Week 3 of a series called 'Old Scratch' all about satan and demons, and fallen angels, and possession and exorcism.
I wonder how many of you hate the feeling of being out of control.
Family feeling out of control/throwing up. This past week for my wife and daughter and I has been one of those 'out of control' weeks. We had a close family friend pass away in Texas so Monday morning my wife and her sister Hannah were planning on flying out super early. Our alarm was set for 4am. Well, Sunday evening (the evening before) probably 9pm, our daughter Grace starts projectile vomiting in her crib. On herself, all over her bedding, just everywhere. And for a number of hours was throwing up every 15, 20 minutes, while sleeping. So Grace was sleeping on Jordans chest and she lifts her head up and throws up on Jordan, and it felt totally out of control. And then sure enough the alarm goes off at 4am and Jordan heads to the airport for the first Daddy, daughter solo, all nighter. Terrifying. We survive. By the grace of God and the skin of our teeth, whatever that means. Jordan gets back Tuesday night, and that night I start puking. So I'm up all night. We get through it, Thursday, JORDAN is puking. And GRACE starts puking again.
But it's just that feeling of life being out of control that can be truly awful.
And so for most of us, even just the idea of there being a spirit that has control over us, it's a horrifying thought.
Around the world almost every culture has tradition of people being possessed by an unwanted spirit. And then attempting some sort of ritual that would cast the demon out. Varies from religion to religion.
As I've said before, there's lots we don't know. There's a lot of mystery around this stuff, but there's enough in scripture to give us what we need to know.
So today: We're going to look at the ministry of Jesus and the early church to learn what we can about possession and exorcism.
And if this is your first time with us, wow you really picked a cool Sunday. We're so glad you're here. We want you to know that we did not do this message because we heard you were coming.
This is not a topic that we fixate on, but it's also not a topic that we avoid, because it's front and center in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Last Week Points
So we're not afraid, but we are wise.
The GREAT exorcism has already happened.
Satan has been defeated and removed from his position of authority. Look at what Jesus says in John 12 when he's talking about his coming death:
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
So for the Christian, it's not about you trying to "defeat the devil with your own two hands." - No, it's understanding that Satan has already been defeated, and you let that truth disarm the lie of the enemy.
In fact, when we read about someone who's "demon possessed" in scripture, it's usually just the verb form of the word demon.
So sometimes we debate is the demon inside them, around them. Are demon possessed or just INFLUENCED by a demon. I wouldn't personally sweat that kind of difference in the Bible, it's just they're under attack, they're being demonized in some way.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. (Matthew 12:43)
This impure spirit (which is a word used interchangeably with demon) doesn't like being out in the open. They're wanting to be inside a person.
Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, (that's the point) swept clean and put in order. (Matthew 12:44)
Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:45)
The advise of Jesus here is clear: "Don't leave your house empty." More on that in a few minutes.
We love Karma. B/C Karma gives us a nice clean, orderly universe. Something bad happened to that guy? Well he must have been doing something horrible and as long as I don't do that thing, I'm safe." We want to blame them, it feels good. "Did you play with a Ouija board? That can feel comforting, only problem is it ends up blaming and shaming the victim.
In scripture we NEVER see Jesus trying to find the cause of someone being demon possessed. He never blames them.
Adolf hitler. What was his POWER? - He was short, a little wimpy. But he had the power of manipulation. The power of turning a lie into something that looks true.
Usher coming to tell you family member in car accident from last week. (Story is in last weeks message.)
Key word: Sometimes. Not always. In Scripture, there's demonic influence that results in something that looks like an illness. And when the demon goes, the illness does too. And if you're thinking "I don't like that." I'm with you. I don't like that either. I'm just telling you what scripture tells us.
An interesting case study. We read about a failed exorcism, and a successful one.
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. (Mark 9:14)
As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. (Mark 9:15)
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. (Mark 9:16)
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. (Mark 9:17)
Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” (Mark 9:18)
So what we have here in a failed exorcism. The disciples tried to drive out this demon, but they couldn't.
“You unbelieving generation,” (Mark 9:19a)
Jesus is identifying one root issue of the failed exorcism. Unbelief. - Jesus will make that point again here in a minute.
“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? (I personally love it when Jesus is sassy with the disciples) Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:19)
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. (Mark 9:20)
So what physical issue does this sound like? Epilepsy. So does that mean epilepsy is demon possession? No. It means sometimes a demonic attack can look like that.
Such a sad verse:
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. (Mark 9:21)
Greek word here for childhood means from a toddler. - Maybe 2,3 years old.
So let's think about Karma again. What did the 2 year old do wrong? Nothing. He didn't do anything wrong.
I'm sorry to say that we live in a world where people get hurt, are attacked, and suffer, and it's not because they did something to bring it on themselves.
“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22)
“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)
So here again Jesus brings it back to belief.
What you believe about yourself and God, and Satan.
Like we talked about last week, if you BELIEVE that Satan and demons have all this power over you, you're giving it to them.
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
What a great thing to say. Even something we can model in prayer. "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief."
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. (Jesus saw that a big crowd was coming so he moved ahead with the excorcism quickly. Jesus was never about doing miracles for show.) “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” (Mark 9:25)
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” (Mark 9:26)
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. (Mark 9:27)
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (Mark 9:28)
Jesus offers a secondary reason for the failed exorcism.
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29)
Isn't that interesting? "This kind"? "There's different kinds?!" Evidently so.
But what's really fascinating to me. Jesus says "This kind can only come out by prayer." - But what did Jesus NOT do during this exorcism? Pray. He didn't pray. So it's not about having this magic prayer or this magic ritual, no it's about being the type of person who's life is marked by prayer, before the exorcism.
You're making that up! Nope:
1 Corinthians 12:10 - Gifts of the spirit
To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12:8)
to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12:9)
to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:10)
"Distinguishing between - diakrisis - distinguishing, discerning, judging, categorizing
So being able to categorize with the spirit realm that's all around you, "That's an evil spirit, and that is not."
I believe we all have a certain ability to do that, but Paul tells us that certain Christians have a special gifting, a special intuition about that.
That's not an issue of maturity, like mature Christians get this gift. No they may be mature or immature, it's as God chooses.
So some of you in the room have this and some of you don't. And hopefully this is an encouragement to both of you.
I for the record do not have this gift. I am woefully unintuitive when it comes to what's happening in the spiritual world. There's been times when I've gone with another Christian somewhere and they'll say something like "I feel like there's a bad spirit in this place." And I say "Really? I think it's just humid." - "No. I SENSE something."
Can that be totally bogus? Yeah absolutely. Can it be real? Yes.
But that's good, that's fine, and for me to understand that other people HAVE been gifted with that intuition is a great thing for me. So I'm not "I don't get that sense, it must be bogus." - No some people are going to be more intuitive about that than me. Which is great.
Mark 9 - "This kind can only come out by prayer."
Prayer changes the world but it also changes us.
Let's compare 2 exorcisms in the book of Acts. Acts 16 and Acts 19.
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. (Acts 16:16)
She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” (Acts 16:17)
Wait, what? How is that an attack? Well what was happening was ultimately this woman was distracting from what Paul was trying to do. This speaks of the subtlety of the demonic realm. She was distracting with something that was true.
Impersonation: It's like Paul is trying to talk over here. "Yes thank you ma'am." "Yup, that's the truth." "Yes we heard you."
She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed (I love that. This exorcism finally happened because Paul got so annoyed. Remember talked about demons being like annoying flies) that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:18)
Successful exorcism. No Holy Water, so pushing crucifixes on peoples heads, just "In the name of Jesus I command you to come out." Boom.
Acts 19 (Sons of sceva)
So people heard this is what Paul was doing. "Wow, this in the name of Jesus stuff really works! Paul figured out the magic formula. Let's go try."
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13)
Interesting. "Whom Paul preaches." That's who Jesus was to them. The guy who Paul talks about.
Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (Acts 19:14)
These 7 brothers, they were trying to get their exorcism business off the ground, decide to try the Jesus formula.
One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15)
This is exactly what you don't want to happen when you pick a fight with a demon. "I'm sorry, I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but I must have missed your name."
Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. (This is 7 grown men, and he overpowers all 7) He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:16)
Now I'm now combat expert. But I have the sense that if you enter a fight with pants, and by the end of the fight, you have no pants, you probably lost the fight. Literally beat the pants off them.
Paul uses the power that comes from relationship with Jesus and succeeds. The sons of Sceva use a ritual without relationship and fail.
Over and over we read about Jesus giving authority to his disciples. And not just the 12, but to all who would confess the name Jesus.
This is why many of us use the words "In Jesus name" when we pray. No that's not some magic formula, that's reminding ourselves and orienting ourselves around the reality that we're using the power that Jesus give to us.
Remember the story Jesus tells about the demon who get's cast out of person and then comes back later and see's that the house is still vacant so he moves back in and this time he brings his 7 friends.
So we don't let that happen. - We don't leave our house empty.
How so? We are filled with the spirit.
Of course there's the truth that God is with us every moment of every day. He will never leave us. But with that said: Are you filling your life with the things of God, are you vacant for whatever wants to come for a visit?
This is the idea of displacement. Are you familiar?
(Object lesson) Let's say you have a cup and you want to rid this cup of all that yucky air. How do you get the air out? Do you blow it out? Perhaps you can suck it out. (Sucking and blowing) That's my best Darth vader. No, if you fill the cup with water, what happens? The air, poof if gone. Effortlessly. Excorcism by displacement.
Which house guest am I making room for?
Who do I make space for in my life?
Paul says (TO CHRISTIANS) - "Be filled with the spirit."
"And how do I know what my heart is full of?" - Your words.
"Pastor David, do you think that if I watch a scary movie am I opening myself up to Satan?" - No. I don't think that. But I do think anger will.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (Ephesians 4:26)
and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27)
So Paul says that remaining angry, letting bitterness and unforgiveness fester in our hearts, gives the devil a foothold.
And you know what's awesome? I believe the opposite is also true. That when you open your heart to forgive those who have wronged you, I believe you're putting out a big welcome mat, inviting the spirit to fill you.