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Monday, January 22, 2018

What about the Devil?

 This is a sermon prepared as part 1 of my message prepared for the Renmark Uniting Church where I will be preaching soon.
I will not be presenting part1 in person. It is intended as a pre reading or post reading help.
I will post part 2 after I have presented it.

Bible Reading: Mark 1: 21-28

21 Jesus and his companions now arrived at the town of Capernaum and on Saturday morning went into the Jewish place of worship—the synagogue—where he preached. 22 The congregation was surprised at his sermon because he spoke as an authority and didn’t try to prove his points by quoting others—quite unlike what they were used to hearing![h]
23 A man possessed by a demon was present and began shouting, 24 “Why are you bothering us, Jesus of Nazareth—have you come to destroy us demons? I know who you are—the holy Son of God!”
25 Jesus curtly commanded the demon to say no more and to come out of the man. 26 At that the evil spirit screamed and convulsed the man violently and left him. 27 Amazement gripped the audience and they began discussing what had happened.
“What sort of new religion is this?” they asked excitedly. “Why, even evil spirits obey his orders!”
28 The news of what he had done spread quickly through that entire area of Galilee.

Sermon: What about the Devil?

Last time I was here  we talked about Jesus coming to set the captives free.
This message today is about how we can be ensnared or made captive or become in bondage to the devil.
And how we can be set free.
I come to this message today with a certain sense of how can we possibly grasp what the subject is about in a short 20mins.

We will really only just scratch the surface.

 I have touched on some of these themes when I was here in July last year.

The mistake Christians make,
from the Preface to The Screwtape Letters:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves( the devils or demons) are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

Hold onto these thoughts
When I was a new Christian I started to develop a great interest in these goings on of the devil.
I quizzed my mentor, a pastor, a lot about certain people.

I tended to be looking for the demonic evidence in troubled people I came across.
My Pastor helped me a lot in this.
He said to me one day “would you like me to teach you how to minister in this area?”
He prefaced that by saying this can be very challenging work and not to be taken lightly.
I decided I had enough on my plate and declined his offer.
I also realized I was tending to see a demon just about behind every bush.
I realized I had developed a probably unhealthy interest.

We need to know how to nullify the work of the devil in our homes and in our Church and in our own lives.

Either way it is something we do ourselves a dis service if we just think this message has nothing to do with us or our church.

From the outset I will say it is 100% positive there is a devil and he is alive and active on planet earth.

Lucifer, meaning angel of light, was one of God’s created angels who decided he would try and usurp God as the ruler of the universe.

Lucifer is the devil(Satan).

He usually tempts us in the same way he did Adam and Eve.

“No harm will come to you. You will enjoy this.”

He is the one behind the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and is still our tempter.

The tempter who encourages us to sin.

The Bible teaches us as Christians that we have 5 enemies.
The flesh
The devil
the world
Non Christians also have the same enemies but death is probably the only one they acknowledge.

The world meaning worldly living.

As Christians we are living in the world but are not to be partakers of worldliness.

“1 John 2:15King James Version (KJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
These are strong words but remember the world rejects God and rejects Jesus Christ as its savior.

The flesh is where we have unhealthy interest in things of an immoral nature.

It is inbuilt as part of our makeup.

This conflict between the Holy Spirit and the Flesh, never ceases.   
 Sinful nature,the lust of the flesh,lower nature,passions of the flesh,cravings of your lower nature,human nature without God, are some of the descriptions of “the flesh” in various translations.

“Galatians 5:17Living Bible (TLB)

17 For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires.  

These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures. “

The devil knows how to trigger off our unhealthy desires and that is where he works on us in conflict and warfare with the Holy Spirit.

We should never drop our guard against this.

In this we are a work in progress.

He also tempted Jesus during His ministry on earth.

But Jesus was without sin.

He suffered the same temptations we do  but He was without sin.

Sin and the devil was defeated on the cross by Jesus.

Also death and the flesh.

It has been possible for us since then to have victory over sin.

In this Bible passage today it is a clear account of how Jesus cast out demons from a man who was disrupting a service in the Synagogue.

Some people today discount demonic possession and would say this man had a form of mental illness and Jesus healed him.

Note these demons knew they were demons and what’s more they knew who Jesus was.

Jesus did not address the man he spoke directly to the demon or demons.
So here are some topics a passage like this suggests we should look at.
1.  Is demon possession still happening today?
For a good proportion of the world’s population, they have no doubt.
They live in cultures where demonism and witchcraft is common place and they seek out witchdoctors and other practitioners for help.
It is still happening and always has in western society but in our so called enlightened western education we mostly pass it off as a psychological manifestation.
They might say this man had a mental health condition.
Some psychiatrists might call it a “Demon Possession Syndrome”
(A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms occurring together, constitutes a particular disease or disorder. The word derives from the Greek σύνδρομον, meaning "concurrence".)
2.  Is all mental illness satanic?
You can have a chemical imbalance.
And some use of medication for those suffering depression can be helpful.
Such medication will only alleviate symptons and is not a cure and some side effects can be unpleasant.
(Dr Neil Anderson comments on this in his very helpful books.)
When suffering depression myself I was reluctant to take medication but was in such an acute state at one time that my wife and doctor advised it would be helpful.
It was, but I got off the drug as soon as possible when I had realized God’s healing.
On the other hand those who take illicit drugs and are addicts are opening themselves up to demonic oppression and affliction.
The devil works through the chemicals.
They form addictive ,destructive, behavior.
They give the person a “high” which is an escape from their “lows”
Many of the attrocities we see committed in our country and overseas have much of the devil behind it.
We sometimes say how could a human being do that to another human being?
The answer is that quite often the offender is under the control of demons.
Comedian Flip Wilson used to have this line.
“the devil made me do it?”
He used it to get many a laugh however it is no laughing matter.
When you read in the press where a notorious offender is said to show no remorse for their crime, that is  usually a good indication of the source of the evil.
3.  Can a Christian be affected by the devil?
But we can take steps to ensure we are protected or if afflicted, set free.
Jesus defeated the devil on the cross but we need to know how to claim that victory as an individual.
The devil will on occasions be our accuser,
On other occasions our oppressor.
4.The danger of Passivity as a Christian.
We have a great danger as Christians if we particularly let our minds go passive, especially if we are seeking some special experience.
Jesse Penn- Lewis has written about this in her famous book “War on the Saints”
It is about Spiritual Warfare.
Here is her definition of passivity.
“a cessation of the active exercise of the will in control over spirit,soul, and body,or either,as may be the case.
It is practically, a counterfeit of “surrender to God.”
The believer who “surrenders” his “members” –or faculties-to God, and ceases to use them himself, thereby falls into “passivity” which enables evil spirits to deceive, and possess any part of his being which has become passive.”
Non Christian meditation is not a good thing.
This is a form of passivity.
They call this mindfulness in some camps today.
While many will tell you how helpful this practice is there is a a number of reports by Psychiatrists who are talking about the negative effects of this practice.

Just google the subject. I could copy and paste here but am mindful of copyright.

Mindfulness  is a door that the devil can get through.

It is an example of passivity.

I would advise to shut this door and seek instead to allow God to minister to you as you read His word and study it.

This is Christian meditation.

But some Christian practices can be harmful.
They trouble me more than some of the secular practices that are dangerous.
There are highly influential Christian movements who have a large following where in my opinion, and the opinions of others satan, is having a field day.
There is a blog called M’kaylas Korner where M’kayla shares her negative experiences in one of these movements and shares with others who have similarly suffered distress.
Christian book shops stock lots of their books.

Waiting on the Holy Spirit or what some call “tarrying” is not a good thing.
There are Christian courses that dedicate a whole weekend to this or a whole day.
Now the course may have some good teaching in it but I don’t like their take on the Holy Spirit.

In this day and age we are under no instruction to wait or tarry for the Holy Spirit to come upon us or indwell us.

The Apostles, only the Apostles, in the upper room, were told by Jesus to wait or tarry until the Holy Spirit came upon them.
They did and the day of Pentecost, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit came as a once only occurrence. 

If we are Christians the Holy Spirit is already living within us.
Acts 2:38 and Romans 8:9.
Some people teach there is a second blessing, which they say is manifested by speaking in tongues.
Not so!
We can be filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit as we abide in Christ,
 if you like, walk in the light of His word.
Act in obedience with God’s word.

The doors we should shut.

There are many.

In Church all hurt feelings, buried or otherwise,all hard,harsh,unloving,un-Christlike attitudes or feelings, are of the devil.
All critical,faultfinding judgements which we accuse with,or find fault with,or blast others with, are of the devil.
The devil uses these to destroy the witness,
        The saving power,
             The tremendous victory
                    Of Jesus in our Church.
In our Homes,
I once read a Christian book which I think had a title or sub title, “the devil knows your house number.”
The devil seeks to destroy Christian homes.
We allow him to do it by our un-Christian behavior towards each other.
Our unbelief in our God and our Savior is a big contributor to this.
We like to have sometimes in Christian homes a plaque on the wall.
It goes like this.
“Christ is the Head of this House,The Unseen guest at every meal,the Silent listener to every conversation.”
We can have this in pride of place in the dining room but never give it a second thought that it is true.
If we really believed that this was true how much different would our behaviour to each other be?
How much more would our home manifest the love of Jesus.
What does all this mean to us?
Do we just ignore this teaching we have read about today?

Do we ignore the facts that on more than one occasion Jesus ministered to people who were demon possessed?
He still does this today through His faithful servants on earth.
What do you do after a sermon like this?

I want to say that as a Christian we have no need to fear the devil.

He is a defeated enemy.

But we do need to be armed to deal with his attacks on us.

(You will find God’s armour listed in Ephesians 6:13-19.)

"Ephesians 6:13-19Living Bible (TLB)

13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.
14 But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. 15 Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17 And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.
18 Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere. 19 Pray for me, too, and ask God to give me the right words as I boldly tell others about the Lord and as I explain to them that his salvation is for the Gentiles too."

You need to be able to recognise the devil’s attacks when they come.

If we want this Church to grow, and it could, we need to know how the devil is holding us back.

How to overcome those obstacles.

How to use the authority Jesus gives us.

I have just a few handouts on some of these topics in a bit more detail if you wish to avail yourself of them.

If we are troubled by things that we suspect may be of the devil then take some steps to talk to someone who you trust.

A Christian who understands such problems. 

There are many posts on this blog that can be very helpful.

I can make this sermon available to you in printed form if you wanted time to reflect and study this theme.

I remind us of what CS Lewis said;

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves( the devils or demons) are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."


PS. For more in depth look at these things I would suggest you click on spiritual warfare in the tag list below.

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