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“Dealing with the Demonic: Danger, Deception, and Deliverance”

June 2/13 Lk.8:26-39


We’re dealing with a spiritually very potent topic today - the demonic. But before you get scared or weirded out, here are some reassuring quotes to begin with that assert the believer’s security in Christ. James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” A document from the 1st or 2nd century AD, The Shepherd of Hermas (regarded with some authority by early Christian writers), states: “The devil cannot lord it over those who are servants of God with their whole heart and who place their hope in Him.The devil can wrestle with, but not overcome them.” And we’ve often sung that great hymn from the reformation penned by Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress; one verse proclaims,
And though this world, with devils filled, / should threaten to undo us, / we will not fear, for God hath willed / his truth to triumph through us./ The Prince of Darkness grim, / we tremble not for him; / his rage we can endure, / for lo, his doom is sure; / one little word shall fell him.
    Reassuring, yes; but what Scriptural basis is there? What gives us any power to boss around the arch-enemy of our souls who was once a magnificent angel and commands the forces of evil in the cosmos?
    Let’s back up a minute and review our terms of reference. Who has most authority in the universe? Are we stuck in a cosmic dualism between the warring forces of good and evil? What was it Jesus said to His disciples after the resurrection in Mt 28:18? “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That was the basis for His commissioning us who believe in Him to proclaim the Good News. “All authority” rests in Jesus. In Mt 12(28) He said the coming of God’s Kingdom was shown in that “I drive out demons by the Spirit of God.” Sending out 72 on mission in Luke 10(19) Jesus observed, “I have given you authority...to overcome all the power of the enemy.” In John 12(31) as His crucifixion approached, Jesus declared, “now the prince of this world will be driven out.”
    The New Testament writers reflected on how Jesus’ power over evil was rooted in His victory at the cross. Paul wrote in Col 2(15), “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Hebrews 2(14) notes Jesus shared in our humanity “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil...” And 1Jn 3(8) holds that “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
    Yet, while Jesus by His cross has “driven out” the prince of this world, there’s a lot of mopping-up yet to do. A May 8 news item in The Canadian Press points out there were 1,050 Canadians in the 2011 National Household Survey conducted by Statistics Canada who listed themselves as “Satanists”. 1,050 – not much compared to Canada’s total population, that’s only about 0.003%! By comparison, there were 5 more Rastafarians (1,055 total), and some 9,000 “Jedi Knights”.
    Still, devil-worshippers make their presence known. Neil Anderson once spoke at a meeting of campus security officers from across southern California. He writes in his book The Bondage Breaker, “When I started talking about the rise of Satanism in our community, there wasn’t a doubter or a scoffer in the bunch.Every one of them had a story to share about finding grisly evidence of Satanism being active on his own campus.Every security officer was told to cover it up.School administrators don’t want the public to know about such things...”
    Anderson in 1990 surveyed over 1700 Christian teenagers about their activity in the occult, and found about half were involved in some form or other! Table lifting, fortune telling, astrology, “dungeons & dragons”, Ouija board, Tarot cards, palm reading - each category had about a hundred to several hundred youth involved (321 for astrology, which includes horoscopes; 421 for Ouija board). Even such a family-oriented TV program as CBC’s Heartland features Mallory using tarot cards.
    However, for most Christians, involvement with the devil takes a much subtler form. Eph 4:27 warns, “Do not give the devil a foothold” - literally, “place”, room (to work), a base of operation. What’s the context? “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Have you ever thought that by letting anger simmer and turn to resentment you are putting out the “welcome mat” for Satan? Or take unforgiveness; Neil Anderson notes, “After helping thousands find their freedom in Christ, I can testify that unforgiveness is the major reason people remain in bondage to the past.” Anderson adds, “I would estimate that only about 15% of the evangelical Christian community is living a free and productive life in Christ.” That means 85% - roughly four out of five - Christians are NOT living free; Satan has his hooks in holding you back somehow.
    Today we see how Jesus brings deliverance to a person severely afflicted by and evil spirit. Seeing this gives us hope!


In chapter 8 Luke describes Jesus disembarking on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, across from Tiberias, near the town of Gerasa. V27 “When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town.For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.” What are some of the effects of evil we see in this man’s life?
    “For a long time” he “had not worn clothes...” Clothes are a way of covering up what we’d prefer to keep hidden, of preserving our dignity; it’s shameful for the human body to be totally exposed. Being under Satan’s thumb produces shame in our lives. For example, how embarrassing it can be to find out later, from those who remember, what folly you committed after yielding to over-consumption of alcohol!
    For a long time he had not “lived in a house.” Evil can cause isolation from others, we cut off relationship to those we have hurt or bullied about.
    Where was he living now? “In the tombs.” Now that’s creepy! Around that area there were steep limestone cliffs with caves in the limestone that were used for tombs. Who’d rather live in a cemetery? Isn’t that kind of morbid? Evil can result in self-loathing, low self-esteem, a feeling of despair, suicidal tendencies, “I’d be better off dead.”
    V28 When he saw Jesus the man with the demon “cried out” and screamed, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” Literally, “What have I to do with You?” Evil causes distancing and separation from God, what the New Testament calls “grieving the Holy Spirit” (Eph 4:30). Notice the man’s wrong or twisted perception of Jesus, as if He’d come to torture people instead of to save sinners. Evil messes up our perception of God, distorts our view of God whom the Bible presents as good, loving, and holy.
    V29 says “many times” the evil spirit “had seized him”: there’s repeated failure here, falling into the same temptation over and over again. That results in a sense of bondage, helplessness (“I just can’t stop myself”), defeat, and despair.
    Note the superhuman strength of the unclean spirit: though he’d been bound with chains, the man had broken the chains! Formidable force! Then (v29) he “had been driven by the demon into solitary places.” Driven - overpowered - controlled - pushed irresistibly. Evil’s pull results in terms such as alcohol-“ism”, chemical “dependency”, an insatiable “habit” to search out porn, driven-ness to masturbate or pour “just one more drink” (who are we kidding?). We are pushed and find ourselves yielding despite our own better judgment. To use Paul’s language from Romans 7(23), “I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” It’s a driven-ness that enslaves, imprisons, overrules.
    Various means of giving Satan a base by which to operate in our life result in very destructive effects. There are various “channels of temptation” as Neil Anderson describes them, based on 1Jn 2:16 - the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life. “Lust of the flesh” includes animal appetites, cravings, passions; eating too much or allowing food to rule your life, and sex outside of marriage would be in this category. “Lust of the eyes” includes selfishness, self-interest; materialism is a culprit here, we see what the wold has to offer and desire it above our relationship with God, who ought to be our prime treasure. “Pride of life” includes self-promotion, self-exaltation; the temptation to direct our own destiny, rule our own world, be our own god. You want to call the shots rather than find out God’s will and be obedient / get in line with that.
    Another way people get beaten up by Satan is to listen to his accusations. The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brothers [and sisters]” in Rev 12(10); he’s very good at planting accusations in our consciousness, negative self-talk that may be quite unjustified. “I can never do anything right.I’m no good.Nobody likes me.I’m a failure.I’ll never amount to anything.” Occasionally we DO fail, but Satan’s constant belittling would have you believe you’re hopeless and can never change.
    Another way Satan ensnares is by his deceitfulness. He’s a born “con man”, a deceiver; Jesus said in Jn 8(44) “the devil...was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” How can you tell when the devil is lying? His lips are moving! Neil Anderson highlights several ways we can be deceived. “We deceive ourselves when we hear the Word but don’t do it (Jas 1:22; 1Pet 1:13).We deceive ourselves when we say we have no sin (1Jn 1:8).We deceive ourselves when we think we are something we are not (Rom 12:3; Gal 6:3); when we think we are wise in this age (1Cor 3:18f); when we think we are religious but do not bridle our tongue (Jas 1:26); when we think we will not reap what we sow (Gal 6:7); and when we think we can continually associate with bad company and not be corrupted (1Cor 15:33).”
    Beware of being deceived; know and stand on God’s truth. Irenaeus, an early church father, wrote: “The devil...can only go to this length, as he did at the beginning, to deceive and lead astray the mind of man into disobeying the commandments of God, and gradually to darken the hearts.”


As Jesus interacts with the man who has the evil spirit, we can start to detect the Master’s method (at least in this case) to confront the enemy and send him packing. However we see Luke doesn’t provide much detail, as if to suggest we can’t take Jesus’ method and make it into a one-size-fits-all standard recipe for dealing with all types of evil!
    First, there’s ASSERTION OF CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY. V29 “Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man.” Neil Anderson offers this prayer to start what he calls “steps to freedom in Christ” - listen for the emphasis on Jesus’ authority: “Dear heavenly Father, I acknowledge Your presence in this room and in my life.You are the only omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God.I am dependent upon You, for apart from You I can do nothing.I stand in the truth that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the resurrected Christ, and because I am in Christ, I share that authority in order to make disciples and set captives free.I ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit and lead me into all truth.I pray for Your complete protection and ask for Your guidance...” Lots there to assert Christ’s authority – to locate ourselves in the fact of all God has accomplished in Christ!
    Next, Jesus IDENTIFIES THE SPECIFIC PROBLEM. V30 “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied because many demons had gone into him.” (In Augustus’ time a legion numbered 6100 foot-soldiers and 726 horsemen.) Identify the spirit that’s locking you up. Anderson’s process offers lists you can check off to identify your problem. Unforgiveness is a place to start. He writes, “Satan does take advantage of those who will not forgive.After helping thousands find their freedom in Christ, I can testify that unforgiveness is the major reason people remain in bondage to the past.” Paul alludes to the importance of this when he writes in 2Cor 2(10f), “And what I have forgiven— if there was anything to forgive— I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us.For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
    In identifying Satan’s footholds, it’s important to realize much of what modern psychology terms “defence mechanisms” belongs in this category. We put walls up to protect ourselves from other people, but we may simultaneously be walling off God. Anderson explains, “Fortresses (or ‘strongholds’ in the KJV) are fleshly thought patterns that were programmed into your mind when you learned to live your life independently of God.” So Paul writes, “The weapons we fight with...have divine power to demolish strongholds.We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against [like a wall!] the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2Cor 10:3-5) Much of fending off Satan’s attacks has to do with this “taking every thought captive”, making it get in line or march along with Christ’s approach to life.
    Some psychological strongholds Anderson identifies are: lying to protect yourself; denical (refusal to face the truth); fantasy (escaping from the real world – is this what we’re doing when we “zone out” and watch a movie?); emotional insulation (withdrawing to avoid rejection; as Simon & Garfunkel sang, “I am a rock / I am an island”); regression (reverting to less threatening times); displacement (taking out frustrations on others); projection (blaming others); rationalization (making excuses for poor behaviour). Does any of that sound like you? Suddenly demonic influence starts sounding a lot less spooky, more like just normal “stuff we do”! But those “defence mechanisms” can pose for strongholds that become ways evil spirits find room to work in our lives, our relationships.
    Note that Jesus’ method involves asserting sovereignty, identifying strongholds, and (third) CARING FOR THE WHOLE PERSON. V35 The townspeople find the man from whom the demons had gone out “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed, and in his right mind.” Dressed – how’d that happen? Somebody must have given him something to wear! So, deliverance ministry should care for the whole person. What are their practical needs in recovery?
    Fourth, the Master’s Method involves TRAINING IN GOD’S TRUTH - learning the mind of Christ. V35 he was “sitting at Jesus’ feet” (presumably listening to Jesus teach) and “in his right mind”. Can I submit my concentration and attention to learn Jesus’ philosophy, goals, and attitude to how life should be lived? Can I start to see things as He does, adopt His worldview? Neil Anderson offers seven headings in his process “Steps to Freedom in Christ”.
    (1) Counterfeit vs Real: renounce occult and other non-Christian spiritual practices and wrong priorities.
    (2) Deception vs Truth: accept God’s Word rather than being deceived by the world, by our fears, deceived about God, about ways we wrongly try to defend ourselves.
    (3) Bitterness vs Forgiveness: we are commanded to get rid of all bitterness in our lives and forgive others as we have been forgiven (Eph 4:31f).
    (4) Rebellion vs Submission: Get in under the umbrella! In an age when there’s lack of respect for those in government and for traditional structures in the home, we need to humbly submit to the appropriate authorities in our life – else you’re practically inviting the wrong kind of spirits to be influencing you. Remember the prophet Samuel likened rebellion to occult practices, and arrogance to idolatry (1Sam 15:23).
    (5) Pride vs Humility: Pride says “I don’t need God or anyone else’s help; I can handle it on my own” whereas a believer puts confidence in the Lord rather than in the flesh (Php 3:3). This may include renouncing sins of prejudice and bigotry.
    (6) Bondage vs Freedom: Where sin has become a habit, confess it to God, submit to Him and resist the devil (Jas 4:7). You may want to enlist another Christian as your confessor. Wrong sexual use of our bodies, suicidal tendencies, perfectionism, eating disorders, and substance abuse fit in here as things we need to confess and receive God’s help for.
    (7) Curses vs Blessings: renounce the sins of your ancestors and any genetic or home-environment predispositions to weaknesses, areas in which you may be vulnerable to Satan’s attack.


Jesus gave this poor man who’d had such a pitiful existence a new life and new focus. The demons were gone. He had new peace, ability to concentrate, to listen for what God wanted him to do. We see him sitting at Jesus’ feet, soaking up His truth and mission. Now “in his right mind” (v35) he could start to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor 10:5).
    When he begged to go with Jesus, the Master had a different mission for him here in this predominantly Gentile land east of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus wouldn’t be ministering much. V39 “"Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I like how the man (and Luke) equate “Jesus” with God! He’d experienced God’s healing and deliverance through God’s Son Jesus. Christ hadn’t come to torture him (as the demons supposed) but to re-tool him. So for us, this is the essence of evangelism: sharing with others the Good News of how much Jesus has done for us.
    Neil Anderson’s book shares many personal stories of deliverance people found through Jesus’ help. In closing, here’s a brief note from one woman who, before intervention, had repeatedly overdosed on alcohol and drugs, cut herself with razor blades, and been a slave to masturbation. A year after meeting with Anderson, she wrote: “I was hesitant to write you because I could not believe that my life would be changed or different for any length of time. I’m the girl who has tried to kill herself, cut herself, destroy herself in every possible way. I never believed that the pain in my mind and soul would ever leave so that I could be a consistent, productive servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    “I have given it over a year, and it was the best year I ever had. I have grown in so many different ways since the conference. I feel stable and free because I understand the spiritual battle going on for my life. Things come back at me sometimes, but I know how to get rid of it right away.”
    Freedom in Christ doesn’t guarantee we’ll never be tempted again – but our sense of security and worth in Him helps us resist the accuser’s traps. We know there’s a better way, a better life in step with His Spirit that He’s won for us at the cross. Let’s pray.