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Dealing with the Demons in Your Life

(Mark 5: 1-20)

People sometimes speak about the demons in their lives. It’s not an expression I like to use, because I actually believe it is factually incorrect when it come to the life of a Christian believer. Many people who say this usually mean that there is something unhealthy in their lives that is controlling them. In Mark’s gospel accounts Jesus is seen to deal with real demons If we look at one of the episodes when he deals with a demon possessed man perhaps we can learn something that will help us deal with those areas of our lives where we feel we are not in control.

Jesus and the disciples had got in a boat and had set off to cross the lake to the other side during the crossing Jesus calmed a storm and now we find them across the lake to the east to an area of the Gerasenes. When they arrive, they encounter someone who is described as having an unclean spirit. This is a man who is profoundly disturbed, he is also violent to the point where people have felt the need to tie him up in chains and even those chains did not hold him. He broke free and he headed for the hills where he lived amongst the tombs, and he would cry out night and day. To make matters even worse, he is cutting himself, self-harming. This man is out of control, violent and was now living wild among the tombs.

There is no evidence in the bible that people get demon possessed against their wills. This situation doesn’t happen without the person somehow cooperating in it. The bible clearly forbids anything to do with messing around with the demonic forces or what we today would call the occult. In the Pentateuch the book of Deuteronomy lists demonic activities that you should not participate in because of the potential consequences. Things like fortune telling, card reading, and seances are all forbidden because they are spiritually dangerous. Today there are those who openly admit to being participants in things like witchcraft and Satanism and are unashamed to say so. Such people are inviting intensely dangerous spiritual consequences upon themselves similar to what we see Jesus dealing with here. However, demon possession described in the bible is a completely different thing from what we today usually recognize as mental illness today.

However, the Bible is clear that all of us are at risk of becoming susceptible to coming under demonic influences. Let me give you a couple of biblical standards to see what it actually means to come under demonic influence. It may be slightly different that you imagined. The book of Timothy gives us a litmus test of what being influenced by the demonic is.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (Tim 4:1)

One form of demonic influence is the teaching of false religious doctrine. We cannot afford to get complacent even Peter was accused of giving voice to a doctrine inspired by Satan himself. Jesus had just told him  “I am going to Jerusalem, I am going to be killed, crucified in fact, and I am going to be raised from the dead”. And Peter then says, “no, no Lord. that not going to happen”. You’re not going to be killed, none of these things are going to happen and Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan” Any doctrine of faith that excludes the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christ himself said it is inspired by Satan. Is there any other way we can be influenced by a demon?

‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4: 26-2)

  This warning is not saying we can never be angry, there is such a thing as righteous anger, but we should never let anger fester because if we do we give the devil a foothold? The bible is telling us if you let the sun go down on anger or unforgiveness you open yourself up to being influenced by the devil. By allowing bitterness or anger to fester for more than a day you invite demonic influences into your life. If you hold a grudge, or harbour unforgiveness, you are coming under demonic influence.

The Lord turns his attention to the demons, or to be more accurate they turn their attention to him.

When he (That’s the demon possessed man) saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. (Prostrated/submitted) He shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!’  For (This was because) Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of this man, you impure spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’ 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. (Mark 5: 6-10)

Jesus’ conversation is with the demons, not with the man. Don’t torment us they beg and don’t send us out of the area. This passage makes a point of saying this man lived “among the tombs”. Therefore, what the demons are saying is don’t caste us out of this area because we are at home among the tombs. They then make a third request of Jesus.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’(Mark 5: 11-12)

Please note, the demons didn’t know what Jesus planned to do, the demons have no insight into the plans or purposes of Jesus. It’s good to know the devil doesn’t have any idea of the future plans or purposes of God. That’s a great comfort to me, and it should be to any Christian. The bible teaches that Satan cannot control our minds. Satan can only influence or react to what we do, he cannot make us do anything, but that also means you can’t blame him for your incorrect choices. He can encourage you to make wrong choices and tempt you to journey in the wrong direction, but you are always responsible for the choices you make. Satan’s plan has always been to spiritually destroy and he usually does this one of the two ways. Either by getting you to accept lies or false teachings or by getting you to hang on to anger and unforgiveness that you just won’t let go of it.

Jesus allow the demons to go into the pigs in order to demonstrate to everyone watching, (Including the owners of the pigs) that the demons had now left the man and after momentarily residing in the pigs before then destroying themselves. The people watching are amazing and recognise the power of what has just happened.  However, they don’t say to Jesus, come with me to our area, we have also got some crazy people you can help? No, the just said, leave. Get out of here, just leave.

What follows is remarkable, When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting (Not running around anymore), sitting there, dressed (not naked anymore) and in his right mind; Not running around cutting himself) and they were afraid. Their reaction is to say to Jesus, get out of here, go, and go quickly.

Why do they want Jesus out of their area so quickly? Money, it’s all about money. Jesus is destroying the local economy. What does it matter that we had a demon possessed man as long as you don’t disturb our economic system. So, the tell Jesus to leave and we see that is exactly what Jesus did.

Jesus gets in the boat and makes ready to leave and the previously demon possessed man, but he, “begs to go with him” However, Jesus says no, Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ Go home, to your friends and tell them about the compassion that God has shown you this day. The man does what he is told, he goes away and tells those in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  Decapolis means ten cities, so he didn’t just go home, he didn’t just tell his friends, he told everyone in the whole region of the 10 towns and cities where he lived. This man who was radically changed and then in obedience to the Lord he went and told everyone what had happened to him.

If this story tells us anything, forget all the extra stuff about demons if you like, it tells us Jesus has the power to change lives. Did you notice what the people tried to do to solve this mans problem, they chained him up? However human power will not overturn or contain a spiritual problem. Jesus still takes over and changes lives. God still changes people through the words of Jesus. God still changes people by speaking to them through his word and He still has the power over anything that you feel might overwhelms you. If some area of your life needs to be dramatically changed by God, then you need to look in his word. To draw back the forces of darkness, to banish demonic influence, all we have to do is saturate our mind with the words of God. He can do it by his words, and through the power of his Holy Spirit.

God still changes people, today. When God does changes you, he wants you to start telling people about it, including friends and maybe even family. Going to you friends, or worse still, your family is the hardest thing to do but only by doing that will are able to demonstrate what has really happened to.

Here’s a way to demonstrate a changed life, here is how to do it’

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2: 14-15 NKJV)

Want to be different from everyone else in the world, quit complaining. Quit arguing with people and quite holding onto unforgiveness or any grudges you might have. If you can demonstrate you live a peaceful calm life, free from conflict and that you have an inner peace within, then people might think something has really changed in you. Live out the changed life God has called and empowered you to live and when people see that it tells them that he has the power to change their lives. Show others what Christ has done for you, and you can show others what Christ can do for them.

Amen

Stilling the Storms of Life

Stilling the Storms of Life. (Mark 4:35-41)

C.S Lewis writing in “A Grief Observed” said;

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to tie a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then discover how much you really trusted it?”.

Storms are just a part of life, I’m not just talking about natural disasters, like rainstorm fire or floods. I am also talking about the storms of life. Events that blow through our everyday existence sometimes causing us heartache, anguish or pain. This passage of scripture shows us Jesus dealing with an actual physical storm, however I also believe it can provide some insights as to what we might do in the midst of a personal storm. I believe there are some helpful truths to be discovered here that we dare not miss if we wish to navigate the storms of life.

Jesus had been explaining to ordinary people what the kingdom of God was like, now as evening is coming he dismisses the crowds and he says to his disciples, lets cross to the other side of the lake and they leave the crowds behind. Many people reading this will already know what’s coming, because they have heard this story before…. a storm is approaching.  Jesus, I believe, knew very well he was sending them into a storm. I would like to suggest Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them, and this is what we might call the practical part of their curriculum.

These are disciples following and obeying the Lord, they are doing what the Lord asked of them, going in the right direction so to speak, and they still encounter a storm. We too can be sailing smoothly through life enjoying the trip when a storm can suddenly appear on the horizon. In life, as in nature, storms can appear out of nowhere. Many Christians seem to believe that storms only come into your life when you disobey God, but that’s not the case. It obvious to every even minded Christian that trials and tribulations are a part of life. Being in a relationship with Jesus Christ does not promise you perfect health, trouble free family relationships, a successful career, or life without ill health, suffering or tears. Any preacher who tells you otherwise, well the nicest thing I can say about them is they just don’t know their bible. Here are the disciples, in the middle of the lake and they thought they were going to have a peaceful crossing with the Lord, but the text tells us otherwise.

37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4: 37-38)

It is significant that Mark takes pains to point out that on this occasion Jesus was asleep. We have been told before that Jesus rested, but we have not been told he was actually asleep, and he is asleep, in the middle of a storm. This really resonates to me, often when I too have found myself in the midst of a storm when it felt like Jesus has gone to sleep. In the midst of life’s storm, I too have found myself praying in panic and thinking where are you Lord when I need you? However, what seem incredible to me that they say, “do you not care?”. Don’t you care Lord, they say this is life or death, were going to perish. Don’t you care?

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4: 39)

Who stands up in the middle of a storm and says to the wind “peace, be still”. Who else, other than God? In the last 24 hours Jesus has dealt with demonic powers, he has also dealt with diseases mow he is dealing with the very elements themselves. This is a demonstration of the all-encompassing mighty power of God. The awesome power of God over the created order of things. In verse 39 he does that, he rebuked the wind, then in verse 40 he turns and rebukes the disciples.

 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4: 40)

Jesus turns and reproaches the disciples and when he does so he accuses them of two things.

Firstly, he rebukes them for being fearful. Maybe you are thinking, “what’s wrong with being afraid?” In the same circumstances I would have been afraid.  The normal response to danger is fear. There is a proper time and place for fear, but look at the text carefully, he didn’t say, “why are you fearful”. He actually said was, “why are you so fearful? Fear, in certain situations is normal, but to the Christian excessive fear or worrying should be out of bounds. We have a heavenly father who has promised to take care of us. A heavenly father who has promised us that ‘all things will work together for our good’, he has promised us he will get us to the other side. Excessive fear and excess worry is a sure sign that we have forgotten the promises of our heavenly father. Jesus didn’t rebuke them from being fearful, for that’s normal. I believe he rebuked them for being overly afraid.

Secondly, he rebuked them for is their lack of faith. What was it that they did not believe? Look back for a moment to verse 35 again.

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4: 35)

Jesus did not say, let’s go to the middle of the lake where we shall flounder and perish in the middle of a storm. He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side. In other words, they didn’t believe his words from earlier in the day. Should there have been any doubt or question in their minds of whether Jesus had desire or the power to see them safely through?  Why didn’t they just wake him and say, Lord we know you have the power, therefore can you deal with this storm. They hadn’t learned yet, to calmly ask his to help them when in the midst of trouble.

You may know the Lord, you may know the word of God? But how about when the storm comes? That’s the real issue, do you rely on it when things get tough or stressful? His disciples didn’t believe God’s Word, they didn’t believe God’s power, but they also didn’t believe God’s love.

38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4: 38)

Do you not care about us Lord”? They doubted the love of God. They doubted that he was in control and that God had a plan and a purpose, but most of all, they doubted that God loved them. The next time you find yourself in a storm please remember God loves you, and he is in control.  Remember he has the power and if you just trust in him you can know he still has a plan and a purpose to fulfil in you through whatever life brings. Look at the disciples reaction to all this.

 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41)

This is the good type of fear, not the wrong type of fear I talked about earlier. This is not fear combined with worry, but fear combined with awe.

Perhaps the main point of this story is this question asked in the last verse. Who can this be? Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The big question that lies behind everything is, who is Jesus? If Jesus is who he said he is, then you can trust in him, and need not worry. However if he is not who is said he is, then just carry on, and go ahead and worry all you want. If Jesus is not the Son of God then you really have a lot to worry about, you have not only the immediate storms of life to worry about, but you still have to worry about you eternal position before a perfect Holy God.

Victor Hugo was famous for his novel the Hunchback of Notre Dame also wrote an autobiographical novel called “Ninety-Three.”  Part of it tells of a journey on a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the passengers heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this noise came from a huge cannon that was part of the ship’s cargo and had broken loose. The cannon was sliding back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact.  Knowing the real danger to the ship was not the storm but the loose cannon a team of brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to go to the lower deck and try to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from the cannon was far greater than the risk from of the storm.

Storms of life may blow upon us, but it is not these exterior storms that pose the gravest danger to us it is our reaction to them. The furious storm outside may seem overwhelming but what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our spiritual and eternal lives. The storms that rage within us cannot be cured by us on our own, it takes the power of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope of stilling the tempest that can harm our souls and damage our lives. If we try and do it in our own strength we too are like that loose cannon, tossed and turned, crashing and wreaking damage as we thrash about uncontrollably. Instead, of relying on God’s love and God’s power.

If Jesus has power over the forces of nature we can certainly trust him as the living God to intervene with power in the lives of ordinary people like you and me, and in the everyday situations we struggle with. If we are trusting the Lord in the middle of life’s storms, we need not be afraid because he is loves us and he still has the power to still the storm and to carry us through.

I pray that you too may know that God Himself will carry you through the storms of life

Jeremy

What Easter Means For Me

What Does Easter Mean For Us?

Please note I did not ask what Easter means to us, I asked what it means for us.

You can see it’s a very different question. Let me to you you what Easter can means for you, by telling you what Easter means for me. Hopefully what it means for me, applies to you also and maybe what is true for me, is already is true for you, and if not, it can be. Ephesians tells us this;

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph 1: 18-19a)

The writer says there are three things he wants us to understand.

1 Hope. – That we may know the hope to which he has called us.
2 Riches. – He is not talking about money but the riches of his glorious inheritance as the people of God.
3 Power. – And that we might also know his incomparable great power.

He mentions these three things and tells us that we should know and experience these things when living amongst Gods people.

What is the great power that those who believe, can grasp hold of?

This power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (Eph 1: 19b-20)

He wants you to and experience the power behind the resurrection of Christ. Jesus was dead, and God raised him to life again, and that used God’s incomparable great power.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world. (Eph 2:1)

When he talks about being dead, he is not talking about our physical death but the fact we are or were spiritually dead. Before we became a Christian, you were spiritually dead, but now, he made us alive. Even when you were dead in sin and wickedness his resurrection power made us alive again in Christ.

This is the first thing that Easter means for me personally. I have been brought back to life to God. Easter means new life for me because by the death of Jesus for my sin, I was born again into the family of God. When I heard that message and understood it for the first time everything changed for me. That day I believe for the first time I recognized two things at once. I had probably already believed these things individually, but it was when God put them together in my mind then I finally knew I was made right with him. Those two things were?

Firstly, I was living outside the ways of God, I definitely knew that even as a teenager, I only had to look at my life.
Secondly, God loved me. Two things previously polar opposites in my mind, in a moment came together.

Things that individually that were a stumbling block on the journey for me, became the actual route to my salvation when brought together. God loved me, even though I was a moral mess, yet because he loved me he sent Jesus who died for my sin, in order that I might know and experience the fact that God loves me.

That was the first thing I got because of Easter, I was born again, into the family of God

There is a second thing Easter means for me.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph 3: 14-17a)

I not only gained a new life in God, but I also got a new strength to help me live my life. Things I couldn’t do or change in my own strength now with Gods help and with God’s grace I can do.

That you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3; 17b-19)

The Bible really wants us to get this, to understand the amazing scope of the love of God.

  • The width of his love is to include all nations creeds and colours, all cultural and ethnic  backgrounds.
  • The length of his love is from eternity to eternity.
  • The depth of his love is extended to the depth of any depravity so much so that God wants to reach down and pull us out of our sinful lives.
  • The height of his love is that it reaches up to the heavenlies and into the very thrown room of God.

A child does not fully understand the love of a parent until they are mature and they themselves becomes a parent. That’s what this passage is saying, “I am praying, he says, that you might come to full maturity, to fully understand how much God loves you. The night I accepted Christ as my saviour as a teenager, I knew that God loved me, but it was not until years later, probably 15 years later, that I finally understood the depth of God’s love. Today I understand the love of God more than I have ever understood it before and that’s what the Easter means for me.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20-21)

This tells me that God desires to bring us all to a higher level of spiritual maturity. It is entirely possible for every believer in Jesus Christ to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in their life. It is entirely possible for God to give you the strength, to take you through life and live in a way that is obedient to God and to know the blessing of God. That is the power of Easter, and that is what Easter mean for me. It means I got a new life, I got to be born again and I got new strength, a strength to live that life in a way that is more in line with Gods plan for my life. I also get a third thing.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4: 30)

This is an amazing scripture, because God doesn’t say don’t disobey me or I will punish you. It says don’t sin, because it grieves me, and also remember I have sealed your salvation until the day of redemption. Even though I may grieve (upset) him, my salvation is sealed by him until the day of redemption.

When we sin as Christians, it doesn’t bring about God wrath, all it means is that we are hurting someone who loves us. The anger of God wrath can still fell upon our sin, but not upon us, the sinner.

That is what Easter means for me. I get a new life and I get the power of God in my life and I get to have my sins forgiven. However, I don’t just get Good Friday and I don’t just get new life. Furthermore, I don’t just get the power to live that new life and I don’t even just get to have my sins forgiven, I get Easter Monday as well. It means that because Jesus arose from the dead and went to heaven. It means that when I die, I too get resurrected, I too get to go to heaven to be with my heavenly father and that is what Easter means for me.

Let me tell you how this can apply to you also, but only under certain conditions.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1: 18-19a)

All you have to do is believe, believe what Good Friday and Easter Monday tells us about God’s plan for us. That’s he died for your sin, then he rose again. If you believe in that, if trust in that, and that alone, it will get you to heaven.

I’ve told you what Easter means for me, let me remind you what Easter can mean for you.

It means you can have a new life, you can have a new power to live that new life. If you really believe and trust in that then you get to live it out not only in this life, but you get to experience it throughout eternity. But the decision you have to make is simply to believe. Note, I didn’t say you have to be religious, note I didn’t even say you have to go to church. I just said you have to believe in him, plus, nothing else.

Please note, I am not suggesting you should join a church this Easter Sunday. I am not even asking you to do go out and do good things. I am just telling you what this book teaches. Because;

by grace we are saved, but not of ourselves but it is the gift of God, not of any good works let anyone should boast”. (Ephesians 2: 8)

That is what Easter means for me. It can mean the same for you this morning as well.

God Bless you and Happy Easter – He is Risen.

Jeremy