(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.
6 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) 7 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!’ 8 For (This was because) Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of this man, you impure spirit!’ 9 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.