“A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!’ Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, ‘I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
“The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices” (Acts 19:13-18, NLT).
What a story! We see in it, clear as day, a picture of thousands of churches, ministries and believers today. Notice a few characteristics of the sons of Sceva. They had a religious background, a second-generation tradition with a history of rituals and religiosity. They had standing and reputation in God’s house, for they were sons of the High Priest. They knew the Scriptures, and they had learned well the jargon of spiritual warfare.
But they were pathetic parakeets repeating the words, intonations, and prayer formulas while having no true communion and relationship with God. They had the lingo down pat, but there was no victory, no true supernatural authority. They knew how to keep up appearances, but had no power, no divine capacity to deliver; they were just a pale imitation with illumination. They wanted to cast out demons but they had not developed their relationship with God in the secret place. The result was dreadful and dangerous.
Are you thirsting for an anointing of freedom, authority and victory? Do you burn with the desire to walk by the faith which “gives life to what was dead”? Cry out with me, “Lord, increase my faith.” There is no limit to the delivering power, protection and strength that will be yours if you stand against the enemy with faith that says, “To men this is impossible; but to God all things are possible” (see Matthew 19:26).
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
As the New Covenant was being made, the heavenly Father and His Son foresaw that many would neglect Christ. These people would grow lukewarm or cold, eventually falling away. So, the Father and the Son made an agreement: If any sheep got lost or went astray, Jesus would go after it and bring it back to the fold.
The truth is, dead humanity can be brought back to life by a fresh flow of healing waters. “These waters . . . go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed” (Ezekiel 47:8). When God’s healing waters begin to flow, green things start springing up all around—a blade of grass here, a small plant there. Soon an entire garden is thriving.
Dear saint, God still yearns over you and He still has plans for you. In fact, you can start your life over today. He promises to restore everything that has been eaten and wasted from your life, no matter how long it has been. “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25).
You can still be His habitation, still learn His secrets and receive His revelations. Here is your way back: Acknowledge that you have neglected Him. Admit you’ve been too busy, with time for everything but Him. Confess you have not listened when He has called you. “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).
Cry out to Him now: “Oh, God, heal me. Awaken my soul. Shake me out of this slumber. I want to change. I know you have to do the work in me, Lord. I long for Your fresh touch.”
Jeremiah shows us God’s heart toward a people who neglected and forgot Him: “Return, thou backsliding Israel . . . and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord . . . Only acknowledge thine iniquity . . . turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you . . . and I will heal your backslidings” (Jeremiah 3:12-14, 22).
God is saying to you, “My child, for a while I was angry with you. I gave you over to your emptiness and loneliness. But now I’m going to restore to you everything the devil has destroyed.”
God’s Word warns: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). There is a great price to pay for ignoring Christ.
Ezekiel 47 speaks of a river of life that flows from God’s throne. This river is made up of holy, healing waters and as it flows through the desert, it brings life to everything it touches. It expands ever wider and deeper, until there is enough water to swim in.
“These waters . . . go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live” (Ezekiel 47:8-9).
This river of life represents the preached gospel and it has been flowing since Calvary. Today, millions who hear and receive God’s Word are being healed and the truth of Christ is awakening them to their neglect, sloth and apathy. Now their eyes are wide open, and they delight in Jesus. They seek Him daily, love His Word, share intimacy with Him.
So, what has happened to you? Are you swimming in God’s healing waters? Or do you allow this river to flow right past you? Note what happens to the desert areas where these waters don’t flow: “But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (47:11).
Maybe you are guilty of ignoring Jesus. You have been prayerless, disobedient, neglectful of His Word and now your neglect has become a way of life. In truth, you have aborted all the anticipation Jesus once had for you.
What does it mean to be “given to salt,” as Ezekiel states? It means total barrenness . . . fruitlessness, emptiness, dryness, loneliness. Think of the Dead Sea in Israel. It is a body of water totally given over to salt. No fish can survive in it and no plant can grow in it or around it. It is completely barren.
Have you become this kind of miry place—an isolated, dried-up marsh? Is your life barren of fruit for God? Is your daily existence empty, dry, lonely? All around you, others are bearing fruit and growing in Christ. They have been healed by God’s holy waters but you don’t possess any of the resources they have. You have become a Christian in name only.
It’s never too late to start over! Let the Lord make this the first day of a new beginning for you.
Jesus rejoiced over us before the world was made. He anticipated coming to dwell in us and making us His habitation. And He rejoiced that we would cling to Him, forsaking all others. We would seek Him daily and spend quality time with Him. He would share His secrets with us, and we would unburden our hearts to Him. We would delight in His ways, searching His Word for revelations of His righteousness, and we would tremble at the revelations His Word gave us.
The Bible states clearly that Jesus expected us to be His habitation. So, are you fulfilling His expectation? He anticipated spending a lifetime with you so is your intimacy with Him increasing? Or, do you neglect Him for days on end?
Your Bridegroom had in mind to draw you close to Himself. He wanted to open His heart to you, to have sweet fellowship with you daily. He longed to show you many things, things no one else had seen. He desired to mold your life, to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in you. And He wanted to take away your weaknesses, your fears, your feelings of inadequacy.
In turn, you were to be a delight to His heart—by your tears, your intimacy, your clinging devotion. Your words to Him were to be those of a bride: “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song of Solomon 2:3). “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice” (2:14).
The very thought of this relationship with you caused Christ to rejoice long before the world was created. Yet, now that the time has come to enjoy that relationship, you neglect and ignore the Lord. You have time to watch television, shop, surf the Internet, garden—but you have no time for Jesus. I ask you, Do you believe He will inhabit the heart of a bride who is bored with Him? Why would He continue to dwell in someone who has no time to be with Him, talk to Him, listen to Him?
Here is a solemn warning: Jesus will not abide in those who neglect and ignore Him. You may object, “But I love my Lord. I haven’t given Him the cold shoulder.” The fact is, if you have neglected prayer and His Word for weeks at a time—if you have no private, intimate relationship with Him—then you have made your statement. You have declared, “My actions prove I don’t have a passionate love for Jesus. My family, career and personal desires come first.”
The psalmist David waited daily to receive word from God and he delighted in the word he received. He testified, “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 199:16). “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors” (119:24). “I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (119:47). “Thy law is my delight” (119:77). The literal Hebrew meaning of this last verse is, “I enjoy your Word.”
Proverbs 8:34 says, “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” What is the gate referred to here?
The psalmist gives us the answer: “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord” (Psalms 118:19). I believe these “gates of righteousness” are also the “strait gate” Jesus speaks of (see Luke 13:24). They refer to anyone who turns daily to God’s Word to learn His righteousness.
Such a believer is determined to walk upright before the Lord. He gets excited at every revelation that points him on the path to a holy walk. He tells himself, “I want truth in my inner man. I know I won’t get it just by listening to sermon tapes or reading books. I have to wait patiently on the Lord so that He will open His gates to me.”
Faithfully, God’s Holy Spirit comes out to meet this believer every morning. And He invites him inside, whispering, “Welcome, friend. Let Me show you something new today about God’s righteousness.”
What does it mean to “wait at the posts of my doors”? This refers to every believer who trembles at God’s Word. The phrase comes from Isaiah 6, when the prophet waited at the doorposts of the temple, longing to hear from God.
As Isaiah stood there, he heard the seraphims singing, “Holy, holy, holy,” the skies ringing with their praises. Then suddenly, a mighty voice boomed forth from heaven, a voice so loud and clear that it shook everything: “The posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4). Isaiah is an example of someone who “waits at the posts of my doors.” This believer longs to hear God’s Word.