Topical Scripture: Mark 5:1-20
Halloween comes in nine days. Orange and pumpkins are everywhere. As you may know, “Hallowe’en” or “Hallowed Eve” is the eve of All Saints Day, the annual church holiday which honors the saints and heroes of Christian history.
However, Halloween also has connections which are anything but Christian. Centuries earlier the day was connected to Christian worship, the ancient Druids used it as their new year and celebrated it with all kinds of paganism and occult rituals. Across the centuries since, witches, devil worshipers, and other practitioners of the occult have made Halloween their most important day of the year.
So let’s talk about the occult, about spiritual warfare and demons. We’ve seen how much we need the Spirit’s help with the hard places and suffering of life. Now let’s see what he can do to help us with the temptations of life. How we can live in the joy of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, daily victory over sin. How we can win the spiritual battle being waged against us every day. But only with his help.
What is spiritual warfare?
First, let me introduce you to the subject of spiritual warfare. An African proverb says, “When elephants fight, the grass always loses.” Who are the “elephants” in the spiritual battle we’re waging? And who is the “grass”?
On one side is our Heavenly Father, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Lord of all that is. Our God, who so loved us that he sent his Son to give us eternal life with him in heaven.
On the other side is Satan. His name means “adversary” or accuser. All across the Scriptures he acts in defiance of God’s word and will. He tempted Jesus, and tempts us as well. We are the “grass” in his battle against the Lord. And so the Bible warns us, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
His doom is sure. Revelation sees the day when “the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (20:10).
But in the meanwhile he is fighting for every soul he can bring to hell and damnation with him. And his foot soldiers are his demons. We need to know about them, because they’re after us.
What are demons?
So let’s find out what demons are. According to the Bible, a “demon” is a created spirit being, a kind of angel. These beings sinned with Satan in heaven, and so are commonly called “fallen angels” or “unclean spirits.” Satan is now their ruler (Matthew 12:24), and he has organized them into his army of evil (Ephesians 6:11-12). God created hell for them, and they will be there with Satan forever: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
Demons are very real. Most Americans don’t believe they exist. Most Americans are deceived.
Demons were real to Jesus. Six times in the gospels we find him casting them out of suffering, demon-possessed people. Mark 1:34 says that Jesus “drove out many demons.”
They were real to the early Christians. Acts 5:16 records this scene from their ministry: “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” Peter and Paul both exorcised demons personally.
And they were certainly real to the man in our story today, weren’t they?
Demons are evil and unclean.
Our text begins early in the morning, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has just calmed a storm on the sea; now he calms a storm in a soul.
Verse 2 says, “a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” In verse 8 Jesus calls this an “evil spirit.” The word translated “evil” can mean “unclean” as well—foul, odorous, vile.
Demons are filthy, both physically and morally. Wherever you see demonism you find filth, rubbish, and sin. It’s no accident that with the rise of Satanism and the occult in America we also have the rise of drug abuse, pornography, child abuse, perversion, and obscenity.
Demons are stronger than we are.
Our text says that no one could bind this demon-possessed man with a chain. Fragments of their attempts lay all around the tombs, stark reminders of the impotence of human ability against the forces of darkness.
You and I cannot defeat their temptations in our ability. But we don’t have to.
Demons always seek to destroy.
“Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (v. 5). Imagine the scars running over his body, the blood caked on his filthy clothes and in his matted hair, the wild eyes and foaming mouth and shaking hands. This is what the demons have done to him.
Later they kill the herd of pigs they occupy as well. They ruin and destroy whatever they touch. They are cancer of the soul—always destroying what they possess.
And these foot soldiers of the devil are after us.
If you have not made Jesus your Savior, you belong not to God but to Satan. He doesn’t want you to know that, but it’s true.
If you do belong to Jesus, Satan is doing all he can to keep you from winning the battle for the souls of others. All he can to minimize your ministry, to cripple your witness, to poison your spiritual life. As the parable goes, a Christian and nonbeliever were walking down the road when Satan appeared before them. The non-Christian hid behind the believer and said, “Protect me! He’s after me!” But the Christian smiled and said, “No, it’s me he’s after. He’s already got you.”
Demons want to tempt us to sin, ruin our witness, corrupt our lives.
How do we defeat them?
But there’s good news: we can defeat them in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can refuse their temptations and defeat their strategies each and every day. Here’s how.
First, receive Jesus. Make him your Savior and Lord. As he defeated these demons, so he has power over Satan and his temptations always. Make him your Lord, and he will help you win the battle over temptation and sin every day.
Next, recognize temptation. When sin knocks at your door, demons are hiding behind it. And that sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. Know that every sin is part of a demonic strategy to ruin your witness and life.
Third, run to the Holy Spirit. Every time you are tempted, go immediately to the Spirit for his help. Don’t try to win this battle on your own, because you cannot.
There is no sin you have to commit. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that God will not allow a temptation in your life which you cannot overcome in his strength. There is no sin which you must commit.
But there is no sin you can defeat without his help. James 4:7-8 is God’s antidote to temptation: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Submit to God’s Spirit—be filled and empowered every day by him—then resist the devil with his strength and help.
When you’re being attacked by temptation, take it immediately to the Spirit. Ask for his help, wisdom, and strength. And it will be yours.
Last, rescue others—all who belong to the enemy.
When Jesus healed this man, he then sent him to be used to heal others. To his family, and to the ten Gentile cities along the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. Jesus’ commission to “tell” them uses the Greek word for “preach.” He became their first missionary, preaching the gospel of God’s love and power for their lives and souls.
You have been rescued from Satan, if Jesus is your Savior and Lord. Now go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Be his ambassador, his living witness, to the lost people you see every day. Rescue them in the power of the Spirit.
Tragically, the townspeople in our story cared more for their pigs than they did this man’s redeemed soul. Don’t put pigs before people, work before witness, status before souls. You have been rescued—rescue others.
Every day’s news brings more reports of the battle overseas and at home, the war against terrorism. Know that this war is spiritual as well, and you’re in it. Satan wants your soul. If he cannot get it, he wants your witness, your joy, your peace, your victory.
But he’s a defeated foe. Despite all the mayhem and evil he is creating in our world today, he’s on the losing side. If you’re in the Spirit, the victory is yours.
Jesus’ death paid for your sins, defeated Satan, and purchased your salvation. This is the assurance of God.
National Geographic told the story of a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park. After the fire was out, forest rangers began to assess the damage. One found a bird literally petrified by ashes, perched on the ground at the base of a tree. The ranger pushed over the bird gently with a stick. When he did, three tiny chicks ran out from under their dead mother’s wings.
This mother, aware of impending disaster, sheltered them under her body and wings, knowing somehow that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety, but she refused to abandon her babies. When the fire arrived and its heat scorched her small body, she remained unmoved. Because she was willing to die, those under her wings would live.
Get under Jesus’ wings. Every time the temptations and sin of Satan’s demons attack. And the victory is yours. This is the promise of God.