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By What Authority Do You Live?

Luke 4:5-7; Luke 9:1-6; Luke 10:1-20

Jim Davis

Satan came to Jesus saying, "If you worship me I will make you ruler over all the kingdoms of the world, and you will enjoy all their splendor" (Luke 4:5-7). We may want to think that Satan really couldn’t give Christ the kind of authority he was promising, but he really could.

Satan’s power is very real. In Christ’s revelation to John, Jesus portrayed Satan as that old dragon having a throne and great authority. Satan gave authority to the beast of the earth to rule over every tribe, people, language and nations—all the inhabitants of the earth worshipped the beast. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast to which Satan had given authority. Satan gave the beast power and authority to make war against the saints. The beast empowered by Satan represented the Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-10).

Satan has been defeated, but his power to rule our world continues to be a reality. "We may not pay [Satan] reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person, who has, for untold centuries, maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest earthly order." (Mark Twain. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 3.)

Christianity is, at its heart, the way of denying the authority of Satan. Spiritual authority flows not from titles and positions but from a life that is genuine. Christians are no match for Satan, and when he wants to fight you must turn to Jesus Christ, who is more than a match for all the devils in hell. When we turn to Christ he places God’s seal of protection upon us and gives us his authority over Satan.

There are many voices in our world shouting orders, telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives. One voice signals one thing and another voice quite the opposite. But the voice we must listen to is the voice of Christ, for he has all authority in heaven and on earth.

Christians Face the Opposition of Demons

When Jesus sent his disciples out he gave them authority over all the demons as they went about healing the sick and preaching the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-6). Later he sent out seventy-two disciples, two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about go. He reminded them that he was sending them out like lambs among wolves. When they returned rejoicing they said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." Jesus replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:1-20 NIV).

The snakes and scorpions Jesus refers to represent the destructive forces of Satan that they would meet. When these disciples confronted the kingdom of darkness in the name of Jesus Christ they discovered that even the demons were subject to them. It would be foolish for us to think that Christ would ask his disciples to do something while refusing to give them the authority and power needed.

Christ promises individuals his authoritative power over evil spirits today. It wasn’t something only promised to first century Christians.

Mark 6:6-7
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. NIV

John 14:11-14
1 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. NIV

Jesus promises the church his authoritative power.

Matt 16:19-20
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." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. NIV

Matt 18:18-20
18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." NIV

Christ authoritative power promises us victory.

Revelation 2:20-29
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.

26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-

27'He will rule them with an iron scepter;

he will dash them to pieces like pottery'-

just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. NIV

When Christ extends his authority to us he simply gives us a right and the power to rule with him. All authority has been given to Christ in heaven and on earth. When we choose to be obedient to him he gives us his authority. His authority gives us a right to proclaim the gospel. But it is his power that enables us to exercise our rights. Our position in Christ gives a right to proclaim the good news, but it is our willingness to walk in the Spirit that empowers us.

Have you ever worked for some one who gave you the responsibility to do the job, but refused to give you the authority and power to make the necessary decisions to get it done? God wants us to know that he has given us the responsibility and the authority to make the necessary decisions to get the job done. Jesus charged his disciples with the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel, but he also gave them the authority and power to enable them to accomplish the task.

Do you know why the Japanese make such good cars? They have empowered the workers on the assembly line with authority which has empowered them to be a part of the decision making. If the assembly line worker sees something that is not working the way it should, he/she has the authority and the power to become part of the decision making process to change it.

Christ has given us his authority and power. Paul writes, "his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 1:19-20 NIV).

Christ has disarmed the rulers and authorities of our world; he has triumphed over them. Satan walks around as a roaring lion. He looks and sounds ferocious, but he has been neutered, defanged and declawed. If he can deceive you into believing that he can chew you up and spit you out, you will live as though he can.

God’s Formula for Accessing His Power

It is true that Christ has given us his authoritative power, but Satan seeks to rob us of his power. He seeks to blind us to God’s formula for success.

John 1:10-13
"He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (NIV).

John 1:12-13
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (KJV).

When we believe in Jesus Christ we receive the right to become children of God through God’s power. The King James Version says, "He gave them power to become the sons of God." Satan convinces us to look for some person other than Christ to believe in. He convinces us that if we had the right teacher, we could learn. Satan convinces us that we should withhold ourselves until we find a completely genuine person or a completely genuine church. We may look for a church to live up to our personal ideas of how things ought to be done. But there is a terrible fallacy in this type of thinking. We are seeking to place our faith in ourselves. This is true because we are trying to locate a place in our world where everyone’s thinking is conformed to our way of thinking.

However, it is belief in Christ that empowers us in a world that refuses to conform to his way of thinking. In the city of Thyatira there was a woman referred to as Jezebel seducing the church to fornication. God is at work trying to change her way of thinking through warning her of her judgment. But he promised power to those who refused to give in to her teaching. They would be empowered by living within the authority of God. God’s enabling power for the faithful individual was not dependent upon Jezebel’s repentance. It was promised regardless if the church as a whole ever accepted God’s authority for living.

When we place our faith in Christ he gives us power to become a child of God. When we seek for others to conform to our way of thinking, we are seeking to empower ourselves through our way of thinking. Satan deceives us into believing that empowering self is the same thing as trusting in the power of God. This kind of thinking will allow Satan to defeat us. We are no match for Satan without the power of God.

In Jesus’ temptation it is obvious how important it is to trust in the authority of God. God’s authority is found in Scripture. When Christ faced Satan in the wilderness he countered every request of Satan with Scripture. However, Satan was also using Scripture. Both were saying, "It is written . . ." When Satan said, "It is written," he was questioning the authority of God. When Jesus said, "It is written," he was countering Satan with God’s authoritative Word.

Peter spoke under the authority and power of Christ on Pentecost. Those listening asked, "What shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." "In the name of Jesus Christ" simply means in the authority of Jesus Christ.

The amazing thing is that when they submitted to Christ’s authority in baptism, they defeated Satan’s grip on their lives—for they were forgiven. It was then that they were given the powerful Holy Spirit to sustain their lives. When they responded to the authority of Christ God gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit on those baptized on Pentecost was equivalent to receiving life from God. It was then that they were reborn as God’s Spirit came to give them the life. It was comparable to God giving man the breath of life in Eden. Only this time it was the breath of eternal life.

There is one other element very closely associated to belief—it is humility. We must humbly place our faith in Christ. In so doing Christ becomes our confidence as we place our faith in him. Christ did not shrink from his responsibility. He did not shrink back from using his authority, but he revealed great humility because he did everything according to what his Father told him to do.

Humility allows us to "glory in Christ Jesus and puts [places] no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). Humility leads us to understand that we can do nothing without Christ (John 15:5). However, that doesn’t mean that we are not supposed to do something. It simply means that whatever we do we must do under the authority and power of Christ.

Have you ever noticed the confidence of a police officer or a sheriff’s deputy? They exude confidence. Their confidence is the result of their authority and power. They not only have the authority to control the traffic, they have also been given the power to do so by the state, city or the county. They couldn’t do their job if they had the authority but no power to enforce their authority. They have no authority in and of themselves, but they receive the authority and power to do their jobs as they humbly submit to the authority of the law.

Matthew 7:28-29
"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (NIV).

Likewise Christians receive authority and power as they humbly submit to Christ’s authority revealed to them through Scripture. The seventy disciples came back from their mission saying, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

We must allow the gift of God’s authority and power to lead us to arrogance. Jesus replied, "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:1-20 NIV). We must humbly exercise Christ authority—in his strength and in his name.

Humility gives us courage as we face the demonic onslaughts. Solomon writes, "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1). As Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi singing praises to God the foundations of the earth were shaken. Their humility gave them boldness in the midst of their humiliation. Paul wrote to Timothy saying, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s power comes to us when we in gentleness instruct those who oppose themselves.

John’s Revelation gives us a glimpse of the courage Christians had as they humbly exercised the power God had given them.

Revelation 20:4
"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands" (NIV).

Revelation 21:6-8
"He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death’" (NIV).

Our faith, humility and courage are demonstrated as we become dependent upon the action of God. Dependence upon God is an essential element in overcoming Satan.

In his book Spirit Life, D. Stuart Briscoe gives a formula that can lead to better self-control, but it is also a great formula for dependence upon God. He says, "I have found it helpful . . . to ignore the aspect of truth that comes easily and concentrate on the one which may require some degree of discipline. For instance, when I find myself in a situation where it is easier for me to relax when I ought to be taking action, I concentrate on naked obedience . . . On the other hand, when I confront a situation to which I instinctively react with drive and determination, I consciously try to remember to depend on the resources that are mine through the Spirit."

Sadly, many of us would like to fight Satan on our own strength. We would like to become filled with God’s power to a point where we would no long have to depend upon God. D. L. Moody said, "A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it!"

Dependence upon God’s power to overcome Satan is much like the Israelites receiving their daily manna from heaven. God gave them enough for one day at a time. They were forced to humbly wait upon God each day. They forced to exercise their faith. They were forced to be bold enough to trust God. Through it all they learned dependency upon God.

The world needs to witness the Christians dependence upon God. The world needs to see our dependence upon God as we humbly exercise our faith with boldness.

An ocean liner was sinking and the captain yelled, "Does anybody know how to pray?"

A minister on board said, "I do." "Good," said the captain. "You start praying. The rest of us will put on the life belts. We are one belt short."

In a large metropolitan hospital a famous surgeon always spent a few moments alone before entering the operating room. Because of his remarkable skill and calm composure, many of the young doctors wondered if there might be a relationship between his outstanding success and this unusual procedure. Finally one of the interns got up enough courage to ask him. "Yes," replied the specialist, "there's a very definite connection between the two. Before each operation I specifically ask the Great Physician to be with me and to guide my hands. I freely admit that on many occasions I am confronted with very delicate situations or unexpected conditions in my patient, and I hardly know what to do next. At such times I immediately become conscious of God's help. He always gives me the wisdom I need to complete the surgery successfully. Therefore, I never take my scalpel in hand without first seeking His aid."

This story spread rapidly by word of mouth throughout the city. Then one day a father brought his little daughter to the hospital. Although he couldn't remember the name of the physician, he said he wanted to talk with specialist who "worked with God" and was noted for praying. The man expressed confidence only in him, and insisted that he should be the one to operate on his child.


"Through many years of active public life and through observing many kinds of people, I have found that the strongest, wisest, most competent and reliable man is the one who is first to admit his own inadequacy. Contradictory though it may sound, he is strong because he is humble, and he always remembers that man is a creation of God. No rule of life is more basic. When one leans on his own understanding, lives by his own strength, boasts of his own accomplishments, and claims he is his own master, the result is untold suffering. Even though his position is maintained and his material wealth increases, success quickly turns to failure when God is forgotten. There is no peace of mind, no personal satisfaction, no experience of true inner joy. To trust in the Lord with all the heart is a mark of strength! It is the only path to true fulfillment." These statements were not written by a great theologian or a renowned evangelist, but by J. Edgar Hoover, former head of the FBI.


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