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Posted in: Current Events, Growth, Know God

06.06.23 ( Jeff Vines )

Surrounded by the Enemy

(Excerpt from the Sermon)

Sermon Series: Under the Influence

Notice something that Jesus said very carefully in Matthew 12:43-45, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, 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 unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

It's not enough to cast out spirits. The house, vessel, nation, or generation must be occupied by something else. 2000 years ago Jesus left His home in heaven and overpowered the demonic forces. The Roman empire and Western civilization consisted of a house of spirits. The entire western world, when Jesus came on the scene, was the house of the gods. But into that house came the word of God and the good news of the gospel. Everything changed because the demonic forces were pushed back to the fringes. This isn't just me saying this. This is historically verifiable. Because of the Jesus movement, people stopped sacrificing their children on molten altars. They stopped throwing the deformed into the rivers and believed that life is sacred and a gift from God. Because of Jesus' commitment to us, men and women became committed to each other in a thing called marriage.

The sick, rather than getting discarded, were treated, with dignity and respect, because of the Jesus movement. Hospitals emerged because of the Jesus movement. Children were valued, mentored, and taught about their identity in Christ. The 10 Commandments began to govern most societies and serve as the foundation for legislation. That's the impact of the Jesus movement. Did society always get it right? No. But when they got it wrong, historically speaking, it was often the Christians who saw it, detested it, and changed it.

Jesus' ministry and the subsequent ministry of the disciples cast out the spirits and relegated them to the fringes of society. They were still present but they had fallen. Remember that Jesus said, I saw Satan fall. Still active but essentially bound. However, the spirits are always waiting to return, to take possession of a house that they think rightfully belongs to them. When they come back and find the house swept clean, they bring with them seven other spirits to occupy so that the possession is deeper and more intense than it was in the beginning. That's what you're seeing now.

But Jesus crushed the head of the serpent. The demonic forces are subject to Him. His followers took the gospel to the west and relegated the forces of evil to the fringes of society. Judeo-Christianity swept the houses clean and invited Jesus in to occupy the hearts and souls of men. However, since the turn of the last century, Jesus and the Jesus movement have been attacked from every side. This is something that didn't happen overnight. This has been going on for a very long time. The hearts and souls of men and women in the West have expelled Christ and the Jesus movement from their midst. He's been kicked out of social and political arenas. He's been ridiculed in the places of higher education. As a result, the spirits have found the house empty upon their return and now they're stronger than ever before. 

This is going to sound insane to many, but when you see what is happening in places like Target, in our schools with our children, in Washington, in Disneyland, and in the public arena, it is merely the result of the return of the demonic forces into the open, swept clean, house. A house no longer occupied by the One who is greater. So we have mass shootings, children killing children, genocide, sexual immorality, mutilation of our children, the sacrificing of our children. You may say, “but Pastor Jeff, this has been going on for a long time.” In the weeks to come I'm going to show you how it's far more intense in many ways, right now, than it's been in a very long time.

I don't want to be the guy that stands up and says, “You’re all going to hell. This is the end. Repent.” That doesn't do anything. But what I do want to say is that I love you, that I'm worried for you and I'm worried for me. You must be on your guard because I'm going to show you some of the signs and symbols from the dark world that have returned to American culture and it's going to shock many of you. 

Now, I'm not saying that every sign is chosen because some business or corporation or America itself wants to associate with the demonic forces. That's not what I'm saying. I'm not saying that they choose to identify with what is evil and corrupt. But I've tried to show you through Ephesians 6 that these rulers and powers work through human forces.

They dupe you. They deceive you to accomplish their own ends. 

My hope is not in America. My hope is in the kingdom of God. In Christ's kingdom. But it's still my job to tell you what's going on. Not so that you'll march on Washington, not so that you'll go picket somewhere, but so you will watch your back, so you'll be careful. Although this series will wake us up to spiritual realities, previously hidden, it's not designed to bring fear and trepidation. It's not about gloom and doom, because we're the winners. We talked about that, we're the winners. It's not about nostalgia or back to the “good old America.” It's not about politics. I'm asking you to do the best you can during the series to separate politics from this. It'll be hard for some of you, because when I say something you think, oh, he's talking about this or that. No I'm not. I'm not talking about politics, I'm talking about the Bible. 

This is not about you finding a technique to cast demons out either. In Colossians 1:13 the apostle Paul said, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Paul said, it's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. I don't want you to go around and say man, Pastor Jeff, I wonder if I'm possessed by a demon. Resist the devil and he must flee. However, it's also dangerous to become presumptuous that somehow you're free from any danger. Because if you do that, you'll become weak and lethargic in your spiritual disciplines.

I spent some time with my high school basketball coach not too long ago. We had all kinds of funny conversations about all kinds of things. Then, right as I was about to leave, he leaned forward and grabbed my hand – because he's gotten older, he's gotten a lot more mellow. He said, Jeff, I just want to say something to you. I probably should have said it a long time ago. He said, I'm proud of you. I'm not proud of you because you're successful. I'm proud of you because of your preparation. Anytime you want to do something, I see you, you always prepare. I watch online a lot. I don't watch every week, but I watch and I think, my goodness, how much time?

I thought, if that's true (that preparation is 95% of the battle, like Coach said), what impacts your life more than anything else? The answer is your discipleship, your prayer, your scripture reading, your accountability, your community. Can I tell you something personal? Here's what I've noticed in my life. When I slide on my time with God, prayer, scripture, accountability, I also slide in holiness and purity. I've noticed this pattern in my life, that when I slide on those things, because I think I'm strong, because I think, oh I don't need this, I can skip that today, I'm strong, you know what happens? I become narcissistic. It's all about me. Then I become rationalistic. I'm very good at that. I'm good at these other things. I know I may have this sin in my life, but I'm good over here. And then I become a grace abuser. Well, I know this is wrong, but I'm going to do it because God will forgive me. 

But Paul said, don't give the devil a foothold because once he gets in, you're not strong enough. The etymology of the word “foothold” is “scabbard.” Do you know what a scabbard is? It's the sheath that you put the sword in to give it a resting place. Paul says, don't give the demons a resting place. Don't let them enter in. Don't give them space to reside. Every part of your life, every part of your being is a spiritual house. In your spiritual house you've got compartments. Every compartment of your life that you refuse to give over to Christ is a foothold for the devil. Once you let him into one part of the house, he starts knocking on the doors of the others.

If you say: “I'm not obeying Christ in sexuality, but I'm good with my money and with other things.” You're not safe. “I don't honor God with my money, but I'm good in other areas.” You're not safe. “I have anger problems and I throw things and I say things I shouldn't, but I'm good in other areas” – and it goes on and on. “I know I drop the F bomb from time to time and I know I've got a foul mouth,” foothold. Any area of your life that you allow something that is anti-biblical or anti-Christ, every room in your spiritual house becomes accessible.

I can be a habitual liar and still be a Christ follower. I can be a master manipulator and still be a Christ follower. I can look at pornography and still be a Christ follower. I can take what doesn't belong to me, break up this marriage through adultery, blame everyone else for my failures. Watch, read, engage in things that clearly offend Jesus without anything significantly impacting me. Let me tell you what you are: You're delusional. You know where that word comes from? All the way back to the devil himself because his tactics are to distort, disorient, and deceive.

Paul said, exercise the disciplines of the spirit. If you don't, you won’t be able to stand one more time. If the totality of your experience or your spiritual exertion is one hour and 15 minutes on a Sunday, you will not make it. The battle is constant and requires attention. 

If you realize the danger you are in, you wouldn't forgo the spiritual disciplines. So, you think you're safe. You don't realize everything around you is trying to destroy you.

I think some people are going to get to heaven and God's going to say, “I never knew you.” And then I think He's going to say, “I gave you the prophets, the scriptures and the house of the Lord and you ignored them all and listened to culture.” What part of 1 John 5:19 did you not get? For “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” So why did you think you could go through life without spiritual disciplines and think you were going to be okay?

When you have your devotions, do you ever get distracted? Does the phone ring at the right time? Is there a knock on the door? Do the children start acting up? Do you have brain fog? Do you think it's a coincidence? The devil and his demons do not want you to go into the word of God or to pray. When you start looking at it like that, you'll be successful. Because you'll say, hey, get thee behind me. Because you will start to know your soul, your life, when you're tempted in weak areas and when you feel like this is a full on attack. Why is it so strong? I'll tell you why. Because there are demonic forces after you. Now don't go around thinking, man, everything that happens is demonic forces. See, this is the problem. Sometimes you're just being stupid. The devil leaves you alone because you're so stupid. He doesn't need to bother you. You'll take care of yourself. I'm sorry. It's interesting, if you've got a tee time in Palm Springs at 10 o'clock, you're up and energetic. But if you're going to go to church you think, oh, do I really want to do this? Do you think that's accidental?

The fear of generosity. You don't think Satan binds you in your finances because he knows if you get out of that, God's going to bless you, open up the windows of heaven? You ever wonder why your thirst for revenge almost takes over and possesses you? There's no accident. So what happens when demonic forces come back into a nation or culture and there's an absence of Christ, which means no resistance? It means that demonic forces waltz back in undeterred and begin to wreak havoc. I'm going to show you over the next few weeks how that's exactly what's going on. You better determine now that you're in, because the enemy is smarter than you, more organized than you, outnumbers you (apart from Christ), he's more conniving than you, and he doesn't underestimate you like you do him. Unless you know who the enemy is, where he is, and what he can do, you'll have a difficult time defeating him. I'm begging you, during this series, that you become spiritually woke. 

Deception has always featured strongly in warfare. The purpose of deception is to gain an advantage so that you can take more ground. Some of you are allowing far too much ground to be taken from you.

The reason is that you've been deceived by a world system under the sway of the evil one, and you're spiritually asleep and you've been deceived into believing what the Bible calls evil as good, and what the Bible calls good as evil. I hope that God will use me, the Spirit will open your eyes, and get you back on course. 

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About the Author
Pastor Jeff Vines is the Lead Pastor of ONE&ALL Church. He spent twenty years on the mission field (Zimbabwe, New Zealand) planting churches and training leaders. Jeff is the author of Dinner with SKEPTICS: Defending God in a World that Makes No Sense (2008, 2011) and Unbroken: 8 Enduring Promises God Will Keep (2012). Jeff and his wife, Robin, have been married over 30 years and enjoy life with their kids Delaney & Sian, their daughter-in-law Jessica and sweet grandchildren Ada, Owen, & Layla.

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