Can God use nonbelievers to cast out demons?

Monday Musings for July 22, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

Jesus’ name is not a talisman… as the seven sons of Sceva found out while casting out demons (Acts 19:13-16) … but that is not to say that it doesn’t have power in this arena. Many demons were cast out in Jesus’ name! (Luke 10:17). But the world is not a pure place, so we should not be surprised when people try to work around God — nor should we be surprised when they have some success doing so.

But note this well: the only way to the truth is through the Truth… and it is a waste of time trying to travel around him. But more to today’s point, it’s a waste of time trying to dodge the sufferings that naming his name will likely bring. In fact, it’s characteristic of mature Christians that they will identify with Jesus’ sufferings on the cross (Philippians 3:10) and not just invoke his name.

Christianity — done right and well — is not jumping on a bandwagon… as some are wont to do at events like a Memorial Day parade. But fortunately for our country, an impulse like that can take a serious turn. Many people revere our war dead so deeply that they too take an oath to defend our constitution… and then they leave their comforts, their fortunes and their families to risk it all… and to join America’s fight for freedom.

Christianity is like that… except that ours is a foreign land (as opposed to “the world” which is our current residence) (1 Peter 1:17). But Jesus is not just concerned with the homeland. He is concerned with us personally… so, he secured our personal freedom here… here in this strange land (John 8:31-36).

Now, bandwagons are okay as long as we understand their role. But when the sons of Sceva tried to jump on Jesus’ bandwagon, even the demons called them out! “Who are you?” they asked… but the force of the question was, “Who do you think you are!” — and that’s my question, too. Who do you think you are?

Hopefully, you are a co-sufferer with Christ. Just be warned: we do not suffer for suffering’s sake. (Who needs extra suffering added to their lives!) But if we are truly following Christ and advancing God’s kingdom here on earth, then we will suffer in stride… and this is appropriate. In fact, our sufferings prove that we are disciples and not just hangers-on (Romans 8:17).

But how can we tell when we’re merely on the bandwagon? … because sometimes the bandwagon riders do legitimate kingdom work… like casting out demons back in Jesus’ day. One thing to note is that those were different times and places than today. Demon possession was perceived as so common that casting them out became a cottage industry among the Jews.

Now, I believe there is such a thing as demon possession… but I don’t see it as common. This may be because I live in a developed country… or because I do not travel in charismatic circles… or because I’m not quick to call mental illness demon possession. The wash is, I don’t deal overtly with demons in the day to day because they don’t deal overtly with me.

However, I believe that countless demons are continually working covertly against God and his kingdom… and that the Lord’s Prayer is well taken and appropriate for this age: protect us from evil! But as I go through my day, demon possession is mostly just a theory for me. It’s something I subscribe to — like an item in a creedal statement that I don’t understand fully.

There is also a strong possibility that because I live in America, I’m too distracted… and that my spiritual senses have become dulled through the constant worldly stimulation. If this is true, then perhaps it is also true that I can no longer sense the “normal” level of overt demonic activity — and when you think about it, that would be quite a coup for the enemy!

Either way, I doubt that my conditions and sensibilities represent the human norm… and that most of the people who have ever lived do not have my level of distraction. So, what’s their perception of the unseen world… and what’s their vision for how we should handle it?

In Matthew 7:21-23 we see where people were successfully casting out demons in Jesus’ name… in spite of the fact that they didn’t belong to him! … and for the most part, these types of people are still around. So my question is, why aren’t they running down the street naked?

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