The real world has an ugly side to it. Just ask a policeman or an emergency room nurse. Beneath the surface of our society theres a lot of suffering. People are capable of doing amazing things to themselves and others. And the same is true of the real spiritual world. It, too, has an ugly side. Many people dont want to see that side, it frightens them. But pretending its not there doesnt change reality, it just leaves us vulnerable to attack and unable to protect ourselves.
The passage were studying today talks about evil spirits. It shows us the power they can have over a human being, but it also shows us the power of the name of Jesus Christ. We need to be bold enough to realize that the forces were watching at work in ancient Ephesus are still part of our world today, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not. Somewhere over the course of history, Christianity became spiritually powerless and very scientific. The church in the west followed our culture into a deep skepticism about the existence of a spiritual world. Even if we held onto a generic belief in God, the idea of angels or demons, or the devil himself, became something we associated with primitive, pre-scientific superstition. We thought of ourselves as enlightened, informed, increasingly in control of our own destiny. With the emergence of modern medicine and psychology, our need for Gods help grew smaller and smaller. If He wasnt dead, He was at least unnecessary.
But reality tends to be stubborn. It doesnt cease to function just because we ignore it. Sooner or later we bump into it and are forced to acknowledge its existence. And the real world has a spiritual dimension just as certainly as it has a physical one. Not only does God exist, but so do angels and demons. Theyre as real as you and I. So, today, lets see the world the way Jesus and Paul saw it
and lets discover the authority Jesus name has over that world.
A battle in Ephesus (Ac 19:11-20)
Our culture likes to think of itself as throwing off the superstitions of the pre-scientific age, and boldly stepping into a new era of freedom. But actually, were sliding backwards into pre-Christian darkness. And when we arrive at that post-Christian world, well find demons waiting.
Demons are rebellious angels which were cast out of heaven before humans existed. Some are already in prison for an ancient crime (1Pe 3:19, 20; Jude 1:6, 7), but most inhabit the earth, knowing they are doomed (Mt 8:29), yet continuing to war against God, trying to hurt Him by taking away from Him the humans He loves. They are organized into some terrible hierarchy (Eph 6:12) and led by a fallen archangel which the Bible usually calls the devil or Satan (the accuser). He is still permitted to appear before God to accuse us, but in the last days he too will be cast out of heaven and enter the body of a man called the antichrist. But for now, its enough to know these enemies exist and that they have real power to hurt us. In fact, they are the source behind much, but not all, of our trouble. They can tempt and torment. They can bring sickness. They can inflame our passions. They can deceive people and hide from them the truth about God (2Co 4:4; 2Ti 2:25, 26). It is from them that come the thoughts to do horrible things to ourselves and others. They are behind the inexplicable evil erupting around us more and more every day.
Opening the door
Demons are not free to do anything they wish. God has set limits which they must respect, until a human somehow gives them permission to come in. The problem is, people often open the door to demons without meaning to, but that doesnt matter. Once theyre in, theyre in, unless someone stronger casts them out (Mt 12:22-29; Mk 3:22-27).
But no one can enter the strong mans house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house (Mk 3:27).
Wrong sources (Dt 18:10-12)
Whenever we turn for help to spiritual sources other than God we give demons a foothold, an entry-point. Some activities are reasonably harmless, but some things we think are harmless are not. They expose us to spirits. We are playing with fire and dont know it. Without knowing why, we discover a dark troubling influence has come over us and wont let go. And as unfair as it may sound, what we do, especially if we hold a position of spiritual authority over others (spouse, children, extended family, ministry), can expose innocent people to these influences, even though they did nothing to bring it upon themselves.
The fathers eat sour grapes and the childrens teeth are set on edge (Jer 31:29).
When we read this passage in Deuteronomy (Dt 18:10-12), we might assume that these forms of spiritism are a thing of the past or belong only to primitive people in distant lands, but theyre not. They just have new names. The main reason God forbade Israel to participate in such things is because they open the door for the demonic. He was protecting them. He was keeping them free from spiritual bondage. Lets look at some of the sources of help offered to us that can have demons attached:
Hypnosis; Alcohol; Drugs; Pornography; Movies (bloodlust, fear, perverse sex, hatred, magical powers); Fortune telling; Astrology; Evil, violent games; Yoga; Martial arts
When an evil spirit is involved, there are certain symptoms that can be recognized. Remember everything wrong isnt a demon. We still have flesh and a will that can make bad choices. But there are some symptoms to look for:
Odd patterns (Whenever I try to pray, read the Bible, go to church, I get
No sooner do we get over one illness than another appears. I barely get ahead of my bills and something happens to put me back into debt.)
Hostility to Jesus (1Co 12:1-3)
Unnatural fear, panic
Suicidal thoughts, murderous thoughts
Twitching when the Holy Spirit is near
Voices, objects move, odors
Sudden loss of joy, withdrawal
Confused thinking, sleepy
The name of Jesus
The real lesson in this passage is not that demons exist, its that the name of Jesus has absolute authority over them. But we also discover His name only has power when spoken by a true disciple. The spirits were terrified of Paul, but viciously attacked the sons of Sceva. Spiritual authority flows out of spiritual integrity. And the demons know a phony, or someone who doesnt know their authority, when they see one. This is why believers must be taught about these truths and trained to use the authority of Jesus name.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)
Jesus commanded us to cast out demons by using His authority. He said,
in My name they will cast out demons
(Mk 16:17). Matthew tells us, Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every sickness (Mt 10:1). And He was frustrated when they failed to do this (Mt 8:25, 26; 17:14-21).
Authority: If we have surrendered to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, if we believe He will do what He promised, and if we let His love guide us, we have the right to speak in His name and command demonic powers to go (Mt 16:19, whatever you bind on earth
). There are many people who are waiting for someone with power to set them free.
Safety: If we keep our lives free of hidden sin and avoid opening doors, we will live in safety,
because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1Jn 4:4).
What is my response?
This passage presses each of us to ask ourselves some hard questions:
1) Am I a true disciple who can speak the name of Jesus with authority?
2) Am I willing to do spiritual ministry: praying for the sick and casting out evil spirits?
Do I believe these exist?
Am I afraid of them (Corrie ten Boom, the fear of demons comes from demons)?
3) Have I given the devil a foothold in my life by turning to a wrong source of help or harboring hidden sin? Have my foolish choices exposed others whove trusted me to cover them?
4) Am I willing to seek the power of God through prayer, fasting, worship, and daily time in the Word? (Mt 17:21)
1) Have you ever spoken the Name of Jesus over a situation and watched the enemy flee? Tell us what happened.
2) What promise would you stand on if you felt a spirit was attacking you?
3) In the section entitled wrong sources there is a list of activities which can have demons attached. Have you ever experienced that or seen it happen to someone else? If its not too frightening or icky, tell us what you observed. Did that person get free?