This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!
What do you do with troubled people in your life, especially children? Have you had any trouble with people this week? How about your kids? Did they give you any trouble this week? I’m a dad so one of things I could put on my resume is that I’ve had trouble. “Trouble” began 12 years ago when our daughter decided she wanted to come into this world two months earlier than her due date. We woke up on a Sunday morning and Lori’s water broke. We thought we better get to the hospital and so I quickly informed the church where we were serving in Geneseo, Illinois to pray for us. Lori labored all day and then the doctor said, “We need to do an emergency Caesarian section because the baby is breach and in distress.” We didn’t know it at the time, but the umbilical cord was also wrapped around her neck so if she would have gone full-term, most likely she would have been gone to be with Jesus and we would never have gotten to know her here on earth. However, God’s people were praying. We figure at least 1000 people across the globe were asking God to save her. God hears the prayers of His people, especially those interceding for children. Jesus has special compassion for children in need! God even provided for the $6000 in medical bills and we were able to pay it off without going into debt because of an unexpected $2000 award from my graduate school for writing a paper on the devotional life. ALWAYS REMEMBER, God never lacks the power and resources to help you with your impossibility! Not only do I know this because I have seen this in my own life, and we saw it in the life of our Academy with an amazing $115,000 raised in 8 days but more importantly, we witness it in the life of Christ. If you have your Bibles today, please turn to Mark 9:14-29 to see how a father brought his troubled son to Jesus and Christ did the impossible. And He can do the impossible in your life! Read Mark 9:14-29!
The first step you should make when someone you love is in trouble, especially your children is to bring them to Christ’s followers. In other words, we should bring them to the church. Notice I didn’t say bring them to church but to the church. Bringing them to church might convey that you have the mindset that I am bringing my kid to a spiritual rehabilitation program. You might think, “I’ll send them to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, the Academy or Day Camp so that they can fix my kid and teach them about Christ and spirituality.” It doesn’t work that way. We as parents are responsible for the spiritual direction of our children. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 commands, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons (children) and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” The onus is on us as parents to teach our children the way to follow Christ by looking for opportunities in every life situation that points them to God and His truth.
So why did I say that we should take our troubled children to the church? The church is the people you need when a burden is too large for you to carry yourself. Galatians 6:5 instructs us by saying, “For each one will bear his own load.” That word for “load” is equivalent to a backpack size load – something we are capable of carrying. However, Galatians 6:2 commands, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” In this case, the word for burden is equivalent to a grand piano load, which none of us can carry by ourselves. We need others and God’s Word teaches us that we should seek that help from His church. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you can handle your mammoth problem on your own, or that God’s people will think less of you or that they don’t really care. Temple we care about when others are hurting. You as a church gave nearly $50,000 of the $115,000 to our Academy fundraising effort. However, there are some here today who are weighted down by trouble and you have added a few more pounds by thinking people won’t care about you. Drop the burden! Even come up after the service for prayer with the Pastors and Elders. We can’t help unless we know!
The father in story in Mark 9 had “grand-piano size” trouble and he was willing to drop his burden for others to carry. This is why he brought his son to Jesus’ followers. In fact, from the father’s perspective, when he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, he thought he was bringing him to Jesus. Notice what it says in verse 17, “Teacher, I brought You my son.” But wait a minute! Jesus wasn’t there. Where was He? He was up on the mountain showing His glory to Peter, James and John. This is instructive and relevant for us today! Where is Jesus now? He is in His glory up on Mount Zion! (Hebrews 12:2) Do you realize that when people come to you with their troubles they are expecting to meet Jesus? Do they meet Him? How are we doing as the middlemen – the representatives of Jesus to our family, neighbours, co-workers, friends and our community?
How did Jesus’ disciples do? They got an “F” on their report card under the subject, “Representing Jesus!” I’ll explain why in a moment but I first want to emphasize something really important to those who have been disappointed when meeting Jesus’ representatives rather than Him. Sort of like meeting the butler at the King’s house! Remember, Jesus will show up and make up for His follower’s shortcomings! Verse 14-15 describes, “When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.” I don’t believe Jesus will let our shortcomings be an insurmountable obstacle to others following Him. He will show up and represent Himself when we don’t do it well. In fact, He may come in power! Where had Jesus just been? Being transfigured before His favourite disciples’ eyes! The people were attracted to Him when He came off that mountain! In fact, it says in the New International Version that when the people saw Jesus, “they were overwhelmed with wonder!” What did the people see? Robert Gundry even proposes, “Mark has not indicated that Jesus’ clothes, that were whiter than any Tide® could make them, have dimmed.” I think this is important because though Christ charges us to be His witnesses and the heralds of His Gospel message, He will not let His message be lost by our shortcomings. There is none who will have an excuse when they stand in judgment before Christ and say, “Your followers were false witnesses and so I ask that you dismiss the charges against me.” Everyone seeking Jesus will find Him despite His followers’ failures. And those who only see hypocrisy in the church need to know that those who would set themselves up as judge must meet the standard of perfection themselves. Who is perfect but Christ alone? I doubt there are many more here than myself who have seen the shadow side of the Church. Growing up as pastor’s kid and then as a pastor for the last 17 years, I have seen a lot and it’s not always pretty. What I have learned is that our focus was never meant to be on the Bride but on the Bridegroom! I love the Church so much. Why? Because she belongs to Christ! Therefore, I appeal to all those with grievances against God’s people, the Church, to come back and you will find Jesus here in the midst of the messiness. We ask your forgiveness and not fully communicating the Gospel of grace in word and deed, but come back and give us a second chance like God has given us.
The second step you should make when your loved one is in trouble, especially your children is don’t fight with rule-makers. Notice what Mark describes at the end of verse 14, “some scribes were arguing with them (the disciples.)” I gained this insight from the outstanding Bible teacher Beth Moore. She was teaching on this passage and said something that stuck out in my mind. “You might be spiritually impotent because you are fighting with legalists.” Whoa! When Jesus comes back and the father explains the situation of his demonized boy to Jesus, “I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it” (v. 18), the father was essentially saying they were “spiritual wimps.” David Garland remarks that the words could be translated this way, “they were not strong enough to do so.” Spending your energy dickering over the rules will drain you of spiritual power! Besides, quarreling not only exhausts you physically but spiritually. Were the nine disciples left behind to be Christ’s witnesses jealous of Jesus’ “Fab Three”? Did that slight cause them to pick a fight with the scribes? Sometimes a slight at work or school results in a brawl at home! Often trying to keep score results in getting lasered in on the rules so that nobody gets grace! I saw this during Board Game night at my house this week!
We don’t know what precipitated the fight between the Scribes and the 9 disciples. What we do know is that the disciples could not cast out the demon from the boy. The disciples were empowered by Jesus and His authority to cast out demons as Matthew 10:1 declares, “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” Maybe “the disciples had been tempted to believe that the gift they had received from Jesus (6:7) was in their control and could be exercised at their disposal.” But as William Lane reminds us, “Expelling demons provided no guarantee of continued power. The power of God must be asked for on each occasion.” Maybe the disciples also started to rely in their own abilities? In verse 28, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why could we not drive it out?” Notice, “The question places an emphasis on ‘we’ and betrays a longing to rely on their own professional skill and power.” Do we do that? When you enter into a new situation, you tend to be more reliant upon God but as time and experience goes on, do you seek Him as much for answers? Do you pray and read your Bible as much as you did when you were a new Christian, a new parent, in a new ministry assignment? Ministry is not about your gifts, abilities or anointing but about Jesus and His grace! It is all about Christ and He alone gets the credit!
In the story we discover that the disciples had lost that focus and their passion for prayer. The result was spiritual impotence, continued suffering for a tormented son and his father and an increase of doubt so that the father was discouraged in his faith in Jesus. And the scariest part is “only when the disciples are caught up short do they learn that they do not possess Jesus’ power.” Yikes! The father says to Jesus after lodging a complaint with His followers’ service department, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (v. 22) Jesus immediately fixates on the father’s words, “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” INSUFFICENT PRAYER RESULTS IN DEFICIENT FAITH!
In contrast, a third step to take when you have a trouble loved one, especially children is to pray to Jesus for the impossible. The father had come with his persistently desperate situation. His son was demonized since childhood (v. 21). The demons were trying to kill the son by throwing him in the fire and drown in the water. This must have brought more grief to Jesus. “Jesus’ lament expresses urgency. ‘O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?’ does not convey a wish to be rid of inept disciples but refers to how little time he has left to soften their hard heartedness and to acquaint them more fully with the power that can expel evil.” That power comes through seeking God in prayer! Prayer is the hook to evict demons. We find out in Luke 9:28 that Jesus Himself had been praying up on the mount of Transfiguration. He knew where His power came from – His Father! When Jesus said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer”, he was not teaching that “exorcisms require secret lore, techniques or incantations. The disciples cannot take courses to learn the ins and outs of exorcism or hone their skills in some kind of exorcism lab.” No, prayer not does change anything! God changes things through prayer!
Also, some of your versions say prayer and fasting. You know how much I encourage fasting. However, the fasting is not in the original text but was added later. This is not to say that we should not add fasting to our spiritual warfare arsenal as Tertullian teaches, “Fasting is the weapon of choice for battling the more dreadful demons.” I must teach you that fasting and prayer is not the key to overcoming evil. What God says about Jesus is the key to overcoming the Evil One! Both at Jesus’ baptism and then again at the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son!” This is a total grace-filled statement. The Father loved Jesus for who He was not what He did! And then notice this immediately caused a fight after both declarations about Jesus from the Father in heaven. Jesus was tempted by the devil after being baptized and being sent out into the desert for 40 days to pray and fast. And then after receiving approval once again from Heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus gets into a spiritual UFC brawl with the demon. However, demons are more bark than bite because Jesus defeated them at the Cross! They love to make a spectacle, even playing dead! Jesus just came and took the boy by the hand and raised him up.
Does this not remind us of the Heavenly Father who took His Son by the hand after He died and raised His son from the grave and thus conquered evil. Trust Jesus to conquer all evil in your family! Trouble in your loved one’s life; especially your children will turn into triumph for Christ! With Christ, all things are possible. He never lacks the resources and power to deliver you from your troubles. So will you trust Him? Jesus provided the money needed for our Academy. He always provides the means for rescue by even giving Himself to us. And yet we didn’t get the students. It is always this way. We have studied the Book of Mark and seen time and again how Jesus did miracles, everyone was amazed but yet only a few followed Him. Will you be one who is just amazed or will you follow Him?
 Robert Gundry, Mark – A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), 488.
 David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 354.
 Garland, 359.
 William L. Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 335.
 Garland, 358.
 Garland, 359.
 Garland, 355.
 Garland, 359.
 Tertullian “On Fasting”, Greg Ogden ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Mark (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 125.
This sermon can be listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca.
From the schoolyard scrum to watching Whipper Billy Watson taking on Killer Kowalski in the 1950s, to Hulk Hogan in a 1990s WWF title bout against Andre the Giant, to nowadays Georges St. Pierre (GSP) on TV showing off his MMA skills in a cage match, humans love a good fight. We Canadians even like fights in hockey. Tell me the truth: were you happy to see a fight on Hockey Night in Canada? We like fights until we get hurt. Maybe you got hurt this week fighting somebody? In fact, maybe your wounds are more than your skin deep. You’re begging for somebody to help you. Jesus can take on the biggest and baddest dude in your life. Let’s read Mark 5:1-20 to find out how the Lord Jesus took out Legion. But be warned Jesus may even take you into the fight with Him. Before we do that, we need to remember that Jesus has already demonstrated His power to calm the storms of nature and the storms of your life by one rebuke (Mark 5:39). Jesus only has to say the word and the storm will relent. Do you believe that? You need to believe in Jesus and His authority before you can go into enemy territory with Jesus.
Read Mark 5:1-20! Notice that Jesus is purposely sailing to the region of the Gerasenes. This region was under the control of Philip the Tetrarch and was inhabited by Gentiles and Jews. It would have been considered by the people of Galilee as enemy territory or at least “on the other side of the tracks.” Where is that place for you? What locale do you try to avoid? It could be a place where you have stumbled and wasted too much of your life. It could be a place where all your great fears have gathered to stage an all-out assault on you. I will remind you that Jesus is with you.
There was much fear in that region of the Gerasenes because a demonized man (actually two according to Matthew 8:28) was running around unrestrained. Nobody could restrain him (Mark 5:3). He could break or cut through all the barriers that people had put on his life. However, when somebody throws off restraint they usually get in bondage in some way or another. He was alone, isolated, which is always dangerous. Mark 5:4 says the man had been cutting himself. Cutting oneself is not a new phenomenon. People having been doing it for ions! Cutting can be a way acting out with your body what is going on the inside. You feel trapped and numb so you cut your body. Today, you no longer need to believe the devil’s lies and tricks that self-harm will make you feel alive. You need to understand that cutting is the devil’s trick to make you feel alive when it eventually leads to death. Remember Jesus was cut by whips and died to make you alive! In Mark 5:3, the men were halfway toward death because they were living in the tombs. Death was their haunt and they probably tormented the people of the region at their most desperate times when they were trying to bury their loved ones. Demons feel very comfortable in places of death as the writer of Hebrews declares in 2:14 that the devil held the power of death until Jesus’ own death destroyed the devil’s grip on it. But the Cross hadn’t occurred yet when we read this story and so the demons thought they could go on the offense. They confronted Jesus. It is amazing to me how rebellion can fill you with such arrogance and gall that you think you can take on Jesus. What did Jesus do? Jesus had compassion for the man. The man had been naked and without a home for a long-time (Luke 8:27). If you ever visit the Third World as I recently was, nudity is not a cause for lust but a cause for compassion and love. Maybe there are some on our TV and computer screens who have shed their clothes because they have believed the devil’s lies. Will you love them instead of lusting after them? Will you not look at them lustfully but instead pray for those caught in pornography? Jesus cares for the naked, those in bondage to the kingdom of darkness, and He clothes them! Christ actually became naked and hung on a Cross for everybody to see so that the naked could be clothed with righteousness. As His followers, we will be held accountable as to whether we clothed the naked, the poor and the pornographers! (Matthew 25:36, 43) What are you doing about the naked in this world? What Jesus is about to do is driven by love!
It is love that overcomes evil. “The devil makes you lose everything: your home, your decency, your friends, you sanity and your peace.” Love does not cover up evil but replaces it with good. Love is an overwhelming force. In fact, when Jesus shows up, evil couldn’t hide. Jesus exposes the darkness and so the demons choose to make this their last stand. There is usually a storm before the demons are silenced because they knew their time is short (Revelation 12:12). Satan will employ guerilla warfare with surprise attacks, but nothing will stop Jesus! Mark 5:7 records that “seeing Jesus, the man cried out and fell prostrate before him and said in a loud voice: ‘What you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God’”. Later on in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reminds us “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) These demons were fulfilling this truth and bowing to Jesus at the same time they were rebelling. People too can be in the presence of Jesus, declaring whom Jesus is and taking a prostate position to Him but still showing contempt for Christ. That is what is going to happen to many on Judgment Day. May it not be true of you!
A demon may be forced to bow before the King of Kings and yet still rebel against Him! How? Not that this should generate sympathy for the demons’ rebellion, but we can relate to their rebellion. You and I may see Jesus, bow in worship to Him but quickly disobey Him. I have come to church, even preached and declared whom Christ is and then gotten upset with my family or the driver in front of me who is delaying me from getting me where I want to go. I know I have had an encounter with Jesus myself and yet gone on to resist Him. In the text, Jesus even commanded the evil spirits to come out of the man and there was resistance. These demons were not going to go quietly. No one had ever been able to gain control over him in the past. People had tried to bind the man with chains, but the man could break these fetters with superhuman strength. I have heard about this same phenomenon in mental hospitals when small-framed women require many guards to subdue them.
So Jesus uses a tactic that shows His authority. He does not need to wrestle the man to the ground. He asks, “What is your name?” I believe that demons at their core are liars and deceivers. As Jesus declared about Satan, “He 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.” (John 8:44) However, when Jesus as the Truth requires truth, every being including demons must tell the truth. Therefore, the demons reveal that their name is “Legion” and Luke explains that was because many demons had entered him. A Roman Legion consisted of up to 6000 men so there could be up to 6000 demons in this man. That may sound crazy but remember that demons are spiritual beings and are not squished by being together in a physical space. My understanding is that demons even have ranks and different levels of authorities (Ephesians 6:12; Luke 11:21-26) so there could have been ordered chaos in this man. Regardless of how the demons fit in the man, the point is that this was a large evil force coming up against Jesus! I love what Darrel Bock says, “Jesus is outnumbered, but not overmatched.”
In fact, the evil forces were no longer standing up to Jesus. They were on their knees begging Jesus not send them away (Mark 5:10). Demons hate to loose ground to God’s Kingdom. In Luke 8:31 we read that the demons begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss. What is the Abyss or better yet, where is it? The Apostle Paul uses that same word to describe the place of the dead in Romans 10:7 and the Apostle John uses the word in Revelation 20:3 to describe the bottomless pit, where Satan is held for the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. Joachim Jeremias says the Abyss is “the place of imprisonment for disobedient spirits” (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).
The demons were begging the Judge not to send them to prison. They see a herd of pigs and beg Jesus to send them into the pigs instead. Pigs? That may not seem strange. Pigs for us are commonplace. In fact, Lori and I used to live in the hog capital of the world – Henry County, Illinois. Hogs were an important resource in that region of Illinois as they were in the region of the Gerasenes. But should they have been? If this region was Jewish then the farmers had no business producing pigs and selling them to the Gentile market. Pigs were considered unclean and forbidden according to Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8. Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs and we see that pigs really do fly as they go off the cliff. But remember Jesus didn’t “consign the animals to destruction in the sea,” the demons did! However, “did Jesus have the right to permit the legion of demons to destroy a herd of 2,000 swine and perhaps put the owners out of business?”  We need to know that Jesus is totally in charge of every situation. The demons can’t act without permission and neither could the “owners” of the pigs. Jesus as the Lord owns everything (Ps. 50:10-11). He had a right to use the pigs to get rid of these tormenting demons. He had the right to get rid of these pigs as stumbling block to these Jews. Jesus wants to eliminate those overwhelming temptations in our lives! Jesus might get rid of multiple problems at once! Jesus was doing a miracle. However, the people didn’t see it that way! They liked their money! They tolerated having a naked, homeless man or two running around their cemetery. We become like those we hang around with. Maybe the herders had become like those they were herding? Maybe they enjoyed the muck and mire of sin and wickedness? What a lesson for us who start to nurture sin in our life. We don’t even see the miracle that Jesus has done. We actually become afraid of Jesus. I think this is tragic as much as it comical. The people were afraid of Jesus and the man when the man was in his right mind, but not when he was naked, homeless and demonized by up to 6000 demons. As an aside, this shows a correlation between mental illness and demonization. In other words, the Bible does make a distinction between mental illness and demonization but the two can be related. Satan likes to exploit our weaknesses including mental ones, especially when you have experienced a wound or trauma in your life. Demonization can be mistaken for mental illness and mental illness can be mistaken for demonization. The difference is demonization can be cured in one day and the blasphemies stop. Many are infected with evil! In fact, we can get to the point where evil is normal and Jesus becomes the peculiar and His work abnormal!
I’m afraid this is true in our society. We see that often people reject Jesus in mass when He rescues a demonized person. I know many people who think it is crazy to pray for deliverance of an infected person with demons even though Jesus told us in the last part of the Lord’s Prayer to ask the Father to deliver us from the Evil One (Matthew 6:13 NIV). They think that deliverance is only in the movies or in Bible times. This should not surprise us though because people are under the influence of the devil so the devil causes them to be incited against Jesus (Ephesians 2:2). Probably this is most true when Jesus affects our finances. “People can tolerate religion as long as it does not affect business profits.” Listen up! Coming to Jesus ≠ Following Jesus! You can come to Jesus and ask Him to leave instead of following Him! Are you choosing something else over Jesus? Do you want some space in between you and Jesus? Sadly, JESUS MIGHT GRANT YOUR REQUEST AND LEAVE! He did so with the people of the Gerasenes – a very tragic scene in the Bible! (Luke 8:37)
The freed man wanted the opposite! He wanted to glue himself to Jesus! In fact, the man begged to go with Jesus. Recall that the demons begged Jesus to not send them away but the man who had those same demons inside begged Jesus to be allowed to go with Him. This is an important lesson for us: sometimes Jesus asks us to stay in places that were filled with fear and sin in order to bring His peace to that region. You might be praying for God to deliver you from a situation. Jesus says yes to the demons twice granting their request, yes to the Gerasenes who asked him to leave, but no to His new follower. Your answered prayer does not necessarily mean that this is God’s plan for you. Sometimes God gives us what we want, which is not the best for us. To be a true follower of Christ is to ask Him what He wants. This may result in God saying no to us for grander purposes. Jesus often requires us to stay with those who can see the greatest difference that He makes in our lives. God wants us to tell others what He has done through Jesus. Remember, “If you want to tell people what God has done, tell them what Jesus has done.” It will make you a strong witness and it will make you a strong believer! Mission produces maturity!
So what about you? You might even be the target of His mission. You might be the biggest and badest dude or dudette you know. You might feel totally overwhelmed and enslaved to sin and Satan. Jesus has the power to take on a whole army coming against you. Will you trust Him? Some of you are frozen in fear and can’t move; you want to run away. You know you need to come and be prayed for. Jesus ultimately shows Himself trustworthy when all the forces of darkness came against Him at the Cross. As Colossians 2:15 proclaims, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The tombs could not stop Jesus saving the Gerasene Demoniac and the Tomb could not stop Jesus from saving you. Jesus’ perfect and conquering love cast out Satan and all fear. (1 John 4:18) Come and be free!
 This may seem like a contradiction between the two Gospel writers but it is not since Mark and Luke chose to emphasize one man while Matthew accounted for two men. Logically, if you have two men, you also have one man.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 125.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 241.
 Joachim Jeremias, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament – Volume 1 ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 9.
 David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 209.
 Wiersbe, 202.
 Garland, 206.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Westminster John Know Press, 2004), 102.
A few weeks ago, my friend Jeff Faulkenham asked a great question in our Young Adults’ class at church: “Why is our God good? Why did the God of the Universe end up wanting to save us? Why isn’t the only God actually an evil God that would create us just to mess with us for fun and then destroy us?” I am going to attempt to answer these questions today! In fact, I think the story of Job has answered these questions already. Interestingly, Job is the oldest book in the Bible and so one could speculate that this question is of utmost importance since God wanted to address it from the beginning. I think it has to do with leadership! Who has the right to rule the universe?
My father tells the story of sitting in the back seat of the family car, when he was only a small boy and listening in on the conversation between his dad and his older sister. My grandfather was explaining to my teenage aunt God’s plan of redemption. Grampie Stairs’ main thrust was that the focal point of redemption is the question of leadership. Grampie said, “God could have immediately destroyed Satan but that would not have proven that God was the best leader, only the strongest. For example, if I could knock out the Prime Minister that would not prove that I should be Prime Minister. It would only mean that I was physically stronger than him.” He went on to explain that God came to earth in Christ in order to display His leadership. He lived a perfect life and died for our sins showing both His righteousness and love. In His righteousness, He demanded the highest penalty for sin possible. Then, in His love, He paid that penalty Himself. Satan’s leadership was destructive. God’s leadership is redemptive. God could force us to serve but He wants us to choose to follow Him. God found a way to make us want to leave our sin and follow Him. That way was the Cross. Being confronted with that display of love would lead us to follow Him by choice, not by compulsion. That proves He is not only the strongest but also the best leader.
Salvation is not just a fire escape and an eternal life insurance plan. Instead it means finding and following the right leader. It calls us, not only to reject sin and choose righteousness, but also to choose the rightful King. Since we are made in God’s image who is the Ruler and Creator, we innately have a desire to rule (Gen. 1:28). We were not made to be ruled by anybody but a worthy ruler (Rev. 5:1-10). I think the movie Avengers is a good example of this truth. If you have seen the movie, you will remember the scene when Lo-ki demands everyone bow their knee to him. An old man who at first bowed, stands up refusing to bow to an unworthy king.
In the Bible, Job does the same; he does not bow the knee to an unworthy ruler. The Book of Job showcases the question of leadership. At a meeting of the sons of God (angels), God approached Satan about Job. One commentator writes, “It is because the Satan has no business to be there that he alone is asked his business.” As a side note, it is good to remember that “the terrible Satan is only another of the sons of God.” Though Satan is our ultimate enemy, he is no equal to God and God patiently puts up with Satan for God’s purposes. So with that in mind God says to Satan, “What do you think of my boy Job? He is obedient, respectful, and trustworthy and serves me well. Isn’t he a great kid?” God likes to brag on his children as we do. Furthermore, God is charge: “Satan is not God’s minister of prosecution; it is the Lord, not the Satan, who brings up the case of Job…Satan is also not one of God’s civil servants, sent out to bring back information about the world.” (Job 1:7) God already knows everything before Satan responds, which is comforting because God has a strategic plan for you during trials. But who is on trial? Us? Satan? Or God? We will answer who is on trial in a few minutes but I think it will help you greatly know that Job is not on trial here and neither are we even though it may feel like it!
At the trial, Satan replied, “He is not a great kid; he is a spoiled brat. You have given him everything he could ask for and have built a wall around him so I cannot touch him. Remove that wall, let me at him, and I will show you the real Job. He will curse You to Your face.” Or in other words, “I’ll be damned if he doesn’t curse you to your face.” God granted Satan’s request but told him to not touch Job’s body. In a day, Job lost his possessions and all his family, except his wife. Instead of cursing God, Job simply said, “God gave it all to me and He has the right to take it away. I will still praise Him.” Remember, Job has no clue as to what was going on in the Divine Council room. “The hand of God is concealed; the hand of Satan is unsuspected.” How often when we see a person going through a trial do we immediately get suspicious of the person’s character or actions when in reality it was Satan. It is the same when we go through our own trials that we blame God; when in reality Satan is causing us evil and God is redeeming it for our good. We could even say, “The Lord did have a good reason for hurting Job, namely to disprove the Satan’s slander.” Maybe God let’s you experience pain to reveal your character and Satan’s disqualification as leader in your life and in this universe?
God in His grace even gives Job another attempt to be proven right and Satan to be proven wrong. “Satan is actually given authority (lit. hand) to do what he pleases, short of killing Job.” (Job 2:6) Job was the real deal, and, as God said, a great kid. I think this still happens today, we are sometimes touched and tormented by the Evil One to show God as the only true and good leader. Maybe this will help theologically understand why there is so much evil in the world despite the fact that Satan was defeated at the Cross? More importantly, maybe this will help you turn to God when you are facing great trial? Angels are watching to see what you will believe and which leader you will choose to follow!
While the angels watched, Satan’s credibility fell and his character was exposed. At the same time, God’s credibility was magnified. Angels saw the would-be leader for who he was. We may not realize that angels are very involved in our lives (Heb. 114). They desire to know what is going on in the plan of redemption (1 Peter 1:12). They are discovering this mystery hidden for ages but is now being revealed to these heavenly beings through the church (Ephesians 3:10). As Job was being watched by the angelic world, so are we. This story of Job’s struggles gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the leadership contest between God and Satan. And we need this behind-the scenes look of what is happening in the spiritual realms to help us make sense of things here on earth. Certainly, angels and Job’s friends saw things very differently. Job’s friends saw his suffering and had different ideas as to the cause. Their suggestions included: punitive – punishment for sin; chastisement – correction from the Heavenly Father; and trial – a refining process. Angels knew it was none of these. They knew that Job was suffering for witness.
Another story that provides example of witness to angels is found in Luke 16:19-31. This is the story of the rich man and Lazarus but notice the contrasts. Men saw the rich man as someone who had everything. He enjoyed the good life due to his wealth. His funeral was probably widely attended. On the other hand, they saw Lazarus as someone who had nothing, hoping for a crumb from the rich man’s table. No burial is recorded. Maybe someone threw his body into the local dump, which still happens to many people around the world today. Atheists posit that there cannot be a God when they see the poverty in this world. Seeing things from the angel’s perspective silences this criticism. Angels saw things differently. They saw a rich man who had nothing, begging for a drop of water from the finger of Lazarus. But in Lazarus, they saw a man, who had everything; who was known on a first-name basis in heaven. The funeral of Lazarus eclipsed the funeral of the rich man, as angels served as his pall-bearers. The winners and losers were reversed and they still are in God’s Kingdom!
Angels can see in a way men cannot, the different outcomes of following Christ and following the devil. However, today the curtain has been pulled back slightly. You have entered another dimension or partially see another dimension. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For now we see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV) I too often am focused on the physical world and forget what God is doing behind the scenes. Worse I forget who is showing Himself as the true leader of the universe, “not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord!” (Zech. 4:6) So which leader are you going to choose? You see God put Himself on trial when He created us humans who followed the way of a rebel leader!
At the Cross, Jesus who was the true King willingly chose to put Himself on trial but not for his crimes (He was perfect!), but for the crimes of a rebellious people who chose to follow a Usurper. A usurper who earlier try to offer the world to Jesus for exchange of bowing to him (Luke 4:5-7), but instead submitted only to the God – the True King of the Universe. By only submitting to God, He didn’t have to try to gain power but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant and becoming obedient to God, even to the point of death, death on a Cross. (Phil. 2:5-11) And because of this submission which took the form of love for both God and for you and me, He was able to win our hearts and be exalted above all. So who are you going to choose to follow this week? There is only one who has earned the right to rule the universe!
 Much of my thinking and theology has been shaped on this subject by my father Dr. Philip D. Stairs and particularly his unpublished paper “The Theater”, which I had adapted from for this lesson.
 Lo-ki is a term borrowed from the Norse mythology and means the “god of mischief.”
 Francis I. Andersen, Job – Tyndale OT Commentaries (Downer’s Grove: IVP Press, 1974), 82
 Andersen, 82.
Two summers ago we had the privilege of a lifetime. We were able to drive out west during a Sabbatical and visit deserts, the Pacific Ocean and see incredibly beautiful national parks. Of all the vistas, the Rocky Mountains were probably my favourite. After camping for four weeks in deserts living out of a tent, we were able to stay in a lodge on top of a mountain for a week. The whole family loved it, especially Lori. I remember after being there five days, Lori was begging not to leave that mountain near Bozeman, Montana and go back to sleeping on the hard ground in a tent. It was so peaceful and majestic; the alpine air so fresh and clean. We found rest on the mountain in the midst of the some of the most powerful thunder and lightning storms. We learned that from a higher perspective storms come and go quickly, which is a great reminder for us as well going through the storms of life. It was a time to hear God’s voice. The only problem with mountains is that you have to come down from them.
This is exactly what Jesus, Peter, James and John did after seeing the power of God and hearing the voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). They were even enveloped by a cloud and a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to Him” (Luke 9:35). But after this amazing experience of seeing Jesus in His glory, they had to come down from the mountain. When they did, they were immediately assaulted with many people’s problems. Can you relate? Luke 9:37 describes the scene like this, “The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.” Immediately a man shouted from the crowd, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for He is my only boy.” (9:38) As a parent, I know what it is like to be in desperate situations with my children. One time, we were eating at Pizza Hut in Pickering with my parents. I believe we only had our daughter at the time. She was leaning backwards in her booster seat and the chair tipped. She went backwards and hit her head on the hard floor. We grabbed her and tried to comfort her but to no avail. As we were finished lunch, we paid the bill and left. Jessie all of sudden went from crying to vomiting. It was very scary. We were driving on the 401 Highway back home to Oshawa and I knew that I needed to get her immediately to a hospital. I drove like a mad man disregarding all speed limits and jumped off the highway at Ajax and flew in the Emergency Room exit at the local hospital. The nurses and doctors gave her priority status and did a brain scan. She was concussed and needed to be observed for the next 24 hours but thank God she was alright. When your child is seizing, it is a very scary thing.
This is the picture found in Luke 9:28-36! Read Luke 9:28-36! Imagine this father brings his only boy to Jesus. Does Jesus care? This is not the first time a parent of an only child brings their sick kid to Jesus. A widow brought her dead son to Jesus in Luke 7:12 and Jairus brought his sick little 12-year-old girl to Jesus as well in Luke 8:42. Jesus cares about little children! And He cares about parents who bring their children to Him! Parents, who are the spiritual authority over their children, must entrust their children to Jesus.
This is what this father did, but the difference between this boy and the two previous ones is that the cause of this boy’s sickness was a demon. We know that Satan and his underlings can cause sickness, just look at the life of Job (Job 2:7). Not every illness or malady is caused from the Evil One but some are. In the case of this little boy, he had epileptic-like seizures (Matthew 17:15) and it was chronic as his father states, “It throws him into convulsion with foaming at the mouth and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him” (9:39 NASB). Apparently, “this condition was viewed with great fear in Judaism.” When we encounter such people, I think that our response should not be fear but compassion. One of Satan’s main tactics is to cause us to fear him. We see this when the boy is brought to Jesus, that “the devil tried one last throw,”  like a wrestler or UFC fighter would. Though Satan is powerful, you are not to give way to fear. We are only to fear the Lord. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). FEAR GOD; NOT SATAN!
Apparently, the other nine disciples of Jesus were not following this advice. The boy’s father tells Jesus that he brought his boy to them but they couldn’t help him. This is strange because in Luke 9:1 we read, “Jesus had called the Twelve together and He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases.” Therefore, the disciples had both the authority and power of Jesus to take care of this little boy’s spiritual struggle. However, they were impotent! I wonder if this is true of you. Haven’t you been given all authority by Jesus? Matthew 28:18 records that Jesus has commissioned us with His authority! And yet, do you feel powerless when people bring troubling situations to you?
There are three things that I see here that are draining the disciples of the power of God. Maybe you have experienced these too? The first drain is the disciples’ lack of faith. When Jesus finds out that the disciples could not help the man He questions them, “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?” (9:41) These disciples lacked faith, but why? We know that in Luke 9:6 that these disciples “went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” Maybe because they experienced success, they stopped depending upon Christ for everything. Ministry became mechanical. They thought, “Okay, we’ve done this before so we know what to do. It is just a kid; it can’t be that hard.” But this spirit of independence shows a lack of faith, and is actually perverse or literally “to make crooked”. God wants us to “trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding, but acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). However, when we don’t trust God fully moment by moment, we get off the right path and have to take detours. We go over there and then over here – life gets really crooked. The really scary part is that we cause others to waste time and to get hurt. The disciples’ lack of faith caused the boy to have more time under the mauling of the demon. Do you realize others are counting on your faith? Are you not experiencing Jesus’ power because you think you can handle life on your own? You need to fill that drain by seeking God about every situation!
The second drain is the lack of prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). In Mark’s account, we find the disciples inquiring of Jesus why they couldn’t heal the boy. Jesus declares that this kind of evil spirit requires prayer and fasting. Often we will have to do the ground work of intercession and fasting. The disciples wanted the quick fix. I have found in spiritual warfare that prayer is the first step in helping free people under the grip of the Evil One. What if you started to fast and pray for the deliverance of those being tormented by the Evil One? Think about that really difficult person in your life. Have you tried praying and fasting for them? What about that person who everybody else avoids at work or school? Are you praying for them? Jesus instructs us to do so. The problem is that we don’t pray continually because we are not dependent enough on God and we have very little imagination to understand how powerful our prayers are, so we do everything we can to work at fixing a situation in the natural without understanding what God could accomplish in the supernatural if we simply called out to him in persistent prayer.
The third drain is the lack of grace. In Mark 9:14-16, we get a picture of what the disciples were doing while Jesus and his friends were up on the mountain. What were the other nine disciples doing? Arguing over the Bible! They were fighting with the teachers of the law; they were fighting with legalists who were only concerned about the rules. Oh how often we get distracted by others quarrelling over secondary issues. Instead, focusing on grace is to stay focused! The disciples needed to give their full attention to those who really needed it. Ironically, they gave their attention to the ones who wouldn’t receive grace and this caused the disciples not to be able to give grace to the one who should have received it. Don’t we fall into the same trap as the disciples? Why were the disciples easily distracted from the real issue at hand – a little boy in a desperate situation? Why were they so easily drawn into an argument with these legalists? Because they had made this more about proving themselves to others than rescuing someone from the Kingdom of Darkness.
Jesus had nothing to prove. God had already given His full approval of Jesus. He didn’t lack faith, prayer or grace! When he encountered the boy, the demon tried to make his last stand, but Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and it left him immediately. The boy was given back to his father. All the people were amazed at the greatness of God. However, they didn’t realize nor did the disciples realize that this was about the Heavenly Father letting His Son being mauled by the Evil One so that more sons could be given back to the Heavenly Father. Jesus was glorified on that the Mount of Transfiguration so that we could be glorified and transfigured on the Mount of Calvary. Jesus knew that “We dare not stay on the glorious mountaintop when there are battles to fight in the valley below.” We must believe, pray and focus on grace. It won’t be easy because “the more open we are to God, and to the different dimensions of God’s glory, the more we seem to be open to the pain of the world.” Will trust in Jesus? Will you pray and fast for Jesus’ power to be displayed? Will you act with compassion and grace? Satan will be overcome and the oppressed will be restored and God will be magnified.
 Demons apparently leave and come back into a person.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 277.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 208.
 BAGD, c.f. Acts 13:10
 I first heard this insight from Beth Moore.
 Wiersbe, 208.
 N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone (London:Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 114.
NOTE: You can listen to this sermon at the sermons link of Calvary Baptist Church!
I have been so appreciative of Pastor Rick who has been powerfully preaching through the Book of Daniel. Have you noticed the emphasis on prayer? As I prayed about what God would have me speak about, I sensed that God did not want me to let up on a focus on prayer. Prayer is the most important thing we can do! Let me say that again. Prayer is the most important thing we can do! I am so convinced of this that I have even started to organize my prayer life better in light of Pastor Rick’s teaching. One thing that has really helped me is using the Prayer Partner App for iTouchs, iPads and iPhones. I wanted to pass this onto you iPad users who I have noticed are becoming more frequent here at church. Just promise me not to be entering in all your prayer requests during the sermon.
Why would I say that prayer is the most important thing we can do? I believe you would not even be here today if it wasn’t for people praying for you. Think about that Sunday School teacher who prayed for your salvation and you gave your life to Christ and are here today in part because of their prayers. Think about your parents who prayed you to church. And I’m not just talking about prayer on the way to church that the kids would be good and not terrorize anyone when they arrived. I’m talking about praying you to know Jesus Christ. Or could it be that grandparent, aunt or uncle? Maybe it was a neighbour or co-worker who prayed and invited you here? I know that I belong to this church and serve here as a pastor because my parents and grandparents were on their knees by their beds first praying that I would come into existence (it took 8.5 years for my parents to have me) and then calling on God to make me a follower of Jesus Christ. But some of you are maybe wondering, “Well, who is praying for me?” “How many people do you know for sure pray for you regularly?” I know that we as a church pray that God would bring new people here but there was somebody praying for you even more specifically. His name is Jesus! Jesus was praying for you. So what was Jesus saying to God the Father on your behalf? WHAT WAS JESUS PRAYING FOR YOU? Would you like to know what the most important person in the universe asked His Father to do for you?
John 17 is the personal prayer of Jesus to God the Father. We are told that Jesus often went to be alone with God in prayer (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12) but we rarely get to hear what those prayers were. The disciples knew that this was the secret to Jesus’ powerful ministry. In fact, we find that of all the things that they could have asked Jesus how to do – preach, cast out demons, have a great family life, how to walk on water, how to find the right career or spouse or how do you make those mud pies with your spit to heal blindness like we find in John 9:6 (come on you have wondered that too) – “the disciples only asked Jesus to teach them how to pray” (Luke 11:1). So Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer but in John 17 we find what was on the heart and mind of Jesus and I believe still is on His heart and mind and in His prayers for you.
The context of Jesus’ prayer is John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you have will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus was promising His peace, His friendship and the Holy Spirit to come and live inside them. He encouraged them that He had conquered the world by being the One person who actually influenced the world without it contaminating Him. All the rest of us have been influenced by the world’s thinking and philosophies. Not Jesus! He conquered the world and so He prays this triumphal prayer sometime in between the Last Supper and the Garden Gethsemane as John 18:1 tells us. Jesus begins this prayer by lifting His eyes to heaven (John 17:1). Some theologians think, “When Jesus prayed, He also probably raised His hands in the same direction (Ex. 9:33; 17:11; Ps. 28:2).” And then Lesslie Newbigin describes the scene like this: “When a man is going on a long journey, he will find time on the eve of his departure for a quiet talk with his family, and – if he is a man of God – will end by commending to God not only himself and his journey, but also the family whom he leaves behind. Very surely will this be so if his journey is the last journey.” Today Jesus wants you to gather round like you sometimes gather your own family around for a huddle. If you believe in Jesus, you are His family! He wants to you to know what He longs for you. He wants you to know what He is praying for you. Jesus even declares that His prayer will bring His disciples joy (v. 13). I believe you will experience joy today too as you eavesdrop on Jesus’ prayer like the disciples did long ago. Let’s read John 17! Read John 17!
It would take us weeks to work through this whole passage so let me focus on three requests Jesus made to God the Father on your behalf. The first request Jesus made for you was to experience God. Jesus defines eternal life. Notice He doesn’t talk about streets of gold or angels playing their harps in the future. No, eternal life starts now and according to Jesus eternal life is knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (v. 3) We can’t just know about God and His Son but to know Him in a way like a married couple knows each other. A married couple don’t just act like neighbours to one another, or friends or even roommates. No, a married couple lives with each other in such a way as you know their thoughts and desires. You can know God like that! I recently was at my Mom & Dad’s house without the rest of my family because my dad was having surgery. It was neat to watch how my mom would know what my dad was thinking or wanting because they have been married for 46 years. There were still a few times that they were not on the same frequency but isn’t that what makes life interesting? You can be on the same frequency with God and know what He wants! Maybe not all of the time but this is why in part we have all eternity to know Him. We continue to grow and learn to know God. He will fill you more and more with His joy (v. 13) and with His love (v. 23-26). In order to experience that love and joy you need to believe that God sent Jesus to you. He gave you Jesus and if you believe in Him then Jesus declares “you are mine” (v. 9). In fact, “Seven times Jesus states that believers are the Father’s gift to His Son (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11-12, 24).” Jesus declares in verse 9 that “we are doubly owned by God the Father and God the Son.” I must ask, do you belong to Jesus? Are you experiencing Him? Jesus prayed that you would experience God!
The second request Jesus made to God the Father was for your protection from the world (v. 14). Eighteen times in this passage Jesus mentions the word “world.” (Remember anytime a word is repeated more than three times in a passage, we need to pay attention to it.) Jesus’ use of the word “world” is important because the world is going to hate you if you don’t follow its patterns. Jesus warned about this earlier in John 15:18-25. Doesn’t this explain why you are frustrated when your opinion is so different during the usual lunch room conversations or when you choose to spend the resources God gave you using a whole different set of values? Many of you are stressed out because the world is not thinking or acting like you want it to. You may care too much about what the worlds thinks of you. I think Perry Noble’s insight is bang on, “When you allow the voice of those who know you the least to define you the most you are in trouble.” Jesus is praying that you have a different perspective; that you live in an uncommon way. We find this in verse 6, “I have revealed You (God the Father) to those who you gave me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to me and they obeyed Your word.” Then verse 18, Jesus declares “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” God called us out of the world so that we could be for the world and show them who God is through Jesus Christ. This is done whenever we obey God and His Word. Obeying God reveals the Character of God. For example, if you forgive those who hurt you it shows how God is full of grace and has forgiven you. This is your mission in life. Jesus is praying for your protection from the world so that you can go into it everyday with His message. If you have that perspective you will live life in an uncommon way. I like to think of it this way: GOD’S MISSION WITH GOD’S MESSAGE PRODUCES GODLY MATURITY!
But it isn’t just the world we need protection from. Jesus also prayed for your protection from the Evil One. I am more convinced than ever that we are in a war against the kingdom of darkness. Doesn’t the fact that there is a devil behind the scenes explain so much of the evil in the world? Nevertheless, because Jesus is praying for our specific protection from the evil one, we do not have to fear. I heard a pastor friend tell me recently that our interactions with the devil and his underlings are like a postal carrier who delivered the mail and was attacked by some dogs. He was so frightened that on his route, he started focusing on the dogs and not the delivering the mail. We need to continue to deliver the message despite the dogs and ask Jesus Christ to deal with the dogs. We are protected by Jesus and He is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). I liken this to Brian Hooper in our church. Brian is one tough dude and has now turned his fighting ability into helping others become fit through kick-boxing and fitness training. He was telling me that when his younger brother was a kid, his brother could go throughout the schoolyard and anytime another kid threatened to beat him up, he would say, “Okay, but tomorrow you are going to have to deal with my brother. His name is Brian Hooper.” We have the same power available to us. Jesus is looking out for us and He and our Daddy will come to the rescue whenever we need it. In fact, verse 11 and 12 shows literally that the name of God protects His Family. Why? The name always represents a person’s character. When you submit yourselves to God and resist, Satan has to flee at the name of Jesus Christ because of who Jesus is. (James 4:7) Jesus’ name is not to be used as a magical formula. No, you are literally calling for Your Brother and Father to come to your rescue and the Holy Trinity will come. Jesus prayed for your protection!
The third request Jesus made to God the Father on your behalf was to glorify God through unity (v. 11, 21, 23) and holiness (v. 17), which must go together. First unity, which follows up from Jesus’ request for our protection. “Unity is a powerful means of spiritual warfare.” Picture a heard of gazelles in Africa who are able to stave off the attack of a lion by being huddled together and looking out for one another. It is when one creeps away from the rest of the group that the “roaring lion will look for the one he can devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) The unity of God’s people is the greatest explanation to the world of the love and character of God. At the end of verse 23, we find that our unity shows that Jesus has been sent by God to the world. Look at this church with all of its various backgrounds, ages and races. Nothing else could explain our commonality other than Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. Not sameness, but oneness. Oneness is both a state or position and also a process just in the same way that a married couple are one on the day they are married but they grow in oneness as the years go by if they prioritize each other – they put the other first. By doing so, you elevate the other and are changed to be more like them. You know this to be true! We become like those we worship. Or as a friend told me this week, “You become a fan of those you talk about.” But it isn’t just talking, it’s acting like them. How does that old saying go, “Imitation is the greatest form of…flattery.” When we seek to be one with another person, laying aside our own agenda in order to do what they like, that is valuing or praising that person. How much greater is this true with our relationship with God? Are you glorifying God by being on the same page as God? Jesus is praying that you would be. And you find that you become on the same page as God when you read and practice what His Word says. “You become holy as He is holy!” 1 Peter 1:16) This is why Jesus is also praying that you would become holy (sanctified) in that oneness which requires truth. Truth and unity are never at odds with God. We have unity and oneness based on truth with one another. You don’t ever have to worry, should I stick with God or should I do the right thing. They are the same thing. Jesus is praying for your unity with God and each other based on the foundation of God’s Word. Unity and sanctity are Jesus’ passionate pleas for you.
But all this begs a question, does God the Father hear Jesus or is the Father aloof like sometimes I am when my kids are talking to me? In John 11:42, Jesus declares that His Father always hears Him. So how are Jesus’ requests being answered when some of you feel like you don’t experience God, you’re not protected from the world or the Evil One, you are not unified with other believers nor are you living any differently from your neighbours who want nothing to do with Jesus? The answer is found in the same place Jesus was heading to as He prayed this prayer Jesus didn’t just pray for you but put feet to His prayers. Jesus accomplished His requests; each one of them at the Cross. It is the Cross that answers all these questions. You experience God when see Christ at the Cross. This is how He did it. You can now experience the Father in a way that you could never before because you are now called His Son or His daughter. You are loved with the same type of Father Love that God has for His Son Jesus. You are now protected from the Evil One. You are an accepted child of God and have a right to call on your big brother Jesus to come to your rescue because Jesus defeated that big bully, the Accuser of the Brethren who comes after you (1 John 3:8; Col. 2:15). Any accusations Satan makes against you are covered by Jesus at the Cross. But you also now glorify God because Christ has unified you at the Cross and made you holy – you can live together in an uncommon way. You are now given the Holy Spirit who brings unity to your lives (1 Cor. 12:13). So it is at the Cross where Jesus’ prayers are answered for you! It is here that He accomplished everything He prayed for you.
So then is that it? He prayed for you? He accomplished His prayers for you? No, He is even now praying for you at the right hand of God the Father. You might be discouraged, troubled, beaten down. Romans 8:33-34 gives us a picture of Jesus turning to the Father when you are being accused by others, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Jesus just keeps saying I got that one covered. This is why Hebrews 7:25 declares, “Therefore, he (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Jesus’ daily prayers for you are victorious. You might feel like you are alone in a desert but Jesus is victorious and now can know God. You might feel attacked by the world or the devil, Jesus is victorious (1 John 3:8; Col. 2:15). You might feel fruitless; Jesus is victorious and is making you holy and One with God and His Church. We must now praise Him because He is praying for you. He doesn’t even need a Prayer Partner App because He is always praying for you by name exactly what you need.
 Jim Cymbala, “When God’s People Pray” (Video)
 Gary M Burge, The NIV Application Commentary – John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 462.
 Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 223.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 368.
 R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1942), 1133.
 Conversation with Rev. Bruce McCallum, February 29, 2012.
 Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle: Frontline Communications, 1990), 178.
 Conversation with Rev. Jeff Bennett, February 29, 2012.
What if I told you pigs really do fly! You would think I am crazy. Really! It is crazy to believe that Jesus can take on the biggest and badest dude in your life. Jesus can take care of the greatest opposition in your life. Maybe some of you are living in fear of a person or an obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. Today I want you to discover that Jesus is going on the offense for you. Let’s read Luke 8:26-39 to increase our faith. Before we do that, we need to remember that Jesus has already demonstrated His power to calm the storms of nature and the storms of your life by one word (Luke 8:22-25). Jesus only has to say the word and the storm will relent. Do you believe that? You need to believe in Jesus and His authority before you can go into enemy territory with Jesus.
Read Luke 8:26-39! Notice that Jesus is purposely sailing to the region of the Gerasenes. This region was under the control of Philip the Tetrarch and was inhabited by Gentiles and Jews. It would have been considered by the people of Galilee as enemy territory or at least “on the other side of the tracks.” Where is that place for you? What locale do you try to avoid? It could be a place where you have stumbled and wasted too much of your life. It could be a place where all your great fears have gathered to stage an all-out assault on you. I will remind you that Jesus is with you. I had to see this first hand this week in my family. I came home from work and one of my children said to me, “Look at my eyes! They feel like something is on them.” I looked and the skin below their eye looked like it had blistered up due to an allergic reaction. The child went to the bathroom and immediately started crying. We prayed and I immediately took them to the doctor. My child was crying and asked me, “Daddy, am I going to die?” I said, “No, not yet!” Fear can overwhelm you so quickly.
There was much fear in that region of the Gerasenes because a demonized man (actually two according to Matthew 8:28) were running around unrestrained. Luke 8:27 describes the men as living in the tombs. Death was their haunt and they probably tormented the people of the region at their most desperate times when they were trying to bury their loved ones. Demons feel very comfortable in places of death as the writer of Hebrews declares in 2:14 that the devil held the power of death until Jesus’ own death destroyed the devil’s grip on death. But the Cross hadn’t occurred yet and so the demons thought they could go on the offense. They confronted Jesus. It is amazing to me how rebellion can fill you with such arrogance and gall that you think you can take on Jesus. The demons had the audacity to take on Jesus. What did Jesus do? I think He had compassion for the man. The man had been naked and without a home for a long-time. If you ever visit the Third World, nudity is not a cause for lust but a cause for love. What Jesus is about to do is driven by love!
It is love that overcomes evil. Love does not cover up evil but replaces it with good. Love is an overwhelming force. In fact, when Jesus shows up, evil couldn’t hide. Jesus exposes the darkness and so the demons choose to make this their last stand. There is usually a storm before the demons are silenced (Revelation 12:12). Luke records that “seeing Jesus, the man cried out and fell prostrate before him and said in a loud voice: ‘What you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God’” (8:28). We are reminded that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) These demons were fulfilling this truth and bowing to Jesus at the same time they were rebelling. People too can be in the presence of Jesus, declaring who Jesus is and taking a prostate position to Him but still showing contempt for Jesus.
I find this incredulous. How can a demon be forced to bow before the King of Kings and yet still rebel against Him? Not that this generates sympathy for the demon’s rebellion, but we can relate to their rebellion. You and I may see Jesus, bow in worship to Him but quickly disobey Him. I know I have had an encounter with Jesus myself and yet gone on to resist Him. In the text, Jesus even commanded the evil spirits to come out of the man and there was resistance. These demons were not going to go quietly. No one had ever been able to gain control over them in the past. People had tried to bind the man with chains and kept under guard but the man could break these fetters with superhuman strength. I have heard about this in mental hospitals when small framed women require many guards to subdue them.
So Jesus uses a tactic that shows His authority. He asks, “What is your name?” I believe that demons at their core are liars and deceivers. As Jesus declared about Satan, “He 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.” (John 8:44) However, when Jesus as the Truth requires truth, every being including demons must tell the truth. Therefore, the demons reveal that their name is “Legion” and Luke explains that was because many demons had entered him. A Roman Legion consisted of up to 6000 men so there could be up to 6000 demons in this man. That may sound crazy but remember that demons are spiritual beings and are not squished by being together in a physical space. My understanding is that demons even have ranks and different levels of authorities (Ephesians 6:12; Luke 11:21-26) so there could have been ordered chaos in this man. Regardless of how the demons fit in the man, the point is that this was a large evil force coming up against Jesus! I love what Darrel Bock says, “Jesus is outnumbered, but not overmatched.”
In fact, the evil forces were no longer standing up to Jesus. They were on their knees begging Jesus not send them into the Abyss. What is the Abyss or better yet, where is it? The Apostle Paul uses that same word to describe the place of the dead in Romans 10:7 and the Apostle John uses the word in Revelation 20:3 to describe the bottomless pit, where Satan is held for the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. Joachim Jeremias says the Abyss is “the place of imprisonment for disobedient spirits” (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).
The demons were begging the Judge not to send them to prison. They see a herd of pigs and beg Jesus to send them into the pigs instead. Pigs? That may not seem strange. Pigs for us are common place. In fact, Lori and I used to live in the hog capital of the world – Henry County, Illinois. Hogs were an important resource in that region of Illinois as they were in the region of the Gerasenes. But they shouldn’t have been? If this region was Jewish then the farmers had no business producing pigs and selling them to the Gentile market. Pigs were considered unclean and forbidden according to Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8. But “did Jesus have the right to permit the legion of demons to destroy a herd of 2,000 swine and perhaps put the owners out of business?”  We need to know that Jesus is totally in charge of every situation. The demons can’t act without permission and neither could the “owners” of the pigs. Jesus as the Lord owns everything (Ps. 50:10-11). He had a right to use the pigs to get rid of these tormenting demons. He had the right to get rid of these pigs as stumbling block to these Jews. Jesus wants to eliminate those overwhelming temptations in our lives! Jesus was doing a miracle and “miracles are audiovisuals of spiritual activity.” However, the people didn’t see it that way! They liked their money! They tolerated having a naked, homeless man or two running around their cemetery. We become like who we hang around with. Maybe the herders had become like those they were herding? Maybe they enjoyed the muck and mire of sin and wickedness? What a lesson for us who start to nurture sin in our life. We don’t even see the miracle that Jesus has done. We actually become afraid of Jesus. I think this is tragic as much as it comical. The people were afraid of Jesus and the man when the man was in his right mind but not when he was naked, homeless and demonized by 6000 demons. We can get to the point where evil is normal and Jesus becomes the peculiar and His work abnormal!
I’m afraid this is true in our society. We see that often people reject Jesus in mass when He rescues a demonized person. They are under the influence of the devil so the devil causes them to be incited against Jesus (Ephesians 2:2). Listen up! Coming to Jesus ≠ Following Jesus! You can come to Jesus and ask Him to leave instead of following Him! Are you choosing something else over Jesus? Do you want some space in between you and Jesus? JESUS MIGHT GRANT YOUR REQUEST AND LEAVE! He did so with the people of the Gerasenes – a very tragic scene in the Bible! (Luke 8:37)
The freed man wanted the opposite! He wanted to glue himself to Jesus! In fact, the man begged to go with Jesus. Recall that the demons begged Jesus to not send them away but the man who had those same demons inside begged Jesus to go with Him. This is an important lesson for us: sometimes Jesus asks us to stay in places that were filled with fear and sin in order to bring His peace to that region. Jesus often requires us to stay with those who can see the greatest difference that He makes in our lives. God wants us to tell others what He has done through Jesus. Remember, “If you want to tell people what God has done, tell them what Jesus has done.” It will make you a strong witness and it will make you a strong believer! Mission produces maturity!
So what about you? You might even be the target of His mission. You might be the biggest and badest dude or dudette in your life. You might feel totally overwhelmed and enslaved to sin and Satan. Jesus has the power to take on a whole army coming against you. Will you trust Him? Jesus ultimately shows Himself trustworthy when all the forces of darkness came against Him at the Cross. As Colossians 2:15 proclaims, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Jesus’ perfect and conquering love cast out Satan and all fear. (1 John 4:18) Will you trust Jesus?
 This may seem like a contradiction between the two Gospel writers but it is not since Luke chose to emphasize one man while Matthew accounted for two men. Logically, if you have two men, you also have one man.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 241.
 Joachim Jeremias, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament – Volume 1 ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 9.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 202.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 242.
 This shows that there is a correlation between mental illness and demonization. In other words, the Bible does make a distinction between mental illness and demonization but the two can be related. Satan likes to exploit our weaknesses including mental ones. Demonization can be mistaken for mental illness and mental illness can be mistaken for demonization.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London:Westminster John Know Press, 2004), 102.
NOTE: You can listen to this sermon at the sermons link of Calvary Baptist Church!
This past summer my family and I had an opportunity to visit family and friends in the Canadian Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. It was very cool to see people that I hadn’t seen for 32 years since I moved from Halifax to Ontario. One of the places we visited was the Citadel in Halifax. Check out these pictures! It was fun to see the soldiers dressed in their Scottish uniforms, play with the large canons and tour the military museum. Apparently, the citadel was so well designed and fortified that it never was attacked. It sits there on top of a hill overlooking the Halifax harbour and during the summer there are even sunbathers outside its walls demonstrating that we are a country at peace. In fact, our combat mission in Afghanistan ended this past July. It would appear that what we are doing here today and this week with Remembrance Day is recalling history. However, to think that the battles are all in the past would be a huge mistake. We are in a battle.
If I could take you up in an airplane and see the carnage that is really going on in our world and even in our own city and homes, you would all get up and do something about it. Please visualize the carnage; for some this won’t take much of an imagination. The carnage is broken lives, marriages, children enamoured with what this world has to offer and walking away from their faith, abortions, people in despair cutting themselves, suicide, addictions to porn, drugs and alcohol. All of this is the wreckage of a battle that we can’t see with human eyes; just the aftermath, sort of like how the world, even the German people, who were ignorant of what was going on in the Nazi Concentration Camp but were horrified after visiting these death centres. As a pastor I see lives torn up by an enemy that we have been lulled into thinking doesn’t exist or is kept overseas. That enemy is here! He is far worse than Al Queda or the Taliban! This enemy is the kingdom of darkness and its leader is Satan! We are in a cosmic battle!
But some of you think I need to take a chill pill. What battle? What enemy? You think the devil is a myth, others of you are overly fascinated with the subject and some of you get scared thinking about the devil. C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Which are you? If you are here at church and you’re not sure that Jesus exists let alone demons, may I suggest you ask God to reveal Himself to you? Sincerely, ask Jesus to show you Himself in an undeniably powerful way. And if you are totally interested in the spirit world, could I suggest to you that you focus on Jesus as well. When He was on earth, we read in Luke 11:20 that Jesus cast out demons to show that theKingdom ofGod had come to them. Therefore, we must acknowledge that Jesus came to get rid of demons, even giving his disciples the authority to do so when they came across demonized people (Luke 9:1), but Jesus never gave us a specific model to follow in casting out of demons except calling us to fast and pray (Mark 9:29). Exorcisms are not supposed to be the focus of our ministry, Jesus is! You need to know Jesus and not the devil. When my father used to work in the bank, they would teach him how to spot counterfeit bills. You know how? They got him to study genuine bills, to know the real thing so that when the counterfeit came it was easy to spot. Do you know what is real? Do you know Jesus?
One more question before we are trained how we are to engage in this spiritual battle. Some of you are going to ask, didn’t Jesus come to earth to die on a Cross and rise three days later “to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8) Yes, Jesus did win the ultimate war against Satan on that Cross, but there a still many battles to fight as there were between D-Day (June 6, 1944) and V.E. Day (May 8, 1945). I like how Pastor Erwin Lutzer describes Satan’s role in the world, “Satan is like a dethroned king who keeps on giving orders to his subjects; he is like a thief who has stolen virtually everything he owns and who tries to persuade you that it was always his. He is like a warrior without authority who keeps recruiting mercenaries to fight a battle he has already lost.” Therefore, Satan’s main role is to deceive and discourage us and to get us to fight with one another. He is still powerful but not invincible. This is why the Apostle Paul gave us specific instructions on how to fight him. This is really important and explains a lot of the evil out there and what sometimes goes on in here. As my father has taught me, “The devil is the most faithful church attender.” Let’s read Ephesians 6:10-18 on how to defend against and fight him. Read Ephesians 6:10-18!
We are not just helpless victims caught in the middle of the clash between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light! No, we have been called by the King to be active participants in this battle! We have been given instructions in how to engage this enemy and have been given specific battle gear to wear in this battle. Are you ready to put it on? First, you need to know the background that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian Christians from Romein 61 AD. That is significant because Paul would have been in prison for his faith, put there by a Caesar very hostile to Christianity by the name of Nero. My friends, even listening around the world on the internet, you may have a human oppressor in your life. Remember who the real enemy is. In fact, that boss, teacher, difficult person, maybe even the person who you are sitting next to you right now is not the enemy! Paul declares, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (v. 12). Jesus commanded us to love our human enemies, to pray for them and to bless them. To know that the difficult person in your life is not the ultimate enemy is so freeing. They are just a pawn being used by Satan, still responsible for their actions, but nevertheless overwhelmed by the Evil One. Doesn’t this cause us to extend them much grace and compassion? This truth should act as ballast in your heart, letting out a lot of unforgiveness and bitterness that has built up in there towards people who have hurt you. You don’t want to join with the Devil in being a fellow accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).
We must also remember that our battle is a wrestling and on-going struggle. Even the demons didn’t roll over for Jesus when He was on earth but argued with and fought with Him. There was a battle! Understanding this truth, we can go back to the command in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” Wow! That immediately should cause us to think, am I utilizing the strength that Almighty God is giving me or am I trying to fight things on my own? God’s strength is available to stand up to evil. Verse 11 requires that we “put on the full armor of God, that we may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” We must stand up and the victory is assured. We learn the devil’s schemes by being strong in the Lord and put on the armor of God. However, if you don’t stand up and put on this full armour of God, then you will stay defeated in your life. How sad? This would be like the Toronto Maple Leafs having all that is needed to win but not utilizing the resources they have to be a champion, hypothetically speaking of course!
Seriously, many of you are living defeated and discouraged lives because you are not utilizing the resources God has given you. Ephesians 1:3 describes that if you have become a follower of Jesus Christ then you have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ” all the way up to heaven and down. However, these spiritual blessings are being contested by “the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12) We are not sure how the Org Chart works for the Kingdom of Darkness but we do know that Satan is on top and then there are all these ranked rulers in the spirit world. They seem to be able to even go into the Council of God (Job 1:6ff; 15:8) and accuse us of what we have done (Rev. 12:10). Scripture doesn’t give us much detail about these “dark knights of the round table” so we are only left to imagine what they are like, though I wouldn’t spend much time trying to figure it all out. Just know that there are powerful beings in a fight against God and His children!
So what are we required to do? Put on the full armor of God! Huh? What does that mean? Paul goes to explain the six pieces of the armor of God. If you put these defences on and pick up your weapon, when, not if, the day of evil comes you will be able to stand up against the kingdom of darkness. The first part of the armor is the belt of truth. That makes sense if you play hockey. What do you put on first? Your garter belt and athletic support and protection. Spiritually, you are putting on truth. Truth holds up your emotions and passions. Truth comes first because it is the center of the battle. In fact, many battles are lost because you don’t protect your emotions. For example, I may not have all my facts straight and immediately give an emotional response. If you stop and pray and think what is really true about this situation, you are putting on the belt of truth. Attached to the belt of truth via the scabbard is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. God’s Word is part of the truth that will help you determine what is really reality!
Next, you must put on the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate for a Roman soldier that Paul would have seen everyday would remind him that the vital organs, especially the heart needed to be protected. It “extended from the base of the neck to the upper part of the thighs, so it covered what we would now call the thorax and abdomen.” We are not able to have heart and ultimately live unless God’s righteousness that He gives us purely by grace is firmly fastened to us. Romans 3:25 says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all believe.” When you and I put on the breastplate of righteousness, we both mentally and spiritually believe that God has done the work of saving us and the new heart that He has given us is being protected by Him.
After putting on the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness, we ready our feet with the gospel of peace. We must be ready to share the love of Jesus Christ with others. This requires going on the offence. Your feet were never meant to be put up for very long. God created them for movement. They are meant to be a blessing to others, “How beautiful are the feet of those who share the Good News!” (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15) However, your feet also take you to places that bless you. I love how my friend Ian Vaillancourt puts this, “When a person is active in sharing the gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ)…they are so protected and built up spiritually.” The irony is that God’s peace makes you ready for war! If you aren’t ready, maybe you don’t have peace with God?
Next we need to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16). Paul had in mind the Roman Legionary’s scutum, a huge wooden shield lined with metal, “four feet in length and two and half feet wide” that could be used for offense as well. According to Markus Barth, the shields were “dipped in water before battle to extinguish the cotton tipped arrows that were set on fire by the enemy.” Satan often sends out fires into your life that take the form of trials or even tempting thoughts. Only by trusting in God and His plan for your life do these trials die down and are extinguished.
By this time you are pretty protected but something is vitally missing – your helmet. It does little good to put on only half the armor. Some of you tough guys out there may want to still play hockey without a helmet but I know I had a wake up call last weekend. First, one of our players lost a couple of teeth playing Men’s Hockey. No, it wasn’t fight, he just ran into somebody accidentally. Then I was sitting in a coaching clinic on Saturday and the instructor asked, “Have any of you seen a guy lose an eye on the ice because I have? It was nasty.” Note to self, switch from a visor to a cage! In our spiritual life, the helmet of salvation is put on when we remind ourselves that we are saved by Jesus Christ. Do you have doubts about your salvation? Remember, the words of Paul, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
Now we are all covered up, but forgot our weapons. There are two: the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer (v. 17-18). These were the same weapons Jesus used against Satan despite Jesus’ overwhelming power. In Matthew 4:1-11, when the devil came and tempted Jesus; Jesus used Scripture, the Sword of the Spirit to fight him off. My friends, we must memorize Scripture to be warriors for Jesus! As Hendrickson describes, Paul had in mind a sword that was “short, swift and versatile.” That is what the Word of God does – “divides soul and spirit; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) You need to wield the Sword of the Spirit when the devil gets close and puts those temptations in your life. I recommend memorizing this passage – Ephesians 6:10-18 and then tell it to each other!
The other weapon is prayer. “Without prayer, we are dressed up with no place to go.” We have no marching orders from God. Even Jesus used prayer to cast out demons. Mark 1:35-39 describes how Jesus would go off to a solitary place to pray to His Father and then when He came back he would preach the Gospel and drive out demons. Prayer is so vital to our spiritual life. The Apostle Paul uses the word “pray” or “prayer” five times in verses 18-20! The truth is we need to use all kinds of prayers and pray at all times in the Spirit. What does that mean? I like what Philip Yancey says, “To search for the Spirit is like hunting for your eyeglasses while wearing them…The Spirit is what we perceive with rather than what we perceive, the one who opens our eyes to underlying spirit-ual realities.” Therefore, when little promptings come to pray for somebody that is the Holy Spirit! We do this for all the living saints on earth. I love how Lenski creates the picture in his commentary, “This is one army standing against one other army.” And we need to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41) for each other being constantly on the alert for our Enemy! In fact, soldiers who are alone are in deep trouble. It is vital that you belong to a group of fellow Christian soldiers who can fight with and for you. Please join a small group and become a spiritual fighting unit!
When you are putting this armor you are protecting our vital areas. However, we must stand up; face forward and not turn our back to the enemy because there is not the same coverage for our back-halves. We are not to be in the retreat position. Jesus made that clear when He declared that “I will build My church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) We are to be on the offensive. Yes, facing the devil and his minions may still mean some pain like the Apostle Paul described in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, but Satan can’t destroy you.
So are you ready to put on the armor of God? The problem is you won’t because you will tend to think the solutions to your problems are by other means. You will think that you are wrestling against flesh and blood. You will doubt the truth. You will start to trust in your own self-righteousness and your heart won’t be guarded anymore. You will lower your shield of faith and try to live by sight. You take your helmet off and are seduced in your mind by the philosophies of this world. You will sit down on the job and take a break from the battle. I have before and I bet you have as well.
But there was one who did not sit down on the job. He actually got up from His Throne and charged out to defeat this Enemy. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings – His victory is our victory. May I suggest the only way to put on the armor of God is to think of Christ? You are really thinking about the Jesus and His Cross every time you put on the armor of God. You are standing just as Jesus stood on that Cross for you. You are declaring that Jesus is the way, THE TRUTH, and the life. (John 14:6) You are saying that Christ alone is your righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). You are ready with the gospel of peace because Christ is your peace! When you put up the shield of faith, you are trusting in Jesus who is your Shield and will help you overcome your fiery trials. (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 7:10; 18:2, 30; 28:7; 33:20; 84:11; 115:9-11; 144:2) Why will He be your shield? Because He was punctured on the Cross but squashed death’s sting! Jesus is the Sword of the Spirit, because He is the Word of God (John 1:1). Jesus is also your weapon when you pray because He is continually interceding on your behalf before the Father! (Hebrews 7:25)
This Remembrance Day we are grateful for those who died for us. However, unless we are grateful for the One who died so that there would finally be peace between us and God and in the future humankind it is not a true Remembrance Day. We will return to war with God and each other. I challenge you to turn to Jesus who will fight for you. Let Him lead you into battle against evil. Don’t forget Him!
And what better way to remember Him than by having Communion. This is for all those spiritual warriors who have trusted in Christ and what He did for them on the Cross to save them from their sins and destroy the devil’s work in their life. Let’s eat and drink gaining sustenance for God’s battle.
 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1961), 3.
 Erwin Lutzer, Living with Your Passions (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 126.
 Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1977), 222.
 From e-mail correspondence, October 31, 2011.
 Lloyd-Jones, 298.
 Markus Barth, Ephesians – The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1974), 760.
 Hendrickson, 279
 Denis Wiedrick, A Royal Priesthood (Hamilton: Wiedrick & Associates, 1997), 31.
 R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians (Columbus: The Wartberg Press, 1946), 677.