their authority, blood covering and righteousness in Christ.

Authority is always hindered, even rendered useless, by the presence of open doors that an enemy can access. Military leaders know their highest levels of authority are useless if they have open doors in their supply sources and communication lines. There isn't a smart enemy alive--including Satan--who won't use such doors to attack, slash and burn.

We have been told exactly what to do to see God heal our land, and we have not done it. We have become too power and authority conscious to humble ourselves as God instructed.

Fear is another subject of extreme teachings today. Many people have been taught that there is a demonic spirit of fear. This teaching is generally based on 2 Timothy 1:7, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (KJV).

The NIV translation is clearer, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Thayer's defines pneuma (spirit) as it is used here to mean "being filled with the same spirit as Christ, and by the bond of that spirit to be intimately united to Christ." In other words, regenerated human spirits are not timid, having no room for fear because they are filled with the Spirit of Christ.

Fear is a symptom of an unresolved issue in the soul that keeps churning out emotional confusion, doubt and lack of trust. As long as any such unresolved issue exists and is fiercely guarded by self-constructed strongholds, the enemy can apply pressure in circumstances that mimic those out of which the fear was birthed in the first place.

Fear is not an evil spirit; it is an emotional response to a lack of trust and confidence in the goodness of God. You cannot be delivered of a lack of trust or have stronghold-protected wrong thinking, damaged emotions and unresolved issues cast out of your soul.

And God won't dismantle your strongholds. That would be a violation of your soul's attempts to guard itself. You have to choose to tear them down (see 2 Cor. 10:3-5) and give God voluntary access to heal you.

Finances is another area of extreme teaching today. I have visited several charismatic ministry Web sites and come away concerned regarding advice about finances. One Web site encouraged financially strapped people to confess: "My debt is gone. I have no debt. My bills are paid!"

There is no scriptural basis for such a confession regarding unpaid bills. If God were to deliver some Christians from their debt without teaching them to have a paradigm shift in thinking about money, these Christians would get in debt again. If we do not learn why we are always living in lack, any reprieve from God will be only a stopgap. God could make millionaires out of all of us, but He wisely chooses not to--at least not until we bring our understanding of finances into alignment with His.

God has never said His kingdom work is dependent on human wealth. Rather, it is "dependent" on the condition of the hearts of those who want His will done, even if it requires that their entire financial wealth be surrendered to Him.

I believe that money in itself means very little to God, that He created it only to teach us about our own motives. God is concerned about what money means to the one who wants it. Money is not the answer to our deepest needs. read more

Today's Servant of Christ

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. —Hebrews 6:10

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When Ministry Gets Messy

Want to be used by God in supernatural ways? Then be ready and willing to get your hands dirty.

In 1979, I lived in Weaverville, a mountain town of about 3,000 people in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. My wife, Kathy, and I had moved there and bought a Union 76 service station in town. 

One winter day it was snowing like crazy, and our city was about 3 feet deep in snow. The wind was howling, and the snow was falling horizontally. It was so cold that I had closed the bay doors and was running the heater full blast. My crew was working on cars, and I was in the office doing the books.  read more

Secrets

No More Secrets

Confessing your sins openly and honestly is a key to spiritual victory. Don't hide in the darkness!

Secret burdens can be very difficult to bear. I know. For nearly 35 years I carried a secret--a life hidden away in my inner world that no one knew anything about. Now all of that was changing as I sat in my family room with 15 other people. Gathered around me were my wife, her parents and sister, three of my four teenage children, and several college students who were closely connected to us because of my job at Asbury College in Kentucky.

I had called this family meeting with the express purpose of confessing my sins to those I had sinned against, and seeking their forgiveness. On the outside my life looked pretty good. A successful ministry, all-American family, beautiful wife and kids. But on the inside my life was in shambles.

At home I was a perfectionist husband and demanding father, and my family was pulling away from me because of my negativity and control. An undercurrent of anger flowed just beneath the surface of many of my interactions with Marilyn and our children. This turmoil was fueled by my own irritation at myself for the recurring failures in my life and my inability to rise above habitual sin.

Now all this was changing right before my eyes.

Five days before, I had lain on the floor in the grand ballroom of the Regal Riverfront Hotel in St. Louis, overwhelmed by the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. I had been attending a conference at which, in response to a word of knowledge by a member of the conference staff, I had experienced a "power encounter" with the God of the universe. He reached deep into the recesses of my inner world and broke the stranglehold that pornography and masturbation had on my life.

Not only was I delivered of this secret sin, but a few minutes later I also was given the grace to bring it into the light. I confessed it to my friend Jeff James, who was attending the conference, and then I called Marilyn, confessing and repenting to her for the duplicity in my life.

Now, back at home, I sat nervously amid my family and friends. I would be telling them the truth--the rough, unvarnished, unmitigated truth about my secret world of pornography use--and seeking their forgiveness for how I had sinned against them.

Shortly after I began my confession God filled the room with His presence, visiting us in power. The family meeting that began at 7 p.m. didn't end until almost 4 o'clock the next morning.

We experienced healing, deliverance and restoration of broken family relationships. Any doubts I had about God's work among us were dispelled when my mother-in-law fell under the power of the Holy Spirit after I prayed for her.

Private Sins

From the beginning, sin has always involved hiding. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. David tried to hide his sin with Bathsheba--going as far as to arrange the murder of her husband.

Adam and Eve used fig leaves to try to conceal their failure, but most of us hide behind lies. To cover our sin and its consequences, we stitch together flimsy excuses and decorate them with ornate stories in an effort to keep others from discovering who we really are or how badly we have failed them. The closer someone comes to discovering the truth about us, the more creative our lies must become to keep the secret hidden.

The logical result of hiding is that lying becomes a way of life. As believers, this means our everyday lives might be filled with religious activity, but we end up proclaiming one thing and living another. We live in an artificial world constructed of a combination of blatant lies, implied lies and half-truths.

But a lie is a lie, even when we're deceiving ourselves with lines such as: "That's not so bad," "I'm only hurting myself," "No one knows."

We also are likely to embrace the lie that we are stuck and there is no way out of our problems. When this happens we are siding with the accuser of the brethren, the "father of lies" (see John 8:44). Satan will enlist us to testify against the truth of God's grace, which says He can liberate us, and stand with self-accusation, which says He cannot.

When the devil lies, he speaks his native language. And as the father of all lies he has sired lying "twins" to help him hold people in bondage.

Shame and Pride are the twins the devil uses as spiritual extortionists. They continually extract hush money--making us regularly pay from our already bankrupt lives. Emotional and spiritual poverty, along with broken relationships, are the high costs of listening to Shame and Pride when they tell us to keep our sins hidden.

Like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of author Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, they sing the same song with the same results. They conspire to keep us hiding and bound.

Shame says: "You better not let anyone know. What will they think?"

Pride echoes: "You better not let anyone know. What will they think?"

So we continue trying, under a shroud of silence, to work out the problem by ourselves, with no allies, assistance or accountability.

One of the lies I believed for so long was that no one could truly understand my struggle. I was a spiritual leader in my circles, and if I couldn't fix the problem, who could?

Hounded day and night by my failures, I concluded my situation was so unique and my failures and sins so grievous that no one could even identify with me, let alone help. I knew what the Bible said--that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Rom. 3:23)--but I believed no one could understand what I was wrestling with.

The writer of Hebrews tells an entirely different story from what I believed: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:13-16, NIV).

Before God, there are no secrets and no places to hide. But does He understand our struggles with sin?

According to verse 15, He was tempted in every way I was (yet didn't sin). Therefore I can go before Him with confidence that I will find mercy in my time of need--and ample supplies of grace.

During the years I struggled, I held to the promise of forgiveness in 1 John 1:8-9: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (NKJV).

I describe these verses as the "vertical pathway to forgiveness." I had walked this path so frequently, though, that it had been worn almost to a rut. I longed for the day I could be truly free and not have to drag myself wearily back to the mercy seat because of the same old sins.

In my efforts to confess my sin to God, I had shed tears at altar rails on three continents. I had made bargains with Him I couldn't keep. I had poured out my heart to Him, pleading for deliverance. But I had always returned to the same old sins.

Before my experience in St.Louis, I had tried to deal with my sin issues privately with God. Fear, shame and pride kept me from bringing my struggles into the light and telling anyone else. I not only had lied to my family, but also had lived in self-deception (see 1 John 1:8).

But after I shared with Jeff what God had done for me and then called Marilyn, the miracle of James 5:16 began to work in me. "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (NIV).

This dimension of forgiveness became a key component in my healing and deliverance. After I had brought my confession into the light, the enemy no longer could use the fear of someone finding out to keep me bound.

Confessing to others can be called the "horizontal pathway to forgiveness." Vertical confession (to God) and horizontal confession (to one another) form the shape of a cross--and when combined, the completed work of the cross becomes real in our own experience.

In my situation, the confession of sin unlocked the closed hearts of my family. They no longer saw me as the Mr. Perfect I pretended to be but as a fellow struggler in need of the grace of God. And I have watched as hundreds of times my story has opened the doors for others to say, "It's my story, too."

Hiding No More

The Christian landscape is littered with the ruined lives of leaders and followers who fell into sin and became victims of the fallout when their private sins were made public against their will. I wonder how many of these fallen might have finished well if they had chosen to tell others of their struggles.

One time during an interview I was asked, "Tell me, Harvey, are Christians hypocrites?" I replied that I believed the accusation was a fair one.

The word "hypocrite" was used in ancient Greek drama to describe an actor. Many Christians act as if their lives are healed, as if they have it perfectly together, when they actually are broken, wounded, sin-saturated pretenders afraid to risk being known for who they are.

I went on to answer the interviewer that the church should be a hospital, a place where broken and wounded people come to be healed and patched up by God. Then I told my own story.

God is never shocked by anything we do. All our days are already written in His book. In spite of all He knows about us, He still chooses to love us and invite us into a relationship with Himself.

If we too fostered an atmosphere of love, acceptance, healing grace and open confession, then the church would operate more like an emergency room for the fallen than a museum of the successful. We would never be surprised to find sick and suffering people in a hospital, would we? Neither should we be surprised to find sinners (that's us, friends) in God's house seeking a soul cure.

Charles Wesley's hymn "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" includes the verse: "He breaks the power of canceled sin / He sets the prisoner free." Our sins were dealt with for eternity on Calvary. There is nothing more we can do to add to the efficacy of Christ's blood.

A strong dynamic is set in motion when we confess our sins to one another. Sin's power breaks because shame, fear and pride no longer can hold us hostage.

When we humble ourselves before our brother or sister, we can receive prayer and comfort--and hear someone "with skin on" remind us: "You are forgiven in Jesus' name."

I have held numerous sufferers who have sobbed their way through confessions of sin and brokenness. And I have been able to look them in the eye and say with authority, "Your sins are forgiven, just as mine have been forgiven."

 


Harvey Brown Jr. is president of Impact Ministries in Wilmore, Ky. He is featured on the DVD, Living in the Freedom Christ Gives: Finding Healing and Wholeness in a Sexually Broken World. It is available at www.impactministries.org. read more

Pray About Everything; Worry About Nothing

Philippians 4:1-23 Most of us are familiar with the phrase that is "batted about" so casually today: "Don't worry, be happy." There is a way you can not worry and be happy no matter what you are facing in this life—pray. The phrase should be revised to say, "Don't worry, Pray!" If we followed this admonition, our lives would be filled with joy (not just a happy "ha-ha" joy, but an inner joy that will strengthen us in all circumstances).

Worry is a sin. Worry is negative meditation. When we meditate, we roll over and over again in our minds the same thing. When we worry, we keep thinking over and over again the same negative thought. Both my mother and mother-in-law were worriers. I think since they both went through the Great Depression a little worry bug was implanted deep within them, and it was hard to shake it off. Most of the things they worried about never came to pass. read more

Unlocking the Gift of Tongues

Find out a few things speaking in tongues empowers a believer to do.

Our spirit language enables us to have spirit-to-Spirit communication with God. Speaking in tongues helps us fulfill the Scriptures that instruct us to be filled with the Spirit, led of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, and worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.

Our spirit language builds up our spirit man. Praying in tongues charges our spirits like a battery charger powers a battery. Jude 1:20 declares that we build ourselves up in the faith by praying in the Spirit. The apostle Paul also declared in Romans 5:5 that the love of God is poured into our hearts by praying in our spirit language.

Our spirit language is a catalyst that produces all the manifestations of the Spirit of God. Speaking in tongues empowers us to become more Christ-like, produce the fruit of the Spirit and manifest the supernatural gifts of God (see Gal. 5:22; 1 Cor. 12:7-11). First Corinthians 14:4 says, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” Edify means “to build up, enable, empower and charge.”

The gift of the Holy Spirit places a power-producing plant within us that generates the power of God like the Hoover Dam pumps electricity. The dam’s water gate is like our mouths, while the turbine inside the gate is like our tongues. The dynamo in the heart of the dam is like the Holy Spirit within our spirits. 

The fast twirling of the turbine’s blades is what causes the rotation of the great dynamo in the heart of the dam. The dynamo is what generates the power, but it’s the turning of the turbine that starts and keeps the dynamo going.

This is what happens when we are filled with the Spirit, open the water gate of our mouths and allow those rivers of living water to flow. As the turbine of our tongues begins to churn out the language of the Spirit, it starts a dynamo activity in our spirits that generates the power of God within us.

From this illustration we understand more what Jesus had in mind when He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit enables you to generate the power of God by praying in tongues. The reservoir is filled with good evangelical water for cleansing, baptizing and fishing for new converts, but it does not produce any power until it flows through the water gate and turns the turbine.

The spirit language is the activator of the gifts of the Spirit. In short, speaking in tongues grows the fruit of faith, which is the procurer of all God’s promises. read more

Take Up Your Cross

Jesus called us to live as if we are already dead. Have you discovered the freedom of the crucified life?

 
One of the primary marks of Christ's life was His continual declaration that He was born to die. He taught His disciples that the avenue to greatness was always found in the willingness to forfeit one's own desires and serve those who are the nearest and often the least in the world's eyes.

The call to partnership in His kingdom was initiated by an invitation to "deny [yourself], and take up [your] cross [an instrument of death], and follow Me" (Mark 8:34-35, NKJV). Such an offer is quite a bit different from the man-centered, need-oriented invitations that permeate the landscape of modern church culture today. read more

Why Fast?


During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples the principles of the kingdom of God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying and fasting.

Jesus said, "When you give" and "When you pray" and "When you fast." He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is devoted to giving and to praying. read more

What Are Your Kingdom Priorities?

When your priorities are out of order your life is filled with confusion.

My first word of counsel to every leader is drawn from biblical wisdom—"seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). When a person's priorities are out of order, his life will be filled with confusion and God's given purpose will not be fulfilled.

Confirm your status as a citizen of the kingdom of God by acknowledging His authority over your time, talents, opportunities and treasures. When seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is top priority, you will be able to experience faithfulness as a steward of God's blessings.

Second, "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5-6). It is essential for servant leaders in the kingdom to maintain an ongoing, intimate relationship of trust and obedience to God. Challenging situations tempt us to lean upon our own understanding. Always remember that God has promised to be with us at all times and that He delights in our acknowledging and trusting in Him. The kingdom is His kingdom, and we belong to Him; we are God's responsibility.

God's call to ministry is a call to preparation. It is not a call to success, but a call to faithfulness.

Bishop George McKinney is pastor of St. Stephen's Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego and a member of the denomination's 12-member General Board.

 

 

Read other tips for effective spiritual leadership here. read more

Help! I Think I’m Possessed!

Help! I Think I’m Possessed!

Demons are real—and Christians aren’t immune from their influence. But thanks to Christ’s work on the cross, we are guaranteed victory over Satan and his minions.

 

One of the most popular television series in recent years is Survivor. A group of people are left in a desolate location and must survive on what is at hand. As part of the intrigue, only one can win the large cash prize when the contest ends. As the show progresses, the contestants never know their friends from their enemies.

We live in a beautiful world, yet to survive we, too, must know our enemies. Our worst adversaries are not people but invisible forces of darkness. These forces carry out the orders of a former ally who turned against God. Satan and his evil minions are very near and ready to take out God’s soldiers. Yet God has given us the resources to survive and thrive.

To defeat our enemy, we must know him and be fully aware of the weapons at our disposal. Revelation 12:9 reaches back before time: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast out to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (NKJV). These fallen angels are given several different names in Scripture—demons, principalities, powers, ruler(s) of darkness, wicked spirits, unclean spirits, among other descriptions—and there are many of them. According to Revelation 12:4, one-third of the innumerable hosts of angels fell. The “stars of heaven” refer symbolically to the angels.

Jesus Christ regularly confronted demons as an integral part of His ministry. Luke 4:18 records how He launched His public ministry by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor ... to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Obviously Jesus knew His purpose was to rescue humanity from the bondage and oppression of the enemy.

Jesus confronts demons at least nine times in the New Testament, notably in Luke 8:26-39 when He cast a legion of demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. The demons had the power to torment and create mental disorders. Yet the glorious truth is that they had to obey the commands of Jesus Christ.

Can people still be demon-possessed? The short answer is yes. The Greek word describing the condition of a person affected by a demon is “daimonizomai,” which was translated as “demon-possessed” in the King James Version. According to Bible scholars, the word is in present tense with an active voice and a passive ending. A person in this condition can be described as in “a demon-controlled passivity.” He or she is being controlled to the a point of passivity by a demon.

Because Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them, the degree of demonization is limited in believers. A Christian can be controlled by the enemy, but not owned. This is important to remember because one of Satan’s great strategies is to get Christians to believe that they are immune to demonic influence. A Spirit-filled believer walking in obedience to Christ is absolutely protected from the enemy. However, while a disobedient Christian’s spirit is protected from the enemy, his mind and body can be subject to attack.

A Christian can “give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). When a Christian lives with unconfessed, habitual sin the enemy moves in to that place in the believer’s life. The enemy constructs a thought pattern around that sin or attitude. Second Corinthians 10:4-5 describes that house of thoughts as a stronghold. Demons can take up residence in that stronghold in the believer’s life. These demons don’t possess the Christian anymore than a cockroach can possess a house. Cockroaches are dirty and troublesome, but they don’t own the house. In the same way, demons can harass, oppress and depress the believer, but they can’t damn him or her.

Symptoms of a Bound Life

After spending a decade doing hand-to-hand combat with satanic forces, I have discovered several symptoms of demonic operation. Some of these indicators can be signs of mental illness, which isn’t always the result of demonic attack. But when good psychological care from Christian professionals doesn’t result in a cure, it is often possible that the person’s symptoms could point to demonic operation.

Drawn from the account of the demoniac of Gadara in Mark 5, the first six symptoms are extreme. The man in that passage was controlled by a legion of demons and had been chained in a cemetery because of his erratic and violent behavior. Other signs of demonic activity may be subtler, but they are no less dangerous and shouldn’t be ignored.

1. Incapacity for normal living (see Mark 5:1-5). The actions of legion made him unsuitable for normal social interaction with friends and family. An unusual desire for solitude, accompanied by a deep loneliness, will often set in. The person will often become very passive with no desire to change.

2. Extreme behavior (see Mark 5:4). An explosive temper and extreme uncontrollable anger could be signs of demonic activity. These are dangerous behaviors that control the individual and affect surrounding loved ones.

3. Personality changes (see Mark 5:9,12). Changes in personality, extreme or mild, may be evidence of demonic activity. And though all cases of multiple personality may not be demonic, in most cases demon activity is involved.

4. Restlessness and insomnia (see Mark 5:5). The demoniac cried in the tombs “night and day.” He couldn’t sleep. Insomnia can be a sign of a physical or spiritual problem. God has gifted His children with sleep (see Ps. 127:2). So when you can’t sleep night after night and there is no medical reason, the devil may be tormenting you.

5. A terrible inner anguish (see Mark 5:5). Grief and anguish are normal emotions. Yet persistent unresolved anguish that won’t leave after normal therapies of counseling, encouragement and prayer could well be demonic.

6. Self-inflicted injury and suicide. In Mark 5:5, the demonized man was cutting himself. And in Mark 9:14-29, a man’s son was both deaf and mute because of a demon, and the evil spirit would often throw the boy into fire and water to destroy him. Demons can cause people to injure themselves and even incite suicide.

7. Unexplained illness. When medical testing produces no physical cause for an illness, then we should look to the mind and spirit for answers. Sometimes illnesses are psychological, and good counseling can result in a cure. Other times the battle is with demons. Luke 13:11-16 tells the story of a “daughter of Abraham” who was afflicted by a “spirit of infirmity.” Although she was a child of God, she was tormented by illnesses caused by this class of demons.

8. Addictive behavior. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling and other things opens the door to demonic influence and control. I’m not saying demons cause all of these problems. But anything that causes one to be out of control opens that person to infernal control.

9. Abnormal sexual behavior. The spirit of harlotry is mentioned several times in Ezekiel 16:20-51. This spirit infected the nation of Israel with the sins of Sodom and even motivated the people to sacrifice their own children. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication and even infanticide were all inspired by the spirit of harlotry (see Hos. 4:12). And nations and families are sold into spiritual bondage by the witchcraft of this spirit (see Nah. 3:4). When we play around with sexual sin, we open ourselves to this demonic spirit. We must battle this principality that dominates our nation.

10. Defeat, failure and depression in the Christian life. It is Satan’s purpose to rob us of the victorious life that is ours in Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:10-14). This symptom is often manifested by an inability to praise and worship, which is a weapon of warfare. In Psalm 106:47, David asks God for salvation so he could “triumph in [God’s] praise.”

11. Occult involvement and behavior. Occult involvement is clearly a symptom of demonic control. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 catalogs the works of the occult, including child sacrifice, fortune-telling, sorcery and calling up the dead.

12. Speech difficulties. In Matthew 9:32-33, Jesus rebuked a demon, and the mute man was able to speak. Speech difficulties may be physical, emotional or mental, but in some cases they are demonic. Extreme language and cursing also may be prompted by the enemy.

13. Doctrinal error. First Timothy 4:1 warns that in the last days deceiving spirits will teach the doctrines of demons. Today religious cults and charlatans abound. The reason these deceivers draw many people is the power of the demonic that teaches them.

14. Religious legalism. In Galatians 3, the church at Galatia had forsaken a faith ministry that resulted in the miraculous for a law ministry of rules and regulations. Paul classified this error as witchcraft. Some deeply religious people are under the bondage of tradition, man-made rules and outward appearances. Demons thrive in this kind of environment, especially demons of control. Whenever something is substituted for faith in the finished work of Christ, it is a doctrine of demons.

The Liberating Truth

Ignoring the truth about demonic forces is frivolous and perilous, but at the heart of spiritual warfare is this truth: The battle has already been won! Satan and the forces of hell are on a short leash because of what Christ did at Calvary. We are not fighting for victory, but rather from victory. The powers of darkness were conquered at the cross. Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, [Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

The blood of Jesus wiped out our sin and left Satan powerless. Every blow that drove the nails into His holy hands was also a nail in the coffin of Satan. The glorious truth is that you and I can enforce that victory. We can see Satan in rapid retreat, and the steps to victory are simple.

Submit to the authority of Christ. Before a believer can effectively put Satan to flight, he must be under authority himself. James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The word proud in that verse describes a self-sufficient person who runs his own life. The word resist means “to arrange an army against.” God has placed an army against the self-sufficient.

A rebellious, sinning Christian cannot put Satan to flight. The Christian who lives in obedience under God-given authority can send the enemy fleeing. The secret to Jesus’ power was that He lived under the will of the Father. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death (see Phil. 2:8). After His submission came His exaltation. Philippians 2:10 declares that every realm is now under Christ’s authority—the spiritual realm, the natural realm and the demonic realm. Before we can stand in authority, we must submit ourselves to God completely.

Resist Satan. James 4:7 says: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We must learn that we can’t hide from Satan. We can’t outrun him, and we can’t get away from him on this planet. How, then, do we resist the enemy?

 

  •  
    • Live, under authority, an obedient and clean life.
    • Stand against Satan in the authority of Christ.
    • Remain steadfast in faith, believing God for the victory.
    • Verbally attack Satan with the Word of God and the work of Christ.
    • Give no place to Satan; give up no ground whatever.
    • Demand in the authority of Christ that he leave.
    • Give thanks and praise to God and watch the devil run.

 

When believers are set free from bondage, it releases the flow of God’s life into the church. The dry places are where demons live, according to Luke 11:24. When believers experience the liberating power of the truth of the good news of Christ, then the power of God is released through them. God promises revival and a harvest to those who come home from bondage.

Satan and his minions are defeated foes. The victory has been won at the cross. The battle rages on earth, but we don’t have to live in bondage and defeat. We can know the joy of victory and release. 


Ron Phillips is pastor of Abba’s House in Hixson, Tenn., and author of Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare, which releases in September.


Find out how to recognize and defeat the seven demons that attack the church at warfare.charismamag.com  read more



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