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Weekly Word

Entries in Power (9)

Tuesday
Sep232014

The Joy of Jesus & His Disciples

When a child is young it is easier for them to rejoice in the gifts that they receive more than in those who give them.  Hopefully over time they will learn to rejoice more in the giver than in the gift.  Today we are going to look at Luke 10:17-24.  Here we see the disciples overjoyed that they had authority over demons.  Yet, Jesus points them to a better joy, the joy of belonging to God and having His salvation. 

It is not that God doesn’t want us rejoicing.  In fact, God wants us to join Him in what causes Him to rejoice.  When we rejoice in the wrong things our hearts are pulled away from Jesus little by little.

What We Rejoice In Is Critical

As the 70 disciples return from their ministry throughout the cities of Israel, we find them rejoicing greatly with Jesus.  They had been successful and accomplished exactly what Jesus had asked them.  Thus their slight error of rejoicing in their power over demons could have been allowed to slide.  Yet, Jesus takes some time to “rain on their parade.”  It is not because they are too happy and Jesus wants them to be serious.  Rather, their rejoicing is centered on the wrong thing and their joy is being drawn from the wrong well.

Now the problem of demonic possession is real.  It can be prevalent or rare in areas; depending upon where you live.  In places where the Truth of God has been rejected the teachings of demons eventually take over.  Why?  When people quit living by God’s Word they find themselves powerless and empty.  It then becomes too easy to turn to other means of power and fulfillment.  When we seek spiritual power from sources other than God, we fall into the trap of Satan.  Thus many false religions and ideologies have come into being over the millennia of mankind’s existence.  Now not all mental problems are caused by demons.  However, our tendency in the modern era is to discount the biblical record and chalk it up to their ignorance.  This mistake will leave us powerless as well.  In the first century AD, Israel had become such a place where God’s word was only given a superficial nod.  Demonic possession had gone from a rare thing to something that was more common.  The 70 had seen cities and families powerless to deal with these possessed people.  Thus their shock at the obedience of the demons to themselves turns into great joy.

In verse 18 Jesus responds by telling them about seeing Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  Now the Bible speaks of several “falls” of Satan.  So it is not evident to which he is referring.  We know that Satan fell from being a Holy Angel to becoming a Fallen Angel.  He loses his place and position in the heavenly leadership.  Yet, Revelation 12:9 also speaks of a time where Satan is “kicked out” of the heavenlies.  His access to the throne of God is cut off and he is restricted to the earth.  Later he will be cast down into the Bottomless Pit, and then released for a short time.  After this he is cast into the Lake of Fire, from which there is no return.  Is Jesus looking back to the fall from grace at the beginning of creation?  If so he is warning them that Satan too once had powerful authority and yet fell from it out of pride.  However, Jesus may be looking to something during those days.  It is clear that the entrance of Jesus into mankind and the earth had begun the fall of Satan’s kingdom.  Satan had plundered all mankind and it was under his sway.  But Jesus comes forth and begins casting him down from his rule over people and nations.  The Church would extend what Jesus had begun because of the work done at the cross.  In this case Jesus is encouraging them that Satan has lost his place and his kingdom is ripe for the picking.  Of course this will not be completed until the 2nd coming of Christ, but that is a topic for another time.

The second scenario seems more plausible because Jesus goes on to confirm that he had given his disciples authority over demons.  He calls them serpents and scorpions, but this is clearly a metaphor for the evil spirits.  We must remember that our authority is not over people and nations.  Similarly the enemy we are called to fight is not political parties, racial groups, other religions, or even Islamic Jihadis.  Our real war is against these evil spirits and the teachings or ideologies that they use to control people.

Now even though Jesus has given authority, we have to exercise that authority and learn how to use it.  We need to learn how to pray and fast, keep ourselves in daily communion with Jesus, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of being fearful of these things or pretending they don’t exist, we need to take a stand against them and cast down their influence over others.  There is one thing to note.  Not all people are possessed by evil spirits.  Most people are just heavily influenced through philosophy and vain arguments exalted against God.  Possession occurs when people actually seek power from those spirits through the occult arts.  This “permission” allows evil spirits to dominate their personality and doesn’t always manifest the same way.  In cases where there is possession the person is generally wanting to be free of the tormenting spirit, although not always.  Yet, people who are under the seductive influence of demons are not so easily helped.  In those cases we have to use the Truth of God to free their mind from the lies they have embraced.

Now Jesus points them to center their rejoicing on the fact that their names are written in the heaven, i.e. that they belong to God and are saved.  I think a good principle to learn from this correction is that we should never rejoice in authority.  It is a duty and a responsibility for which we will be held accountable.  Much is at risk and requires sober focus upon the task at hand to be successful.  Therefore sobriety is the proper response to authority.  But the grace we have received from God is a proper thing to rejoice in. 

Let’s use an exorcism as an example.  The person who is freed from an evil spirit has been given the grace of God.  It is only right for them to rejoice that they are free from the evil spirit, have been given Truth, and are now able to follow Jesus.  However, the person who is used to cast the spirit out should rejoice that they belong to Jesus and now they have a new brother or sister who can experience that joy as well. 

Another example could be that of being a parent.  Raising children is a tough but rewarding task.  It is common for a young couple to rejoice that they have been given a child from God.  He has graced them with the child.  But few would rejoice that they have authority over the child.  No, that is the sobering part of being a parent.  Not only am I responsible to teach this child, but the child quickly shows that it has a sinful nature and often fights us in that responsibility.  Yet, parents can rejoice that the same God who has given them the task will also supply the help of the Holy Spirit to raise them for Him.  Thus the principle is this: rejoice in the grace you have received rather than the authority you have been given.  Rejoicing over authority actually leads to pride, arrogance, and eventually to a great fall.

Jesus Rejoices

As we see Jesus correcting their joy, in verses 21-24 we see that Jesus is not joyless himself.  Just as Jesus wept, he also rejoiced!  God does want us to have joy in life.  But He knows our hearts are tempted to rejoice in the wrong things.  Thus Luke relates those things that Jesus rejoiced in.

He rejoiced that the plan of salvation had been hidden from the “wise” of this world.  This may sound odd at first.  Why would God hide salvation from the wise of this world?  It is perhaps better to ask ourselves in what way it is hidden to them.  The Gospel is not a secret.  The death and resurrection of Jesus were done in the open and later preached openly over the course of two millennia.  It is not hidden in that they have never seen it or heard it.  Rather it is hidden because the choices they have made have blinded them to see that it is a greater wisdom.  They are so filled with their own wisdom that when the wisdom of God comes along, it seems foolish to them.  Yes, they see it with their natural eyes, but supernaturally they cannot see it for what it is.  Though we can learn many things through our knowledge and wisdom of this world, it can never lead us to discover the path of man’s salvation.  Will future artificial intelligences save mankind?  Will genetic manipulation lead to us becoming the gods that we have thrown behind us?  None of these answers or any future ones will really save mankind.  They will only lead to deeper hells and stronger chains.  The only way we can “see” the real path of salvation is to have it revealed to us by God Himself by His Spirit.  Those who are fascinated with their own methods of obtaining wisdom are not quick to turn to such a thing.  God’s wisdom recognizes that if he saves people through mankind’s own wisdom then He only will be stroking the pride of man and making his condition worse.  It was our “wisdom” that got us in this problem in the first place.  “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate it.”  Pride and lust have led to our fall and thus our salvation must cast these things to the ground.  When we recognize the wisdom of God, we too will rejoice that salvation is not something that an elite few of mankind can obtain.  The elite already think they are saved.  But God comes to those who know they are lost and cry out for help.  These He can save.

Jesus also rejoices that the plan of salvation has been revealed to “babes.”  “Babes” here is in contrast to the wise.  This mysterious salvation that is hidden and yet not hidden can be found by babies.  It is hidden to those who are full of themselves and believe that the only gems of knowledge are the ones they have found without the help of any god.  But God has given the truth, not to the Herods, Ceasars, and High Priests of this world.  Rather, he has given it to those whom these look down upon.  Those who are not full of themselves and are not offended at the need to humble themselves are able to receive God’s offer of salvation.  This is what makes Jesus rejoice.  If the way is hidden to you, it is by your own doing.

In verses 23-24, Jesus ends by reminding them of what God has given them.  A new and blessed age had begun through the wisdom of Christ.  In fact Jesus is the wisdom of God sent down to free mankind from the tyrannical pride of its own wisdom.  It is not that we shouldn’t be wise, but that our wisdom is in actuality foolishness.  When our wisdom causes us to cast the Creator aside, and when our wisdom doesn’t think retaining the knowledge of God is important, then we have doomed ourselves.  The Church of Christ was instituted as a part of a new kingdom in which the weak, poor, and babies of this world would be enabled to rise up and walk in the salvation of God.  They would live out this peculiar wisdom of God in the world, and by doing so, cast down the power of Satan and his den of snakes.

Let me encourage you, Christian, first cast down the teaching of demons in your own life.  You may not think of it as so.  But each time you cling to anger over forgiveness you have embraced the same thoughts of Satan and his evil spirits.  Each time you let wounds rule your life, you walk the same path that Satan and his spirits blazed eons ago.  When you have cleared your own life, then you will be able to help others, even to the point of exercising authority over demons.  Let us not walk in fear, or in arrogant pride.  Instead, let us walk in the simple faith of a child and prayerfully use the authority that Christ has given us for the sake of others.

Joy of Jesus 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

Tuesday
Jul012014

Power and Authority Delegated

Today we will be looking at Luke chapter 9 and verses one through ten.  It is easy to think of the ministry of Jesus and his disciples in the sense that the disciples were just baggage that Jesus carried around with him.  However, in today’s passage we see that, even before the cross, Christ had sent them on missions in which they were able to do what Christ had been doing (to some degree).  How was this possible?  It was possible because Jesus had delegated to them his power and authority.

Power and Authority Delegated

In the first two verses we see that the word delegated is not used.  However, it clearly says that Jesus gave his disciples power and authority.  Of course, this is the very definition of delegation.  The word “power” focuses on the raw power to do something.  The disciples would have this “raw power” because the Holy Spirit would work through them.  Jesus was giving this to them.  The word “authority” focuses on the right or position that enables one to do something.  As personal representatives of Jesus, they are given the right to act on the behalf of Jesus in certain ways.

Now remember that Jesus has more than proven his power and authority by this point.  He has shown power over disease and nature.  He has also demonstrated power and authority over spiritual powers.  So when he tells them that he is “giving” them power we should sit up and take notice.  This somewhat amazing command is helped by the very nature of the one giving it.

Freeing a person from a spirit or from a virus is really quite similar.  A foreign entity is removed so that a person can operate as God intended them to do.  Yet, spirits do have sentience.  So Jesus tells them to cast out spirits and to cure diseases.  Yet, the authority and power is limited.  They are not told to take over the administration of Israel, or to command the Romans to leave Israel.  Thus true delegation is powerful and yet limited by the one who is giving it.  It is easy to do to dismiss the “backwards” notion of evil spirits.  However, those who have honestly researched into these things will find that too many things cannot be explained.  I won’t go into it this morning, but God’s Word warns us against opening ourselves up to evil spirits through drugs and occult rituals.  These things are ways that people give “permission” to evil entities to begin operating within them.  As our nation, more and more, rejects Jesus and God’s Word, we will begin to see more and more demonic activity.  Are you ready?

Now in verse two it mentions that they are to preach the Kingdom of God.  Thus while they do spectacular works of power, they are proclaiming a message about God’s Kingdom.  Israel had longed for the Anointed King or (Messiah) to come and rule with the righteousness of God.  His would be a just administration that would truly be God with us.  Jesus and his disciples proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was now here.  However, it has a present and a future sense.  In the spiritual, Jesus would take up rule in the hearts of his believers without an earthly throne.  By his Spirit in their hearts he would direct and rule over this kingdom from heaven.  This is not exactly what Israel was expecting.  They were looking for the Messiah to sit on a throne in Jerusalem and raise up Israel to rule over the world.  Now there is a future promise that Jesus will come back to earth in physical form.  He will also put down the armies of the nations of the world as they try to stop his coming.  Jesus will indeed rule in person on this earth one day.  But that day is not yet.  Thus there was a strong need for some powerful proof that the disciples were not just making up a likely fairy tale to explain why Jesus had “failed,” once he was crucified.

Don’t Worry About Provision

In verse three Jesus tells them not to stock up on things that they would normally take with them on a journey.  Why?  Material provisions and our worry about them can often get between us and God’s plan.  So, Jesus ensures that they will have to learn quickly how to trust God and Him alone.  In some ways not taking anything would make matters worse.  From day one they could worry about where their next meal would come from.  They could worry more.  But, as they found God supplying their needs they would grow in faith.  Sometimes God allows us to enter times that seem lean to us.  Yet, if we will trust Him, we will find that His supply will remain constant, though maybe not at the level we hope for.  If we remain thankful and faithful, we will become more like Christ and bring joy to our heavenly Father.

We also notice that God would provide through people.  This is seen in the following verses.  This too is a pitfall.  Will I become to lean on people more than God who opens their heart towards me?  What is my motivation?  Am I seeking to mooch off of people or even worse, fleece them?  The work of a minister is to be a humble one.  I am at the mercy and care of others.  I should never take advantage of that, nor become angry when it is not up to my liking.  If God calls you to full-time ministry then He will provide for you.  It will often come through the help of people who are thankful for your ministry on God’s behalf.  Do not let that corrupt you.  Rather continually give God thanks no matter what is given and minister freely to those who do not have.  Even if you are not called to full-time ministry, no matter what God calls you to do, He will provide.  You won’t have to shake people down, or manipulate them through better fundraising techniques.  You merely need to pray and be faithful at what He has called you to do.

Don’t Worry About How You Are Received

In verses 4-5 Jesus speaks about the kinds of reception they will receive.  Now when we say, “don’t worry about how people receive you,” it doesn’t mean you don’t care about how they respond.  But, it does mean we refuse to operate out of a method that will change the message in order to get more to receive us.  Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders because he pointed out their sins.  Some would receive the disciples.  Perhaps because of what was being preached and wanting to know more.  Or perhaps, because of a miracle that they had seen the disciples do.  They would find people who wanted to be a part of the kingdom of God and would invite them into their houses and feed them.

On the other hand some people would reject them.  Not all still believe there is such a thing as the Kingdom of God.  Perhaps they have grown cynical.  They would be rejected by individuals and yet, Jesus says that they might be rejected by whole villages.  The Gospel was not to be changed in order to appease them.  Rather, Jesus instructed his disciples to shake the dust off of their feet as they left town.  This is a reference to a custom of some religious Jews who, when they left Gentile cities, would shake off the dust from their feet as a sign that they wanted no contamination to cling to them.  Yet, here Jesus uses it as a sign that the disciples had been there and would leave evidence that God could point to as proof of the guilt of those who rejected them.  When we come in the name and manner of Jesus, He will deal with those who reject us.  We need not be bitter or compromising.

The Rulers of This World Perplexed

In verses 6-10, we see Herod perplexed.  Jesus is the king of the Kingdom of God.  However, the current King of Israel isn’t sure how to take him.  Herod is himself a pretender to the throne.  Given to him by Rome’s Ceasar, Herod had no true claim to Israel’s throne.  Yet, Jesus does not seem to be trying to take it.  He doesn’t “do politics” in a way that Herod understands.  Herod also seems to have some guilt about killing John the Baptist.  He conjectures that Jesus just may be John come back from the dead.

Although God works indirectly through world leaders, His primary tool in this world is His Church- people who are surrendered to His rule and mission in their life.  God has rejected the wise men and the movers and shakers of this world.  This perplexes them.  They cannot conceive that anything great can truly be done without them.  But God has pledged to do exactly this.  If you find yourself among the powerful of this world, humble yourself and beg of God for grace.  Jesus and His Kingdom will not be brought in by Herod, Ceasar, or the leaders of the world today.  Rather, He will do so through the most humble of the earth.  1 Corinthians 2:7- 8 says, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

Just as Herod was perplexed with Jesus, so the spiritual powers behind him are at a loss as well.  The strategy of Jesus is quite different from the schemes and tricks of the devil.  In fact, had satan realized what crucifying Christ was doing for sinners, he most likely would have refrained from instigating the leaders against him.  But now Jesus has spiritually bound the strongman.  Those who know Christ are given the right and authority to preach the gospel on His behalf.  He also chooses to confirm this gospel through signs and wonders that he performs at his desire.  Yet, the battle is not completely over.  Even as satan is spiritually bound today and all are free to embrace Jesus, many still reject Christ.  Eventually God will let the world and its leaders have the way that they have desired, which will only lead to rapid ruin for this planet.  So until the Kingdom of God is materially instituted on this earth are you operating within it by the Spirit already?  Christ is still delegating today power and authority to His faithful disciples.  We must respond in a way that waits upon the Lord for direction as to how he has determined for us to serve him.  We must also be bold in this hour when the enemy wants to cause us to fear through intimidation.  Respond to the Spirit today by putting your faith in Jesus and becoming a proclaimer of the Kingdom of God.

Power Authority Delegated 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