First Thessalonians 5. We've covered quite a bit of ground, haven't we, these nights? Sunday night, 'The Call to Encounter God', which is 'The Cost of Discipleship', the cost that must be paid if we're going to know the Lord. Monday night we looked at 'The Atmosphere of Encountering God', which is 'Practising the Presence of God' - and, praise Him, we've enjoyed that Presence these evenings. Then on Tuesday night, can anybody help me out? Humility? Yes, that is 'The Condition of Encountering God', humility rather than pride. Then last evening we looked at 'The Energy of Encountering God', which is the Holy Spirit, the necessity and the practicality of being filled with the Spirit.
Tonight we're looking at the obstacles, some obstacles to encountering God. Maybe you've been discouraged these nights, or in general in your Christian experience? You are discouraged because you don't seem to get through, and you don't experience the victory and the depths that others have known. So I want to look at that tonight under the heading of 'Sins, Wounds and Demons'. First Thessalonians 5, verses 23 and 24, I'm going to read it, as I have been reading each night, from the New King James Version, and then I want to read it from a paraphrase which I find very helpful. "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it". Now listen to this paraphrase, listen carefully: "May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together - spirit, soul, and body - and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!". Amen.
Let's pray together, and practice the Lord's presence with us now - by faith invoke that mighty Presence. If there is a heaviness on you, there certainly has been a heaviness on me today, let's claim the victory that we have in the Lord Jesus. Let's do that together, don't you leave me up here praying all by myself - come and pray with me now, pray for me, pray for one another, but I would ask you again: pray for yourself that God might speak to you tonight. If there is anything that you feel is a blockage, or an obstacle to God in your life in encountering Him, let's ask God to indicate it to you tonight, to diagnose your problem, and to minister to you by His Holy Spirit. So let's come now.
Abba Father, we come to You in that name that is above every name, Lord Jesus Christ. As we have sung tonight, we would proclaim again: Jesus, the name high over all in hell, or Earth, or sky; angels and men before it fall, and devils fear and fly. We thank You, Lord, for the victory that there is in Jesus' name. We thank You that the disciples could return to our Lord and say: 'Even the demons are subject to us in Your name'. Yet, our Father, we don't rejoice in that tonight, but we rejoice nevertheless in the fact that our names are written in heaven. Lord, we're not going to be demon-conscious tonight, we thank You that we are Christ-conscious. We're conscious of the presence of Almighty God with us and, Lord, we pray tonight that Your presence would be so real and so dense that any other ungodly presences would be chased from this place, and indeed would be driven away and expelled from our very lives. O Spirit of Faith and Love, come to our hearts we pray, baptise us with power today - come Lord, come Holy Spirit, come Lord Jesus Christ, come! Come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel. We thank You that You're here, Lord, and we believe You're here - and we believe You're coming more closely now tonight, we believe and thank You in anticipation for what You're going to do in people's lives tonight. We thank You for the emancipation, and the liberty, and the freedom that You're going to bring to hearts and minds and souls and spirits. Oh, come to us, Lord, now. I take authority in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ over every ungodly force, even that which is working on me at this very moment. I command you in the name of the Lord Jesus to be bound, I claim the blood of the Lamb against you. (I need you to pray for me just now). Thank You Lord. We cast ourselves now upon Your mercy, in Jesus' name we claim the victory. Amen.
Obstacles to encountering God: sins, wounds and demons. Sins need to be repented of - I want you to remember this - wounds need to be healed, and demons must be cast out. There is not the same treatment for each of these problems. Let me repeat that: sins need to be repented of, wounds need to be healed, and demons need to be cast out. It is vital that there is discernment in this whole realm. You see, you need to know what your problem is. As I heard somebody say recently: the problem that you think is your problem, is usually not your problem! So you need God to put His holy finger on what the exact issue is that you're struggling with. You may be unconscious of it, and so good judgement is necessary. Of course, good judgement comes through a knowledge of the Word of God, and a certain amount of experience - discernment can come by that means. But the Bible also talks about 'the gift of discernment' as a supernatural gift, it is actually spoken of as 'the discerning of spirits'. I'm not going to go into that in depth, but save to say that we need God's guidance. We need revelation, all of us, to know what the issues of our lives are, and to know the remedy and how we can be released and freed.
Now some people think that all the problems that people could have are sin and sins. There's no doubt about it, that's probably one of our greatest problems - but take specific issues, for instance like drunkenness, or drug abuse, or sexual immorality. Some Christians take the attitude: 'Well, you just need to repent! Just confess your sins, repent of your sins, turn to Christ, and that's enough'. There is no doubt about it, we must repent of sin, and we must call sin what it is, and repentance must be made - but we ought not to be ignorant of the fact that often there can be deeper issues than just sin. People can have wounds deep in their heart, there can be footholds in their life, certain brokenness and trauma and turmoil that can allow the enemy to get deep roots in their heart - and those things need to be addressed. Some people have sought to repent, but have not been given the victory, and find themselves - though they are true, genuine Christians - continually drawn back into sinful, habitual lifestyles.
Some people think everything is a wound - and, yes, there are many wounds that can contribute significantly to the problems in our lives, but sometimes people appeal to woundedness, and it's just another way of saying: 'I'm not responsible for the way that I am, it's not my fault!'. Taking one of those aspects I've mentioned already, alcoholism - alcoholism can become a disease, or does become a disease of course, but nevertheless we must take responsibility to repent of ungodly behaviours and actions that lead to such disorders as alcoholism and the like. Not everything is a wound, and it's not enough just to claim it.
Then some folk think everything is a demon. Now sins and wounds often are a gateway for the enemy to manipulate situations, and we will talk about that tonight - but the root issues of our problems are not always demonic. They can be psychological, emotional, physical, and even moral. You see, you can cast all the demons, or supposed demons, out that you like - but if you don't address the real problem, that person will not be freed. Even if they do get rid of a few demons, in all likelihood those demons will come back and many more. The truth of the matter is, I think that all of us can be a mixture of these issues from lesser to greater extents: sins, wounds, and demons.
So it is vital, as I've already said, that there is discernment. Let me warn you that a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing in these areas, and zeal without knowledge can do a lot of damage. There are some folk that are knowledgeable in one of these areas - either sin, or woundedness, or demonology - but they have blindspots in other areas, so that all they see is sin, all they see are wounds, all they discern are demons. We need to be very careful, that's why we need to continually cast ourselves on God, and seek God and His guidance, because the answer for each of these problems is different. Sins need to be repented of, wounds must be healed, and demons are to be expelled. You can't cast out a wound, a wound must be healed. You can't cast out a sin, a sin must be repented of. You can't heal a sin, you can't heal a demon. You can't repent of a demon, we can't repent of a wound. Sins must be repented of, wounds must be healed, demons must be expelled.
Let's deal with each of those. First of all there are sins. Repentance is vital. I mean there's a lot of preaching going on today, and it is devoid of the doctrine of repentance. I did a recent study, a very short one, concerning the commands of the Lord Jesus - and I'm continuing it if I can get round to it again - and the first command of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 4:17 was this: 'From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand''. Now, even if you've got wounds, and most of us have them; and even if you're oppressed by demons; sin must be named as sin. If there is sin in our lives, we must confess it. We must put our hands up to God and say: 'Guilty as charged!'. We must come into agreement with the plumbline of God's truth, and tell it as God says it is. You see, we've got to take responsibility for the ungodly behaviour in our lives. Maybe your problem tonight - let's not beat around the bush - is just plain black-and-white sin, and you need to confess it, you need to renounce it, you need to repent of it, change your mind and turn your heart from it to God. But here's the message of God to you: you must take responsibility for your sin!
You see, you can't say: 'The devil made me do it'. Often people make excuses - now, yes, Satan makes things very hard for us - but the fact of the matter is, no matter how hard things are because we've got our own brokenness, woundedness, and maybe the devils and all the demons of darkness are working on us, at the end of the day we are always involved in the choices that we make. We are responsible. Yes, Satan does take people captive to do his will, but we cooperate with him in that process. You see, some people just want God to zap them, they want God to fix them, they want someone to pray for them and to solve at all - but they're not prepared to take responsibility for themselves! That's not the way it works, there are no quick fixes.
Turn with me for a moment to Acts chapter 8 verse 9, this is very instructive: 'But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, 'This man is the great power of God''. Listen, no matter how well God uses anyone, never put them on a pedestal - never. 'And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit' - please note, they had already received the Word of God, they were converted, but they hadn't received the fullness of the Spirit. 'For as yet', verse 16 says, 'He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus'. These were people who had believed and been baptised as believers, but had not encountered this immersion in the Holy Spirit. 'Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, 'Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit'. But Peter said to him, 'Your money perish with you'' - do you know how J.B. Phillips translates that? 'To hell with you and your money!' - that's what it means. 'To hell with you and your money, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity'. Now watch this verse: 'Then Simon answered and said, 'Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me''.
Now see this, in verse 22 Peter called Simon to repent of his wickedness. Did Simon the sorcerer have demonic problems? I would pretty much say he had, most likely he had - but what did Peter address? He may have been bound by the forces of darkness - Peter does say, 'You're bound by iniquity', but Peter didn't exorcise him of a demon, he simply discerned the bitterness and the wickedness and the covetousness that was there. In verse 23 he names it, and he calls him to repent in verse 22 - do you understand? I'm sure he had demonic problems, but he needed to repent of his sin and his wickedness. Now look at Simon's request in verse 24: 'Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me'. Do you know what he's saying? 'Oh Peter, please pray for me, fix me, fix me!' - he wanted God to fix him, but he didn't want to take personal responsibility for his sinfulness.
Now listen to what I'm saying tonight, my point is simply this: personal repentance is vital if you want to encounter God. If you want to go through with God, it will be a daily repentance. Maybe there is someone here tonight, and you have experienced that rollercoaster I've talked about on previous evenings - that you're up and down, peaks and troughs, hills and valleys, and you never seem to break through with God. Maybe it's because you're one of these perfectionists I have spoken about on previous evenings, because you haven't succeeded perfectly, 100% completely, you throw in the towel and you give up. If you're not going to do it well, you're not going to do it at all! My friend tonight, you need to get over that. You need to realise that perseverance of the saints is made up of 10,000 new beginnings - you need to get up from where you're at, and you need to repent all over again. Listen to what Proverbs 24 says: 'The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again' - get up! That's what God says to you tonight: get up from where you are, it doesn't matter how many times you've failed, how many shipwrecks there are behind you, get up tonight!
You say: 'What's my problem? Why do I keep falling?'. Well, maybe you're too passive - do you know what that is? That's the opposite of active. You're passive, you lie back and wait for God to do it all for you. You know that, in a strange way, can come out of our upbringings at times. You know, if our Mummy has mollycoddled us, and we were spoilt rotten, and we had everything done for us - maybe we don't know what it is to be active, to push through. Even some of you men, you don't know that masculine will that presses through, and penetrates, and does things. You need to be active in this regard, and some of you - we can pray for this afterwards - need a strengthening of your human will by the divine will, the masculine will of God, that God would put into you that will and that desire to do that which is right and to repent. We all need that, of course.
Maybe some of you here tonight, that's the reason for your failure, why you find it so difficult to truly repent. Or maybe it is because, as the word of God says in Psalm 66: 'If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me' - and that word 'regard' simply means 'cherish' or 'harbour'. If I love, if I'm embracing iniquity in my heart, not willing to let it go, I'll never encounter God! Is that your problem tonight? Repentance? Sin that needs to be repented of? That's why the writer to the Hebrews said: 'Lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with patience the race that is set before you'. John says: 'Walk in the light, as He is in the light'. You've got to choose to have God's holy light shine upon your iniquity, and show up all the specks of darkness, so that you might deal with it, and that it might go under the blood. Listen: Calvary will not cover what you will not uncover! You can go to as many people as you like to get prayer for deliverance and healing and all the rest, but you're wasting your time if you are not prepared to repent of sin.
Sins must be repented of, secondly: wounds must be healed. Wounds, you see, can be - if you like to take the analogy - an area of infection. It can be a place where sinful behaviours are rooted, or even demonic activity finds a foothold, when wounds are exploited. This is a vast subject, and I don't have time to look at any of these things in much depth, but I believe that the human being can be wounded from the very moment of conception. Now that might seem very far-fetched to some of you, but even the medical fraternal is telling us that babies in the womb are like sponges to the things in their environment around them outside - that's why mothers are encouraged to play music to their tummies, and pat their tummies, and talk to their tummies, and read stories to their tummies. They tell us now that the child can even recognise Daddy's voice when it comes out of the womb, because it heard Daddy's voice when it was in the womb.
Now, if a baby in the womb is like a sponge for positive affirmation - do you not think a child can pick up adverse circumstances? It's not just psychological, it is actually spiritual - you remember that John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth leapt because he perceived the presence of his Redeemer, his incarnate God, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Now he was not cognisant of it, his mind wasn't developed enough, this was not emotional, this was spiritual - it was spiritual. So, from the very moment of conception, often the circumstances of our conception can have an effect on some wounds that we can have before we even knew to know - do you understand? Before we even knew to know - if you were an unwanted pregnancy, and you suffer with rejection, is that a big surprise to you? I don't want to go too deep into this, but certainly in the formative years of our childhood there is no doubt that that is often when the most damage is done. Your human identity is in your human spirit, you're made up of spirit, soul, and body. Your soul is made up of mind, emotion, and will - but the soul only expresses your identity through thoughts, feelings and actions, but your human spirit is your identity, who you really are. If it is wounded it will show through your thoughts, through your emotions, and through your behaviour. There can be deep brokenness, fracture, bruising, and woundedness in the spirit that comes out and emanates to the soul, and then even to the body.
Some people think I'm talking some charismatic madness or something when I talk like this, but it's a well-established fact that stress contributes to becoming physically sick. Mental, emotional, and spiritual problems are often at the root of illness, physical illness. There is a minimum estimate of 50%, and you'll hear figures right as high as 75% of illnesses are psychosomatic. That does not mean they're all in your head, it means they have a mental, emotional, and spiritual cause.
Are you wounded? Many of our wounds come from our parents, it's just a fact. Our parents were meant to cover and protect us, and in fact are parents are meant to mirror God to us and point us to Heavenly Father - but if we had a father or a parent that was absent or distant, we might think God is like that, and so that's the way we relate to God: in a distant fashion. Or maybe we are afraid of a parent, and we are afraid of God now in a 'shaking in your boots' kind of way. Or maybe you had that sense of rejection, and so you feel: 'I'm unworthy to be embraced by God', or there was a lack of trust between you and a parent, or you tried to earn their favour - and you just don't feel accepted by God because you had a conditional relationship with Mum and Dad, and you feel you have to earn God's favour. Maybe you had a domineering mother - don't say 'Amen' to that in the meeting now! There would be too many Amens! A domineering mother - and you fear being controlled, because you were controlled by her. Maybe you were never taught true love - I meet so many people who were never shown true love by their Mum and Dad, and so they don't know what it is, and they don't even know how to receive it when God shows it.
Have you been wounded by parents, or other relationships perhaps? Often there are heart ties that need to be severed, they're still intact. Maybe it's an abuser, maybe it's a disordered love, some relationship that was idolatrous where your heart was bent toward another - and it may not have been a wrong relationship, it might even be your marriage where you have a wrong, disordered love - an affection toward your spouse whereby, if anything happened to them, you couldn't live. Now I know the awful pain of what it must be to sorrow and to lose a loved one, but what I'm talking about is when your self-worth, and your esteem, and your being is found in another human, rather than God - that's when woundedness happens. You see, when we have these ties and they are not dealt with, even past relationships can harm us, even relationships that have finished.
Another way, commonly, that we can be wounded is through trauma. People can get stuck in the tragedy of the past. They need healing from memories that haunt them, they need release, and they need to give their pain over to Jesus. Isn't it wonderful that we have got a Saviour who is a complete Saviour? He is a Saviour, He is a Redeemer, He is a Healer, and He is a Deliverer - and by His stripes we are healed! Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that great preacher, and also a Harley Street specialist, a physician - in 1930s Wales he was preaching on one occasion, and two ministers came to him and asked would he visit their local schoolmaster who was once active in Christian work, but they now described him as 'a tragic case'. When asked what was wrong, the two ministers replied: 'He has some depressed condition. He gets headaches and pains in his stomach'. So Lloyd-Jones agreed that he would go and visit this man if he could help him at all.
So Lloyd-Jones visited the schoolmaster, and he went in and asked him what his condition was. He described it just as the ministers: he had a depressive condition, he got these severe headaches and pains in his stomach, and he couldn't sleep at night as a consequence. Lloyd-Jones asked him: 'How long have you been like this?'. 'Oh', he said, 'I've been like this for years, in fact I've been like this since 1915' - remember this was 1930. So Lloyd-Jones asked him - like the doctor he was - 'How did this begin?'. The man began to describe how war broke out in 1914, and he volunteered early for the Navy. Not long after volunteering he was transferred to a submarine, and that submarine was then sent to the Mediterranean and was involved in the Gallipoli Campaign. He says: 'One afternoon we were submerged in the water, and there was this terrible thud. The submarine shook, we had hit a mine, and down we sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean'. He said: 'You know, from that moment I've never been the same man'.
Dr Lloyd-Jones said: 'Well, would you please tell me the rest of the story?'. The man replied: 'There isn't any more to tell, that's it!'. Lloyd-Jones said: 'But please, elaborate on how the story ended'. He said: 'No, I've told you all there is to tell you'. Several times this went like a ping-pong ball between them, and eventually Lloyd-Jones decided: 'Look, let's go over the scene again. The submarine got a thud, it was a mine, it sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean - now, tell me what happened?'. The man was exasperated, he said: 'Nothing happened! That is the end of the story!'. This is what Lloyd Jones retorted: 'Sir, are you still stuck at the bottom of the Mediterranean?'. You know, he was. He wasn't physically, obviously, but mentally, emotionally, and I would say spiritually, that man was stuck. Praise God, that afternoon that man was released and set free - are you stuck in a memory, a wound?
Another big source of wounds is unforgiveness, and I'll deal with it a bit later when I talk about the demonic - but all of these: parents, relationships, trauma, unforgiveness, they can make us weak to resist sin. You can shout 'Repent', all you like, but a lot of these wounds are a foothold for the enemy that he exploits even with demonic power. You need healed if you've got wounds, you need healed!
Sins must be repented of, wounds must be healed, and thirdly: demons must be expelled. One of the marks of the Kingdom of God was in Mark 16:17: 'These signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues'. Now 'demons' gets people all uptight, and afraid, and scared, and Christians start fighting with one another - and when a boy like me talks about demonic things in relation to Christians and in a Christian context, people get appalled. Listen, let me explain the demonic very simply to you: just as the Holy Spirit empowers godly choices and godly behaviour - i.e. you obey the word of God, take it by faith, the Holy Spirit will back you up in doing that which is right - when you make ungodly choices, when you step from under the covering and protection of godliness and righteousness and obedience, it is the enemy of our souls who will power that behaviour. He seeks to do it. When we make ungodly choices, he wants to empower us in those choices - and the way he does it is by demonic power. So just think of the demonic spirits as empowering forces - and that is often what makes it so difficult for people to overcome ungodly, sinful behaviours, because there is a demonic power behind it, especially if they have brought coping mechanisms into their life to try and ease a wound. Maybe it's not just a sin is the problem, but it's a wound - and they're drinking to dull the pain, or taking drugs, or they're eating too much, or starving themselves, or bingeing and purging.
This is what makes the thing so difficult - it's not as simple as to say everything is a sin, everything is a wound, everything is a demon. So many people are a conglomeration, a hodgepodge of all of these tied up and entangled. The devil knows what he's doing - and this applies to Christians. Please don't walk out just yet! I'm not saying that Christians can be possessed, which means 'owned', by the devil. I'm not saying that. Possession gives the idea of ownership - what I'm talking about is demonic influence or 'demonisation'. Demonisation can go on a scale from just oppressive thoughts that come to your mind - which, if you're a Christian, you will have, and if you don't have them I would question if you're even a Christian - oppressive thoughts. 'Fiery darts', Paul calls them, 'from the enemy' - those are demonic spirits planting things in your head. So they can get into your head, what you do with them is a different thing, but they can get into your head. It can go on to the scale of Christians who are oppressed to such an extent that their actual behaviour is being dictated to by spirits of fear and all sorts of demonic powers.
I know this is new to many people, but I would just point you to the New Testament, and the overwhelming material in the New Testament warns Christians of the works of Satan. 'Do not be ignorant of his devices. Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour'. Paul said in Ephesians 6 verse 12: 'We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places' - and all these things were written to Christians to tell them to beware of the devil, and to beware of demonic spirits! Why, if you're not susceptible to them?
Now this really does confuse me: how believers think that they can struggle with sin - and they do, for all of us struggle with temptation - and how they believe that they can struggle with the world and the flesh, but they think that they are immune to the demonic! How can that be? You say: 'If a child of God is washed in the blood, a demon can't touch them'. Well then, can sin not touch you? Can the world not touch you? Can your own flesh not touch you, because you're washed in the blood? Why is it that we apply these things to everything but the demonic realm? Yet all the material in the New Testament warns us as Christians that if we don't walk in the light, if we don't obey the Lord, if we go into enemy territory, into the kingdom of darkness, we will be delivered to him! Paul even used that terminology on one occasion of a believer: 'Deliver such a one to Satan' - put him out of the church, let Satan have his way with him, that his soul, his spirit, might be saved in the last day.
I'm not wanting to frighten you, but I want you to get real with the Bible. How can that happen? When we give Satan a right in our lives by the choices we make, Satan is a legalist and if he gets a legal right he will take that ground, and he will set up camp in your life. I know, because I've experienced it myself. The problem I would have struggled with all my life was a spirit of fear - and many of you have problems with it. But God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind - why would you want something that the devil gives you? But, you see, you've given him a right to be there, because he plants a seed thought in your head - a lie - and then what do you do? You latch onto it, and you effectively put your faith in that lie, and you start to believe what he says about you, about your circumstances, about the world around you - and before you know it, you've given him ground, and he's taken your head off! He's driving you mad.
For some people it's pornography. If you dabble in pornography, more than likely you are a prey to the demonic. You would be surprised at the Christians who are also dabbling in the darkness of occult and false religion, or taking blood oaths upon themselves in the Masonic, and the Black, and the Orange, and all sorts of institutions. They don't realise what they're doing: swearing to cut out their tongue if they divulge the secrets, taking blood oaths upon themselves that even affect their families. You might think I'm off my rocker, and I'm trying to scare you tonight - I'm not trying to scare you! As Corrie Ten Boom said: 'Fear of demons comes from the demons themselves'. I preached on Monday night that we must not deny the demonic, we must face it and deal with it - but we must not fear it wrongly, we must not unnecessarily focus on it - we must practice the presence of God, rather than practising the presence of darkness. But let us not be in unbelief about the devil and his kingdom, and let us waken up and open our eyes to know that the church is bound by doctrines of demons! The word of God teaches that, so if you can't hack that - well, that's your problem, you go and sort it out with God and the word, but that's what the Bible says. Especially in the last days, the church will be given over by doctrines of devils.
Demons can gain entry and access and influence over all our lives, as I said, if we dabble in the occult - that's obvious. But, you know, Christians at times - and you might find this doesn't fit in with your theological framework - but Christians at times who have dabbled in the occult before their conversion, can still be affected after their conversion. I haven't got time to go into a theological discourse on that, why that's possible - but it is. Then some Christians, many in fact, are consulting alternative medicine practitioners. Many of the practices have dubious origins in Chinese Eastern mysticism and devil worship - and they're finding that they're not getting better, they're getting worse. Even Christians go to some man or woman in the country who is gifted in charming away warts, or arthritis, or something else, and they think there's no harm in it - and there's a curse. Listen to what Proverbs 26 verse 2 says: 'A curse without a cause cannot alight'. You're maybe here tonight, and you know that you're under demonic oppression. Will you admit, or will you allow the Holy Spirit of God to reveal what the issue is? Will you deal with it tonight?
You know, there's another phenomenon in the Scripture which is equally controversial, called generational iniquity. It's not generational guilt, people misunderstand this - and some, perhaps, have taken this to an extreme. The Bible clearly says in Ezekiel chapter 18 that 'the soul that sins, it shall die'. You're not guilty for your father's sins, or your child's sins - everyone of us will stand before the Great White Throne and answer for his own sins. You're not guilty for the sins of your forefathers - but we're not talking about guilt. Generational iniquity is the bentness that comes through the consequences of passed down sins. Look with me at Exodus chapter 34 verse 6, God is revealing Himself to Moses - this isn't old covenant, this is God's character - verse 6: 'The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth'', can I ask you: is that still relevant to God today? Yes. 'Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin', does He still do that? Yes. 'By no means clearing the guilty', is that true? 'Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation' - oh, but He doesn't do that any more? Now, how do you work that out? This is part of His character. We're not saying that we are guilty for our forefather's sins, what we are saying is that the consequences of what our forefathers have done can affect us. That's common sense: the prophets were noteworthy, confessing the sins of Israel, and Judah the sins of their forefathers. It wasn't that they were guilty of those sins, but they had effect upon them in the present.
Now we all know that there are hereditary traits in the physical realm - you've got your Daddy's ears, dear help you, or your Daddy's eyes, or your Mummy's hair, or whatever - we see that in the physical, why is it not the case in the spiritual? Well, it is, look at this verse 7: 'He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation' - there are consequences for our sin. It doesn't just apply to sin, it also applies to blessing. Deuteronomy 7 says: 'Know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments'. So He visits iniquity to the third and fourth generation, but isn't He such a wonderful God: He visits blessing to a thousand generations. If you have been brought up in a Christian home, you know the blessing that it has been to be born in a Christian home. You're not trying to tell me that there has been no consequences for your mother and your father's faith - there has been. That's all that we are saying. Yet there are spiritual consequences that can be passed down succeeding generations - Romans 1, even nationally, people who once knew God: their foolish heart was darkened, and they suppressed the knowledge of God in their iniquity, and so succeeding generations were given up by God. Romans 1, this is even national.
There are consequences for the sins of preceding generations - our ancestors. In fact Peter says: the blood of the Lamb, it delivers us from the vain tradition of our fathers, the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors. That can be tradition, it can be family traits, it can be sins, it can be demonic influences, it can be curses - and these lineages make us more susceptible to that influence, that's all we're saying, and it needs to be faced. It needs to be faced and it needs to be dealt with. One of the biggest curses of all is Freemasonry. If your father or your grandfather, or anybody that you know and remember was in it, you would need to get prayer for that. I'm not saying it has to have had a consequence on you, but you get prayer for it anyway. You've no idea the curse of Freemasonry that worships a false god.
I'm almost finished tonight. I don't want you to do a post-mortem this evening, an introspective post-mortem. If God witnesses that there is a problem that is an obstacle for you getting through to God in the realm of sin, in the realm of wounds, or in the realm of the demonic - deal with it. Don't go looking for it, but if God the Holy Spirit has flagged something up - don't invent something - but if He has shown you something, you need to deal with it tonight. One of the biggest areas is unforgiveness, unforgiveness in Christians. You say Christians can't be affected by the demonic? Wait till I tell you: some of the most bitter, twisted, crooked Christians I have met are people who are unforgiving. Something was done to them, they have a chip on their shoulder - but I'm telling you: that's more than just human mental or emotional bitterness, it's demonic. It's demonic. Paul said 2 Corinthians 2:10-11: 'I have forgiven that one', that was the one he delivered to Satan. He repented, he came back into the church, and Paul says: 'Now, I've forgiven that one, you forgive him for Christ's sake in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage over us' - lest Satan should overreach us, overtake us - 'for we are not ignorant of his devices'.
You see, Paul knew that unforgiveness will give ground to Satan to oppress us. In fact, our Lord Himself in Matthew 18 told the parable about the master. You remember he forgave a man a small debt, you remember the unforgiving servant? That servant went out, having been forgiven, and he found a friend of his that owed him an even smaller amount of money. The man who owed him a smaller amount of money begged that he would be forgiven, that the slate would be wiped clean - and that man that had been so gratuitously forgiven by his master, he grabbed him by the throat, and he said 'If you don't pay me every penny, you will be imprisoned and your family will be taken off you'. The master heard about his unforgiveness, and he commanded that that unforgiving servant, who had been forgiven himself, would be cast into prison - and listen to what Jesus says: 'the master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses'.
Our Heavenly Father will do what? He will deliver you to the torturers until you pay every penny. Who are the torturers? I believe they are demonic spirits that overwhelm those who have unforgiveness in their hearts, Christians - yes, Christians who are tortured. Do you know any tortured Christians? Is God torturing them? Are they torturing themselves? Some of them might be, but a lot of them aren't - I know for a fact a lot of them aren't. The thoughts that come into their minds are things that they wouldn't even conceive of, even though their heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. My friend, we need to waken up here and if there is unforgiveness in your heart - and wait till I tell you, churches in Ulster are filled with it. If you want to talk about generational iniquity, we have heaped generation, upon generation, upon generation of sins in the church. I'll tell you something: do you see churches that have any age behind them and history? They have an awful lot that needs to be dealt with, an awful lot that needs to be brought into the light and repented of, and cleansed, and they need to be delivered from it. Just as individuals need delivered, churches need delivered, organisations need delivered.
I don't want to put things in your head tonight, but maybe you have been experiencing backseat drivers in your Christian experience. Every now and again they reach over the shoulder, and they yank the wheel in a different direction, and they're hindering you moving on. Is it not time that you ordered those empowering influences out of your life? What are the obstacles? A sin? A wound? A demon? For some of you it's probably all three.
I want finally to turn to Acts 19 verse 11. The Apostles are in a place called Ephesus, and there's great miraculous things happening. Verse 11: 'Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them'. Isn't that interesting? There is a link there - not always between disease and evil spirits, I'm not suggesting that for one moment, but sometimes there can be. Then we see, I'll not read it, some itinerant Jewish exorcists - people who saw Paul and the apostles casting devils out of people - and they saw the way they did it, and they tried to practice it. The demons spoke out of the people and said: 'Jesus we know, and Paul we know; but who are you?' - and then they were beat up, they were beat up by the people with the demons in them. Look down a bit at verse 17, what happens then? 'This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified' - that's what we're interested in tonight! We're not giving glory to Satan: Jesus is stronger than Satan, and Satan to Jesus must bow. But look at verse 18: 'And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds'. The English Standard Version translates verse 18 like this: 'Also many of those who were now believers came' - they were already saved, but they still had to come 'confessing and divulging their practices'.
Now a lot of folk here in Northern Ireland can't take this in - but if you have ever been to the mission field and you have been a missionary, this is second-hand to you, you know this. Believers can confess Christ, and then fall back into pagan practices and even witchcraft. Look at what happens here, continue in verse 19: 'Also, many of those', these are believers now, 'who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totalled fifty thousand pieces of silver'. Now let me do a couple of calculations for you, 50,000 drachma that is - a piece of silver was a drachma, and one drachma was equivalent to a day's wage in this day and era. Now I googled - I don't know if it's true or not, don't fall out with me - what a day's wage was in the United Kingdom. I found out that it was £95 - now that might be a long way off from yours, but let's say it is. You multiply that £95, equivalent of a day's wage today, with 50,000 drachmas, a day's wage then - and do you know what you get? £4,750,000 - that's what these believers were willing to sacrifice to get free, to encounter God.
Look at what happened in verse 20: 'So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed'. There was a cost, you know there was a riot in Ephesus because of all this - but after the riots there was revival. What hinders you? Let us pray.
Now I want there to be quietness. Let me just encourage you - and I hope I'm not overly dramatic, I don't feel I am - but I asked special prayer at the beginning because I felt a migraine coming on, and when a migraine comes on I start to get that I can't see too well - but it's gone! If it was a genuine migraine coming on, which it usually is when I start to see lights in front of my eyes - it went. Now God is here tonight, He's been here every night, but I don't believe in coincidence - and I don't believe that you're here on the wrong night. I know for a fact some of you are here on the right night, because I know some of you. But all of us have been damaged by the fall, and usually Satan has got inroads on all of us in some shape or form. I'm going to ask you tonight to deal with God where you are. We wouldn't have the ability, let alone the time to deal with everybody here. Having said that, we want to welcome you - the prayer team is here, the pastor and myself - if you have a very severe problem and you want to come for help, we don't want to put you off, we will stay as long as it takes. But you can deal with God tonight. If you have a sin that needs to be repented of, you have a deep wound that needs healed, maybe a memory that you need released from - you're stuck in the past, your human spirit is stuck, maybe bits of you are stuck in different awful dramatic experiences that have peppered your life. Maybe you're aware of a demonic oppression in the mind, or in the emotions, or in the very spirit.
Would you stand to your feet just now as we come in prayer, and don't be ashamed - I'm already standing, otherwise I would be standing, because I need everything God has for me. I need everything continually, I need to continually claim deliverance as the enemy attacks - even tonight. Sure, look, we're in the battle! This isn't a picnic, this is real. If you're sitting there and your theology doesn't even allow you to go and approach this subject, you be very careful - because you could be overrun yourself in ignorance and in presumption. I invite you to stand, those of you who want to deal with those obstacles from encountering God. Just stand now in the quietness while every head is bowed and every eye is closed, stand. God bless those that are standing. You don't have to stand, this isn't a spectator thing, we're not looking at who's standing and who's not - but in the presence of God it's a healthy thing to demonstrate your desire.
Now, if there is a sin to be repented of, repent - and it would be good to take it on your lips, the person beside you doesn't need to hear a thing, you don't even need to hear it yourself - but it's good just to mouth, to mouth your confession and repentance and renunciation. Just say: 'Lord, I repent of', whatever, 'I confess, I renounce it, and I ask You to deliver me now'. If there is a deep wound, say: 'Lord, please come with me now to this memory. Come with me now to this pain in my heart'. He is the Eternal One, He can go back in time, He is back in time and He is in the future - it's no problem to Him. Ask Him to go with you now to that memory, to that trauma, and ask Him to release you from the power of it and the pain of it, to heal you. See Him there, you need to see Him with the eyes of your heart right there. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Holy Spirit could take you right back to the womb, and release you from rejection that you felt there. Maybe you were adopted and you need to be released from a sense of rejection and orphanhood. Maybe you need healed from the skewed vision of God that you were given by a parent who was absentee, or left you, or just wasn't everything that he or she should have been. Maybe you need released from the fear of control - ask for healing.
Do you need released from demonic oppression? Do you need to forgive someone? Speak out that forgiveness now on your lips now, say it now: 'By an act of my will', say it now, 'I choose to forgive', and name the person or people - if you're like me, you'll have a long list. 'I choose to forgive as an act of my will' - you mightn't feel like it, you probably won't. We're not saying that right is wrong, and you have to feel great about the person or what they did, we're not saying that. We're saying you're letting them off your hook, and putting them onto God's. You're getting out of the way, and letting God be God. Say: 'I choose, as an act of my will, to forgive', so and so, 'I release all bitterness and resentment to You, Lord. Heal my damaged emotions, and bless', and name the person, 'Bless them and set me free'.
Maybe there's a genealogical thing. People say: 'Oh, my Mummy was a worrier, my Granny was a worrier - and I'm just a worrier'. Worry is sin, and fear has an awful spirit behind it. Why not ask the Lord Jesus Christ, where you are now, to cut you off from any influence from your mother and father's line that has come down to you. If there is Masonic there, you ask the Lord Jesus by the power of blood, and the sword of His word, to cut you off from it and to set you free from any of the consequences of the misdeeds of your forefathers. If you have dealt in the occult at all, confess it and say: 'I renounce Satan and all his works. Set me free by the blood of the Lamb'.
Now Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You that You have heard the confessions, the repentance, the renunciation, and the faith - You have seen the faith, even the faith to stand here tonight, the faith to speak out prayer and renunciation. Lord, I thank You that You have heard on high. Lord, we call You to record now to come to the aid and in answer to the promise: 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered' - that You will cut off the ties of ungodliness, that You will release people from sins that have bound them and caused them constant defeat. Loose them and let them go now, Lord. Heal deep wounds of trauma and pain from childhood, and even conception Lord. Heal deep wounds of unforgiveness. Pour in the oil and wine. Blessed nail-pierced hand that was slain for us, touch the spirit, bind up the brokenhearted and heal their wounds. Lord Jesus Christ, who spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross - I call upon You now to come and release those who have been bound by the enemy and his minions. Lord Jesus, set them free, set them free from a depressive mind, set them free from a fear-ridden heart, set them free from the blockage that is preventing them going through with God. Lift the curse, for You were made a curse for us on the cross. Oh Lord, we claim the victory of Your blood tonight, and we thank You for what You have done. We claim it by faith, and we thank You, believing that we have received the things that we have asked according to Your will. We give You the praise, and we give You the glory. Now Lord, seal up everything that these folk have received, and let nothing be lost or snatched by the enemy. Give Your angels charge over us to keep us in Your way. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Abbots Cross Congregational Church in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his 'Encountering God' series, entitled "Sins, Wounds And Demons - The Barriers To Encountering God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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