Evil and its cancerous effects infect our globe. I interact with a whole lot of people who either minimize the devil, fully embrace his malignant pleasures or simply deny his existence and in the same breath blame God for all manners of atrocities.
I recognize that much evil has been done in the name of God, but don’t let us confuse who God is with the broken and misguided attempts and failings of humanity. It is vital that we know His character so we can discern what is of Him and what is not.
Recently, someone told me something I already knew. He said that 17 children were just slaughtered by a young person who was able to get his hands on multiple automatic weapons. “Where was God then?”, he challenged me. He then implored me to “chew on that awhile.” So, I have been.
This morning I was reading from Mark 5, when God did one of my favorite things. He took what I had just read in the scriptures and brought it to me again as I opened my phone to listen to a sermon. As you all know Billy Graham recently passed away. I know what a huge impact he has had on countless people but had never really listened to a whole sermon for myself until this weekend.
Well, as God would have it the sermon I opened to today was Dr. Graham preaching from Mark 5. The chapter I had just finished reading.
When heaven connects the dots, I pause for a moment to look at the picture. What emerged before me was a message for today. What came together in the moments to follow was a black and gray picture of great darkness, but as the Lord began to color it in, it came alive with myriad hues of hope.
Mark 5 talks about the demoniac. The demon possessed man who ran out of the tombs to meet Jesus. He was violent. He was naked. He was full of what seemed to be a supernatural strength and rage. He was bleeding. He was out of his mind and he was desperate. The Bible says that when Jesus stepped out of the boat, the man with the unclean spirit met him immediately. He ran to Jesus and fell at His feet.
Before Jesus came this man constantly cried out in anguish. Cutting his flesh with stones. Beyond the demonic control was a man who was made in the image of God. Within him a war raged. Powerful and aggressive; everyone avoided him. The ones that did attempt to control him couldn’t subdue him. Nothing could be done it seemed. He was cast out. Too much to handle, he lived among the tombs, walking among the dead.
Jesus came and stood face to face with him. I see no account of where His disciples were. No one else matters at this point. Only Jesus and the man. There is no reference of Jesus being afraid or getting worked up. As a matter of fact, as I read the Word I really don’t even get the impression that Jesus raised His voice.
The demons within the man, cried out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” The demons begged Jesus not to cast them out of the country but into the pigs. We see similar accounts of Jesus interacting with demons in Luke; “And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.” And in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder.”
These verses are powerful to me, because I was raised in part by a dad that was obsessed with satanic movies. He often had me watch them over and over with him as a very little girl. In these terrible stories God was always portrayed as weak in comparison to Satan. Satanic forces eating up and spitting out God’s people like they were nothing. Which is in part true, because aside from Christ we have no power against the principles of darkness. However, in these stories God’s word and truth had no power or impact in comparison to hells armies. Evil always reigned victorious.
It terrified me then.
I know it as a blatant, deceptive and ridiculous lie now. I live in complete knowledge and confidence of who the victor is. I also know the devil is very real. It is foolish to think otherwise. It is equally reckless to think we have any power against him apart from Jesus.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12
Jesus spoke not to this poor ravaged soul in front of Him, but to the void that had taken up residence within him. “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” He said. Then Jesus asked the demons name, to which they replied, “Legion, for we are many.”
A name that seems to claim dominance and power. But the demons themselves were under no such illusion. They had a perfect understanding of whose presence they were in. They did not try to fight Him. There was no epic battle. There was no question of who had total and complete authority. They begged Him to send them into a herd of pigs and He gave them permission. The pigs filled with demonic parasites behaved as such and cast themselves off a cliff into the sea and were drowned there. 2000 pigs. 2000 demons. Legion. In one man. Utter and complete torment. Such a vast and dreadful hopelessness.
The man no longer naked, now sat, clothed and peaceful. In his right mind and praising God. Radically and forever changed.
Jesus alone has the power to set men free. Not all that don’t know Christ are possessed with demons. Many are, but the truth is demon possessed or not, the Bible says we are dead in our sins apart from Christ.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7
Only a short time before in Mark Chapter 4 Jesus commanded the wind and the sea in language that would have been used to correct a naughty child. The depths of the sea, and the roaring of the wind promptly settled down and there was, “a great calm.” The disciples cried, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Oceans, wind and evil are powers that are outside of our control. Who can tame the ocean? Who can still the wind? Who can conquer the wickedness that lives in men’s hearts and threatens to consume us?
There is only one.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
Yet we make Him small. In our desperate hour we mock the power of prayer making it into little more than a joke. We accuse God and each other; blaming God for the devil’s actions while hatred smirks and slinks forward into the darkness.
We reject the One who can save us and cling to screens of smoke and deception.
Dr. Graham talked about the violence in America in this sermon from 1971. He spoke of violence, racism, riots, murder and rape. He talked about the fact that violence and all these things were characteristics of the devil and demons. “We are not going to stop it with just more police power, we’ve got to have prayer power and spiritual power. We have to have people on their knees praying. We need to have a spiritual awakening in this country.” Sadly, we instead have grown more blind to the devil and have hearts ready to try God and pronounce Him guilty.
As I listened I realized that I am part of the problem. I’m one that knows Christ is the antidote for this spreading plague and yet I am not actively and fervently praying for people who are apart from Him or for our country. I too have been lulled to apathy by the constant onslaught of it all.
The Lord recently laid a word on my heart. He told me by way of the Spirit that I was to no longer “walk among the dead”. For months now, I have seen that as His encouragement to get free from bondage I have remained in from my history of abuse. Today, my eyes have opened to a different possibility.
Maybe He meant that I’m no longer to just walk and co-exist among those with hearts dead to God. Those that are happy, comfortable and just-fine-thanks with their lives devoid of Christ.
I, like the demoniac have been set free. I had no idea that my Spirit was dead to God until it came alive to Christ. I live in the joy and saving grace and mercy of my conquering King. Jesus didn’t allow the freed man to go with him. Rather, he told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19
Maybe not walking among the dead is a reminder that I am no longer walking naked, tormented and suffering among the tombs. Instead I fell at His feet and am now clothed with His righteousness because of His shed blood on the cross.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of my salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10
“Where was your God then?” He was fully present and deeply grieved. Both for the ones that were slain and for the one that chose darkness over light.
My Jesus is the one who lovingly washed the feet of His betrayer with a full understanding of the hell filled plans within his heart.
We will all stand before Him one day. If you don’t believe Him now it doesn’t mean you won’t stand before Him then. Our knees will all bow. Our tongues will all confess. May we bow as a people who have accepted Him as Lord. Not as those who have rejected His grace.
Corrie Ten Boom writes, “Conversion is not a blind leap into the darkness. It is a joyous leap into the light that is the love of God.”
John 8:12 says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
May we go and tell the world what God has done for us. For only He can heal our disease.