Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spiritual Weapons and Authority

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…” (Ephesians 6:11)

Satan hates spiritual authority, and next to speaking in other tongues, it is one of the most persecuted doctrines in the Bible. In fact, when Jesus stood up and read the scriptures in the synagogue from a posture of authority, it so infuriated the Pharisees that they immediately set out to kill him (Luke 4:15-30, Mark 1:22). Satan attacks the revelation of God’s power with false doctrine, excesses and extremes.

Many years ago, a woman asked me to pray for her children who were afflicted in their bodies with sickness. When she brought me to them I perceived that they were being afflicted and oppressed by the devil; I took authority over the spirits and commanded them to leave (Mark 16:17). The woman, however, went into a rage, began to scream, and came close to attacking me physically. She was offended because of the way that I prayed; in her eyes, I had suggested that her children were somehow “possessed” by the devil. I was able to calm her down to some degree, but it was quite an experience. This same woman was also adamantly opposed to speaking in tongues (as her denomination didn’t believe in it), but a couple of months later she got filled with the Holy Spirit herself, and when she did, she prayed in tongues all that night, glory to God!

More recently, I visited a church in Missouri where they seemed to love the Lord. There was a man there who had just gotten out of prison, and had apparently known the people at the church before he had gotten into trouble. He had rededicated his life to the Lord in prison, but had been troubled and apprehensive because the devil was already launching some serious attacks against him, and so he had asked for prayer. Several church leaders prayed for him, and then several members of the congregation prayed also, and when they were finished they asked if anyone else wanted to pray. I felt impressed to pray for him, and so I did. I prayed the prayer of faith, declared the Word of God over his situation, and then bound the devil’s influence and activities. The people had been extremely friendly to me, but all of that changed after I prayed. The preacher said to the congregation, “Only God has power!” (A veiled reference to my prayer) They also said several other things in order to discredit and refute what had just taken place. Nobody spoke to me after the service.

Another example (and perhaps one of my favorites, because it has a happy ending), was many years ago. I was attending a church in Iowa (it was my home church at the time), and the pastor was so excited about what God was doing in my life. I had recently been born-again, and Jesus had set me free from a riotous, rebellious and destructive lifestyle; He had also set me free from a serious drug and alcohol habit. The pastor wanted me to lead the morning Bible study for the next two weeks; to share the Word of God and give my testimony (as he would be going out of town). I happily agreed, of course!

The first Sunday the people loved me; they were so thrilled, and I was happy to share with them. But later that day I went with a friend to another church and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. It was life-changing, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends back at the church. “They will be so excited for me!” I had thought to myself (I was brand new in the Lord, and doctrinal and denominational sects and divisions were unknown to me at the time).

So the next Sunday I went back and shared in the Bible study… “Guess what God did in my life this week…!” Well, needless to say, it didn’t turn out the way that I had envisioned. The people began arguing with one another, and the atmosphere turned increasingly hostile. One woman picked up the table and slammed it down screaming at me, “It’s of the devil!” It was a fairly large church, and when the pastor returned, he came home to a colossal mess. They had to have a special service the following Sunday in order to “deal with the controversy.”

The power of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are a threat to the devil, and in this instance, he was certainly not going to allow it to go any further (if he had any say-so in the matter). Unfortunately, Satan usually has much to say about what goes on in denominational churches, and many of our “Spirit-filled” churches also (he just uses different tactics).

Though it seemed like a fiasco, the Lord was at work in the midst of it all. Approximately seven years later I again encountered the woman that had picked up the table, but this time her demeanor was much different. We were at another local church, a Spirit-filled church in town, and she approached me and asked, “Do you remember me?” I didn’t because she was a heavy woman at the time, and had lost a lot of weight. I replied that I didn’t remember. She said, “I am the woman that picked up the table and yelled at you…” She told me that what I had shared that morning had made her so angry that she searched the scriptures (apparently to discredit the teaching), and discovered that what I was telling her was the truth. She and her husband had gone to this other church and had gotten filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues, and had been going strong for quite some time! Their lives were changed, and they were so full of excitement for the Lord.

Testimonies such as these abound; you probably have some stories of your own. The reason that Satan is so threatened by spiritual authority is that it takes away his ability to control. A powerless and ignorant Christian is easy to control and manipulate, and of course the devil doesn’t want anyone to receive Jesus Christ and become born-again, but it doesn’t disturb him too much if a new Christian receives salvation, but remains basically ignorant of the power of God and the spiritual weapons and armor that is available to him or her. The real “game-changer,” in the eyes of the devil, happens when that same person receives “power from on high,” the “turbo charging” that comes from heaven (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8).

Many believers say in their hearts, “Well, I don’t need all that gifts of the Spirit stuff!” “I’m doing just fine without it!” “After all, if God wants something done, He’ll just do it!”

This is a common misconception, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God has given us spiritual armor and weapons for a purpose (Ephesians 6:10-18), not just so we can sing songs about them and then go out the door of the church and get beat up by the devil. “Well, God understands that I’m busy, and I’m tired…” Sure, God understands, but so does the devil, and we’re in a war; we’re soldiers on a battlefield (II Timothy 2:3-4).

Can you picture a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan? “Well the government understands that I’m hungry and tired, so I’m going to just sit down right here and…” So he puts down his armor, his weapons, and sits down to eat, and then goes to sleep. This person, no matter how sincere, will probably become a casualty of war.

Jesus shared certain things with us (such as the parable of the sower) (Mark 4:1-20) in order to teach us that we have a responsibility to keep our hearts free from entanglements that would choke and steal the Word of God; He warned us of the consequences of unfruitfulness that would follow. Satan will whisper, “Don’t worry, God understands; you don’t have to work so hard at this,” “God will cover you anyway by His grace!” “His promises will still come to pass in your life!” But that’s not what God’s Word says.

The devil attends church too, and usually he’s lounging around in the corner, either yawning or laughing his fanny off because there’s so little faith and authority being exercised. Instead, people are running around waving flags, blowing shofars, pretending to “punch” the devil with their fists, or simply praying “humbly” to God, asking Him to do something that is purely our responsibility (like binding and loosing, casting out the devil, or making decrees and commands according to God’s Word (Job 22:28, Matthew 19:18, Mark 11:23). We are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, and carry the right, privilege, responsibility and authority to conduct business on behalf of our King, King Jesus (II Corinthians 5:20).

Jesus walked and spoke with authority because He knew the heart and will of the Father, and stood as His ambassador in the earth, in His stead. As the Father has sent Jesus, so has Jesus now sent you and I (John 20:21). We hear His voice, keep His commands, and stand as an ambassador in His stead. The secret to walking in spiritual authority is not in have some “great anointing” with lots of goose bumps (and many times an equivalent amount of weirdness), but rather it lies in our submission to the one who sent us (Jesus). The more we humble ourselves under His mighty hand and submit to His Lordship, the greater degree of authority we carry (Luke 7:8), and when we decree a thing, God will back our decree as it was His own (because it is).