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Weekly Word

Entries in Possession (3)

Tuesday
Nov112014

A Clean House

Today we will be looking at Luke 11:24-26.  Here Jesus teaches on evil spirits or demons.  It is impossible to know how many evil spirits are operating throughout the world and in our society.  The Bible is silent on this aspect and so, Christians should approach this issue with balance.  On one hand we should not think that everyone is full of spirits and everything they do influenced directly by them.  Yet, on the other hand, we should not pretend that we know better than Jesus himself and that they do not exist.

The experience throughout history is that if an evil spirit is involved they will make it clear in one way or another.  Jesus was so successful in casting out evil spirits that his opponents accused him of being in league with the Prince of Demons.  It was in such a case that Jesus began to explain what is really going on when an evil spirit is cast out of a person.

Now, it is helpful to have this information regarding evil spirits because it will be a protection for ourselves and an aid against those spirits if we encounter them.  Yet, we must not let ourselves be made fearful in these things.  Evil spirits are real.  But, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  Jesus proved his power over evil spirits and if the Spirit of Christ is in you and the knowledge of Christ is too, then you can stand without fear.

Demons Can Be Made To Leave

The spirit that Jesus had just cast out had made the person it possessed unable to speak.  It is one thing to see a person go from acting crazy to being in their right mind.  However, it is quite another to see a person who has been unable to speak suddenly able and doing so.  As the crowds marveled over the power of Christ and others cynically accused him of working with Satan, we must not lose sight that people who are demon possessed can be set free.

So how did they become demon possessed to begin with?  Initially there needs to be some form of permission.  This can be in the form of curiosity with spirits, or seeking power through them, divination, fortune telling, occult arts, or even “white” and “black” magic.  Pursuing these things is essentially opening the door to the spirits that have promoted these things.  Although the Bible does not explain the detail of how all this works, it is clear that evil spirits can attach themselves to individuals in varying degrees of control.  The good news is that Jesus demonstrated that spirits can be made to leave and not just in rare cases such as the Jewish exorcists did.  Ultimately when one who is stronger spiritually confronts it, the spirit can be made to leave.  Jesus is that one who is not just spiritually stronger, but is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords (materially or spiritually).  He is the one that we lean upon.  Yet, Jesus gives us more information than that here.

They Are Restless When Cast Out

Two pictures are given of what it is like when an unclean spirit is cast out of someone:  dry places, and lack of rest.  For an evil spirit to be kicked out of possessing someone is like you and I finding ourselves in a desert.  The dry place has no fruit or shade or promise of such.  It is a barren place that will not grow what we would like to grow.  Of course spirits aren’t looking for “food.”  They are looking for a promising person that they can plant themselves in and do the evil works that they want to do.  Thus they are restless or without a place (person) in which to dwell.  Perhaps they desire possession because that is the only way they can impact the material world for evil.  Satan’s desire is to destroy the works of God and so through possession spirits are able to fight against and destroy parts of God’s work in mankind and this world.  Without this connection they are like a man who is stuck in the desert.

This raises a question.  Why were there so many cases of demonic possession in those days?  And, are there any less today?  Though Israel had the truth of God, they generally did not follow the ways of God because of unbelief.  Thus they were often mixing God’s commands with occult religion.  The accepting of the religious practices of the nations around them led them into the trap of these spirits.  If you look at America today we have a similar problem.  We started out with the Truth of Christ as a nation.  However, over the years our unbelief has caused us to seek out religious “truth” elsewhere.  This has opened the door for greater prevalence of demonic activity and possession.  You can scoff this teaching off today.  However, these issues will become more and more prevalent in our society.

They Will Seek To Repossess

Evil spirits are not content with “dry places” and “restlessness.”  They are looking for other easy targets.  Are we quickly becoming a “target rich” environment?  They last place you want to be, if you are messing with the occult or false religions, is at an exorcism.  That would be playing with fire. 

If the spirit does not find another easy target it will eventually return to the last place it had success.  Jesus says that the spirit finds the person to be “swept and in order.”  This by contrast helps us see what these evil spirits do inside of a person.  They clutter the internal mind and soul of a person with spiritual dirt and garbage and cause chaos.  We see this with the Gadarene demoniac.  He went from running around naked and acting crazy to being clothed and in his right mind.  Those who suffered sickness and disease in their bodies from evil spirits were healed when the spirit was made to leave.  Those who were dysfunctional and mentally broken became functional and in control of their own mind and actions.  Spirits use chaos and acts of sin and evil to breakdown the internal order and cease control.

They Enlist Worse Spirits To Help

This aspect is critical in understanding why Jesus is telling us this information.  He had been accused of working with the Prince of Demons to cast out these evil spirits.  Yet, Jesus reveals that the way it really works is that lesser spirits will use their foothold in a person to bring in worse spirits.  The worse spirits are not kicking out lesser spirits.  Yes, the evil spirit could try to take over the person again.  However, it could end up getting kicked out again.  Thus it gets 7 other spirits more evil than it.  Look at it this way, people are more easily seduced by that which flirts on the edge rather than the outrageous in your face attack.  An evil spirit that operates through mere anger and bitterness is easier to embrace than one that operates through murder.  Yet, they are both evil and the embracing of one can lead to the other over time.  Thus Jesus warns that the person can end up in a worse state than previously.  Compare the Gadarene demoniac to the Slave girl in Philippi.  One could not function at all and was complete chaos.  The other operated in a way in which her masters could make money off of her and she didn’t need to be restrained.  These spirits have modes of operating that can be more or less evil and yet all are dangerous.

Don’t Leave The House Empty

Although Jesus leaves it at that, this information begs a solution.  How can a person keep from being repossessed and end up in a worse state?  Well it does start with the phrase swept and in order.  Though the evil spirit may be gone, we can still have a lot of paraphernalia in our lives that led to possession in the first place (occult books, pictures, symbols, books of magic, etc…).  We can also have a lot of habits and activities that the spirit used to keep us in slavery.  A person who is serious in being free needs to go through their house and life and do some heavy cleaning and “pruning.”  Certain places will cease to be our hangouts.  Certain people will cease to be our friends. 

Yet, more than cleaning needs to be done.  We need to invite the clean and pure Holy Spirit of God to take up residence in our soul.  Thus the people that Jesus interacted with received a lot of material benefit from Jesus.  But all of that would be little if they didn’t spiritually benefit.  Casting a spirit out is one thing.  But asking the Holy Spirit to fill us and live within us is a far greater thing.  Don’t leave the house empty.  Accept the invitation that Jesus has extended to you today.

Let me close this by laying it out in order.  When you are dealing with evil spirits the first thing that is needed is a strong believer in Jesus who will pray for the freedom of the person possessed.  Next they need to sweep their life clean of all the spiritual junk connected to those spirits.  Lastly, the person needs to put their faith in Jesus and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill them.  This is the path to freedom for those who have found themselves in bondage to evil entities.  May the peace and freedom of Christ reign in our hearts and minds.

 

Clean House Audio

Tuesday
Aug052014

The Powerful Purpose of Christ

Today we are going to look at the passage in Luke 9:37-45.  Jesus, Peter, John and James are coming down the mountain the day after the transfiguration of Jesus, in which his majesty and glory were revealed to the Three.  If you add that situation with all of the other signs and wonders they had seen, the power of Christ was well impressed upon them.  In this passage there is another powerful encounter as Jesus casts a demon out of a boy.  This kind of power can cause people to drool over all the imagination of what you can do.  Whether it is the people of Israel ready to conquer the Romans and remove the wicked leaders in the Sanhedrin or the disciples imagining their positions of power alongside of Jesus, we would not use such power for the same thing Jesus did. 

Yes, Jesus healed people everywhere he went.  But, that wasn’t his main objective.  Jesus physically couldn’t fix all the difficulties in the world limited within a human body.  But even if he did go around healing people and setting them free from evil spirits, it wouldn’t fix the underlying problem: our sin.   Jesus was sent to deal with the root of mankind’s problem.  We are a world that has come under the sway of sin and spiritual death.  Such a problem needs a spiritual answer.  Yet, that answer is counter-intuitive to our worldly thinking.  Even when we accept Christ’s death on the cross, we tend to see it as an example of how bad hatred is and how good love is.  Jesus is merely an example.  However, the testimony of Scripture is that he was paying the price for the sins of mankind.  Jesus had to lay down his powerful life and die on a cross in order to deal with our sin.  This seems like a waste of power to many people.

Jesus Heals A Possessed Boy

In verses 37-42, a large crowd sees Jesus coming down off the mountain and meets him.  Particularly, there is one gentleman who has a demon possessed boy.  He begs Jesus for help and states that his disciples (the nine who did not go up the mountain) couldn’t cast out the demon.

Now in the gospel of Mark chapter 9 we are given a lot more detail than Luke gives.  Let me go through some of those details.  We are told that the boy has been possessed since he was a small child.  The spirit had caused him to become mute and deaf.  The spirit would often seize the boy near fire or water, thus endangering his life.  He would not only seize, but would also foam and gnash his teeth.  It would be easy to scoff at the idea of a demon and look at these descriptions as antiquated relics of ignorance.  Of course medically we do know much more.  However, they had medicine back then as well.  Even today, there are incidents that modern medicine have problem explaining.  They typically get thrown under the banner of “mental disorders.”  Now not all mental issues have to do with demons.  However, there are three main problems that crop up in some mental issues.  The first is that the mention of Jesus or Scripture triggers events of seizure and difficulty in some.  Secondly, they sometimes speak in a different voice cursing Christ, the Bible, and Christians.  Lastly, it can be brought to the end at a vocal command through the power of Jesus.  These things cannot be mere coincidence or cultural.  So this really does seem to be more than just a brain problem.  There is a spirit that is doing this to the child.

The 9 disciples that had stayed behind had been trying to cast out this demon without success.  Now keep in mind that they had previously gone out throughout Israel healing people and casting out demons.  Jesus had given them authority to do so.  There was something wrong in this situation and they didn’t know what it was.  This goes to show that casting out demons is not about knowing the right words or merely being a disciple of Jesus.  Definitely we need to be connected to Christ in a living relationship.  But there is more to it than that.

In verse 41 Jesus brings up the issue of faith and perversion.  It is not addressed to the disciples, but to the generation as a whole.  It seems that this situation is itself a picture of how degraded Israel had become and how plundered by the enemy they were.  Spirits cannot just possess someone.  They can only take hold of someone when they have willfully opened themselves up to them.  This is done through false religions, occult arts, magic, sorcery, fortune tellers or any other such things.  Somewhere someone in this family has been going to spirits for something and it has resulted in a small child being possessed.  What does faith and perversion have to do with this?  God had given Israel perfect laws that would enable them to walk in power before the spirits of this world.  He had warned them of those spiritual traps the enemy used to gain power over people.  Yet, some did not believe the “old, archaic” words of the Bible.  Instead they willfully went their own way seeking power from sources God had told them not to.  On top of this, Israel had not merely sought power from another source, they also had done so while still claiming to be God’s people.  Their lives had become a mixture of things from the Bible and yet things forbidden in the Bible.  To twist God’s ways is to pervert them.  Thus the child bound by a demon and the impotence of the disciples is a small picture of the problem throughout all of Israel. 

Yet, Jesus tells the man, “If you believe all things are possible.”  To which the man replies, “I believe, help my unbelief.”  Here we see the mercy of Christ.  Though it is frustrating that they are in the situation because of their own willfulness and sin, God still has compassion on us and wants to save us.  Jesus points him back to the root problem.  If you will have faith in God all things are possible.  We are being challenged in this ourselves.  We are a generation that is lacking faith in God’s word and in His ways.  We have called our perversions acceptable to God by twisting Scripture to our own ends.  We need to take warning.

Mark tells us that Jesus commanded the Deaf and mute spirit to come out of the boy.  The boy convulsed greatly and screamed and then suddenly stopped.  The crowd thought the boy was dead.  However, Jesus took the boy by the hand and raised him up and gave him back to his father.  This is a picture of us.  We come to God full of all manner of evil things begging for help.  Though he sets us free, it leaves us in a powerless state like this boy, as if dead.  In his mercy, Jesus takes us by the hand and helps us to get up and walk in the new freedom that he has given us.  Not all have been possessed by demons, but we all have found ourselves helpless and bound to the lies that they have sown throughout our society.  Only Jesus can set us free.

Mark also has the additional information of why the 9 disciples could not cast out the demon.  Jesus told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”  There are two things that stick out in this answer.  First of all, there are kinds of spirits.  Some are apparently harder to cast out than others.  The disciples had not run into this kind before.  The second issue has to do with prayer and fasting.  We are not given the explanation of what prayer and fasting does to enable casting out “stronger” spirits.  However, the greatest work of prayer is to focus us on God and his work.  If we live our lives mostly focused on material things of this world and rarely on God, we will find that we lack power for certain spiritual things.  Jesus points his disciples to this area.  When he is gone, they are going to need to prayer and fast at greater levels in order to do the work that God has for them.

Christ’s Purpose vs His Power

In verses 43-45 we see an interaction between Jesus and his disciples.  All of the displays of power that Jesus had been doing caused them to expect the exact opposite of what Jesus was going to do.  They expected a confrontation with the Romans and the leaders of Israel in which Jesus takes over.  All of the majestic power of Christ was not headed to this objective.  Rather, He was headed to a cross.  Even today, many reject Christ because his answer to the world seems weak and pitiful to them.  What a colossal waste of power, they think to themselves.  This difficulty in understanding God’s ways has been a timeless problem for mankind.  We don’t just think differently, but our thoughts lead in the exact opposite direction.  The bible tells us that even the foolishness of God is far higher than the greatest wisdom of man.  In Luke Jesus says, “let these words sink down into your ears…”  A surface understanding alone will not work.  Jesus was to be betrayed and killed; get it through your head.  If we follow Jesus in a superficial way and ignore all the tough things that he says, we will not get far.  The closer Jesus got to the cross the fewer people who gathered around him, until he was all alone.  Jesus is the Rejected One.  No matter how popular he is in a moment in time, we will all be tested in the long run.  You will be forced to choose.  Whom are you following?  Are you following Jesus or the wise and great of this world?  This is the question that is constantly put before those who wish to follow Jesus.  To follow Jesus is to pick up your own cross expecting to die along with him.  Let these words sink into your ears.

Powerful Purpose of Christ Audio

Monday
Jun092014

Demons Obey the Command of Jesus

In today’s society it is easy to reject stories of demon possession as ignorant and unscientific descriptions of mental illness.  However, such a dismissive view leaves too many questions unanswered, both in our experience today and in Scripture.  In Luke 8:26-39 we have an encounter that Jesus had with an individual who is described as being possessed with a great number of demons.

So what are these demons?  The basic, biblical answer is that they are evil, spiritual entities that are in league with Satan.  Though they are invisible to the human eye, the effect of their activities can be seen.  Without detail, the Bible describes the reality that demons are able to take varying possession of the faculties and actions of certain vulnerable people.  In the Bible demonic possession involves more than simply “acting crazy.”  There is usually interaction with an intelligence that seems beyond the person, and is repulsed and removed by the power of Jesus.  For a man to go from years of “mental illness” and speaking as if he had demons within him to total transformation within a matter of minutes begs any natural explanation. Such is the case in our story today.  Christians should be careful of seeing all things strange as the result of demons.  However, neither should we fall into the materialistic tendencies of the modern age that sees such things as patently impossible.

Now the title of this sermon is about how demons obey the command of Christ.  How do I mean that?  God’s commands can be prescriptive in the sense of how we ought to live.  Thus His command: love one another as I have loved you.  Yet, God’s commands can also be directive or judicial in the sense of what will happen whether we cooperate or not.  God won’t force us to love one another.  But when he commands demons to leave a man, it is a judicial command that cannot be “disobeyed” any more than a man sentenced to prison can disobey and walk out of court.  They have no choice.

Demons Are Enemies of God and Man

Having crossed the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and his disciples come to the shore of the opposite side in the area of Gadara.  Here they are met by a raving man who has been abused by demons for a long time.  We are given the account of an interaction that Jesus had with these demons and in it we recognize two clear facts: Demons do not care for humans and they are not working with God.

Another thing we find is that demons are numerous.  Regardless the number, a great number of demons were working together to keep this man under their control and to work through him.  Any attempt to quantify the population of demons that are preying on mankind would be pure speculation.  Another point of note comes from Luke 11:24-26.  There we see that some demons are more wicked than others and the condition of a man is worse when more than one demon is involved.  Also, that demons have no “rest” until they have taken possession of an individual.  It stands to reason that wicked individuals become more susceptible to demonic possession as they morally degrade.  We would also expect societies that are heavily involved in working with spirits to see higher numbers of these possessions because they would have a higher number of vulnerable individuals.  Thus some places in the world may see very little of this and in other places it may be a common thing.

Another thing we see here is a classic sign of demonic possession.  Demons always abuse those they inhabit.  The abuse begins in the mind.  A demon that possesses a person will force its personality and will upon an individual from time to time.  Though it may be sporadic at first, it can become worse over time.  In this story the intellect of the man who is possessed does not appear until after the demons are cast out.  However, the abuse is obviously more than mental.  Note that the passage describes the man’s life.  Somewhere along the line these demons began to manifest to the point that the city in which he lived tried to restrain him.  However, nothing they tried was able to restrain the man.  He eventually is driven out into the tombs and lives among the dead and wearing no clothes.  He has become an outcast driven into the wilderness.  Thus demons abuse the host and yet also abuse others through the host.

At this point you might be scared of these beings.  Yet, notice that they are very afraid of Jesus.  As spirit beings they are perceptive of spiritual matters.  Thus they direct the man out of the tombs to meet Jesus at the shore with the question, “What have I to do with you?”  This area lies outside of Israel at the time.  Thus Jesus is stepping onto the spiritual turf of these demons.  He is a threat and they want to know why Jesus is there and what he is doing.  Lastly they are afraid that Jesus might be there to torture them by commanding them into the Abyss.  What is the Abyss?  Sometimes translated as “bottomless pit” it is only explained in Revelation chapter 9.  Here we see it is a kind of spiritual prison for wicked spirits.  Why some are in this prison and not all is not explained.  These demons are clearly afraid Jesus has come to put them in it.  Thus demons would rather be free to roam the earth and possess the vulnerable than be locked up in the Abyss awaiting the end of this Age.

Lastly, we see in this passage the manipulative nature of demons.  As evil beings they cannot be trusted.  Even “truthful” things they may say cannot be trusted.  I am not saying that Jesus is duped here.  However, the demons are attempting to control the situation to their benefit.  As long as they do not end up in the Abyss they are "happy."  They are not happy about Jesus being in this area.  Thus, I believe, the petition to be allowed to enter the pigs is more about creating a scene than attempting to stay in the pigs.  When Jesus allows this, the demons drive the pigs into the sea thus killing them.  This would then deprive the demons of their hosts causing them to escape into the area looking for more prey.  Why would they do this?  There seems to be an element of rage in this scene.  The full, destructive rage of demons is generally checked by their desire to retain possession of a host.  However, in this case, they do not care about the pigs and in a fit of rage throw a kind of tantrum as a means of venting against Jesus.  Yet, they also create turmoil in the area that would make the inhabitants fearful of Jesus and angry at their loss of income.  So there may be a kind of defensive maneuver here to protect their territory. 

Jesus Healed the Demon Possessed Man

Now in looking at the demons we do not want to lose sight of what is happening for the man.  Jesus has healed him of his affliction.  Even more serious than a physical sickness is a spiritual sickness in which one’s inner being is invaded by something worse than cancer.  We see here that no number of demons is a match for Jesus.  There is no battle, nor week long exorcism.  Jesus has absolute command over these demons.  Though they try to manipulate it, they had to leave the man they had controlled for so long.  Now for Jesus it is no problem.  However, for us, some spirits are more difficult than others.  Believers who come into contact with a demon possessed person need to be humble and careful.  Through prayer and fasting we can purge our life of anything that might be between us and our Lord.  Jesus is the power that demons fear.  If they fear believers at all, it will only be because of our close relationship with Jesus and dependence upon his power alone.

The owners of the pigs had witnessed this event and ran to town in order to tell everyone what happened.  Thus a large group gathers at the beach and finds the previously possessed man “in his right mind.”  He is no longer a raving lunatic that is destroying himself and anyone who gets in the way.  He is his “old self.”  Even here we see the recognition that a switch in personality and activity has happened, and without years of counseling and psychotropic drugs.  Unless you write off the account as a myth, it is hard to explain this other than the biblical explanation.  Let me take a moment to contrast the way that God’s Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers to the way demons operate in their hosts.  God does not want to take away control of our own mind.  He wants us to follow Him out of loving obedience.  However, evil spirits lust to subject the personality of an individual beneath theirs in domination.  They operate in an abusive mode, whereas the Holy Spirit operates in a gentle mode.  They operate in deception and manipulative promises, whereas the Holy Spirit operates out of truth and purity of intent.

Even though the man is in his right mind, the locals want Jesus to leave.  He is a "trouble maker" who threatens the order of things in their district.  Their fear of Jesus and what he is capable of doing causes them to push him away.  Jesus is going to leave.  However, I believe this encounter was exactly what he had come to do.  He had come to confront these demons and set a man free.  In light of this we may now have deeper understanding into why the storm threatened to swamp their boat and kill them all.  Spiritual battles often play out in the material world unknown to man.  Christ was causing enough problems in Israel.  Satan did not want him entering other strongholds.

The man’s response is understandably different.  The man is so thankful that he wants to follow Jesus and become a disciple.  He may also be afraid to leave the side of Jesus in that the demons could come back.  How wonderful it would be to follow such a man of power and compassion.   Imagine the safety and joy that would be his in the presence of Jesus.  Yet it was not to be so.  Following Jesus is not always about going somewhere.  Sometimes it is about staying.  It is not that this man lacks the qualifications to be a disciple that followed Jesus around, but rather, it is that Christ had a different purpose for him.  He would become a witness who would spread the truth throughout the area that Jesus delivered him from a legion of demons.  Later when the apostles spread out from Jerusalem due to persecution, Christians would enter this area and find people who were prepared to receive the gospel because of the faithfulness of this man who had been possessed by demons.

Let me close by warning believers.  We may run into this more and more in the United States of America in the future.  We are clearly casting off the Word of God and at the same time embracing all manner of spiritism.  Beware of playing with things that seek to contact spirits or satan even if it seems benign.  Beware of using spirits to try and foresee the future, whether through seemingly innocent Ouija boards or occult rituals.  These spirits are manipulative and deceptive.  By the time you think to back out, it will be too late.  Also, be careful that you are not hiding secret sin in your life because this will inhibit your ability to be a source of freedom for others.  Guard your heart from the seduction of spirits that promise the heavens but instead deliver hell.

Demons Obey Jesus mp3