At first I wasn't sure what I was going to comment on in today's readings, but then I looked up some of John MacArthur's sermons on the Acts passage and was fascinated by Exorcism: True or False (Part 2).
Occasionally I've heard people say stuff like "Oh, she has the demon of lies working in her" or "he's plagued by the demon of lust" or other such talk about someone needing a demon to be cast out of them. It's also just rubbed me the wrong way. To me it sounds like a cop out - "the devil made me do it", type of thing.
And I love how MacArthur explains it in this sermon.
Non-Christians can be possessed by demons, and they are most certainly influenced by demons. Satan works by dominating people's will and their understanding. The difference between influence and possession is really only a matter of degree. The end result is the same either way. The only way a Non-Christian can be delivered of demons is to come to Christ. To become a Christian. To acknowledge their sinfulness and need of a Saviour, and for Jesus to come and clean out their life.
A genuine Christian cannot really be possessed by a demon, but they can certainly be influenced by them, especially if they begin to allow the devil to get a foothold in their life - in other words, if they justify their sin and continue in it so that they are living a sinful lifestyle. The way for a Christian to rid themselves of demonic influence is the same as the way we need to deal with sin in our lives. Submit to the Holy Spirit, confess and repent of the sin in our lives, and allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.
An exorcism is not going to help.
Of all of the ministries of the body, of all of the responsibilities that we have toward one another, there is no statement or command to go around and cast demons out of each other! It says love one another, teach one another, edify one another, admonish one another, nurture one another, comfort one another, build up one another, reprove one another, rebuke one another, and so forth and so forth and so forth; but it doesn't say cast demons out of one another.Did you get that? Exorcisms don't work. They're either ineffective or unnecessary. That's it!
That's - beloved, I can comfort you and so forth and so on, but you don't need me to take care of Satan in your life. I can't do that, 'cause I can't be holy for you. You got it? That's your problem! Now, I can rebuke your sin, and I can give you wise counsel about your sin, and I can admonish you about your sin, but I can't be holy for you. And if you're gonna deal with Satan, that's yours to do! And if I do all the exorcism in the world in the Name of Jesus Christ and there's still sin harbored in your life, it's ineffective - and if there's no sin in your life, then it's unnecessary. If you have confessed and repented and submitted to the Truth of God, you're clean. (emphasis mine)
There were some miraculous things going on during NT times. The reason? Because God used miracles to prove the apostles teaching as genuine. God doesn't need to do that today because we have the Word of God to measure a preacher's teaching by. If the preaching lines up with the Word then it's genuine. If it does not then it's counterfeit. They didn't have that when Paul was preaching, and that's why it's sometimes referred to as apostolic miracles.
Paul was proclaiming the Word and it was confirmed by miracles.
But because of that, there was competition. There are always those wanting to profit off of anything they can. And so it was with these Jewish exorcists that were going around casting demons out in the name of Jesus. But it was not legitimate. Satan allowed it to look like they were casting out demons, to perpetuate the lies and discredit Paul and the legitimate apostolic miracles.
But God did not allow that to happen this time. He put a stop to it and did not allow the demons to come out. Satan brought the competition but Christ overruled!
And the result was conviction. The Name of Jesus was magnified. They recognized that this is not a Name to be trifled with, to dishonour, to treat lightly, to use in vain. And many of those counterfeits gave up their magic and their books, confessed and repented. And so "the Word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." Acts 19:20. Isn't that awesome?
Where the Word dominates, there is victory.
The Word was proclaimed, it was confirmed, there was competition but the Word was victorious, which brought conviction, and then domination.
Love this last quote by MacArthur....
I hope and pray that you're saturated by the Word, that you may know victory, the victory that comes only when you are.Saturated by the Word.
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Chronicles 29-30, Acts 19:21-41