“Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” Luke 13:32 NIV
This week as I have been reading through the gospel of Luke I have been struck by how much of the focus of Jesus’ ministry was in casting out demons. His message for Herod quoted above, who was seeking to kill him, put driving out demons right at the top of His priority list. Depending on how you read the Gospels, Jesus spent up to 30% of His time in deliverance ministry dealing with demons. In fact Jesus touted it as the imprimatur of the authenticity of His ministry. “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28 NIV)
It has caused me to wonder why there is such a stark contrast between the ministry of the church today, particularly in the West, and the ministry of Jesus and His followers two thousand years ago. Where have all the demons gone? Why aren’t we casting out demons with the frequency and ferocity of the early church?
Dealing with the devil and his minions was at the heart of what Christ came to do. The Apostle John who accompanied Jesus throughout His earthly ministry writes “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 ESV)
Now the “works of the devil” include first and foremost sin and death which Jesus overcame at the cross. But in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles we also find the devil and his demons causing diseases and infirmities, deafness and dumbness, depression and oppression and all manner of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Jesus not only dealt with these works of the devil but also commissioned His followers to do the same. When He sent out the twelve on their short term training missions He specifically directed them and gave them authority to drive out demons in addition to curing diseases. It was an integral part of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom to set the captives free. (Luke 9:1-2) Jesus basically did the same thing when He sent out the seventy-two and they came back rejoicing saying “Lord even the demons submit to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17)
But the casting out of demons did not stop with Jesus’ ascension into heaven. His final directives about carrying on His ministry after His departure, known as the Great Commission, specifically included the driving out demons. “And these signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will drive out demons…” (Mark 16:17) And the book of Acts testifies to that fact as His followers went out preaching the gospel and setting people free from the power of the evil one.
So why don’t we see more of this kind of deliverance ministry today? Let’s think this through together. Here are some other questions this particular question raises.
1. Are there a finite number of demons in contrast to an exploding world population that make it impossible for them to afflict as many people? Perhaps they are now outnumbered. The world’s population of 6.7 billion is now 27 times greater than it was in the time of Christ, estimated at 250 million.
2. If that is true, are we in the West not seeing the need for deliverance because Satan’s demons have been deployed to other parts of the world where the stakes in his plan of world domination are higher?
3. Or, have the demons mutated or morphed into other more sinister forms of evil control and oppression that are not as recognizable as they were in Jesus’ day? It does appear that they have deceived the general populace into believing they no longer exist. And acknowledgement of their existence is relegated to cases of bizarre and/or tragic behaviors by deranged individuals.
4. Are Third World or more primitive cultures more susceptible to their influence as opposed to the West with it’s sophistication and scientific advancements? Are demons like disease or illiteracy, the plague of areas of the world where sufficient medicine and education are lacking?
Are spirits of infirmity, oppression and depression now subject to the authority of surgery and medications, no longer requiring the mighty name of Jesus to drive them out? Are a healthy diet and good education now the best deterrent to demon control or possession?
5. Has western society so civilized and domesticated demons that we are now living with them in mutual peaceful coexistence? That is a scary thought.
I don’t know about you, but I find this whole topic not only provocative, but more importantly a crucial challenge to the church of Jesus Christ.
What questions do the diminishment of deliverance ministry raise for you? How would you answer these questions? I’ll give you my answers to the questions above in a future blog post.
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