Put an Axe to the Root
"And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:10).
If you want to destroy something, you must destroy its root. As long as the root remains, sooner or later it will produce a shoot and the shoot will produce the fruit. Notice what Job observed: "For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant" (Job 14:7-9). But if you kill the root, there will be no shoot, and if there is no shoot there will be no fruit. Not only that, but if you kill the root, even the fruit that was there will wither and die because it no longer has a source of sustenance. "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away" (Matthew 13:6). If you have ever had weeds in your lawn, you understand this principle. When your lawn is covered with dandelions, you don't go out and mow your lawn to solve the problem. The dandelions may disappear for a few days, but then they will grow back and your lawn will be covered with dandelions again. So, what do you do? You spread a root destroying herbicide on your lawn which goes down into the earth and destroys the root system of the dandelions. Then, because there is no more root, the dandelions can't grow back again.
The same holds true in the kingdom of God. If you want to destroy the fruit you must first destroy the root. Unfortunately, we have not understood this principle. We have been trying to deal with demonic activity through a deliverance which does not take into account the root. We have been trying to deal with the fruits of sin without taking into account the root. The result has been ineffective ministry which usually leaves the intended victim in worse condition than when we started. It has also brought forth a church which lacks the power and the character of God and therefore the fruits of the kingdom. Let's look at how this works in the kingdom of God by beginning with the fruit and tracing it down to the root.
The power of Satan is sin. He has legal permission to operate wherever there is sin or darkness. Satan and his angels were confined to a realm of darkness after their rebellion in heaven. "And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6). The antichrist, who is the embodiment of Satan, is chiefly characterized as the man of sin. "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Satan had no power over Jesus because there was no sin in Jesus. "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (John 14:30). This is why Jesus had to lay down His life for us because no man or demon could take it from Him. In the same way, Satan has no power over us when we walk free from sin. "We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him" (1 John 5:18). If there is no sin in us, then Satan has nothing in us through which he may harm us or use us for his vile purposes. When we continue in sin (even occasionally) we identify ourselves with Satan and give him the right and power to operate in our lives. "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). We can see this more clearly in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. "In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). The devil operates in the world because the world lies in darkness. "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). In the same way, the devil operates in the lives of those living in sin or disobedience.
When we look behind sin, we find that the power of sin is the law. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (1 Corinthians 15:56). What this means is that the law makes sin sinful by defining what sin is. "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). If there is no law then there is no sin, consciousness of sin, or guilt of sin. If you are driving on a road with no speed limit, no matter how fast you drive you will never break the law or have the guilt of sin because there is no law. But when you are driving 50 mph on a road that is posted 25 mph you are in sin and guilty of breaking the law. Remove the law and you remove the power of sin. "But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead" (Romans 7:8). The purpose of the law is to make sin sinful by bringing conviction to our souls.
The power of the law is sinful flesh or the sin nature. "Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?" (Romans 7:1). The inference here is to the flesh. As long as the flesh is alive, the law has dominion over us. This is the fallacy of those carnal Christians who boast that they are not under the law but under grace. The truth is that as long as they are still living in the sinful flesh they are still under the law. To be under grace is to be delivered from the flesh and thereby be free from the power of the law. Notice what Paul goes on to explain to us: "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" (Romans 7:4-6). We are only released from the law when we are crucified with Christ and delivered from the flesh. To be delivered from the law we have to die to what we were held by, the slavery of sinful flesh. Through this sanctifying work of Christ we are set free from the letter of the law to serve God in the newness of life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, the power of Satan is sin. The power of sin is the law. And the power of the law is flesh. Until we destroy the root we cannot be free from the law, sin, or Satan. But when we allow Jesus Christ to put an axe to the root of flesh, we are set free from the law, set free from sin, and set free from Satan. It is through this process that we become the true sons of God who are led by the Spirit of God and thereby fulfill His eternal purpose of righteousness. "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God [begotten of God and continues therein] does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:7-10). Our destiny and purpose is to walk in the righteousness of Christ free from the power of sin so that we manifest the power of God rather than the nature of Satan. The purpose of the cross was to destroy the works of the devil by destroying the principle of sin in our flesh implanted in the fall of Adam. When the root of sin is destroyed, everything above it will wither and die.