JESUS DOESN’T NEED OUR HELP
We have been looking at spiritual warfare in the first 300 years of the church. There are many lessons we can learn from how others found victory over Satan and his forces. Spiritual warfare continued to be a theme in the writings and teachings of the church leaders 200-350 AD (Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Lactanius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, John Cassian, etc.). Eventually it was believed that all non-Christians were demonized and therefore had to be exorcised before being baptized and joining the church. The established church then said a new convert had to go through a three year period of preparation called ‘catechism’ during which they met several times a week for prayer, fasting, spiritual deliverance and instruction.
As the pre-baptismal spiritual deliverances were performed, various rituals were also performed simultaneously, such as the signing of the cross, which was also believed to have exorcistic properties. Later, exorcised salt and oil were used too. And since the church by this time had come to believe that unclean spirits lived in water, the baptismal waters themselves had to be exorcised.
Since it was believed that demons entered a person in order to enjoy the lusts of sensual pleasure, the opposite kind of treatment was required to drive them out. Hence, in order to be free from demons, the most useful help was abstinence, fasting, and suffering of affliction. They felt the physical sufferings the person experienced would also bring pain to the demons and cause them to want to leave. This developed into extreme forms of self-torture in the name of spirituality and characterized much of the church during the Middle Ages.
Some felt if even this pain wasn’t enough, then prayer was called for. “But inasmuch as some, being of a more malignant kind, remain by the body that is undergoing punishment, though they are punished with it, therefore it is needful to have recourse to God by prayers and petitions ….” (Pseudo-Clementine Literature – A.D. 200-250).
Satan uses the same tactics today which he used thousands of years ago. He tries to get u to put our faith in other things, rituals, people or programs other than Jesus. Deliverance only comes by the name of Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him only. Go to Him alone. He does gift and train others to help but it is always and only Jesus who delivers.
One of Satan’s more devious tricks is to get u to think that if we punish ourselves, suffer or do without we somehow have a better change of victory. There certainly is a place for fasting and self-denial, but it never adds to what only Jesus can do. Punishing ourselves does nothing put play into Satan’s hands (Romans 8:1). True repentance is focused on God and our sin, not in out doing (or not doing) something to better deserve His mercy. Mercy is just that – undeserved favor from God.