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Sep 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 2, 2012 – Mark 1:21-27

The King of the Kingdom

They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Mark 1:21-22

INTRO: Have you reminded yourself this week, “The kingdom is at hand?”

[Pause, crickets chirp, preacher is disappointed, but he goes on]

It occurred to me that a good follow up to last week would be to meditate on the the King of the kingdom
– but I immediately I resisted the thought
– there are some subjects I try avoid, because they have been cluttered with so much nonsense
• a case in point is “spiritual warfare”
• elaborations have resulted in exaggerations to the point that biblical truth has been buried and lost

However, something came up on Monday that caused me to change my mind

Mark focuses attention on people’s reaction to Jesus’ teaching

He doesn’t give any explanation why Jesus was allowed to teach in the synagogue
– I imagine people coming in and asking, “Who is that guy? Why is he talking?”
• he came without credentials or recommendations
– but after hearing a few words from his mouth, they were amazed
• they recognized the voice of authority and the ring of truth
• Jesus didn’t need to present airtight arguments or play on their emotions with sentimental stories

When there was a sudden and explosive interruption, they witnessed another dimension of his authority
– his words were not only true, they were powerful

Mark continues to develop the theme of Jesus’ authority
– “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk. 3:10)
– Mark doesn’t always use the word, “authority,” but it is obvious in his statement about being, “Lord of the Sabbath” (2:28) and in his actions when, “even the wind and the sea obey Him” (4:41)

What we see in the early chapters of Mark is the kingdom of God advancing in the world
– it enters and takes over one domain after another
• illness, spirits, sin and guilt, wind and waves
– Jesus is bringing his kingdom into every human situation and every situation is changed

Many years ago, a family told me God wanted them to be missionaries

Later, they sold everything, moved to Costa Rica, and went through language school
– within a couple of years, they started a church in a small mountain village
– after some time, they wrote me to ask if I knew of any good books on spiritual warfare?
• they explained that they’d found something hidden in their home
• locals told them it was a hex and that someone had put a curse on them
– nothing in their previous Christian experience had prepared them for this

I had been exposed to lot of goofiness and come to a place where I no longer took this stuff seriously
– I figured that it existed in some form, but it didn’t interest me or have much to do with my work
• it did not have the theological clarity of other themes in Bible — it was a gray zone
– but I began reading the literature on it and sent them what I considered the best works (which amounted to only a couple of books out of dozens)
• many popular authors have fabricated demonic hierarchies that don’t exist and doctrines that are not theologically sound
– most of what’s out there is not biblical, reliable, or helpful
• for example, many Christians did not realize that Frank Peretti’s books are not a description of the spirit world, but merely the projections of his vivid imagination
• yet some believers thought his works were theological handbooks on demons and angels

There was one book, however, that turned out to be remarkably helpful (Christian Counseling and Occultism, by Kurt Koch)
– from its roots, they began a ministry, working with a psychologist, that eventually got the attention of seminary professor here in the States
• from those humble beginnings, their work spread and became a great help to many others
– that book also opened my eyes to the nature of some of the struggles of people that I knew

C. S. Lewis said there are two mistakes humans make re: the devils:
– either unbelief or believing too much – we either under-emphasize or over-emphasize the supernatural
– a South African doctor and theologian observed that Africa and Asia shared the same worldview as the Bible regarding the presence and influence of spirits in human affairs
• and western theology failed to provide adequate insight to address these worldviews

Annang Asumang, “It makes no sense to the African, and perhaps also the Asian or South American, to deny the presence of evil powers, or to have a Savior who could not provide a complete and decisive victory over the powers.”

– but Dr. Asumang also warns, that when addressing this issue we must avoid “reinventing superstition”

Of course, that’s Africa

Meanwhile, back in the States

About the same time our missionaries entered this gray zone, a psychologist here in Orange County contacted me
– he had a client that he feared might be demon-possessed and he wanted me to assist him if he had to perform an exorcism
• but he requested that I first read People of the Lie
– Scott Peck was a psychologist brave enough to theorize about the reality and influence of evil

It’s interesting to me that most educated people avoid references to evil
– it’s a general, vague category, a source of horrific entertainment, and a topic for philosophical arguments
• in extreme criminal behavior, we are more interested in neurological, socioeconomic, and psychological factors
– but there is one profession that has no problem with addressing evil as evil or applying term to human behavior: our legal system
• investigators, detectives, attorneys, and judges exposed to the deeds of particular individuals, speak freely of evil
• they have seen it up close
• just this past week, in delivering a verdict against a murderer, the judge told him, “You, sir, are pure evil.”
– it seems that journalist are the first to question whether evil exists
• people who have to deal with it, don’t ask those questions

The Bible brings this even closer to home

People in scripture did not question existence of good and evil spirits
– according to Paul, this is the realm of our most serious conflicts
(Eph. 6:12, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood . . .”; 2 Cor. 10:3, “For though we walk in flesh, we do not war according to the flesh”
• for the Christian, the primary target of spiritual assault is the human mind

. . . for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Co. 10:4-5)

Let’s be clear: Human mood disorders and personality disorders are not caused by spirits
– as a general rule: never look for a supernatural explanation for what is going on if there is a natural or rational explanation
– nevertheless, any disturbance of the mind can be played on, intensified, and exaggerated — e.g., anxiety, depression, guilt, and despair

Jesus not only exercised authority over spirits, He also shared his authority with the disciples
– Mk. 3:15, “to have authority to cast out demons”
• freeing ourselves and others from the influence of these forces is one reason why we’re here

A few suggestions in how we might approach this challenge

First, let’s be open-minded and take it seriously

Secondly, let’s avoid giving the devil any real estate — Eph. 4:27, “Don’t give space to the devil”
– by intentionally doing something we know is evil
“Storage Wars,” ouija bd, psychic shops wanted nothing to do w/it
• dabbling (tarot, palm-reading, etc.) – spells, etc.
– allowing the subject of Satan, demons, and angels to become a fascination
• can become obsession, result in paranoia or psychosis
– harboring anger or resentment (beware of any fixation on a negative emotion)
– substance abuse

Third, let’s do what we can to defend ourselves
– many Christians have been spun in wrong direction
• they have been led to believe that the way to battle evil is through a ritual of “deliverance”

Paul says more about this in Ephesians than anywhere else in Bible
– when he tells Christians to suit up in Ephesians 6, our armor consists of Christian disciplines, behavior, and virtues
(truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer)
– it is not demons we need to worry about, so much as our hearts and minds
• if these zones are protected, we have nothing to fear

CONC: The most important factor in spiritual protection is knowing and belonging to Jesus Christ

Clinton Arnold in Power and Magic, summarizes Jesus status above “every name that is named”

Looking at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in 1:15-23, Arnold says that the apostle “wants to impress indelibly upon his readers that no conceivable being can even come close to matching Christ in power or authority.”

– we are so fully protected by Jesus, that there’s nothing to fear — nothing to fear!

“Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of the coals
And brings out a weapon for its work;
And I have created the destroyer to ruin.
No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD
(Isa. 54:16-17)

God created the people who manufacture the weapons
– no spiritual weapon or strategy formed to destroy us can be effective
• in fact, our skirmishes become more like a game than warfare, “What is the scheme this time? The strategy? What is my weakness or vulnerability that is being exploited?”

We have an unfair advantage! Php. 2:9-11, “Jesus Christ is Lord”

Be aware of evil and the evil one (1 Pe. 5:8)
Know where you stand in relationship to these things
Know how to deal with this (hint: “Jesus Christ is Lord”)
Then move past it and get on with your life

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ,
keep seeking the things above, where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on the things above,
not on the things that are on the earth.
Colossians 3:1-2

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