Given for the Saints of the world on Nov. 1, 2009
"He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8).
The Bible is a book for all seasons, all men and women, and all maturity levels. It has admonitions to church leaders (Paul's letters to Timothy), instructions about faith and works to young Christians (James), the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old (Hebrews), the power of the Gospel unto salvation (Romans and Galatians), the inestimable riches of our inheritance in Christ (Ephesians and Colossians), the words of Jesus to the lost sheep of Israel and the world (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the power of His resurrection for our lives (Peter and John's letters), and much, much more, all built on the foundation of the Law and Prophets found in the Old Testament. One can find in the Bible, proof of anything, condemnation of many things, and marching orders for practically any agenda he or she chooses.
I've read the Bible since I was old enough to read, and being brought up in a Bible believing, Bible reading church and home, I faithfully read it through once a year for decades, thinking it was my way to heaven, my instructions for how to live, and my escape from hell fire after I died. Sounds good, right? But that was not enough. Without guidance from the Holy Spirit, compulsive Bible reading is just a work, a self effort to get "Brownie points" with God.
What came to me after Jesus baptized me with the Holy Spirit was that you can read the Bible until you are cross eyed, but until He unveils the meaning, you're like a man driving in a dense fog, straining to see, but likely to drive into the ditch. I am NOT saying that Bible study is unimportant. It is! I am saying that without the Spirit to guide you, you'll always take a wrong turn, make an error either in emphasis or interpretation, and end up lost in the fog.
Take the matter of "rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15), found in Paul's instructions to Timothy. Failure to do that has some Christians still living by Old Testament Law to a greater or lesser degree. Christ came to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," to God's chosen people who not only were lost in the fog, but were also abused and misled by "the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9). They were given instructions in righteousness by the Pharisees, who themselves were "full of dead men's bones" (Matt. 23:27). That still happens today.
Christ came to seek and save the lost and to introduce them to "the Father of lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). The only begotten of the Father was clothed in flesh and dwelt among us. He came from eternity into time, mingled with men and women, loved them, healed them, and died for them and for us all.
Yet, His beautiful, life giving, Spirit breathed words recorded in the Gospels, were spoken BEFORE the cross, to people still bound by the Law of Moses. Christ was speaking to men and woman whom Paul described as "dead through trespasses and sin" (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). They were still under Law, it not yet having been nailed to the cross, and therefore, what He gave them sounded like more Law. He knew very well that they could not keep the Law of Moses, but still, He raised the bar on that to the point that it would be impossible to keep by their own efforts, demonstrating their great need for GRACE.
Who could love their enemies and do good to those who despitefully use them? Christ did just that on the cross when He forgave those who nailed Him to the tree. Who could qualify to be "sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish" (Luke 6:35). Only those in whom the Son lives as the hope of glory. Who could be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? Only the Son Himself, for glory of glories, He lives in us!
Christ came, John said, to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). He began that while he walked among God's children whose pitiful claim to righteousness lay in being descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They did not accept Him. In fact, the demons were the first to recognize Christ and to know that their days were numbered. Early in His ministry, He was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, when a man with an "unclean demon" cried out, "Ah! 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." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, "What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out." (Luke 4:31-36). The demons knew Him and they understood what His mission was: their destruction!
The "good news" of the kingdom declared by Jesus was that He was sent "to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18). He came, as John wrote in his letter, to destroy the works of the devil. The Jews to whom Jesus came believed all bad things came from the devil. They didn't get that from Moses or the Prophets, but rather from the Egyptians and Babylonians. The people Jesus walked among had spent some 400 years without hearing from God through a Prophet. It is known as the inter-testamental period, between the time of Malachi and Matthew. During that time, God's people had mingled with pagans of various stripes and beliefs, and had picked up such things as the doctrine of hell fire and eternal punishment, something NOT taught in the Old Testament. Like any good teacher, Jesus spoke to them right where they were. He used language they understood and showed that he had power over their fears.
Jonathan Mitchell is translating the New Testament from the original Greek. His insights have been very useful in separating truth from myth. Here's a portion of an article he wrote entitled, "Just what are Demons?" (See Link at End)
"The Jews of Jesus' day had assimilated many pagan and Hellenistic (Greek) concepts. Recall their idolatry when in the Promised Land, during OT times; their association with the mystery religions of Egypt, then later of Babylon and Persia. Jesus spoke and responded to how the people of that day believed. Likewise the gospels were to take into consideration these popular beliefs which permeated the first century culture of Palestine.
"If you follow the contexts of Jesus' dealing with "demons," you will see that it is usually in regard to a healing, either physical, or mental/psychological. We see instances of people that were under the influence of one or more spiritual influences (or, demons) speaking both to Jesus, then later to Paul, and having an awareness of who Jesus and Paul were. But we should not assume that these influences (or, spirits) had ontological being, that they were "entities." They may well have been psychic abilities, but these abilities may well be aspects of the human nature that are simply latent in most folks, yet often appear in either the deranged person, or in the gifted person. We would not think that a prophet who had spiritual knowledge or a revelation had a demon, but the Hellenistic (Greek) culture would have so assumed. Let us not build our own world view and cosmology upon the basis of pagan religion or superstition." End Quote.
Jonathan's thesis is confirmed by an incident recorded by John, regarding a man born blind. Jesus' disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him" (John 9:1-3). To blame all the evils we see around us on the devil is to give him glory. Some Christians apparently still believe there are two spiritual powers, God and Satan, and based on their whining about it, it appears to me that they are not sure who will win the battle. To hear some people wring their hands about the devil, and ascribe the cause of all bad things to the work of demons really sets my wig on fire. The first two chapters of Job, clearly show that Satan, the devil, whatever name you assign him, is only a subordinate of God, whose purpose, as Jesus stated here in this passage, is to reveal God's glory.
God calls the shots absolutely. The devil has been referred to by some as the "left hand" of God, so make no mistake, the responsibility for all things rests with God: "But everything comes from God," Paul asserted (I Cor. 11:12). God works "all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). And, "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:31-32).
And finally, Paul's conclusion about who calls the shots and how it will turn out: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39). Is there anything in any of these verses to suggest that we'd best be careful lest the devil bring us down? Yes, I know Peter said he's a "roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). But does that mean we are to live in fear of him?
Like some of you, I passed through a season of seeing the devil and demons behind every bush, in people who were disagreeable, in sin and crimes, and almost everywhere. Tutored by the Kenneth Copeland dogma, I wrote down all the scriptures warning us against the devil, took to heart Jesus' methods of casting him out, thought the charismatics had the straight scoop in pleading the blood, binding and casting. I once sunk to the low, low level of casting a demon out of my clothes dryer. God stepped in and shined the light of Truth on Eph. 4:27: "Neither give place to the devil." That was my deliverance from deliverance. By God's grace, He gave me the ability to give Satan no place in my life, and you know what? From that day until this, I have never been bothered by the devil.
If Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, but we persist in continually trying to do it for him, isn't that a vote of "No Confidence" in God? Is our power or our will mightier than God's power and God's will? Can you find any scripture in the New Testament, that shows a Christian being possessed by demons? If so, please send me the reference, because I can't find one.
Bill Severn was an evangelist in Ventura, CA, whom I supported financially for years. He had the fire, the zeal, and the ability to preach the gospel through out the world. He told me once that he had cast demons out of people in third world countries where paganism still ruled, but that he had never personally seen such demonic activity among Christians. We have another friend, Gordon Mollett, who was a missionary to Haiti for many years. He told us stories about demonic possession among those addicted to voodoo which raised the hair on the back of my neck.
Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, but in countries which are still worshipping idols, it isn't surprising to see the occult, the dark powers at work. In born again Christians, it can't be, because we have the Spirit of Christ within us. To have both God and Satan within would be spiritual schizophrenia!
Many of humanity's ills certainly look devilish. I'm thinking of addiction here, where a person is "taken over" or "possessed" by the drug or alcohol which has control. But as our friend Pat Savas puts it, there is an addiction more deadly and more insidious than drug and alcohol addiction. It is RELIGIOUS ADDICTION. Much of what I experienced while I was fighting the devil in the charismatic movement was certainly religious addiction. God broke through that when He told me through Paul, "Neither give place to the devil." If God is not totally sovereign over all things which come to us, then we've got a worse problem than addiction, child abuse, crime, sexual immorality, abortion, gay marriage, or fanatical Liberals and Conservatives tearing this country apart. Without the sovereignty of God, all we have is CHAOS!
The good news is that He IS sovereign over all things. "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things" (Isa. 45:7). "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand" (Deut. 32:39).
Father, we rejoice that You reign supreme over everything in Your creation, over principalities and powers, evil spirits, governments, and all men. We bless You that even as You consigned all men to disobedience, Your mercy also extends to all men. Deliver us from the works of our own hands, the doctrines of men, and the poisonous fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Lead us beside the still waters to the fruit from the Tree of Life, which we shall eat and live forever with You. We praise You, now and ever more. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
Just What are Demons? by Jonathan Mitchell
The Veil, Deliverance II
The Good News About Sin
The Good News About Sin, II
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 09/10/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister