At the center of the occult, either openly or disguised as an “angel of light” is Satan. Peter exhorts believers concerning our chief foe when he writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NASB).
Christians often have the tendency to “blame it all on the devil,” when in fact it was their own carelessness or fleshly nature which led to the sin or error. It can also be said, however, that even when it is our fleshly nature or the world which draws us from the Lord -and not the devil directly -it is nevertheless true that Satan and his army of demons desire that we be drawn to the world’s standards.
Satan is the one who ultimately desires that we pursue the lusts of the flesh, and it is he who sits as the “god of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-10). Though not always directly involved, Satan’s prime objective is the defeat of God, and for us that means our defeat.
The authority of the believer spells out the authority a believer has over Satan and his efforts to thwart God’s desire for our lives and his attempt to defeat us.
For the rest of your life, one of the most important Scriptural messages you’ll ever consider is found here.
As you study the Old Testament, you see that men and women were in a constant struggle with Satan, fighting many spiritual battles. As you study the life of Christ, and Paul, and the other Apostles, you see a constant spiritual struggle. Christians today face many spiritual battles.
I’m so glad I learned the authority of the believer before I went to South America. The authority of the believer is a possession that belongs to every true child of God. And it gives so much authority over the enemy that Satan has tried to blind most believers to the authority they have.
During Easter week at Balboa, I first learned of the authority of the believer. About 50,000 high school and college students came down for Easter. With André Kole, the illusionist, we packed out a big ballroom several nights in a row -for two or three meetings a night. So many people were coming to our meetings, in fact, that many of the bars were empty. It really irritated some of the people. The second night, one of the men from a night club came over to break up our meeting. They figured if they broke up one of them, that would finish it for us.
As André was performing, this guy pulled up with his Dodge Dart all souped up. With a deafening sound, he popped the clutch and went roaring down the street. Everyone inside, of course, turned around and looked out to see the commotion. Finally, André got them settled down.
Then the guy went around the block again. As he stopped out front, he revved it up again and roared down the street. By this time everyone was whispering and wondering what was going on. Some stood up, trying to look out the window.
When the guy went back around the block again, I knew that if he repeated his performance one more time, it would break up the meeting. Turning to Gene Huntsman, one of our staff members, I said, “I think Satan is trying to break up this meeting. Let’s step out in the doorway and exercise the authority of the believer.” So we stepped out and prayed a very simple prayer.
When the guy came back, he started to rev it up again, and as he popped the clutch -pow! The rear end of his car blew all over the street. By that time, we just thanked the Lord and went over and pushed him off the street. As I shared the Four Spiritual Laws with him, it reminded me that Jesus said all authority is given to the believer in heaven and in earth.
Now, to point out what the authority is, let’s look at Luke 10:19: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (KJV).
Two separate Greek words are used for power here, but one English translation. The first one should be translated authority, not power. The Lord is saying, “Behold, I give you authority over the power of the enemy.” The Christian does not have power over Satan; he has authority over Satan. Let me give you an illustration.
I used to live in Argentina. Buenos Aires, the second largest city in the western hemisphere, has six subway lines, one of the longest streets in the world -almost 60 miles long, and one of the widest streets in the world – 25 lanes, almost three blocks wide. One street is called Corrente, which means current. It is a solid current of traffic -sometimes considered one of the longest parking lots in the world.
One intersection is so busy, about the only way you can make it across is to confess any unknown sin, make sure you are filled with the Spirit, commit your life to the Lord and dash madly! But one day we approached, and an amazing thing took place.
Out in the center of the intersection was a platform, on which stood a uniformed policeman. About 20 of us waited at the corner to cross. All of a sudden, he blew his whistle and put up his hand. As he lifted his hand, all those cars came to a screeching halt. With all of his personal power he couldn’t have stopped one of those cars, but he had something far better; he was invested with the authority of the police department. And the moving cars and the pedestrians recognized that authority. So, first, we see that authority is delegated power.
Second, let’s examine the source of this authority. Paul writes, “And what is the surpassing greatness of His Power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:19-23, NASB).
When Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we see the act of the resurrection and the surrounding events as one of the greatest workings of God manifested in the Scriptures. So powerful was the omnipotency of God that the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, used four different words for power.
First, the greatness of his power-in the Greek-is dunamis, from which comes the English word dynamite. Then comes the word working – energios, where energy comes from – a working manifestation or activity. The third word is strength -kratous -meaning to exercise strength. Then comes might, or esquai-a great summation of power.
These four words signify that behind the events described in Ephesians 1:19-23 are the greatest workings of God manifested in the Scriptures even greater than creation. This great unleashing of God’s might involved the resurrection, the ascension and the seating of Jesus Christ. “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Colossians 2:15, NASB). Satan was defeated and disarmed. All of this unleashing of God’s might in the resurrection, the ascension and the seating of Jesus Christ was for you and me -that we might gain victory right now over Satan.
The source of our authority over Satan is rooted in God and His power.
Third, what are the qualifications you must have to be able to be consistent in exercising the authority of the believer?
First, there must be knowledge, a knowledge of our position in Christ and of Satan’s defeat. At the moment of salvation we are elevated to a heavenly placement. We don’t have to climb some ladder of faith to get there. We are immediately identified in the eyes of God -and of Satan with Christ’s crucifixion and burial, and we are co-resurrected, co-ascended and co-seated with Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and power, authority and dominion and above every name that is named.
The problem is that, though both God and Satan are aware of this, most believers are not. And if you don’t understand who you are, you will never exercise that authority which is the birthright of every true believer in Jesus. So the first step is knowledge.
The second qualification is belief. A lot of people really don’t comprehend one of the primary aspects of belief, which is “to live in accord-ance with”. This is not merely mental assent, but it leads to action. You could say it like this: That which the mind accepts, the will obeys. Other-wise you are not really a true believer. Do we actually believe that we’ve been co-resurrected, co-ascended, co-seated with Jesus Christ? If we do, our actions will be fervent.
We should wake up each morning and say, “Lord, I accept my position. I acknowledge it to be at the right hand of the Father, and today, through the Holy Spirit, cause it to be a reality to me, that I might experience victory”. You talk about space walking! A Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit and who knows his position with Christ is walking in the heavenlies. I put it this way: Before you can be any earthly good, you have to be heavenly minded. Your mind should be set at the right hand of the Father, knowing who you are.
Often, when I wake up in the morning, while my eyes are still closed, I go over my position in Christ, thanking the Holy Spirit for indwelling me, etc. But every morning, I acknowledge my position in Christ. I don’t have to drum it up -I ask the Holy Spirit to make my position real in my experience.
The third qualification is humility. While belief introduces us to our place of throne power at the right hand of the Father, only humility will ensure that we can exercise that power continuously. Let me tell you, ever since Mr. and Mrs. Adam occupied the garden of Eden, man has needed to be reminded of his limitations. Even regenerated man thinks he can live without seriously considering his total dependence upon God.
Yet, humility to me is not going around saying, “I’m nothing, I’m nothing, I’m nothing. I’m just the dirt under the toenail. When I get to heaven all I want is that little old dinky cabin, that’s enough for me.” That’s an insult to Christ. It’s not humility -it’s pride. Humility is knowing who you are and knowing who made you who you are and giving Him the glory for it. Sometimes, when I hear a person claim he’s nothing, I say, “Look Sir, I don’t know about you, but I’m someone.” I am someone. On December 19, 1959, at 8:30 at night, Jesus Christ made me a child of God, and I’m sure not going to say I’m nothing. Maybe I’m not all I should be, but I am more than I used to be, and God’s not finished with me yet. I know He has made me, and I won’t insult what God has made.
The next qualification, the fourth one, is boldness. Humility allows the greatest boldness. True boldness is faith in full manifestation. When God has spoken and you hold back, that is not faith, it is sin. We need men and women who have set their minds at the right hand of the Father and who fear no one but God. True boldness comes from realizing your position in Jesus Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The fifth and final qualification is awareness, a realization that being at the right hand of the Father also puts you in the place of the most intense spiritual conflict. The moment your eyes are open to the fact that you are in that place, that you have been co-resurrected, co-ascended and co-seated with Christ, Satan will do everything he possibly can to wipe you out, to discourage you. You become a marked individual. The last thing Satan wants is a Spirit-filled believer who knows his throne rights. Satan will start working in your life to cause you not to study or appropriate the following principles which show you how to defeat him.
Going through all of the above was necessary to lay a foundation on which you can exercise the authority of the believer. Here is how I do it. Remember, authority is delegated power. Usually I speak right out loud and address Satan directly, “Satan, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…”. I always use this point first because those three names -Lord, Jesus and Christ -describe His crucifixion, burial, resurrection and seating, and His victory over Satan. “Satan, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross, I command you to stop your activities in this area.” Or, “Satan, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross, I acknowledge that the victory is Jesus’ and all honor and glory in this situation go to Him.” I speak to Satan in various ways, but I always use those beginning phrases because they remind him that he is already defeated.
Next, I realize there is nothing I can do. I have no power over Satan, I only have authority. And the more I learn of the power behind me, the force behind me, the greater boldness I have in exercising the authority of the believer.
Once the authority of the believer is exercised, though, we must be patient. Never have I exercised that authority that I did not see Satan defeated, but I have had to learn to wait.
Some time ago, for example, I was to speak in a university in South America. Because of the university’s Marxist leanings, I was the first American to speak there in four years, and it was a tense situation. Big photographs of me had been posted all over campus and the Communist students, trying to influence the other students to stay away from the meeting, had painted “CIA Agent” in red letters across the posters. I thought CIA meant “Christ in Action.” Anyway, it backfired. Most of the students had never seen a CIA agent, so they came to the meeting to see what one looked like, and the room was packed. However, as is often the case when someone speaks in that part of the world, professional Marxist agitators had also come, and their intent was to disrupt the meeting.
When I go to another country I like to speak as well as possible in the language of that country. So I pointed out to the audience that I was learning their language and that night I would be lecturing in it. Well, I started, and, oh, it was horrible! My back was against the wall -the chairs were about five inches from me. And one after another, these agitators would jump up and throw accusations at me, call me “a filthy pig;” etc., and hurl words at me that I didn’t even know. Right in front of the audience they twisted me around their little fingers. I couldn’t answer them; I didn’t even know what they were saying. I felt so sorry for the Christians who were there because they had looked forward so eagerly to my coming to the campus and to seeing people come to Christ.
After 45 minutes of this heckling, I just felt like crying. I literally wanted to crawl under the carpet. My wife asked me one time, “Honey, what’s the darkest situation you’ve ever been in?” And I said, “It was that one.”
By this time I was ready to give up. Every time I even mentioned the name of Jesus they laughed. I had exercised the authority of the believer, and now I thought, “God, why aren’t you doing something? Why? Isn’t Satan defeated?” Well, I wasn’t walking by faith. You see, God works when it brings the greatest honor and glory to His name, not to ours.
Finally, God started to work. The secretary of the Revolutionary Student Movement stood up, and everyone else became silent. I figured she must be someone important.
She was quite an outspoken woman, and I didn’t know what to expect. But this is what she said. “Mr. McDowell, if I become a Christian tonight, will God give me the love for people that you have shown for us?”
Well, I don’t have to tell you what happened. It broke just about everyone’s heart who was there, and we had 58 decisions for Christ.
I’ve learned to exercise the authority of the believer and then to walk by faith and to wait. Sometimes I have had to wait six months or a year, but in the long run, when I look back on a situation and see how God has been glorified, it is beautiful.
And I never repeat the exercise of the authority of the believer in a given situation. Satan only needs one warning. God will take care of it from there. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”