You want a better neighborhood? You want a more peaceful neighborhood? You want a safer neighborhood?
You want all peace? If you do, Dr. Tony Evans says you need to be praying for your earthly leaders. Influence the influencer because every influencer has a heavenly counterpart. This is The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of The Urban Alternative. Sometimes it seems like nothing we do makes a difference, and Satan is an expert at using that attitude to keep our neighborhoods under his control.
Let's join Dr. Evans as he explains how you and your church can break out of isolation to be the salt and light your community needs. Today, we want to look at the fourth kind of stronghold, and that is whole communities, cities, nations can be held hostage in this realm of spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare presumes something. It presumes that there is an invisible battle in the heavenlies that is responsible for every visible battle on earth. We are told by Paul the apostle that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers that are in heavenly places. So that what is up there can make a mess of what is down here.
Conversely, what is up there can solve what is down here. And that is why when you and I have to battle a battle on any one of those four categories—personal, family, church, or even in our society—where we do not start up there, we could very well be wasting our time down here, because we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Look with me, first of all, in understanding this problem at Colossians chapter 1. Here's what we read about Jesus Christ in verse 15. He is the image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.
He is the visible God-man, the firstborn of all creation. For by him, by Christ, all things were created, both in heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him. In heaven, there are thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. On earth, there are thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. When the two get together, heaven provides the energy, good or bad, for the throne, dominion, principalities, and power to operate. So when you hear evil men doing evil things through institutions, well, those men are evil and what they're doing is evil, but they are being controlled like a puppet on a string by somebody outside of themselves. And that is why, listen to me, if you've got a throne problem on your job, a wicked boss, that's why.
If you've got a throne problem in the state or the city government or the national government, if you've got a throne problem in some sphere of life, the first thing to do is not to fuss and cuss about the throne you're up against. The first thing to do is to get heaven acting on your behalf up there so that they can help you down here. Satan seeks to control the soul of a community through its institutions, because communities are collections of people and therefore the management of those communities are institutional in nature. Industry is good, business is good, government is good, it was all created by God, but we know that those good things can become evil.
But the same principle that operates with an individual operates with a institution, and that is the powers that be are under the influence of the evil one. Turn to Exodus chapter 1. Now we know the story of Exodus, the children of Israel are hostage in an institutionally pagan place called Egypt. An unrighteous throne, Pharaoh, he had unrighteous demons controlling him, the idols or the gods of Egypt.
He had an unrighteous regime, unrighteous laws, it was an unjust, oppressive environment. It says in verse 7, but the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased and multiplied and became exceedingly mighty so that the land was full of them. A king rose up who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we are. Now that's an interesting statement by a mighty king about a people who only had shepherd hooks.
They didn't have any fighting weapons. They said, come now, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply in an event of war. They also joined themselves to those who hate us, they join our enemies, and fight against us and depart. So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor, and they built for Pharaoh storage cities.
Israel helps out the enemy. They build storage places so the enemy is well off while they starve him. And that's exactly what the devil wants you to do. He wants to make life so miserable, like Pharaoh, that you're satisfied to be a slave, you're satisfied to have no victory, and you even wind up helping Satan out.
You wind up building storage places for Pharaoh. And unfortunately, the church has helped Satan out by our theology of powerlessness. The theology of powerlessness that simply wants to get by.
The theology of powerlessness that is not able to distinguish between a trial and a burden. When we say give thanks for everything, we're saying give thanks for everything that is of God. If my child is on drugs, I don't say, Lord, thank you, my child is on drugs.
I say thank you, Lord, that you have the power to deliver my child who's on drugs. So what you want to do is thank God for what he can do through a trial, but you don't thank God for burdens because then you excuse irresponsibility. Israel had become content to be slaves helping out the enemy. In fact, verse 14 says, and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them. They weren't supposed to say, oh, thank you, Lord, we're miserable.
That was the enemy's agenda. So don't let Satan dupe you into giving thanks to God for things that are from him. Satan wants to keep you in a spiritual kitchen. He doesn't want you to become a soldier of the cross, because if he can keep you in a spiritual kitchen and keep you from becoming a soldier of the cross, he'll never have to worry about you leaving his kingdom. And some of us have been in Egypt so long we wouldn't even know how to operate in the Canaan, because we accept as unchangeable what is the will of God. Now, the good news, by the way, in this is chapter 2, verse 23. Now, it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died, and the sons of Israel sighed because of their bondage. They were saying, oh, life is so miserable.
How you doing? Okay, under the circumstances. They sighed because of their bondage, but please notice 2nd and verse 23, and cried out. And their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. God heard their groanings, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them. They transformed their earthly problem with their secular community to God upstairs. And he said, let me come down here and get in this. And the story of Israel's deliverance from Egypt did not begin until they cried.
Until a contact was made by heaven, there was not a change in the structure on earth. They were duped into giving up until they remembered God. Too many times, we are a relief agency and not an army. We just want to patch people up. We don't want to set people free. And God wants to set people free, not patch them up. Secondly, the power over these kind of community strongholds is just like the power of any of the other ones in Christ. Let's look again at Colossians 2. He says in Colossians 2, 14, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which were hostile to us, he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When he had disarmed the rulers, he's talking about up in heaven now, and authorities, and you remember from chapter 1, authorities include earth, so he's disarmed the ones in heaven, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through him. Jesus Christ disarms in chapter 2, Paul says, what he created in chapter 1. Now, in chapter 1, when he created them, they were good. Sin made them bad. He won over them, according to chapter 2, by virtue of his work on the cross. So even thrones, dominions, authorities, and powers no longer have the final say so. Jesus has overcome their demonic influence.
What does that mean? It means we've got to get people who are Christians in places like that who will bring Jesus Christ to bear and righteousness to exist in those institutions. Because Jesus Christ, by virtue of his cross, has overcome the spiritual part of it.
You say, well, why doesn't he come down here and overcome the physical part if he's already overcome, 2,000 years ago, the spiritual part? Ephesians 1. Paul prays, look what he says. I pray, verse 18, that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, which is of the glory of the inheritance and the saint, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of his strength and his might, which he brought about in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in heavenly places. Where? Verse 21, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, remember Colossians, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but in the age to come, now get 22 and 23, he has 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.
Why? If he's done it in heaven, does it not exist on earth? Because the body's not doing anything. The head has done his job.
The body's job is to fill the head. That is, implement, carry out, execute, apply what has been accomplished by Christ on the cross. And if our communities are going down, it's because Christians have spent all of their lives in church. Nothing wrong with being in church, but it means we have not taken the kingdom of God beyond the four walls so that God's people are everywhere, demonstrating the everywhere that they are that Jesus is Lord.
Because if they were, we would be seeing a greater impact in our culture from Christians. When Dr. Evans comes back in just a moment, he'll have some specific thoughts for us about what the church should be up to, so don't go away. First, though, I want to tell you about your last chance to receive our current special resource package. It includes Tony's powerful teaching collection called Spiritual Warfare, one of the most popular series we've ever offered, as well as your choice of either Victory in Spiritual Warfare or Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare. Either of these companion books can help equip you to stand against the enemy's attacks on your spiritual life, family relationships, and more. Just visit tonyevans.org today or call 1-800-800-3222, where resource team members are standing by 24-7 to assist with your request. I'll have that information for you again after part two of today's lesson and this. If you're like most Christians, there are people in your life who know you but may not know Jesus. You really want to do something about that, but don't feel equipped to share your faith effectively.
In other words, maybe if you knew more, you could do more. Well, that's where the Tony Evans Training Center comes in. It's an online Bible school with classes that will take you deep into the most important core concepts of the faith. You can start with our free introductory course on evangelism, then move on to subjects like spiritual warfare, marriage building, maturing in the faith, and many more. The content is challenging, but you can move through it at your own pace any time you're online. There's also lots of custom content from Tony and an online forum where you can get your specific questions answered.
Go to tonyevans.org and follow the link to the Tony Evans Training Center. It's like having a seminary on your smartphone. So what is our job? Well, Ephesians 3 tells us, in order that the manifold wisdom of God, verse 10, might be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. The church's job is to make known, to advertise, to manifest the victory of Jesus Christ up there, that it might be worked out down here. That's the authority. The church is then thus called to respond, verse 11.
This was in accordance with his eternal purpose, which he carried out in Jesus Christ our Lord. It means that I want to fix my own personal life. It means that I want to fix my family.
It means I want to have a strong church, but it also means I want to make a difference in this cold, hard, satanically controlled, evil, sinful world. And I don't want our community held hostage by drug lords. I don't want our community held hostage by criminals. We don't want our community held hostage by evil people. Someone has said, you don't want anything to happen. All you have to do is have good people do nothing. So that leads us finally to the scripture I had to take another look at after working through this process, 1 Timothy chapter 2.
He's writing about the church and how the church should operate, but he throws a curveball in there in 1 Timothy chapter 2. First of all, not second, third, fourth, not if you have time. Not after everything else you've tried has failed. First of all, I urge you.
I'm not just asking you. I urge you that entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all men. He says, first of all, I want to underline that word first, because I believe what he's saying is if you do it second, it's too late. Paul tells Timothy, first of all, if we can ever get people to respond to prayer like we get them to respond to people, we'd be too much to handle. First of all, he says, don't let anybody off the hook. Offer it on behalf of all men.
Why? Because prayer engages the heavenlies. It was understood all through the writings of the New Testament that if you really wanted to change something, the person you had to talk to first was God.
If you want to try to save your marriage, take all the vacations you want to, but first of all, but look at verse 2. When you're praying first of all, make sure you pray for kings and all who are in, guess what, authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness. You want a better neighborhood? You want a more peaceful neighborhood? You want a safer neighborhood? You want all peace and tranquility?
That means to be able to live life in a way where you don't have to be afraid every minute of the day and you don't have to be controlled by evil? He says, well, then the thing you need to do, first of all, you carry those public officials to the throne of grace. Now, why? Because it is those who are in authority who influence and can shape the quality of life for those under their domain.
That's why. In other words, influence the influencer because every influencer has a heavenly counterpart, and what they do controls what happens down here. Remember, authority. Let me show you one other passage, Matthew 18 and closing. And here's the verse you've read, probably quoted, and I think perhaps misunderstood. Truly, verse 18 of, chapter 18 of Matthew says, I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.
Now, watch this. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. The issue here is not the number of people praying where two or three are gathered, okay? Sometimes people get the idea if at least two of us are in the room, whatever we pray for, we're going to get.
Well, that can't be what it means, now can it? The issue is in agreement. So one thing you must have is when we go to God, we're going to hear from Him, we must have agreement. The second thing that we must have is His name. Now, that does not mean, Lord, I ask you these blessings in Jesus' name, amen. Jesus is not your errand boy. His middle name is not Santa Claus, all right? In His name, in the Bible, the word name means authority.
Whenever the Bible uses the word name and talks about God's name, it's talking about His authority, His power. Now, watch this. You agree on something. You come together based on that agreement under Jesus' authority. Now, you say, well, what's the point?
The point is this. When you agree on something and then get together to get God to do the something you agreed on, the something that you agreed on, Jesus must be in agreement with it too. In other words, you cannot agree on something that Jesus has no intentions of doing, because then you have a non-authoritative agreement, and that's why we're not getting more answered prayers, because we're trying to get our errand boy Jesus to agree with us and do for us what we want Him to do.
No, no. Jesus is trying to get us to agree with Him. Since when two or three are gathered together under my authority, there am I in the midst. In the midst means there's a circle.
Two or three, four or five, how many? They're in the circle. Jesus is in each one in the circle. But that does not mean He's in the midst, because in the midst means He's in the center of the circle.
He's in the middle of the circle. If all eyes are focused on Him, or to put it in everyday common language, I'm in charge here. What we want to do is let the Trinity be two or three, and we in the midst, and say, God, this is what I want you to do today. God says, not.
You two or three gather, you make a circle, and let me get in the midst and find out what I want to do. It must be what He wants to do. And that's why He can make the promise, my Father will do it, because God has never turned down Jesus, except when it came and died for our sins. Other than that, God has never turned down Jesus. So if He doesn't turn down Jesus, why does He turn down us? Because what we're asking is not in His name. When you want the power, there must be unity, there must be agreement, there must be gathering, but He must be in the midst. He must be the center point.
We must want to find out what He wants to do and line up. When we do that, you'll see prayer of answer, you'll see power you never had before. You say, I want power. No, you already have power if you have Jesus.
He's already risen from the dead. You already have power over that personal addiction, power to save that family, power for a whole church, power to impact the community. You don't need more power. What you need is more access to authority.
The use of that power. And that comes when Jesus is in the midst. Unless Jesus is in the center of your personal life, you won't get your personal prayers answered. Unless Jesus is in the center of your family life, you won't get your family prayers answered. Unless Jesus is in the center of this church, we won't get our church prayers answered. And unless this church makes Jesus the center of the community, the community won't get helped.
He must be in the middle. That is all I is focused on here. Dr. Tony Evans, with the promise that when Christ is your focus, you can be an overcomer in this world. Now today's message wraps up Tony's nearly month-long series on spiritual warfare. And there's still a lot of material we didn't have time to present on the air. So if you'd like this entire examination of this important subject, get in touch with us today and request the complete 12-message audio collection, Spiritual Warfare.
You'll receive all of the full-length messages on CD or instantly downloadable MP3s. And as a special bonus, we'll include your choice of one of two of Dr. Evans' companion books on the topic. They're our gift to you when you make a donation to help make this broadcast possible each day. Just visit tonyevans.org or, if you prefer, give our resource request line a call at 1-800-800-3222 and let one of our friendly team members help with your request.
Again, that's tonyevans.org or by phone at 1-800-800-3222. We're all aware that we can catch something from those around us. Fortunately, not everything that's contagious is bad for us. In fact, there are many things we transmit that are helpful.
Kindness is one of them. And Dr. Evans encourages you to look for ways to spread it so others will see and do the same. They say life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Well, tomorrow Dr. Evans will look at what we can learn from a man whose life had more than the usual share of unexpected twists and turns. I hope you'll join us for that. The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by the Urban Alternative and is made possible by the generous contributions of listeners like you.
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