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Entries in Demons (9)

Tuesday
Aug202019

So Send I You

Mark 6:7-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

Today, our passage involves Jesus sending his twelve disciples out on a mission.  If his words before his ascension in Matthew 28:18-20 are to be called The Great Commission then our story today should be called the Small Commission.  It involves them going out only to the towns of Israel and preaching to them.  Perhaps Jesus saw this as a trial run for the greater mission that he would give them later.

Our title for this sermon comes from John 20:21. There Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (NKJV)  Everything that Jesus is doing with them throughout Israel is leading up to that point when he will go back to Heaven and the Apostles will need to take the Gospel to the nations of the world.  This would not be an easy task and it would be filled with many difficulties and trials.  Yet, it would also be filled with many joys.

There is a hymn that was published in 1954 and written by a Canadian woman named E. Margaret Clarkson.  She grew up in Toronto in the 1920’s.  In the 1930’s when she came of age, jobs were hard to come by in Toronto.  This led to her going into the far north of Ontario to become a teacher in the logging and mining camps.  Here are some quotes from her concerning her time there. 

“I experienced deep loneliness of every kind-mental, cultural, and particularly, spiritual- I found no Bible-teaching church fellowship, and only one or two isolated Christians, in those years.  Studying the Word one night and thinking of the loneliness of my situation, I came to John 20, and the words, ‘So send I you.’  Because of a physical disability, I could never go to the mission field, and this was where He had sent me.  I had written verse all my life, so it was natural for me to express my thoughts in poem.  Some years later [in 1963-after more life-experience and contact with real missionaries] I realized that the poem was really, very one-sided; it told only of the sorrows and privations of the missionary call and none of its triumphs.  I wrote another song in the same rhythm, so that verses could be used interchangeably, setting forth the glory and the hope of the missionary calling.”    (from https://propempo.com/story-behind-so-send-i-you-margaret-clarkson/)

This second version was published in 1963 as Margaret felt, if choosing between the two, the second one was the more biblical.  Here are the first stanzas of each version.

So send I you to labor unrewarded, to serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, to bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing, to send I you, to toil for Me alone.

So send I you, by grace made strong to triumph, o’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin, My name to bear and in that name to conquer, so send I you, My Victory to win.

Of course, singing nine verses (the first version has 5 and the second has 4) would not fly in very many churches today.  However, the words of this hymn are of great value and worth looking up.  It teaches us to count the cost and also the rewards of going forth for Jesus.

The greatest rewards for taking up the task that Jesus gives to his Church are yet to be had.  In this life, these things are bitter sweet, but once our work is done, and we have reached the end of our race, we shall enter into the full rewards of our labors on this earth.

Jesus sends The Twelve on a mission

Mark’s version of this passage, again, is very short on details.  If you read Matthew 10:1-15, you will see that Jesus limits them to going only to the towns and cities of what he calls “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  This did not include Samaria, which was an area of Israel that had mixed with Gentiles in marriage and in religion.

We are told that Jesus sends them out in pairs.  Thus, we would have 6 pairs of two disciples heading out to different parts of Israel.  This was not to keep an eye on each other, but rather because, “Two are better than one.”  Like Adam in life, it was not good for them to be alone in ministry.  They could keep each other encouraged in the difficult times and supply gifts where the other fell short.

It is interesting that this same phrase, two by two, occurs in the Noah’s Ark passage.  There the animals are brought into the ark in pairs, two by two.  That passage is unclear as to whether Noah is rounding them up, or if God’s Spirit is drawing them into the ark.  Regardless, in our passage the disciples are going out in pairs to call people to enter the ark of God, Jesus.  If comparing the ark to Jesus is a foreign concept to you then think of it in this way.  Just as Noah’s family were protected from the judgment of the ancient world by getting into the ark, so those who come inside of Jesus by putting their faith in him will be protected from the coming judgment of fire that has been promised to the whole earth.

We are also told that Jesus gives them authority over unclean spirits.  The word “authority” is sometimes translated as power.  However, the word properly means authority, and of course authority always has an involvement with power.  Regarding the unclean spirits, we have touched on this earlier.  This phrase is more of a description than a title.  Verse 13 helps us to see that the phrase is synonymous with “demons.”

It is sad to think that God’s people had become spiritually captured and plundered.  Everywhere Jesus and his disciples went in Israel, they encountered demon-possessed people.  I will remind us that people are not easily possessed.  It occurs when people dabble with false religions and the occult arts.  By listening to the teachings of demons, people give permission to those unclean, defiling spirits in their life.  You cannot surrender authority in your life without becoming a slave, and such was the case of many in Israel. 

No doubt, America has not seen as much activity in this area because of our Gospel foundation in Christ.  However, today it is becoming more and more prevalent for people to pursue the occult arts, and spiritual teachings of all sorts, which opens them up to such possession.  We will see more and more of this in our society, even though secular society will never call it demon-possession.

As a Christian, we need to recognize that such things are very real.  We must learn to stand on our own two spiritual-feet, and in the same authority that Jesus gave to his disciples then, proclaim the gospel and command unclean spirits to leave.  We need not fear any evil when we are on the side of Christ.  However, no one should approach these matters lightly and proudly.

Jesus also limits what provisions they can take with them on the journey.  They were to take only a staff, sandals, and one tunic (no bag, no food, no money, and no extra clothing).  Clearly, Jesus is putting them in a position that is more dire than it really was.  They had these things, but could not take them along.  Why?  The most logical reason homes in on the reality that Jesus is their teacher and they are the students, master and disciples.  So, at its foundation it is about them learning something by taking no extra provisions.  In such a situation, they will need to trust God to provide for them.  If God sends you on a mission then he will provide for you.  This is not just true in ministry, but in life as well.  All Christians are on a mission from God and he promises to take care of our needs, if we will put his kingdom first.  Of course, faith in God’s provision is easier said than done.  This will prepare them for times in the future when they will not be in their current state of being full of provisions. 

It is worth noting that Jesus does reverse these limitations later and allows them to take provisions.  The point is not that we should purposefully test God in this matter, but that we can trust him to help us in whatever we lack.  They are not testing God. They are responding to a command of the Lord.  Perhaps in this country of plenty our level of needing to trust in God for our provisions is very anemic.  However, Christians all around the world, both today and throughout history, have had to trust that God would provide for them.  Instead of falling into the habit of complaining and grumbling against God, they learned to pray, work hard, and trust God to provide.

The last part of the instructions of Jesus have to do with how they should conduct themselves among the towns of Israel.  This part will make more sense if you read the Matthew 10 passage.  Basically, they were to go to a town and publicly proclaim the Gospel.  If no one received them then they were to leave the town and go to the next.  Jesus tells them to shake the dust off of their feet in such a case.  This is interesting because it was the common practice of religious Jews to shake the dust off of their feet when leaving a Gentile city.  It was a symbolic way of saying that you are not going to take any part of that city with you because it is defiled.  Here they receive a bit of their own medicine.  If you are going to reject the Gospel and its ministers then the very dust of your city will become a witness, or evidence that they came and offered you grace.  In fact, Jesus says that those cities that reject his disciples with the Gospel message will have a more difficult judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah because they had a far less powerful and enlightening ministry from Lot.

If they are received positively and someone welcomes them into their home then they are to stay with them and let them care for their physical needs.  We don’t know if they were instructed to stay for a certain period, or if they had a certain amount of time to reach a particular list of cities.  Regardless, they would go from one town to the next proclaiming the Gospel.

The Twelve perform their task

In verse 12, the disciples take off to do what Jesus has instructed.  They leave Jesus behind and go in pairs to different parts of Israel.  In our passage, we are told that they preached, or proclaimed, that people should repent.  In Matthew they are told to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This reminds us of the message that the Bible says Jesus preached from the beginning, “Repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The kingdom did not fully arrive in the first century.  It came in spiritually, but awaits the judgment in order to come in physically and politically.  Thus, the whole world is in the same position as the first century, and we need to preach the same message. 

The word for repentance here means to “change one’s mind.”  The people of Israel were supposed to be a people who lived for God and his purposes, but they had become a people living for themselves and for their own purposes.  Their mindset led to lifestyles and bondages that were never God’s intention for them or humanity.  The biggest leverage to getting them to change their mind is the warning that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

God’s prophets had promised a time when God would send his anointed king who would heal Israel and rule over all the earth.  If Messiah (from the Hebrew word for “anointed”) the king was to be in Israel in their days then they would want to change their lives and get ready for his presence.  If I truly change my mind on a matter then it will truly change how I live.  Another term in the Bible that is used for repentance is the concept of turning.  When I am driving in the wrong direction, I need a change of mind before I am ever going to turn around and go in the right direction.  Let’s be clear.  Most people in America, and in this world, are going in the wrong direction.  Even many who claim to be Christians are simply placing a label on their life, but not really living for Christ and his purposes.  May God help us to daily change our minds and turn towards his path, rather than our own.  May he help us to turn from our tendency for the self-led life, and to embrace the Holy Spirit-led life.

As the disciples went into the cities, we are told that they cast out many demons.  The delegated authority that Jesus gave to them was recognized by these unclean spirits.  The key here is not a mantra or ritual for casting them out.  The key is that they had an authentic relationship with Jesus and he has authorized them to have authority over these spirits.  Yet, it is not just The Twelve.  Luke 10:19 is a place where Jesus talks to a larger group of disciples called The Seventy, who also are told they will have power over these unclean spirits (serpents and scorpions are metaphors for these unclean spirits).  Also, in Romans 16:20, Paul expected that God would soon crush Satan (and his operators) underneath the Christians in Rome.  Yet, we cannot merely declare authority over such spirits if we are not in true relationship with Jesus.  It is his power they fear and obey, not mine.

We are also told that the disciples anointed the sick with oil and healed them just as Jesus did.  It must have been something for Israel, who was still reeling from Jesus going everywhere healing and casting out spirits, to see his disciples doing the same all by themselves.  O, how God loves to take the weak and lowly, and lift them up to take the place of the great and mighty.

So, why did they use oil?  The purpose of the oil is to be a symbol of God’s Spirit and also an aid to faith.  In the end, people were being restored by Galilean fishermen, or a tax collector, or a zealot, etc.

You and I are not called to become Apostles of Jesus in order to lay down the faith once and for all for Christ’s Church.  However, we carry the same Gospel into whatever scope of ministry that he gives us.  Whatever sphere he gives us, as a friend, co-worker, spouse, relative, parent etc., we must be faithful to share Christ in words and deed, so that people can believe on him and have a place in his kingdom, both now and in the future.  All believers are called to be proclaimers of the Gospel, and may God help us to warn people to change their minds because the next phase of the Kingdom of God is at hand!

So Send Audio

Tuesday
Jul232019

The Power & Authority of Jesus

Mark 5:1-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

Many scientists do not believe there is such a thing as a spirit realm. They hold to a materialism world-view and they would not accept that a human has a true spirit, much less that there are spiritual entities other than human.  The basic line of thought is that ancient humans couldn’t explain disease and mental illness and so they came up with the idea of spirits, both good and bad (the bad being demons).  The problem with this is that is presents the false idea that we now understand everything about the human body and mind. 

As advanced as our technologies are, the human mind still presents a difficult puzzle to scientists.  There are clinically trained psychiatrists who have come to the conclusion that some cases that they have encountered cannot be explained by a problem within a person’s mind.  Things such as: the knowledge of individuals and things outside of the person’s ability (even very private things), speaking languages not learned or even encountered,  and especially aggravation at talk about and the person and work of Jesus.

Of course the opposite error does exist.  Some religious people treat all strange activity as demonic.  Many “exorcisms” gone awry have resulted in the death of people, and I am not just talking about within Christianity.  As believers in the One who is Truth, we must not cast aside the recognition that demons are real.  Yet, we also must not let fear rule our hearts and label every mental illness or strange sickness as demonic activity.

Today we will look at a passage that makes it clear that though demons do exist, they must flee before the power and authority of Jesus Christ.

A demon-possessed man approaches Jesus

Our story begins with a demon-possessed man that meets Jesus and his disciples at the shore as they get out of their boat.  We should remember that, at the end of chapter 4, Jesus and his disciples were boating across the Sea of Galilee from the Galilee region (NW part of the sea).  During this trip a huge storm occurred threatening to destroy the boat and them.  This story is what happened after that scene.  Another point to recognize is that all three synoptic gospels have these stories back to back.  They are integrally linked in the minds of the apostles.  This has caused some to see a supernatural aspect to the storm scene. 

The Scriptures do not state that this is the case.  However, it is quite possible.  In the story of Job, Satan is allowed to “touch” Job.  Of the several catastrophes that occur two seem to be natural disasters:  fire falls from heaven upon the sheep and shepherds, and a great wind destroys the house in which his adult children are feasting, killing them all.  Regardless of whether or not the above conjecture is correct, the message is the same.  Jesus is greater than anything that may come upon us in this life, whether natural or supernatural, period.

So, just where are they landing with their boat?  If you look at all three gospel accounts (Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8), you find a difference in the name of the area in which they land.  On top of this, there are also some textual differences within the manuscript evidence.  Is it the area of the Gadarenes, Gergasenes, or the Gerasenes?  It is most likely that these are variant terms of the same or overlapping areas.  The Gadara area would include all of the southern part of the Sea of Galilee.  So that gives us a rough estimate of where they were.

Immediately upon their beaching f the boat, they are met by the demon-possessed man.  This guy is in a terrible condition of which we are told about up front in the story.  Not all demon-possession manifests in a way that is so violent and socially adverse as this guy.  This man represents the “crazy person” picture of possession.  We are told initially that he has an unclean spirit, which is a synonym for a demon.  Notice that the term “demons” is used in verse 12.  He lived among the tombs rather than in a regular house of that time, most likely due to being driven out of town.  He was out of his mind crying out, cutting himself with stones and naked.  When it talks about crying out here, it is not talking about tears, but rather loud screams and words that may or may not have made sense.  The people of the area have often tried to restrain him with shackles and chains.  However, he would break these chains and tear off the shackles.

The strength he demonstrated could be called super-human.  However, it is unclear how much of the power is simply the demons pushing him to exert more energy than a person would normally push themselves.  Also, I’m sure the strength of the metals in that place and at that time are very weak compared to what we would have today.  However, we should also recognize that these people had restrained many others before.  This guy was unrestrainable in a day that knew how to restrain some pretty strong guys.  The overall picture is that this guy is a menace to the area and has been driven out of the city and into the tombs, or at least has gone there of his own accord.  Also, we see that he is a very tortured individual.  The demons are not his friends.  They have brought him to a horrible and low state.

The demons resist leaving the man

The writing of this scene is a bit choppy, but one can follow it.  It seems the man approaches Jesus and Jesus first commands the spirit to come out of the man.  It is then that the demon begins to speak.

Now we must deal with an unfortunate translation in verse 6.  The man is not worshipping Jesus as the English in the KJV, NKJV, and RSV states.  The word most of the time does mean to worship. However, at its base it means to prostrate one’s self before another as if to kiss their hand in obeisance.  Thus, the better picture is that the man has ran up and fallen down in front of Jesus, looking like a fiend (no clothing, cuts all over his body, not in his right mind, hair probably a knotted mess, etc.).  Jesus recognizes the unclean spirit and commands it to come out. 

At this point, the demon has some protests, or at least, a short dialogue takes place.  The first statement of the demon is really a question.  It essentially means what do you want with me, or why are you bothering me.  This area is not considered part of Israel at the time.  No Jew worth his salt would be caught dead there, and so, the people in this scene are most likely gentiles.  The question is on the order of asking why Jesus is “out of his territory.”  Secondly, the demon demonstrates the knowledge of who Jesus is.  He addresses him as Jesus, Son of the Most High God.  Notice that Jesus normally would not let demons talk, at least when he was in Israel.  However, here we see that Jesus interacts to some degree with the spirits.  Why would he do so here, but not in Israel?  When he was in Israel, Jesus didn’t want demons for his P. R. speakers.  I would think that here in this Gentile land the only Israelites are his disciples and they are already convinced that he is the Messiah.  These Gentiles are not thinking to themselves that Jesus could be the Messiah.  Most likely, they are not even aware of what that is.  Yet, Satan and his spirits knew exactly who Jesus was, but they did not know what he was there to do.

This demon asks Jesus if he is there to torment him.  Matthew 8 adds the phrase “before the time.”  So, what is this about?  The book of Revelation speaks of a time when Satan is to be cast into the bottomless pit.  Perhaps the demons will also have that fate.  Regardless, we know that all evil beings will be cast into the Lake of Fire when the New Heavens and the New Earth are created by God.

These spirits have clear knowledge of this coming judgment. However, they also seem to have the idea that it isn’t time yet for their judgment.  To them, Jesus is here early.  This adds to the fear of these demons.  What is he doing?  Is he throwing us into the bottomless pit/Lake of Fire early? 

Jesus asks the spirit what its name is and is told that it is “Legion.”  This is clearly not a proper name, but rather a nick-name, or better a nom de guerre.  He is possessed by many demons, whether that literally means thousands or not is irrelevant.  The demons protest that they do not want to be sent out of the region (vs. 10).  We are not told why.  Most likely they believe they have a sweet deal in this area and are able to have their way.

However, they suggest an alternative.  In their fear, they beg Jesus to give them leave to enter a herd of pigs that are nearby.  We are told that there are 2,000 pigs.  It is unclear why they ask this, and also why Jesus permits it.  It would probably be foolish to speculate too much.  However, several things are clear.  The spirits demonstrate the same violence and torment in the pigs as in the demoniac.  The pigs “go crazy” and stampede down the hill into the sea and drown.  Thus, the spirits are released into the area desperate to find another person to inhabit and have gotten away from Jesus.  Later, the disciples of Jesus would come back into this area and most likely have to deal with them again.

The people of the region are afraid

The swine-herders become the heralds of what happened.  We are not told into what city they go, but it is most likely a nearby small village.  Eventually a crowd from the area gathers at shore in order to see this spectacle.  Then the story is recounted for them about Jesus freeing the demon-possessed man and the death of the pigs.

Alongside of this story, is the reality of the man himself.  He is clearly the same man they had feared in the past, most likely with cuts still visible on parts of his body.  However, he is not ranting and stark raving naked.  He is fully clothed and in his right mind.  These evidences powerfully testify to these first century people, but it also powerfully testifies to us 21st century people.  If our psychiatrists had an one ounce of the ability Jesus had, we would not see nearly as much mental illness in our society.  I am not saying all mental illness is the result of demonic possession.  It is often just the natural result of sin, both ours and that of others.  However, Jesus healed people as well as casting out demons.  We should learn from the only one who demonstrated mastery of both, instead of scoffing at the testimony of these eye-witnesses.

There are two responses recorded here.  The first is from the people of the region.  No doubt, they can appreciate the freeing of the demon-possessed man.  However, they also may see Jesus as just another spiritual threat.  If he is stronger than a legion of evil spirits than what would he do to them?  Also, the destruction of 2,000 pigs was a heavy economic hit.  Can we afford any more actions of such a man in our country?  Regardless of all their thoughts, they plead with Jesus to leave. 

It is easy to be fearful and afraid of spiritual things because we don’t understand them and can’t control them.  However, this is the point.  Evil spirits are fearful, but the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than them.  When we believe in Christ and have his Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we have nothing to fear from such spirits, even a legion of them. 

The Holy Spirit is pure and clean.  He does not control people, torment them, and abuse them.  He works gently and kindly within us to encourage us in the right direction.  He enables and empowers us as we act in faith and trust in God’s Word.  You have nothing to fear from the Holy Spirit, and, when He is living within you, you have nothing to fear from those evil spirits that roam this world looking for people to inhabit and torment.

The second response is that of the man, which is quite different from the people.  The man wants to follow Jesus and become one of his disciples.  However, Jesus gives him a different mission.  This Gentile man is not who God has to become an apostle in Israel.  Rather, he is to tell that Gentile region his story and how Jesus set him free from a legion of demons.  Imagine what it was like when a decade or two later the disciples of Jesus came into that area.  They would find many people open to the gospel because of what they had heard from this man years earlier.  His activity would be a kind of “pre-evangelism” that would prepare the inhabitants of the region to receive the Gospel later.

As we leave this story, I pray that, instead of being freaked out about spiritual things and pushing Jesus away, you will become excited about the one who has complete authority and power over all spiritual beings.  We need not fear the demons of darkness when the Lord of the Light has come. 

Power & Authority audio

Tuesday
Feb262019

The Power of Jesus

Mark 1:21-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 24, 2019.

Having introduced us to Jesus, Mark goes on to give evidence of the powerful things that Jesus did while he ministered on this earth.  This is important because we need to recognize that, though Jesus was smart and spoke in a way that amazed people, the biblical authors highlighted his power over his talk.  Paul references the effect of this reality in 1 Corinthians 4:20, when he says, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (NIV) 

If we only have fine sounding words to offer people then we might as well hang up our hat now.  At some point, they will come to realize that they need real power.  Yes, knowledge is power, but not all knowledge can set you free from the bondage of sin and hurts that so easily entangles us.  Even knowing the Scriptures is not enough to break the bondage of sin.  We must have a living relationship with Jesus, who alone has power to break every fetter!

Jesus teaches in Capernaum

Jesus focuses his ministry in the northern part of Israel for several reasons.  The more he ministered in Jerusalem the quicker the authorities would want to kill Him, and God had a particular timing about all of this.  Another reason is that it was symbolic of God’s care and heart for those who need help.    Jerusalem represented the best of Israel in the natural.  All the political and religious leaders were there.  Compared to Jerusalem, Capernaum represented the country bumpkins.  Jerusalem represented riches and knowledge, whereas Capernaum was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee and would not have the greatest teachers in the land.  Those who know they are poor are quicker to receive than those who think they already have everything.

So Jesus goes into the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was the day of rest, which corresponds to Friday evening to Saturday evening.  The people of Israel had developed the habit of gathering in buildings in order to worship God, to hear the Word of God read and to have it explained.  The concept of a synagogue developed at some point after Israel’s exile into Babylon and subsequent return to the land.  Before this time, their religious life was mainly at the Temple, where they worshipped God and offered sacrifices.  With the temple destroyed in 586 B.C., they had to wrestle with continuing to worship.  Thus the concept of synagogues that focused on teaching was born.  In fact, early Jewish Christians called their gatherings synagogues as well.  However, the term “Church,” that had been used by Jesus, later became the main word to describe Christian gatherings.  So this is much like a Jewish Church service in its function. 

The fact that the leaders of the synagogue let Jesus teach says something.  He was not a rabbi who had learned under the rabbis of the day.  Normally this would preclude him from being able to teach.  Yet, the prophet, John the Baptist, had gone on record that Jesus was God’s anointed one, the Messiah.  Thus the talk had preceded Christ and the people were eager to hear from Him. 

We are told that the people were astonished because he taught “as one with authority.”  It may be easy to read into these words that Jesus was cocky and arrogant.  However, the emphasis is the contrast between how Jesus taught and how the scribes taught (who were men trained in the religion of Israel).  The scribes normally taught by referring to different views of the great rabbis from the past and the present.  They basically were relaying what others had said and those great rabbis often disagreed with each other.  Though we do not have a text of this teaching, it is safe to say that Jesus did not quote any authorities to substantiate his interpretation of the text.  Jesus is “acting as if” He is the authority on the subject.  Of course, that is because He actually is.  Knowing who Jesus is, we can recognize that He is the most qualified man of all history who could give authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and what God intended us to understand from it.

Today, we need to be careful that we do not make either of two mistakes.  One, we can forget that we have received authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and why the Law of Moses was given.  These were given by the true author of the Bible, God Himself, and those who He personally trained.  Two, we can use the authority of Jesus in order to teach things that He and His apostles did not teach.  Confidence is not good if it is placed in the wrong thing, but when it is placed upon the right thing, or right person, then it is a good thing.  We can confidently proclaim the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, but we should never become arrogant and take to ourselves a confidence that sees the authority of Jesus as something that has been handed down to us.  Jesus is still the authority.  Paul Himself said in Galatians 1:8 that even if the apostles were to teach a gospel that was other than what was originally given, they should be considered cursed by God and rejected.   We must never forget this truth.

Jesus casts out an unclean spirit

At some point in the teaching of Jesus a man with an unclean spirit cries out and interrupts the meeting.  It doesn’t seem that he had been brought to the meeting in order to be delivered, but it is possible.  Sometimes a person who is demon possessed may retain their faculties most of the time.  Depending on the situation these demons will “manifest” or show their presence from time to time.  The Gadarene demoniac seems to have been under constant “manifestation.”  He was never in his right mind and people could not interact with his human psyche.  Whereas others have demonstrated varying amounts of self control with times in which the spirit takes control, or manifests.

The phrase that is used in this passage is “unclean spirit.”  What is an unclean spirit?  Unclean is another way of saying evil or bad.  It is a reference to the spiritual defilement that sin and rebellion against God brings to a being.  Therefore this spirit is sinful and in rebellion against God.  In that sense we could say that the Devil and his angels are also unclean spirits.  This would be true technically, but the phrase never seems to be used of the Devil and his angels (fallen angels).  Much speculation and dogmatic ideas have been put forth from then to now.  However, the Bible seems to equate unclean spirits with evil spirits and demons.  There are different beings within the spirit realm and there are hierarchies within the spirit real as well.  Thus we cannot be completely sure what exact “species” (for lack of a better word) demons or evil spirits are.  They may just be lower level beings that rebelled with the devil and his angels, or they may be something else.  However, we can be confident that the Bible has told us what we need to know.  We do know that demons, or unclean spirits, appear to be restless until they are able to control a human being to some varying degree.  How do they get this control over humans?  They are not “spiritual ticks” that happen to fall on people.  Rather, they are able to get control and influence through the activity of the person who has connected to the spirit through some form of spiritual arts (divination, séance, occult rituals, and basically anything promoted by these spirits to get control).  Christians should not be enticed by t he so called knowledge that spiritists of any sort promise to give to them because these spirits cannot be trusted.  They resist God and hate mankind.

At this point, I should point out that it is easy to make the mistake of seeing all mental problems as demonic, and the opposite mistake of seeing all such problems as only a physical problem of the mind.  Unclean spirits are real, but they are not the only reason why people have ailments.

It is clear from this passage that the unclean spirit is afraid of Jesus.  This is notable because it was not common for demons to show any fear in the presence of people, quite the opposite.  Thus, this is astounding to the people watching.  The spirit is afraid and Jesus is not.  By following the text, we can see some of the fears of the spirit.  First, it wants to be left alone.  If fears that Jesus is going to interfere with its control on this human (and for good reason).  It also asks if Jesus has come “to destroy us.”  Since there is no sense that multiple spirits are involved, this seems to be the same fear that the legion of demons in the Gadarene demoniac.  The unclean, demonic spirits know that there is coming a time when they will be evicted from this earth and put in the Lake of Fire.  Thus, they are afraid of that coming destruction.  Third, it is afraid because it knows exactly who Jesus is.  It refers to Jesus as “The Holy One of God.”  It is a phrase that refers to God’s Anointed One who is beside Him in the heavens, but would come to earth one day. 

At this point, Jesus commands the spirit to be silent and to come out of the man.  We do not want to make a big deal out of the fact that the demon calls Jesus the Holy One of God because the spirit is a tainted witness.  He can’t be trusted either way.  The testimony about Jesus is an important theme in the Gospels.  They emphasize that the Father and the Spirit witnessed or testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  They also emphasize that John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of that time, had testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  Then lastly, we have the testimony of the words that Jesus spoke, the life He lived, and the powerful miracles He did.  Jesus had very strong testimony from far better sources than to let demons give testimony.  Demons are liars and as such, you cannot know when to trust what they say and when it is a lie.  If we believe Jesus is God because a demon says so, then we are on shaky ground.

In the exorcism that occurs we do not see Jesus doing any rituals or reciting a mantra, as were common in those days.  He simply commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man.  The power of Jesus is not in ritual knowledge and magical arts.  Rather, His power is in the authority of who He is and the position that He holds.  Jesus has a position that is above all beings on earth or in Heaven, save the Father.  Though this spirit had “legally” gained entry to this human, Jesus had come to set the man free.  Thus, one command from Him was enough to send the demon packing.  Even in cases where one has consciously and willingly chosen things that ail them, there is hope that Jesus will set them free.  Many people today are stuck in things that they know they chose, but Jesus has come to offer us freedom.

We are told that the unclean spirit leaves with a convulsion and a cry.  This seems to be one last fit of resistance and protest from the demon at having to leave.  Of course, the real challenge is to remain free of the spirit.  The man’s life needs to change, if he is not to fall prey to another or the same unclean spirit.

The people watching this are amazed at how easily Jesus does this.  They are flabbergasted that he could make an unclean spirit leave with a simple command.  No rabbi had demonstrated such power in all their experience. 

As believers today, Christ has given us power over the enemy as well.  Yet, we must remember the lesson of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19.  They attempted to cast out a demon by saying, “We cast you out by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  The spirit then responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”  The authority that Jesus gives to us is not some special power that we hold in and of ourselves.  It is always His authority.  By their own testimony, the sons of Sceva did not really know Jesus.  When we really know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, then and only then should we confidently stand in opposition to such unclean spirits when they manifest.

Praise God that we need not fear any evil spirits no matter what station they hold on the other side.  It is our relationship with the All-Powerful One that protects us and gives us strength.  I pray today that you will not so easily scoff at the power of Jesus as mere tricks in an age when people were ignorant.  If Jesus were too walk into our mental institutions today and with a mere command give someone their sound mind, who would we rely upon to give an accurate description of what happened, Jesus or the psychiatrists who are often unable to do anything with schizophrenia?    Again, I am not saying all mental illness is demonic.  However, I am saying that regardless the problem, whether they need healing or freedom from an unclean spirit, Jesus has the power to set us free!

Power of Jesus Audio

Thursday
Oct272016

Society under Siege: The Paranormal Paradigm Shift

Acts 16:16-19; Ephesians 6:10-12; Revelation 9:20-21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 23, 2016.

It is interesting that as drug abuse has sky-rocketed, so has alternative spirituality and paranormal activities.  Historically drugs have been used to make it easier to connect with the spirit world.  However, America’s fascination with the paranormal began long before the 1950’s.  In the 1800’s a large influx of eastern mysticism came to the United States and spawned groups that sought to explore the spirit world.  Séances and contacting spirit guides began to catch fire among certain groups.  Contrary to popular conception, we are not becoming more and more anti-supernatural in our society.  Actually more and more people are adopting a spiritual world view that is alternative to the biblical view.  These alternative views typically teach that all things are connected and that the living can tap into this cosmic connection or force in order to obtain information.  They do not believe in a personal God that will judge our life.  Rather, they believe that we are all part of God, along with everything else in the universe.  This paranormal paradigm shift that is happening in America is really a going back to the ancient world views.  I do not mean that there are huge numbers of people worshipping Zeus.  However, they are reaching out to entities and conversing with “ascended masters,” whether they go by the name Zeus or not.  In many cases American Christians are not prepared for the reality of where this is headed.

It is past time for Christians to get acquainted with what the Bible has to say on this issue and be ready to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we hold.

The Early Church Had A Supernatural World View

In Acts 16:16-19, we join the Apostle Paul in the Greek city of Philippi.  Now a large percentage of the modern Church has rejected the supernatural element of the Bible.  Yes, they will acknowledge that there is a God, but the idea of angels and demons interacting with the world is just too much for them.  Miracles are too much for them.  Thus they explain away the miracles and supernatural events of the Bible.  We will see in our passage today that this is completely foreign to the first Christians.  Such a “belief” is not true Christianity.  It is something else entirely.

To set up this encounter in Acts 16, we need to understand that the Bible presents the reality of spiritual beings.  Just as there is a hierarchy among the peoples of the earth, so there is a heavenly hierarchy within the spirit world.  The Bible presents a cosmic problem.  A rebellion against the Creator has begun in the spirit world and mankind has been caught up in it.  There are good and evil spirit beings that are of lesser or greater power.   There are holy and fallen angels.  Now when Paul entered Philippi, he had come to preach the Gospel of Jesus to those who would listen.  At some point a young girl began to follow him around loudly proclaiming that Paul was a servant of the Most High God and people should listen to him.  This went on for several days.  No doubt Paul was praying about what motivated this girl and what he should do.  We are told that the girl was possessed with a spirit of divination and was used by her master to make him money by telling fortunes.  The word translated “divination” is literally python.  She had a python spirit.  This snake spirit was connected to the god Apollo and was supposed to be responsible for the amazingly accurate prophecies given by the oracles of Apollo.  Now this is not a story of Greek mythology.  Paul meets a real slave girl who is apparently good enough at fortune telling to make her masters money.  Notice that this spirit that possesses the girl operates in a “benign” way in order to give her information.  This is quite the opposite of the spirits that possessed the Gadarene demoniac that Jesus met on the sea of Galilee (Luke 8).  Those spirits manifested in a raging and insane manner that scared the daylights out of anyone who met him.  Thus some spirits are predatory in a malignant and dysfunctional way.  But, other spirits are predatory in a seemingly benign and somewhat functional way.  The ancient world was afraid of the spirits.  This fear and yet desire to know how to be safe in this world is how Satan kept the ancient world under his sway.  The early Christians knew that demons and deceiving spirits existed.  Any fortunes that this girl was ever able to give were part of a deceptive game plan to keep the Philippians under the control of the evil spirits.

Notice how Paul responds.  He is annoyed by what the girl is doing.  However, his problem is not with her.  He knows that the real problem is that python spirit that possessed her.  Early Christians knew that their warfare was not against people, kings, or nations.  They knew that their warfare was against spiritual entities that Satan used to manipulate the people.  This girl was not just a slave of men.  She was a slave to a predatory, evil spirit. 

Look at Ephesians 10-13 for a moment.  This is the famous armor of God passage.  Notice that this is about spiritual warfare against spiritual entities.  The armor of God is also spiritual.  They are to arm themselves with: Truth, Righteousness, The Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, The Word of God, Prayer, and a Watchful Disposition.  He says in verse 10 that these things are needed to stand up to the schemes of the Devil.  Do not let yourself be deceived.  Our real enemies are the spiritual powers that hold the world under their sway.  Our job as Christians is to labor to set people free by the Truth and Power of Jesus Christ.  Of course, most people in Philippi were not possessed by an evil spirit.  Most of them were only “possessed” by the teachings of these evil spirits.  The devil doesn’t have to have everyone possessed.  He only has to manipulate and influence the larger masses to do all his bidding.  This young girl was set free by the Apostle Paul because he first recognized it and then called upon the authority of Jesus to set the girl free.  She needed an exorcism first and then the truth.  But most people Paul ran into needed simply needed the truth of God to cut through the blindness that they had embraced.  We don’t have to look for evil spirits.  Paul wasn’t doing that.  Rather, he was doing what Jesus had sent him to do.  He was looking for people who would listen to the Truth.  Those evil spirits that had dominion over the city didn’t like it and that is why this manifestation occurred.  So focus on people and their need for the truth.  As you are successful at counteracting the lies that these spirits promote in our society, you will start to run into opposition and perhaps even a person who is possessed.  Remember, they don’t all look like the foaming at the mouth girl in “The Exorcist.”

The Failure of Scientific Materialism

The West has come under a world view that is sometimes called Scientific Materialism.  It teaches that there is no spirit world and that all things can be explained through natural processes.  If there is something that can’t be explained we are given a kind of promissory note that promises that science will eventually figure it out.  This materialism points to the supernatural beliefs of the past and labels them all ignorance.  This itself is ignorant, but let’s press on.  It is partially true that the ancient supernatural beliefs were because of man’s ignorance.  However, because it rejects a spirit world, materialists do not recognize that much of the ignorance was because of meddling, evil spirits.

Materialism has problems though.  If humans are just biological machines and our thoughts are merely the random firing of synapses (i.e. just natural processes), then there is no right and wrong and there is no purpose or free will.  A crushing hopelessness lies at the end of such a belief.  It also runs into a logical contradiction.  If there is only material then the material had to either bring itself into existence or it is eternal.  Yet, if it has always been (if we can eternally go back to an earlier time) then time would never have gotten to us.  You cannot have an infinite regression of a material thing (space, time, matter).  This adds to the weight that few humans can actually follow such a world view.  It is too cruel and too inhuman.  Something in us cries for something beyond.  The weakness of scientific materialism has given rise to a new wave of the old spiritual ideas and paranormal activity like Paul encountered in Philippi.

As I said earlier, this began in the 1800’s as gurus and Tibetan masters interacted with the West.  The mystical world view of the East promoted a mushy spiritual paradigm.  Everything is God and we can learn to tap into it and the collective wisdom of all the spirits.  Thus séances, channeling, the occult, and many other vehicles became popular ways to connect to the spirit world.  Now surely there were charlatans who were out to make a buck off of the superstitions of suckers.  But, some activity could not be explained with this.  Early debunkers were not entirely successful.  Of course they didn’t have the scientific know how that we do today, right?  But then explain why even modern debunkers have trouble explaining away every experience and story that comes along.  Explain why our colleges and military still conduct experiments in the paranormal.

This alternate spiritual world view was different than the biblical world view.  However, during the 1800’s many Christian denominations began to give up the idea of the supernatural and miraculous.  Thus the Church was seduced to embrace scientific materialism and create a hybrid that allowed for a God, Jesus and not much else.  Jesus became a mere example and most of what is said about him never happened.  These moralists on one side and a harsh scientific materialism on the other side became a perfect dichotomy for funneling people toward something more and something spiritual. 

The alternative spiritual world view offered something that was new and exciting to many in America and the Western countries.  Thus many unwittingly opened themselves up to evil spirit with malignant designs.  The Bible warned us about them, but we have been set up to disregard what the biblical prophets had to say.  These spirits are deceivers and they cannot be trusted.  This is why God forbids and warns against attempts to contact spirits.  Christians are to pray only to God Himself.  We interact with only His Holy Spirit.  Don’t get me wrong.  The “wisdom” of these spirit beings can be powerful and seductive.  But like Satan with Eve, they only seek to steal from us what we have.

So What Should Christians Do?

First we need to quit running away from the Bible and start believing it.  You do not have to reject the reality of science in order to embrace the Bible.  You might have to reject the world view that some scientists have.  But, many scientists are Christians too.  Some of them do not have a biblical world view, but some of them do.  So what is the biblical world view?  God created both the spiritual and material world.  A rebellion in the spirit world came into the material world, when Satan tricked mankind into disobeying God.  God then gave mankind over to the desires of their heart and they became enslaved to these spiritual beings, or false gods.  Yet, in His mercy, God provided a way for humans to be saved from this slavery and His eternal judgment.  Christians have been sent into the entire world to set people free from the rule of these false gods and their demonic spirits.

In fact, Revelation 9 reveals that in the last days before Christ returns, a spiritual prison called the bottomless pit will be opened up and the earth will be inundated with malevolent spirits who will angrily attack mankind because they know their time is short.  The earth is not becoming less spiritual.  We are headed towards a time of great spiritual deception and attack.  Revelation 9:20-21 says, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”  This is where we are headed.

We should also be busy warning people about these deceiving spirits and the deceptions they have promoted in our society.  Many are enslaved by the teachings and ideas that come from these evil spirits.  Science is not our enemy.  Our enemy is using science and a deceptive interpretation of its findings to deceive mankind.  He wants us to be caught off-guard by his true intentions.

Lastly, Christians must walk in the authority of Jesus Christ.  Paul said to the demon, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”  A little girl was set free that day because Paul knew that these evil spirits cannot stand up to Jesus.  We have been sent on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus.  If you read the entire chapter of Acts 16, you see that Paul got his first convert by preaching by the river where people gathered to pray.  Lydia believed in Jesus and asked Paul to stay and teach her more.  The world would call Paul a cultural murderer.  But, He knew he was operating under the authority of Jesus who is Lord of all Lords and King of all kings, both on earth and in the heavens above.  Let’s trust Him and be about our Father’s business.

The Paranormal Paradigm Shift audio