Little league ball, 1965; ninth inning, game tied, I stepped into the batter’s box. Taking a crack at the first pitch to come across the plate good fortune (not skill) sent the ball deep into the far left field. Thanks to a slow and bungling outfielder who missed the catch, I ran hard against a backdrop of loud and glorious cheers coming from the dugout and the bleachers. My teammates and parents stood to their feet as I sprinted around the bases untouched by a single glove. Showing off a little, I slid unnecessarily into home plate, stood up, brushed the dust from my uniform and began to bathe in the glory of the moment waving to my newly acquired fan base as I was the Babe himself. This wasn’t a sandlot, it was to me the big leagues, and the neighborhood diamond at Parkdale Park in Dallas, Texas was Yankee stadium (the Texas Rangers had not yet come to town). Picking up my feet I started to move towards my waiting team when I felt a slight brush against my right shoulder. Hearing a loud, resonating voice shout, “the runners out”, the world around me began to move in slow motion. The adrenaline that seconds earlier rushed through my veins came to a screeching halt and I wanted to die.
What in the moment of my glory I thought to be a victory wave as I passed third was actually my third base coach attempting to wave me back to the base I failed to tag; but it was too little, too late, I was called out. My dreams of the major leagues now down the toilet, it turned out the only bungling player on the field that day was me.
Babe’s Rule #2
“Whenever I hit a home run, I make certain I touch all four bases.”
There are four bases set 90 feet apart and if a player is to score, he will run the entire 360 feet placing a cleat on each base. It’s not an option, it’s a rule. In the coming pages, we will offer four bases to think about before you take off running, be sure to touch each one.
One of the mistakes I made in little league as I kicked up the dust churning past the bases only to be called out was thinking I was all that and a bag of chips (all that and a cup of tea, if you’re old school).
A couple of years ago I ran into a pastor friend at a store somewhere in town who was on his way to cast out a few demons, he told me. His jovial demeanor was borderline to being pompous and arrogant, marginalizing the task he sped away to take on. As he climbed into the seat of his pickup and drove off, I thought of the seven sons of Sceva we read about in Acts 19. It seems these self-proclaimed exorcists had caught on to the powerful name of Jesus Paul had invoked in miraculous fashion and wanted to cash in on it. Whether for profit or fame, we cannot say with certainty, but most likely the latter.
Coming across a demon possessed man they cornered him and began their cute little incantation saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims (v.13)”. “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who you are I haven’t a clue”, the possessed man replied. Next thing you know they are taken to the woodshed for an old fashion butt kicking and wind up hightailing it down the street with their tales tucked between their naked legs severely battered and beaten up crying, “Is there a doctor in the house”. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but may turn out a reality for the person running into a real demon having missed any of the bases.
There are two lessons we learn from this episode in scripture, the first is this; calling on the name of Jesus must be in faith, that glory might go to him, not self. Jesus made it plain that not everyone utilizing his name (regardless of their intent) will benefit from it (Matthew 7:21-22). In fact, to use his name for any purpose other than to bring glory and honor to it is to break the commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11). Don’t look for divine assistance if you try pulling that rabbit out of the hat and don’t be surprised if you get a little zapped in the attempt.
The name of Jesus is indeed powerful. No other name is given that will affect salvation in the life of an unbeliever (Acts 4:12), and if that were all there is to it – it’s enough, but there is more. Signs and wonders are performed through his name (Acts 4:12) like the lame beggar being healed in Acts 3. The seventy-two men Jesus had sent out ahead of him returned joyfully saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17); and Jesus himself told his disciples, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons” (Mark 16:17).
Whereas the reliability of Mark 16:9-20 (not being found in the oldest and most reliable Manuscripts) is questionable, W.E. Vine gives this definition to the word “believe” here used.
“to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and hence, “to place confidence in, to trust,” signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence.”
In this definition we see the spiritual significance is not in the name of Jesus itself, it is just a name, no different than yours or mine. The power to be experienced when the Lord’s name is invoked comes as a result of one’s absolute reliance on the person of Jesus, resolute in the conviction that he is, that he hears, that he answers and that he actually wants too.
Rick Ezell, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina gives six prominent reasons why the name of Jesus is so effective, he writes:
1. We are admitting the bankruptcy of our own name.
When I pray in Jesus’ name I come boldly before God because of the power of his name. It would be like a bride coming from abject poverty to marry a wealthy husband. At that point, the woman takes the name of her husband and all that entails. She no longer acts in her name, but in his.
2. We identify with the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus has literally given us his name. When I use that name, I am confessing that he is mine and that I am his. It is like going to the bank of heaven, knowing I have nothing deposited. If I go in my name I will get absolutely nothing. But Jesus Christ has unlimited funds in heaven’s bank, and he has granted me the privilege of going to the bank with his name on my checks.
3. We pray in his authority.
We are like the child who picked up a policeman’s hat, wandered out onto a busy intersection and began to direct traffic. The people in the cars followed the child’s direction because they respected his position of authority. To pray in his name is to ask by his authority, and to ask by his authority is to ask in accordance to his will as revealed in his word.
4. We submit to his will.
Jesus’ authority rested with his submission to the Father, so our authority rests with our submission to him. To ask in his name is to ask according to his nature, and his nature is one of submission. This, by the way, is why prayers that ask for things contrary to the Word of God will never be answered.
5. We are representing him and his interests here on earth.
It is much the same as the legal arrangement known as the power of attorney. In such matters, one person may represent another in his absence. They act in their behalf. Jesus has given every believer unlimited and general power of attorney in all matters and with the right to use his name in every situation.
6. We pray expectantly.
When we pray in Jesus’ name, we may expect the answer in accord with the value of his name. So we can pray with great and excited expectation.
The second lesson I find tucked away in this demonic encounter is based on Romans 12:3 which reads, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
In this verse, we find a high opinion of self may well find you flat on your back and down for the count. Trust me, there is no place for self on the spiritual battlefield except among the dead. Why? People with “I” problems can’t see.
I haven’t seen that old pastor friend since his pickup left the parking lot to go a round or two with the devil that day, and I certainly hope things turned out better for him than it did for Sceva’s boys. Honestly, I was concerned for his safety and began immediately to pray as he drove off. I know I’m no Van Helsing but he didn’t look the part either. Even though I didn’t know everything there was to know about the good reverend, of this much I feel quite certain. If you want to wind up with egg on your face, go ahead, challenge the devil to a duel. You might want to have a First Aid kit handy when you do, though, and at the very least, a washcloth – just saying.
Page Four Coming Soon