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Standing Firm!
by Rev. John Nadasi
Mark 1:29-39 and Ephesians 6: 10-20

…Mark goes to great length in his Gospel to show us that Jesus' Ministry was to heal not only the sick, but the demon possessed. The belief in demons is something that we as a church have trouble embracing. In fact, for the most part, demonic possession is almost never mentioned at all.

I cannot recall a single incident when I was growing up that I heard anything about demonic affliction or possession in the church.

In our day and age, the belief in Satan has largely been replaced With a belief that evil merely exists in social institutions and how we treat one another. The belief in an intelligent living force of evil has been Dismissed as unintelligent, superstitious, and na´ve.

People who risk sharing about a personal experience of the demonic are regarded as flaky, fundamentalist, or mentally ill.

What is left of the church when this happens is that we bear more Resemblance to the ACLU than we do to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We become a dead religion without spiritual power.

Many say that what Jesus and the gospels referred to as demonic possession Can now be explained in more medical terms. These people that he healed were not possessed, But were actually suffering with things that a good psychologist or doctor could cure.

And, to be honest, this explanation sounds good. It sounds good because we don't want to live in a world that is beyond our control. We don't want to live in a world that is beyond our understanding. We don't want to live in a world where monsters really do exist.

We can close our eyes and pretend that demons do not exist. We can close our eyes and believe we are in control. We can close our eyes and believe that science holds all our answers.

And, as a church, we have had our eyes closed so long to the existence of Satan, That we have become blind to him. And, in our blindness, we have become more vulnerable than ever To the teachings and the lying tongues of demonic spirits.

Let's take a look at verses 32 through 34 again…

Mark 1:32-34 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (NRSV)

Mark makes a distinction… Those who were sick OR possessed with demons. And he cured those who were sick with various diseases AND Cast out many demons.

Sickness and demonic affliction are NOT the same thing. Reducing Jesus to a psychological healer and a physician of the body Are not enough.

There were demonic presences being lifted out of these people and silenced.

How do I know this? How can I speak with so much conviction about an incident Where I was not involved?

Because I have had my own experiences. And they are experiences that I feel called to share with you.

There was a young man who I will call Joe. Joe is 2 years younger than I. I guess he would have been about 20.

I had known him for about a year. Joe shared with me that he had been sexually abused at the age of 8 by a babysitter. He was constantly haunted and plagued by the memories Of his abuse. It would never leave him.

Joe had turned to drugs and alcohol for consolation. This lifestyle did not last long, as he was caught and suspended from College. His life was a mess.

The day came that Joe and I were driving in my car back to his house. He had been asking me questions about God, And my own dramatic lifestyle change.

I shared Christ that day with Joe, And he invited him into his life.

We drove back to his home and went to his room. He sat on couch, and I was looking through some of his cd's and mentioned To him that some of the music he was listening to was lending to his Problems.

Joe just smiled. He probably was thinking that I was a flake.

As we sat and talked, I look up at a Smashing Pumpkins poster hanging on his wall. I saw one of the faces in the picture contort a twisted smile at me.

I stepped back, pointed at the poster, and said, "Joe! That thing is staring at me!"

Joe began laughing at me, And then he looked into the poster. His jaw dropped to floor and he gasped.

>From behind that poster, A black demonic shadow leaped out of the wall and left through a window. The Holy Spirit poured into the room with such intensity and power That there was no question that we had just witnessed A powerful act of God.

Joe looked at me with tears pouring out of his eyes. And he cried… "My God, My God. The whole time I have been sitting in here thinking about suicide, I have been staring into that poster looking for answers."

Folks, that is one of many incidents that I have encountered. I am sure that many of you here today have had your own experiences. Maybe you have been willing to share them, Maybe not.

I don't tell you this to scare you. I tell you this because you need to be aware that the presence of Satan And the presence of demons do have the power to influence you.

Maybe, had John Salvii heard about the lying presence of demons He would have sought help.

Does anyone remember John Salvii?

John had aspirations of becoming a Catholic priest. Instead, he became a killer when he picked up a rifle and gunned down An abortion clinic. If memory serves me correctly, he killed the doctor, a bystander, and Critically wounded the nurse.

What does this have to do with our story? John's parents told CNN that the night before John Salvii committed these acts, he had a conversation with a "Black - winged creature in the living room."

They also said "we should have gotten him into counseling."

Although it is true, They should have gotten him into counseling, It would no have taken care of the problem.

True, John likely had mental problems, But I absolutely believe in my heart, That the night before John Salvii committed those murders, He sat in his living room and had a conversation with A black winged creature.

No, not a figment of his imagination. No, not some illusion. No, not some schizophrenic episode, But an intelligent, living, force of evil.

Lets look again at Scripture…

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

There is clearly a distinction between demonic affliction and physical sickness. Jesus healed both.

Lets look at the final verse…

And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Because they knew him. Why does Mark tell us this? Why does Mark make it a specific point to tell us that the demons knew him?

Its not the first time that Mark has illustrated to us the demons Recognizing Jesus' authority.

Look back a few verses to 23-24 and you find…

23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." (NRSV)

Are we to understand that Satan has taken up preaching?

Here we are in chapter 1 of Mark. God's dove has descended and declared Jesus as God's Son. From there, our next two witnesses of Christ's divinity comes From the devil.

Let me tell you what I understand. Let me tell you what I take from this text. Let me tell you what I have experienced in my faith walk as a Christian.

Jesus Christ has absolute authority over Satan's power. Jesus Christ has beaten the power of sin and death. Jesus Christ has the power to command demons out of the afflicted And possessed.

I also find it to be worth noting that this man was in the synagogue! Why is that significant?

It means he was a church goer. His rear end warmed the pew every Sabbath. He was likely a respectable member of society and his church. People likely turned around as he walked down the street And said, "now here is a holy man." It wouldn't surprise me if he was clergy.

Yet, we find that this man is plagued by a demon. And the demon speaks for the man. Listen again…

"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."

How can this be? How can a holy man, a man who goes to worship on the Sabbath be plagued?

What about us? What about Bible believing, baptised, born again Christians? Can we be afflicted or possessed?

I am going to say conditionally yes. That condition is only if you open the door to it. Only if you believe his lies. Only if you consult mirror, mirror on the wall, Or any other voices that tell you that you are Substandard, no good, ugly, or a failure.

Why did I say I wouldn't be surprised if he was clergy? Because clergy are under more attack than anyone else on the planet. And, there is no one that Satan loves more than lukewarm clergy.

Folks, pray for your pastors. Pray for the church.

And this is the kicker folks. Listen up. Satan only has the power that you give him. I am going to say that again. Satan only has the power that you give him. I was watching a science fiction show a few weeks ago. And, I was particularly stunned by the story line. In this show, two FBI agents were investigating a murder in a Small Tennessee town.

These murders were shrouded in mysterious and unexplanable supernatural And demonic events involving snake attacks.

The likely suspect of the murder was a snake handling preacher from the Church of God with Signs and Wonders.

The pastor was a radically judgemental fundamentalist bible thumper. He was the kind of guy that everything was black and white, The viewer was led to believe that he was the killer.

As the show goes on, The agents consult another town pastor. He was well educated, caring, sympathetic, soft spoken And his biblical exegesis was such that it would make any Liberal seminary proud.

A battle raged in this town between God and Satan.. The climax of the show reveals who the killer is.

Satan was the likeable, caring, soft spoken man.

The show ends with the agent stating, I never believed the devil was a kindly old man Telling me what it is that I wanted to hear.

Profound. Profound beyond words, especially coming from a prime time Science fiction show.

Unfortunately for the viewing audience, They get a good lesson about the nature of the beast, But not a lesson in how to stand firm against him. And sadly, it is a message that is never preached from most Pulpits, particularly in the more educated and orthodox Traditions such as our own.

It is all too true. We as a church have been lulled to sleep. We have discounted Satan as an entrenched social evil Rather than a conscious foe.

And Satan will continue to rock the cradle As the denominations continue to sleep.

Folks, it is time to wake up. What do we do when we are confronted by the teaching of demons? What did Jesus do? He told them to shut up, didn't he?

He did not debate them, He did not reason with them, He did not quote scripture to them.

He told them to be silent. Shut up. Shut up devil!

So, what do you need? What do you need to be able to recognize and silence the work of Satan?

Let's turn back to our first text of the morning…

Ephesians 6:10-20 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times with every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Okay, There is a lot here, isn't there? I can, and will give you the full sermon On Ephesians 6: 10-20 on another Sunday.

For now, let me give you the run down. TRUTH! RIGHTEOUSNESS! FAITH! SALVATION! When Jesus faced the devil he always confronted him with the truth. He did not debate him. He told him the truth.

So let me give you the truth this morning… You are a child of God! Righteousness comes from Christ. Salvation by Faith.

This is what it means to stand firm. Satan has no power over you. That does not mean tomorrow. That doesn't mean when you get your act straight. That means now!

In the name of Jesus Christ you are free!

I am making that claim this morning. Anyone who wants to be released this morning, come forward and kneel at this alter. Don't let Satan keep from you the blessing that is here for you this morning.

I am not only talking to the person who feels they need it, I am far more concerned about the person who feels that they don't.

I will anoint you with oil and pray over you. Anyone else who feels led to come and pray for their Neighbors, you just come behind the rail with me.

When we are finished, I want you to gather around And I want you to lay hands on me and pray.

People of God, Let us wake up this morning. Let us become a force that the devil fears. Let us be the evangelical community God intended us to be.