Power From The Dark SideErwin W. Lutzer | June 24, 2012
Selected highlights from this sermon
Satan’s power to pull people into occultism is not to be underestimated. Using a passage from Acts 19, Pastor Lutzer contrasts the power of Satan and his demons against the power of Christ, and provides us with a warning: you can’t exercise the authority there is in Jesus without being under the authority of the true Jesus.
Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?—Acts 19:15
This is a series of messages on the invisible world. In the invisible world there are two kingdoms. One is the kingdom of light and the owner of that kingdom is God. The other kingdom of darkness and the god of this world tries to exert authority in the kingdom of darkness, and those kingdoms come into conflict.
I’m well aware that as I speak on this topic that there are some of you who know that you are troubled by the kingdom of darkness. And you know that. There are many others who may be troubled by the kingdom of darkness who don’t know it. They just attribute it all to human nature, possibly to their own stubbornness, their own self-will, and they don’t understand that they are having a spiritual conflict as well. That’s why even though this message is for everyone, including myself, there is an opportunity for all of us to listen as perhaps we have never listened before. And even though I have prayed already in this service today, would you join me one more time? And would you pray? And would you silently ask God to give you ears to listen that you might hear His words, and that there might be understanding and freedom and deliverance today through His Word?
Father, You know every heart that is bowed in Your presence. You know the trouble. You know the agony. You know, Father, the spiritual conflicts that all of us have experienced, and we ask today in the name of Jesus that there might be clarity, understanding, helpfulness, direction and deliverance. Show that to all who are bowed in Your presence, and even those who came here today not expecting any particular blessing. Surprise them and show them the greatness and the beauty of the name of Jesus in whose name we pray, Amen.
Last time I spoke to you about knowledge from the dark side. Today I speak on the topic of power from the dark side. And today we live in a day of occultism. It is everywhere. In the last message we talked about such things as fortune tellers, channelers, and all those who are involved in somehow receiving knowledge from the occult world.
Today I’m going to be speaking on topics that may include things like charms and ceremonies and sorcery and rituals and curses, and all of those things that exist in the spirit world that people in one way or another are connected to. There’s no way that I can list them all.
I’m not sure if I told you this recently but many years ago, as we have done on several occasions, we preached sermons on this topic, and then later on we met in another room to help the people who struggled. We had about 40 people one time who met in a different room after the service, and as we went around and had them list the issues that they were dealing with, we were surprised to discover that there were possibly 40 different ways that people were in the occult, many of them not even knowing it. They didn’t know that palm reading, for example, was occultic. They just thought it was kind of a nice game to play, or working with a Ouija board or whatever. And so, even though we don’t cover all those topics today, the Lord will show you the issues in your life and, hopefully by the end of this message, how to deal with them.
But I also made reference recently as I spoke about this message to the Internet because it is on the Internet which has such wonderful information that you can also get into all aspects of Satanism today, all different aspects of the occult, and it is so appealing. It won’t hurt you. It will give you power.
And now let me say a word about video games. Of course there are many innocent video games. Our own grandchildren play with video games, and your children and grandchildren may as well. But I am deeply troubled this past week, having read three or four articles on video games to discover what we already knew, namely that the level of violence in video games is increasing, and that level of violence when children are involved in it only fuels their aggression, their anger, and their own violence.
The idea that somehow he’s an angry boy so this gives him an opportunity to work it out is pure nonsense. You know the old idea that counselors used to say: “You’re mad at your father? Pretend a pillow is your father, and then just go ahead and beat it with a bat and it will get it out.” No, it won’t. It’ll just fuel it more. You can’t get over anger unless you deal with the causes of anger. What video games will do if they are violent games where you have the power (you can kill all these people), and no matter who you are, like one article said, “No matter how dorky the kid is, he can become a hero in the video game by killing all the people and winning these battles.” You can’t do that and then suddenly turn out to be a nice calm boy on Sunday. Well, you might be able to do it but not for long.
And then the occult is there too, where you are trapped into games that go deeper and deeper into occult issues. Some of the articles that I read said this. In fact, one said that it is a terrible admission but we have to admit that video games have the same impact on a child as pornography in terms of these obsessions. And they said that even though one of the most basic concerns of children today is the natural drive to eat and to sleep, children are foregoing that in order to play these games. And Rebecca and I know parents who have told us that what they did was they set up a camera unknown to the child to prove that he was into these games because he was saying, “No, Mom and Dad, I’m not.” The kid was up almost all night playing these games. Could I suggest to you as parents that you sit down with your child and play those video games with him or her to see what in the world those kids are up to? I know that they are a lot smarter than we are. If you have a VCR like mine that keeps flashing “noon” all the time (laughter) you need a twelve-year old boy to come and to program it for you. But the fact is this. Why don’t you sit down and find out what they are doing and then say, “No,” when you see something that is unhealthy? Just say no. This whole idea that everybody is doing it–well, Jesus would say, “Almost everybody is going to hell,” wouldn’t He? He said that the way to life is narrow and few there be that find it, but the way to destruction is broad and many go there. Your teenager might curse you. He might be mad at you. Fifteen years from now he’ll say, “Mom and Dad, thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping me from the kinds of things (applause) that my peers got into.”
Well, there’s another level of occultic activity, and that has to do with miracles, and this leads us to one of the most remarkable, interesting passages of Scripture in all the Bible. It’s found in Acts 19. Paul is in Ephesus and first of all we see here very clearly the power of the Gospel bringing deliverance–the name of Jesus bringing deliverance. I hope you’ll turn to it in your Bible.
Acts 19:11 says, “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that he had touched or that touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and evil spirits came out of them.” Wow!
Wow! Let me make a couple of comments. First of all, Luke recognizes that these are extraordinary miracles. This was not your average miracle, even for an apostle, and when the Scripture says that handkerchiefs that touched his skin (Actually the Greek text is a little bit more vivid. It refers to something like what we would call sweatbands. Very probably, as the Apostle Paul worked, as we know, making tents, and that’s what he did so that no one could say that he was in the ministry for the money. Do you remember the Apostle Paul doing that, probably with a handkerchief or a rag to wipe his brow? Maybe he had some kind of a sweatband, and then an apron. He would work with an apron, as a woodsman, or whatever was necessary in order to build those tents, to make them.) And so these were taken, and it was as if the Apostle Paul was present when they were taken to people, and the people themselves were healed and evil spirits came out of people with the power of those objects. Actually it was God, Luke wants us to understand, who of course wrote the book of Acts. It was God who was doing it and miracles were abounding.
Let me make a couple of comments regarding these miracles. When you look at the Bible you notice that there are three times–three eras–in which there were great miracles. One was during the time of Moses when there were all those miracles getting the people out of Egypt. Another was during the time of Elijah, just before the whole prophetic office began, and you have all of those prophets that prophesied after the time of Elijah and Elisha. And then the third time is during the times of Jesus and the Apostles.
Now, it is interesting that the Apostle Paul was able to do this. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says this, “I had the power to do the signs of an apostle.” There were certain gifts that were given to people back there and to the apostles as the Church began, and it’s interesting that after the Apostolic Period all of these miracles almost essentially died out. Now today you find people that are claiming that the dead are being raised and all these miracles are being done. We have some missionary friends who were told that the country that they were going to has had a whole bunch of miracles, and God is doing all these wonders. They went over there and the more they investigated somehow all of these stories evaporated and there was no good historical evidence that they were happening.
Most assuredly the Apostle Paul didn’t do like some preachers do today on television and say, “Send me some money and then I’ll send you some water; I’ll send you a handkerchief.” I remember one man saying, “My handkerchief has been cut into a hundred parts and the people who send me money, the first hundred, will get it.” Keep your money when you hear that kind of thing. All right? This passage has been greatly misused. Of course God can do those kinds of things today. Certainly He casts out demons today, whether or not God heals the sick as He did during the days of Paul, possibly in instances, but we don’t have these kinds of apostolic authority today as Paul and the other apostles had. But those miracles were genuine. There was deliverance. Demons were cast out, and people were healed. And they happened immediately. There was no doubt about them, and the people who were in the area could observe them and say, “That is a miracle.”
But now we come to the power of the devil. Now we come to the dark side and the great clash that took place here. You say, “Pastor Lutzer, this is bizarre.” I agree with you. It is bizarre but I hope that you also agree with me that it is true that bizarre things do happen, and this might be one of them.
Verse 13 says, “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul proclaims.’” We don’t know much about these sons of Sceva that are going to come up in the next verse but there were exorcists who used to go around the country, and what they would do is to try to find a spirit that was more powerful than the spirit that they wanted to exorcise from someone. So, you know, they’d have discussions and say, “What spirit seems to be working for you?” “Well, I use the spirit of Solomon. That really works.” “Well, all right. What about the spirit of Moses? Does that really work?” And so what they were doing was they were looking for some spirit that was more powerful than the spirits that they were trying to extort from an individual.
So they see all these miracles. Paul is speaking in the name of Jesus. The miracles are being done in the name of Jesus, and they say, “Wow! We really found someone here who can do it,” and so they say, “I adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul proclaims.” Verse 14 says, “Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this but the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” The spirit was speaking through the man of course. Who are you? And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them and mastered all of them and overpowered them so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. Wow! What a story!
I have a couple of comments. When the evil spirit asked the question, “Who are you?” it’s not as if he said, “I need to know your name.” What the evil spirit was saying is, “You don’t have any authority over me. Who in the world are you to use the name of Jesus? You don’t even know Jesus. As a matter of fact, that’s why you put it in the other tense. You are saying that Jesus, whom Paul proclaims–whoever it is that Paul is proclaiming-that’s the Jesus that I want to use.” And the Bible says that this man leaped on them and overcame all seven. We have to believe that they just didn’t run, which would have been wise. They probably stopped to fight them. They thought, “This guy is attacking my brother. I’m going to help my brother,” (One brother helping a brother, another brother helping another brother, and all seven of them were taken care of. And if you asked the question how it was that they fled naked, if you know the way in which people dressed in those days, oftentimes when you took their robe off there wasn’t much left to do after that, and so these people fleeing naked and wounded learned a wonderful lesson.
And the lesson that they learned is this: that the name of Jesus is not a good luck charm. You can’t just emote the name of Jesus and think that just because this ministry is talking about Jesus that means we’re talking about Jesus Christ’s power. No, not necessarily at all! There are all kinds of ministries on television, many of which are good and right and upright and there are also many ministries on television today where you have false prophets and they are always invoking the name of Jesus. “In the name of Jesus! In the name of Jesus!” That does not mean that they are authentic. I hope that you know how to identify false prophets. I’m not going into this in detail, but just to give you a certain clue, first of all, false prophets are generally incredibly arrogant. I watch them from time to time on television just so I keep up to date on what is happening in that cyberspace, and you know I saw one that said, “I decree that you are going to be rich. I decree that I’m going to get a certain number of millionaires.” Are you serious? You send him some seed faith and he’s decreeing that you are going to be a millionaire? Give me a break.
And then I had another one I’m thinking about who looked in the eyes of a couple. They said, “We’ve come forward because we can’t have children and we want to have a child.” And he said, “What do you want–a boy or a girl?” And they said, “A boy.” “What color eyes do you want?” We want a baby with blue eyes.” Now let’s supposed that that couple doesn’t have a child, or let’s suppose that they get a brown-eyed baby girl. Are they going to say, “You know we were just deceived by a false prophet because he told us that we were going to have a blue-eyed boy.”? No, that’s not what they are going to say. What they are going to say is, “Oh, if only we had had the faith.” These folks always win. If there’s a miracle they take the credit. If not, it’s your fault. You didn’t have enough faith, and so it is that they prosper.
Another characteristic of false prophets is that they are always speaking positive messages–exactly what the people want to hear. They want to hear about prosperity. They don’t want to hear about greed and things such as the dangers of money. All that they want to hear is health and wealth. They don’t want to have to deal with that nasty thing called sin. You never hear these folks talk about that.
At one time I was actually thinking I might preach a whole series just from the book of Jeremiah about false prophets. Let me give you a verse. Jeremiah 5:12 says, “They have spoken falsely of the Lord and have said, “He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us.” Jeremiah preaching disaster and the false prophets? Uh-uh, he’s wrong. All is going to be prosperous and wonderful. We shall not see sword or famine. Then God says the prophets will become wind. The word is not in them and thus it shall be done to them.
And then here’s another verse: “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction, and my people love to have it so.” Look at the crowds that they get. Beware of false prophets. One of the predictions made in the New Testament regarding the end of time was the proliferation of false prophets and miracles, as indicated in the book of Thessalonians and the very words of Jesus.
So here we have the power of Satan bringing confusion because the name of Jesus is not sufficient. It is used simply as a name. And by the way, since I’m on a roll here, talking about the name of Jesus, don’t ever think that other religions that use the name of Jesus are talking about the same Jesus that we are. Not on your life! If you really want to know about a very different Jesus, in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul warned about the fact that there were many “Jesuses” that were floating around. He said, “You are close to believing another Jesus.” And by the way, we don’t know exactly what that Jesus was like but we do know that he was so close to the real thing that Paul thought that believers might not tell the difference even though he was another Jesus.
Today in false religions we have many, many “Jesuses”–false “Jesuses” who can’t save anybody, who can’t redeem, who can’t cast out demons because it’s the name but it’s not the person. If you want to have a good example of how we can use the name Jesus and throw it around, just study Mormonism. Find out what the Mormons actually believe about Jesus. Go to the Internet. You can do that and then ask yourself, “Is this the same Jesus that we believe in?” There are plenty of “Jesuses” out there.
Now notice the repentance that all this brought. As I read the book of Acts I am almost amused by this statement. Verse 17 says, “And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus–both Jews and Greeks.” (Chuckles) I would think so. You’ve got seven guys running around, all trying to tell the reason why they need to go to a clothing store and they’re all telling what happened, and they’ve all got the same story, and that word spread pretty quickly I think, even without the Internet.
And so what happened is great fear fell upon them. People began to realize they were in the presence of God. This is not play. We’re in the presence of the living God. Great fear fell upon them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. The right Jesus, the Jesus that Paul proclaims, the Jesus of the New Testament–His name was honored, and I would think so because people were frightened now. They understood. You don’t play around with the occult, you know, because this is real stuff. This incident happened. This is true. In fact, we have instances today where you almost have a similarity of this because it’s not as though there were demons back there, but there are none today. Oh no! Just ask some of our staff members in terms of the counseling that we do.
And then you’ll notice that it says, “Fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also, many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices, and a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.” Let me just explain! Don’t think for a moment that they are talking about books like you and I use books. What they are referring to is little papyrus scrolls on which there were all kinds of secret codes and good luck charms that were written, and these were popular all throughout Ephesus which really was the hub of occult religion. And it says they burned them and it came to about 50,000 pieces of silver. One piece of silver is about a day’s work so I figured it out on my trusty iPhone, which also has a pad where you can do mathematics. We can’t do any of these things in our minds anymore, can we? I discovered that it would be about a year’s wage for 250 people. We’re talking about a lot of money going up in smoke.
There are two things I’d like to tell you about their repentance here–wonderful things. First of all, it was complete. When you actually take and burn something, that means that you can’t say the next day, “Well, I think I’m going to go take it back.” If they had just said to themselves, “All right, we’re not going to use these, but we paid some good money for these little scrolls and for the artifacts that we use in occultism, and therefore we’re not going to give it up; it’s too precious but we won’t use it because Paul has taught us not to,” they’d have gone back to it. They’d have found out that when the temptation became strong they’d have said, “Well, there’s a certain amount of security in going there, and what’s wrong with believing in Jesus and some of these occult practices?” So burning them was a wonderful idea. It indicated a complete repentance.
The other kind of repentance was costly. This was the people’s livelihood. This is where, as you can go today to see the ruins, they had all kinds of shops where you could pick up this occult paraphernalia that would also be spread to the surrounding region. A lot of money was made and this was really their livelihood, and they said, “There are some things more important than living.” And so they took these things and they threw them into the fire.
A number of years ago–perhaps ten–there was a spiritual awakening that took place in some of our seminaries and some of our Christian colleges and other universities throughout the country. What happened is students stood up and one after another for hours confessed their sins. And they did this in order that they might be able to break the bondages that they were involved in. And in several cases they had to get garbage bags because the students began to bring all of their pornography and they began to bring their video tapes and their magazines and everything and they filled these garbage bags with the kind of artifacts that led these students continually into sin.
Could I say something to you candidly? If you have something like that in your home, would you get rid of it? Would you put it in a garbage bag? Don’t light a fire. That could be a problem here in the city of Chicago, but take care of it. I learned long ago (someone pointed it out) that if you’re going to jump across a chasm it is much better to do it in one long jump than in two short ones. (laughter) And when you get rid of sin, do it up right. Get rid of it.
Oh you say, “It’s costly. This cost us a lot of money.” Who cares how much it costs? Your eternity, your soul, your spiritual health is at stake and these people, by their willingness to give up their sins, to burn it no matter how much it cost them, including their livelihood, indicated their true faith in God. And don’t worry. Jesus, I’m sure, took care of them in His own way.
There are a couple of things that we have to remember as we nail this passage down so that you can begin to apply it more specifically to your life. First of all, do I need to remind you (I shall) that Jesus Christ is totally triumphant over all the forces of evil, every single one? (applause) Jesus not only paid it all, He won it all and He deserves it all. And we give Him the glory and we give Him the praise. And you have to see that. Your greatest struggle when you are dealing with spirits from the dark side is going to be their intimidation and the idea that somehow there’s no deliverance for you. And therefore that’s why Paul says, “Above all (when he was talking about the armor of God) take the shield of faith.” Even if you drop one or two of the other pieces, and of course we need them all, the fact is that the shield of faith is the basis upon which we see the victory–not just that Jesus will someday cast Satan into the lake of fire and all, but the victory has been totally completely won. There’s no contest. We have read the end of the book and we know where Satan is headed, and he knows it too and he doesn’t want you to know that he is defeated, but he is. (applause)
And those of you who struggle with guilt, who think that you committed a sin too big for God to forgive, when Satan reminds you of your past, would you please remind him of his future? (laughter and applause) Jesus Christ–total Victor. I want you to see that today. It’s not what I am saying. It is what the Word of God proclaims, that He disarmed all principalities and all powers and made a show of them openly, and it is upon that basis which you and I can find deliverance and protection from the dark side of the spirit world. And I encourage you today to see Jesus in a new light.
Some of you are here today and you have to see Him as your Savior, the one who died in your place that you might be redeemed. As it says here, “After they believed they became believers. They got rid of the stuff that was leading them into occultism. And in the very same way, God today is speaking to your heart to believe on His Son. His triumph is uncontested.
There’s a second observation that we need to make, and that is that Satan’s work is characterized by confusion. People are confused. They are confused sometimes by false teachers. It is characterized by fear. He’ll tell you,
“You’d better serve me” and if not you’re going to be in trouble and need his protection. What a lie. Oftentimes it is filled with self-hatred. Young people want to cut themselves and so forth. They want to draw blood because they are dealing with all of these issues and they don’t know where to go, and they don’t know the completeness of Jesus Christ’s work on their behalf and the cleansing and the forgiveness that Jesus gives them so they think they somehow have to sacrifice because they hate themselves. The devil wants you to hate yourself because if you hate yourself, you are not believing in Jesus. If you are a believer in Jesus you are a son and a daughter of the Almighty. (applause)
Oftentimes there is disassociation from reality. There is the blurring of distinctions between good and evil. Certainly that is true in things such as Wicca and other ways that you can get into the occult, manipulation, intimidation. Those are the marks of the evil one and his demonic spirits. In contrast, for God it is a sense of freedom. It is cleansing. It is plugging into reality. It is affirming your self-worth as a son and a daughter of God. That’s what God brings about in our lives in contrast.
There’s a final lesson, and of course we learn this from the Jewish exorcists. They have something to teach us. We cannot exercise the authority that we had in Jesus unless we are under His authority–under the authority of the true Jesus. The name Jesus just can’t be thrown around with people saying, “Well, there is power in the name of Jesus.” Yes, there is power in the name of Jesus and every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is the Lord to the glory of God the Father. There is infinite power in the name of Jesus. After all He’s the creator. He is the sustainer of the universe. He spoke and the stars were created. That’s the power of the name of Jesus, but don’t take it for granted unless you are under the authority of Jesus. Then you can exercise the authority of Jesus.
Let me give you an example and I’ll summarize it. A number of years ago there was a woman here at The Moody Church who came up to me after a service and said, “Pastor, I hated you ever since you came here, and I’m just here to tell you that I am sorry.” And I said, “What did I do to contribute to this?” and she said, “Nothing, it’s just all me.” Okay, that’s fine. (laughter) She was a woman who was troubled causing a great deal of difficulty in our college ministry. We knew that she was troubled by a spirit. I will not go into the details to let you know how that was known, because for some of you that may be going just a little bit further than we need to in this message, but we knew it. And in fact it was sometimes to the point where the spirit even spoke, something like we have in the New Testament. We worked with her. We counseled her and didn’t help her. You know, as the pastoral staff you win some and you lose some. So she left the church and went down south somewhere and that was the end of the story until she wrote me a letter maybe six to eight years later, thanking me, and saying that even though she didn’t receive deliverance here at the Moody Church, for pointing her in the right direction. But this is what she said. She said, “I discovered that I was so full of anger because of childhood abuse. I was consumed with anger,” and she said, “As long as I held on to that anger the darkness around me would not leave.”
And you know, how did that darkness manifest itself? In many people in many different ways, but back to the singles ministry, what she would do was divide people from one another. Slander is very, very important because you see you slander this person against this person because what you want to do is to create a circumstance in which these friends are broken up and this intervenes so that you are always causing disunity within the body of Christ. And you use your mouth and the accusations of the devil to do it. Parenthesis: Did you know that in 1 Timothy 2:11, the Apostle Paul is talking about the wives of deacons and he says they should be dignified and not slanderers. Do you know what the Greek word is? It’s diabolos. They should not be devils. The word diabolos means slanderer.
When you slander someone within the body of Jesus Christ and you become a gossip and you divide people from one another, you are doing the work of the devil. And this lady was doing the work of the devil. She was causing these kinds of problems, and that’s what the devil often does through people who are in his column. But anyway, in the letter what she said was, “I dealt with this horrible sin of bitterness. I just gave it up. I opened my heart to God and said, ‘God, I can’t deal with this. I can’t live with this anger, this resentment, and I just give it to you,’ and it’s after that that the darkness left.”
It’s like the old thing that I’ve said from time to time. If you want to get rid of flies you have to get rid of the garbage, and what you find is that people harbor sin in their hearts. They hug it to their bosom. They will not let it go, and they stay in the dark side of the spirit world.
Today God is inviting you actually to a whole new life of freedom, of deliverance, if you see Jesus as the answer to your problem, and He is the only one out there. By the way, no other prophet, did you notice? If Jesus were only a prophet the demons wouldn’t obey him, but
He is the Son of the living God, and when He speaks to them they have to obey. We serve a risen, triumphant Jesus (applause) who is Lord of all.
In a moment we are going to sing the song, “In Christ Alone,” because that’s all we have to offer you today, by the way, is Christ, but He is the living one, triumphant. And as we sing I’m going to invite the prayer partners to come forward and if you have a heavy heart today, no matter what category you fit into but you need someone to pray with you to lift your burden from your heart, would you come? That’s why the prayer partners are up here, and other prayer partners can join them, and it’s your only opportunity during the service to come and to invite someone to help you and to say, “In Christ alone there is hope and freedom and deliverance and forgiveness.” It’s all about Him.
Father, would you take these words and apply them, however they need to be applied, and we pray that Your Holy Spirit might bring a sense of deliverance and clarity to issues over which people stumble. And we pray today that we might know that Christ is triumphant. We thank You today that He is above every name that is named in this world and in the world to come. We see Him today as the triumphant One. Cause people to believe on Him for salvation and deliverance. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.