February 20, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

As aspiring people of prayer, as people who seek fluency in the biblical language of spiritual warfare, we have a problem. There’s no use denying it, and there’s plenty to be gained by confessing it: we are by nature rebels. In ourselves, surrender and submission is the last thing we would incline ourselves towards. I’m in my 40th year of serving Jesus and I am astounded (and ashamed) at how rare true and ongoing submission is in me. I am especially aware of this as I come out of a time of prayer and fasting. It is during these times, when I actually do experience “submission encounters,” that I realize how little I have been yielded the rest of the time.

We are selfish and self-centered. We want our own way, and more often than not we work out a way to get it. Those attitudes make a successful and consistent prayer life impossible, because submission is the very life blood of prayer. Look at this famous passage from Luke 18…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (vv. 10-14, ESV)

Jesus focuses on humility, but in context that might as well be a synonym for submission.

There is what might be called an “elliptical” relationship between prayer and submission to God’s will. Successful prayer is not possible without submission, but true submission cannot remain in the prayerless heart. We must submit to pray—unrepentant rebels never pray—but we must stay close to God in prayer in order to even have a chance at cultivating a submitted heart. No one ever “decided” to be surrendered and accomplished it on their own; it is a work of the Holy Spirit, without whom it wouldn’t even occur to us to submit. Similarly, we can be submitted at one point but then “unsurrender,” and go back to a fleshly, self-determining way of living (often while still being very religious in the eyes of all outsiders).

These are sobering thoughts. When I consider the dilemma of the absolute necessity of submission combined with our inability to do so, then consider that God has also commanded us to be prayerful, deeply submitted people, I look around desperately for the tie breaker He has provided, because I know it cannot be found in me.

Thankfully, He’s made a way, but in our redeemed nature and by means of a method. I will discuss that tie breaker tomorrow. Praying for God’s grace in you today,

Pastor Dave

February 19, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

Permit me now to synthesize some things from the last two days, namely the subject of worship of God in relation to the defeat and thrashings of the devil.

Once again, the Book of Revelation is instructive. No book in the New Testament is so graphic about the devil’s downfall and associated demonic activity. In fact, many Christians are hesitant to read the book for this reason, and avoid it because they are frightened of its strong imagery. But that is a terrible shame, because by the same token, no book in the New Testament is so worshipful of God as Revelation; it is filled with songs and scenes of worship from beginning to end. Some of the best songs of the Church throughout history are inspired by Revelation.

But allow me to go deeper, and into what I believe to be the heart of the matter: Revelation is, among other things, a story of spiritual warfare for the hearts of humankind—or rather, the culmination of that story which began in the Garden of Eden. No book describes open rebellion against God in more flagrant manifestation than Revelation, where a mortal man (the Beast, or Antichrist) seeks to make himself God, and basically convinces the world that they should worship him. But at the same time, no book in the New Testament reveals God as sovereign so lucidly, and presents the glory of a Church submitted to that lordship like Revelation does. Revelation is a study in stark contrasts.

So what does this have to do with our prayer life? In a word, it has to do with the Christian’s superweapon: submission. Once again, we do not wage war as the world does. Hollywood has filled our heads with the romantic imagery and rhetoric of rebels, tough guys and gals who saunter around, talk tough, and wear it as a badge of honor that they break all the rules to hit quicker and harder than their adversaries. That’s the world. But the people of God—the real people of God—win by mildness, by submission, by yielding to God the Father. We carry the day by laying down our lives.

Consider Samuel’s words to Saul:

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” ~ 1 Samuel 15:22–23 (ESV)

Saul was tall and strong and a powerful, charismatic military leader. Of note, he knew the forms of worship; Saul was offering a sacrifice. But his heart was not submitted. Because of this, Samuel compared his behavior to divination (aka witchcraft). Was this simply because Samuel picked a particularly bad sin to compare Saul’s rebellion to? I do not think so. Witchcraft is when a human being dabbles in the demonic in an attempt to manipulate God’s natural order and get what they want. Witchcraft might rightly be called the ultimate counterfeit of prayer. Witchcraft comes at a terrible price, because it removes the covering of divine protection that keeps us safe in “this present darkness.” Even unbelievers have some protection, granted by what has long been called “common grace”—God’s goodness and mercy extended to all humankind. But Saul’s rebellion was likened to witchcraft because what it did was remove the covering of God’s favor from his life—it amounted to walking out from under the umbrella of God’s protection into demonic acid rain. In the end, Saul couldn’t let go of his self-determination; he died by suicide after actually consulting a witch.

The contrast to Saul, of course, is David. David wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. But he was submitted. Paul describes David in Acts 13:22…

‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

Should any of us be surprised that David is also the consummate worshipper of the Old Testament, and perhaps even the entire Bible? To worship—not just in form, like Saul, but from the heart, like David—this is submission. We cannot simply meditate a bit on submission, or tell ourselves we will be submitted, or (worst of all) simply imagine we are submitted. Submission is an act that takes place as we worship, and it isn’t automatic. Like yeast being kneaded through dough, we have to allow wave after wave of surrender take us. Worship on our terms is not submission, and I would argue that it isn’t even really worship. Saul called what he was doing submitted worship; God called it no better than witchcraft. Saul lost his kingdom and his life; David’s throne lasts forever.

Consider again Revelation: it is a book that paints in spectacular fashion the final thrashings and ultimate implosion of demonic power in the world. But in the midst of those demonic ragings, we also see persistent worship. Look at this from Revelation 19…

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. ~ Revelation 19:4–8 (ESV)

Now look at armor that the warriors in the Last Battle, who follow Jesus against the forces of the Antichrist, are wearing:

And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. ~ Revelation 19:14

You see, just as witchcraft lifts the umbrella of protection, deep submission through authentic worship actually armors us. The devil might be raging around us, the demons going nuts, upheaval left and right—it might seem like Armageddon in your life—but as you worship, worship, worship the Lord, and place yourself through worship in a posture of deep submission, you live in the Shadow of the Almighty, and under His wings you find refuge. Submission through worship is your superweapon.

Worship the Lord today!

Pastor Dave

February 18, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

Continuing in this line of thinking, but painting with broader brush strokes, I’d like to call attention to a particular truth that we can observe through the Gospels and Acts, but I find articulated lucidly in Revelation 12:10-12…

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short! ~ Revelation 12:10–12 (ESV)

I could spill an ocean of ink over this passage alone, which is the thematic and mathematical center to the Book of Revelation; the intersection of themes and truths in this passage, converging from the beginning of the book to the end, is literally mind-boggling, but to quote someone much greater, “of these things we cannot now speak in detail” (Hebrews 9:5). I’d like to focus on 12:12, which refers to the rage of the devil.

If you read Revelation 12 from the beginning of the chapter, you’ll read about the downfall of Satan. The chapter is enigmatic for many, but basically it comes down to this: through the “Christ event”—Jesus’ incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, the devil has been utterly defeated (as we’ve noted in previous posts), and the “standing” he had stolen from Adam has been reclaimed by Jesus, who is the “Second Adam” (see Romans 5). What ensues in Revelation 12 is the battle between the devil and his angels and Michael the Archangel and the angels of heaven. Many have misinterpreted and misapplied the reference to Michael, but seeing it in the context of the rest of the Bible and the New Testament, basically what is happening here is that Michael is taking out the trash—he is God’s “bouncer”; the real defeat of the devil was something Jesus had already accomplished.

Now follow the sequence: After Satan is defeated by Christ and cast out of heaven is when the fireworks begin. Read the rest of the chapter, and into Revelation 13. The very nature of God’s redemptive plan and timing, together with the nature of our enemy, creates an arena—a platform and an opportunity—for the devil to thrash around and cause us problems. What is commonly known as the “already and the not yet” is heavily in play— Jesus “already” sits at the right hand of the Father, we are “already” redeemed by the blood of Christ, and the devil has “already” been cast down, but Jesus has “not yet” come, we do “not yet” have our new glorified bodies, and the devil is “not yet” cast into the lake of fire. This is the Age of the Church—the season in which we paradoxically must do battle with a defeated enemy who is like a mortally wounded tiger who can still do serious damage.

For me, this is one of the most difficult truths to follow, because it seems so at odds with human experience. The rage and danger posed by a human enemy is typically greatest before the question of victory is decided; once they are defeated the fighting stops. But Revelation reveals that with the defeat of the devil and his being cast down, that’s when things become the most intense.

But it isn’t just Revelation that says so. Look at case after case of encounters with demonic forces in the rest of the New Testament. To choose a couple: As Jesus casts out the demon from the deaf and mute boy (Mark 9), the demon shakes the lad so hard he appears as dead; the devil fought hardest and seemed to achieve success in his lifelong attempts on his victim’s life upon being defeated. After Paul cast the demon out of the soothsaying slave girl, he was wrongly convicted, beaten, and jailed (Acts 16). Then we have big picture things: both Paul and Jesus suffered what appeared to be ultimate defeat after they had spent years of ministry beating the daylights out of the devil.

Grasping this truth calls for wisdom and maturity, discernment and perseverance. In this respect the devil is very much like many wild animals that make a big show, puff themselves up, thrash about, and essentially go for broke when they know the game is up. The devil will seek to blindside you, catch you defenseless when you guard is down (a very common inner response after you’ve won a victory), use sneak attacks to undermine you just when you’ve made significant headway, throw up a smoke screen to pretend that you haven’t really gained ground on him. He may go all-in to tempt you into a sin you have a weakness for, to break your morale and “remind you” that you are “still his” after all that.

We are not unaware of the devil’s schemes. He does these things because he knows his time is short. His time is short in the big picture, and his time is short is your life and your striving against him. He’s mad. But his rage is a symptom of his defeat. Keep praising the Lord, keep pressing into prayer, keep your guard up. Stand, stand, and stand some more.

Praying for you,

Pastor Dave

February 17, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

We’ve been speaking about plunder, and plundering the enemy. In respect to this, I’d like to touch upon something I mentioned at the outset of our journey: worship. This theme is fitting not only because there are passages that connect worship and plunder, but also because to return to worship at this point in the discussion about spiritual warfare is strategic.

The Apostle Paul says this:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3–4 (ESV)

We repent, we seek holiness, we read the Word, we pray, we fast, we bind the devil and cast him out, we are deadly serious about fighting him and his minions so that we might set the captive free. All this is true. But let us remember that what we do is not just a spiritualized version of what earthly battle is like—the grimness, the gloom, the fear. No, Paul is telling us the way we fight is fundamentally different. Worship is one of the great ways we walk in this difference and demonstrate it.

Isaiah says,

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. 30 And the LORD will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. 31 The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the LORD, when he strikes with his rod. 32 And every stroke of the appointed staff that the LORD lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. ~ Isaiah 30:29–32 (ESV)

Translation: when the battle is joined, it falls to the devil and his bunch to be terrified. It falls to us to sing, and be glad, and play the flute, tambourine, and lyre. Our God fights for us. We fight differently—our weapons are not natural weapons.

Read 2 Chronicles 20, and the story of Jehoshaphat and the enemy army marching on Jerusalem. After praying and fasting, God prophetically gave them direction on how to win the battle. And this is what they did:

And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 22 And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. ~ 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 (ESV)

After all you’ve read about spiritual warfare in the past days, remember this: praise the Lord! Rejoice and be glad! Be of good cheer in Him! And as you glorify the Lord, His blows of will fall upon the forces of darkness, and they will flee.

Rejoicing in the Lord this day,

Pastor Dave

February 16, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

In the same vein of yesterday’s post, I’d like to take a look at another famous Scripture passage that deals with the subject of “binding” and loosing”—Matthew 16…

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” ~ Matthew 16:18–19 (ESV)

Now, there’s a lot of distraction about this passage since it has been used from ancient times by the Roman Catholic Church to justify the primacy of Peter as the first leader—or Pope—of the Church. To delve into that debate would take me far afield from my intended discussion here, but there’s no avoiding touching on a couple of things: 1) Jesus is clearly making a play on words when he tells Simon that he is “Peter” (Greek: petros, a small rock you could hold in the palm of your hand), and that upon this “rock” (Greek: petra, bedrock, or mountain crag) Jesus will build His Church, and 2) while the phonetic connection between these terms is obvious, the distinction between the words is equally as evident. Catholics and Protestants have wrestled over question for centuries and I won’t attempt to resolve it here; I only define these words to point out another truth more central to my purpose.

As with the passage about “binding the strong man” in Luke 11 (also Mark 3 and Matthew 12), Jesus associates the authority He is giving His people to “bind and loose” with power over the forces of darkness. (Note that while Jesus speaks in the singular—to Peter—in this passage, two chapters later in Matthew 18:18 He says the same thing while speaking in the plural, meaning, to all His people.) In other words, as He tells Peter he has the power to bind and loose, He also declares that the Gates of Hell (Greek: Hades) will not prevail against the Church.

What of this “binding and loosing”? I won’t pretend this is easy pickings, but I will offer my read on the passage: Jesus is saying that your prayers on earth have a direct effect in the spiritual realm—in heaven. Even as you are on earth, in the flesh, in this natural realm, you have been given authority (references to “keys” are always references to authority) that extends into the spiritual realm. Jesus has empowered you and given you the power of attorney in His name. It is a stunning passage. But lest we run away with it, as some have in their presumption, see what He says the authority is for: it is for building His Church. It is for taking authority over the forces of the devil—the Gates of Hell. It’s about taking the battle to the enemy. That battle can only be waged by the fear of God, humility, brokenness, and sincere faith. It would do us well to remember as we pray that Jesus won the battle by being crucified, so let’s spare Him any bravado. We pray with authority, but we pray knowing the price paid for that authority. Christians win their battles against the devil by imitating the Crucified and Risen Lord; when we live and act and pray that way, the devil trembles.

Now, what of these “Gates of Hell”? Here is where context is so important for a passage. Matthew tells us this encounter happened in Caesarea Philippi (also Mark 8). This city was far to the north of the mostly Jewish area of Galilee where Jesus lived, and was in truth a pagan, Gentile city. It was famous for a shrine to the Roman god pan, which was located in a massive natural cave found in an even more imposing rocky cliff face (a petra). A natural spring issued from the cave, and from even more ancient times it was used for pagan sacrifice—even perhaps human sacrifice. Pagans would kill the sacrifice and hurl it into the spring, and how the blood boiled up the surface told them whether they had the god’s favor. In Jesus’ day the cave was very much a center of pagan worship and dark blood sacrifice; most importantly for understanding this passage, the cave itself was considered a portal to the underworld—Hades itself.

Now we have a clearer picture of what Jesus was saying. He didn’t provoke the discussion about His identity (“Who do you say that I am?”) in His hometown, outside of a synagogue. He provoked it in a pagan Gentile town outside of a shrine known at the Gate of Hades. He didn’t talk about Peter and the rest of the Church “binding and loosing” in Jerusalem, but in a center of unclean idol worship. It was on decidedly unsafe, foreign turf that Jesus first confirmed and declared that he was, indeed, the Christ, and that He was investing His authority in His disciples (us!), and that he would build His Church, and that the Gates of Hell (yes, those ones right there behind Him, in all their imposing grandeur) would NOT prevail against that Church. The whole discussion was about mission.

Why would we even talk about the Gates of Hell prevailing (or not) against the Church? Because we are attacking those gates with a battering ram, that’s why. We are coming to get the goods. We are binding the strong man, we are praying like crazy and calling down the power of heaven because Jesus commanded us to, and we are seeking the fulfill the Great Commission and see the captive set free. We aren’t picking a fight; the fight has already been picked, long before we were born. As incredible as Jesus’ words must have sounded to His disciples (although without a doubt they were used to it by then!), what’s more incredible is that by the time the Gospel of Matthew was written, the Church of Jesus Christ was flourishing in the strongholds of pagandom all over the Roman world. Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Rome herself—all these cities were strongholds of pagandom, and all of them had local churches that were storming the Gates of Hell within living memory of the Lord Jesus. This prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled within the disciples’ lifetime.

If it happened for them, it can happen for us. Let us bind the strong man, and loose the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that the Lord Jesus build up His church, and pray that through us He take down the Gates of Hell in the community around us. People are bound by chemical addictions, porn, deceptions, hatred, and just plain old worldliness. God wants to set them free.

Pray, Corps of 24, pray!

Pastor Dave

February 15, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

We’ve discussed the armor of God, defensive and offensive spiritual warfare, the nature of our enemy, and the authority of the believer in Jesus’ name. Now I’d like to touch on a particular way we should be applying that authority and “wrestling” with those foes.

Let’s look at this passage, which also is found in similar form in Mark 3 and Matthew 12. It is a powerful an important text for understanding spiritual warfare through prayer:

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. ~ Luke 11:14–22 (ESV)

The context is fairly straightforward: Jesus casts out a demon, as He often did. In this case, however, His religious adversaries accuse Him of being demonized Himself—in league with the devil, and therefore empowered to cast out demons. Jesus, of course, promptly shreds their argument. But it is how He sums things up that is so telling: He tells us that casting out demons is akin to attacking and overcoming a strong man who is guarding his house (Jesus refers to Satan’s kingdom as his “house” in verse 17). Once he is overcome (the same story in Mark and Matthew uses the verb “bind” to describe how the strong man is vanquished), the attackers can plunder the house at will.

As He often does, Jesus is using role reversal in His parable to make it “pop” in the minds of His hearers. One would think in a story Jesus tells that the innocent party would be the homeowner, and the devil the one breaking in. But Jesus casts the devil as the one guarding the house, and Jesus (or those operating in Jesus’ name—see yesterday’s post) as the attacker or attackers. It is we who must “bind the strong man” by taking authority over the devil, so that we may plunder his “house.”

But what is the plunder? In the passage from Luke, the “plunder” Jesus claims is both the mute man who is delivered, and the people who saw the miracle and marveled (verse 14). People are the plunder. The devil holds people captive, but we, in Jesus’ name, are coming to “rob” the devil of those souls. And why not? He’s the real thief who has stolen them in the first place! Jesus bought and paid for those souls with His own blood! We are plundering the greatest thief in history!

I want to encourage you to pray for souls. Rebuke the forces of the devil that have “blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV) Keep in mind that this can be done by means of “power encounter” (like Jesus has in this passage), or long intercession, persisting in prayer for a church in a community, like NorthLake in Camas. Either way, praying for souls is the epitome of spiritual warfare!

The Lord has laid a verse upon my heart, and has confirmed it though others:

Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. ~ Ezekiel 36:37 (ESV)

I want to encourage you, as a member of the Corps of 24, to bind the devil, to rebuke him in Jesus’ name, to do it zealously, fiercely, and authoritatively in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to encourage you to break his deceptive power off of the minds of unbelievers. Pray against strongholds of fear that hold back God’s people from sharing Christ. Pray for a spirit of evangelism, for divine appointments, for lost lambs to come across your path—people who know the Lord but are wandering without a church. Pray for all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways. But pray, pray, pray that souls be redeemed, and that God’s church “increase like a flock.” God is specifically granting us permission to ask Him for that, so ask, ask ask!

Praying for you today!

Pastor Dave

February 14, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

We must face the facts: we are not powerful enough, clever enough, virtuous enough, or brave enough in ourselves to triumph in spiritual warfare. Even defeated, in this dark age before the Second Coming of Jesus our enemy is still too strong. But for this reason we are told to “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” What does that mean in practical terms?

To be strong in the Lord is really a comprehensive lifestyle, and even though I am going somewhere with this we can never lose track of that. There is no “trick,” or “silver bullet” to defeating the enemy. It’s about how we live, how we develop dependency on the Lord. This is especially true on the defensive end of things. But there are specific prayer weapons we can and should use when fighting the devil, and particularly in reference to the authority of Christ for the church which I wrote of yesterday.

Consider these passages:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! ~ Luke 10:17 (ESV)

While Jesus yet walked among them, His disciples invoked His name to vanquish demons.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons ~ Mark 16:17 (ESV)

The Risen Lord foretold and commissioned His future disciples (us!) to cast out demons in His name.

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” ~ Acts 3:6 (ESV)

Sickness is overcome in Jesus’ name.

Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. ~ Acts 16:18 (ESV)

Demons are driven out in Jesus’ name.

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. ~ Acts 19:13–16 (ESV)

This passage about the sons of Sceva is one of the more important ones we have because it demonstrates that the name of Jesus cannot be used like a magic password. Jesus said that those who believe would cast out demons in His name.

What we have in these passages and others is a demonstration of how Christ’s authority is passed on to the individual Christian believer. As Paul tells us, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) We live and breathe and worship and wage war in the name of the Lord Jesus. We are even called by that name—Christian (1 Peter 4:16). In the name of Jesus we have been given what is commonly called today the power of attorney. When we are carrying out the Lord’s commission, we invoke the name to release His authority. The Archangel Michael told Satan, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9) But as Jesus became human like us, we are actually given more direct access to His authority through His name. Paul did not tell the demon in Philippi “The Lord rebuke you”; he said, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”

In ourselves, we are nothing. In ourselves, we command no respect before the throne of heaven or the demons of hell. But when we live and pray and speak in the name of Jesus, as we’ve been told we should, God the Father hears us through Jesus’ intercession, and the devil and his minions quail because of Jesus’ cross and resurrection. Let’s remember this and apply these truths when we pray, and let us fearlessly rebuke the devil in Jesus’ name.

Invoking Jesus’ name on your behalf,

Pastor Dave

February 13, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

Again using Ephesians 6 as a starting point, I’d like to make another observation about the nature of the battle we are engaged in. Here’s our passage again:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.~ Ephesians 6:10–20 (ESV)

We’ve already been through the pieces of the armor, one by one, and we’ve unpacked what Paul means when he refers to “rulers…authorities…cosmic powers over this present darkness…[and] spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I’ve also touched upon the inner posture we are to adopt, namely, one of holy aggression. I’d like to continue in that last vein but with a specific eye towards the structure of this passage and what might be called the DNA of Ephesians itself from the very beginning of the letter.

If you look carefully at the passage above, you’ll notice that Paul begins his discussion of the armor speaking about our defensive needs. His exhortations in vv. 11-14 are all about standing against and withstanding, and the armor (as we’ve seen) is almost exclusively defensive, meant to turn aside the blows of the enemy and/or extinguish them (as with the shield of faith). But in v. 17 there is a decided shift: upon taking up the sword of the Spirit, the soldier of Christ goes on the offensive, and that offensive takes the form of prayer. Whereas various Greek verbs for stand occur four times in vv. 11-14, words for prayer occur four times in v. 18 alone. In other words, Paul shifts from standing defensively to moving forward offensively through prayer as the passage comes to its conclusion.

But—now knowing our enemy better than before—how do we go on the offensive against an enemy described as a “[a] ruler…[an] authority…[a] cosmic power over this present darkness”? If Michael the Archangel dared not be flippant with the devil (Jude 9), where does that put little old me?

The answer is actually found in that obscure little passage, believe it or not. Michael doesn’t let the devil get away with anything, but rather says, “The Lord rebuke you.” In ourselves, we do not have the authority to defeat the devil. But Jesus is strong enough. As we’ve seen, He has stripped the devil of the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18). But this message is present from the beginning of Ephesians, and Paul intends for us to have it in mind as we read about the armor of God:

[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.~ Ephesians 1:20–23 (ESV)

Jesus is Lord. He reigns over all powers and authorities, and His name is above every other name. And God the Father exalted Him this way for a purpose: Paul says Jesus was placed as head over all to the church. Other translations like the NIV and the NRSV render this verse as “for the church.” In other words, Jesus’ authority is available to us in the spiritual warfare we wage. So the issue isn’t whether we have to deal with demonic “authorities,” but whether there is a greater authority working on our behalf. And there is.

Tomorrow we will talk about how that authority is released to us and through us.

Praying God reveal Himself in power to you today.

Pastor Dave

February 12, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

We’ve been discussing the nature of spiritual warfare and, lately and more specifically, the nature of our enemy. The devil and his minions are described in Scripture as much as we need them described, whatever unhealthy curiosity some might have for more, or even pretend to know. It behooves us to pay attention to what is said, and have a sort of “no more, no. less” approach to the matter.

Along those lines, I’d like to return to the nature of prayer and that particular form of prayer that might properly be called “rebuking” or “casting out the devil.” Jesus commissioned His disciples in His lifetime to cast out demons (Luke 10:19), and predicted that those who believed in His name would cast out demons (Mark 16:17). The Book of Acts contains examples of this (Acts 16:18; 19:12). Whether you ever have such a power encounter with a demonized person, or just engage in spiritual warfare in prayer, some truths may be garnered from these passages.

All deliverance prayer, all breaking of spiritual strongholds, is really an imitation of the Lord Jesus and His power—not merely by means of playacting, like a boy pretends to be his soldier father by dressing in his uniform, but in truth. Jesus has commissioned us and clothed us for real in His armor, and we operate in His name. (I will expound more on the authority of the believer and what it means to pray and speak in His name in the near future, but for now let’s just go with it for the sake of this lesson.) Whenever we see Jesus rebuking the devil, we should emulate Him, not in pretense of equal standing, but in submission and dependence upon Him as we fight in His name and at His bidding. Now note how Jesus speaks and acts:

…there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” ~ Mark 1:23–25 (ESV)

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” ~ Mark 9:25 (ESV)

Note that Jesus rebukes and commands. He is stern, He is forceful and direct, He speaks with absolute authority. It is no coincidence that Paul speaks the same way….

And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. ~ Acts 16:18 (ESV)

The tenor of spiritual battle—on our end—should be one of fierce spiritual fervor. It will of course not do any good to be angry in the flesh. But if to stir our spirit and speak forcefully is something Jesus and Paul did, it’s good enough for me. Paul’s “annoyance” in Acts 16:18 is more precisely a grieving of his spirit unto action—it is a spiritual state of being, not a natural and mental irritation. When we pray against strongholds, let us pray like we mean it, in Jesus’ name.

I like this passage from The Pilgrim’s Progress (Book One, Stage 2):

Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up towards the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his inkhorn before him, to take the names of them that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter, what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, “Set down my name, sir;” the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet on his head, and rush towards the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,
“Come in, come in,
Eternal glory thou shalt win.”
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled, and said, I think verily I know the meaning of this.

The “meaning” Christian gained was the victory is not so much a matter of cleverness but of simple and direct courage, and the determination to go at the enemy with all we have. When others hang back, we forge ahead. Look at David’s determination when facing his enemies:

I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed. 38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet. 39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. 40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. 41 They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. 42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets. ~ Psalm 18:37–42 (ESV)

Be fierce in spiritual warfare, be determined. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” There is a time for soft, contemplative prayers of surrender. And there is a time to rise up in your spirit and claim what you know is yours in the Lord, and what the devil has stolen or is trying to steal.

Praying for you today,

Pastor Dave

February 11, 2019

Dear Corps of 24,

So far in our discussion of prayer as spiritual warfare, mostly drawn from Ephesians 6, we have expounded upon the subtheme of “know your enemy” in terms of Ephesians 6:11. That verse simply speaks about taking our “stand against the devil’s schemes.” As we’ve seen, multiple writers in the New Testament, and even the Lord Himself, speak in terms of battling and vanquishing the devil. As Luke 10 describes the Lord’s word to those who returned victoriously in His name…

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”~ Luke 10:17–19 (ESV)

So Jesus Himself connects the disciples’ casting out of demons with Satan’s downfall. This squares with Ephesians 6, which frames “standing against the devil’s schemes” more specifically as a larger conflict with the devil’s minions in the following verse:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:11–12 (ESV)

In this verse Paul is clearly speaking in terms that his readers understood, but that we might not. So this requires a bit of explanation.

First of all, it seems clear that when Jesus and Paul refer to Satan/the devil, at least sometimes they are making a general reference to demonic forces under his sway. In other words, to “cast out the devil” doesn’t necessarily mean (and probably usually doesn’t mean) dealing with the devil—Satan himself. Unlike God, the devil is not omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent. When we call on the Lord, we are aware that He is all those things, and more. But rebuking, binding, and otherwise resisting the devil is not any sort of “opposite” of the Lord, because the Lord is incomparable—He has no opposite. So the devil is not everywhere—not by a long shot. On the other hand, demonic forces are numerous and indeed prevalent, even if they do not compare in power to the Lord. These forces are those Paul refers to in Ephesians 6:12, and the defeat of which Jesus connected with the devil’s downfall. Just as Paul calls the devil “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), these demon princes are located in “heavenly places”—not meaning the Lord’s heaven, but the earth’s atmosphere.

People have asked me in the past if the demons can be “numbered”—almost as if a “biblical census” of demons could give us some sort of a handle on how to whip them in spiritual conflict. Simply put, there’s no way of knowing. Revelation 12:4 refers to the devil sweeping a third of the stars from the sky with his fall, and stars are commonly used to illustrate angels. This is where people get the idea that a third of the angels fell with Satan. But that doesn’t help much, because there are billions of angels (Revelation 5:11). Where does this put us? Back to the simple truths we’ve already covered: the devil and his minions are (collectively) a defeated enemy. Although we may not be able to see them, number them, or otherwise have a sensory awareness of them as if they were a natural enemy, we know that we have been given “authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt [us].”

But a general knowledge of what Paul is talking about is helpful. He refers to these selfsame “rulers, etc.” in various places—here in Ephesians and elsewhere. Consider…

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them by it [the cross]. ~ Colossians 2:15 (ESV)

…and

None of the rulers of this age understood this [wisdom], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. ~1 Corinthians 2:8 (ESV)

…also

…through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 3:10 (ESV)

The Colossians passage tells us Jesus overcame and shamed the demonic rulers and authorities by the cross; the 1 Corinthians passage tells us that if they had understood God’s wisdom, they would never have crucified the Lord at all; the Ephesians 3 passage tells us that their shame continues through the church, which God has chosen to exalt as His means for their final defeat. In all of these passages we get a picture of a cosmic battle into which we were born, whether we desire it or not. We are reminded of Daniel’s battle with angelic forces in Daniel 10. There, he fasted and prayed, and Gabriel finally came, but explained that his delay was for battle with the “prince of Persia” (v. 13) That is not a natural prince, but a demonic spirit that desires to resist God’s will.

Paul tells us that our conflict is with such forces. When we refer to “the devil,” in practical terms we are really dealing with these minions. They are defeated, so we have confidence as we pray. The substance of our battle is to resist their attacks, oppressions, and temptations in our own lives as we journey forward in the Lord, and also to seek to set others free through our prayers and testimony. Remember, we have authority over them They are snakes and scorpions we tread down, and nothing will harm us at all. We are to be sober, vigilant, but fervent, of good hope, and confident in the Lord and the power of His might.

Praying for God’s blessing on you today

Pastor Dave