And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? – Acts 19:15 KJV
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Identity is a very important aspect of anything, living or non-living. It is actually a way of knowing someone or something and sometimes goes beyond just knowing who the person or thing is to knowing what the person or thing is capable of. Identity can be very much dependent on the situation in reference. In some cases, a mere mentioning of first, middle and last names may be sufficient whilst in some situations, age, sex, place of origin will be essential to better identify individuals or even things. In terms of carrying out specific roles and responsibilities, identity will include revealing what one is capable of, so when such a person is told to identify him/her self in what is sometimes called curriculum vitae, one’s credentials supporting abilities being claimed will be key to the identification process.
Supply of information during the identification process that cannot be supported or proven to be true in terms of equal performance by the person will be seen as an attempt by such a person to deceive, a behaviour which is described as impersonation. Impersonation is a very serious crime as it is seen as an attempt to be fraudulent and the repercussion can be very grave, not only amongst men but also in the spiritual realm.
One of the several consequences of acts of spiritual impersonation is the basis of the scripture for today’s devotion. The Apostle Paul had arrived in Ephesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and manifesting its works in several ways including the laying of hands and chasing out evil spirits. This no doubt must have brought some attention and probably some respect to his personality, which was a position of honour that many will obviously desire – Acts 19:1-11. This was the situation with some Jews in Ephesus who after watching Paul cast out evil spirits in the name of Jesus Christ, tried the same thing and it worked, so they made it a point to go round doing same by casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches. The seven children of Sceva, who was a Jewish priest, were also involved in this spiritual fraud and they seemed successful in it until they met there match in a particular evil spirit that was bold enough to ask that they introduce themselves properly before he was to yield to their order. This request from the evil spirit and their failure to give a satisfactory response exposed their fraudulent personalities to the evil spirit who did not waste time in attacking them. The Bible records that they were beating up and made to run naked in public.
Some facts are immediately revealed in this event;
1. Jesus himself does not act in those situations but the evil spirits take a decision to leave on hearing the name of Jesus Christ. This was what happened in the case of the evil spirits that were sent into the pigs by Jesus Christ. They only saw Jesus and without a word from him, pleaded that they be relocated – Matt. 8:28-34. The mere mention of his name is enough to bring all negative situations under control.
2. It is the reputation of Jesus Christ with regards to his ability to overcome evil spirits in all battles that gets the spirits scurrying for safety. The evil spirits know him and his capabilities and so will not wait to be humiliated by him. That was the same thing that happened to Paul and his team members in Phillipi where the girl with the demonic spirit identified them without their even getting involved with her – Acts 16:16-24.
3. Anyone could use the name without necessarily knowing or being associated with him. Impersonation is cheap as all that is required is to be brave, hoping that the potential victim will be overcome with fear and so not be composed to assess the situation appropriately before giving up the battle. Occasionally, some defy the initial braggadocio, wanting to be sure about who/what they are facing so as to take an informed decision. It is at this point that fraudsters are exposed and disgraced. Do not be a spiritual fraudster as it can only take you that far, but will never take you all the way. Seek to have his empowerment and authorisation rather than pretending to have it.
4. There could be a very serious repercussion should the evil spirit decide to question the identity of the person claiming to be operating in his name. Situations similar to falling from grace to grass cannot be avoided, as it will always be a matter of time before the weakness and fraud is exposed.
The children of Sceva got beaten by the evil spirit and ran out naked. Compare that to what you are going through today to be sure you are not experiencing the effect of your act of spiritual fraud. Suddenly you are a loser in all those areas of life that you used to be a winner in. You have become a villain in all those places where you used to be acknowledged as a hero. All the honour have suddenly given way to dis-honour and more importantly you have been stripped naked in public and your true ability is now revealed. All these because you tried to perform that act that you are not empowered and authorised for. Your mere mortal nature has now taken over from the spiritually powerful personality that people used to know you for, because the Almighty God has stripped you of all that spiritual cover.
The solution lies in re-tracing your steps by doing the needful and this applies also to the Christian who is yet to experience the beatings and stripping naked that accompanies spiritual impersonation. You may be able to use the name to receive honour and accolades but you are better off accepting the name so you can receive the true empowerment and authorisation. That way your actions can be more rooted and you will be able to withstand those exceptional situations that intend to question your authority. Everyone sent by God and Jesus Christ are spiritually empowered and authorised. From the old testament prophets and leaders like Moses and Joshua (Ex. 3:1-22; Josh. 1:1-18; Jer.1:4-19) to the new testament Christian leaders like the disciples and the Apostles (Lk. 10:1-20; Acts 1:4-8; Acts 9:6), they all got prepared for the task by the Almighty God. His name alone may work most times but you will need his empowerment and authorisation in some very peculiar and critical situations. Get them now to avoid the embarrassment that comes with not having them because that is the only way you can identify and defend your claims when you are asked to. May God empower and authorise us appropriately for his work in Jesus name. Amen.