When I was in college I drove a big Oldsmobile Delta 88. Because I had the largest car around, I could fit a lot of people into my car to drive to church on Sundays. Since I often gave rides to people I did not know very well, one Sunday I picked up two sisters who had never been to my church before.
Everything went like a typical Sunday morning, until toward the end of the pastor’s sermon one of the sisters began yelling and crying out in the service, maybe like the guy in the synagogue who cried out to Jesus when he was just beginning his ministry (Mark 1:21-28). The pastor quickly brought an end to the worship service and the congregation quickly filed out of the building. I stayed behind because, well, I was her ride.
What happened next is a story in itself for another time. I will just say that I saw some crazy things and that there was a deliverance that day from whatever or whomever was influencing that young lady. Let’s just say it was an awkward ride back to the dorms afterwards.
In think this begs the questions: What are our expectations when we come to a worship service? Do we anticipate that Jesus will be present via the Holy Spirit, and that he will confront demons and bring deliverance to people? Perhaps there is so little deliverance from evil in the church today because we simply do not expect it to happen. Maybe the demons just sleep through the service knowing that their influence is not being threatened.
I also think there are some presuppositions or assumptions that we need to take for granted when it comes to the subject of evil:
Demons are real. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus confronting demonized people. There is no evidence that they existed only in the ancient world; they are present in this time in this world.
Jesus has authority over demons. Jesus took charge of situations with demons because he had the authority to do so. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is portrayed as one who came in order to decisively deal with the powers of evil.
Demons could be in our churches. I do not mean to be creepy; I simply intend to point out that if demons are real, they are not just out there somewhere in the world. Jesus encountered the demonic when he was teaching in synagogues. Although we encounter dramatic stories in Scripture (because Jesus seemed to bring it to the forefront), much demonic activity goes unaware because demons do not like to be recognized; they like the anonymity of the shadows and to operate in the dark where no one can detect them. If we knew they were around we would likely do something about it! Just because church buildings are dedicated to the worship of God does not mean that they magically keep evil out. We, as God’s people, must be savvy to demonic ways and take charge to use our authority in Christ through truth, justice, peace, faith, and the message of the gospel in order to live wisely and shoo the devil away.
Jesus directly dealt with evil because he was interested in bringing freedom to people, of confronting the spiritual roots of human suffering, and giving grace to those in bondage. We all need the deliverance that Christ provides through faith in his person and work. Being amazed or impressed with stories of the demonic and deliverance ministry is not the same as exercising faith ourselves in Jesus.
Whenever the church celebrates at the Table together, they are to do so with the cognizance that Jesus has won a tremendous victory over the devil and his demons. Only Christ can give us the confidence and hope we need to confront all that ails us. Let us personally and corporately implement that victory daily through the grace given us by faith in love.