We had a very interesting video testimony scheduled for last Sunday about a family set free from years of negative spiritual activity in their home, referred to as “haunting”. I decided that I should take the opportunity to speak on the subject of our Christian authority over evil. There is a very illuminating incident in the life of Jesus that illustrates the radical difference between religious magic and genuine spiritual authority. The sermon received very good reviews so here it is for your edification. Feel free to post your response. You can listen to the sermon here.
Today’s message is from the life of Jesus. It has to do with what we call the deliverance ministry. This phrase doesn’t make much sense until you read the Lord’s prayer. He teaches us to pray for deliverance from evil. When Jesus casts a demon out of someone He is simply living His prayer. Delivering sufferers from resident evil spirits was a big part of what He did. But how did he do it? What is the mechanism that makes displacing an evil spirit possible, given the fact that they don’t want to leave? It all has to do with authority.
The manifestation of the Kingdom of God on the earth is brought about entirely through God’s authority. This makes sense; the creator obviously has authority over his creation. What is noteworthy though is that God’s Kingdom comes through delegated spiritual authority. It starts right at the beginning: “… rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen.1:28
Man’s first exercise of his delegated spiritual authority comes almost immediately: “Now the Lord had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” [Gen. 2:19] This is a very significant act of delegated authority. In the ancient Near East to name something was to exercise authority over it. By naming the animals Adam was exercising his delegated spiritual authority over them. And what animal of particular significance did he name? THE SNAKE! This is man’s first act of exercising authority over evil but it is not the last.
Jesus repeats the delegation of spiritual authority over evil to His first followers: “He [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to cure every kind of disease and sickness.” [Math. 10:1] There is something very important to note here which when appreciated will prevent one of the great mistakes we make when dealing with evil spirits. In delegating His authority to His followers Jesus makes a distinction between driving out evil spirits and curing every kind of disease and sickness. Jesus is well aware that not all sickness is demonic in origin. Not every physical problem we have is caused by a demon.
Sadly, as humans we desire simple explanations for everything. This has resulted in the two big mistakes Christians make about demons. The first mistake is our most common mistake here in our Western Christian culture; we tend to think that if there are demons in the world today they are all living in third world cultures. As sophisticated rationalists we don’t like to think of demons as present or active in our lives, and so we discount them as a possible cause of any problem we face and so we miss the solution.
The second mistake is the opposite; some think that behind every problem there must be a demon. If all you have is a hammer, then every problem must be a nail. Both mistakes cause us to miss a potential solution. The writers of the New Testament were very aware of illness caused by both supernatural and natural causes. They prayed differently depending on the cause. And this brings us to the central difference between authority and religion.
Next week we will explore this difference. Hang in, it is very interesting.