Summary: Sixth Sermon in a series on the Lord’s Prayer based on a booklet from Partners in Ministry.
THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
July 3, 2005
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
"Deliverance from Satan’s Influence"
It has been nearly 30 years since Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote his bestseller, The Road Less Traveled, and it was well-received and widely praised by critic and public alike. Roughly a decade later, Peck wrote another bestseller that was less well received by the critics. People of the Lie received fewer reviews than The Road Less Traveled, and the reviews it did receive were generally more critical.
Dr. Peck says that he began writing People of the Lie from a perspective that was in agreement with “99 percent of psychiatrists and the majority of clergy, I did not think the devil existed.” He goes on to say, “Still, priding myself on being an open-minded scientist, I felt I had to examine the evidence that might challenge my inclination in the matter. It occurred to me that if I could see one good old-fashioned case of possession I might change my mind.” [p. 182]
Through fifteen years of psychiatric counseling, Peck had not seen anything that made him even consider the demonic, and then there came George, who told Peck that he had made a pact with the devil. That certainly got his psychiatrist’s attention! After George, Peck met Charlene. He was Charlene’s psychiatrist for three years before he realized that her most pressing problem was the evil in her heart that she would not release. Peck came to believe in the demonic based on his practice of psychiatry.
Whether the term used is exorcism or deliverance, the goal is the same: ridding people of demonic influences or possession. George and Charlene needed to be delivered from the evil that resided within them, and neither was willing to submit to such treatment.
In his new book, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption, Peck relates two exorcisms that he was involved with in the 1980s. Peck said in a recent interview, "They were two of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I just felt as I got older I could not go to my grave taking these stories with me." [The Salt Lake Tribune, 7/2/05]
Asked in another interview, “Where should we focus our greatest fear of evil, on the Devil or on the evil in human hearts?” Peck responded, “On the evil in human hearts. Given the dynamics of narcissism and laziness, I suspect most people don’t need Satan to recruit them to evil. They’re quite capable of recruiting themselves.” [Christianity Today, 1/24/05]
While this is true, consider the renunciation that we make in our liturgy for baptism. We are asked, “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” What do we mean by these words?
In the prayer that our Lord has taught is the petition, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What do these words mean for us? This is the subject today for us from the Lord’s Prayer.
One thing that is clear from the gospels is that Jesus Christ was keenly aware of the spiritual battle that He was engaged in on earth as He accomplished the will of His Father. Jesus understood that His real enemy was never people, it was always the cosmic powers of the present darkness of this world. As long as Jesus was doing the will of His Father, He knew that He would face persecution and suffering. As He explained, darkness hates light. Light exposes darkness, and so, darkness seeks to blot out light. The gospel exposes the evil of this world, and evil ruthlessly fights against this exposure.
Given what Jesus had to say about Satan and the demonic forces in this world, we can be sure that He understood, as He would want us to understand, the destructive and vicious nature of the forces that were arrayed against His work on earth. But more importantly, He knew the power of living in obedience to and trust of His Father in Heaven. Before we go any further, let’s be clear that if you are a Christian believer, if Jesus Christ lives and reigns in your heart, there is nothing in this world that you must fear. He who is in you is greater than any power in this world. Even so, this obviously doesn’t mean that you will never face temptations or testings
A few years ago, I met a missionary couple who served with Operation Mobilization. They were in port at Tampa, Florida on one of the ships that O.M. uses for evangelism and church leadership training. They told me about their wrestling with their call to missionary work and how badly things were going for them as they considered whether or not God was leading them to serve with Operation Mobilization. I remember their words very well. They said that when they encountered the greatest opposition, they were surest that they were doing God’s will.