Where Have All the Demons Gone? (2)

It’s stating the obvious when I say I’ve recently posted several videos of Torben Søndergaard’s ministry.

I’ve done that because  he is the only one I’ve seen so far, doing, encouraging, and teaching what Jesus actually commanded His disciples to do, with a gospel that includes a strong message of repentance and the need for baptism in both water and Holy Spirit.
In other words, a gospel in line with the very first message preached by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. A gospel repeated throughout the book of Acts.

Not surprisingly Søndergaard has been the target of cessationist heresy hunters who love painting anyone who believes in the ongoing validity of healing and deliverance, as part of a gospel accompanied by confirming signs (as foretold and commanded by Jesus), with that condemnatory “NAR” broad brush.

Anyone who takes the time to TRUTHFULLY consider Søndergaard’s ministry and teaching will soon recognise the lying nature of those accusations.*
Is he always right? Probably not, but I find the important truths in his teaching and practice far outweigh any concern over any minor doctrinal quibbles and questions I may have. I see far more serious error being widely taught and accepted elsewhere that seems to get little opposition.

The following videos illustrate something of what I wrote about in my previous post regarding demons and deliverance.

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Footnote.
* Compare the “cut to the heart” response resulting from Peter’s speech in Acts 2 with the “cut to the heart” response later in Acts 7 to a similar message delivered by Stephen.

Acts 2:

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Acts 7:

When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Which way should you or I respond when confronted by the kind of truths expounded by Peter and Stephen?

Where Have All the Demons Gone?

Where have all the demons gone?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering for some time.
Freeing people from unclean spirits was as much a part of Jesus’ ministry as bodily healing, and sometimes the cause of an illness or infirmity was due to the presence of an unclean spirit (demon).

He gave his twelve disciples authority to cast out demons, and then the same to the seventy He sent out later.

And as part of His final words to His followers Jesus said “these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons” (Mark 16:7).

Considering all of the above – why are things so different today? Why are the churches, and therefore the majority of believers, not seeing or expecting to carry out that aspect of ministry commissioned by Jesus?

Probably for a similar reason that most don’t expect to experience or witness healings. I’m sure it’s not because demons ceased to exist, or that they fled from the earth. Like healing, it’s become the norm to consider it’s a part of biblical reality that for some reason has changed; become outdated, no longer valid for today – now  irrelevant in ministry – no matter how much the actual need has remained the same.

Approximately 35 years ago I was involved in “deliverance ministry” for a short time, when the pastor of the church I attended called me and asked me to help after a counselling session had brought demonic influence to light in the counselling subject.

Over the next few weeks I was asked on several occasions to help cast out demons from people  he’d been counselling.

That church seemed to be the exception among those that I attended over the years. Afterwards I started to wonder whether that experience played a part on the “spiritual crisis” I went through during the following 15 years. Had I been invited into that kind of ministry without having a firm enough foundation of faith to remain unaffected myself?

While able to present a convincing spiritual façade, my life at the time was not exactly grounded in the Word of God to the extent that I (and others) thought. Instead I had a convincing security blanket woven out of proof texts learned from recorded sermons.

My recovery from that crisis has been ongoing for a long time – maybe twenty years – during which there have been a series of ups and downs and false turns. Maybe for the first time since I first became a believer, the past several months have been a period of learning, change and establishing a firm foundation through solid and consistent time in scripture and prayer.

During that time I’ve “met” others who are going through a similar process. Often finding themselves on that path through a personal crisis. I suspect it’s not a coincidence that it all started not long before the world itself was also plunged into crisis.

My own experience has made me think long and hard, firstly about the many years of my own compromise, complacency, and failure to live up to the most basic expectations of Christian ministry, and secondly about the wider church being guilty of the same failures.

What Jesus commanded His followers to do and what todays’ “followers” are  actually doing, for the most part have absolutely nothing in common. Take the time to read Jesus’ instructions and commands regarding the mission He gave us.  Then ask yourself why many of those commands have been considered no longer necessary.

Only yesterday I noticed something for the first time in Luke 7.

[John the Baptist’s followers] had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ”

And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Read that again, and if necessary again and again.
What actually happens? What was Jesus’ answer to John?

In case you don’t see it, as I had never seen it until yesterday, I’ll point it out.
In answer to their question, Jesus healed the sick, brought deliverance from evil spirits and gave sight to the blind. Then He told John’s followers to tell John WHAT THEY HAD SEEN and heard.
Jesus didn’t send them away with words alone, but with an experience of the power of God. He SHOWED them before He told them anything.

Where have all the demons gone?

Nowhere. In the west at least, they’ve been allowed to take a holiday, We’ve let ourselves become oblivious to their presence, while we’ve become disobedient to the task Jesus commissioned us to do.

In the New Testament, demons always made their presence known, they could not remain hidden when confronted by Jesus or His disciples, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. No one needed to “hunt” for them or seek them out, they manifested themselves when the authority of God was recognised.

For centuries now the church has abrogated that authority and replaced it with dead traditions and theologies that deny the relevance and need for the power of God today. Those unclean spirits are now rarely confronted by believers walking in the kind of authority that makes them reveal their presence.

I’ve written elsewhere about this current situation of isolation and lockdown being an opportunity for change, giving a chance to strengthen our relationship with God and to get back on track – to break free of complacent, comfortable church life and get in line with HIS intentions: preaching the gospel throughout the world with confirming signs of healing and deliverance.

What are we going to do with that opportunity?

Beware of Which Voice You Are Hearing.

“Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
(Luke 6: 39-40) NIV.

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Yesterday I woke with the following phrases in my head:

“Removing the glory of the ‘shepherd’, replacing it with the glory of God”.

And

Learning to recognise His voice.

I saw these had something to do with the current situation that has led to the closing down of churches and our enforced isolation.

Depending on where our priorities and affections lie, those restrictions potentially give us more time we can spend in the word and in prayer – strengthening our relationship with God, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
There is an opportunity to grow beyond reliance on those ‘shepherds’ and church systems that keep people dependent on them instead of leading them to maturity.

A few days ago I watched a short video of a man criticising the proclamations of several “prophets” given at the end of last year, who all predicted the wonderful things ahead in 2020. None of them had anything to say about the health and economic crises caused by Covid-19, but several of them spoke of increased prosperity and stadiums full of people – a prediction the presenter happily contrasted with footage of the abandoned sporting arenas, empty now that all sporting events and gatherings (large and small) have been brought to a stop.

I could have posted the video here, however despite the presenter’s gleeful, and deserving, exposure of the false prophets, his own theology was no less flawed in some serious areas. And I suspect that his opposition was not only to the false proclamations he was addressing in the video, but it extended to dismissing the validity of any prophetic gifts in the present day, contrary to instruction in scripture.

With so many false prophecies and teachings pervading the church, we need to be certain we recognise HIS voice above all other voices. Even the voices of our favoured teachers. It’s easy to be dismissive, even condemnatory, of those outside of our particular church settings, but we often don’t scrutinise our favoured teachings to the degree they deserve.

There are big problems across the whole spectrum of the church – from a far too casual approach to prophecy, to the dismissal of large sections of scripture by those who ironically insist scripture alone is the foundation of their belief. (The kind of people who insist the complete canon of scripture removes the need of the very spiritual gifts that the scriptures tell us to ‘earnestly desire’ Emoji [1 Cor 12]).

Many who claim their theology is bible based are not really believing and promoting what the bible says, instead they follow and preach the doctrines of their favoured theological systems or church traditions. So maybe it’s long past the time that we all should have become more diligent in seeking God for ourselves.

That’s why I see the current situation, where we’ve all been distanced from church meetings and programs, is offering the perfect opportunity to spend more personal time in the word. For many who find themselves unable to go to work, there is even more time to fill, some of which can be used for extra bible reading and prayer.

It all depends on how much people want to know God and serve Him, instead of being satisfied with sticking to what they’ve been taught about God.

For those confident that their church and pastor are beyond reproach when it comes to the doctrine and practices they teach, what is there to lose anyway in devoting more of your time to strengthen the foundation they have helped build in your life?

And surely, the stronger prayer enhanced, bible based, Spirit led faith we ALL have the opportunity to develop in coming months, can only be of benefit to our fellowships when we are able to meet with them again.

“I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 

“…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” 

Jesus in John 18:37 and John 16:13 NKJV

Beware of Minimising The Gospel

My first interest in “the gospel” centred on avoiding hell.

In my early teens, a schoolfriend who had recently started attending church, tried to convince me that a general belief in God was not enough. To escape hell I needed to believe in Jesus, say a sinner’s prayer, and ask Him into my heart.

It was a long time before I realised there was so much more to the gospel than acquiring a get out of hell free card.

Today, it seems, that most people still see salvation through Jesus as primarily being about avoiding hell and getting to heaven after death, and yet that is NOT the gospel’s primary message.

God didn’t give His Son to provide an escape from hell. Jesus came to make it possible for us to enter the Kingdom of God and ALL that the Kingdom entails.

If you are walking along a road to the garbage dump wearing filthy rags, and someone comes along, cleans you up and provides you with a meaningful job working for the King, with a promise of accommodation in the palace when your work has been accomplished, would you see that primarily as being “saved” from the garbage dump?

God’s gospel message is not “come to Me and avoid hell”. The gospel is come to Him and He’ll make us fit and clean enough for the new creation He has planned. A creation free of all of the problems caused by man’s sin – a creation where only righteousness is allowed.

Until then He has “good works” – an Ambassadorial job – for us to do, representing Him in the Kingdoms of this world, encouraging others to follow the path we took, migrating to His Kingdom and becoming citizens of it.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2) NIV.

And what does that Ambassadorial job entail?.

God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

On re-reading that last quote, the section I have now highlighted in bold print really jumped out. I believe that statement is one deserving some serious meditation.

Beware of Platitudes* and Excuses

Prior to His ascension, Jesus commissioned His followers to a dynamic and powerful mission of preaching the gospel accompanied by the same kind of signs (and even greater) than those that accompanied His own ministry.

Yet, today, arguments against Jesus’ own words are more likely to be seen than arguments for. And as for any evidence that Jesus was telling the truth, it seems like the majority would rather not think about it. Otherwise they might have to consider what they themselves aren’t doing, and why such things are absent from their own lives.

Instead, among those who do step out to address the issue, the most dominant voices seem to be the ones speaking platitudes and making excuses about why things are so different now, or why Jesus’ words no longer apply to our time – none of which stands up to the teaching of scripture.

But how can we expect that kind of ministry – preaching a gospel to the unsaved, confirmed by accompanying signs – if members of the chruch can’t even believe and receive what God has promised to the body of Christ?

Look at the many promises given regarding prayer?

If you believe you WILL receive WHATEVER you ask for in prayer. (Matt 21:22) NIV

I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)NIV

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)NIV

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5: 14-15)NIV

Do you believe those promises?

Do you believe them WITHOUT making excuses for them not working in your own life – such as “well, sometimes God answers no…“? (I suggest the link be followed to see what scripture says about that).

Of course, there are biblical reasons that God wouldn’t answer prayer. James shows us two of them.

…when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1: 6-7)NIV

But how dare anyone accuse “me” of not having faith? Surely it must be God sovereignly denying my request…

Err NO!

Swallow your pride and consider that your faith may not yet be as perfect as you think.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4: 3) NIV

Maybe with this quote in mind it might be worth revisiting two of the promises above that spell out conditions: “If you remain in me…” and “ask anything according to my will…”. Both of these would ensure right motives.
As for the other promises, they are all conditional upon faith/believing. But how does one believe without doubting that they will receive something from God if they aren’t totally convinced that HE is able and willing to give it?

Faith, the ability to believe with no doubt, is dependant on knowing God’s will.
And (another promise with a condition of faith) –

…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 112:6) NIV

So let us stop the faithless excuses and platitudinal clichés, and start seeking God through His word, by His Spirit – to discover the truth. If we are willing to do that, then maybe we’ll stop being the insipid, downtrodden, illness-ridden, and faithless people that the world has seen for far too long. And, surely, we’ll start to demonstrate more of that dynamic gospel ministry delegated to the church by Jesus Himself.

 

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*  A common platitude goes something like this: “We’ll all experience the ultimate healing in heaven”.

That clearly misses the point. God’s provision of healing won’t be needed after we’re dead, because we’ll be getting a completely new, glorified body anyway.

Healing and health for believers is needed here and now, so we are fit for the job Jesus commissioned His church to do.

If all we are doing is looking to the benefits of the “afterlife” we’re believing a false gospel. The gospel is about the here and now, preparing us and others for entry into God’s coming new creation. (More about that to come…)

Beware of Widening the Narrow Way

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt 7) NIV

Considering that Jesus said that the road that leads to life is narrow and only a few find it – surely we ought to be wary of any “gospel” that widens that path to admit the “many”.

While God doesn’t want any to perish, but wants all to come to repentance, He isn’t so desperate for love that He will compromise everything else to allow as many people as possible into His Kingdom.

Any “gospel” that offers a wide gate, leading to a wide path, open to the many – is a false gospel.

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. (Luke 13) NIV

Jesus identified Himself as the gate:

Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.(John 10:7) NIV

And also as the way:

I am the way and the truth and the life.

And He adds that there is no access to the Father apart from Him. So the gospel, and our means of reaching the Father is centred entirely on Jesus.

A “gospel” not centred on Jesus is therefore a false gospel. HE is the focus of God’s message to mankind. Any message broadening the emphasis of the gospel away from Jesus is a turning away from the narrow path He has provided.

This is emphasised in the scriptures by Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus told the Jewish leaders that they “study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life” but pointed out that they missed the truth of what they studied “…because These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39) NIV.

On the mount of transfiguration, when Jesus was joined by Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets), the Father announced, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to HIM!” (Matt 17:5) NIV.

And Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)NIV

Beware of any “gospel” that turns attention away from Jesus and the instructions He gave regarding the requirements of “the way”, and those who desire to follow Him.

striding edge

A challenging visual analogy. The “narrow path” of Striding Edge, Lake District, England.

Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt 28) NIV

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6) NIV