The last two springs, Misty and I have had a problem with little birds, I think they are sparrows, nesting in our garage. I have tried to get them out, but they keep getting back in. We never leave our garage door open and so I could not figure out how they were getting in and out. Finally, I noticed that when the garage door is shut, in the lower, left corner, a small piece of rubber is missing around the garage door. and so the birds where coming in through that small passage. If you think about it, a garage is both warm and dry and a good place to build a nest. I really can’t blame the birds. I can scare them off every day of the week, but if I don’t fix that hole in the corner, the birds will always come back and bring more of their friends. When I see eggs in their nests, I have pity on the birds and leave them alone. The first spring this happened, there was only one nest. This past spring there were at least three nests in our garage! Needless to say, the birds made a mess, and some of the mess was on my scuba diving gear! That’s where I draw the line. You mess with my scuba stuff and I will no longer take pity on you! The birds have to go! Sometime between now, and next spring, I have got to fix the rubber around the bottom of the garage door.
Several weeks ago, as we were working our way through Luke chapter 8, we spent four-weeks discussing spiritual warfare, demonic oppression, and deliverance. During that time, I stated that demonic activity is an everyday occurrence that falls along a spectrum of intensity. At one end of the spectrum is demonic activity (the lowest level). At the other end of the spectrum is demonic possession (the highest level). In between the two extremes is demonic influence and demonic oppression (see diagram below).
Demonic activity (the lowest level) is mostly seen in our culture. You see, and hear, demonic activity through the music and movies and websites that our culture likes. You see it in our confusion about sexual identity. You see it in the debate about which restroom a person should use. You see it when abortions are used as a form of birth control. You see it in our love of violence and war and in our hatred and bitterness toward those who are different from us. You see it in beheadings overseas and mass shootings at home.
Demonic activity is all around us and, even as followers of Jesus, it affects us. However, while demonic activity does affect us, it doesn’t have to influence us. While we cannot stop evil from happening, we can choose whether or not to participate in the evil. We can change the channel. We can turn off the radio. We can block that website. We can speak out against injustice. We can love. We can forgive. We can pray.
If we don’t stand guard against the demonic activity all around us, and if we let it influence us, it can lead to demonic oppression. Oppression can start with temptations and continue as we live to satisfy our physical desires instead of living by the Spirit. We open the door to oppression through drug and alcohol abuse and pornography and dabbling in the occult through things like fortune telling, Ouija boards, and horoscopes. Sometimes, demonic oppression can be the result of things that are not the person’s fault. For example, being sexually abused as a child, or growing up in a family where drugs and alcohol were abused, or where there was occult activities taking place.
On the far side of the spectrum, is demonic possession. This is what was going on with the demonized man of Gerasene in Luke 8:26-39. Possession is when an evil spirit actually takes over a person’s life. Since possession involves ownership, a follower of Jesus cannot be possessed because Jesus has purchased your life with His blood. However, a believer can be oppressed and tormented by evil spirits. Thus, in reality, the difference between oppression and possession is not that great. Possession is about ownership. Oppression is about control. In my sermon on deliverance, I shared the following diagram:
This diagram represents the property of your life. Once you place your faith in Jesus, He takes over the deed to your life. Your property (life) now belongs to Him. Jesus purchased your life with His own blood. His death, burial, and resurrection was a legal, binding agreement. This transaction has been paid in full. Your life is now lived in Him (Romans 14:8).
However, on your property are squatters. These squatters may have set up camp before Jesus purchased you, but now they are trespassers. These squatters are evil spirits that are unlawfully occupying space on your Christ purchased property. They have no rights to be on your land. These squatters are called “strongholds.”
Ask Jesus for discernment to name these squatters. Then, in the name of Jesus, take authority of these strongholds (or encampments) and kick them off your property. How? By saying a simple prayer like this: “I am a child of the King. I have been purchased by the blood of Jesus. In the name of Jesus, I take authority over the spirit of lust in my life and command it to leave. In the name of Jesus, I take authority over the spirit of addiction in my life and command it to leave. In the name of Jesus, I take authority over the spirit of anger…of fear…of worry…of depression…of anxiety…of greed…etc., etc., etc.,” (Name each of the squatters, and rebuke each of them in Jesus’ name.) Since you do not know how many evil spirits (demons) there are, this deliverance prayer needs to be prayed on a regular basis; even daily. Remember, demons cannot read your mind. (Only God can do that.) So make sure to say the deliverance prayer out loud.
Once the trespassing spirits are gone, you have to check the perimeter of your property to make sure they cannot get back in. You have to mend the fences and close the gates that let them in. If you do not do this, the trespassers will return with more trespassers.
Furthermore, on your property is a house (see diagram). This house is a three-story generational dwelling place. The first floor represents your life. Some strongholds have been formed by you. The second floor represents your parent’s life. Other strongholds were formed by your parents. The third floor, the attic, represents your grandparents’ life. Some strongholds were formed generations ago. Jesus has broken all generational curses. You are in no way held accountable for the sins of your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents. However, there could be trespassing spirits upstairs, or in the attic. They may have been living there, rent free, for generations. In the name of Jesus, name those spirits, (those ancestral strongholds), and take authority over them and command them to leave. They have no rights to be in your house or on your property. And then, lock the doors!
In Luke 11:14-28, Jesus once again encounters a demon and sets a person free. In the conversation after this encounter we learn what happens if you do not close the gate and lock the doors. The big idea in this story is as follows: When it comes to following Jesus and overcoming the enemy, there is no middle ground. There is no such a thing as half a commitment to Christ. If you want to break free of whatever it is that is keeping you from the abundant life promised by Jesus, then it is all or nothing! You are either with Jesus, or you are without Him.
All or Nothing
Luke writes, “Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed” (Luke 11:14). Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would give speech back to the mute (Isaiah 35:6). Luke, by reporting this miracle, was showing that Jesus was (and is) the Messiah. The fact Jesus delivered a man from his demon was not controversial. What was controversial was by whose authority He did such a thing.
Luke continues, “But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebub the prince of demons, he is driving out demons. Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:15-16). “Beelzebub” is just another name for Satan. Some people, in opposition to Jesus, said He was evil and casting out demons proved He was evil. Others, still unconvinced of Jesus’ authority, wanted more proof that He was who He claimed to be. There is an important lesson here: The more you follow Jesus, and the more you do in His name, the more people will criticize you. Following Jesus will not make you famous, but it might make you infamous.
Jesus responded to the critics by saying, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Luke 11:17-20). Jesus’ point is simple: Evil cannot drive out evil, only God can do that! When Moses confronted Pharaoh with signs that the Great I Am had sent him, the magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate some of the signs. However, once the magicians could no longer copy the miracles Moses performed, they said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). Then, in the wilderness, after Moses received the Ten Commandments, the Bible says they were “inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18. Jesus is asserting that His power comes from Almighty God. He is proclaiming that He, Himself, is God and that with Him comes the kingdom of God!
Jesus further reiterates His power and authority by saying, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils” (Luke 11:21-22). Here, Jesus is describing the war between Himself and Satan. Satan is strong, and he is guarding his kingdom and his possessions (people, like the mute man) well. But Jesus is stronger, and His kingdom is more powerful. He will destroy Satan and take all his possessions (people, like the mute; people like you and me) as spoils of war.
Now comes the punch line: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters” (Luke 11:23. When it comes to following Jesus, you are either all in or all out. When it comes to fighting with Jesus, you are either on His side or you will be destroyed. When it comes to citizenship, your allegiance is either with His kingdom or not. Right now, there is a war going on. A war between good and evil. A war between heaven and hell. A war between Jesus and Satan. In this war, you have to choose sides. In this war for your soul, there is no middle ground.
Why is there no middle ground?
Jesus continues, “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26). In Jesus’ day there were Jewish exorcist. Many rabbis were exorcist. Jesus was recognized as a rabbi. This is why in Luke 11:19 He asked, “Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out?” Jesus may have these Jewish exorcists in mind when He talks about evil spirits leaving but then returning with seven, more wicked, friends. The Jewish exorcists had no real power, and the person being “set free” from demonic power was not closing the gates and locking the doors. These people were just playing religion. In the end, they will be worse off than before. The point is this: True deliverance only happens in the name of Jesus, and a true follower of Jesus is 100% committed to Him. Anything less than 100% commitment opens the door for the enemy to walk back in, destroying your life. It’s all or nothing! This, all or nothing commitment, is why when a lady in the crowd says, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” (A common Jewish blessing.) Jesus responded by saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:27-28).
When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did. Their commitment was a commitment to life over death. Failure was not an option. Likewise, following Jesus is a commitment to life over death. Failure is not an option.
The main reason I still have a bird problem in my garage is because I have not really been that serious about getting them out and keeping them out. Right now they are gone because they don’t need to nest and lay eggs. But if I don’t make a commitment to keeping them out, and securing the garage, they will return and they will bring more of their friends. If I don’t do something, my garage will become the Westhaven for the common house sparrow.
Likewise following Jesus. You can’t do it half-heartedly. You can’t make commitments to Him and only follow Him when you feel like it. You can’t turn to Him because things are going bad and then turn away when things improve. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not a game. You have to commit 100% to Him. You have to burn your boats. You have to repair the holes in the corner of your life. You have to shut the gates and lock the doors. You have to trust in His authority and confess that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, God Himself.