Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Divine Appointment

Scripture: Acts 16 v 16-18: "And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 
 17  The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
 18  And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour."

Whenever you are in serious and effective ministry for the Lord Jesus it will not be long before strong spiritual opposition confronts you. In Acts 16 it started with Paul asking the Lord if he should take the gospel into Asia. The Holy Spirit refused them permission. "I forbid!"

Then Paul had a vision calling him to preach in Macedonia. The Lord had prepared a place where there was a great need. The Lord also prepared a place for the apostles to stay.   Then they were met by the woman who was possessed by a psychic demon, or spirit of divination (fortune-telling), and her pronouncements concerning the ministry actually undermined it. It does not recommend a ministry if the enemy is cheering it on!

Paul prayed deeply for many months to bind the spirit of divination or fortune telling in this woman. It had a very strong hold on her. She was possessed by it rather than oppressed which meant that it had a stronger grip on her.  Jesus told His disciples that "this kind only come out through prayer and fasting".  Matthew 17 v 20 - 21.

One day Jesus said NOW!  Paul experienced this as being pressed in spirit -  a distinct impression while you are in prayer that there is a breakthrough.  Something significant has changed and this is the moment to act.  It is the strategy of Jesus in spiritual warfare.

The stronghold was immediately broken over this woman, and the spirit of divination departed as soon as Paul rebuked it.  She lost her psychic powers immediately and those who used her to earn money from it were furious. 

The attack escalated when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison by them. In the deepest dungeon they praised God with Psalms and hymns, and He caused an earthquake to conveniently open the prison doors, releasing every prisoner.

This miracle (including that none of the prisoners ran away) caused the jailor and his family to be born again and baptized at midnight.  Baptism in water should take place as soon as possible after repentance and commitment to Jesus, and should be followed by baptism in the Holy Spirit.  This is the full salvation package.  Many people backslide into sin if they don't complete these steps. 

By this time the whole city knew about Jesus!  The fortune teller woman was set free and God was glorified. Paul and Silas were brought before the magistrate who told them to leave that city. When they left the name of Jesus Christ was widely known.  

One of the downsides of deliverance from evil spirits is the reaction of unbelievers......The demons in them get terrified and are outraged against those who use this gift of the Holy Spirit.  Compare with the end of Mark 5 where the Gadarene demoniac was set free and in his right mind.....The officials commanded Jesus and His disciples to leave that city.

The Holy Spirit had led them to a place which was prepared so that God's power and authority through the name of Jesus Christ could be displayed through His care for the wellbeing of the apostles; His desire to set the possessed woman free; His power over nature - sending an earthquake; His desire to save the soul of the jailor and his family. All these Godly acts left a strong impression on this city and all Paul's teachings would be remembered and a strong ministry established in the city.

When the Lord wants to start something He directs every stage of the operation. All we need do is follow Him and do what He tells us. When we try to add our clever schemes to His divine plan, that's when problems arise and when our programs flop we blame God for not blessing it. God only blesses what He initiates according to His own perfect will.  

When churches filled with traditions reject the Holy Spirit, He moves on but the leaders have to use human wisdom and methods to keep those churches going.  These small deviations made centuries ago, create huge chasms between God and man in the present.  They get filled with pomp and ceremony, strange changes in doctrine and belief, everything based on humanitarian programs rather than faith in God.  No wonder Jesus asked, When I return will I find faith on Earth?

We can use the book of Acts as a blueprint for how the church should be performing.  Tick the boxes to see if you are in a vibrant assembly of anointed believers, or a place where you can say faith without works is dead.  Works can best be described as supernatural activity under the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

Does your pastor/preacher/priest preach the full gospel of salvation including repentance from sin and being born again?
Are new converts baptised by immersion in water and the Holy Spirit?  
Are the sick healed by anointing with oil and prayer?
Are demons discerned and cast out?
Are there miracles like the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear and the dead are raised to life?
Does your church teach that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, and rejects Interfaith as the new politically correct religious enterprise?

If you can answer yes to these questions then you are in an exciting, vibrant, thriving, growing church which is looking for the soon return of Jesus Christ.  If you have answered no to the above questions, and you are not sure of your salvation then you need to make a plan to rectify this situation.  You have a free will to choose to follow Jesus, and I hope and pray that you do.

Prayer: Heavenly Father how wondrous You are. There are many like this woman who need spiritual help and prayer. Teach us to pray like Paul did to reach the lost, the bound, the addicted and the broken people. Teach us to wait upon You to initiate plans. WAIT means Wisdom, Anointing, Instruction, Timing. In Jesus' name. Amen.