Let God Redeem Your Story: Part 3Erwin W. Lutzer | September 5, 2010
Selected highlights from this sermon
Satan wants you to be scared of him so he can do everything he can to ruin your relationship with God and your Christian testimony. He’ll use temptations, feelings of guilt, depression, and outright oppression. Anything to ruin your faith.
But take a look at the man in Mark 5 who was filled with a legion of demons. A legion! Ten thousand or more demons indwelt this man. How can anyone fight off that kind of spiritual attack?
Secret weapon: Jesus. The demons were cast out by the word of Jesus. But read it carefully – they had to ask permission to enter the pigs. Yes, an army of demons had to ask permission from Jesus to enter pigs.
If you can get to Jesus in prayer, you will be helped on your journey to deliverance. Not even a legion of demons are a match for the Son of God.
Let God redeem your story—part 3. The last two messages I have given have been on sexual abuse and letting God redeem your story. If you didn’t hear the messages they can be, of course, listened to in various ways—CDs and what have you, but even as I was thinking about this series of messages I realized that maybe we should go a bit deeper, because those who have all kinds of internal struggles sometimes discover that deep within them there is some other power that keeps them bound and held under the sway of their sin. And that, of course, is Satan and his demons.
In a few moments I’m going to ask you to turn to a passage of Scripture in which we meet a man with an unclean spirit, or more accurately, with hundreds of unclean spirits. And I know that it is an extreme case. Many of you listening might say to yourself that this can’t refer to you because you are not inhabited by evil spirits. What you need to understand though is that there are people who are still struggling with Satan. In fact, all of us do. Even though he doesn’t indwell us, he tempts us, he oppresses us, and he does as much damage as he possibly can to ruin our faith, so in one sense we’re all involved.
Now if you ask me why this man had so many unclean spirits, the Bible doesn’t tell us. There are ways, of course, that we know that these kinds of things happen. First of all, possibly it was because of something that he had done. If he and his family were involved in occultism and there was a lot of evil in his family in which he participated, that might have given entry to this multitude of evil spirits. That’s a possibility.
Another possibility is that it was because of something that was done to him. You see, sometimes when people do evil to us there is almost like a transfer of their powers, however evil those powers may be. Pastor Steve Mason and I counseled a woman. I was actually teaching and giving some instruction to about twenty people who had come forward some time ago when I spoke on the occult, and I was amazed at the number of people who are involved in the occult and they don’t even know it. Ouija boards, horoscopes, witchcraft of various kinds—there are at least 30 or 40 different ways to be involved in the occult. There was a woman who left the room and I pointed her out and I said, “Don’t you leave. You come and sit right at the front.” She wanted to leave, just like some of you who are listening to this message. You’re going to feel very uncomfortable. I encourage you to not leave but to stay and to listen.
Pastor Steve and I, as we prayed for her, discovered that she had been sexually assaulted, and as a result of that had trouble with the whole gamut of relationships, and God very wonderfully delivered her from an alien power, and it was a blessing to see her the next Sunday full of joy, and she wrote both of us a letter of appreciation. It is to remind ourselves that we are in spiritual warfare no matter what the level may be. Perhaps it is only temptation. Perhaps it is some kind of a stronghold. We sometimes don’t know the level, and the good news is we don’t need to know in order to seek the Lord’s deliverance and understand deliverance. So that’s where this message is going. Thanks for being with me on the journey, and I hope that we end at the same time.
What I’d like to do is to pray one more time. A message like this is taken very seriously because I can assure you it is known in the spirit world, so let us pray.
Father, I ask in the name of Jesus that the only spirit that is present here today may be Your Holy Spirit, and I pray against all those powers that would want to disrupt, that would want to distract, that would want to give people rationalizations. I pray that nothing that I say may be harmful but rather that everything might be edifying, enlightening, and above all, a means of deliverance, but Lord, You have to do it all. I bring nothing to this except my need. Our expectation comes from You alone because we’re in situations where only You can help. There are no other places to turn. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Well, with that introduction I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Mark 5 where we have a very interesting story that develops. Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee and He ended up, the Bible says in Mark 5:1, in the area of the Gerasenes. It is Gentile country. If you have a map in your mind, it’s on the other side of the Sea of Galilee and encompasses basically the areas today up north of Syria and then the Kingdom of Jordan, and Jesus is there. And you’ll notice that when He had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met Him a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit.
We all understand uncleanness, don’t we? We’ve all known what uncleanness is like. If you are in a sexual relationship today with someone who is not your wife or your husband in a one-man/one-woman committed relationship in marriage, if you have any relationships outside of that, you know what uncleanness is, don’t you? If you’ve ever been into pornography, you know what uncleanness is. If you’ve been into the occult, we know then what uncleanness is. This is an unclean spirit, and Jesus met him out of the tombs. He lived among the tombs and no one could bind him anymore—not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains but he wrenched the chains apart. He broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Let’s go just that far for now.
I am going to answer several questions very quickly about this man, and then we’ll begin to talk about our own understanding of deliverance. First of all, we may answer the question, “Where did he live?” He lived among the tombs. He lived in isolation. Possibly it’s because the townspeople wanted him there. They didn’t know what to do with him. They bound him with chains that he broke and so they had him driven off. That’s part of the reason. The other part of the reason is that when you are in this kind of depression—and this is a unique kind with evil spirits—you don’t want to be with other people, especially if they are joyful. You want to be isolated.
You know, it’s interesting that when they do an analysis regarding the shooters in some of our high school rampages, such as the Columbine shooting, the media says that the shooters were loners, brooding over their own grief and over their own problems, and as we shall see, over their own self-perception.
So here we have this man living among the tombs, and possibly also this was his preference because when you are that closely associated with unclean spirits, you basically take death with you wherever you go, and so we might imagine that he felt as if he was living in a depressed, desolate state of mind and deserved a depressed, desolate place to live, and so he lives among the tombs, picking up on the very mood of his heart in his environment.
Another question we might ask is, “How did he act?” Well, he acted, of course, obsessed and demented. Notice that the text says they tried to bind him with chains and they couldn’t. He was like a wild man. Now if you think that this is bizarre, Rebecca and I know a woman who went to a meeting and there were some false prophets there. Always beware of false prophets because they may have the wrong spirit. And she went forward and she was prayed for. They laid hands on her, and afterwards it took policemen to take this small little woman and to be able to subdue her, and to take her in for help. And you wonder where all this strength is coming from. So it can happen today as well. Watch who you have lay hands on you. That’s the great lesson there.
So he had physical strength and night and day he is crying, shouting. People wanted to stay away from him, understandably, not knowing what to do and not trusting him. Let me ask you this question: If you were to go to him and try to show him love, would he receive it? Of course not! He’d say to himself, “I’m unworthy of love. You don’t understand. I’m in my own world, and I’m doing here my very own thing.” A person like that today would be in a padded cell, and of course, subdued by drugs.
I need to say that I don’t believe that all people who are mentally ill are demon possessed. Some of you have disorders for which you are taking medication, which may have a physical and chemical base, and I encourage you to take that medication, and I’m not one to judge you. I just know that in some cases, and this is of course exhibit A, there may be a lot of demonic activity involved. And so, what we have here is a man who acted actually out of control—totally.
Next, what did he feel? Well, I think I read it but it says in verse 5, “Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.” What’s going on there? The bottom line is self-hatred. He wants to do himself harm, and there are people today who slash their wrists. There are people today who put themselves through unbelievable torture. What’s going on there? Why? Flagellation! I saw on television one time where people put needles into their bodies, and some of them even are crucified, though they are taken down off the cross before they die. Why all of this? It’s a desire to even the score. They feel so bad about themselves and about what they have done that they think to themselves, “I am so evil, I’m not worthy to live, but at least if I suffer a little bit and inflict my suffering upon myself, I feel better for a short period of time because now I feel that somehow I have paid for the fact that I am such a terrible person and for all the terrible things I have done, and therefore I feel a little better about it.” But of course it doesn’t last, and people who do that need to have the Gospel explained to them, because clearly they don’t know the Gospel.
Satan’s great weapon against us is self-condemnation. Nobody loves you. God doesn’t love you. Your parents don’t love you. The Church doesn’t love you. Nobody cares about you. You are totally worthless, and all that you deserve to be is condemned. And so the depression of self-condemnation settles on the soul like a cloud on a foggy morning, and there they are, and the devil loves it.
Now this is a parenthesis, but you can imagine how a child who is abused is going to feel about himself. Imagine verbal abuse where he is called names, or physical abuse also—they usually go hand in hand—where he is slapped or kicked around or made to feel completely worthless. Parents who bring their children up that way are aiding and abetting the message of the devil that loves to strike at the foundation of our self-worth. He loves to say, “You are unforgiveable. You are unworthy. Don’t you dare believe that God loves you, no matter what the Bible says. You are condemned and you deserve to be condemned, and you don’t deserve to live.” That’s a message from the devil to human beings, and so this man felt a great deal of self-condemnation.
Well, look at how far we’ve come. Where did he live? He lived among the tombs. How did he act? He was obsessed. How did he feel? Self-hatred! But now the story really shifts and really gets good, because notice who he encounters. We’re still in Mark 5 and it says this in verse 6: “And when he saw Jesus from afar he ran and fell before Him and crying out with a loud voice said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’”
Now when you look at the text you have to realize something. Jesus is speaking to the man, and Jesus always is speaking to the man, but the man is inhabited by spirits, and there is a lead spirit who has actually taken over his vocal cords and is speaking for him. And so that explains why it is that this lead spirit actually is saying what he is. Now this gets fascinating. Isn’t this amazing? I read this and I had to smile because it’s clear that this evil spirit, who is speaking on behalf of hundreds of evil spirits in this man, is actually more theologically accurate than many preachers who are occupying our pulpits today who disbelieve the fact that Jesus Christ is God, and disbelieve that He is the Son of Most High—the Holy One. Isn’t that amazing?
Yesterday I took time to read Mark 1, and I discovered there another demonic story. You have to understand that the Gospel of Mark was written to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. In the very opening lines it says, “Jesus, the Son of God,” and then it goes on and it begins to discuss what happened in His life, and then we have the book. All the way through the Gospel of Mark the demons are confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and you get near to the end of the book and it’s the centurion who confesses when Jesus dies, “Surely, this is the Son of God.” So these demons know exactly who Jesus is, and to just be in the vicinity of Jesus for them is torment.
In the first chapter the demons there say, “We know who you are, the Holy One of God. Quintessential evil comes up against quintessential holiness, and the evil is tormented. And so the spirits acknowledge Jesus Christ to be Lord. They acknowledge Him to be the Son of the Most High, and there’s something else those spirits know. They have to bow to Jesus Christ’s authority. Demons habitually lose and they always lose in the presence of Jesus—always.
So here we have this interesting story of the demon that was actually speaking, and he is speaking the truth. Another parenthesis is about the demons in another text. You remember reading it. They don’t want to be sent into the abyss ahead of time. What’s going on there? Oh, we need to take a moment out here and talk about the devil.
The devil is very clever, but he is not wise. You see, if he were really wise he would cease and desist all fighting against God. He’d stop his railing. He’d stop his accusations about us right away because then he knows that his eternal judgment in hell is going to be a little bit better. But no! Does he do that? He plunges headlong because he’s so evil he can’t resist doing evil.
Haven’t you known some people like that, by the way? You know, a little drop of Satan’s rebelliousness falls in all of our hearts, hasn’t it? And so there are people who will just continue to plunge toward evil. You can warn them. You can tell them the consequences. It means nothing. They just keep doing it over and over again because they are compelled to do evil. Well the good news is Jesus does deliver such people, but we need to continue on in the story.
So Jesus was saying, “Come out of the man,” and He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion for we are many.” Legion means 10,000 or more, and the man is still speaking, but the lead spirit has his vocal chords, and he begged Him earnestly to not send them out of the country. I think that the spirit said that they preferred to stay there among the tombs and the desolate area because they wanted to choose a place they were familiar with, so don’t send us out of the country. And then it says in verse 11, “Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside and they begged him saying, ‘Send use into the pigs. Let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs and the herd, numbering about 2,000, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and they were drowned in the sea. The demonic spirits prefer a warm body —a living body. And Jesus actually gives them permission to go into the swine, and the swine all drown because they become angry and mad. They are demon possessed.
Well, you ask what happened to the demons afterwards. Well, after the swine drowned and the bodies were dead, then they went looking elsewhere to get some new orders undoubtedly from Satan himself to figure out what their next tactic was going to be.
You say, “Pastor Lutzer, this is so bizarre. Do you really believe this?” Yes, I believe it because it’s in God’s word, but you know, it may even happen today, bizarre though it is.
Twenty years ago a woman here at The Moody Church told me an interesting story. Her father was deeply into the occult. He was a truly evil man. Basically he had given himself to Satan and they had lived in the house, and then he was taken to the hospital. After he died she came home from the hospital and her cat absolutely was berserk. The cat was trying to climb up the curtains. It was foaming at the mouth. They had to put the cat out. Maybe Jesus gave permission for one of those demons to actually enter into an animal as he did back here.
So the story is then that Jesus Christ gives them permission, and how does the man end? Well, I’m going to be saying more about that in just a few moments, but he ends with dignity. We have to read this: “The herdsman fled (verse 14) and told in the city and in the country what happened and the people came to see what was done and they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had the legion, sitting there, clothed in his right mind, and they were afraid.” They didn’t know what in the world to do with this. He was healed, clothed in his right mind, and then they asked Jesus to leave because obviously they lost a lot of pigs, and furthermore, there was a great deal of confusion as to how a man could have that kind of power to heal a man who was that demented.
In a few moments here at The Moody Church I am going to be giving an invitation, and during the next few moments I want you to be thinking about whether or not you should come forward. I’ll explain it in detail so that there are no surprises, but I want you to be thinking about whether or not you need special prayer today. And so as I begin to close in on how this applies to us, you be thinking about that and asking the Lord if this is something you should do. “Do I desire special prayer today because of what I am going through?” Think about that.
Let me give you some very important lessons that grow out of this interesting story. First of all, I want you to grasp once and for all the absolute total authority of Jesus. Never question it. Notice that Jesus was able to do what the chains couldn’t do. The text says that they bound him with chains to subdue him but it didn’t work, but Jesus comes along and the man ends being clothed in his right mind. Jesus has awesome, infinite power. Jesus is Lord.
I marvel at the fact. I mean, can you think about this? The demons even need the permission of Jesus to enter into pigs. They can’t wiggle unless Jesus gives them permission. That’s the kind of authority that Jesus has over the demons. Never doubt it. And when Jesus Christ died on the cross, the Bible says that He disarmed all principalities and all powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Listen, Satan wants you to be scared of him. The truth is, he is scared of you and he is scared of God and he is scared of your relationship with God. He is scared out of his wits, but he wants us to be the fearful ones. He has been conquered. Jesus is Lord. (applause)
I just absolutely love this. In Revelation 20 it’s time for God to wind up history, and we’ll be talking about that history, and it’s time for Satan to be bound in the pit for a thousand years, and this is what the text says: “An angel came out of heaven with the key to the bottomless pit, and he bound Satan and threw him into the pit and closed off the pit for a thousand years.” An angel! Do you mean this wasn’t Michael? Do you mean it wasn’t Gabriel? Do you mean it was just an angel? It was just a random ordinary angel. But God had said to that angel, “Angel (whatever his name was —I think God has probably named all of the angels because if He named the stars I think He probably named the angels too), “go bind Satan under my command, and under my authority. Go bind him now and throw him into the bottomless pit,” and one angel under the command of God commands Satan to enter into the pit, and he has to do it whimpering. Don’t you love that? That’s how much authority Jesus Christ has. (applause)
You see, it’s possible in spiritual warfare to fall into two errors. One is to discount the devil —he can’t be involved in anything. The truth is he’s involved in an awful lot of things. He’s involved in our deceptions. He is involved in our sins to varying degrees. It doesn’t mean that we are inhabited. It simply means that he is there to tempt us. The truth is that he’s involved in a lot of things, but we can discount all of that. But then on the other side we can make him so strong that we think to ourselves that there is no way we are going to win this. Oh my friend, Jesus has a way for you to win this. He really does. (applause) The authority of Jesus!
So that’s what we’re doing today. When I ask you to come forward in a few moments, we don’t have any counselors here. We only have prayer partners who want to listen to your story and encourage you with their prayers and to point you to Jesus because we don’t know the answer, but we’re convinced that Jesus does.
Second—the cleansing of Jesus. So what’s going on here in the text? Here’s a man who is cutting himself with stones. Here’s a man who feels that sense of unworthiness. “God doesn’t love me. Nobody else loves me. There’s no hope for me. I’m bound here by these evil spirits, and I’m going to die this way.”
How does Jesus get people out of a pit like that? The answer, of course, is that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross (His shed blood) is the answer to your sense of self-condemnation and your overwhelming feeling of guilt and sin. In Revelation 12 it says that there was war in heaven and God threw Satan to the earth. I think that that happens during the middle of the Great Tribulation period. There’s evidence that that’s the time that it happens. You say, “Well, does Satan have access to God today?” Yes, I think so, just like he did in the book of Job, and after he is thrown to the earth we hear the words out of heaven, “The accuser of the brethren has been thrown down to the earth, the one who accuses believers day and night before the throne of God.” Do you realize, my friend, that a secret sin on earth is an open scandal in heaven? Do you realize that? You sin and Satan is there saying, “Okay, God, look at what he’s done. He’s a Christian. Right? Look at what he’s done. Are you telling me that you can continue to love this person and not impugn your justice? And by the way, don’t you think that this has stretched your grace more than it ought to be stretched? Look at what that believer is doing.” So 24/7 we are feeding him ammunition and he is standing before the throne and he’s even saying things about us that are true and he’s accusing us 24/7, not just with words but also with feelings.
So the question is, how do you handle it? The text says, “They overcame him by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb.” You say, “Well, what does the blood of the Lamb have to do with the victory?” The blood of the Lamb has an awful lot to do with the victory, my friend, because you see, Satan comes to God and says, “Judge him, judge him, judge him. Condemn him, condemn him,” and Jesus is there before the throne reminding the Father, who really doesn’t need to be reminded that they’ve already been judged. Their forgiveness has already been secured. “There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns us? It’s Christ that died, yea rather that is raised again and is even now on the right hand of the throne of God who makes intercession for us.”
This morning we sang these lovely words: “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.” They overcame him by the word of the testimony and by the blood of the Lamb. Amen. (applause)
Now there’s something else I have to share with you, and that is the restoration of Jesus, and this leads me back into the text. Notice how this story ends. Yes, the man is clothed and in his right mind, and Jesus gets into the boat to go to the other side. By the way, Jesus did that because He actually came for this man. He came across the sea because He knew that man was there. You know, Jesus comes to you too. You may be here today and not realizing it, but Jesus is approaching you right now. He’s coming for you to deliver you.
But notice it says that Jesus gets into the boat. Beginning at verse 17 it says, “And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region as He was getting into the boat. The man who had been possessed with demons begged Him that he might be with Him.” He was saying, “Jesus, let me come with You.” “But Jesus did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”
Jesus said, “I have an assignment for you.” The Decapolis is the ten cities that were in the Trans-Jordan area and he’s beginning to go and to tell everybody about his deliverance. You know, when Jesus begins to bring you into freedom, you stop asking the question why. If you just stay there, asking the question why, you will always be stuck on why did this happen to me. But when Jesus begins to bring deliverance, what happens is He has another question now, and it is the question what. What can I do with my past so that God can redeem it completely, and how can God use me to bless the lives of others? That’s an important question for you to ask because obviously God intends for this to bless you and to make something out of what otherwise is a huge tragedy, and this man understood that. And I can see him going from being a victim to being a victor and saying to himself, “I cannot stay in my past. I can find out how God is going to use me in my future.” God loves to restore. He loves to use people. He loves to redeem their histories and their stories, and God can do that too, and He can use you in ways, despite your past, that you never dreamed possible.
Now, you may say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, why is it that some stories are never redeemed?” I don’t have all the answers to that question, but I know that there are some Christians whose stories are not redeemed, and I think that I can speak to that. It’s because they keep giving Satan authority in their lives. He doesn’t have authority, but people are handing it to him. And the way we hand it to him is by retaining a love for sin and hanging on to our sins and saying, “I will not give these up,” and that enables Satan to continue to do his business. Oh, of course, even after we’ve confessed our sins we’re still attacked.
We, as elders, today prayed for a couple that seem to be under attack just in every way, but we are not thereby defeated because we know what to believe and we go on believing with endurance and we resist him. You see, there are many people, I’m convinced, who don’t want God to redeem their story. What they want is vengeance. That’s what they really want—vengeance against those who hurt them, vengeance against their mates, against their parents, against all the people who have done them in, and they want vengeance. Listen, if you want vengeance, you’ve closed off your life to God redeeming your story. You’ll simply be stuck in your past. But if you are willing to say, “God, redeem my story in whatever way you wish to redeem it and use me in whatever way you wish to use me for Your glory,” I think then the grace of God begins to move in and begins to bring a sense of cleansing and hopefulness and usefulness to God.
And so I have to ask you today, are you willing to let God really redeem your story? I’m not talking about being inhabited by demons, though that’s not beyond the realm of possibility either. I’m talking about those deep-seated feelings that you have lived with that do not honor God, that deny that He loves you, that deny that you are forgiven, that deny that you are God’s precious child. All of those things intended by the devil to cut us off from God’s love, to make us think that God hates us, He doesn’t love us, and when you believe those lies, you are stuck in your past.
Here’s the way we’re going to do it. In a moment I’m going to pray and then I’m going to stand here like I did a couple of weeks ago right at the end here of this aisle. If God has talked to you, I want you to come and then we’re going to gather in a room again. I’m going to give you a little bit of instruction about rebuking Satan from the book of James and then what we’re going to do is have you pray on your own, and then before you leave, pray with a prayer partner. The prayer partners won’t come forward until I ask them to, except members of the pastoral staff, and Mary, if you’d be here just guiding the people, because I don’t know whether or not anyone will come. So we don’t know whether we need the prayer partners or not. This is all in God’s hands, but if you do, we want someone to pray with you before you leave today, and to give you hope. And as I say, they are not counselors. They are only prayer partners convinced that if they can help you to get to Jesus in prayer, you’ll be helped on your journey. Oh, maybe not totally delivered, but the path will have been laid out for you. We don’t know much about these things, but we do believe in Jesus and we think that He really does help people.
Father, I pray that you might during these moments help all of us to know how we should respond, and grant Your grace to us, Lord. I have no idea what people are bringing to this service today. I have no idea what the people who are listening on the internet have going on in their lives. But Jesus, You know us thoroughly and we only ask that You’ll make us obedient to do Your will. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.