Allen Jackson - Satan Rules A Kingdom - Part 2
An important part of the New Testament is the discussion of evil spirits, and I don't wanna belabor the point. We'll come back to this and look at it in more detail. But I think we should make a distinction. I don't believe that the fallen angels are what are referred to as evil spirits. I don't believe fallen angels are demons. Angels seem to me throughout scripture to be a completely different kind of a being than the descriptions of unclean spirits and, and certainly my awareness of them in my life. That's my opinion, so if you disagree with me, we'll both survive. But on a point that isn't opinion, demonic spirits, evil spirits, and unclean spirits are all equivalent terms in scripture. And it'll have a great deal to do with the translation you're reading or the author that you're reading to know which of those terms they use. But I understand them to be synonymous; they mean the same thing.
All right. So Satan's kingdom is hierarchical. We just read that in Ephesians 6, with these ascending and descending realms of authority. I believe there are spiritual forces assigned to regions. I promise you there's a spiritual force that rules over Washington DC. But I believe there's, there's true, it's true that there's one that reigns over middle Tennessee. Do you not think that the, the expression of the spiritual authority in middle Tennessee is different today than it was twenty years ago? If you've lived here that long, you understand it's different. And I'm not saying twenty years ago everybody sang Kumbaya on the street corner, but the spiritual influences that are expressing authority today are far more brazen and bold than they were another time.
So you don't have to go to Los Angeles or New York or Portland or Seattle. We have to begin in our backyard. And then the primary arena of conflict for the majority of us is going to be our person, which means we have this spiritual conflict, these combating forces, these competing ideas and thoughts and feelings and emotions affecting our mind, our body, and our emotions. It's a spiritual battlefield. Your, your mind, your thought life is a primary battlefield of spiritual conflict. That's why the Bible says we have to take captive every thought. It's why we're told to think about these things. If they're pure and lovely and holy, and think about that. It's, it's why we're told to have the same attitude that Jesus had.
There's an enormous amount of information that says you're responsible for the content of your mind. We all are besieged or assaulted with ungodly thoughts or ungodly reactions. It doesn't make you a failure or a bad person for that to happen. What you do with the thought once it's introduced is up to you, and it doesn't all have to be immoral or profane. You can be neutralized with worry. You can be neutralized with fear. You can be neutralized with envy. You can be neutralized with jealousy. You can be neutralized with a whole host of thoughts and emotions that completely remove you from the arena of being effective for the kingdom of God.
Again, we have to grow up a bit. It takes some effort, it takes some work. It takes some diligence, some self-discipline. It takes a conviction that spiritual things are real. It takes some self-awareness. It's important. It is important. Luke 11, Jesus again: "When an evil spirit comes out of a man," this is interesting, Jesus is telling us that evil spirits occupy, unclean spirits, demonic spirits occupy human beings. I think one of the words that has been incredibly disruptive is "possessed".
I can't tell you how many times I have been engaged in dialogues or I've listened to debates or discussions about whether or not Christians can be possessed by a demon. The language of the New Testament doesn't say that. It's been translated that way in some of the translations, and that has led to some of the confusion. The word, if you translated it literally, is that a person is demonized. They're impacted, they're influenced by a demon. The man that we read about earlier in Matthew's gospel was blind and mute with a demonic cause, and he was a covenant person of God standing in the full covenant that was available to him, and yet his life was influenced by demonic activity. It's completely illogical to me if demons could have no influence upon us after Jesus's redemptive work, why would Jesus have talked to us about it?
So, I don't think the question is whether or not you can be possessed. That suggests you no longer have autonomy, that you would no longer have self-determination. I can tell you a way to distinguish between a holy spirit and an unholy spirit. An unholy spirit will always seek to dominate you, and the holy spirit will never do that. Now you know that intuitively. You've lived enough life. How many times have you encountered people that have participated in something ungodly and it became an addiction that dominated their life? I have been with hundreds of people that would say to me, "I know my behavior is destructive to myself, to my family, to my dreams, to my children". They're broken emotionally and they say, "I feel powerless to change it".
I don't believe I've ever met anybody that said, "I don't wanna be holy, but I can't stop it. I get up every morning and I'm holier than I was the day before. And so I do everything in my power to be unholy, and Pastor, I'm just concerned. My holiness is escalating off the chart". You understand it intuitively. So you know something of the behavior of unclean spirits. You wanna be self-aware to recognize that. It's simply, you don't have to be afraid of the Holy Spirit. He will not dominate you.
People say, "You know, I'm afraid if I, if I fully give myself to the Lord he'll make me..." He won't make you do anything. He may present you some invitations. I'm wondering. Jesus said, "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through places seeking rest and if it doesn't find it, it says, 'I'll return to the house I left.' And when it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order". But an unclean spirit looks at a human personality as a dwelling place. That's Jesus's idea, not mine. "Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself," remember I said that the kingdom of Satan was hierarchical with ascending and descending orders, levels of authority? It goes and finds seven spirits more wicked than itself, "and they go in and live there. And the final condition of the man is worse than the first".
So you wanna live with an awareness of unclean spirits. How to address them, how to be free from them. Understand what gives them access to your life. Understand what makes you vulnerable and doesn't. This isn't foolish. You learned that very willingly about a virus not too many years ago. We disrupted our lives entirely, completely, totally, because someone said there was a virus that we didn't know anything about and we believed them. We destroyed businesses. We broke routines. We changed all of our plans. And yet God's people, people who say they believe the Bible and read it will ignore Jesus's counsel about unclean spirits and the influence they can have on our lives. That is not prudent.
Now, I wanna take the balance of our time and we're about done, but I wanna see if we can, I think it's an important, I think it's a helpful component. The Bible presents to us a variety of different seasons with a different focus. Maybe the simplest way to say that is the Bible does not present to us a static story. It does not show us a picture, a vignette, and then say to us that's gonna hold steady forever. We're not introduced to the garden and told that that's the scene we're all going to know and experience. I wanna demonstrate that with what you know, I think, pretty readily from scripture. I think this is important because there is a challenge to us, and a necessary learning when we move from season to season. It's August in Tennessee. It's hot.
And if you'll allow me, I don't think currently it has a great deal to do with climate change. I'm not arguing that climate change is a thing, but last week in Tennessee, if felt like Fall. It did. This week it feels like something else. If you put on your down parka and you went outside to mow the yard, you would get to visit with some of our healthcare facilities. Different seasons require different responses. That's true in our physical world. It's true in our spiritual world. And I believe God is developing a people through the unfolding of history. God's purposes never vary, but the responses he invites his people to do vary. Abram, leave your home. Joseph and Mary, you better go to Egypt. He is cultivating a people for himself, and we have to be prepared to follow, to learn, to grow, because the responsibilities before us today are new.
This is not the world that our grandparents knew, and I'm not talking about communication technology. What was accepted as normal in the public square a few decades ago is vastly different today, and the church is struggling mightily to reconcile this. Let's see if we can highlight it with what you know of scripture. In Exodus chapter 1. Does anybody remember how the Book of Genesis concludes? The last few chapters of Genesis are about a man and his family. Who's that man, does anybody remember? Joseph. And his family. They all end up in Egypt. Joseph's got a great job, big shot job. The pharaoh gives Joseph the best of the land of Egypt for he and his family. Things are good when Genesis closes up.
And the Book of Exodus opens, first chapter, and it says, "A new king, who didn't know about Joseph, came to power. So the put slave masters over them," the descendants of Joseph, to oppress them with forced labor, and they built store cities for Pharaoh. "But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and they spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and they worked them ruthlessly". Dramatic change from the end of the Book of Genesis. The Book of Genesis is the blessing of God upon Joseph, fulfilling the dreams he gave him when he was a smart aleck kid. The family's prospering.
Pharaoh's saying, "You know, you've got authority over the whole nation". His family's doin' well. They're reunited. They've forgiven one another. I mean, Genesis ends with a party. And Exodus opens with the whips of the slave masters. So what it meant to be the people of God at the end of Genesis and the people of God at the beginning of Exodus are two dramatically different scenarios, agreed? Exodus 15. This is the message to the people. "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and you do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians. I am the Lord, who heals you". They've been freed from slavery.
And then it's time to enter the promise land. And now the rules are different again. The pillar of cloud's gone, the pillar of fire is gone, Moses is gone. You know, we'd just got used to him. Now there's this Joshua clown, and he's telling us we have to go to battle against our enemies. We're gonna have to bear swords and have strategies. We need a generation of warriors to occupy the promised land. They have to establish homes. They haven't had to establish their own home in hundreds of years. New routines. Will it ever stop? No. And then you get to the Book of Judges. They've received their inheritance, but they keep drifting away into ungodliness. They wanna do it their way and not God's way.
And we see the very fragile nature of faithfulness to the Lord in the midst of God's people. He's their king, he protects them, he feeds them, he watches over them, and they struggle mightily to keep it between the ditches. And we begin to realize that faithfulness to the Lord is very fragile. See, we don't talk about that. We talk about praying the prayer and you can't lose it. Okay, I don't have any argument. But that's not the biblical presentation of what it means to be the people of God. We've, we have, we have cultivated an attitude of arrogance and indifference. We've trivialized ungodliness as if we can mock God. We can choose immorality, we can be silent when we shouldn't be. We can be self-absorbed and be filled with covetousness and envy and greed and immorality, and then we can just kinda say to the Lord, "Ha ha, I think I'm sorry," and there's no consequence.
The Bible gives us some very different pictures in the Book of Judges. They were learning that, and then they finally come and say, "Look, we just don't like this any...we don't want you leading us anymore. We wanna be like all the other nations. We want a king". And God said, "Well, okay. It's gonna be harder than you've ever known it to be. They'll tax you. They'll take your kids". "We wanna do it anyway". "It's not my ideal for you. It'll introduce idolatry and compromise". And then the Bible leads, as you're reading those books right now, the kings led them into all sorts of idolatry and ungodliness, and God brings his judgment, his discipline upon his covenant people. His covenant people. He said, "You can't stay, you, your inheritance. You're gonna have to be separated from your inheritance. Your blood will run in the streets. You'll be mocked by all the nations because you don't wanna serve me".
It's that invitation I gave you way back when we were workin' it out back in Egypt. "If you'd just listen to me and follow me, nobody would ever be able to defeat you". And then there's a whole chunk of your Bible. You know the books well, Esther, Daniel, and Nehemiah and Ezra. And then Jesus shows up. Whole new season. They have the temple back. They're in Jerusalem again. And Jesus shows up. Kingdom of God is at hand. The Messiah is here. And the temple leaders are either too carnal to notice, or too carnal to care. They wanna keep their place. And the injustices continue in the midst of the people of God. They use the rules to demean people and belittle people and to diminish people, not to help them.
There's much opposition to what God is doing. He's healing people and opening blind eyes and unstopping people who can't talk so they can speak, and the people hate him. Jesus ministers for three years, training disciples and inviting others into the kingdom, and the window closes. I promise you, when he recruited Peter and James and John, they thought they would spend all of their lives following Jesus across the hills of Israel. And then a thirty-six month window, that's gone.
Again, there's this consistent emerging story. Jesus ascends back to heaven. The Holy Spirit's poured out. The church begins to, to grapple with the Jesus story in Jerusalem and the surrounding villages, and then it breaks loose into the Gentile world, Corinth and Athens and Rome and Galatia, and the persecution ramps up. They started arresting Jesus's followers. The Jews! And torturing them. So if we take this story of God, it's not a snapshot of a frozen thing that we got right and we put it on the refrigerator and we keep checking in to see how we look against the snapshot. Well, I think we're a little offended by that because we don't wanna have to pay that much attention. We don't wanna keep learning. We don't wanna keep growing. We wanna say, well this is the way we do it, or this is the way we learned it, or this is what I know.
And I'm not saying any of that was illegitimate. I'm saying seasons change, it's the biblical narrative. We're in a current season of chaos. We are. Good is celebrated as evil, and evil is venerated. I mean, it's held up in high esteem. The more perverse you can be, the most courage we're told you have. But if you stand up for a biblical world view, they'll shout at you that you're filled with hate. You know it's true. It's a chaotic season. I had an email from a friend, a very influential voice in Christendom. He said, "The chaos is crazy. It takes your breath away. I find myself trying to figure out what to do other than pray".
And I think we all understand that tension. It's not that we don't believe prayer is enormously effective. You just recognize what is happening and you think, Lord, what do we do? Well, the lessons from scripture aren't that complicated. Every generation has to listen and obey. It's the purpose of reading your Bible, praying, meditating, practicing obedience. We are learning to trust God in new ways, to make proclamations, to fast, to seek the Lord, to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. And then God can trust us with assignments. He'll invite us to participate. We become more ready to take our place. We didn't wanna take a place. We didn't wanna eat manna. We didn't wanna have to pick up manna. We didn't wanna have to learn how to put together a tabernacle. We were good. We didn't wanna have to learn how to follow pillars of fire and we didn't wanna do that. No, we're good on this side of the Jordan.
So a whole generation died in the wilderness. And we're a little guilty on this point. We don't really wanna fool with all of that. I'd rather not think about it. But the evidence of the conflict is all around us. I'll give it to you and I'll be done. We see on a daily basis an escalation of the disregard for the sanctity of human life, both abortion, I saw a political ad today seeking donations with the promise to bring back Roe. I mean boldly, brazenly. If you add to that our disregard for our children, and you add to that the gender modification that we are celebrating. It's being celebrated amongst us. It is a blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life. Secondly, marriage has been redefined. It is a fundamental component of what God put in place for the wellbeing of human beings, and he hasn't changed his imagination.
Thirdly, the family structure in general and the significance of it is being completely dismissed. The government now wants to tell us they know how to educate our children. Teachers unions want to tell us that. Arrogant professors want to tell us that. If your child is in a classroom where a teacher or a professor says to them, "I wanna deconstruct what your parents taught you and what you learned in church," move your children. I don't care if the sign says it's the First Church of Holy Whatever. I have been in those classrooms. If it happens to you as an adult, that's one thing, but when they begin doing that to young children, it is abuse. And the fourth thing is we see growing on a daily basis in our culture, people being lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. It's a time for the church to be the church. There's a conflict, and we've got to do what we were told. Put on the armor of God, and take our stand. And the Lord will help us. Amen? Let's pray. Won't you stand with me:
Father, thank you for your Word, for its truth and authority and power. I thank you that you've begun to awaken us, and that as you do that, you will provide all that we need to take our stand. Give us courage and boldness. May we grow in the fear of the Lord. May we walk humbly before you. Holy Spirit, we ask you to help us. If there's anything within us, any idea, any thought, any experience that limits what you could or would do in our lives, bring it to our awareness, and may we have the courage and the humility to address it. I thank you that you're a God who brings freedom and liberty and hope, and that we can trust you to bring us victoriously through every season of our lives. In Jesus's name, amen.