Allen Jackson - Heaven and Earth - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you again. We're gonna continue our study on spiritual warfare with a focus towards the end times. Today we're gonna look especially at the interplay between heaven and earth. You know, it's so easy for us to imagine that our lives are shaped by political forces or economic forces or some variation on those themes. Those things certainly have influence in our lives, but beneath all of them are spiritual influences. What happens in heaven is determining what's happening in the earth, and that's the role of the church. We're not powerless. We don't have to be known in the halls of power if our names are known in the halls of heaven. Grab your Bible and get a notepad. We're gonna learn today how we can take our place to make a difference on what God is doing in the earth right now.
The Greek word that is translated "demon possessed" is literally demonized. Possessing suggests of forfeiture of any independence, of total and absolute control. And these are the covenant people of God. They're standing in the full light that was available to them in the same way that we stand in the full light available to us as Christ followers. And so this emerges into a debate on can a Christian suffer the influence of a demon, and the argument against it says we can't be possessed because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. And I think the whole debate, really, emerges from a mistranslation, a misunderstanding, of what's presented to us.
I very much believe that we can be demonized, that we can be tormented, influenced, harassed, by unclean demonic spiritual forces. It's a biblical principle. But let's finish. The man was demon possessed from the town. "For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but he'd lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, 'What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!'" It's not the man speaking; it's the spirit. Again, he recognizes Jesus. He knows who he is. He understands the authority he has. He knows he's powerless before him. He's intimidated a whole town, but he understands he's powerless before Jesus.
See, if we'll take the principles of Scripture, we can live beyond our fear and live in authority that God has given us. It doesn't mean we understand everything, doesn't mean we can explain everything. I'm weary with Christians that have an absolute explanation for everything. We don't know. Every person that's bent over doesn't necessarily mean they're bent over by an unclean spirit. Every person that's emotionally unstable, doesn't mean the instability comes from an unclean spirit. There's a God and it's not us. It's why we need discernment, it's why we have to have wisdom, it's why we have to learn to listen to the Spirit of God. It's why we have to be open to the Word of God.
We wanna take all the mystery out of God. We wanna remove God from his sovereign place, and we wanna scramble up on the thrones ourselves and deliver our edicts about what's right and wrong, good and evil. We are creatures and we serve an Almighty God, our Creator. And we are dependent upon his counsel and his wisdom and his knowledge. But if we ignore the truth of Scripture, we close off all those insights. "Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places". What a miserable life. "Jesus asked him, 'What's your name?' 'Legion,' he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them into the Abyss".
Again, just from a broad view, the demon knew Jesus and the authority he had. The spirit seized him, impacted him physically, resulting in an unusual supernatural strength. The devil is an imitator. You know another character in the Bible that had supernatural strength because of a spiritual influence, but it wasn't an unclean spirit. The Bible says of Samson that the Spirit of God would come upon him and he would have unusual strength. Samson didn't look like somebody on 'roid rage.
Do you wanna know what Samson looked like? He was normal. But when the Spirit of God would come upon him, he would have supernatural strength. It's why his adversaries were willing to go to great lengths to discover the secret of his strength. If he'd had a 40-inch bicep, it would not have been a secret. And now we meet a man who has supernatural strength from an unclean spirit: the devil is an imitator. The spirit drove the man into isolation, many demons harassing this man.
Now, the narrative, you know, it doesn't stop with Jesus. If it did, maybe you could make an argument that it's not relevant to us, but in Acts 16 Paul and his team were in Philippi. It's the city which to whom he wrote the letter that we know as Philippians. Said, "We were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future". There's an unclean spirit occupying this young woman and has enough awareness of the world that she can make predictions about what's coming.
You know, sometimes, we just discount horoscopes and fortunetellers and ouija boards, all of those expressions of the occult, and say, "Well, there's nothing to them". No, there can be some things to them. But your participation with them opens your life to the occult, to unclean, unhealthy, unholy spiritual forces. And we mistakenly say, "Well, I didn't mean anything by it," as if you have to have the intents to do harm. That's like saying you smoke three packs a day, "but I don't intend to harm myself". Intent is not required. We've been amazingly naïve or stubborn, I'm not sure always the difference. "She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.'"
One thing we can tell has been consistent through this little quick study we've done, is these unclean spirits have spiritual insight and awareness that most of the people do not. Which makes you believe that the harassment could be directed, intentional, specific, because they have spiritual insight that oftentimes exceeds our own, and it's not complete in an entire. I don't wanna give them more credit than they deserve. "She kept this up for many days. And finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and he said to the spirit", He's gonna speak to the spirit, not to the girl, "'In the name of Jesus I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her".
Now, we don't know how that was made evident, but the men controlling this woman recognized something had happened and they had lost their ability to make money with her. So they incite a riot. And the whole city boils into an uproar. It's a disproportionate response for a prayer offered for a slave girl. I don't believe there's an explanation, apart from spiritual things. If you tried to explain the riot in Philippi without spiritual insight, you'd be left to the economic impact of the diminished idol trade, but it's hard to believe in the brief period of time that Paul and his crew have been there that that economic impact had been fully felt just yet. I believe the only plausible explanation or the best plausible explanation is the spiritual forces in Philippi understood what had happened. And they were so enraged at the expression of authority in their midst that they stirred up an angry mob in an attempt to destroy Paul.
Now, fortunately, they weren't effective. Again, we're going to have to live with a greater spiritual awareness than has filled our lives previously. The world has changed. I think we all understand the world has changed. I think we understand the things we have depended upon for stability, for fairness, for justice, for truth. I'm frequently asked, you know, "What do you listen to? How do you know what's happening? What do you believe"?
You wanna begin with the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I'm not suggesting those are your only sources, but if those aren't real in your life, if you're not up to speed on that, and it's not informing your character and your life choices, you won't have the discernment and the wisdom to sort out what's happening anymore because so much of what's given to us is simply a distortion. It's painful to say that. We used to think that was other places in the world.
Acts 19: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul". I always smile at that phrase, "extraordinary miracles". I thought any miracle was extraordinary, right? This is not like just your average garden-variety miracle, you know. This is, like, extraordinary miracles through Paul, "so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them". I thought it was worth noticing that even deliverance from these tormenting spirits was a part of what happened. Again, we'll have to humble ourselves a bit. It's easy to read something like that or see it in practice and think people are crazy or crackpots, or be so prideful, "I'm only gonna receive help if somebody prays for me".
Folks, if you're desperate, may I submit you take help any way you can receive it. You know, I told you, you'll be...I watch more Christian TV these days because I used to make fun of the preachers on TV. Be careful what you make fun of. You know, and sometimes, you know, I'll watch and I think, "What a quack. You know, 'Come put your hand on the TV,' or you know, I mean, 'Oh, c'mon.'" Until you're sick and you're up in the middle of the night, all right? You're miserable and you turn on your TV and there's that same person. And now they've got my attention. Where did you want me to put my hand to feel better? You know, amen.
The Bible submits to us that spiritual forces influence history. And this is important because we're pretty good at complaining and grumbling and telling what we don't like and what we think should happen. We're trying to sort out all these things but spiritual forces influence history. Just from a 1000-foot view, the book of Revelation is God's judgment upon the earth. It's shaping the course of human history, 'til it's God's judgment on this present age with the arrival of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. So I think you'd have to say that spiritual forces influence history. Jesus's birth was a supernatural event. It changed history. It didn't get headlines, it didn't occupy the discussions of the palace or of the high priest, but it changed history.
The gospel in Ephesus changed the economy of the entire city. The god Artemis lost a great deal of influence. I could give you example after example. We often dismiss or underestimate the magnitude of spiritual influence. In Matthew 26, Jesus said, he's talking to his friends. He said, "Do you not think I could call on my Father, and he'll at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels"? I could call 70,000 angels in a moment. And Jesus, the implication is and whatever they wanted to do to us would be irrelevant.
In Revelation 5, and verse 11, John says: "I looked and I heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders". Angels are central to the story of Jesus's birth and his life mission. Why is it we're so reluctant to believe that spiritual forces can shape the destiny of a nation? I don't believe there's an adequate explanation for this nation, apart from the hand of God. Doesn't mean it's perfect. Angels are essential characters in the story of Revelation. There is no book of Revelation without the angelic activity. It's an angel that delivers the message. Jesus said he could call on his 12 legions, more than 70,000 angels. That one scene in Revelation 5, there's a hundred million angels in one scene. A hundred million.
Bible says: "Children have angels assigned to them". Satan managed to convince a third of the angels to join him in rebellion. And if all that above, if you'll accept that to some degree, I would submit to you we pay more attention to the assertive posture we are asked to hold as a part of our faith. To a great extent, we've just preferred to ignore it. We wanna talk about our personal salvation, our new birth experience, and again, I'm an advocate for that, but once you've experienced that, once you've been birthed into the kingdom of God, now it's time to do something. Colossians 4: "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He's always wrestling in prayer for you".
Wrestling's the most demanding type of athletic competition that's available to us. "He is wrestling in prayer". Romans 15: "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me". Join in the struggle. Don't complain, don't worry, don't be anxious. Do something. What can we do? How much time are you spending wrestling in prayer? "Well, I mean, I wanna do something that matters". Ephesians 6: "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood". Our struggle isn't against people and organizations, but "our struggle is against rulers and against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". 1 Timothy 6: "Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses".
Paul goes on to Timothy. He says, "You've gotta be a good soldier. You can't afford to get entangled with civilian affairs. You've got a fight to be made". "Well, I don't wanna fight. I wanna be a blessing catcher". Now, we've got a lot of books on being blessing catchers, and I'm not opposed to blessings. I've told you, if you don't like yours, bring 'em to me. But we're not called just to be blessing catchers. 2 Corinthians 10: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world".
See, what's the difference between the people of God and the secularist and how we imagine the future of our schools, our children, our healthcare, our justice system. Well, the secular doesn't know how it's gonna be done. It's a matter of votes and power, messaging. And we've adopted their tools. We've acted as if we're clueless about anything else that could be available to us. Now, I'm not opposed to participating in the system but, before that, we'd better understand we have weapons that are not the weapons of this world. And they have divine power to demolish strongholds. If you're watching what's happening in our nation and in the world at large, there are spiritual strongholds.
1 Corinthians 9: "Don't you know", and you know when they ask that question, what's the answer? "Well, not so much". "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize". 1 Corinthians 9:26: "I don't run like a man running aimlessly; I don't fight like a man beating the air. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I won't be disqualified for the prize". Paul doesn't seem to be making any arrogant assumptions about his faith. He said, "I use severe discipline in my life".
All of those passages together, we could spend a great deal of time with this, but what they're reflecting to us is a more assertive posture than some inert Bible study about theoretical facts from the 10th century BCE. I'm an advocate for understanding the Scripture in the context of its culture, but I'm an advocate for understanding that so that I can give an expression to my faith in the midst of the culture in which I live. If we don't intend to give it expression in this culture, you're not a Christian, you're an academic. And I've studied in many settings with people who are brilliant scholars about Scripture, but they are not practitioners of the Christian faith. And we've been training in our churches far too many people to be biblical scholars but they're not living their faith. It's time for us to change.
So I wanna close with a proclamation. I brought you the proclamation, but I'll give you a little homework. If you'll check Isaiah 54:17 and Psalm 91:7 through 11, you can get the biblical authority for the proclamation we're gonna make. I'll read you Isaiah 54: "No weapon formed against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you". The assumption is there will be weapons formed against you, spiritual weapons. And there'll be accusing voices directed at you, and the motivation behind them will be spiritual forces.
Now, if we're told that, why are we surprised? "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord". The heritage of the servants of the Lord is having weapons formed against you in accusing tongues. Did it happen to Jesus? With frequency. Did it happen to Jesus's closest friends? With frequency. "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord". Where will our vindication come from? From the Lord. And it may be given expression in these other arenas, but the authority for the freedom will come from the Lord.
Church, stop apologizing for Jesus. Stop apologizing for your biblical worldview. Stop acting as if you can negotiate with evil and get to a better place. It's a lie. I brought you a proclamation. If you'll stand with me, we'll close with this. Are you ready? Please don't just leave this at church. Take a picture of it, put it in your phone, start your day with it, this week, or share it with a co-worker or whatever that looks like, but put it into your devotional routine for a few days. Give expression to it, be a bit more assertive. Spend more time saying what God has said about you than repeating whatever you've heard from your favorite wherever. How many conspiracies do you have to talk about before you decide to talk about what God said he will do? Hush, right, we're doing a proclamation:
I rejoice in the protection of Almighty God over my life. I am the Lord's servant. I rest in the completeness of His strength and care. No weapon formed against me will prevail. I will refute every tongue which rises against me, this is my heritage as a servant of the Lord. A thousand may fall at my side but destruction will not overwhelm me. I have made the Most High my dwelling place. God is my refuge and my security. No harm will befall me, no disaster will overtake me. God has commanded His angels to watch over my life. My life and my future are secure through the strength of my Lord and my redeemer, amen, hallelujah.