A recent Huffington Post article on trends in snake-handling among some pentecostals got me in a reflective mood. So I have a confession to make that will likely surprise some of my friends and the fans of The Apologetics Group and Real to Real Ministries.
I’m a long-time, habitual snake handler. And not in the herpetologist or “having a pet snake” sense of the term. I’m talking about a real, old-fashioned, Biblical — as in Mark 16:18a — type of snake handler. And since 9/11/2001 (a memorable move-in day), I’m also a resident of Middle Tennessee.
Can I get a witness?
Furthermore, it’s my sincere hope that every Christian who reads these words will join me in this blessed calling.
You see, I really believe that Jesus, God the Son, was the promised seed of Eve, the Messiah who crushed the serpent’s head at Calvary. (Gen. 3:15) I truly believe that He bound the “strong man” Satan (Mark 3:25-27) and divided his house by the power of His death, resurrection, ascension and enthronement; that all authority in both heaven AND THE EARTH has been granted to Him by the Father. (Matt. 28:18) As a result, even the least of these (that would be me, and perhaps even you) — by and through the Gospel of the Kingdom and the power of the Holy Spirit — has been made a vessel of heaven’s treasures and an ambassador of that Kingdom, vested with more spiritual authority than even the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. (Matt. 11:11; 2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 8:11…etc.)
And to what end? So that we can sit on the sidelines, waiting to get yanked out of the arena while we look in wonder as the great dragon serpent deceives the world? May it never be! Rather so that we can go into all the world and disciple nations (Matt. 28:19,20), plundering the very house that once belonged to the now-bound serpent. (The only limited dominion Satan has now is in the spiritual atmosphere and over the hearts of the “children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:1-2))
And how, in the memorable words of C.S. Lewis, are we to follow the “rightful king” and engage in His “great campaign of sabotage”? By, among other things, handling serpents. Even as Jesus came for the specific purpose of destroying the works of the great serpent (1 John 3: 8), finally crushing its head through the cross, so we are called to wage spiritual war against the lesser powers and principalities that are its offspring. (Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:4) Wherever these “snakes” manifest, its our job to wrestle them to defeat, secure in the knowledge that their doom is sure:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
For a good portion of the past three years, for example, I have been studying and wrestling with — through prayer and truth-telling — the serpents of chaos, confusion, lust, brokenness and narcissism (among others). These are the spiritual powers and principles operating in the shadows, driving the third and final stage of the sexual revolution that, I believe, could ultimately — albeit temporarily — bring our civilization to its knees. (Our prayer should be that once we’re on our knees we will repent and come back to God.)
But if it does, it will not be because the serpent and its offspring are so strong. Rather, it will be due to the church’s compromise and disengagement with our prime directive, the Great Commission (discipling nations, teaching them to obey Christ and the Word of God). It will be because we have refused the call to wrestle with the serpents of spiritual wickedness. And it will be because we have lost the faith to believe that the “greater One lives in us” (1 John 4:4) so that when we pick these snakes up with our hands or are exposed to their poison they will be no means hurt us. (Mark 16:18b)
Once again: Can I get a witness?!
PS: As I posted this I began to wonder: could our adversaries in the culture wars end up hijacking this article and trying to marginalize me by suggesting I’m a literal snake handler? We’ll see…