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The theme of this session is entitled “Casting Down Strongholds,” and it’s a session that will deal with spiritual warfare. We need to understand, first of all, why there is spiritual warfare, who is fighting who, which side are we on? So I want to turn, first of all, to Matthew 12, a passage about the ministry of Jesus which brings out the basic fact that there are two invisible spiritual kingdoms that are at war with one another. One is the kingdom of Satan and the other is the kingdom of God. I imagine most of you will have no problem of the concept that God has a kingdom. Some of you may not be aware that Satan has a kingdom. But, he does and it’s most important for us as Christians that we understand the nature of his kingdom and how it operates. Because, if we are in the kingdom of God through Christ we are automatically at war with the kingdom of Satan. You understand? Suppose I were a citizen of, let’s say, Australia. And Australia was at war with, God forbid, New Zealand. We trust this sort of thing will never even enter people’s minds. But if it were so then as a citizen of Australia I would automatically be at war with New Zealand because I belong to a nation that is at war with another nation.
So if the kingdom of God is at war with the kingdom of Satan and we are in the kingdom of God, then we have no options. We are automatically at war with the kingdom of Satan. It’s very important for us to know it, to understand the nature of the war. Let me read this passage from Matthew 12, beginning at verse 24. Jesus had just healed a man who was deaf and dumb by casting out the evil spirit that caused him to be deaf and dumb. Do you know that evil spirits cause people to be deaf and dumb? Well, when we were in Pakistan about four years ago we were ministering to Pakistanis, naturally. And God opened a wonderful door because Pakistan is 98% Moslem. We had the freedom to hold public meetings and up to 16,000 people gathered. The reason why they gathered, there was one reason. Because they had heard we would pray for the sick. That was the soul reason that most of them came. And in the course of ministry Ruth and I plunged into a crowd of men who were standing before us waiting to be prayed for. One man touched his ears and then touched his tongue. We couldn’t speak their language but I understood he was showing us that he was deaf and dumb. I knew theoretically the right thing to do. I thought I’ll do it and see what happens. I said, “You deaf and dumb spirit that’s in this man,” and I was speaking English and he was deaf and dumb anyhow so it wouldn’t have mattered what language I was speaking. I said, “You deaf and dumb spirit that’s in this man, I’m speaking to you and not to this man. And in the name of the Lord Jesus I command you to come out of this man.” Then I said to the man, “Now, say something.” And immediately he heard. He didn’t understand but he heard and he began to make sounds. They marched him up to the platform and told people that he’d been delivered from the deaf and the dumb spirit. And I said to myself this thing works. I think Ruth is here and I’d like her to check on my accuracy. I think for the next ten minutes we went around looking for deaf and dumb people. And in Pakistan they’re not hard to find. I think in the next ten minutes we saw at least ten people delivered from the condition of being deaf and dumb when the evil spirit was driven out of them. So, I just say this because it’s not a theory, it’s not some old fashioned tradition, it’s a very living up-to-date reality.
Anyhow, when Jesus did this we’ll read what happened.
“When the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.’”
They made a terrible accusation, they said He can cast out demons because He’s in league with the ruler of the demons. Jesus answered and said:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?”
So Jesus said very clearly Satan has a kingdom. And it’s not divided. Then He went on to say:
“And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges. But, if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
There Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God. So in this ministry of delivering people from evil spirits the clash between the two kingdoms is brought right out into the open. The invisible kingdom of Satan is represented by the demons, the invisible kingdom of God is represented by Jesus and by those who continue His ministry in His name.
I believe Satan particularly fears this ministry of deliverance because of two things. First of all, it brings out into the open his invisible kingdom and he’d much rather have it invisible. And second, it shows the victory and the supremacy of the kingdom of God over his kingdom. But I’m just starting with that passage to show you the New Testament reveals clearly there are two invisible spiritual kingdoms at war with one another. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of Satan.
Now, for a brief description of the kingdom of Satan and its headquarters we turn to Ephesians 6 which actually is an absolutely key verse on this whole theme. Ephesians 6, Paul says in verse 12:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Now, I would like to give you the Prince version of that verse. It’s the amplified Prince version. You ask me am I qualified? Well, I have learned Greek since I was ten years old—which is a long while now! I’m qualified to teach it at university level. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always right but I’m entitled to my opinion. So, I’m going to give you the amplified Prince version:
“For our wrestling match is not against persons with bodies...”
Now that phrase is taken from the Living Bible and I think it’s a very good phrase. We are in a wrestling match but we’re wrestling persons who don’t have bodies. That immediately causes us to adjust our thinking because we’re not used to the concept of persons without bodies—although there are multitudes of such persons in the universe.
Then he says in the Prince version:
“...against rulers with various areas and descending orders of authority.”
So it’s a very highly organized kingdom. There are rulers in this kingdom, each with a particular area of responsibility and under each of those rulers there are sub-rulers who are responsible for sub-areas in that kingdom. You might say Satan was very clever to devise such an organization. That’s not so. The truth of the matter is he rebelled against God being, as most people believe him, in charge of one third of the created angels. Brought his angels into rebellion against God with him and were cast out of heaven and simply set up a rival kingdom, keeping the organizational structure that they had when they were part of God’s kingdom. So he doesn’t get any credit for this extremely clever organization.
I’m going to do that part again.
“Our wrestling match is not against persons with bodies, but against rulers with various areas and descending orders of authority, against the world dominators of the present darkness...”
And I deliberately used the word dominate because the Greek word is a very powerful word. And I choose the word dominate because God never dominates anybody. Wherever you encounter domination it’s something satanic. That’s not how God rules people. But Satan’s ambition is to dominate the whole world, do you understand that? Not just some little part of humanity but through a kingdom of darkness to dominate the whole world.
And because his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness, the people who are in that kingdom for the most part don’t know what they’re in. See, the kingdom of God is the kingdom of light. If we’re in the kingdom of God we know where we are, somewhat. But most of the people who are in Satan’s kingdom don’t know were they are because it’s a kingdom of darkness, they can’t see.
And then, going to the final phrase in verse 12:
“...against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.”
Or, in the heavenly places. So, there are vast armies. You know, the word host is Old English for army. Vast armies of satanic beings, persons without bodies, arranged in battle order against us. It’s important that we know that, isn’t it? It’s going to make a lot of difference in our lives if we realize what we’re up against.
Now let me point out that Satan’s headquarters as stated here are in the heavenlies. We have a lot of language in the church which speaks about Satan as if he were in hell. Hell is a place of confinement for wicked persons below the surface of the earth. My comment on that is it would be nice if Satan were in hell but he isn’t. He’s very much at large, he’s very active, and his kingdom is in the heavenlies.
Most of you will then begin to say in your mind I thought Satan was cast out of heaven. You’re perfectly right. He was. The key to understanding this is that there are more than one heaven. This is absolutely essential. Actually, in the first verse of the Bible it says in the beginning God created the heavens, plural; the earth, singular. So right from the first verse of the Bible we have this revelation that heaven is plural. There are two passages in the New Testament which bring this out very clearly. The first is 2 Corinthians 12:2–4 where Paul is talking about people he knew who had had marvelous spiritual experiences. He talks about one particular person who was caught up from the earthly level into the heavenlies. He says he doesn’t know whether he was in his body or not. This is what he says:
“I knew a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which is not lawful for a man to utter.”
Paul says this fellow Christian he knew was caught up into the third heaven. He also says he was caught up into Paradise which would seem to suggest that Paradise is in the third heaven. Since there he heard the words of God, the third heaven would apparently be the dwelling place of God. I am a logician. I can’t escape from logic. One thing I am convinced of, if there is a third heaven there must be a first and a second. There never has been a third of anything without the first two. So that scripture tells us there are at least three heavens. And, that’s what I believe.
We have a phrase that people sometimes use when they’re very happy, they say I was in the seventh heaven. I don’t think that’s scriptural. As a matter of fact, I think it’s probably taken from the Koran. So if you’re feeling very happy just tell people I was on cloud nine. Because, the Bible reveals there are a lot of clouds in heaven. But my point is there are at least three heavens.
Let me give you one other scripture, Ephesians 4:10. Speaking about what happened to Jesus in death and resurrection it says:
“He who descended into hell is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”
So Paul says Jesus ascended far above all the heavens.
I was a teacher of English as a second language in Africa and I learned there are certain pitfalls in the English language. Some of you may have struggled with them. And one is the use of the word all because you can’t use it in certain situations. For instance, one of my students came to me one day and he said, “Please sir, all my parents have come to see me.” Well, I said, “I understand what you mean but you’ve got the wrong word because you can’t have more than two parents and you can’t use the word all of less than three persons.” So, when Paul says above all the heavens there must have been at least three heavens. I believe that’s what there are.
I’ll offer you just my opinion and I’m not claiming that this is necessarily scriptural but it seems to me the third heaven is the heaven of God’s dwelling place. It’s the holy heaven. And remember that God dwells even above heaven, that’s stated in many places. Then the first heaven I would suggest could be the visible heaven that we see—the sun, the moon, and the stars. So in some way there remains a second heaven which is never called the second heaven, which is somewhere between the visible heaven and the heaven of God’s being. Personally, I believe that’s where Satan’s kingdom is located.
Let me just offer you this theory and maybe you’ll think I’m very naive. Ruth and I travel a lot by jet airplanes. And recently on the way from New Zealand to Singapore we were flying at an altitude of 39,000 feet, which is a long, long way up. When I get that high I sometimes have the feeling I am above Satan’s kingdom. It’s like it’s easy to pray. You don’t have to fight your way through opposition. This may be completely my subjective impression. But somewhere or other between God and us is a hostile kingdom which opposes us and seeks to hinder our prayers. And that’s why sometimes we have to pray through. You understand? It’s not that we’re praying out of the will of God, it’s not that God is unwilling to hear but we have to penetrate a hostile kingdom in the heavenlies to reach God.
Rather than speculate, I want to give you passage from the book of Daniel which very clearly reveals that this is so. I’m not going to read the whole chapter but if you’re interested, you would do well to read the chapter for yourself later. Daniel 10. This chapter relates how Daniel set aside a period of three weeks for special prayer and he did what we’ve come to call a Daniel fast. He didn’t give up all food but he only ate the plainest and simplest food and he drank no wine and he ate no meat. And he was mourning before God on behalf of his people Israel who were captives of a Gentile empire. And at the end of three weeks a very glorious angel came to him with the answer to his prayer which was a revelation from God of what would be the future of his people, which consists of Daniel chapters 11 and 12. But, the angel said to him the first day you began to pray your prayer was heard and I was sent with the answer to your prayer. But, he said, it took me three weeks to get through because somewhere between the throne of God and Daniel on earth I was opposed by satanic angels. I had to force my way through those angels. So it’s very clear that at the time of Daniel somewhere between God’s throne and earth there was this satanic kingdom. I believe it’s still there. It was still there when Paul wrote Ephesians 6:12 which was at least thirty years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In other words, whatever the situation was it wasn’t changed by the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus ascended far above Satan’s kingdom but Satan’s kingdom still remained in place.
And then the angel told Daniel I’ve come with the answer to your prayer and when I leave I’m going to have to fight my way back through the same angels and then I’m going to have to fight other satanic angels. The angel that came to Daniel said on my way here the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days. So for twenty-one days these angels were battling in the heavenlies.
And he also speaks about kings of Persia. In the language of the King James, which is used here, I understand the prince was the supreme ruler, the kings were sub-rulers. But they are all concerned with the kingdom or the empire of Persia which at that time was the largest and most powerful empire on earth. It had 127 provinces. So, Satan had one super angel who was responsible to him for the whole kingdom of Persia. But this super angel had other angels that were responsible for different areas within the kingdom of Persia.
This is no theory for me because I’ve seen in many instances and cases how this principle works. For instance, let’s suppose that there were major cities in the empire of Persia, which there were. I think there was one sub-angel over each major city. As I travel from city to city and place to place I’ve learned that to be effective in the ministry in a certain city very often I have to identify the particular satanic power that’s at work in that city. And it’s different from city to city to city.
Again, there were a lot of different nationalities in the Persian empire and my observation is that many times there’s a particular satanic king over a particular racial group. Taking the United States which is made up of many different racial groups, and where I’ve lived now for more than twenty years, my clear impression is that different racial groups have different satanic powers over them. And in dealing with those racial groups spiritual it becomes important to identify the power that’s over them. For instance, as everybody knows there are a lot of black Negroes in America. I have no prejudice against black people. I love them, I have a black daughter. But they are the descendants of people who were taken there as slaves. I’ve shared this with black Americans. You find that most black Christians can only get so far and something seems to stop them. I’ve shared my opinion that you came as slaves, you’ve been politically emancipated but you’ve never been spiritually emancipated. You’re still under a spirit of slavery.
Now Paul speaks about a spirit of slavery in Romans 8 when he says we have not received a spirit of slavery again but the spirit of the God which makes us sons and daughters of God. And when he’s talking about slavery, if you look at the context, he’s talking about religious legalism. People whose religion consists of sets of rules, do this, don’t do that. My observation again is that nearly all black American churches are extremely legalistic. Hardly any of them know the real liberty of God’s grace. What is the reason? The reason is that that spirit of slavery has never really been dealt with. It still has a measure of control over them. They’re Christians, many of them, and some of them are very lovely Christians. But as a group they’ve never been set free.
Take another group in the United States, the American Indians. Basically the United States is a country of liberty. Unfortunately, liberty has been carried much too far these days. It’s a country where almost anybody can prosper because of the nature of the economy and the laws and so on. You don’t have to have a doctorate in philosophy to prosper. In fact, you probably do better without it. But there’s one group that basically has never prospered, the American Indian. They’ve never prospered financially, they’ve never prospered socially, and spiritually they are still in awful darkness. They are basically all practicers of witchcraft, and very powerful witchcraft. It’s a tragedy. But my impression is until someone with vision understands the root problem of the American Indians and is prepared to do the spiritual warfare to release them, they’ll remain in bondage.
I’ve been wise enough to take my examples from a distant land. But, I think if you ponder what I’m saying, in a little while you’ll begin to see that there are similar principles operating in Asia. Very strong principles.
When the angel had finished telling Daniel about this he said when I go I’ll have to fight again with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and then after that I’ll have to fight with the prince of the kingdom of Greece. Why Persia and Greece? Well, because there were four Gentile empires that dominated God’s people Israel and their land and the city of Jerusalem. And you see, the battle is always most intense spiritually where God’s kingdom’s issues are focused. So wherever God is at work you’ll find that Satan will be at work also. His very name means the resistor. See? He resists God’s purposes and God’s people. He can’t help it, he’s a slave of his own nature.
So, there were four successive Gentile empires that dominated Israel. Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Now, in Daniel’s day Persia was still the dominant empire but the next one to follow it would be Greece. And so we see that the spiritual warfare, in a way, relates to God’s people, God’s purposes and, in a sense, it’s necessary to carry out this spiritual warfare in order for God’s purposes for His people to be fulfilled. And Daniel is a marvelous pattern of somebody who by prayer and fasting and intercession changed the history of his people.
Let me now read the passages that I’ve been quoting very quickly. Daniel 10:2–3:
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
The period of three weeks is emphasized. Now, the angel that came to him said various things and then in verse 12 this is what he said:
“Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.”
So somewhere on the way from God to Daniel he was opposed by the prince of the kingdom of Persia for twenty-one days. And in the end another angel of God, the archangel Michael, had to come and join in the conflict. If you read further on in Daniel, Michael is called the great prince or angel that stands up for the children of your people, that’s Israel. So, as a matter of Biblical interpretation you find this helpful. Wherever Michael is on the scene, Israel is center stage in human history. See, because he’s the particular angel that has the job of looking after Israel. And believe me, that is a pretty tough job.
Going on, he says in verse 20 of Daniel 10:
“Do you know why I’ve come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia.”
In other words, the battle isn’t over yet.
“And when I’ve gone forth, indeed, the prince of Greece will come.”
That’s the next major Gentile empire. And you can understand behind the history of these human empires there are satanic forces at work that really are the explanation of what happens. You really cannot fully understand human history if you only look on the horizontal human level. Because, the real forces that determine the destinies of nations and people are in the heavenlies. And then he says in verse 21 of Daniel 10:
“But I will tell you what is noted in the scripture of truth, no one upholds me against these except Michael your prince.”
Again, the archangel Michael. Then you go on to the first verse of the next chapter which is part of the same message:
“Also in the first year of Darius the Mede, I, even I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.”
There’s a clear example of the intervention of angels in human history. Why did God’s angel stand up for Darius? The answer is because God’s people Israel had been captured and enslaved by the empire of Babylon and Darius was the ruler of the Persian empire that destroyed the empire of Babylon and released God’s people to return to their land, which was God’s purpose. So behind all the human forces and the horizontal plane there is a vertical plane and there are angelic forces, both angels of God and angels of Satan, that are at work. And human history is to be explained by the interplay of all these forces.
Now, why we are significant as Christians is because God has given to us and us alone the weapons by which we can intervene in this spiritual war. Governments have armies and weapons that will deal with other nations. Only the Christian church has the weapons that will intervene in the spiritual realm in the heavenlies. And you understand, the one who wins in the heavenlies ultimately determines the course of history. So the most significant thing you can do in history, in a sense, is be an intercessor and pray through the spiritual issues in the heavenlies that will determine the history of nations on earth. See, Daniel is just a perfect example.
As I’ve said already, we are involved in this war. That’s not an option. The only decision you can make is whether you’ll be part of the kingdom of God or not. If you’re part of the kingdom of God you are at war with the kingdom of Satan. That’s not something you can decide, you just better get equipped and learn how to fight. Because if you don’t, you’re going to be a casualty.
Going back to Ephesians 6, Paul immediately after speaking about Satan’s kingdom in the heavenlies tell us we better put on our armor. And I’ll read this rather quickly, beginning in verse 13:
You know what I said about therefore? What’s it there for? Because of verse 12 which is Satan’s kingdom in the heavenlies.
“Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Paul says there’s going to come an evil day. An evil day comes in the life of every one of us. Whether we stand or not depends on whether we’ve got the equipment that we need. And then Paul lists the armor and it’s taken from the battle armor of a Roman legionary in his day. This is the picture. There are six main items of armor which we’ll look at very quickly, we’re not going to comment on them.
“Stand there therefore, having your waist girded with truth...”
You have a belt that you wear around your waist and it’s truth.
“...having put on the breastplate of righteousness...”
You have a protection over your chest which protects your heart and it’s righteousness. Not the righteousness of works but the righteousness of faith.
“...having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace...”
You have sandals that protect your feet and enable you to march far and fast, which Roman legionaries would do. What’s the protection of you feet? It’s the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Now, let me just interject. If you want more information I have a tape somewhere in my long list of tapes that deals with each one of these pieces of armor. I’m saying that because I don’t want to hurry through this but I want to get beyond the defenses to the attack, you understand? If I get bogged down in defense we’ll never reach attack.
“...above all, taking the shield of faith...”
This is a great big shield shaped like a door which could protect every part of your person from the arrows of the enemy. And then it says:
“...take the helmet of salvation...”
What part of you does the helmet protect? Your head. What does your head stand for? Your thought life, that’s right. And it is so important we know how to protect our thought life. God has provided a helmet. Here it’s called the helmet of salvation. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 it’s called the helmet, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. You know what protects your mind? Hope. You’ve got to be an optimist. If you’re a pessimist your mind is open to the attacks of Satan. I have another message on that because it’s something I learned by experience. I was born and brought up a pessimist. I suffered agonies in my mind until I learned I had to change and that I had a helmet that would protect my mind.
“...take the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The spoken word of God. Notice you’ve got six items of equipment, all of them are defensive except the last one, the sword. Which is a weapon of attack but only goes as far as your arm can reach. But the seventh weapon is the weapon and it’s in verse 18:
“...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”
Here is where we can reach out and assail Satan’s kingdom in the heavenlies. It’s with the weapon of prayer in the Spirit. So we have seven items of equipment, five are defensive, the sixth is the sword which can only reach as far as your arm reaches, but the seventh is what I call God’s intercontinental ballistic missile. What is it? All prayer. We can assail Satan’s kingdom with the weapon of all prayer.
I’m coming to the very thing that I wanted to deal with. We’re going to go back to Matthew 12 and I’m going to show you one more verse. And really, all I can do is stimulate your thinking but that’s a lot. If the church would only start thinking we’d be undefeatable. It always impresses me that Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation by pinning up ninety some theses. He couldn’t pin up the answers, he just got them started thinking. And when they started thinking things changed. See? It’s important that we learn to think.
Now we read in Matthew 12 about Jesus’ answer about the two kingdoms. The next verse is very important, verse 29:
“Or else how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man? Then he will plunder the house.”
This is in connection with the warfare of the kingdoms. It’s what I call the principle of the strong man. Jesus pictures a house with a strong man, a despot, a cruel ruler, who has in his house slaves, all sorts of stolen goods. But he’s got everything under his control and it’s very difficult to go in and set his slaves free or steal, get back his plunder. If you go in, all the time you’re trying to free his slaves you’re fighting off the strong man. See? And you may end up wounded. Jesus says that’s not the logical way to do it. The logical way to do it is to begin by binding the strong man. Tie him up, put a gag in his mouth; then you can walk in and out at liberty and help yourself to what you need and set his captives free.
This is a spiritual principle. If you want to be successful in any given situation you’ve got to discover who is the satanic strong man over the situation. Then you’ve got to bind the strong man, then you can do what needs to be done in the situation. But the principle is first bind the strong man then set his captives free.
As I said, Satan’s kingdom descends from level to level with persons, angelic beings with areas of responsibility. And they come down, the lowest ones are pretty small areas. And generally speaking, you don’t start at the top, you start where you are. And you learn the principles of warfare and then you can move on until you’re dealing with a strong man over a city or even over a nation. But you don’t normally begin there. If you have problems in succeeding in doing the will of God, in breaking through spiritually—maybe in your family, maybe in a business, maybe in a church—and somehow things are not going the way you feel they ought to go but you don’t understand the problem, my suggestion is in all probability there is a strong man over that situation. And you will not be really successful until you deal with the strong man. I will speak from experience. I told the other evening that I’m the head of a large family which now has about 120 members. Our family is made up of adopted children. Basically, it’s a good family. We love one another, we’ve stuck together in all sorts of difficult situations. We’re still in contact in relationship right across the world. But, I was aware—well, I have to say it this way. Where I was living after my first wife died before I married Ruth, I was a widower for two and a half years. It’s a tradition in our family that we meet as a family on Christmas Eve and celebrate. We meet, of course, in our home normally. At that time I had a big house. So the day before Christmas Eve I was pondering over the family coming together. Although we love one another and have basically good relationships, when a lot of the family come together I always felt a certain tension, a certain pressure. Partly I think it was various daughters hoping that I’d take more interest in their children than some other daughter’s children. I thought to myself there must be something behind this. I was lying on my back in bed about 11:00 o’clock at night and I said, “God, what is really behind this?” It was like a kind of gray mist appeared in my room just below the level of the ceiling. I understood that God was showing me this was the power that makes relationships difficult in your family. So I asked God what is it and he said self righteousness. I pondered a little bit, I thought about my first wife. She was a wonderful Christian but like many wonderful Christians she was very concerned to do the right thing and very occupied with doing the right thing. That’s a step towards self righteousness. Then I thought about myself and I said it certainly fits me. So I saw that our family was to some degree under the influence of a spirit of self righteousness because both my first wife and I were open to it.
You see, the parents in a family should be the spiritual umbrella protecting the family. But if there’s a hole in the umbrella then things get through that shouldn’t come in. See? So I thought the first thing I do is repent, renounce self righteousness for myself because you can’t do much for other people if you have the problem yourself. And I did. And then I said, “God, let that power of self righteousness over our family be broken in the name of Jesus.”
When we came together the next day it was quite different. Something that had pressured us just wasn’t there. So that’s just one example. You may have it in a business. You may be a Christian businessman. It may be that you really want to use your finance and your talents for the Lord but somehow your business never really prospers the way it should. And just when you’re on the point of breakthrough you get frustrated. I want to suggest to you there’s probably a strong man over your business. I don’t know exactly what it could be, it’s not my job to know. It’s your job to find out. I don’t go around solving everybody’s problems but I try to tell people how to solve their own.
And then when we come to nations the same is true. We have Brother Warren here somewhere. I was in New Zealand, which is a nation I know well, I’ve visited probably ten times at least. I love the people of New Zealand. But I was in a meeting there a few years back and I was teaching on this and they said what’s the strong man over New Zealand? I said it isn’t my business to tell you, it’s your business to find out. They were leaders. But they kept on so I thought, God, maybe you’ll show me. And I felt God had shown me. There was a friend of mine, a well known New Zealand Christian who had come in late to the meeting so he was sitting right at the back with his daughter beside him. Eventually they pressured me and I said if you want to know I believe the strong man over New Zealand is indifference. They’re a very friendly warm people but they don’t, in a way, take life seriously. Their attitude is it will work out all right in the end. In fact, what they say in New Zealand is she’ll be right, Jack.
Well, the man who’d come in and was sitting at the back at the moment I said that turned to his daughter and said it’s indifference. I’d have to say from then till now New Zealand basically—politically, socially and spiritually—has been on the decline and the problem is what? Indifference, that’s right. Until the New Zealand Christians come to grips with that problem I think they’re not going to be really able to deal adequately with the whole situation.
We’ve got Australians here. I’m bold, I was in Australia and was faced with the same issue. Well, I said, if you want to know what I believe, the spiritual problem of Australia is rejection. You have to be careful what you say with Australians but, as you know, or you may not know, it was founded as a penal colony. Prisoners were given the opportunity to go to Australia or forced to go to Australia. So you find in the background of the thinking of the Australian people is this sense we were kind of outcasts, we were rejects. And God gave the most beautiful prophecy when I was teaching on this to a brother in Australia, a New Zealand brother in Australia. He said God was going to heal that nation, God had compassion. In fact, God called it the nation born in chains. But He said He was going to break those chains. I believe that. I believe there’s a tremendous revival coming to Australia in the near future.
We could go on. What’s the strong man over the United States? Of course, there are many forces in the nation but I would say essentially rebellion. You see, the United States was conceived in rebellion. It’s an amazing thing. In history we British talk about the American War of Independence. The Americans call it the American Revolution. It’s just astonishing. I’m not criticizing those who revolted, if I’d been a Britisher in the days of George Washington I would have done the same. But the fact of the matter is that the nation was conceived in rebellion. And there’s something that goes very close with rebellion. How many of you know what it is? Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, that’s right. And the other strong power over the United States is witchcraft. That’s just simple examples.
Dear Lord, how did I get into this! Anyhow, what’s the problem with the British? Again, the British are complicated people. I mean, you can’t just say it in one thing. But I tell people if you want to know the difference between the American and the British—and I’m both—the Americans will tell you how good they are but the British expect you to know without being told! I don’t have any doubt the strong man over Britain is pride. I don’t say this to be critical. My aim is to diagnose in order to be able to deal with the problem.
Now, let’s come to some of the weapons that we can use and we’ll have to close. First of all, prayer. Let me give you just a few scriptures about each. Matthew 18:18 and following. Jesus is speaking:
“Assuredly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
That’s a tremendous statement. The Greek actually says whatever you bind on earth will be having been bound in heaven. So the moment you bind it on earth it’s bound in heaven. See? We have the power to intervene in the heavenly realm. If we meet the conditions on earth we can bind something on earth which is bound in heaven. Or, whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. If a group of persons, a family, a community, even a nation, are bound by certain spiritual forces, if we meet the conditions on earth we can loose them and what we loose on earth shall be having been loosed in heaven. In other words, Jesus says you bind it on earth and when you look around it’s bound in heaven.
See, in a way we’re not waiting for God, God is waiting for us. An attitude of passivity is hardly ever pleasing to God. But, Jesus attaches some conditions.
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
So, the word agree in Greek is symphonize or harmonize. So attached to the promise of binding and loosing is the condition of being able to harmonize. If two people harmonize in prayer and ask for anything, they’ll get it. But it’s not easy to harmonize. I believe the reason for that promise is because the only way we can harmonize is by the Holy Spirit. And if we harmonize by the Holy Spirit we’ll harmonize on what God wants. You see? But it’s a tremendous challenge, especially to Christian couples. If a husband and wife can harmonize, they get whatever they pray for. But it’s not easy to harmonize. How many of you would agree with that? It’s pretty easy to be almost in harmony but musically almost in harmony is excruciating. See?
And you’ll find that the devil will fight your harmonizing every way he can because he’s afraid of it.
And then we’ll say thanksgiving. That’s another tremendous weapon. Let me point out to you something very interesting about the ministry of Jesus. In John 6 when Jesus fed the 5,000, verse 11 says:
“Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down.”
Jesus did not pray. All He did was give thanks. And giving thanks over five loaves and two fishes made them sufficient to feed 5,000 people.
And a little further on in John 6:23 it says:
“Other boats came from Tiberius near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.”
What released the miracle? Giving thanks.
And then praise. Psalm 8:2, God says:
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings he has appointed praise that he may silence the enemy and the avenger.”
Who is the enemy and the avenger? Satan, that’s right. Why does he need to be silenced, what is he doing? All the time? He’s accusing us before the throne of God. Why doesn’t God silence him? Because God says I’ve given you the weapons to silence him.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were in prison, the maximum security jail, bound hand and foot. And at midnight they prayed and praised and God sent an earthquake that released the whole prison contingent and opened every door. What released that earthquake? Praise, that’s right.
And then proclamation. This is the one that Ruth and I are majoring on these days. You see, Moses was called by God to go and deliver Israel out of Egypt. He said, “God, I don’t have anything.” God said what’s that in your hand? He said, “That’s just my shepherd’s rod.” God said throw it down on the ground and it became a snake. Moses ran from his own staff. He didn’t realize the power he had in his hand. God said to him all you need to deliver Israel is that one staff. Go back and use it. And if you read the story, with that one staff Moses wrested the rule of Egypt out of the hand of Pharaoh and took it over on behalf of God and brought about the release of Israel.
You say I don’t have anything. God says what have you got in your hand? A Bible. That’s all you need. Just take that staff and stretch it out. How do you stretch out the staff. By making proclamation of what the Bible says about you.
Ruth and I, I would say, never a day passes without our making proclamation. We’ll make Deuteronomy 33:25. This is our proclamation, with this we close:
“The bolts of our gates will be iron and bronze, and our strength will equal our days. There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help us, and on the clouds in His majesty. The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out our enemies before us, saying, destroy him.”
That settles it.