Did the devil make me do it?

The Good Book Company have issued a new series of books covering ‘Questions Christians Ask.’  This morning I noticed a blog post listing an extract from one of the books in the series, which deals with the issue of whether Christians can be possessed by the devil.

The book looks as though it would be worth getting hold of, but I was struck by the extract mainly due to recognising the experience of the author, Mike McKinley, in being surprised at how often Christian brothers and sisters are concerned that they might be possessed by demonic forces.  Below is the extract from the book posted on the GBC blog this morning, which can also be found here.

Can a Christian be possessed by a demon?

I have been surprised at how often I hear this question as a pastor, but frankly the answer is not a simple one. If by “demon possession” we mean that someone is so controlled by a demon that they are unable to worship God, obey his commands, and control their behaviour, then the answer is clearly “no”. Scripture says plainly that the entrance of God’s salvation into a believer’s life will prevent that kind of satanic control.

  • Sin will not have dominion over Christians, who have been raised with Jesus. Romans 6 v 14
  • God dwells in his people and walks among them, and thus there can be no fellowship between God’s people and Satan. 2 Corinthians 6 v 15-16
  • The Spirit of God, who lives in believers, is stronger than the devil. 1 John 4 v 4
  • Believers are no longer citizens of the domain of darkness but are citizens of Jesus’ kingdom. Colossians 1 v 13

So we must reject the idea that a Christian can be possessed, controlled, or dominated by a demon. Jesus has bound Satan and set God’s people free from his dominion (Matthew 12 v 29). There is no way for Satan to exercise that kind of authority and power over someone who has been bought by Jesus’ blood.

But, if we leave aside the word “possession” and think instead in terms of demonic “influence” or “attack”, then we have a clearer sense of how demons relate to God’s people. This is what is reflected in the experience of King David, which we read about in the book of 1 Chronicles: Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 1 Chronicles 21 v 1 We are not told how exactly Satan “incited” David, but it was part of a larger satanic programme of opposing God’s people. Unlike Job, who withstood Satan’s assaults faithfully, it seems that David succumbed to the temptation due to his pride and military ambition. But at no point do we have any reason to think that David (or anyone else in Israel) was unwittingly under the control of Satan or his demons.

In the New Testament, we read that Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and that a messenger from Satan harassed the apostle Paul (2 Corinthian 12 v 7) and frustrated his plans (1 Thessalonians 2 v 18). We are also told that the evil one looks to devour believers like a ravenous lion (1 Peter 5 v 8). He schemes against God’s people, engages them in spiritual combat and attacks with fiery darts (Ephesians 6 v 11-16). Demons can tempt, influence, and attack God’s people, but to say that they can “possess” a Christian doesn’t make sense of the biblical evidence.


The course of your life

Here’s a video from St.Mary’s Church Wootton, reflecting on The Course of Your Life, by Tony Payne.

After having run the course at our church last year, with plans well under way to run it again in a few months time, what I like about the video is how much it reflects our own assessment of how helpful the course is in challenging individuals about their faith and encouraging them towards servant-hearted, word based ministry to others.

Whatever you do, don’t mention the LORD

We’ve just heard the Word read and proclaimed, sung the praises of our great God, and petitioned him for mercy in our time of need. And then we spend our time afterward talking about last night’s movie, the game, the hobby, the state of the nation, or whatever.Anything but the great truths of the gospel we’ve just heard and by which we’re saved. Why do we do this?

Colin Marshall has a very helpful article here on why we often find it hard to talk about spiritual things immediately after our worship services have ended.  There are also a number of thoughts to encourage us to speak more about our great God and his amazing salvation that we have hope,fully just heard about in the sermon.  These include the following: Continue reading

Bishopettes – a devastating blow for ‘all’ concerned

The Telegraph has a some comments from the Bishop of Manchester on the vote on women bishops within the Church of England, which is going ahead today.  Should the vote fail:

“It would be a devastating blow to the morale of people across the Church of England.

“It would be a devastating blow to the morale not least of our female clergy.

“It would be a major deterrent to continuing to attract into the ordained ministry able womenand many able men too.

It would also, in my view, do real harm to the credibility and mission of the Church of England to the people of this nation.

“They simply wouldn’t understand.

So that seems to be everyone’s feelings considered apart from the Living Lord God.

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  – 1 Timothy 2:11-13

And what is God’s answer to those who seek to shape their ministry on the voices of others rather than on His Word?

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction. – Malachi 2:8-9

Like firewood in a fireplace

Over here, Tim Keller and The Gospel Coalition are about to launch the New City Catechism.

In the article Keller notes,

Superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living—careerwise, communitywise, familywise, and churchwise—are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today.  (J. I. Packer and Garry Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel)

How can we reshape the lives of people who have grown to breath the evangelical air that Packer and Parrett describe above?

Since May this year we have been looking through the Westminster Shorter Catechism on Sunday evenings and we are now three quarters of the way through the one hundred and seven questions.  During that time I’ve heard comments like, Why are we looking at this again?, and Westminster Shorter Whatichism?

Catechisms are however  a great tool for learning the basic Biblical plot-line, Christian doctrine and practice and have been used throughout the last 500 years of the church with both young children and new adult converts.

Keller lists a number of reasons why catechesis can be a particularly helpful in understanding better the faith once delivered to the saints, but I particularly like what he says concerning catechising children.

Catechesis done with young children helps them think in biblical categories almost as soon as they can reason. Such instruction, one old writer said, is like firewood in a fireplace. Without the fire—the Spirit of God—firewood will not in itself produce a warming flame. But without fuel there can be no fire either, and that is what catechetical instruction provides.

I’ve mentioned before that a great way of getting children to know great gospel truths found in the WSC are the 4 Questions with Answers CD’s that are available for download from Songs for Saplings.

What shapes my ministry?

Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is now available here.

There’s an extract from the book here, which includes the list below  of 29 heart issues that shape a pastor’s ministry as much as if not more than knowledge, experience and gifting.

Read the list carefully, it should not only be helpful to pastors but also to people who are committed to praying for their pastor.

  • What does he really love?
  • What does he despise?
  • What are his hopes, dreams, and fears?
  • What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry?
  • What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him?
  • How accurate is his view of himself?
  • Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
  • Is he committed to his own sanctification?
  • Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
  • Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?
  • Does he see pastoral ministry as a community project?
  • Does he have a tender, nurturing heart?
  • Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering?
  • What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him?
  • Does he sit under his own preaching?
  • Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word?
  • How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life?
  • Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord?
  • Does he hold himself to high standards, or is he willing to give way to mediocrity?
  • Is he sensitive to the experiences and needs of those who ministry alongside of him?
  • Is he one who incarnates the love and grace of the Redeemer?
  • Does he overlook minor offenses?
  • Is he ready and willing to forgive?
  • Is he critical and judgmental?
  • Is the public pastor a different person from the private husband and dad?
  • Does he take care of his physical self?
  • Does he numb himself with too much social media or television?
  • If he said, “If only I had [                      ],” what would fill in the blank?
  • How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?

Preachers and their critics

There’s a helpful blog post here by Brian Hedges on preaching and criticism that should be profitable to both hearers and preachers.

For Hearers

Be careful. It’s dangerous to sit under the ministry of God’s Word with a critical ear. If you don’t watch your heart, you will impoverish your soul. Look for defects in the sermon and you’ll always find them. But don’t develop a critic’s mindset. Instead, come to worship with eyes peeled and ears perked for the Word of the living God.

For Preachers

Take your critics seriously. Almost every criticism contains a germ of truth. Your job is to find it. Maybe you weren’t clear enough. Perhaps the sermon really was too long, or had too much content, or was over people’s heads. Spurgeon once reminded his students that the Lord commissioned Peter to feed his sheep, not giraffes. Whatever the critique, give it some thought. You will learn something.