Our Defeated Foe

WARNING

YOUNG CHRISTIAN, THE DEVIL DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ THIS!

1. Heaven was polluted with sin. Before the resurrection of Jesus, those who died in faith went to a place of comfort known as Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:22). This place was adjacent to, but isolated from hell, the place of torment (verse 23). (Hell had been created for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).)

Until Jesus went to “…prepare a place …” (John 14:2), heaven was not a suitable home. Before the creation of man, it had been contaminated with sin by the rebellion of Lucifer (Isa. 14:12-16). Jesus told the seventy, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) (There was no contest between God and the Devil.) But heaven still needed to be purified with holy blood.

In his office as High Priest, Jesus sprinkled his blood on the Mercyseat before the throne of God, purging heaven of sin (Heb.9:23-24). This is what he meant when he told Mary in the garden, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” (John 20:17) He had sanctified himself for that duty (John 17:19), and could not be touched until it was finished. (Later, he would allow his disciples to touch him, because he had already executed his responsibility as High Priest (Luke 24:39).)

2. Jesus Went to Hell. Once heaven was prepared, Jesus returned “into the lower parts of the earth.” (Eph.4:9) From there, he led out a great company of the righteous dead to their eternal home in heaven (verse 8).

Jesus had already spent “…three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” i.e. in hell, as he foretold in Matt. 12:40. Isaiah prophesied that Messiah’s torments there would satisfy the demands of God’s justice. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” (Isa. 53:11) And David’s prophecy was also fulfilled: “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Act 2:27)

3. Total Victory. Every sort of wickedness converged upon the soul of the Son of God. Depression, Despondency, Malignity–all the powers of evil tormented and oppressed him. Despite the strongest efforts of the hosts of darkness they suffered an enormous reversal. It was impossible for death to hold him (Acts 2:24).

Jesus had “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Php. 2:8) So now, “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Php. 2:9-11)

Then as Jesus walked the corridors of hell, he declared his victory: “I’m Jesus Christ of Nazareth!” Principalities and powers, rulers of darkness, and exalted entities of spiritual wickedness–DEMONS of all ranks–had to bow their knees in subjection. One after another, in their millions, they bowed down and confessed, “Jesus is Lord!

The habitations of the damned echoed, resounding the cry, “Jesus is Lord!” The sound entered into the hearing of Satan himself. Suddenly, Jesus stood before him and demanded, “I’m Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and I’ve come for the keys.” The Prince of Darkness got up off his throne, bowed himself low, and acknowledged his Master, “Jesus is Lord!” Then as Prince of this world (John 12:31), Prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), he surrendered up the keys of hell and of death. Jesus’ triumph was complete.

4. Satan Was a Sucker. Jesus never shrank from the cross for a single moment. He knew that God’s plan was wiser than anything the Devil could comprehend. He spoke openly of the victory that the cross held for him. “‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ This he said, signifying what death he should die.” (John 12:32-33)

Paul explains that the forces of evil were completely blind-sided by the wisdom of God. “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1Co 2:7-8)

The victory of the cross was absolute. “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col.2:15)

5. Victorious Life in Christ. Ephesians explains God’s intention in this elaborate scheme: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places [demonic forces] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” (Eph 3:10-11).

By the church. That’s you, young Christian! “…the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:26-27)

It has always been God’s plan and purpose, that believers would, “Go ye into all the world…” and, “In my name shall they cast out devils…” Of course, you’re called to move in the power of God. There will be MIRACLES, just like Jesus and the apostles did. But just like them also, you will need to deal with devils–first, last, and always. The church is called to enforce Jesus’ victory over Satan.

6. God Has No Plan B. After he rubbed the Devil’s nose in defeat, Jesus told his disciples, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.”(Matt.28:18, ASV) He continued by investing the Church with a power of attorney to get the job done, saying, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples…”

God has just one plan for reaching a world that “lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19) You are God’s only strategy to free the minds of mankind with the gospel. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not…” (2 Co 4:3-4)

The world is being seduced by “doctrines of devils.” (1 Tim.4:1) Islam is growing at a rate three times faster than Christianity. We are losing ground, even as over a thousand souls are perishing every hour of every day. Lost into eternity without Jesus!

It has been said that no battle is ever won until someone runs across a beach with his weapon in his hand. Well, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;” (2 Cor.10:4) But the principle remains true.

The world cannot be won for God with gilded cathedrals, or high sounding choirs. Christian TV can’t do the job. But you can!

You can walk in the power of God, filled with the anointing of the Holy Ghost. If Jesus cast out devils with his word, you can do the same, knowing that, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” (Isa. 54:17)

Young Christian, legions of saints and angels are watching as you read these words. Pick up your weapons and run for Jesus!

Wedding Tradition

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33 )

In March of 1995, our church was being visited with a great outpouring of God’s Spirit. My oldest son appoached me, hand-in-hand with his fiance. It was just a week before their wedding, and they had a special request for the ceremony. Rather than “just another wedding,” they wanted to ask for the manifest presence of God.

They knew, of course, that the Holy Ghost is sovereign, and cannot simply be scheduled or manipulated. But I suggested that they could “invite” him, so to speak, by seeking his face in prayer. I told them to somehow find a way to break with tradition. Effectively, they would say to God that his presence was a much higher priority. Then I left them to their own devices.

When their marriage day arrived, they gathered the whole bridal party together for a time of prayer before the ceremony. The groom was present, as well as the bride, who attended in her wedding dress, minus her veil. They slapped tradition in the face, and implored the Holy Ghost to show his power.

The ceremony was saturated with his overpowering presence. Drunk in the Spirit, the maid-of-honor was unable to attend to the brides train (or even stand on her own). She even required the support of other (tipsy) bridesmaids. The best man fell out on the floor under the power of God. [“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose…” (Acts 2:15)]

The congregation also burst forth into joy and laughter.

Recently, the same bride and groom (whose children are now starting college) were heard to state that marriage for them has been a twenty year honeymoon! Of course, that’s not all about the ceremony, but it was a great place to start in the blessing of God.

Nothing is so calculated to bring a person into bondage as religious tradition.

Tradition says, “The Holy Ghost is a perfect gentleman.” He would never cause a commotion in church. Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira! (Acts 5:1-10)

God of Compassion

Catskill, NY, c.1996.  It was a Sunday night service. My pastor was away on one of his frequent jaunts to minister to churches in far-flung corners of the world.  As usual, he left the oversight of the home church to me.

I stood near the front entrance. It was my habit to greet the people before each service. I welcomed a visitor from the mountain top, an old-timer in his eighties. We were acquainted, but I did not know him well. His guest was completely unfamiliar to me. Dressed in camo and not well groomed, he was much younger than his companion–in his late twenties, or early thirties, I would venture to say. I was not surprised to hear that he was a homeless man, found on the road near Woodstock.

His elderly escort had brought him to us because he was desperately in need of prayer. The senior saint knew this was not the sort of church where the young fellow would be judged for his appearance. (John 3:17) They simply asked for prayer for a health issue.

Of course, I agreed to pray.  Jesus said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name…they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:17-18) He did not qualify the promise.  It’s just part of “Go ye…”

But I felt in my gut to delay, and they agreed to wait a short while. I knew that the power of God flows in the anointing–the manifest presence of God’s Spirit. I also knew that the anointing is most dominant at the height of worship.(Ps 22:3) We call it the corporate anointing, because the whole congregation is involved to some extent. The power of the Church is greater than the sum of its parts.

Worship was intense that evening.  As I stood on the platform, it took little discernment to realize that “…the power of the Lord was present to heal…” (Luke 5:17)

So I stepped down toward the unlikely pair from the mountain top, who were seated on the front row.  I got permission to lay my hands on the young sojourner, and spoke a simple prayer for his healing.

It was a common occurrence in that place, that people who received prayer in that way would “fall out under the power.”  I had seen it many times, as well as similar reactions.  But it did not happen that night.  To all appearances, nothing happened when I prayed.  Nor was I disappointed or concerned. After all, I did not pray in my own name, but in the name of Jesus.  In fact, I was so unconcerned about Jesus’ ability to heal, that I had not even inquired about the medical condition for which the man needed prayer.  (I couldn’t heal him anyway, and Jesus can unscramble an egg.)

So I returned to the platform.  The music stopped.  I preached a while, and dismissed the service.

I never gave the matter another thought until a few weeks later. The old man from the mountain returned to one of our services, and pulled me aside. He told me that the young stranger had come, disheveled and homeless, because he was dying of AIDS.  Though there was no hope for his condition, he did not want to be judged. He saw Jesus as his last, best hope.  He made the 40-mile drive down the mountain, through pain and weakness, to a place where he could find respect and compassion–a place of rest. (Matt. 11:28)

When I prayed, as the church worshipped, it seemed that nothing happened. But the young fellow returned to his doctor with all of his symptoms gone. There was no more evidence of HIV anywhere in his body.

We serve the God of the second chance!

Tradition of Modesty

Tradition pressures women into bondage over their physical appearance.

  • Godly women are shamed into conformity with some nebulous, subjective standard of “modesty.”
  • Christian men are depicted as hapless victims of their own lusts, powerless to resist shiny objects before their eyes.
  • Women are viewed as guilty, like Salem witches, by virtue of their feminine physique.

But the Word of God paints a different picture:

  • The prophet describes a woman’s breasts and hair as “excellent ornaments” given to her by a Holy God. (Eze.16:7) [“Ornaments!” Deal with it. She’s supposed to be attractive!]
  • Jesus placed the responsibility squarely with the man who had lust in his heart. (Matt. 5:28)
  • We men are called to walk in the spirit, exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, including self-control. (Gal.5:22-25)
  • And the scripture declares that legalistic bondage is something we must stand squarely against. (Gal.5:1)

It is high time that the Church stops excusing men from their sin. Men of God need to rise up and hold our brothers accountable for their own thought-lives. A lost and dying world needs spiritual warriors who are not unable to rule their own spirits. (Prov.25:28)

Seriously, brothers, take responsibility now. Take dominion over your imaginations. (2Cor.10:3-5) Why wait until you stand in the judgement? (Heb.9:27)

Traditions of Death

Luke 24:1Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared…”

  • The Plan

Even before his body was laid to rest, they had planned and prepared to do this. (Luke 23:55-56)

After all, it was a religious tradition. Isn’t it only “proper” to show respect for the dead?

[Here in the South we give a police escort to a funeral procession, stopping traffic as if it were a presidential motorcade! We force the business of life to yield in “respect” for death. (Mobsters and politicians have the longest convoys. The bigger the crook, the more “respect” we have to show!)]

Jesus had told them, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matt.8:22) But, still, it seemed like the right thing to do.

As is so often the case with religious tradition (especially in the morning, upon the first day of the week), what seemed like the right thing, had brought them to the place of death.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov.14:12) That “way” is called tradition.

  • The Problem

It seemed like the thing to do—the place to go—but when they got there, Jesus wasn’t there!

Tradition darkens the mind, and dulls the higher cognitive processes. It keeps us from asking, “Why am I doing this?”

Why seek ye the living among the dead?” the angels asked. “He is not here…

The trouble with religious tradition is that you can’t find the living among the dead. It’s a treasure map to fools’ gold!

Jesus isn’t there. Jesus is never there!

Religious tradition (especially early in the morning, upon the first day of the week)—religious tradition is a deception.

It’s a LIE!

It says, “Follow me to see Jesus,” but in the end, all you find is dead men’s bones!

  • The Solution

What I love about the gospel is that it doesn’t leave us in our sin! (“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:23)

The same was true at the sepulcher. The angels told them how to fix the problem!

Remember…” they said. That is, actively, consciously call to mind what Jesus said.

“And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulcher.” (Lk. 24:8-9) Cause and effect: “remembered…and returned.” Whenever you find yourself in the place of death, call to mind what Jesus said, and you’ll find the way of escape (1Cor.10:13).

  • The Conflict

Religion (and the death it produces) is always in conflict with the Word of the Lord, which is intended to bring us to abundant life. (John 10:10) The truth is that, in the morning, upon the first day of the week, life conquered death. Our Sunday morning services ought to exude nothing but life!

But religious tradition is a poser. It’s a substitute to draw us away from the living, vital relationship that being a Christian is all about.

In “high church,” it’s the memorized words of a liturgy. But we evangelicals have our own mimicry. We offer lifeless hymns instead of anointed worship. Day-by-day walking with, and hearing from Jesus is replaced by practiced behavior. “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayers substitute for seeking His face, and for searchings of the heart.

Nothing is so calculated to bring a person into bondage as religious tradition.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal.5:1)

God’s Arm Is Not Shortened


Act 26:8 “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”

Catskill, NY, c.1990. Dr. James Finn was presiding over the Sunday morning service. His secretary was in the balcony videotaping the proceedings.

As the song service drew to a close, there was a powerful anointing in the house. The pastor began to exhort the congregation, as might be expected of a man of faith: “There’s a feeling in the air, that if you can believe God, nothing is impossible!” He continued to encourage the people, saying, “There’s enough power in this place to raise the dead!”

My family was sitting with me on the second row. Seated directly in front of us was our most senior elder, along with his wife. At about that point in the service, he began to show noticeable signs of personal discomfort. His wife was loosening his tie and collar. Soon, he seemed to be in great distress. So much so, that it caught the attention of the pastor, who was still making bold statements about the power of God.

He called the couple forward for prayer, but by the time they had taken the few steps to the platform, the man’s knees began to buckle. Some quick thinking person shoved a chair under him and let him sit. People of strong faith were asked to come forward and pray. Soon he was surrounded by prayer warriors.

Up to this point, there was nothing happening that I had not seen a hundred times before in Pentecostal churches across America. But suddenly, the brother passed out. His skin quickly became clammy, with a blue tint. He had stopped breathing! There was a great deal of confusion. In the crowd there were at least two nurses, and one man with EMT training. Inexplicably, though, no one took action to revive him.

Over a dozen of that couple’s children and grandchildren were in attendance that morning. Their agitation and cries only added to the mounting chaos. The pastor kept his head enough to turn to his wife, telling her, “Call 9-1-1.”

As she withdrew to the office, he began to calm the crowd. He instructed us to step back and continue in prayer. (Later he confessed that he wondered how it would look on his resume as a faith-preacher, that a man had dropped dead when he began to speak! Would he need to get a job “flipping burgers”?)

Within a few minutes, the Catskill ambulance squad arrived. They quickly began to check for vital signs, but found none. They ascertained that the man had now been in that condition for 15 to 20 minutes. One of the attendants leaned toward the pastor and said, “Preacher, this man is dead.” And they began to load him onto the stretcher.

With one part faith, and one part showmanship, the pastor said, “Let’s pray one final prayer for the power of God to move.” No doubt, it would have made a smooth transition to begin to close the tragic service–if not for what happened next.

[Now I was contiuously within 3 feet of the man who collapsed. And I’ve seen it over on video numerous times since then.]

Suddenly, the dead man sat up, and said with a clear voice, “Praise the Lord!”

The three ambulance attendants jumped back in total shock and confusion! The church erupted into pandemonium. Some gave shouts of praise and worship, while others just stood puzzled and dazed.

They took the brother away in an ambulance. The doctors found him slightly more fit than might be expected of a man his age. They could not find any apparent cause–no stroke, no heart attack. But the entire incident was recorded on video tape, and later broadcast on national television. The brother is still alive today, and living in Florida.

Jesus told the seventy, “Heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead…” (Matt. 10:8) God is still in the MIRACLE business! Do you have the faith and courage to go into business with him?

Tradition on Prophecy

Tradition says a prophetic word should be “put on a shelf” to see if it “comes to pass.”

Ridiculous! It will DIE on that shelf if it’s not activated by faith. Christianity isn’t a wait-and-see chair we sit in; it’s a road we walk on. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17)

Scripture mandates that:

  • Prophetic words must be judged (1Cor.14:29), and
  • Prove [test] all things; hold fast [hang on tight to] that which is good.” (1Thes.5:21)
  • They are weapons we use in our spiritual warfare. (1Tim.1:18)

Speak that word now before angels (Ps.103:20), and against devils (2Cor.10:4)!