On the Front Foot

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:13-15)
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness … 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 8 Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.  (Matthew 10:1-8)
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:16-20)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Not much scares the devil and his demons more than a Christian who is free and knows who they now are in Christ. As Christians, we have been given a share by God in Jesus’ power and authority over the spiritual world, and we see that power and authority in action all the way through the gospels. In Mark 3, Jesus calls a motley assortment of fishermen and tax collectors to be with him, not just so that he can send them out to preach, but so that he can send them out to cast out demons! In Matthew 10, he doesn’t just send them out to talk to people about his Kingdom. He sends them out to demonstrate that his Kingdom has come by healing the sick and casting out demons. What’s really interesting in the gospels is that the demons recognise the truth of this far better than we do. They are terrified of the disciples of Jesus, and they have no choice but to leave people when commanded to do so.

Jesus gave this same commission to all his followers in Matthew 28. It’s called the Great Commission, rather than the Great Suggestion, because it’s all about authority. Jesus informs his followers that, through his death and resurrection and imminent ascension back to heaven, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In other words, the devil and his demons are totally defeated. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” We are like soldiers being parachuted into France after D-Day. The enemy has already been defeated, but we are called to be part of the Lord’s clean-up team. Defeating the devil’s lies and casting out demons is just normal Christianity.

James 4:7 encourages us to believe that this is as true for us today as it was for the original twelve disciples. Provided that we are submitting to God – that is, confessing our sin to him and surrendering our lives to Jesus as our Lord – then we are more than able to resist the devil and his demons. They have no choice about it – they have to flee. If we detect demonic lies at work in our own thinking, then we can rebuke and renounce those lies in Jesus’ name. If we detect demons at work in the people around us, then we can command them to leave our presence, and they must obey. Be sensitive to the people affected. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is against demons, not against the flesh-and-blood people that they inhabit. But don’t be too sensitive to go on the front foot against demons. There is no need to shout, but nor do we need to be frightened of them. They are frightened of us!
  1. Why do you think most Western Christians skim over the passages in the New Testament that talk about the authority that God has given us over the devil and his demons?
  2. How do you generally respond when you detect a demonic lie in your own thinking?
  3. Do you ever get a sense that there are demons at work in the lives of others around you? The Bible refers to this as the spiritual gift of discerning between spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). Why not ask the Lord to give that gift to you in ever increasing measure?
Father God, I thank you that you have given me complete authority over the devil through the death and resurrection of your Son. Help me to live my life on the front foot in the spiritual battle. Help me to detect demonic lies in my own thinking and to resist them in the name of Jesus. Help me to discern and confront demons elsewhere too. Help me to spot what the demons are doing and to send them off packing in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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