IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE
“‘What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.
God’s Law and the Prophets climaxed in John; now it’s all kingdom of God – the glad news and compelling invitation to every man and woman.'” Luke 16:16.
What an important truth Jesus highlighted in this one statement, something that many of us believers do not seem to have grasped! Firstly, the Old Testament, with its dealings with Israel, is the indispensable foundation for understanding the entire message of the Bible. Many Christians believe that they can do away with it and read only the New Testament, but that’s foolish. It’s like reading a mystery story from the middle of the book.
Secondly, the Old Testament, important as it is, is not the whole story. God had a certain way of dealing with His people because they were His chosen vehicle through whom Messiah would come. His Law was the expression of His perfect nature. It was never intended to refashion His people into His image. It was intended to show them what He required and how impossible it was to live up to His standard by purely human effort.
Thirdly, God was developing a culture which would lay the foundation for understanding His entire recovery plan. All the rituals surrounding the sacrificial system, for example, were to prepare them to understand the once-for-all atoning sacrifice of His Son. The laws regarding clean and unclean would teach them the seriousness of sin, its contagious nature and the need for cleansing through a blood sacrifice.
The cultural practices surrounding courtship and marriage taught them how God was wooing them as His bride and preparing them for an eternal ‘marriage’ relationship of intimacy and oneness with them/ These and many more laws and practices laid the foundation for receiving and understanding the person and work of Jesus when He came.
Imagine for a moment if God had sent Jesus, unprepared for and unannounced, into a country like India with its myriad gods, or into a Muslim country with its rigid system of Sharia law. How would the people have received Him?
What Jesus was emphasizing was that His coming changed everything. All of the types and shadows of the Old Testament system were fulfilled in Him. He is the substance of which these things were the picture. John the Baptist was the cut-off point, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, because he was not gazing at Messiah from a distance but actually introducing Him to the world. Short as his ministry was, it brought into sharp focus everything the preceding prophets had foretold.
This is where many of God’s people have gone wrong. There is a blurring of the difference between the Old and New Covenants and hence, unbiblical ideas and practices are perpetuated through misunderstanding. Let me highlight just two.
Firstly, in our understanding of prayer. A movement has grown up around the world which functions mainly on Old Testament ideas. People are taught to do ‘prayer walks’ and ‘Jericho marches’, to ‘take authority’ over principalities and powers, to identify and pull down ‘altars’ and to ‘bind’ the devil and his demons wherever the ‘spirit of’ this or that is identified. The favourite one, of course, is the ‘Jezebel’ spirit.
A thorough search of the Book of Acts does not reveal any of these practices. Instead, there is a confidence in the power of the cross through which Jesus defeated the devil, publicly exposed and disgraced him, stripped him of his weapons and set people free from his deception. The simple proclamation of Jesus as the Christ and as Lord, and the command to repent and turn to Him as the truth, set people free to begin a new life under a new Master in the kingdom of God.
Paul’s ministry in Ephesus is a case in point. Ephesus was the centre of the powerful idolatrous cult of Diana-worship. Paul’s preaching lost the silversmiths business, caused a riot and eventually transformed the city. The new believers brought their witchcraft paraphernalia and made a bonfire of it in the middle of the city. No prayer walking, no pulling down of altars, no taking authority over demons – just the simple proclamation of the Word transformed lives and destroyed the power of Diana.
Secondly, the way we understand ‘deliverance’ is faulty. Satan works through deception. His stance is that he has the power to control people, which is a lie. Neither God nor Satan have the power to control the will of man. We give power through whatever we believe. If we believe Satan’s lies, we open ourselves to his influence.
Satan’s source of power was exposed at the cross. Jesus showed the world that He did not have to respond to the worst that human beings could do to an innocent man by reacting in a sinful way. “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…” 1 Peter 2:23, 24 (NIV).
The way of ‘deliverance’ is the way of truth – expose Satan’s lies and replace them with truth. The need for deliverance implies that we are victims, needing to be rescued rather than people who need to take responsibility for what we think and believe. Confronting the devil is far less effective than helping the victim to accept responsibility for what he thinks, and to receive and believe the truth which renders the devil’s lies powerless and sends his demons packing. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” 1 Peter 5:8,9a (NIV).
So what was Jesus saying? The Old Testament era closed with the ministry of John. Jesus ushered in the new era of the kingdom of God. Everything changed when Messiah came. The power of the kingdom of God lies in the truth, embodied by Jesus and empowered by His Spirit and His Word. Now repent – change your mind and believe the good news that Jesus is in charge, no longer the devil!