Mark 1:23-24 – There was a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”
What a powerful beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The enemy’s dominions could not hold their peace in the presence of their judge. When the Scripture says, “he cried out” it is speaking of the unclean spirit in the man using the man’s voice to communicate. The man was not some mentally deranged individual. That kind of person would not have been allowed in the synagogue. He appeared normal, as many do, but he had an unclean spirit that controlled areas of his life.
The spirit in the man recognized Jesus as his destroyer. He asked Jesus, “Have You come to destroy us?” He spoke as a representative of other spirits in the man or spoke of the demonic realm in general. The spirits knew a day was coming when God would put an end to their existence. He knew that they would be destroyed by “the Holy One of God”. As you continue in this passage you find Jesus did not accept the spirit’s confession of His deity or His humanity, but rather “rebuked him, saying, ‘be quiet, and come out of him’! Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him” (Mark 1:25-26). The scene was messy, noisy, and a bit violent. This is not what most people want to happen in a church meeting. This kind of scene happened quite regularly in Jesus’ ministry. When the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God collide, it is a violent encounter.
In Matthew chapter 12, we receive more understanding concerning these two kingdoms. Read the whole chapter for context. We find the religious leaders of Jesus’ time telling the people that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons. Jesus countered their views with powerful responses, one of which was a parable. “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45). Jesus is saying that generation was demonized. Later, in Mathew 23:13-39 Jesus gives eight scathing woes to the religious leaders. In Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, He cries out that “your house is being left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).
As the Gospel is preached in power, as supernatural manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit increase, as we draw nearer to the Lord’s coming, the kingdom of darkness will also manifest its evil, its violence, and its absolute resistance to God and His people. We are called to set individuals and nations free, those held captive to Satan’s power.
Father, I pray for increased understanding of the unseen world. Help me to know how to pray and to be used to set those free who are held captive by the enemy’s power. I pray for Your divine protection as we encounter the enemy and his dominions. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done.
Psalm 74:18-23 – Remember this, O Lord, that the enemy has reviled, and a foolish people has spurned Your name. Do not deliver the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast; Do not forget the life of Your afflicted forever. Consider the covenant; For the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence. Let not the oppressed return dishonored; Let the afflicted and needy praise Your name. Arise, O God, and plead Your own cause; Remember how the foolish man reproaches You all day long. Do not forget the voice of Your adversaries, the uproar of those who rise against You which ascends continually.
As we remember September 11, 2001 and the heinous crime committed against humanity, know that God too remembers. Before evil manifested on earth, it manifested in heaven when Satan and his hosts set themselves against God and His kingdom purpose. The next few days we will devote ourselves to three men who understood the true warfare. This will serve to help in understanding the battle in which we are engaged.
Daniel 9 and 10 gives us insight into the warfare happening in the heavens. In the book of Jeremiah, Daniel discovered God’s timing for the completeness of judgment upon Israel. Daniel gave his attention to the Lord to seek Him by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I suggest reading the prayer of Daniel 9:3-19. We read in verse 20, Gabriel brings an answer to Daniel’s prayer. In chapter ten, more insight is given to Daniel after he had been mourning and fasting for three entire weeks. This time, Gabriel told Daniel that “from the first day that you set your heart on understanding . . . your words were heard” (Daniel 10:12). In verse 13, Gabriel told Daniel, “the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. In Verse 20, Gabriel informs Daniel, “he now will return to fight against the Prince of Persia and that the prince of Greece is about to come.” In Verse 21, Gabriel revealed to Daniel that there is “no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.”
Today, we are still battling these princes of Persia and Greece. Persia is represented in the “false religion of Islam” and Greece with its “humanistic philosophies” that fill western culture and our educational system. The battle is not in the natural realm, as Daniel learned, but in the heavenly sphere. Today, Daniels are needed who will set their heart on understanding and on humility before God. The two big fronts that God’s people face are “false religion and humanistic philosophy.” Their sources are not natural, but supernatural. The true warfare is the kingdom of darkness set against the kingdom of light. Our strength and courage comes from knowing our God has overcome, “He is head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10).
Father, I ask You for understanding and courage to enter into my part of the battle. Strengthen me in faithfulness to pray with knowledge about the true warfare. I ask for the Holy Spirit to open up Your word to me so that I might know how to answer those who oppose Your truth. Lead me in prayer and supplications for myself, Your people, and the nation.
Daniel 2:28 – However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days.
September 11, 2001 is a day that will live in the hearts and minds of multitudes. Thousands were killed that day by terrorists driven by evil compulsion to change the world by eliminating those opposed to their theological persuasions. That day the world changed. No longer are we simply engaged with traditional struggles of corrupt philosophies and greed in the hearts of men, but a more sinister evil has manifested its ugly head. In 2001, as we watched planes crash into the Twin Towers and more than 3,000 people lost their lives, we saw the beginning of a battle that will last to the Coming of Our Lord.
Consider seven major changes that are taking place in the world.
Geo-political – the overturning of dictatorships through-out the nations and ongoing conflict over geography.
The Middle East – prominence of tribalism in relationship to the world community.
Communist Nations that have embraced capitalism as a means of economic prosperity.
Education – built on values now being controlled by relativism, humanism and false science.
Economics – having left a gold standard in 1973 for a dependence upon a federal reserve system that borrows and prints money when desired.
Sexual Orientation – once clear to be “male and female” now filled with all kinds of mixture.
Climate Changes – being touted as man induced, not understanding God’s control of the elements for his own purposes.
The Lord desires to give to His people a heavenly perspective. There are plenty of places one can go to learn the world’s views. Just watch CNN, FOX, or worse. The battles we are engaged in do not originate in the natural, but come from the supernatural realm. If God’s people are bound to their natural reasoning they will have no more understanding than the world does.
Daniel the prophet found himself caught in the geo-political struggles of His day, but he knew that the “God of heaven was the one in control. He knew that a relationship with his God was the key to understanding the world and his own people’s success in their time of distress.
We must know in our heart of hearts that Daniel’s God is our God and He alone is in control of world events. As we prepare to remember 9/11, let us also remember that God is taking back His earth through the Gospel of the kingdom. We, God’s people, need to pray as Daniel of old prayed, trusting that God will reveal to us His plans for our day, and show us how to respond.
Father, I pray that I might have understanding in this changing world. I pray to receive Your wisdom and Your peace. I pray that I would learn to rest in Your word that is forever settled. Lead me each day by Your Holy Spirit dwelling within.
Ephesians 4: 13 – Until we all attain to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As we continue to look deeper into these passages in Ephesians, we see that Paul is calling each believer to maturity in Christ. Christ Jesus is our model as a mature Son. The Lord did not save us simply to get us to heaven. Salvation is about a new man. It is about a man who is created in the image of God’s Son. God’s intention was not that we would remain children, but to become mature people who are able to handle the Lord’s business well.
The five-fold ministry has been given assignments by the Lord to help in the development of God’s people. For example, the goal of an overseer is to develop those for whom he is responsible as mature individuals who are the image of Jesus in the earth. Jesus supplies the grace for these ministry offices to be able to accomplish their work. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, also supplies grace for each believer so that they can grow up in the Lord.
When Paul says, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8), he laid the foundation for our entire Christian walk. Everything we do in Christ must come from grace through faith. We cannot do what God is requiring without a supply of grace. Many struggle in the Christian walk as they start out by grace and then try to go farther on their own. As we have seen in previous devotions, our “will” is involved, but the Holy Spirit supplies the grace. As He supplies grace, faith follows. Faith, beloved, is an operation of grace. Faith is not our effort, but His supply of grace.
Growing up in Christ is a continual process developed throughout our entire life. It is our salvation being worked out day by day. Each day we are to receive His grace and then exercise faith in obedience to His work in our lives. Doesn’t that take off a lot of pressure, knowing you do not have to go it alone? Whatever is lacking in your maturity in the Lord, begin to ask for grace to be supplied in that area. Your flesh may resist, the Devil may fight you, and circumstances my create obstacles, but if you press into the Holy Spirit, He will give you the grace to overcome. Faith will rise and you will be victorious in Christ.
Father, help me to fulfill Your plan to grow up into Christ. I claim the maturity You have destined for me. I am willing to accept the trials that will be used by You to cause Christ to be formed in every area of my being. I gladly receive Your grace to do Your will throughout my life.
Ephesians 4:13 – Until we attain the knowledge of the Son of God.
Knowing Jesus is not simply about an initial salvation experience. It is a matter of growing in relationship with Him until we are at one with His eternal purposes. The apostle Paul came as close as any in the knowledge of Christ. Paul said, “Whatever things were gain to me, I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Paul valued his relationship with Christ far above anything he knew in this life. Paul is the true example of dying and being buried with Christ. He is our example of what it means to live in Christ Jesus’ resurrection power day by day.
The desire of Paul’s heart was, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). To know the sufferings of Christ, one must first partake in the power of His resurrection life. By faith, we receive Christ Jesus the Lord. This is the gate through which we enter into His life. Through “faith” in Him we are accepted by the Father. This is not the end, but the beginning of knowing Him. The Holy Spirit begins to lead us into the “fellowship of His sufferings.” It is in the sufferings of Christ that we begin to truly experience the heart of God.
In Philippians 3:11, Paul speaks of purpose, “in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” At first glance, it may seem like Paul is working to attain eternal life. We know by the study of Scriptures this is not the case. Paul is speaking about the “first resurrection” which every believer has entered through baptism. “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Paul was committed to walking in the power of Christ’s resurrection. Walking in His resurrection life comes from knowing Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul’s life modeled this truth.
Father, I ask You to help me attain to the resurrection of Christ daily. I was dead in my trespasses and sins, but I rejoice that I am alive forever more in Christ Jesus. I want to know You more. I ask You to prepare me in my daily walk so I can live in Your Son’s resurrection life.