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On Being Hunted by a Lion, Part 4

Set Free from Satan. More principles to help us in our spiritual warfare, and some principles for victory!

 

 

The following letter was received by a radio ministry. "Your ministry has been of great significance to me, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you personally...may God continue to bless and multiply your spiritual growth and outreach everywhere...

I am a young man of 23 years and came to Christ at age 19. In that time, I’ve grown in the Word, staggered, fallen down, been crushed, been convinced by a neurotic legalist that I was demon possessed, been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, gotten a woman friend pregnant, received professional Christian counseling from a licensed psychologist, and began to regain my spiritual senses. Everything, as you can see, has been just fine.

Please send me some ammunition and prayer support. The battle lines are drawn, the trenches are being dug, and I am not going to be one of those caught shame-faced when our Commanding Officer returns.

When the record is being reviewed, I want it written that the soldier in question, after repeatedly disobeying orders and going AWOL during war time alert, donned his armor, reported back to his Commanding Officer, fought courageously and fearlessly without batting an eye, hit his enemy with everything he could get his hands on, and afflicted heavy damage in strategic areas to the credit of his patient, forgiving, Commanding officer—Letter to John MacArthur, The Believer’s Armor, p. 133.

 

This letter inspires me as I begin the fourth and final message in our four-part miniseries on Satan and spiritual warfare. I love the spirit of this young man; he represents many of our testimonies. I want it said of us that we too, after failures, put on our armor and fought courageously to the credit of our patient, forgiving, Commanding Officer, Jesus Christ.

 

The battle we fight is spiritual, thus it is essential we understand our enemy. In order for us to get a final glimpse of our enemy’s design and how we might be set free, I want to take you to one incident in the gospels that is described in three passages of Scripture—Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; and Luke 8:26-39.

 

Let’s begin in Matt. 8:28-34.

28] When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29] "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" 30] Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding.

31] The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs." 32] He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33] Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34] Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

So, two demon-possessed men came to meet the Lord. . . men so violent that no one could pass their way. To get an even more complete picture of what is happening, let’s look at Mark 5:2ff where some of the violence is discussed in further detail.

 

Mark 5—2] When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3] This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4] For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5] Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

This was a man of incredible strength, literally able to break chains. We’ll come back to this in a moment, but I want you to know that demonic, supernatural power is very strong indeed. No one or nothing seemed to be able to subdue him.

Matt. 8:29—"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

 

These were two men with great power, but when they come into the presence of Jesus, they fell before Him and were fearful. They recognized Jesus was the Messiah; and they recognized His authority and their ultimate judgment. The demonic powers are aware of who Jesus is. (You can read about this in Rev. 22:3,10.)

v. 30—"Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding." v. 31—The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs."

Does that raise any curiosity in you? It does me. I asked myself, "Why pigs?" Why would they go into swine? I don’t know for sure, but let me give you a couple of guesses.

  1. Obviously they knew Jesus was not going to allow them to go into another human being.
  2. Swine was a symbol of the disobedience of the Jews in that area, and demons are always at home where disobedience is a way of life. Eating or raising pork was a forbidden act in Israel; pork was considered unclean.
  3. In the Luke passage they are crying out, "Don’t throw us into the abyss." So they thought the swine was their only other choice.

In Luke 8:30, Jesus asked them a question: "What is your name?" They responded by saying, "legion," which meant there were many demons in them. This might account for the tremendous supernatural power that these men seemed to evidence. When Jesus said "go," however, the demons left the man and went into the herd. Jesus was exercising His authority.

As we look at this incident, a question might be, "In the event I have the opportunity to encounter a person who is obviously and overtly affected by demonic power, what should I say?" (Or others would say, "How fast should I run?")

Before I answer that question, I think it’s important to note: the same power and authority that rests in Jesus is also in us as Christ’s followers. There is no reason for us to fear. I’m not going to go into a full explanation of demon possession, but if we look at the gospels, I think we can understand what we should say in the power of Christ.

One thing we might say is, "In Jesus' name I command you to go, evil spirit." That’s a paraphrase of what Jesus said here—Matt. 9 Or, "In the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, come out of this man, you evil spirit"—Mark 5:8. Or from Acts 16:18—"In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her." That’s what Paul said in this context.

What’s the main lesson? I think it’s important for us to note that we have that possibility within us. We must keep two things in mind when dealing with Satan the strength of the Lord, and the provision that God has made available to every believer in Christ. Rituals and exorcisms are unnecessary, because we have the necessary resources in Christ.

Is there a warning? Yes! My encouragement is to make sure you know the Lord Jesus; and make sure you are walking with Him and in obedience. If you need an illustration for that, read Acts 19:13-16 and discover what happened to the sons of Sceva.

John White, in his book Demon Possession wrote: "One does not need to have a ministry of deliverance to cast out demons. Yet both the Scripture and extra-biblical literature warn us that not all cases are equally easy to cope with." Here is a man who is a theologian, a pastor, an author, and a psychologist. He’s been around. He knows both sides of the story. He says, "The same disciples who rejoiced at their power over demons, were humiliated before the demonic simulation of epilepsy. I know no way of anticipating how difficult a given exorcism may prove to be. One can only look to God for guidance whether to proceed or not. How can I know whether I am qualified to proceed? All power on heaven and on earth is given to Jesus. In His name, when executing His commands under His authority, there is no limit to the demonic power His servants may overthrow."

 

Then he gives a caution: "Yet I am not acting in His name when I neglect the provisions He has made.

"When His righteousness is not a plate of armor about me and His truth my trusty weapon, perhaps at this point fasting and prayer are called for—not as a mechanical device for psyching myself up to cope with demons, nor yet a mystical pathway to supernatural power, but rather as an opening of my mind and will to God’s Spirit that He may reveal to me my ambivalences, my double-mindedness, and my unbelief."

 

So he advocates here the whole concept of fasting and prayer as a way to prepare ourselves. Then he continues,

"The Holy Spirit may give special gifts to some, but in general terms, a Christian’s effectiveness in dealing with evil powers arises from his relationship to Christ. My authority over demons will operate effectively to the degree that I rejoice in a clear, unambivalent relationship with Christ—a relationship of trust in His redeeming and justifying grace, and of a total commitment to His person and His will."

In other words, walk with the Lord in obedience to Him. When you come into a situation you’re not sure about, prayer and fasting—as with the disciples—is an appropriate preparation for that kind of encounter with demonic power.

 

Let’s move on.

v. 32—He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.

Why did they go into the water? I believe this was directed by God—first to free the men from their possession and second, to free the community from their swine. I believe He used the devil to execute judgment on the Jews in this situation. Third, it was obvious the destruction of the swine was in harmony with the demons’ nature.

The nature of demons is to destroy; and they are probably not content to live in brute beasts. The demons illustrated in the pigs what their mission and nature was and is all about—i.e., what they intend to do to those they possess and control.

This miracle caused quite a stir. Most of us would be a little shook up if we happened to see 2,000 swine running down the mountainside and into the water. Notice what happened:

v. 33—Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34] Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

 

Looking back at the story and its parallel and related passages, let’s see if we can deduce some principles.

Principles to Help Us In Our Spiritual Warfare

 

Principle #1: Satan’s designs are always the same.

That seems obvious, but I want to state and elaborate on his designs. His work may not always be obvious, because we’re not always dealing with possession, but his designs are always the same. Here and in parallel passages we get an understanding of what Satan desires to do to those who refuse to follow the Lord. Many times they are more subtle, but the same designs are there.

 

Satan desires to display power even though it might have no healing or helpful purpose.

In Matthew 9 we see special abilities and amazing strength, but they serve no healing or helpful purpose—e.g., broken chains, yet no one could subdue the men. Today, Satan’s power is not always overt like this incident in the gospels. It might be economic, political, relational, etc., but Satan desires to display power—his power, even if he doesn’t get the credit for it.

We can always tell God’s power from Satan’s, in that God’s power uplifts, heals and ultimately glorifies God, not a man or a system.

Satan desires to kill and destroy the person.

In this case it was obvious, but even at the beginning of a person's walk with Jesus, if he decides to turn his back on the Lord and follow the world's/Satan's way, Satan’s design to kill and destroy will come into play. He is a roaring lion who comes to kill, to steal, and to destroy—"they cut themselves and they lived in the tombs." The evidence of his destruction today might be a preoccupation with death, either the fear of it, or the desire for it. We see this consistently with people who have fallen into a Satanic mindset. There is also self-inflicted pain or masochism. In this story they cut themselves.

Satan desires to drive the person(s) into isolation; to separate them from all meaningful and healing relationships.

Luke says the demons drove these men into solitary places—Luke 8:29.

Satan desires to destroy dignity—self-worth.

These men lived without clothes. Evidence of Satan’s destruction of dignity and self-worth is often expressed in other ways. It may result in negative talk about self, or an obsession to change one's image by acquiring things or relationships at any cost to another person or self. It may be a void of modesty or propriety in relationships or behavior.

 

If you walk with Satan, this, to some measure, is exactly what will happen.

He also desires to stifle potential. These men were accomplishing nothing.

 

He desires to avoid detection and expulsion.

That’s why he’s undercover most of the time. He tries desperately to cover up his activities. Scripture says he comes as an angel of light, and as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

He desires to use his victims as instruments to destroy others.

 

He keeps his victims from good and healing solutions—they might be repulsed by the good.

 

He desires to destroy emotional stability—the victims often experience great anxiety.

 


 

Clarification for the previous observations:

The person experiencing these tendencies and characteristics may have other reasons—physical, emotional, or the result of abuse or some psychological trauma—for their behavior. So we obviously can’t be simplistic about this and say, "The Devil made me do it."

Beyond other influences and experiences for such behavior, however, we must understand that there is one who rejoices, who lives like a parasite on the pain of others and seeks to use anything he can to destroy us—even if he isn’t responsible for it.

Don’t give him credit for all the negative in the world, but don’t forget that his schemes and plans are still at work in every circumstance possible.

The reason I give this clarification is because there are plenty of explanations for the behaviors we have discussed that would never include the enemy of our soul. Some would even say that only ignorant people ascribe negative actions or experiences to a spiritual enemy. I would suggest that you give some thought to this area, and think about your own behavior. Consider these principles and then look to Jesus as the One who will set you free and also give you life.

Principle #2. There is a way to limit the application of God’s power.

His power is limited in us by our rejection—Mk. 5:16-17. We can send Him away because we prefer our own material goods to His lordship. We can love father and mother more than Him. We can make excuses for not following the Lord.

 

There was a group of people who preferred to have these demon-possessed men stay in their previous states. They would rather have had the ability to raise swine than to have Jesus come into their territory. In essence, the economics of the loss was more important to them than the power of the message Jesus had to deliver. This is the choice many are making today.

 

Principle #3. Resistance to God’s commands will result in pressure being applied to us in other ways.

If we resist God’s commands, He has other ways to reach us, not because He wants to torment us but because He loves us; He died for us. In this incident we have a couple of examples.

 

The Jews in this nearby city suffered the loss of their pig business. A financial pressure came to bear on those who were walking away from Jesus.

Jesus also had another way to reach these people. The Lord sent two demon-possessed men, who had been freed from Satan’s power and were now walking with the Lord, right into their same town to share what God had done for them.

 

18]—As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19] Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 20] So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

What was the Lord doing here, and what’s the message to a believer newly set free? For a new believer, Jesus gives a specific, yet narrow message. "Go to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you."

 

Principle #4. Wherever you are, deliver the testimony you have, even if you are a new convert—Mk. 5:19.

What has God done for you? Deliver that testimony. This is what Jesus asked of these men when they were freed. Go to the most difficult arena there is. Go and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them your condition before, and what has happened to you since. Talk about Jesus. Notice this is balanced with the second point, "...tell them how he had mercy on you." In other words, don’t forget to relate as you are sharing your testimony, how much you did not deserve what He has done for you.

One of the tendencies of new converts is to get puffed up, to exaggerate their own goodness, or to unknowingly demean the person to whom they are witnessing. When the message of mercy, then, is accompanied by the message of God’s grace, it keeps the message in balance; it keeps reminding the folks there is nothing in you that is praiseworthy except what Jesus Christ has done. This message draws the attention to the Lord, and to His mercy, and to His grace.

 

Principle #5. God wants to set you free.

We know that! But we need to be reminded that God wants to set us free. No matter where you are, what your circumstance, what habitual sin is in your life; God wants to set you free.

 

You may never have accepted Christ, and have certain sins you are obsessed with. Let me say to you with kindness, there is not much distance between obsession and possession. There are degrees/levels of possession; and you need to be careful. If you continue to walk away from the commands of Christ, the message of Christ and the invitation of Christ, the obsession will increase and you will put yourself in danger of being dominated by demonic powers.

You may have dabbled in the occult and false religions. Maybe you became involved because of curiosity, and or were enticed with promises or appeals to your altruistic desires. My encouragement to you on the strength of the Word of God, is to renounce every activity, every involvement in the occult, or occults, or strange religions.

What you need to pursue is righteousness, and run away from any occult activity; renounce it. If it still has a hold on you, get together with someone and pray about it.

Even if you are a Christian, you may have let Satan tempt you into bondage. I don’t believe you can be possessed by a demon when you are a child of God. Light and darkness do not dwell in the same person. I do, however, believe it is important to know that Satan can get a foothold; he can lead you as a believer, into a trap.

Here’s the warning/encouragement from Scripture:

  • Eph. 4:27—"Do not give the devil a foothold..." and
  • 2 Tim. 2:25-26—"Those who oppose him he much gently instruct in the hope that God will grant repen-tance leading them to the knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will."

 

There are traps, snares, footholds that Satan can have in your life. We're not talking about possession, we’re talking about points where he can have control in your life.

Principle #6. God has a wonderful plan of freedom for you.

He has deliverance suited for your particular situation, or any situation. Let me emphasize a very important truth: If we are in Christ Jesus and walking with Him, we need never fear any power of Satan, ever. "Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world," Scripture says. We must remember that.

On the other hand, just because we say Jesus is the Son of God does not mean we have any great spiritual insight or maturity. When someone says "I believe Jesus is the son of God," I would like to say, "Well, big deal, so do the demons. They quake at His power. They are fearful of the Lord Jesus." It is more than the acknowledgment of His Sonship, that He is the Son of God, the Messiah that matters. It is how we are walking with the Son, how obedient we are to the Son.

 

The Principles for Victory

How are we going to obtain this freedom and victory the Lord has for us? How will we go beyond our doubts, rise above our sins, and obtain the level of spiritual life God calls us to? How are we going to defeat Satan? The New Testament gives us several key answers.

 

Recognize that Christ has defeated Satan.

First John 3:8 says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Hebrews 2:14-15 say that the plan was ". . . he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15] and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." The Lord has already dealt a defeating blow.

Recognize the power of Christ in your life.

1 John 4:4—"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

When a believer is saved, he receives the Spirit of God, in whom is the power that defeated Satan.

 

Resist Satan.

First Peter 5:8-9 says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9] Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."

Don’t give Satan a place in your life.

Ephesians 4:27 tells us we can resist Satan by expressing God’s power in our lives: ". . . and do not give the devil a foothold.."

That’s very simple. Don’t give him a place in your life. The implication of that verse is, if he has a place in your life, then you gave it to him. Your will is the key. People will say that someone is so troubled by demons he can’t use his will. But that can’t be possible, because we’re called to give no place to the devil—to allow no room for his entry. You ask, "How do I keep from doing that?"

Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Second Corinthians 2:11 says, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

First John 2:16 says, "For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world."

Flee temptation. Second Timothy 2:22 says, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

Let Christ control your thought life.

2 Cor. 10:3 says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does."

 

Paul is saying that we are human, but our battle is not human. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (v. 4). We are in a spiritual war that demands spiritual weapons.

How are we going to use those weapons? How do we know we can be aware of his devices, flee his temptations, resist his onslaughts, and give no place to him in our lives? How are we going to appropriate the necessary power? Verse 5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

 

For us to know that Christ has dealt a death blow to Satan, that His power resides in us, and to know how to resist Satan and give no place to his entry, we must bring every thought captive to Christ. We must have our minds controlled by the Word of God through the power of the Spirit of God. There are no shortcuts to effective, victorious, Christian living. If you’re going to live a victorious Christian life, you must give your mind over to the Word of God so that your thinking and feelings are controlled by truth.

 

The Principles for Victory taken from The Believer’s Armor, John MacArthur, Word of Grace Communications, 1986, pp. 99-101.

  1. Have you had any experience where you had to confront Satan and his power? Did you prepare with prayer and fasting?
  2. What characterizes the kind of power Satan desires to manifest? What are its effects on people?
  3. Review the list of ways Satan desires to work in the lives of people. Did any of these tactics show up in your life prior to your becoming a Christian?
  4. The fourth principle to help us in spiritual warfare is to give our testimony, no matter what or how lengthy it is. What is your testimony? Do you hesitate to tell it because you think it's not "exciting" enough?
  5. Do you feel that in any area, Satan has trapped you, has gotten a foothold in your life? If so, what do you intend to do to get out?
  6. How do you let Christ control your thought life?