Dan 10:1-21 ESV
Eph 1:15-22 ESV
Last week Dale focussed on how the death and resurrection of Jesus delivers us from sin and death; this week we want focus on the Lordship of Christ over the supernatural realm of evil.
Our readings illustrate that that these powers are engaged in a cosmic war against the kingdom of God (cf. Col 1:13 ESV).
In Daniel, an angelic messenger reveals to the prophet that the answer to his prayers for Israel has been opposed by an evil prince in the heavenly places controlling the Persian Empire and which is in conflict with the angels of God.
These are the sort of beings in Paul’s mind when in Ephesians he describes Jesus as raised “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (Eph 1:21 ESV).
The Lordship of Jesus over the powers is twofold, but only its second form can help us.
Jesus is Lord over the powers as their creator; “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Col 1:16 ESV).
Christ is sovereign as God but this isn’t something he can directly share with sinful human beings.
What really matters to us is how Jesus conquers the evil powers as a human being.
The New Testament testifies this was a central purpose to Christ’s coming. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 ESV).
And that he achieved this victory by depending upon the Holy Spirit; “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt 12:28 ESV cf. Acts 10:38 ESV).
Jesus deeply longs to share his triumph over the powers of evil with his people. To understand how he does this we first need to examine the basis for the devil’s power over sinners (Luke 4:6; Luke 22:53 ESV).
This exists inside the realm of guilt and the accusation which gave it birth.
All human beings live under a web of constant judgements.
From parents to children, spouses to each other, in the workplace…; take blame out of politics and what would you be left with?
The origins of blame and shame began when the serpent accused God of lying about the penalty for sin, and promised we could become our own judges of good and evil.
The results are disastrous and unavoidable; accusation out of control. (Quite unexpectedly I was accused on 3 separate occasions of character failure this week; by Christian brothers. I believe it was connected to what I was preaching this morning, and tonight.)
When Jesus described the attitude, “Let me take the speck out of your eye.”, he knew we are all natural accusers.
From Eden on Satan has endlessly accused God of failing to properly care for his children, and few people fully reject his lies. He mercilessly slanders fallen humanity in its shame and lost glory of being “losers” without a destiny. (Social media bullying….).
Two apocalyptic visions bring this out dramatically.
1. Zechariah is given a vision of the heavenly courtroom with “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord”, Joshua is clothed with filthy garments (3:3) symbolising his shame and uncleanness, “and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.” (Zech 3:1 ESV).
2. Even more graphically the devil’s role as the Accuser appears in John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 12:1-17 ESV; but this scene thankfully pictures the overthrow of the satanic basis to accuse.
Because of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Rev 12:7-9, 10 ESV).
Through the work of Christ no evil power has access to the tribunal of God to convict us of guilt. Paul excitingly puts it like this, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?….neither “angels, principalities and powers” can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:33, 36-37 ESV).
Jesus’ words about the victory of the cross have come to fulfilment, vs.31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. vs.32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”” (John 12:31-32 ESV). The work of Christ totally removes any judicial/legal basis for Satan to slander us.
THE VICTORY OF CHRIST
Hebrews doesn’t hold back in describing the power of the devil, and his defeat. vs.14 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might bring to nothing the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, vs.15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb 2:14-15 ESV).
People quite often think about dying and death, and even when they don’t all anxiety is a precursor of death. Psychology can never completely comprehend these things for the fear of death is a sign of lost glory.
Paul Tillich put this well,
We have lost our eternity … we have lost it by sinful separation from the Eternal; and … we are guilty of this separation…
We are slaves of fear, not because we have to die, but because we deserve to die!”
And it is the relentless accusations of the devil, usually directed through other fallen humans, which keeps the fear of death alive.
To push into this realm more deeply 1 John tells us, “fear has to do with punishment”, or in J.B. Phillips dynamic translation, “fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty”. And ultimately this is fear of “the day of judgment” (1 John 4:16, 18 ESV).
Paul closes the circle for us, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15:56 ESV).
Law breakers are made to feel guilty and worthy of death by the endless accusation of their own consciences and by those around them (cf. Rom 2:15 ESV) – all sown into the world by Satan.
Only Jesus was never caught up in this web of sin, law, guilt and death because he could never be justly accused of anything.
He was tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1 ESV; Heb 4:15 ESV) but as a sinless person his conscience was perfectly free of guilt before God and others (John 8:46 ESV). There was in the guiltlessness of Christ a weightiness of glory so wonderful we cannot yet comprehend (cf. John 1:14 ESV; John 2:11 ESV).
This was at the root of the Lord’s supreme authority over evil.
Approaching the time when he knew the devil would to deliver him to death (John 13:2 ESV cf. Luke 22:3 ESV) Jesus speaks with the utmost peacefulness; “the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in me.” i.e. nothing on me (John 14:30 ESV).
The devil had no claim on Jesus because he was blameless.
Since Jesus is the completely obedient Son the crucifixion of “the Lord of glory” by evil forces is devoid of all lawfulness (cf. 1 Cor 2:8 ESV).
In Christ “suffering for our sins… the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18 ESV), in his enduring the fullness of the penalty of sin and wrath in our place, the devil is stripped of any basis to accuse God’s people.
As Paul puts it about the victory of the cross, God vs.14 “forgave our trespasses…by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. vs.15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in the cross.” (Col 2:14-15 ESV).
Before the tribunal of God the accusations of powers of evil have been rendered empty by the blood of the cross. More than this, believers in Jesus are located in a new identity.
We have no trouble confessing that Jesus is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (Eph 1:21 ESV), but we struggle to accept that we are “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6 ESV).
We feel ashamed and guilty so we reckon in some way we must be and can’t comprehend our identity is heavenly!
Knowing of our struggle Paul exhorts, vs.2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:2-3 ESV). .
A person who has died with Christ cannot be condemned, i.e. “condemned again”
(Rom 6:8 ESV; Rom 7:4 ESV; Gal 2:20 ESV).
Since we are raised up with Christ no power can legitimately accuse us of sin before God
(Rom 8:33-34 ESV).
We accept all this by faith, but faith has certain tangible fruit.
When you came to Jesus you exchanged fathers. Jesus described the devil as a father figure who has been murdering people “from the beginning”, this is a consequence of our sin (John 8:44 ESV; Rom 6:23 ESV). But when the Father of Jesus becomes your Father you are taken out of the realm of death-as-a-punishment and can live free of fear (Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:7 ESV).
The fruit of this great salvation is peace.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1 ESV). Peace with God means sharing in Christ’s reign of peace. Our Father is “the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20 ESV).
The blood of the cross has reconciled all things to God “making peace” (Col 1:20 ESV).
Many believers rightly love this scripture, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Rev 12:11 ESV), but they don’t quite seem to understand how this victory it is to be practically outworked.
Paul exhorts the Roman Church, vs.19 “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. vs.20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Rom 16:19-20 ESV).
This is a reversal of the Genesis 3 story of how false wisdom about good and evil destroyed humanity’s peace, and it appropriates the ancient promise that a messianic deliverer would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15 ESV; cf. Rev 12). Christ’s victory takes place amongst the people of God as they live cross-shaped lives and “strive for peace with everyone” (Heb 12:14 ESV).
The New Testament repeatedly exhorts us to “pursue peace” (Rom 14:19 ESV; 2 Tim 2:22 ESV; 1 Pet 3:11 ESV) as a sign that before the throne of God the powers had been pacified by the blood and victory of the death of Christ.
What this means for our lives is made blatantly clear by Paul’s pastoral counsel; vs.10 “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, vs.11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Cor 2:10-11 ESV).
By imaging its identity in Christ as a people beyond accusation (Col 1:22 ESV; Jude 1:24 ESV etc.) the Church enforces Jesus’ victory over evil powers in this world. We must as a body prioritise being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3 ESV).
Because Jesus deeply wants to share the glory of his victory over evil the testimony of the triumph of believers is a constant theme in the New Testament (1 Cor 15:56-57 ESV). We are “more than conquerors through him who loves us” (Rom 8:37 ESV; cf. 1 John 2:13-14 ESV; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV; Rev 21:7 ESV). God has continued to allow Satan and the powers of evil to keep wreaking havoc on the earth (1 John 5:19 ESV; Rev 12:12, 17 ESV) so that through the Church testimony might be given to the world, and to the principalities themselves, of the all sufficient triumph of the cross (1 Cor 4:9 ESV; Eph 3:10 ESV).
How should we respond to these things?
Let me start with an example that hopefully illustrates some spiritual truths.
It was the first night of an Indigenous Christian convention in Alice Springs on an oval with a sizeable crowd many of whom didn’t speak much English, and as soon as the event started all hell broke loose. The first thing that happened was that a young lady stood up in full view of everyone and started to strip, then two very big drunken men began to brawl.
I felt well and truly out of my comfort zone but seeing no one was dealing with these blokes and sensing I needed to act like Jesus I went to these guys and gently escorted them off the oval.
When I laid hands on them and prayed for them in the name of Jesus, they both fell to the ground under the power of God, twice in succession. When they got up they were like peaceful lambs.
Unfortunately the next night security was brought in to keep the peace by enforcing the law, so the trouble-making stopped and with it the manifestations of the victory of Christ.
This is a bit of a parable about the history of Western Christianity.
Where in the New Testament when the power of the Spirit is present evil powers involuntarily manifest themselves e.g. Mark 1:23 ESV; Matt 8:28-34 ESV; 10:1 ESV; Luke 4:41 ESV; Luke 10:17 ESV; Acts 8:7 ESV; Acts 16:16-18 ESV, over the centuries the Church has cultivated a well regulated society where people know the difference between right and wrong and are duly rewarded and punished.
We have forgotten how it was that when Jesus and the apostles came to town they spoke with power and authority to the root of evil and the results were remarkable (Mark 1:27 ESV; Luke 10:19 ESV).
Across the Third World believers natively understand spiritual conflict, but for us to embrace Jesus as Lord of the powers will mean radical re-discipling.
This is something only God can give us, and will give us if we are willing to pursue the victory of Christ and his peace.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 18th Feb, 2018 | Alive@5
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 18th Feb, 2018 | | |
Related Link: messageofthecrossau.com