Facing the Powers

What follows is a raw documentation of the confrontation between Christ and what I believe to be demonic powers. There are many even in the Church who would say that there is no such thing as demonic power and control anymore (if they acknowledge its existence at all). I think this is a very foolish position indeed because it opens the doors for the powers of this world to act and never be seen as what they truly are.

It is 3 in the morning. I woke up about an hour ago – sweating, my heart racing and my mouth dry. There was screaming in my mind. It was the weight of the spiritual realities that I found myself powerless before during the day. Most of the hour is a little hazy. I got a drink of water and fell on the floor in the living room. At first I thought I was just really sick, but there was something spiritual about it, something heavy.

What do I mean? I mean once on the floor, something kept knocking me down – physically, I felt it as if I was being held down. My stomach was churning, my head was buzzing and the voices kept coming. Here’s the thing – they weren’t in my head. They were screaming AT me. My own sins of pride, indiscretion and excess were in front of me, my mind replaying the pleasures of my sin and these voices asking me, almost audibly, “Who are you to try to help them? WHO ARE YOU?!?”

It was as real as if someone was standing next to me, kicking me in the kidneys and shouting in my ear. I was just mumbling God and Jesus over and over again, incoherently just trying to do something to get it to stop.

Then Paul’s words came to me:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [Ephesians 6:11-13, ESV]

My constant answer was, “I am nobody. I’m a sinner.” The voices did not shut up, the weight did not go away. It was like someone banging against the door of your mind, trying to get in, furious at you and ready to stone you. I could feel the malice, the hatred for God’s Word even as I recited it in my mind. There was something evil in the room with me.

Crying out to Jesus, I thought of trying to get to Nichole but I could not get off the floor. The hallway might as well have been a thousand miles long because every move to my knees was a struggle. I thought I was losing my mind.

I started to pray because there was nothing else I could do. I literally dragged myself under the protection of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I began to repeat to myself, first in my head and then audibly, “Jesus, I am facing something only you can deal with. I am yours. I know I am sinful; I am not worthy of the task. Jesus, I am yours.”

Eventually, the weight lifted and I could stand. I stumbled to my bag, grabbed my Bible and opened to Ephesians 6 and began reading, gathering strength from the presence of God’s Word until I could breathe again. My mouth felt like I’d stuffed it with cotton and sucked all the moisture out of it. My limbs and stomach actually felt bruised. It was surreal.

Some of you may not believe in demons, or if you believe in them, they are in that dark little corner of your theology that you rarely even go and hope is just a remnant of a past age. Some of you may even think I’m psychologically unstable. I think, in our modern world, we fear demons so much that we have explained them away or treated them far too flippantly (the modernist, rationalist does the former and the nut-job, wacko, ultra-spiritualist does the latter).

Here’s why I was faced with this crisis, at least why I think it happened. During the day, I had spent hours in counseling with people who have some serious matters to face, and I believe at least one is faced with a very demonic power of addiction and depression. I believe that tonight, that power came to attack me. I believe it attacked me in my sleep, and the Spirit woke me so he could deal with it.

The Scriptures say that the church leaders “are keeping watch over your souls.” [Hebrews 13:17, ESV] As a pastor, I have often felt a sort of empathy for those I lead, but I can honestly say that I often discounted the spiritual side of people’s problems (by spiritual, I mean supernatural beings). But in reading Scripture, I was confronted with the supernatural nature of some of our problems and the fact that we tend to credit the physical and empirical for things that may be demonic. So, yesterday in counseling I tried to be sensitive to it; and in keeping watch over those Christ has chosen to allow me to lead, I believe that I am coming face to face with real, dangerous demonic power.

We are in a war – but it is not a war of victories or attritions. It is an ambush, divide and conquer guerrilla war. Satan, and all his minions are at war with us, and they seem blissfully unaware of our science and psychology that has we think has made them obsolete.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. [1 Peter 5:8-9, ESV]

When we oppose demonic power, they come after us. Satan doesn’t like it when someone calls a spade a spade, speaks straight and calls those who are under demonic power to seek Christ and submit to his authority and power.

We are in a war. Our answer to the attacks is not to go rushing out in sorties against Satan. Rather, our answer should be to seek and remain under the authority of Jesus Christ. The Word of God is not a tool to defeat Satan, it is a key to the mobile fortress of Jesus’ power. We must be in his presence, because where Jesus is, demons flee. That is what Peter means about being “firm in your faith.” The resistance is my reliance on Jesus’ presence, not pretending to wield his power.

I’m just the publican from Luke 18. I’ve got my fair share of sin and regret. There’s nothing in me, no matter how many verses of the Bible I memorize, that is capable of taking on the demonic forces that we are facing right now. Any victories in this war are Jesus’ because I’m not capable of handling them, not qualified to even taken them on. The accusations I faced tonight, lying so close to the floor that my nose is still raw from being ground into the carpet, were as true as they could be. Who am I? I’m no one.

Pray for us. We are not simply facing earthly challenges at Heritage. Some days, it feels like Satan has unleashed every weapon at his disposal to stop us, to discourage us, to neutralize us. We could be doing the cool, trendy thing and just copying someone else, but we’re not. We believe Christ wants us to build an honest, open, truly authentic community of believers who are committed to speaking the truth of God’s Word into our culture and seeing God transform lives. Religion for religion’s sake is the work of the devil and it is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ work and love in this world. (John 8:42-47)

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