One of the gifts of the Spirit is called distinguishing between spirits. We were told to test the spirits for a reason. 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” You need to be able to tell whose spirit is directing the prophet, God or satan. It’s not the man or women you are discerning, it is the spirit in them. Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There will be people teaching in the church that are guided with evil spirits and you can tell by what comes out of their mouths. 1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” We also have been told 1 John 2:18 “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” We need to discern these spirits. Most in the church cannot tell one from the either.
                The interesting part here is like we talked about on Sunday. The two groups, the cessationists and the continuationists each think the other has the deceiving spirits, while both have them. Here is an example of this lack of distinguishing between spirits. I recently became aware of a man name Costi Hinn. “Costi Hinn, nephew of famed faith healer Benny Hinn, recently shared his experience of being in the prosperity gospel circle where he used donations for his lavish lifestyle.” He shares his testimony of how he left the prosperity lifestyle and wrote a book called God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel where he talks about the deception of the prosperity gospel. He even has another book called Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement. This testimony sounds great on the surface as he departed ways with a false prophet Benny Hinn and his theology. Now here is the interesting part. He has literally jumped out of the pan and into the fire. He started off on the Benny Hinn side of the scale and then jumped in both feet to the John MacArthur side. One guess as to who wrote the forward of this book Defining Deception; that’s right John MacArthur. Now coming from the charismatic side of the scale who believe in the gifts of the spirit and distinguishing between spirits, you would think Costi would know that John MacArthur is also a false prophet, just not charismatic. So here you have a person writing a book about deception while connecting with another false prophet and being deceived yet again and then continuing to deceive others who listen to him.
                My point is the church desperately needs God to turn His face and shine on us once again so that these gifts will become normal in the church just as they were with Jesus and his disciples. We see a powerful example of these deceiving spirits in Kings and they are the same ones that are at work today. Ahab and Jehoshaphat were going to go to war against king of Aram and Jehoshaphat said to Ahab 1 Kings 22:5 “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” 6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” What an answer as they all said go and be victorious so you would think that this message was a confirmation from God but listen to how Jehoshaphat responded, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” 8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah. The king should not say such a thing, Jehoshaphat replied. ” They went and retrieved Micaiah and he was told 12 “All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” We know that King Ahab did not like Micaiah because he always prophesied badly about him. Micaiah gets there and says “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” But Ahab even though he didn’t like him, knew there was a different answer to what his prophets had told him. 16 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’” 18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” 19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ 23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” 24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked. 28 Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”
                It is very important to understand this is happening in the church today. Many leaders are saying attack and be victorious but it is not God that is speaking. The church has been enticed by deceiving spirits to follow the wrong path. We were warned about false teachers and prophets and they are everywhere in the church, as are these spirits. No they are not just charismatics like Benny Hinn, they are also fundamentalists like John MacArthur one of the biggest proponents of cessationism. The four hundred said attack and be victorious but the one said disaster has been decreed for you. Prophets down through the ages have been killed for speaking the word of the Lord and they are still being killed today. These spirits are still here and we desperately need God to pour out His Spirit on us once again as truth has been thrown to the ground. Daniel 8:12 “Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.” 
                Most are not aware that these spirits have infiltrated the church as many think that when Jesus rose from the grave and conquered death, the demonic was also defeated. For most in the church the demonic is not part of their conversation nor is the ability to cast them out but as we see 1 John 3:8 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.” This was also to be the work of the church because obviously the devil is still at work. Yes, only the power of God can destroy the devils work and Jesus did do that but we were to continue His work. Luke 7:21 “At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.” Luke 8:1 “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.” After Jesus rose from the dead, he did conquer death and there is no more sting, as Paul tells us, but after Pentecost, the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit cast out evil spirits. Acts 5:15 “People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” Acts 8:5 “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” We also saw this with Paul Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” Noticed how in many cases sickness is tied together with evil spirits. In this same chapter we see something amazing Acts 19:13 “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
                I think many in the church today are blind to the power of satan among them; some are afraid and some are just ignorant while others lack knowledge. Paul said he was called Acts 19:18 “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” We are still called to do this. Yes in the next case Jesus cast out a demon and said never to return to him specifically but as I showed you earlier the evil spirits are still around after Jesus left this earth. Mark 9:25 “When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. In this example Jesus shows us they are still here and this is why. Matthew 8:28 “When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.” Mark described it this way. Mark 5:6 “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.” Luke said Luke 8:30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” So they did not go to the Abyss meaning they are still here.
                Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil and then empowered His church to continue doing the same. His disciples went out and cast out demons. The church was to carry this on also but while the charismatics talk about the demonic, in the church as a whole there is not much emphasis placed on getting them out of the church, let alone getting them out of people who don’t attend church. The charismatics though they talk about it are affected the same way as the non-charismatics are as we saw with our example of Costi Hinn. This is why distinguishing between spirits is so important. Think about this example. Luke 13:10 “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” How many today are bound by satan and do not even know it because this gift is missing? We were told what the church should be. Matthew 18:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” When you see a person bent over, do you think that is too bad or do you think is that person bound by satan? When you see someone physically or mentally sick, do you think of the presence of evil spirits? Do you leave your thoughts at that or do you seek this power to cast them out just as Jesus empowered His disciples when Luke 9:1 “He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick, but He also said to them Luke 10:20 “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The church is not proclaiming this same kingdom.
                The demons still should be submitting to us but where are there. The church seems to have moved on from them, not even aware of their presence. The truth is that most would fall to their knees if they could see what was around them. We are at war but the church is not fighting with the power God had given us. Instead we rejected His way for our way. We need the power of the Holy Spirit so we can defeat our enemies once again. The demons are still here but the power to cast them out is not nor is the gift of distinguishing between spirits. You can’t be victorious if you don’t know where they are. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they are not here. So we pray that we will do as Jesus did once again. Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” We don’t want to be like Acts 23:8 “The Sadducees who say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits.” Once again we pray that we will do as Jesus empowered His disciples to do. Matthew 10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Just a reminder this Lenten journey is about returning to how the church was supposed to be by repenting for not following the word of God. Hopefully you are becoming very discontent with the church, as you know it. This pandemic has exposed the powerless church.