No Shortcuts

(Acts 19:13-17)

There are no shortcuts to enter the kingdom of God and there are no shortcuts to receiving His power and using it in ministry. The only way to come to God is thru Jesus Christ and the only way to be able to receive and use the power of God is through receiving the Holy Spirit and through faith in Jesus Christ.

The way is hard and narrow that leads to life
The way is hard and narrow that leads to life

But man being what he is will always seek the easy way out. Man will always look for a simple way to do it…that is, until something happens that stops him in his tracks.

In these few scriptures we see some Jewish ministers attempt to find and use a shortcut to use the power of Jesus Christ and of God. And they were not the only ones for the scripture tells us there were others trying to do what these men did. But we see they were foiled and the practice stopped for fear of what happened to these men.

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Suffering for the Lord’s Sake

(Acts 16:19-24)

When you come to The Lord and especially if you do a work in his name, it is never a bed of roses. The one thing you can be sure of is that if you work for The Lord you are going to come up against opposition and that means you may suffer.

You will suffer for The Lord's sake
You will suffer for The Lord's sake

Even those who do not do a specific work or ministry in The Lord will suffer for the sake of the faith they hold between themself and God.

Why? Because the ruler of this world is satan and we oppose everything he stands for. So even simple logic says that if you are opposed to the ruler, you are going to suffer for the stand you take.

Paul and Silas discovered this when they made a stand by casting out a demon from a slave girl where that demon had been a source of income for the slave girls masters. They took the right and appropriate action, freeing the girl from this bondage of demon possession, but like all actions we take…there were consequences. Look at what happened.

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A Kingdom Divided Cannot Stand

(Luke 11:14-23)

Have you ever been in a situation where there is a power struggle going on? You see it in political parties, sometimes in business and often in family life. What is the outcome of these factional disputes? Chaos, anarchy, trouble, frustration and the list goes on.

In this section of scripture we see the Lord discussing this same issue from a spiritual perspective and how it impacts us as individuals. The point that he makes is a divided kingdom cannot stand, and this is true of any hierarchy or structure where some form of rule exists.

Two Spiritual Kingdoms

There are two kingdoms in the spiritual realm, one led by Satan, which is evil and opposed to the other ruled by God. Some of the Pharisees in this section of scripture were accusing Jesus of being from the satanic kingdom for they said he was casting out demons by the power of Be-elzebul, who is actually Satan.

Jesus replied saying that if that was the case, then Satan’s kingdom is divided for why would Satan destroy his own power, being the power of demon possession over a man? Also there were exorcists operating among the Jews and who were of the Pharisees and so Jesus said to those accusing him, “If I cast out demons by Be-elzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.” (Verse 19)

Thus he proved he was not from the Satanic kingdom nor using the power of Satan to cast out demons. Jesus went on to say, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Verse 20) And of course if it was by the finger of God they should have believed God.

Also if they were opposing Jesus and opposing God in their statements, which they were, then whose side were they on? It is evident that they were not on the side of Jesus or God so there is only one other source of their malice and contention and that was from the power of the other spiritual kingdom of Satan.

Overcoming

Jesus went on to say that a strong man is able to guard his property until a stronger one comes along and overcomes him, destroying the armour in which he trusted and despoiling him. There are a number of ways that this can be interpreted as it could be read from either good overcoming evil or the reverse.

Jesus clearly was the stronger man in this example and he overcame Satan by casting out the demons and freeing this man who was in demonic slavery. Thus he despoiled Satan.

However the reverse can apply also and is a strong warning to us. A Christian who is not walking properly with the Lord may not be strong enough to overcome when attacked by Satan. Paul warns us saying, “Therefore take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

If we do not equip ourselves fully by taking all of the armour described in Ephesians, then we cannot stand against Satan. Without the full armour there will be weaknesses that Satan can attack and possibly overcome. Thus it is important for us learn all that the Lord teaches so that instead we can overcome and despoil Satan’s kingdom.

He Who Is Not With Me

Finally Jesus shows that there is no middle ground. He says, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Verse 23)

You cannot stand in the middle. You are either with the Lord or against the Lord. If you are with him you are gathering and if against you scatter. You scatter because you are not providing a witness for Christ and in fact may turn some away who are wavering.

Make sure you know where you stand. Stand with the Lord. Take on the full armour of the Lord so that you can stand with him against the attacks of Satan, and in due course overcome and despoil him.

Power and Authority over Demons

(Luke 9:37-43)

The power that Jesus had was not limited. More than that he had the authority to carry out the works he did. Nowhere was both his power and authority more apparent than when dealing with demons.

There were numerous times when the Lord cast out demons from people afflicted in this way. In each case the demons were removed and cowered in the presence of the Lord. They did not fight him for he had the authority to deal with them and they simply had no choice but to obey his command and get out as they were told.

In this particular case the demon that was in this boy was particularly strong. He had overtaken the child causing convulsions, what appears to be epilepsy and foaming at the mouth. When the boy’s father brought the child to the disciples to have the demon cast out, they could not do it. Thus it was evident that this was a particularly nasty and strong demon.

Why could the disciples not cast out this demon? Jesus shows that in his response to them saying, “O faithless and perverse generation…” (Verse 41) Jesus shows that the reason they could not cast out this demon was due to a lack of faith and a perverse attitude.

Faithless is translated from the Greek word “apistos.” It can also be rendered as disbelieving, which gives it a slightly different emphasis. To disbelieve something is a little different to unbelief, which is what is often thought when someone is said to be faithless. Unbelief means they “do not” believe, but disbelief means they “cannot” believe. Something that appears so incredible that it cannot be believed is disbelief. The disciples could not believe that they had the power and authority over demons especially when they came up against a strong devil like this one. Their faith failed them and they fell into disbelief and therefore were unable to exercise the power and authority necessary to cast the demon out. It was as if it were too great a thing for them to do.

As for the word “perverse” which is translated form the Greek word “diastrepho,” this too has an interesting meaning. The word can also be rendered as distort, misinterpret and corrupt. From this I believe the disciples belief was distorted to the point that they could not exercise the power and authority Jesus had given them.

Put these two aspects together and we get a few possible different pictures of why they were unable to cast out the demon. The disciples were either puffed up with their own self-opinion because they had this power and thus had a distorted view of the power that they had and so failed in their attempts to heal the boy. Or they may have been in awe of the power and in disbelief did not believe they could possibly be strong enough to do this work. Their view was thus distorted or corrupt and the lacked the faith to carry through.

There are other scriptures that could back up these possible scenarios. Consider the following which suggests they may have had a high opinion of this power the Lord had given and thus their focus was on the wrong things, which Jesus then rectified.

“17 The seventy 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 upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.
20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

The Lord gave them the power to do these works so that they could release the people from all forms of bondage as they spread the gospel. The power also bore testimony to the truth of the gospel, just as the miracles and healing Jesus did bore witness to the message he gave to the people.

Naturally when the demon came up against Jesus it knew the gig was up. He had a last fling at hurting the boy, but it was fruitless for unlike the disciples who in their weaknes and lack of faith could not deal with the demon, Jesus was the Son of God and all powerful. The demon’s number was up and it knew it.

Jesus Heals the Demoniac

(Luke 8:26-39)

Jesus came to the land or region of the Gerasenes and met a man possessed with demons. When Jesus cast the demons out he asked their name and they responded saying, “Legion; for many demons had entered him.” (Verse 30)

The Legion of Demons

casting out the legionThe use of this name is interesting for it represents a number. A legion of the Roman army consisted of 5,000 to 6,000 soldiers plus usually and equivalent number of support personnel. So in total a legion could have been as many as 12,000 people sent to wage a war.

Now when this demon in the man of the Gerasenes called itself “Legion,” it was saying there were possibly up to 12,000 demons possessing this man. Is it any wonder he was mad and driven to all kinds of self-destruction by the demon.

The Power of Jesus

But this demon for all of its numbers and power over the man had no power when Jesus approached. The demon stood in fear of the Lord, recognising that he was the Son of the Most High God. When Jesus told the demon to depart from the man, it had to obey.

The demon however sought a concession, to be allowed to enter a herd of swine feeding in that area. When Jesus gave it leave to do so, the herd fled and ran down into the sea and were drowned, so the demons did not get their way anyway. What we learn from this too is that it is possible for an animal to be possessed by demons as well as people.

Jesus has authority over all sickness, illness and the spiritual realm as well. There is nothing over which he does not have power and authority with the one exception of the Father. And all of this power and authority can be brought to bear on our problems and issues when we ask for his help.

But then consider the people of the district surrounding the region of the Gerasenes. After the swine rushed to their death, the herdsmen fled to the nearby towns and told the story of what happened. The people came out to see and found the demoniac seated at the feet of Jesus, healed, fully clothed and in his right mind. The people were seized with fear at what had happened and they pleaded with the Lord to leave them.

Jesus did not argue or try to preach and teach the people. And we can learn from this too. When asked to leave, just do it. Don’t argue or complain, don’t put your foot in the door like some pushy salesperson, just take your leave as requested. What we need to remember is when in that situation it is the Lord who is in charge and he will work the way he wants to.

Jesus Leaves a Witness

We see in this example too that his approach was different to other situations where he healed the sick or demon possessed. In most cases he told the person not to tell anyone but keep it to themself how they had been healed. But in this case, the demoniac wanted to come with Jesus after being healed, but Jesus refused telling him to, “”Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” (Verse 39) Then we see the demoniac go back into the city proclaiming all that Jesus had done for him.

So we see that even though the people asked the Lord to leave them and he did as they wished, Jesus still left a witness for the people so that the message of the good news of the gospel would be proclaimed. And this man was a credible witness for the people all knew him and the bondage he had been in to the possession of the demons. Who better to preach freedom than one who had been so badly bound and enslaved.

So we should take heart that even when we are rejected it does not mean the Lord’s work will stall. Jesus will have his minister there to speak to the people, and it will be the best person for the job to get the message of the gospel through to those he is calling. As he said elsewhere, “…where I am, there shall my servant be also…” (John 12:26) So take heart if you have been speaking to someone and it felt like you have been wasting your words. The Lord will have his servant speak to the person in the right place at the right time, and it may not necessarily be you or me. You may have sown a seed but it may require another to build on that beginning and bring the seed to fruit.

(Picture sourced from oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com/)

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Casting Out a Deaf and Dumb Spirit

(Mark 9:14-29)

A boy had been brought to the disciples of Jesus for healing. This boy was possessed by an evil spirit that had taken control of the boy and was hurting him badly. The spirit caused him to be cast into fire and water, seized him and cast him to the ground foaming at the mouth and grinding his teeth.

The disciples were asked to cast the spirit out of the boy, but the were unable to do so. When the father of the boy saw Jesus he came to him imploring him to help if he was able.

jesus-heals-boy-with-deaf&dumb-spirit2Here we see one of the keys to healing, both in this and all other cases. There is a question of faith in this section of scripture. The man begged Jesus to help him “If you can.” (Verse 22)

Jesus responded saying, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” (Verse 23) Here is a powerful call to faith for the people of God. What Jesus is saying here is that for those who have faith nothing will be impossible. If a matter is in the will of God and a person has faith, then it will be done for them. There is no “maybe” in Jesus’ words but a positive statement that through faith anything can be done.

The father of the boy recognising his unbelief, possibly because the disciples had not been able to heal the boy, cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Verse 24) This man was desperate and desperately wanted to believe so that his son would be healed. Jesus took compassion on the man and the boy and rebuked the demon from him.

Now faith is a funny thing. You either have it or you don’t. The disciples once asked Jesus saying, “Increase our faith!” But Jesus replied, “And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6)

What he showed is that you don’t need a lot of faith to be able to do remarkable things. But how do you get faith and then how does it grow? There is no doubt that faith can grow but what is the process by which this happens?

Knowledge is the key, and specifically the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) When a person hears the words of the gospel and they internalise it, that is when faith as a grain of mustard seed is born. As a person continues to learn more about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, their faith is strengthened. They begin to see the power of God working in their own life and the lives of those around them. That is how faith grows and strengthens over time.

When Jesus healed this boy, faith was born in the father. It is clear from the father’s own comments that he had little or no faith prior to this. He brought the boy to the disciples in the hope that the boy might be healed, but their inability to heal the boy would have crushed the father’s hope until Jesus arrived.

As for the disciples, after the event they asked Jesus why they were unable to cast out the demon. The Lord said here that, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Verse 29) By this he is saying it required the direct intervention of God to cast out this demon.

Jesus had given the disciples the authority to cast out demons, but it is evident that the disciples own faith was weak. We see this in Jesus first statement when told that the disciples could not cast the demon out. He said, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?” (Verse 19) In other versions of this event we see Jesus say to the disciples that the reason they could not cast the demon out was because of their lack of faith, again emphasising that faith is the key to healing. However he also provided the process by which that can be overcome, and that is through prayer.

When our faith to do something is weak, even when we have the authority to do it as the disciples had been given (Mark 3:15), we can always put the matter into the hands of the Lord through prayer. When we come to God in prayer we are humbling ourselves under his almighty power and putting the issue into to his hands. We are laying our burdens at the feet of the Lord for his intervention and resolution. And this is OK for we are told to, “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7).

Anytime we are overwhelmed by the issues of the world or have what appear to be insurmountable problems, let us remember this teaching. Have faith and anything is possible to you. And if it seems too daunting, give the problem to the Lord in prayer for his resolution and in good time it will be resolved.

(Picture sourced from oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com/)

Crumbs from the Masters Table

(Mark 7:24-30)

Is the gospel only for a few? Should the church be a closed or secret society? Is there discrimination in the churches so that some people get the word and others don’t? If you read this section of scripture in isolation you could be led astray to think such things, but it is not true.

dog at tableA woman came to Jesus who was not a Jew but was a Greek and a Syrophoenician by birth. Her daughter was possessed by a demon and she begged the Lord to cast it out. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Verse 27)

This sounds rather harsh and could be taken out of context to uphold those questions at the start of this post. But Jesus was not being harsh. His purpose for coming to the world was, as he said “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The ministry that was to be given tot he Gentiles, for this woman was a Gentile, came later. The New Covenant opened the door for the whole world to be able to come to God, whether Jew or Gentile. But at the time Jesus walked the earth, there was no New Covenant for it did not come into being until after he had died.

Thus in the interim Jesus was bound under the Old Covenant and there were strict laws and conditions under it in relation to dealing with the Gentiles.

But this woman was a woman of faith. Her response to Jesus was not to get upset or to think him harsh and unkind. She understood the relationship the Jews had with the Gentiles. So her response was aligned to that understanding, for she also recognised the power of the Lord to heal. Thus she said, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Verse 28)

Jesus then saw that she was a woman of faith and worthy to receive the healing she asked for. She was effectively saying that although she was not a Jew, she understood and recognised that God was with the Jews and that she took whatever was available to seek the Lord’s way. Jesus says in the Matthew version of this story, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Matthew 15:28)

It is through faith that we receive the promises of God. The New Covenant is based upon faith and it is the children of faith who are the true descendants of Abraham and the true children of Israel. Even though a person may not be a physical descendant of Abraham, when they exhibit faith in God as this woman did, they are accepted and receive the promises of the Lord.

Thus, she received the healing for her daughter and found her resting and the demon gone from the child when she went home.

All who come to the Lord in faith will receive the promises of God. His promises are founded on faith, and without faith it is impossible to please the Lord. As such we must continue to Look to the Lord and learn whatever we can to increase our knowledge and strengthen our faith.

(Picture sourced from: The Agapegeek Blog http://agapegeek.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/dog_at_table.jpg)

Jesus Casts Out The Legion

(Mark 5:1-20)

When Jesus came to the region of the Gerasenes he encountered a man possessed by demons. The man was what we would consider today to be mentally ill and was violently psychotic. But the demons recognised Jesus and said to him, What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” (Verse 7) Jesus said to the demon, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” (Verse 9) They sought to be cast into a nearby herd of swine, but when they went the swine fled and drowned themselves in the sea.

jesus-casts-out-legionWhat we see here in the name the demon gave was not just a name, but a description. He called himself “Legion” and then said that there were many demons in this man. A legion in the time of Jesus was a military term and it represented a great number of soldiers. A Legion was essentially a complete army in the Roman times and comprised anywhere up to about six thousand men. It included troops, cooks, medical staff, armourers, and so on. Basically everything that was necessary to enable an army to function and go to war.

Now here we see this demon call itself “Legion, for we are many.” So we can presume that there were so many demons in this man that they were equivalent to a legion of an army, that is, up to six thousand demons. These demons had taken complete control of the man and tormented him day and night. He was a prisoner of this legion and they tossed him to and fro causing all kinds of injuries to him. Jesus came to this man to release him from this bondage and to set him free.

Demon possession is a terrible thing. Demons can also oppress without possessing a man too. We see that the Apostle Paul was occasionally oppressed by a demon as he wrote, “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) The word “messenger” used in this translation comes from the Greek word “agollos” which literally translates as “angel.” The demons were the angels of Satan cast down upon the earth with Satan when he rebelled against God.

So even Christians can be oppressed by the demons. To obtain release from this when or if it occurs, we must do as Paul did and beseech the Lord that the demon should be gone from our life. In Paul’s case the Lord left the demon so that Paul should not become proud. However we see numerous other instances of where the Lord sent the demons packing never to return. Such was the case when Jesus casts out the legion from this man in the country of the Gerasenes. Another who was released from demon possession in Jesus’ time was Mary Magdalene from whom he cast out seven demons. (Mark 16:9)

It is evident in all these things that Jesus had power over both the physical and the spiritual realms. He had power and authority to heal both the physically and spiritually sick people. His power is with us still today to heal those who are physically and spiritually sick. We need only to come to him and call on him to receive the blessings of his freedom and release from all forms of bondage.

(Clipart provided by oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com/ )

The Power of a Prayer of Faith

(Matthew 17:14-21)

In this section a man came to Jesus seeking for his son to be healed. The boy was demon possessed and suffered often from the influence of the demon. The man had already made this request of the disciples, but they were unable to cast the demon out. Jesus says the demon could not be removed because it was of a particular type and because of the little faith. But whether it was the little faith of the disciples or the father is unclear. We see then that the power of prayer needed to come into play in this particular exorcism.

The detail of this event needs expansion, as the description here in Matthew does not provide the full evidence of the issues at hand. In the version of this event in Mark 9:14-29 we gain some additional insight. First we see that the father is lacking in faith, for he says, “…if you can do anything, have pity on us.” (Vs. 22) Jesus focuses on this statement saying, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” (Vs. 23) The father then cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Vs. 24)

So we see in this section that the father of the child doubted whether anything could be done for his child. He brought the boy to the disciples in desperation, but without sufficient faith that he would be healed until Jesus set him straight.

We then see also the disciples come to Jesus privately after the healing to ask why they could not cast the demon out. Jesus responds that, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Vs. 29 and some manuscripts suggest fasting also is required). Back in the Matthew version, verse 21 is included in some of the original manuscripts, but not all and as such is included as a footnote only in most modern translations. It too suggests that this kind of demon is removed only by prayer and fasting.

Now it is evident from this that there are different kinds of demons, some more persistent than others. That is also evident when we see that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is, “… the ability to distinguish between spirits.” (1 Corinthians 12:10) When Jesus walked the earth there was no issue with removing any kind of demon. Jesus gave the authority to the disciples to remove demons, but at that time we must remember they had not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit and so could not distinguish between demons. They were still being trained by the Lord on how to deal with matters of the spirit and their faith was not yet strong.

Even though the disciples had the authority to cast out demons, because of their lack of faith and this particular type of demon, they were unable to cast it out. But there is a lesson for us in this that applies to any situation, not just casting out demons. There is a message of faith and the power of prayer. Jesus showed the disciples that when we are unable to do anything ourselves, we need to use the power of prayer. We need to appeal to God himself through prayer. For even though we may be powerless over a situation, God is not. There is nothing he cannot do, and nothing he will not do is we ask in faith, including casting out stubborn demons.

If we have faith all things are possible. As Jesus said in a similar situation in Mark 11:22-24,

22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

So it is through faith in God and by asking in prayer with no doubting that our needs will be met. This was the method that Jesus was teaching to the disciples and which holds true today as well. James also attested to this matter saying, “…the prayer of faith will save the sick man.” (James 5:15) We will do well to remember this in our own times of need. To hold firm to our faith and to put all of our issues and matters before God in prayer, for there is nothing he cannot or will not do if we ask him.