THE OLD MAN
We deal with some pretty raw stuff in this article. We hope you won't be offended. It could be a matter of life of death with some who are trying to serve the Lord but who still battle with inner darkness that always threatens their defeat.
There is hope for people like this, especially in a Word the Lord Jesus spoke after His resurrection. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me (literally, "just exactly as My Father hath sent Me), even so send I you. And when he had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:21-23). This is a word of commission to those who would receive the Holy Spirit. Further, its a word about ministering to people who struggle with sin. Believers are arising now who are open to this word and who walk in its light. A man who received it into his life ministered to me and I was set free from a darkness that had taken hold of me and was about to destroy my inner man. I'll tell about it later in this article.
But first, let's look at Jesus's words. He commanded His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit. Then, He told them what would follow. They wouldremit and retain sins.
Remit is from the New Testament Greek word aphíemi. It might find use in a court of law. When a judge discharges an accused person, he is set free from the penalty of his offense. The judge would say, "I find you not guilty." He could say, "I remit your wrong doing." That of which Jesus spoke, however, went further than what a judge can do in court might do. What Jesus said dealt with the guilt, then reached inside to set a person free from guilt's inner bondage.
The other word Jesus used was retain from the Greek kratéo. This relates to the power of a government. It means to take control, to prevail, to become the master of a situation. It would find use in speaking of one nation conquering another and setting up a new government. When Jesus used it in John 20:23, He spoke of taking control over the power of sin in another person, and releasing in them a new government. By ministry like this, the power of sin can be broken.
When the man I mentioned ministered this to me, it was after I had been serving the Lord for nearly twenty years. All that time I had been struggling, never knowing I could be free from the darkness in my inner man. He came to me just in time.
We've found FOUR BASIC GROUNDS in which inner evil tends to grow and to which this word from Jesus reaches. Each of theses grounds will attract troublesome spirits. Because they are not recognized and dealt with, they remain common in many believers. There are others, but these were in my own life, therefore I can speak with understanding regarding them. They are DISTRACTION, ACCUSATION, RESENTMENT and BITTERNESS. They are the cause of much sin and failure, and often lead to backsliding.
An old friend once told me, "Every demon is armed to the teeth with thirteen weapons, and the first one is distraction." This stuck with me. He left me to find the twelve other weapons. You will probably discover them in this article.
DISTRACTION means being taken aside from the right path. It's a fascination with something wrong, or a seduction. It's a diversion from what is right. An unguarded mind is an invitation for it to begin work.
Some distractions are simple. They can creep up while we are unaware. Sometimes they come through someone who does something not related to us but that annoys us, like tapping a pencil or a foot, digging in one's ear or nose, or noisily leafing through a book while a Gospel meeting is going on. Distraction over these things, simple as they are, can provoke annoyance, criticism, resentment, accusation, or suspicion-any one of which can open the way for a troublesome spirit's further work.
Distraction may come from persons whose dress draws too much attention to their body. It might come from loud persons who do not care if they disturb others. It can come from seeing injustice or cruelty done to others. Through such as these, unclean and lustful thoughts can arise, along with quarreling, anger, bitterness, wishing evil upon others, jealousy, hatred, or a feeling of personal hopelessness. The enemy delights to find things like these and only take them as platforms to build a greater work for his dark kingdom.
Watch for them in your own soul.
Distraction can also come from a person who does something wrong to us, or who does not keep his promise, or who speaks against us. Satan will try to take any of these, from the smallest to the largest, and use them as occasions to distract us. His desire is to plant in us seeds of fear, anxiety, depression, nervous disorders, self-pity, self-condemnation, etc. It will always seem right to hold on to any, or all, of the above-until the Holy Spirit convicts us. Then we see that not one of them can enter the Kingdom of Christ with us, no matter how much we have suffered, or feel justified in holding on to them. They are all demonic weapons.
Lust can manifest itself as greed for power and authority. It may be a lust to receive recognition in front of others. This kind of lust sometimes works in those in Christian service.
An unclean lustful spirit will take advantage of anyone attracted to bars, or night clubs, or to keeping company with others given over to uncleanness. Reading pornographic books and magazines also causes many to fall.
Different ones find lustful distraction in different ways. Lust for money, material possessions, and sex are some of the most common. These are areas of serious difficulty in the lives of many in Christian service. Consider what some, serving the Lord, have confessed as they've come seeking help: a young preacher aroused sexually when counseling or praying with women; a preacher who confessed to an unclean lust for older mother-type women; a preacher distracted and enticed to lust by the sight of a woman's ankles; a preacher attracted sexually to animals and another attracted to little girls; a woman evangelist who visualized the men around her as unclothed; attractions to incest, homosexuality, sexual pleasure from inflicting pain on others, sexual pleasure from having pain inflicted on one's self, etc.
Many live with drives like these pushed down for years not knowing what to do with them. They are afraid to give in to them, but also afraid to ask for help. The ones wanting help often do not know to whom they can go. They fear being rejected or severely judged. Others give in to their dark drives, but keep their practice a secret-for a while.
Needless to say, it's dangerous to allow to remain things like the ones mentioned above. Even if they are pushed down into the secret parts of the soul, demonic spirits know of them and patiently wait for weak moments, like when one is tired, or lonely, or irritated with someone else. At times like these, the suggestions coming to a mind are often stronger than the determination to resist them.
Some sincere persons, knowing dark areas are in their souls, seek to cover them up by becoming religious. But no amount of religious activity can drive out these enemies of the soul. It takes the power of God.
I John 1:9 has an admonition at this point. By looking at it in the Original Greek, we see it saying, "When we tell Him all our sinful thoughts and desires, hiding nothing, we find Him faithful and fair as He sets us free and cleanses us from every unclean thing." We can be honest with God and tell Him things difficult to tell any other person. He is always understanding and ready to forgive and to set free. Even those who have been followers of Christ for years can tell their failures to Him, receive no condemnation, and find the freedom He offers.
If a problem persists, we do not give up hope. There are times we all need the ministry of others. In many, real freedom does not come until confession of sin is made in the company of someone else. James 5:16a has powerful insight here. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
Ask God to give you someone you can trust and with whom you can make your confession and pray.
Frequently, real freedom comes only when an unclean spirit is cast out by telling it to go in the Name of Jesus. This was the case with me.
If the process isn't stopped, and if distraction accomplishes its desired end, the work of ACCUSATION will begin. It's then we try to find someone to blame for our failure. We always try to point out someone else as the reason for our distraction. As sure as night follows day, this process will go on unless the distraction is revealed for what it is and its work stopped.
A man distracted to lust may blame his wife, his parents, the church, the preacher, society, his job, his friends, the devil, the cinema, the other person, his background, even God Himself for making him the way he is. If one continues this, accusation will turn into something far worse-which we'll consider in a moment.
The word devil occurs in the Greek New Testament as diabolos. It means "someone who hits at another person with an accusation." The strategy of the devil always is to set up his nature in us, that of an accuser.
Consider what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Both were distracted and drawn away from God and His high purpose for them. When God confronted them, each one accused someone else. That old serpent had accomplished his purpose.
That both the Man and the Woman placed the blame for their failure on someone else pleased the devil. They were demonstrating his nature and giving him ground for his continued work. As we will see, accusation will not remain for long the simple blaming of others. It will turn into something causing far more trouble.
When the strongholds of distraction and accusation remain, the ground of RESENTMENT will develop naturally. This ground attracts more unclean spirits than we could ever name here.
On resentment the enemy can build a project like revenge. This means waiting for the moment when someone who did something wrong can be paid back. This may come by a shrug of the shoulder, a tone of voice, or an expression of the face. It may result in a whispering campaign about the offender, or making unkind remarks. Resentment waits for every opportunity to get back at the person who did the wrong. This is called retaliation.
If not detected and broken down, resentment will make itself so much a part of us that it stops being known for what it is and becomes part of our personality.
Many hold resentments against things from their early years, like resentment over being poor, over the success of someone else, over being rejected, over the loss of a loved one, over what someone said or did, or over some accident.
Many adults have living inside them a child who has resented something for years: the girl who resents her parents for being in the Lord's service; the boy who resents his father who left him and his mother; the girl who resents her sister's beauty and success; the boy who resents the accident that crippled him; the girl who resents not being born a boy; the girl who resents the long sickness and death of her mother; the boy who resents his nagging mother and faultfinding father, and so on.
No matter what the cause for the resentment, the enemy will take advantage of it.
And, no resentment can enter the Kingdom of Christ. No parents can experience His overcoming Life while resenting their daughter who turned aside to an immoral life. No wife and mother can come in resenting being abandoned by her husband and father of her children. No girl can come in resenting the deception of her lover who was only interested in sex. No minister can come in resenting the congregation that turned him out. No man can come in resenting the loss of his job. Resentment simply cannot enter the Kingdom of Christ.
Lest some come to think we are proclaiming salvation by works, let me add that what we speak about here is the working into our lives of Christ's Kingdom. It is impossible to experience the fullness of Kingdom living and hold on to resentment-of any kind.
If resentment is nourished, it soon settles into life as BITTERNESS. And how sad the results when this remains in one's spirit! It becomes the cause behind many broken relationships that once were beautiful and full of meaning. It can even turn into fighting, murder, and war.
Bitterness will cause lying, slander, even strong speaking against God, which is blasphemy. Bitterness can bring so much darkness to our mind that it becomes impossible to think straight. It can also bring illness to our nervous system and spread as sickness to different parts of our body. It can throw our soul into a continuous round of self-pity, self-condemnation, suspicion of others, and anxiety over the future. Faith cannot dwell with bitterness.
Bitterness hurts every human relationship. When mixed with love for another person, it produces jealousy. This opens the door for more trouble. If allowed to continue, it can drag one down to death, both spiritual and physical.
Scripture links bitterness with cursing (Romans 3:14). This helps explain why the mouths of some persons flow with cursing and bad speech. So much bitterness is in their spirits that they continually curse others and pray for evil to be released on them. This is a vile form of witchcraft.
Paul linked bitterness with wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice in Ephesians 4:31. Some persons belch out their anger like fire from the mouth of a dragon. In others, the anger remains calm and steady, until it finds its aim at someone and sends them a poisoned dart. Any action with bitterness is harmful to all concerned. In Hebrews 12:15, the writer speaks of a root of bitterness which, if allowed to continue, will spread its evil to others. One person cannot contain his bitterness alone; the very nature of it demands that it spread like a disease.
Bitterness, however, need not remain the master of anyone.
Let me relate something out of my own experience. I do not rejoice in it except that God brought me through it to teach me, and that I might share with others.
A few years ago something happened in my life that shattered me. I had been in the ministry for years and was respected by many. My zeal for serving the Lord, winning the lost and teaching the saved brought me to the place where this took almost my total time. My family suffered. I was being driven to serve the Lord, not admitting to myself or others that much of my zeal was covering up areas of darkness in me.
One day, while all of this was going on at its heaviest, something like an explosion happened. It brought loss of family, ministry, faith, sound mind and the will to serve the Lord any longer. Emotional and mental shock took over. For hours at a time I lay on my face weeping bitter tears, not knowing where to turn or whom to trust.
I begged the Lord to release me from His calling. He would not. I could find no freedom. Days at a time I fought suicide. I thought more than once of turning to alcohol, whoredom, anything disrespectful. I wrestled with fears, frustrations, lack of guidance, loneliness. In all this I soon began to place the blame on someone-somewhere. I blamed my wife. I blamed myself. I blamed the others with whom I worked. I blamed the institution of which I was a part. I blamed the devil. Some days it seemed the only way I could continue living was by finding someone I could accuse for my sad condition.
One day while not even seeking Him, the Lord spoke to me that I was still to minister. This He immediately confirmed and opened a gracious door. No circumstances changed, only the Lord began anointing me to minister again. But every day I fought through bitterness. My first thoughts every morning were thoughts of evil against people and circumstances. Every day I wrestled through this maze to find my place in God. All I knew to do was to resign myself to this sad condition.
Now let me tell something very personal. At the beginning of this new time of ministry about two dozen unclean spirits were cast from me with the help of one other person. These were demons that had flocked to take advantage of the ground opened in me after the shattering blow.
Among those driven away were demons of hate, fear, greed, lust, suicide, murder, sectarianism, anxiety, and so on. Immediately a great change came in my outlook. Some joy and peace returned.
After a time, however, some of the spirits returned. I fought with them every morning. They were not inside me, but were waiting around to take again the ground they had lost. That ground on which they had attached themselves was still in me. Those morning battles were often very fierce-but I faced them alone. I didn't think I could not let anyone know what was really going on inside me.
One day a Pastor from a nearby city drove to where I was ministering. Having met him briefly one time, I greeted him and went on my way, thinking he was there for business with others. Frankly, I didn't want to spend time with him.
I'd had my usual battles that day and had come through to my temporary victory, so I hurried to an office where I was preparing material for printing. I was to leave early in the afternoon for a preaching engagement. There was little extra time that day. Late in the morning I went to the print shop to do some last minute editing on some papers about prayer. As I sat there, someone brought in the visiting brother-I thought to show him around. I only looked up briefly for I was very busy.
The man remained after his guide left. We were alone. I spoke to him briefly, explaining my day was busy and I must finish my work before leaving for a speaking engagement. I accompanied him to the door. I can still see his hand on the knob as he closed it and refused to leave.
He said, "I came here today to see you."
I was surprised.
He said, "The Lord spoke to me there is a spirit of enmity in you. I've come here to set you free."
How did anyone know of the strife and enmity that was inside me? That with which I battled every day, and from which I'd been coming forth every day with victory, even though short-lived-how did anyone know? The Lord knew, and He spoke to one of His servants who had a tender and obedient spirit.
I sat down and said, "Brother, pray for me."
He laid hands on my head and said, "I release you in the Name of Jesus Christ from the enmity and strife in you."
He dealt with no demons, but with the ground on which the demons had worked, and to which they sought to return.
"Resentment, you cannot stand before the anointed and obedient servant of the Lord Jesus Christ."
What release came as he spoke the words of deliverance! It was as though a band around my head was broken. I was free. After that, it became a joy to awaken in the mornings. There were no more battles with spirits seeking to regain the ground they had lost. That ground was destroyed when that man ministered to me. That was over thirty years ago.
Later, the Lord had to completely destroy the ground of accusation and replace it with a new ground on which the Holy Spirit would work. I'll tell of this. There still remained times when I accused others for my loss. One day the Lord clearly spoke and said, "You cannot accuse anyone else, not even yourself, or the devil. I am to blame for all that has happened."
"But, Lord, You aren't the cause for all the trouble. Only good comes from Your hand."
"Then take it all as from My hand and it becomes good."
"You mean the failure? The separation? The loss of ministry? The loss of home? From You, Lord? Never!"
"Only in that way will what has happened to you become a holy thing."
Then He opened my eyes to see I could take all things from His Hand of love. What sanctifying power!
How this upset the devil's work and brought praise and joy to my own soul! I began to thank the Lord for everything. For the failure. For the separation. For the loss of ministry. For the loss of home. I began, for the first time in my life, to thank Him for Ed Corley, who I always had felt was my greatest enemy. I said, "Thank you, Lord, for Ed Corley. I'd rather be he than any other person in the world-because that's who You made me to be."
THE SECRET of ever keeping the ground of resentment plowed is always being thankful for everything. This ground plowed and tilled by much thankful praise, makes beautiful soil for the planting of the Lord.
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