Throughout the gospels we see Jesus continually redirect people back to the true pathway. The red herring theologians, politicians and cultural biases will forever lead people away from God’s primary message.

We read about Jesus sending 72 disciples in pairs to towns that he would be coming to announce the Kingdom of God. After completing their mission, they came back to report.

Luke 10:
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Do you catch the potential whiff of red herring here? In discovering that Jesus had given them authority over their great fear of demons, they were feeling powerful and emotionally charged with this entitlement. It was really quite impressive to have evil entities submit to them when they invoked the Name of Jesus.

Jesus acknowledges that they have been given this authority, but redirects their enthusiasm to that which matters most. God has acknowledged and recorded their names in Heaven. Ministry with God is a privilege, and access to God's power is exciting, but the real cause of joy is that we have true and everlasting life before God.[i]

The attention is moved from what they do to who they are. They have done good things, but more importantly they belong to God. In belonging to God, they have protection from the worst things. 

Peace with God is better than war with Satan.

It is easy for us to go on a spiritual power trip in the name of Jesus and miss out on the essential sense of belonging to God.

There is a ‘red herring’ emphasis that comes when we think that the Christian life is primarily a battle in which our objective is to kick devil butt. Some have developed elaborate systems of defining and defeating demonic activity, believing that the majority of Christians are too wimpy to stand up and fight against Satan. The true believers are the ones who can overpower the Devil. 

In extreme cases, people have taken Jesus’ words as a reason to handle rattlesnakes, proving that they have God’s power to not be killed by the venomous bite. In a focus on defeating Satan, the believer can falsely assume that this is the ultimate proof of one’s status with God.

As for the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, it is there. In the same way that you may suddenly be startled at the sight of a snake, scorpion, rat or spider, there is a spiritual flight or fight instinct that can happen when we encounter dark powers.

In the times that I have encountered supernatural, demonic activity I have found that there is an authority in Jesus to cause it to go away and not return. There have been occasions when people have asked me to come to their home because of apparitions, noises, nightmares, spooky feelings and unexplained phenomena.

As we take authority in Jesus’ name I have witnessed several situations where the darkness leaves. I believe that demons do cause disturbances and in fact exist. When there is an encounter, I face it with Christ’s authority. I do not go looking for this and at the same time, I have no fear. The greater thing is seeing people get free and knowing the security found in God.

The apostle Paul echoes this in the ‘Love Chapter’[ii] when he downplays spiritual good work that lacks in genuine compassion. You are nothing without love. Healing the sick, speaking in tongues, feeding the poor… empty religious backslapping if we do not live this out in the realm of Divine Love.

[i] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series
[ii] 1 Corinthians 13