Satan is no match for prayer and the power of God, Lawless says at collegiate conference

Communications Staff — February 21, 2008

Churches characterized by deep unity, fervent prayer and holiness will be able to march on the gates of hell with the message of the Gospel, Chuck Lawless said at the 2008 Give me an Answer collegiate conference, Feb. 9 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Addressing the nature of spiritual warfare at the annual conference — this year themed “Immortal Combat: is it Finished? Missions, Spiritual Warfare, and the Kingdom of Christ” — Lawless contrasted the sons of Sceva in Acts 19 with the early church in the upper room in Acts 2. Whereas the sons of Sceva, itinerant Jewish exorcists, were beaten and bruised by demonic forces, the receiving of the Holy Spirit by believers at Pentecost marked the beginning of the Holy Spirit-empowered ministry of the early church, Lawless noted.

Lawless, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern, highlighted four characteristics at the plenary session that empowered the ministry of the early church.

First, the early church was supernaturally united.
“How does it happen that people from different backgrounds, cultures and languages come together in
unity? God makes that happen,” Lawless said. “When people who are bought by the Lord Jesus Christ gather in a room there is a unity that can be present, whether you are in Russian, Indonesia or West Africa.”

Second, the members of the early church focused more on others than themselves. Lawless mentioned Peter healing a man, Peter and John preaching in the face of persecution and Stephen praying for those carrying out his murder as examples of on others-centered, Gospel-centered focus among early believers.

“Those who are willing to die for God’s glory to get the Gospel to the outer reaches of the world will threaten the gates of hell,” he said.

The third characteristic Lawless identified was an awareness of the importance of holiness. The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, illustrated the necessity of holiness to the early church, he said.

“God was showing the early church (with the Ananias and Sapphira incident) that He would not tolerate sin in the camp,” he said. “He expected them to be pure and unstained, to walk differently, think differently and act differently so that a dying world might look at them and ask ‘what do they have that we do not have?’ God expected the early church to be holy. We will never threaten the devil, when we live like the devil.”

Lawless told the story of having a spotless house that —
unbeknownst to him and his wife — was infested at its foundation by termites, as an example of the destructive effects of impurity in the church.

“You can come to a conference like this and spend time with your Baptist Collegiate Ministry group and appear to be pure,” he said. “But there could be areas of your life where you have hidden sin. What will happen with that hidden sin is that it will rot the very foundations of your life. If you have areas of hidden sin, you must get real with God and you must go to others for accountability. If you want to threaten hell, get honest and deal with the sin in your life.”

Finally, Lawless said the early church experienced Holy Spirit-empowered ministry because its members prayed together.

“The early church was born in prayer, they lived in prayer and they died with prayer on their lips,” he said. “Why did the early church pray this way? First, because they loved Jesus. Second, because Jesus taught them to pray.

Third, because they knew that they would never make a dent against the darkness of hell if they did not pray.

“You can do ministry in a way where you do it completely in your own power and not in reliance upon God. This kind of ministry will not threaten the gates of hell.”
In addition to his plenary presentation, Lawless taught an elective session on the schemes of Satan. There are three main ways the devil attempts to sidetrack our ministry,
Lawless said.

“The enemy’s strategy is he wants us to mess up, give up or get puffed up,” he said. “Mess up, means he wants us to fall into sin. Give up is he wants us to get discouraged and stop fighting. Puffed up: he wants us to think we are important, to become proud and arrogant.”

Much of the devil’s schemes center on sabotaging the evangelistic efforts of believers, Lawless said. While the devil cannot touch the eternal security of a believer, he can sidetrack his ministry, particularly in new believers, Lawless noted.

“New believers need to go to other believers and say ‘I need someone to disciple me,” he said. “If you are a strong believer wearing the armor of God, then who are you mentoring? You are not being completely obedient to God if you are not passing on what God has taught you and is teaching you. The job of the person who is a mentor is to deflect the arrows of the devil from the person we are mentoring.”

The power of God, not human effort, will enable believers to boldly proclaim the Gospel, despite the devil’s schemes, Lawless said.

“We have to do evangelism in God’s power,” he said. “The enemy wants us to live in our own ability. God has to put us in situations that we cannot handle, places where He breaks us to teach us to be dependent on Him. That is how we learn to live in God’s power.”

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