Summary: Spiritual warfare Jesus’ way.
Apprenticing Under the Master
Mark 5:1-20 September 25, 2005
Engaging the Enemy
The reality of the enemy
When we read stories like this one, some of our minds may do a little shift. We shift from taking the Bible at its word, trusting that Jesus said the things the Bible says he said, trusting that it is the inspired word of God, trusting that the Bible is a practical guide for my life now, to seeing Biblical stories like this as cultural oddities that explain how ancient people regarded things like mental illness. We struggle with the thought of demons and demonic possession. “That’s the stuff of horror movies, scary stories, children’s fears and medieval superstition,” we tell ourselves.
But stories of the demonic are all through the Bible, especially in the Gospels. The simple fact is that Jesus believed in demons, and so did all those who wrote the scriptures.
Some of us may go as far as saying that demons are real, but rare, and mostly in the third world, very seldom in North America – like malaria or something. But experience tells us that the devil is alive and well in Canada, and his demons are as well.
C.S. Lewis says, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
There are also Christians who have an unhealthy interest in demons, and they see one behind every bush, attribute every hardship to demonic attack, and think every problem could be solved with a good exorcism. They too take an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
Origin of Demons
From the Bible, it’s pretty clear that demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion against God before our history. Satan may have taken 1/3 of the angels with him. Since these spiritual beings are eternal and do not procreate, we still outnumber them 2 to 1! Ever since their rebellion, there has been a war in the heavenly places, or the unseen realm. They do, and can have an effect here on earth.
As apprentices, lets look at how the Master, Jesus, deals with them.
Jesus never seems to go “demon hunting.” The stories of his encounters with demons are always “chance” meetings. He continues to do what he would always do, preaching and teaching, healing the sick and performing miracles. When he comes across demons, it is always the demons that respond first. They are shaken by his presence and his actions and they cry out at him.
I think that this speaks to us on how we should engage the enemy. Paul tells us that, as Christians, we are part of the war that is waging in the heavenly places. He says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Some people take this understanding and spend a great deal of time and passion in what we call, “Warfare prayer” and in their prayers they bind every demon they can think of. Although I do not want to criticize the spiritual warfare movement to much, If we follow Jesus lead, we will be less interested in beating up the enemy and more interested in bringing in the Kingdom of God.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." I think that some people in the spiritual warfare movement actually read this promise backward – they see the work of the evil one and they begin trying to bind things in the heavenly places in order to not see their earthly effects. What the verse says is that our arena of engagement with the enemy is the earth, not the heavenly places, so when we do very practical things to bring in the Kingdom of God here on earth, a victory is also won in the heavenly places. If we bind our workplace, our family, our friends ourselves to Christ and His Kingdom they are also bound to him in the heavenly places. We engage the enemy the same way that Jesus did, by doing the work of the Kingdom – as Jesus described his mandate – to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.