Monday, May 4, 2015

Dealing with Unclean Spirits, part 1

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." (Luke 11:14-15 NASB)

This section is, in a way, still a part of Jesus' teaching on prayer. Certainly no demon can be cast out unless we pray to God for it to be accomplished. 

In this passage, Luke gives an account of a man who had a demon of muteness. It caused him to be unable to speak but, when Jesus cast the demon out, the man who had been mute was able to speak. There were at least two kinds of responses in the crowd that day. Some of the people watched the miracle and marveled at the power of Jesus. They saw the man who had been set free from the bondage of evil and rejoiced at what God's Son had done.

Some of the people, however, saw the man who had been set free from the bondage of evil. They recognized the presence of the evil spirit, recognized the man's bondage, and recognized that Jesus had set Him free. Seeing all that, they missed the truth of the situation. They looked at the facts, assimilated them, and came up with the wrong interpretation. "He casts out demons by the devil instead of by God." It's a little like taking 2+2 and calling it 5. 

We will look tomorrow at Jesus' response to the naysayers. For today, let's consider the two responses to Christ. Some of the people saw His work of power and knew it was from God. They immediately believed what they saw and heard. Others saw the same work of power and immediately rejected what they saw and heard. What is unexpected about those who rejected the truth is that some of those rejecters were "church people", just like me. 

Jesus had taught about prayer, then invited His disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit. He gave a demonstration of what He had taught by performing a miracle. The "church people" (Pharisees, Levites, etc) were not accustomed to such demonstrations of power. The "church people" of Jesus' day were accustomed to their ritual and routine, just as we have become to our hour-long service before lunch on Sunday. It happens every week exactly like the week before. We don't have surprises. Nothing unusual or unexpected happens. 

When the unexpected occurred, the "church people" rejected it at once. "This is not how we do it. This can't be God. It must be wrong." The problem with their response was that it was God. It was right. It was how our Lord intended it to be done, and the way they had been "doing church" was not what God had intended. 

That's the problem with some of our service routines, as well. The "plan" is for the Holy Spirit to be present whenever two or more believers are together. The "plan" is for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself when He is present. We've just spent quite a few days looking at the manifestations of the Holy Spirit (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues).  If we expect the Spirit to be present in our services, we should also expect to see some of those manifestations in our services. (At the very least we should have a word of wisdom or knowledge from our minister that is clearly Holy Spirit breathed.) Do we? If not why not?

For today, let's spend some time considering our expectations of Christ and of the manifestation of the Spirit in our worship services. Have we become content with the routine of ritual or do we expect the Spirit to move according to Scripture? If not, why not? The most important expectation we should have is the same one Jesus has for us, so let's be sure that we allow the Spirit to move in whatever way He desires. When the Spirit is unbound instead of unplugged, He will draw believers and unbelievers alike to Himself.