Tag Archives: Satan

Questioning Jesus’ Sanity and Source (The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit)

The Text: Mark 3:20-30 – The multitude came together again, so that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.  And when those close to Him heard, they went out to restrain Him, for they said, “He is crazy!”

And the scribes which acme down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons He cats out demons.”  And He called them, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

“And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

“No man can enter into a strong man’s house and take his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.”

Truly I say to you, ‘All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies as many as they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

[Jesus said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Introduction

In the last half of Mark chapter three, the writer deals with what people thought about Jesus’ mental state and His allegiance; and that’s followed by Jesus’ words regarding who His true family was.  While Mark records actual, 100% true events, they might not be recorded in chronological order.  Luke, who claimed to write his gospel “in consecutive order” (1:3, NASB), records some of these events in chapter 11, and then the last part seen in Mark 3 is recorded in Luke 8.  This doesn’t affect the inspiration of the Scriptures at all, for Mark never made the claim that he was writing chronologically.  Instead, there’s a logical progression to Mark’s unfolding of events.

The Text, part 1 – The View of His Associates (Mark 3:20-21).

In verses 20-21, the focus is on how certain people close to Jesus viewed His mental state because of His actions here.

And the multitude comes together again

This is the great crowd of people who just about crushed Jesus earlier in the chapter.  Jesus requested a small ship be prepared so that He wouldn’t be “thronged” or crushed like a grape.  But now, the same scenario arises again—except that this time there’s no ship, because Jesus is at a house (see verse 19).

So that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.

Whoever the “they” is (whether it’s Jesus and the apostles, or the crowd), the point is that there was so many of them that having the space and taking the time to eat was an impossibility (literally, they did not have the power even to eat).  The crowd wanted Jesus’ time and attention—it’s all they cared about.  It seems as though this is the same kind of thing that happened when Jesus ended up feeding the 4,000:

Jesus called His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 16:32).

Have you ever been so focused on Jesus and wanting to be close to Him that you forget to eat—or don’t think eating is important enough to stop reading His word and going to the Father in prayer?  Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6); and He told His disciples, “My [food] is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34).  When our hunger for spiritual things becomes greater than our hunger for physical things, we have grown greatly in Jesus Christ.

Many of those who followed Jesus (including, certainly, many in this multitude) were not interested in His teachings, but in seeing a miracle or being the recipient of His healing power (Mark 3:10).

And when those near Him heard of it…

There’s debate as to who these people are.  The KJV and ASV say “friends,” the NKJV and NASB say “His people,” while the ESV (and many commentators) says “His family.”  Literally, the text says “the ones beside Him.”  Regardless of who it was (I tend to think it is His newly-appointed apostles whom He said would be “with Him”—Mark 3:14), these were people who cared about His well-being.

They went out to grab hold of Him

They wanted to rescue Him, to save Him from the crowds that put His life in danger before by mobbing Him.  Given the size of the crowd, it took some courage for these people to work their way to Jesus and try to take Him away from the mob.

For they said, “He is beside Himself!”

Literally, they said “He is crazy!”  It’s as though they were questioning Jesus’ sanity in going back out to the mob that all wanted to touch Him and crowd Him.  If indeed it is the apostles under consideration, imagine what they’re thinking.  They were selected that morning, and now, to them, it looks like Jesus is trying to commit suicide by letting the mobs come rush Him again.

But Jesus wasn’t crazy.  What His associates didn’t understand is that Jesus had the power to stop the mob in their tracks if He wanted.  He could have simply walked through the crowd like He did in Luke 4:28-30:

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, so that they might cast Him down headlong.  But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way.

Mark doesn’t tell us what happened next.  He doesn’t say that the associates of Jesus pulled Him into the house, and doesn’t say they Jesus told them not to worry.  It’s simply left with their thought that Jesus was crazy.

The Text, part 2 – The View of the Scribes (Mark 3:22)

And that leads directly into verse 22, which tells us that the scribes held a somewhat similar view—but with a completely different motive.

The scribes which came down from Jerusalem…

These were some of the religious teachers who were supposed to be well-acquainted with the Law of Moses, having copied much of it by hand.  The fact that they were the scribes in Jerusalem meant that they were the most prestigious scribes in the nation.  Their words held a lot of weight with the people.

They came “down” from Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is situated on a mountain.  They weren’t using “down” to mean “south” like we do when looking at a map.  They walked, and so anywhere out of Jerusalem was “down” to them.

[They] said, “He has Beelzebub”

Beelzebub is a name the Jews used for Satan.  Literally, it means “Lord of the flies,” but it’s also been said that this originated with the idea that the flies buzz around piles of poop.  Thus, according to some who have studied the issue, the name Beelzebub is a derogatory name to describe Satan as “poop lord” or “the poo-poo god.” (and yes, that is a direct quote).

So when the scribes from Jerusalem made this accusation, it wasn’t just that they were questioning Jesus’ power and authority (which, if we are really lenient, we might say they did in ignorance), they were also degrading Jesus.  It wasn’t a scared, fearful, “He serves Satan,” but instead a sneering and mocking, “He has the poo-poo god.”

In the Old Testament (1 Kings 16), the Philistines worshiped “Baalzebub,” which is almost definitely the same name.  Ahaziah, one of the kings of Israel, was sick and injured, and instead of enquiring of God as to whether he would recover, he sent messengers to go enquire of Baalzebub.  Elijah stopped them and sent them back with a message: because the king would rather enquire of Baalzebub than of the God of Israel, he was going to die.  Over a hundred men were killed with fire from heaven in the course of the chapter, all going back to the actions of the king.

“By the prince of demons, He casts out demons.”

There’s not a single good motive behind what these scribes said of Jesus.  They said that He has Beelzebub, as though He’s possessed, not just by any demon, but by Satan himself, the ruler of demons!  He who was casting out demons, they claim, is the most possessed man there is!

Now don’t miss what they’re saying.  They are admitting, without a doubt, that Jesus was casting out demons.  Thus, they are admitting that Jesus possesses supernatural power—miracle-working power.  And they are so opposed to Jesus that they take the ridiculous position that He’s actually working for and with Satan!

Now, for the sake of the argument, we should recognize that in casting out demons, there were only two possibilities—either the power of God was behind it, or the power of Satan (the ruler over demons) was behind it.  The scribes tried to convince the people that Jesus was controlled by Satan, or working with him, in an effort to trick people into following Satan, by casting out the demons.  In effect, their accusation was that Satan was trying to pretend to be an angel of light to draw away followers after himself.

His associates thought He was crazy, but His enemies claimed He was Satan-possessed!

The Text, part 3 – A House Divided (Mark 3:23-27).

Jesus’ response is to show the ludicrousness of their accusation.  Mark doesn’t give us everything Jesus used in response, but he gives us enough to make the point pretty clear.

He called them, and said to them in parables, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”

Mark wants to make sure that his readers don’t miss the point of these parabolic statements from Jesus.  They each are given as ways of asking the same question, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”  The word translated as “can” in the KJV is the word dunamai, the noun form of which is very frequently used to describe miracle-working power.  When it appears here, the question is “How does Satan have the ability [or power] to cast himself out?”

Jesus, who knew what the scribes were thinking and saying, called them and presented a series of arguments to them.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Imagine a king who tries to undermine the very laws that he uses to govern people.  Or a ruler who bombs his own army.  If Satan is casting out Satan, it’s the same as though a king was banishing himself from his own kingdom, or perhaps banishing all his subjects (since Satan is the ruler of the demons).  Once there are no more subjects, there’s no kingdom.

Jesus’ point is that no one with any sense at all would actively seek to destroy his own kingdom, and Satan isn’t stupid—he isn’t going to actively try to destroy his own power, and therefore himself.

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Jesus goes from the large (the kingdom) to the small (the family) to show that this principle applies all the way around.  A family which does nothing but fight isn’t really a family at all any more, except perhaps in name only, because the people in that family have destroyed it.

“If Satan rises up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

Jesus makes it clear that the demons that have been cast out are loyal to Satan; by casting out the demons, it is an attack on Satan himself.  Thus, if this is being done by Satan’s power, then Satan is attacking himself.  And if Satan is attacking himself, neither he nor his kingdom can stand.  If Satan is attacking himself, he has an end—he is committing suicide.

However, Satan isn’t stupid.  Satan isn’t attacking himself.  Satan isn’t committing suicide.

But something is going on… Satan is being attacked… His soldiers are being defeated…  His kingdom is shaking.

No one can enter into a strong man’s house and steal his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.

The scribes’ accusation was that Jesus was possessed by Satan.  Jesus’ response is to say, in essence, Are you kidding me?  Satan’s kingdom is falling, and he’s not doing it himself.  I’m the one who is doing it, for Satan—as strong as he is—is no match for me.  I’m taking his kingdom.

It is a statement of Jesus’ amazing power.  He, as God in the flesh, has come and beaten Satan at his own game.  Satan went after Him hard and heavy, tempting Him during those forty days (Mark 1:13), but Jesus came out victorious, and began to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  Satan continues to fight back, but his kingdom is losing power every day that Jesus works.  Satan is the “strong man,” but Jesus is even stronger!

The Text, part 4 – The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30).

Understanding the context is key to understanding what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit actually is.  Jesus didn’t just spit out these words are a random moment; He thoughtfully said them in response to an actual event.  And it’s rather important that we notice the progression of what’s happened here in His interaction with the scribes.

  1. They make the accusation that He’s doing miracles by the power of Satan.
  2. He shows the ridiculous nature of their accusation.
  3. He declares His superiority in power over Satan (which is actually a claim to be Deity).

And now, Jesus warns them that eternal damnation (which He has in His power to administer) awaits those who make such accusations.

“Truly I say to you, All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men”

Murder, robbery, hatred, etc., all of the things we think of as sin will be forgiven by God if we repent.  Of course, this is not saying that God will forgive every sin period.  There is no grace for those who sin willfully (Hebrews 10:26), or for those who don’t know God or who reject the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  But Jesus is saying that forgiveness is available for all sins…except for one.

“Even blasphemies, as many as they shall blaspheme”

Blasphemies are speaking evil of someone, speaking against them.  Even blasphemies will be forgiven by God.  Saul of Tarsus blasphemed (1 Timothy 1:13), but was forgiven.  Blasphemy itself does not guarantee eternal damnation.  But one kind does…

“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

Jesus brought this up for a reason, which Mark gives in verse 30.  The scribes had seen first-hand the power of Jesus to cast out demons (see Luke 11:14-15), but were so hard-hearted that they’d rather give the glory for this wonderful miracle to Satan than to Jesus, who did it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They, the teachers of the law, the supposed experts, were calling good “evil.”

Woe to them who call evil “good,” and good “evil”; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to them who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! … Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against His people…(Isaiah 5:20-21, 24-25).

Miracles, which came from the Holy Spirit, were given as absolute confirmation from God Himself that the things spoken were divinely approved, and that the messenger was from God (Mark 16:20, Mark 2:10).  If someone saw the evidence given by God, and still rejected it, and even worse, claimed that it was Satan that was doing it?  That is a full-on attack on God Himself, His nature, His goodness, His power, and His deity.  The person who is that hard-hearted has destroyed his chance at forgiveness.

Some Greek manuscripts read “guilty of eternal sin,” which gets the same basic idea across.  It is a sin that never dies, that never goes away.

People often wonder (and worry) about possibly committing this same sin today.  First, you need to remember what it is: accepting the miracles of the Holy Spirit, but rejecting the message, the messenger, and attributing those miracles to Satan.  So, the only way you could commit this unpardonable, eternal sin today is if you admitted the miracles of Jesus and the apostles took place, but agreed with the scribes that it was done through the power of Jesus.  Or perhaps if you said that the Bible itself (given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was a product of Satan, and not of God.

The point to remember is that if you’re trying to be right with God, there is ZERO chance that you could commit this sin.  It isn’t a sin that is committed on accident.  The scribes intentionally spoke against the miracles of Jesus.  It wasn’t that they questioned them, or just weren’t certain; they did it on purpose.  That is what made it unforgiveable.  They knew it was a miracle, and they intentionally gave credit to Satan for it instead of God (via the Holy Spirit).

[He said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus has completely turned the tables on them.  They came with what they probably thought was an ingenious argument, and they left exposed and condemned.  Their condemnation came because they had said Jesus Himself had an unclean spirit—specifically Satan—guiding His movements.  How hard-headed and close-minded do you have to be to claim in one breath to believe in God and His word, and in the next denying God’s power, and by implication praising Satan???

Is it any wonder that they left condemned?

Application

You Might Not Know the Whole Story…

The associates of Jesus (regardless of who they were) wanted to help Him, to essentially save Him from Himself.  But they didn’t understand the whole story.  They didn’t fully grasp what was going on, who Jesus was, and what power He had.  There are times in our lives where we make assumptions about other people, and sometimes those assumptions turn out to be completely wrong.  The ones who went to grab Jesus were acting out of concern for His well-being, and that is absolutely commendable.  It’s an example we should follow.  But at the same time, they were acting on an assumption.

When you start to question the motives of others, stop and ask yourself if you’re assuming they have bad motives, or if you know for certain that such is the case.  It might be that you have misunderstood what is happening.  It might be that their motives are pure and they simply made a mistake.  It might be that they just plain don’t have the same level of understanding that you do in some matters.  In all things, instead of making assumptions, we should go to the person and help them, make sure we know the truth about any given situation so that we can be able to act based on facts and not assumptions.

The Other Unforgiveable Sin

Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was not forgivable; but there is another sin that is unforgiveable.  That sin is the one that you know you’ve done, but don’t repent of.  Hebrews 10:26 says “if we sin willfully, after having received a knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins…”  To sin willfully is to know you’re sinning, to do it on purpose.  1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins” (and the idea is not just saying “yep, I did this,” but confessing it to God with a repentant heart), “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  That word “if” means that when you don’t repentantly confess your sins to God, you won’t be forgiven.

Brethren, when you know you’ve sinned, repent and ask God for forgiveness for it, and He will forgive you.

Invitation

Those verses were written to Christians who had already taken hold of the blood of Jesus Christ through humble obedience to His word.  The very first sermon delivered after the resurrection of Jesus is found in Acts 2.  In that sermon, Peter’s goal was to help people be saved.  After getting their attention, Peter said, “hear these words,” and proceeded to tell them about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He appealed to both Scripture and miracles to prove it to them, so that they would believe it.  When the people realized he was telling them the truth, they were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?”  Peter’s response to these people who were not yet Christians, and who wanted to be forgiven, was this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins.”

If you have not obeyed the gospel commands, please delay no longer.  Follow those simple God-given directives and enjoy a new life with your old sins all erased!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Teaching the People and Casting out Demons

Sermon 4: Teaching the People and Casting out Demons

Text: Mark 1:21-28 – And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath day, He entered into the synagogue and taught.  And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.  And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “Let us alone!  What do we have to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know you, who you are, the Holy One of God.”

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold your peace, and come out of him.”  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.  And they were all amazed, insomuch that they asked among themselves, saying, “What is this thing?  What new doctrine is this?  For He even commands the unclean spirits with authority, and they obey Him!”  And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Introduction

The King, Jesus of Nazareth, overcame a forty-day battle with Satan.  Afterwards, He began preaching that people needed to repent—to change their loyalties from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God, which was very near.  He called His first disciples, four men who were ready to join the kingdom and follow their King wherever He would lead them.   But Jesus didn’t stop there; His mission of calling souls to join His side had only just begun.

In the remainder of chapter one, Mark presents Jesus as an authoritative King, a caring King, but most importantly, a powerful King.

The Text, part 1 – Authority in Teaching (Mark 1:21-22)

(21) They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath Day, He entered into the synagogue and taught.

Jesus and the two sets of brothers (Andrew and Simon, James and John) went to Capernaum, which was most likely the nearest town, and was also where Andrew and Simon lived.  We’re not told what Jesus did between His arrival in Capernaum and the Sabbath Day (remember, Mark’s readers were interested in action), but we are told that once the Sabbath Day came, He made a point to be at the synagogue (which, in today’s language, would be the “weekly worship service” for the Jews).

The synagogue in Capernaum was “a beautiful structure, built of white limestone, show[ing] by its architectural features that it was built in the time of the Herods” (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel, p 271).  And it was built by an officer of the Roman army—a Gentile.  Mark doesn’t mention this fact, but Luke does (Luke 7:1-5).  The first recorded synagogue sermon in Mark’s gospel written to a Roman audience, was preached in a synagogue built by a Roman Centurion.

The synagogues, according to most biblical historians, arose out of necessity while the Jews were captives in Babylon.  They had no access to the temple (for it was destroyed), and so these “meeting places” sprung up in various Jewish settlements where they could meet and devote time to learning God’s word each Sabbath.  Even after they returned from captivity, they continued to have synagogues (the Greek word being a compound of three words literally meaning the “coming-together-place”).   Jesus’ frequent visits to these synagogues showed that God approved of the set-up.  During the synagogue gatherings each Sabbath, they would pray, read the Scripture and hear a portion expounded to them.  It’s almost as though the synagogues were part of God’s plan to prepare the Jews for the worship assemblies of the church.

It was into this gathering of devoted Jews that the King went that Sabbath Day and taught.

(22) And they were astonished at His teaching: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

This is the same reaction that the people had after hearing the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 7:28-29).  Their astonishment wasn’t necessarily at the content of the message (we’re not told by Mark what He taught), but at the way in which He taught it.  He taught them with authority.

Don’t let this escape your notice, Mark is presenting Jesus as the King, spreading the word about His Kingdom—announcing that the Kingdom of Darkness is going to be overthrown.  His teaching in the synagogue would have absolutely included a discussion of this topic.  The King has gone to the people, in person, and is making the case for them to prepare themselves for His Kingdom.  People aren’t going to follow a weak leader, and Jesus was absolutely not weak—He taught them as one who had authority.

They were used to the teachings of the scribes.  These scribes were known for their teaching style of “probably” and “maybe,” and “it could be…”  That is, they were rarely firm on any matter of doctrine or practice, often quoting competing rabbis and leaving it up to the people to decide which one they liked best.  Not Jesus, though.  He taught them with authority: “This is how it is,” and as He so often did, He would have proven it from Scripture.  And don’t forget that He called His first disciples (the two sets of brothers) with an authoritative, “Come!” (Mark 1:17).

The Text, part 2 – Authority over Demons (Mark 1:23-28)

Jesus presented Himself as one who should be heeded by means of His message and delivery.  Next, He proceeds to prove that the Kingdom of God is at hand (and thus, He should be heeded) by His authority over the demonic world.

(23) There was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit

To put this in modern language, he was demon-possessed.  The word “unclean” literally means impure or defiled.  Some believe that these demons are fallen angels that God permitted to torment mankind.  I tend to agree more with Alexander Campbell, who made a pretty convincing case that the “unclean spirits” or “demons” (“devils,” KJV) were the souls of those wicked men who died in the flood (but that’s a completely different lesson).

This demon was there with the worshipers, in the same building during their worship!  This demon was a representative of the Kingdom of Darkness that Jesus was planning on overthrowing.  Let no one for a moment think that Satan doesn’t attempt to get at us even when we are gathered together to worship!  Think back to Job 1, where the “sons of God” (followers of God) came together to present themselves before God—and Satan was among them.  Think about Nadab and Abihu, offering worship to the Lord—but in a way that Satan wanted done.

Among most ancient cultures (and even many present-day ones), there was a fear of being taken over by an evil spirit.  And in the first century, when it was actually happening, that fear increased.  Later, Mark will record a demon-possessed man who would roam among the tombs and shattered the chains that they tried to bind him with, cutting himself and crying throughout the nights and days (Mark 5).

(24a) He cried out, saying, “Leave us alone!  What do we have to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth?”

This demon recognized quite clearly that Jesus was different.   Most humans, the demons didn’t fear.  They could tell the demons “leave that man” and the demons could refuse—or as in the case of the seven sons of Sceva, they could turn on the pseudo-exorcists and attack.  But not Jesus.  The demon knew who Jesus was, and what He was there for.

Jesus is the King, announcing the establishment of His kingdom, taking citizens out of the Kingdom of Darkness, and now He comes face-to-face (so to speak) with part of the army of darkness.  It’s like the King we’ve mentioned before, traveling into enemy territory, telling the citizens that He is about to overthrow their ruler, and now meeting face-to-face with one of the powerful knights of the realm, sword in hand.  The knight says to the king, “Get out!  You have no business here!”  If the king backs down, all of his work is lost, no one will follow him.  He has no choice but to engage the knight in battle.

(24b) “Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Depending on the inflection of one’s voice as he reads this passage, it could be read as a combination of fear and pleading, something like in Luke 8:28, where Legion begs Jesus not to torment him.  On the other hand, it could also be read in a scoffing tone of voice, the demon chuckling at the thought that this Jesus could hurt him.

Again, imagine that knight, armed with a heavy, sharp sword, facing the king who has been trying to turn the hearts of the citizens to him.  He sits atop his horse and scoffs at the king before him, “Have you come to destroy us?” and laughs in derision.  “I know who you are.”

The demon identifies Jesus as “the Holy One of God,” or it could also be translated, “God’s Holy One” or “God’s Saint.”  For Mark’s readers, this was a reference back to the very first verse, where Jesus is identified as the Anointed One, Son of The God, as well as verse 11, where God spoke from heaven saying, “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”  They would have seen this as the Kingdom of Darkness acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of the God.  They also would have seen this as a challenge to Jesus.

(25-26) Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold your peace and come out of him.”  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

There was no long, drawn-out battle between Jesus and this knight of darkness.  There was simply Jesus opening His mouth, ordering the demon to be silent, and commanding him to depart.  The demon fought against it, trying to harm the man in the process, but his power was pitiful compared to the power of Jesus.

Many have asked, “Why did Jesus tell the demon to be silent when it was proclaiming the truth about Him?”  There are multiple reasons for it.  First, Satan is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44).  Thus, when a demon (a servant of Satan) proclaims the truth about Jesus, it can actually have the opposite effect of making people doubt the truth.  It’s like people say from time to time when they hear a story, “consider the source.”  Basically, you don’t want a chronic liar on your side, because it will make you look bad; the Pharisees could have used this event as evidence that Jesus was in league with Satan (as in Mark 3:22).  Second, though the statement from the demon was true, Jesus’ plan did not involve a public declaration to everyone of who He was (the Son of God) at that point.

(27a) They were all amazed.

And why wouldn’t they be?  Obviously, they knew that this man had an unclean spirit, and though Mark doesn’t describe for us the way the man had acted before (remember, Mark does very little in the realm of backstories), there must have been an incredible difference before and after Jesus spoke.  Before, the man may have been writhing in agony, moaning and crying, having seizures, or any number of other symptoms of his being overwhelmed by the dark knight.  After, the man would have been normal, in his right mind, most likely smiling, perhaps even having tears of joy running down his face.  The transformation would be amazing for certain!

(27b) they asked among themselves, saying, “What is this thing?  What new doctrine is this?  For He even commands the unclean spirits with authority, and they do obey Him!”

The devout Jews who gathered at the synagogue were amazed first because Jesus taught with authority, but now they are even more amazed, because His authority is even over the demons.  The demon said, “You leave us alone!”  And Jesus basically said, “No, you leave.”  And then the demon obeyed.

Mark’s readers couldn’t help but be surprised by this exchange between Jesus and the demon.  Like the people in Capernaum, they would have been amazed, wondering just how powerful this Jesus must be.  In the mythological stories of the Greek and Roman gods, there were always long, drawn-out battles, epic battles between the gods which sometimes lasted for years.  Yet this Son of the God won this battle by speaking a single sentence, a simple sentence.  It’s hard to place ourselves in their position, understanding it from their point of view, but what you’re reading right now in Mark is a description of sheer power.

Jesus, the King, had been promising that the Kingdom of God was “at hand,” and if there was any doubt as to His message, this absolute victory over one of Satan’s evil knights silenced them.

(28) Immediately His fame spread throughout all the region round about Galilee.

The people in Capernaum told their friends and family about Jesus, they in turn told others, and Jesus because very famous very quickly in that area.  And how could He not be?  Imagine that a doctor moves here, and he has the ability to genuinely cure cancer in one day—without chemotherapy, without surgery, without any of that stuff.  He heals a person who everyone knows is suffering horribly from that awful disease—it’s gone completely, and the person who before was weak and frail from this cancer is now healthy and energetic.  And not only that, people watched as this doctor did it.  Word would spread very quickly, and thousands of people would be pounding at his door begging to be healed in the same way.  It would be a very big deal.  This is what happened to Jesus after He healed this demon-possessed man (see verse 32).

Mark records this miracle of Jesus to show his readers (both then and now) that God’s Kingdom was indeed coming, and clearly had the power to overthrow the Kingdom of Darkness.

Application

Jesus Attended Worship Services, Do You?

Do not let this point escape your notice.  On the Sabbath Day, the day in which the Jews gathered together to study God’s word, to pray, to read the Scripture, and to hear a lesson from God’s word, Jesus was there in the synagogue with them.  To put it in modern language, Jesus “went to church.”  We can learn a lesson from that.  Jesus attended the worship services, and so should we.  And if you keep reading the gospel accounts, you’ll see that Jesus was frequently found in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  It wasn’t an isolated incident.

When Jesus died on the cross and was raised again, establishing His eternal Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost, He did away with the Old Testament Law.  From that point forward, the Lord’s Day, the day when citizens of the heavenly kingdom meet together in worship, is on the first day of the week.  It is a day to honor our King, remember His death, and celebrate each week the day that He came out of that grave, victorious over the king of Darkness.  Our King thought assembling for worship was important—do you?

Demons Confess Jesus, Do You?

Regardless of the motivation behind the demon saying “I know you, who you are, you’re the Holy One of God,” the fact remains that the demon openly acknowledged Jesus before others.  Still, how many people claim to know Jesus, claim to follow Jesus, claim to serve Jesus, yet outside of the church building, they never mention Him?  Can we really claim to be a follower of Jesus if the demons themselves do a better job of confessing Him than we do?  James says “the demons also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).  The King says, “If you confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).  How good of a job are you doing at confessing Jesus?

Jesus is the Authority.

Sad, so very sad is the fact that people who claim to follow Jesus Christ and who want the salvation He has to offer reject His very words when it comes to obtaining it.  Jesus is the authority.  He taught with authority, and in fact, He made the statement, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).  Since Jesus is the one with “all authority,” why don’t people simply follow it?

Invitation

For example, Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).  It’s not that hard of a statement, yet there are those who say good, religious Jews will be saved today without a belief in Jesus.

Jesus, the King with all authority, said that “repentance” was to be preached “in his name [that is, by His authority] among all nations” (Luke 24:47).  But, how often do we hear the cry of “faith only!”?  My friends, if it’s “faith only,” then there’s no need to repent, and Jesus’ authority means nothing!

The Lord and Savior of the world said that we must acknowledge Him as the Christ.  It is that very fact upon which His whole kingdom is based (Matthew 16:15-19).  He does not admit anyone as citizen in His Kingdom who does not acknowledge Him as King.

The Conqueror of demons said plain as can be, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).  And yet those people claiming to be His friends deny the very thing which He said, denying that obedience to the King’s command to be baptized has anything to do with being a part of His kingdom.

The great Hero who overthrew the Kingdom of Darkness gave the order: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

This great King loves you and wants you to be saved.  But you’ve got to make the decision to obey His commands.  Won’t you do that today?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Preaching and Calling

Sermon 3: Preaching and Calling

Text: Mark 1:12-20 – Immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.  And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.  Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: you all repent, and believe the gospel.”  Now walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, “You come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”  And immediately they forsook their nets and followed Him.  And when He had gone a little further from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.  And immediately He called them: and they left their father, Zebedee, in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Introduction

Mark introduces most of the major characters and themes in the Bible in the first twenty verses of his account of the gospel.  Look at it for yourself.  There’s Jesus Christ, baptism, remission of sins, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, the kingdom, Satan, angels, preaching, repentance, the apostles, Old Testament prophecy, and temptation.  Mark didn’t waste any time, he just dives right into the important things of the Bible.

But as you read today’s text, you’ll notice that Mark doesn’t do much explaining—and that there are very familiar aspects to some of these events that he simply leaves out.  Remember who he is writing to: the Romans.  They were people who liked continuous action, so Mark doesn’t slow down much in giving extra details.  What he does give, though, is enough to get the point across.

The Text, part 1 – The Temptation of Jesus (Mark 1:12-13)

Matthew and Luke describe the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, as well as the response that Jesus gives in order to rebuke Satan.  Mark, on the other hand, does not give us much information at all.  Some people have said that this proves Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke simply “embellished” the account—which isn’t true at all.  All it proves is that Mark knew his audience.  They were interested in action, not in the use of 1,500-year-old Jewish writings (which they didn’t believe in at this point) to overcome temptation.

(12) Immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.

Note the action here.  Immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.  The word “drives” is ekballo in Greek, which literally means “cast out” or “drive out.”  It’s translated “expelled” (Acts 13:50), “thrust out” (Luke 4:29), and is used to describe the “casting out” of demons.  Thayer gives as one of the definitions, “to lead one forth or away somewhere with a force which he cannot resist.”  Matthew and Luke (chapter 4 of each gospel) both say Jesus was “led” by the Spirit into the wilderness, but Mark’s account is much more forceful.  The Holy Spirit was taking Jesus to the wilderness, whether He wanted to go there or not.  I doubt very strongly that Jesus would have tried to resist, but at the same time, I can’t imagine that he’d be looking forward to having Satan pull out his entire bag of tricks on Him there in the wilderness.  Remember that as a human, Jesus was subject to temptation just like we are (Hebrews 2:16-18).

Jesus had already come into the wilderness to be baptized by John (Mark 1:4-5, 9), but now He was being taken to another wilderness.  The word “wilderness” simply means “uninhabited place.”  With John preaching and multitudes come to him to be baptized, that area wasn’t as much of a wilderness—there were lots of people there.  So Jesus is taken to another place where it is just Him and the wild animals…and Satan.

(13a) He was there in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.

The temptations of Jesus were far more involved and lengthy than we might generally think.  Matthew and Luke give three specific temptations, but Mark states that Satan spent forty days tempting Jesus.  Luke says the same thing (Luke 4:2).  The three specific temptations given in Matthew and Luke took place at the end of that period, after Jesus was “a hungered” (Matthew 4:1-4).  But Mark simply states that Jesus—after being taken there by the Holy Spirit—was “being tempted” by Satan for forty days.

This is what you might call a “testing ground” for Jesus as the Son of God—as the anointed King of prophecy.  In some cultures, it is common for the son of the king (or the tribal chief) to be tested in order to prove his worthiness to inherit the throne.  When the testing period was completed, and the heir successfully completed the task, his claim to the throne was solidified.

This testing, or tempting (the Greek word can mean either one), was done by Satan himself.  There are those who argue that “Satan” should be translated as “adversary,” and that it isn’t really a proper name.  Remember that Mark is writing to a Roman audience.  If he had wanted to use the Greek word for “adversary” (antidikos), he could have; Matthew, Luke, and Peter all used it.  He could have even chosen to use a Latin equivalent, but he didn’t.  Instead, Mark used “Satanas”—the Greek spelling of the Hebrew word “Satan”—with no explanation of the meaning of the word (like he does in other places where Hebrew/Aramaic words are used).  The only way this word choice makes sense is if Mark was using it as a proper name.  Satan is a real being, and he is the one who tempted Jesus for forty days in the wilderness.

(13b) He…was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

Mark describes the wilderness as a place that was only inhabited by the wild beasts.  There were no other people around to help Jesus with this task of being tested directly by Satan.  He was by Himself against the greatest enemy in the history of mankind.  Mark doesn’t come out and say what the outcome of this combat was, but it will become very clear in the next verse.

The angels, the heavenly messengers, were sent by God to serve the needs of His Son who had successfully completed this battle-testing.  It would have been a grueling forty days, fasting, being attacked by Satan; so the Father sent ministers to His Son to help Him.  Imagine a prince being sent on a quest to test him; and as he returns after a vicious fight—victorious, but exhausted—the king sends some of his servants to carry the weapons, to take him food and water, to assist him back from his victory proving his complete loyalty to his father.  The angels of heaven ministered to Jesus in a similar way.

The Text, part 2 – The Preaching of the King and the Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15)

Mark showed that Jesus was taken by the Spirit and tempted by Satan, but unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t show how Jesus overcame those temptations and won the battle.  But make no mistake about it, Mark is very clear that Jesus won.

(14a) Now after that John was put in prison…

Mark throws this in almost as a side note, but the readers almost certainly would be asking, “Wait! What happened to John?  Why was he put in prison?”  He does answer that question, but not until chapter six.  In the meantime, this helps to transition the narrative from “the King is coming!” to “the King is here!”  Because look at what Jesus is doing in this verse.

(14b) Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Jesus has returned from His victory over Satan in the 40-day Battle of Temptation, and now He is going around Galilee (His home area) proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God.  This would have been impossible if He had lost the battle with Satan.  Thus, the fact that Jesus is going around preaching about the “kingdom of God” proves that He won the battle.

This is the same “gospel” or “good news” that Mark opened the book with—the “gospel” or “good news” of Jesus Christ, Son of the God.  This is the same “gospel” that must be believed and obeyed in order to be saved.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of the Kingdom of God because Jesus is the King, the anointed one of God.

(15a) Saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”

For Mark’s readers, this is a reference back to verses 2 and 3.  There he gave ancient prophecies about the coming of a King preceded by the arrival of His messenger.  For those who heard Jesus speak, however, this was a reference to several Old Testament prophecies, including Daniel 2:44 and 9:24-25.

And in the days of these kings [of the fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.

Seventy weeks are determined upon your people [the Jews] and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to build Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince shall be sixty-nine weeks…

The message of Jesus was that the kingdom of God was “at hand.”  This phrase means something is very near; if something is within arm’s reach, it is literally “at hand.”  If it is not within arm’s reach, then it isn’t “at hand.”  It’s a very simple concept, but people have seriously twisted its meaning and tried to contort Jesus’ words to mean something completely different from what He was actually preaching.  Jesus, the Anointed One, the King, was proclaiming to people that the kingdom of God was very near.  In fact, later in this same book, Mark records Jesus saying, “Truly I say to you that there shall be some of them which are standing here which shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1).  It was coming in the lifetime of those people who were alive when Jesus spoke!

(15b) “You all repent and believe the gospel.”

The message of Jesus was much like John’s.  John preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4).  Jesus preached “repent” and “believe the gospel [of the kingdom of God].”  John proclaimed that a great King was coming, now Jesus [the King] is proclaiming that His kingdom would soon be established.

The command to “repent” has a dual (yet still singular) meaning: it means to leave sin behind, and change your allegiance from the “prince of this world” (John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2) and his “kingdom of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) to the King of kings and His “marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  So, as Jesus is going about preaching, He is also—as a King—inviting people to prepare themselves to join His kingdom.

It’s like if a king went through enemy territory, telling all the inhabitants that he was about to overthrow their leader.  He’d say to those who would listen, “His kingdom is going to fall, and you need to decide now which side you want to be on.  If you join with me, you will live.  Otherwise, you will certainly die.”  This is basically what Jesus is doing, getting people to change their allegiance from the kingdom of Satan (serving sin) to the kingdom of God.

The Text, part 3 – Calling His Representatives (Mark 1:16-20)

This section could also be entitled “The First Converts” or “The First Citizens,” because Mark’s purpose is to show that the preaching that the “kingdom of God is at hand” was effective—the King was gaining subjects.

(16) Now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishermen.

Except during what’s called the “Triumphal Entry,”  (recorded in Mark 11), there is no record of Jesus traveling over land any other way but walking (and sometimes his sea travels were done by walking as well—as in Mark 6).  This may seem unimportant, but remember that Mark is showing his readers that this King is different.  Earthly kings would likely have ridden horses, or in chariots, but not this King.

Simon and Andrew lived together with their families in Capernaum (which is shown later in this chapter), and worked as fishermen.  According to J.W. McGarvey, “Fishing was then a prosperous trade on the lake of Galilee.”   The net that they were using  was an amphiblestron, a circular bell-shaped net that was tossed in the water and sank, catching any fish that it fell upon (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel).  Fishing was not considered to be a high-class trade, but it was an honest one.  The fact that they were fishermen is what brings about Jesus’ words in the next verse.

(17) Jesus said to them, “You come after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

The word “come” is not a request, as it might seem as you read the text.  The Greek word is a command, and the experts say it means “Come here!” or “Come!  Come now!”  Thayer and Strong both use exclamation points in the definition, showing just how strong of a command this is.  This is Mark showing the authority of Jesus and that He expects His subjects to put Him above everything—including their own (profitable) occupation.

Instead of spending their time gathering fish, Jesus promises Simon and Andrew that they will be gathering men—that is, people.  Jesus is building up His army, starting with these two brothers, and this army’s job includes recruiting—recruiting people to join the Empire of the new King, Jesus of Nazareth.  These two men would later be called “apostles,” and would be responsible for bringing thousands of souls over to the side of Jesus.

(18) And immediately they forsook their nets and followed Him.

Mark doesn’t usually stop and tell the backstory behind the events he records.  Here, he simply introduces Simon and Andrew to the narrative at the point in which they were called.  He could have, like John (John 1:35-51), told about how Andrew was introduced to Jesus by John the Immerser, and how he in turn found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus some time before, and that this event at the Sea of Galilee was something that took place afterwards.  But he didn’t, because those things weren’t necessary elements in his gospel account.  Remember, he is writing about Jesus, the King, Son of the God, and he’s writing to people who wanted constant action—not backstories of the supporting characters.

Simon and Andrew, upon hearing the command of Jesus, immediately left their nets behind and obeyed the command from the King to join Him.  They were the first of millions to answer the call to come to Jesus.  Notice that they didn’t hesitate; they didn’t argue; they didn’t say, “Well, I need to discuss this with so and so.”  They simply obeyed.

(19) When He had gone a little further from there, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.

James and John, according to Luke 5:10, were partners with Peter in the fishing business.  These two brothers were together in their boat with their father, Zebedee, getting their nets ready.  The word translated “mending” can also mean “adjusting” or “preparing.”  Jesus could see that these men were workers—they weren’t lazy.

(20) Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Zebedee is someone about which we know very little.  His name appears 12 times in the Bible (all in the gospel accounts), but it is always with a reference to his sons.  It is obvious that he was a Jew, for his sons observed the Passover meal with Jesus.  It is likely that he was a faithful Jew, based on the fact that he had two sons who were prepared to follow Jesus at a moment’s notice, and on the fact that his wife (though misguided) was a firm believer in the kingdom of God (Matthew 20:20-21).  Zebedee was also Jesus’ uncle, having married Mary’s sister (see John 19:25 and Matthew 27:56; also McGarvey’s Fourfold Gospel, pages 220-226).  Some have made a big deal about Zebedee not leaving the ship with his sons, and have tried to imply that he wasn’t a believer in Jesus.  The fact is, Jesus didn’t call Zebedee to leave his ship—he only called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to do so.  He had selected them for a specific work that necessitated their leaving the fishing business.  Jesus never made “quit your job” a requirement for being a disciple—but it seems He did make that part of being an apostle.

The two brothers left their father with the hired servants [employees] and followed Jesus.  By making sure to point out that they left their father in the boat, Mark is pointing out that loyalty to King Jesus takes priority over family as well.

Application

Repentance is a Change of Loyalty

Jesus, the King, was preaching the good news that God’s kingdom—God’s empire—was near.  He wanted people to change their loyalties and join Him.  That is, He was calling on them to repent, to change, and follow Him.  When we call people to come to Jesus today, we need to help them understand that repentance is a change of loyalty—it is removing the crown off our own head and placing it before Jesus Christ.  It’s saying “My life is no longer being lived in the service of me, but in the service of Jesus.”  It’s leaving sin behind (for sin is serving self), and dedicating yourself completely to your new King.  Repentance isn’t merely being sorry for your sins, it is a complete change in the object of your life.

Maybe you’ve already pledged allegiance to the King of kings, declaring your loyalties lie with Him through baptism.  But then something else happens; someone starts courting you to come back to your old king.  And maybe you’ve done things that show your loyalty to the King isn’t what it should be.  Maybe you’ve done things that show you’re still loyal to your old masters, sin and Satan.  This happened to a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom named Simon.  Another man named Simon (also known as Peter), said it quite clearly: “Repent!”  Be sorrowful about your sins, pray to God for forgiveness, and re-establish your loyalty to Jesus, the King of God’s kingdom.

As a point of comparison, the Christian who goes back into sin is like a citizen of the United States who is convinced to send money to terrorists.  On one hand, he claims to be loyal to the United States, while on the other hand he shows that his loyalty is to the enemies of this nation.  You can’t do both!

Loyalty to Jesus Trumps All Other Relationships

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, He expected them to leave their fishing business behind in order to follow Him.  When He called James and John, He expected them to leave their father behind in order to follow Him.  The first two brothers could have said, “We get off in a couple hours; we’ll follow you then.”  They could have said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, can we reschedule?”  But they didn’t.  They followed Jesus.  Following Jesus has to be the most important part of our lives if we expect to be counted among the faithful.  That means we cannot let our jobs keep us from serving Him.

The second set of brothers could have said, “But Jesus, we’ve got to take care of our father.”  They could have added, “This is a family business, and we can’t leave dad in a lurch like that!”  They could have even said, “Jesus, hold on, we’ve got to talk this over with the family before we decide whether or not to follow you.”  But they didn’t.  They heard the invitation of Jesus and followed Him.  Far too many people let family or friends influence their decision on whether or not to follow Jesus.  Even after pledging their loyalty to Jesus, some Christians let their family keep them from being a productive citizen in God’s kingdom.  Sometimes they even let family convince them to renounce their loyalty altogether.  This is why Jesus said that we must “count the cost” of being His disciple—of becoming part of His Kingdom (Luke 14:26-33).

If there is no Kingdom, there is no Salvation.

The “gospel” must be believed and obeyed in baptism in order to save someone (Mark 16:15-16).  However, the “gospel” that Jesus preached was “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14).  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of the kingdom of God (one translation renders it as “God’s Empire”); they are one and the same.  There are those who claim that Jesus came to earth to set up a kingdom, but was thwarted by the unbelieving Jews.  If that is the case, then the gospel that Jesus preached was a gospel that failed.  A gospel of failure isn’t “good news” at all!  And a gospel of failure certainly has no power to save souls.  Can you believe that there are those who teach such nonsense?

The truth is that the Kingdom exists; that Jesus is the King over His kingdom; and that it is the only place wherein you can have safety.  It is the church—His church—over which He reigns in love.  That, my friends, is truly good news!

Invitation

The gospel is the good news that the King came from heaven, lived among His people, died for them, and then came back to life to reign from heaven—and that those who become citizens of that kingdom are adopted into the royal family and can “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6, John 14:1-3).

The offer to be a part of the Kingdom of God, to have all of your sins forever removed, and to live eternally with the victorious King is made to everyone.  But sadly, not all believe.  The question today is this: do you believe?  Do you believe in Jesus, Son of the God of heaven?  Do you know that through His death, burial, and resurrection, He established His Kingdom—a Kingdom that will never fall?  If you believe, then won’t you pledge your loyalty to Him and become part of that eternal Kingdom?  Decide now to change your life; stop serving yourself and start serving Jesus (in other words, repent).  Make it known that you want to be on the Lord’s side, and then through your own death (to sin), burial (in water), and resurrection (to walk in newness of life), you can be part of His Kingdom.

The King awaits, and so do we.  Please come…

-Bradley S. Cobb

Tools of the Occult (2)

[Our guest-blogger, Kyle Frank, returns to bring us some more insight on the occult, from his own personal experience.]

In an earlier article, I began to describe a few of the means used by those who dabble in the dark realm of the occult. Having been deeply involved in my foolish youth, I experienced things which were hard to understand. Even years afterward, having been born again and having sat at the feet of some very competent teachers, I still wonder. It is the intent of the master of this present darkness to make it so. I will attempt to name a few more of the tools used to lure the ignorant and foolish to their destruction.

Another  method by which to contact “those who have gone beyond” is by channeling. Channeling is done by a medium. (someone with a e.s.p.-extra sensory perception “gift” (?) ) To channel, one opens their heart and mind to spirit beings and then relates the information by private sessions (séances) or other by means.  This is very popular these days.

Séances are sessions where a group of people, along with a medium, seek guidance or to speak with those who have died. Often various physical manifestations can be seen. Most often, these are a trick or deception meant to mislead the unlearned or gullible. These have received a great deal of cynicism but have continued on despite the “bad press.” This is similar to the Witch of En-dor as seen in 1 Samuel 28. It was forbidden then, it is forbidden now.

Another  tool of the occult is the Tarot. This is a deck of seventy-eight cards which has various designs on it. It is shuffled and the cards are laid out and “read’ in an attempt to for-tell future events. This is a popular tool that has been used since the 1550’s. There are two different sections, called the Minor Arcana and the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards divided into four suits of fourteen cards: wands, cups, swords and pentacles. Major Arcana consists of 22 cards with individual names and numbers. These are considered the heart of the deck and carry more weight in tarot reading. The Minor Arcana deals with the situations of everyday life.

Dowsing is the use of a forked stick or two metal rods to measure the earth’s magnetic fields, or water, which can be useful.  However, it is also used by some to contact the spirit world in order to contact spirit beings with questions or to seek guidance. A dowsing rod can find water, and it can answer direct questions put to it-questions about personal plans and problems.

Astral Travel, also called remote viewing or scrying, has been written about throughout history. In these days, it is even possible to take classes to learn how to do it. It is heavily associated these days with the New Age Movement. It is supposedly possible to travel to different places and times. But, an important part of this is to protect oneself from “negative influences.” Little do they know that EVERYTHING associated with it is from the “negative” side.  There can be no protection for one while they are in the kingdom of darkness. The only possible safe way is to obey the Lord, be saved and repudiate evil by one’s life of obedience to the Lord.

Runes are of ancient origin. One familiar to most today is the ankh. It appears as a cross with tear-shaped circle on the top rather than the upper piece. It is thought to be of Egyptian origin and is associated with the afterlife. Although modern scholars are not sure of its actual origin and meaning, it is seen by many as an ancient symbol of demon worship.

In another strange twist, the cross of Christ is now seen by the world as a charm. If one wears a cross as a fashion statement, it is seen as being protective. In today’s vampire-crazy society, a cross is the only object which a vampire will fear. The symbol of our Lord’s sacrifice is now a Hollywood prop used in movies and shows!!! The true meaning of  the only sacrifice for our sins has become a prop and the true meaning of the cross is lost in mediocrity!!! How wonderfully Satanic that is!!

Another much more sinister usage of runes are the “sig” runes that were so prevalent in the days of the Third Reich in Germany. The “SS” symbols were runes from ancient Nordic history and were thought to carry great power. These were seen on the collars of every SS officer and soldier. These few examples, sad though they may be, are just a sample of this field of demonic fetish.

These are but just a few examples of some of the tools found in Satan’s toolbox. They can be seen far and wide these days and are becoming more and more common as the days pass. Scripture did in fact warn us of this in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. Actually, the whole New Testament is full of warnings about how perilous these last days will be. Our loving Father has provided everything that we would need to not only survive, but to prosper and thrive in these unsure days. The saddest thing about those outside of Christ (not to mention no salvation) is that they suffer from the winds, trials and tribulations of these crazy times. They have no anchor, and have houses built on sand and they are all alone, despite the promises and great love shown by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The enemy has them bound up in sin, suffering pain, agony and the torture of fear. Our job, our goal, is to love them as we have been loved and we have been saved to serve. Paul said in Romans 2:5-11 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Paul talked about being a debtor to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In 1Cor. 9:19-23 he said:  For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. We are told to follow Christ and to do as he did. In doing this, it is vital that we do our very best to be able to help these lost and trapped souls. We need not feel that we have to understand and be able to deal with each and every tool of the occult, but, we do need to know how to give an answer as to why we believe what we do. Our faith is seen clearly and that can lead to Christ if we can at least explain what we did to become a Christian. Remember, these poor souls are trapped and blind to Christ, as he truly is. If you can’t teach them out of darkness, find someone who can. Preachers, elders or those older in the faith can and will help you. But-the most important part of this process is to go to the Father in faith. Prayer changes things!! I spoke of my personal involvement. I actually got into it because I was looking for God! I remember one early morning (after spending all night using the Ouija board and automatic writing) where, in tears, I looked up and said “Oh God, where are you? I just want to find you…please help me to find you!”  Very shortly thereafter, I answered an ad for a Bible-study correspondence course. I received a knock on my apartment door one Sunday afternoon where an elderly man and woman personally brought me lesson number one of the John Hurt course. They later became my parents in the faith and he baptized me into Christ. I have NEVER looked back. I thank God that prayer changes things and God can deliver you from anything!! I cannot wait until I can someday fall at His feet and thank Him face to face!!

-Kyle Frank

Tools of the Occult (1)

[It’s Thursday again, and that means it’s time for another article from our weekly guest-blogger]

In time of war, we know that it is very important to have a working knowledge of the tactics that can be employed by an enemy, whomever that might be. In the spiritual realm, it is even more important that we know what tactics the enemy is employing, in order that we can be ready and able to stand our ground and fight. In this article, it is my intent to describe a few of the tools that are being used to trap and enslave our race by Satan and by his forces as they operate among mankind on the earth.

The Lord’s church need not be in fear of these weapons and tactics because: you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4). We have been given the weaponry and the Spirit which enables us to be more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37) As long as we remain faithful, walk in the light and use the weaponry that has been provided for us, we will be triumphant because of Him who loved us. In that light, let us take a look at some of these Satanic tools.

Ouija Boards are seen as a cute, childish game and can be found in nearly every toy department in any larger department store. There is absolutely NOTHING toy-like about this demonic lure. We have all seen this in movies or television as something played with in children’s slumber parties. Despite the denial of some, it really does work and it is extremely dangerous as it “opens a door” to further demonic activity. Questions are asked and answers often received. The “planchette” (a small movable pointer) moves to a “yes” or “no” or spells out the answers given. These answers are meant to increase interest and deepen curiosity for these “hidden things.” This is often the “gateway” to deeper things which we know are NOT from God but the adversary who seeks to entrap and ensnare the seeker with “what some call the deep things of Satan”. Rev. 2:24 This writer once was taken with using this device and knows of what he speaks. It is an extremely dangerous device and has no place in the home of any person, much less one who names the name of the Lord.

The next device or method which is often used is called Automatic Writing. By this, it is possible to have further, deeper communication with “the other side.” In doing this, a person holds a writing implement in one’s hand and relaxes. The writing is produced without conscious thought. A “spirit guide” will use this method to communicate with one who is seeking an answer. Again, this writer tried and became very proficient in doing this. This was my second step down the “wide path” which leads to destruction. I thank God each and every day for His deliverance from my sad delusion.  When one becomes proficient in this technique, different handwriting styles are produced by different “spirit guides.” Personally, I experienced nothing but lies but that simply identified who the actual author was. Unfortunately, at that time I did not know Christ, nor what warnings the New Testament had for me. This is the case with nearly all who fall into this trap.

E.V.P.-electronic voice phenomena is a supposed “tool” where a seeker will place a recorder, whether old fashioned cassette player or newer digital type recorder and begin to ask questions. No answers are heard by the naked ear but when the recorder is re-wound and played, often, an answer can be heard. This can be as weak as whispered or as loud as a clear voice. This is a popular tool used on such popular television shows as The “Sci-fi Channel’s” Ghost Hunters. This is part of an ever-increasing hunger by society in general for anything mystical or outside of classical society.

Spirit Guides-As one gets deeper and deeper into the “soup” of the occult, one is often contacted by a “Spirit Guide.” This is in response to a plea for help by a seeker.  This answer is to help a seeker to find the answers for which one seeks and to guide them in their “spiritual journey.” This demonic pseudonym claims to be a human soul which exists between heaven and earth. They are referred to by those in the occult as a “guardian angels”, or even “invisible helpers”. I cannot even begin to properly warn the reader of the danger of these supposed “helpers.” There is no Bible teaching on the subject, but then, when you get this far into the occult, you are way outside of the Bible, anyway.  Scripture tells us that: just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,(Hebrews 9:27) and also from Jesus’ teaching on death in the story of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” there is no wandering around after death. Therefore, it cannot be a human soul. What else is there? How was one brought into contact? It certainly is not an angel-from God, but from another source. What good can come from that? None!

From my own experience, I implore you to throw out that “toy board game.” It is no toy. It is a trap waiting for the unprepared. All of these “methods” or devices are prepared to entrap, and destroy those who trifle with them. Remember, we are at war and our only salvation is to stay near to the Lord, who protects us from those who seek our destruction.

-Kyle Frank

Doctrines of Demons

(We now present to you another article by our weekly guest-blogger, Kyle Frank)

Those who are of the household of God are well acquainted-or rather-should be well acquainted with the fact that there are “doctrines of demons” as referred to by the word of God. The Lord went through the trouble of warning us of the fact that there will be things taught under the heading of “scripture” that are in fact nothing but the language of Satan-lies. Jesus told us that when Satan speaks, he lies because he is the father of lies. He is also a murderer-not that he has actually physically killed anyone-that we know of, but, by his lies to Eve, and then Adam, he caused their deaths, as well as introducing death to each and every one of their descendants, in that they all have sinned. Actually, let me correct the last sentence because it, left to itself, is a lie. There is one of the descendants of Adam & Eve who was not killed by a lie, and mercifully, that one was Jesus Christ; son of man and Son of God. (Let me return to my subject at hand. I just get so delighted by the thought of the blessed Savior of man-and deadly opponent of the “Doctrine of Demons.”) In 1Timothy 4:1-3, we read:  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings (doctrine-ASV) of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. There are teachings which come from the evil one. These are often foisted off among the saints because the evil one tries to look like the saints. This can be seen in 2 Corinthians 11:13:  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. Having shown this, let us take a look at a couple of these insidious teachings.

The early church had to deal with the heresy of Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a perversion of the truth as taught by certain men who felt that they had “special” or “secret” knowledge that lifted them above the ranks of “ordinary” Christians. This poison has continued throughout history in different times and different places. Although this teaching was opposed by the apostles directly in the first century, it has resulted in various different false messiahs. An example of such in recent memory was Jim Jones in Guyana. David Koresh in Waco, Texas also had that “special knowledge” that only he felt he could dispense to willing and eager followers. Both, by the way, ended in death. Several hundred followers also were led into eternity in error. How much more demonic could one get?

Another form that developed was the doctrine that Jesus was “a” way, not the only way for man to be saved. This, of course, is in total opposition to what was taught by the Lord, where he said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Another doctrine which is from the very pits of  perdition and is a variant of  the above teaching says that another way to God can be found in such documents as the Koran, Hindu “scriptures” and what could be seen as any other writing which is, like above, “another way” to God. Apparently, according to these folks, we are all just one big happy family, all on the way to the same destination, just by a different route. We probably all have seen the giant billboard which declares: “Worship At The Church Of Your Choice!” That is another example of this particular distasteful teaching. Besides the different religions being a different way, a closer variant is that the various different denominations are all “branches of the same tree.” Apparently, the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” are just a slightly different way to the truth as the Lord’s church! Imagine that!! Is that distasteful to you as well? Now, apparently, we are bigoted if we have a problem with that! That is a doctrine of demons gone to seed. The land is full of such teachings. Now, can you imagine what would happen in the religious world if folks today saw things like they did in the time of the early Restoration Movement? The growth would be similar to as it was back in those days.

Again: “WORSHIP AT THE CHURCH OF YOUR CHOICE!!” How many multitudes believe that one church is as good as another? We face this when doing any sort of evangelism. Jesus was so adamant that there is only one way to God. We need to have the courage to love others enough to tell them that one church is not as good as another. It can be done-if we love others as Jesus loved us. It takes courage, but it also takes tact when teaching the gospel to others. One way is NOT as good as another.  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34. When we act as Jesus did, we will have the strength and love to overcome these evil teachings-which on the surface sound so good…but are so wicked in their fruits. Those fruits are death!!

-Kyle Frank

Satan, Man’s Adversary

[Guest-Blogger, Kyle Frank, presents another in his series on Satan and the occult.]

In the midst of this series on the occult, and its master, Satan, it would be a good idea to take a look at this opponent in the light of God’s word. So much is said from many different sources that we must always remember what scripture tells us and not take any other statements as truth unless viewed through the lens of scripture.

It is vitally important that we must always remember that he is a devoted foe to both God and to his creation-mankind. His business is our utmost misery and suffering and his goal is our death and eternal destruction.

Scripture tells us a number of things about him. It is important that we look at what scripture says and base our understanding upon that rather than myths or stories based upon what so-and-so says or thinks. Unfortunately, in our times many base their knowledge upon that and are thoroughly misled. It is very difficult to separate truth from legend, or opinion or just simply the false doctrines that seem to surround this being.

We know that he was in the garden with our forbearers, Adam and Eve. Scripture tells us that they believed his lie (“But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:4) By that lie, he became a murderer, because that deception led them to sin and to die because of that sin. Jesus told the Jews: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies”. John 8:44. We need to remember that!

We know that he appeared with the angels before God in the Book of Job. At that time he manifested another attribute-that of “The Accuser” He accused Job of only serving God because of his “favored” status. This led to the ordeal in which Job was tried by numerous afflictions. (see the entire Book of Job) Some of his other names are: Tempter (Matt. 4:5; 1 Thes. 3:5), Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24), Enemy (Matt. 13:39); Evil One (Matt. 13:19, 38; 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12, and particularly 5:18); Belial (2 Cor. 6:15); Adversary, (1 Pet. 5:8); Deceiver (literally “the one who deceives”) (Rev. 12:9); Dragon (Great) (Rev. 12:3); Father of Lies (John 8:44); Sinner (1 John 3:8) – these are isolated references occurring from 1 to 3 times each. In the vast majority of passages (70 out of 83) either Satan or Devil is used. These numerous titles show some of the activities in which he is involved. No matter what  name or function, he is dangerous and we ought never to stray from the way which keeps us under our great Father’s protection!

Satan often is among the people just as he was among the angels in Job’s day. His business is to keep men from hearing and accepting the message of truth which leads unto salvation. That is a primary function and one in which we ought to be ever more vigilant. We are our brother’s keepers, despite the temptation to “look after ourselves.” We need to follow the example that Jesus gave when he told the disciples to pray for more laborers because the harvest is plenty and the workers are few. Besides pray, we need to be those laborers and get to work! You probably remember my “you are the only Bible some people will ever read?” To work, to work!

Satan often comes in among God’s people. He was among the Apostles when he asked to sift Peter as wheat. Luke 22:31‑32. He certainly was with Judas Iscariot, whom all remember as being “the betrayer” Luke 22:3. The devil uses his ministers to infiltrate and work inside the church. This can be seen in 2 Pet. 2:1‑2; Jude 4; Acts 20:29‑30. His ministers within the church do more damage than those who persecute the church from without. Remember, too, that they come as ministers of righteousness in sheep’s clothing, with strong deception. How many of us can look back in recent history to see some of these fruits unto destruction which have been manifested among the churches? Not only does Satan devour God’s people through false teachings, but he is also mightily at work with the enticements of the world. Notice the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1‑5. Notice how Satan worked in this instance. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be praised as though they had given all that their possession was worth; however, their love of money caused them to keep back part of the proceeds from their sale. The sin was severe because it was before God. They could have fooled their brethren, but not God. We must be careful not to give false impressions and cause others to think we are better than we actually are. We can be guilty of the same thing for which he has been judged and will be punished.

These are but a few of the facts in regards to the adversary of man and God-Satan. It is vital for our survival as well as our homes and families that we are aware of him and his tactics but let us not get fixated upon him and be diverted from our service to God!!

-Kyle Frank

The Satanic “Bible”?

[Note: Today’s article is by our once-a-week “guest-blogger,” Kyle Frank.]

One day, while sending an email to Brent, at the Gospel Light office, it occurred to me that I had an unusual opportunity that not many Christians have. I was not overly excited by the prospect but decided that I needed to do my very best with the opportunity I had. What I am referring to is to write a description for my brethren about what is in the so-called “Satanic Bible.”  I was attempting to gain an understanding of what is involved in the Occult movement. This, unfortunately, is growing in strength and popularity in our ever-more sickening culture. Before I begin, I do want to explain that I have mixed emotions when looking at this “work.” It is a mixture of nausea and disgust. You will understand after the series is complete.

I will make all statements and quotes from the book in italics (similar to how I quote scripture in other articles) or parenthesis marks to set it apart from my comments. I will let the book speak for itself and attempt to not let my personal revulsion in any way color my reporting to you.

This particular copy is a paperback published by Avon Books. It is obviously a paperback knock-off rather than what one would imagine; like perhaps, an old, leather-bound hardback book with parchment pages, marked by candle-wax drippings from some dark secret midnight ceremony. Uh-uh. This is trade paperback book, packaged to meet the masses. That is the problem-for the masses. Part of the introduction: “Called “The Black Pope” by many of his followers, Anton LaVey began  the road to High Priesthood of the Church of Satan when he was only 16 years old and an organ player in a carnival. On Saturday night I would see men lusting after half-naked girls dancing at the carnival, and on Sunday morning when I was playing the organ for tent-show evangelists at the other end of the carnival lot, I would see these same men sitting in the pews with their wives and children, asking God to forgive them and purge them of carnal desires. And the next Saturday night they’d be back at the carnival or some other place of indulgence.” “I knew then that the Christian Church thrives on hypocrisy, and that man’s carnal nature will win out!” and “Since worship of fleshly things produces pleasure, there would then be a temple of glorious indulgence…”

The book begins with “The Nine Satanic Statements

1) Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence!

2) Satan represents vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe dreams!

3) Satan represents undefiled wisdom, instead of hypocritical self-deceit!

4) Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates!

5) Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek!

6) Satan represents responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic vampires!

7) Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of  his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!

8) Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!

9) Satan has been the best friend the church has ever has, as he has kept it in business all these years!”

I will basically give the table of contents which will give the reader an idea of what is in this book. As often stated in witchcraft, it follows closely the ideas of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Book One is: “(Fire)-The Book of Satan- The Infernal Diatribe.” This  part begins with “The first book of the Satanic Bible is not an attempt to blaspheme as much as it is a statement of what might be termed “diabolical indignation.” The Devil has been attacked by the men of God relentlessly and without reservation. Never has there been an opportunity, short of fiction, for the Dark Prince to speak out in the same manner as the spokesmen of the Lord of the Righteous….”

“(Air)-Book of Lucifer-The Enlightenment” This book begins with: “The Roman god, Lucifer, the bearer of light, the spirit of the air, the personification of enlightenment. In Christian mythology he became synonymous with evil, which was only to have been expected from a religion whose very existence is perpetuated by clouded definitions and bogus values! It is time to set the record straight. False moralisms and inaccuracies must be corrected….”

Next: (Earth)-Book of Belial- The Mastery of the Earth.” The greatest appeal of magic is not in its application, but in its esoteric meanderings. The element of mystery which so enshrouds the practice of the black arts has been fostered, deliberately or out of ignorance, by those who often claim the highest expertise in such matters….”

(Water)-Book of Leviathan-The Raging Sea. “Despite all non-verbalists’ protests to the contrary, soaring heights of emotional ecstasy or raging pangs of anguish can be attained through verbal communication. If the magical ceremony is to employ all sensory awarenesses, then the proper sounds must be invoked. It is certainly true that “actions speak louder than words,” but words became as monuments to thoughts….” It has an “Invocation To Satan” which is full of bluff and blunder and of lies, which according to our Lord-THE TRUE LORD-is his native language.

Jesus said:  

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The book is full of all sorts of lies and deception as one would expect from a document of this type. The saddest thing about this is that the folks who embrace this “theology” do not realize that they are being lied to the most and that the “Lord and Master” that they believe will lead them to victory is a defeated criminal on the way to the gallows. They have nothing to look forward to besides eternity in the Lake of Fire. How truly sad it is. Jesus died for them as well and God loves them and has made the utmost effort to save them from their sins. I suspect that the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” will be from these folks who will deeply, deeply regret the decision they made and that they believed a lie and have all eternity to regret it!! We need to pray for these people day and night because they need it-probably more than most!!

In a further article, I will give a short history of Satanism and of its adherents. It is important that we know some of what the enemy is doing in order that we may be better servants, more prepared to do the will of our Father.

Soli Deo Gloria!–To God alone be the glory!!!

-Kyle Frank

This Present Dark World

[Note to our readers: for the next several weeks, our Thursday posts will be by Kyle Frank, a friend and brother in Christ, who graciously consented to be a “guest-blogger” for us once a week.]

We, as the children of God, are operating in hostile territory. The Apostle Peter tells us such when in 1 Peter 2:11, says “Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lust, which war against the soul;” A sojourner or a pilgrim is traveling through unfamiliar, and often hostile lands.  We are in enemy territory and as such we are to be cognizant to whatever the enemy has at his disposal. This world that we live in, although originally created by God, has been taken prisoner by the Evil One when sin came into the world through Adam and Eve. It now really is hostile, dark and in bondage. Romans 8:21-22 says that

“the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”

That is painfully clear. Since we are in fact operating in enemy territory, it behooves us to be very alert and watchful of the path we are on and what is actually occurring around us. This present dark world is full of traps, distractions and anything else in which the enemy can mislead, misdirect or simply distract us from the real reason for our still being here. I have heard babes in Christ say that they wish that after baptism, they could just “go home” and not have to deal with the treachery inherent in this world. I concur….except that we are servants of the Most High, who has saved us to serve, to hold forth the light and be

“a(n) elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s) own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9-10. What more could we hope to be, or hope to do than to be involved in such? What a blessing-to be involved in the rescue of our captive race. We will be involved in the redemption and plan of salvation as given by our blessed Lord who has loved us with a indescribable love. The selfishness in each of us works against us, and against our loving Creator and redeemer. This again, is used by the enemy and we need to be on guard against this.

Another way of looking at this present dark world is by looking at it through the lens of the Bible. We know it to be truth by a myriad of proofs and evidences as has been previously showed. Scripture tells us that there is more to creation than just the world we live in. There are other realms that are invisible to our  physical eyes. The spiritual realm-the PRIMARY realm is beyond our present sight.  2 Corinthians 5:1-4 tells us:

“For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.  For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven:  if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.  For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.”

It IS there, it IS beyond our physical sight but if we use the eyes of faith we can see that it is there beyond our current condition.

-Kyle Frank

 

Sermon Wednesday – A Mighty Fortress

Welcome back!  This week, we present to you another sermon in the “Singing with Understanding” series.  We are looking at the words of songs that we sing, and showing the biblical ideas behind them so we can truly understand what we’re singing.  In case you missed the previous lesson (God’s Family), you can read it here.

Introduction

The name of Martin Luther is familiar to most people.  He is the founder of the Lutheran Church.  He was one of the catalysts in the Reformation Movement back in the 1500s.  He was a former Catholic priest who nailed a list of 95 things that the Catholics were doing that he believed were opposed to the Bible.

He famously declared that the Pope was the “man of sin” described in II Thessalonians 2.  The Catholics afterwards declared that Martin Luther was the “man of sin” described in that chapter.

But one thing you might not know about him is that he also wrote hymns—and we still sing one of them occasionally today.

The song is called “A Mighty Fortress.”

There are different stories about the first time this song was sung publicly.  But all are agreed that the idea was taken from Psalm 46.

  • Some have said that it was sung by Martin Luther and others as they were entering the room where they were to be examined by a Catholic inquiry against them.
  • Others have said that it was a song written for armies to sing as they battled the Ottoman (Muslim) Turks.

Whichever it was, the point of the song was to encourage the singers to rely on God for strength.

Today, our lesson will come from the biblical truths expressed in this song.

Verse 1 – The combatants in the great war.
Verse 2 – Our strength in the war.
Verse 3 –The war continues

Verse 1 – The Combatants in the Great War.

God is the first Combatant in this war.

A Mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.

There is safety and security in God.  He’s like a strong, fortified castle that cannot be breached.  You are completely safe from death inside His walls.  A “bulwark” is a defensive wall, a means of protection—and God’s protection never fails!

Romans 8:38-39 – No outside force has the power to separate us from the love of God which is IN Christ Jesus.

Our helper He amidst the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

If we were to rearrange the words to our normal usage, it would be He is our helper, prevailing in the midst of the things which have the power to kill (aka, sin).

In James 1, Christians are told to rejoice in the midst of trials and temptations; they are told to go to God for help in the midst of temptation.  So, in the midst of a world of sin and surrounded by temptation, God is our helper—He can help us overcome the enemy!

But who is the enemy?

Satan is the other combatant in the war. 

He’s still fighting against us.

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.

Or, Our ancient foe is still seeking to harm us.  Satan is not some new enemy; he’s our ancient foe.  Satan is the originator of all things evil, for he has been evil from the beginning (John 8:44).  He is always described in the Bible as evil—thus he has always been opposed to God.  And he is continually trying to destroy us.

Our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).  He is constantly firing flaming arrows at us (Ephesians 6:16).  He is indeed a very powerful enemy.

His craft and power are great

His methods (craft) are strong and effective.  After all, everyone who’s ever lived has fallen prey to his methods (Romans 3:23).  All, that is, except one—Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:20-21).

His power is great.  He is a strong enemy—defeating him isn’t easy.  Just try to go a week without losing at least one battle against him.

and armed with cruel hate.

Unlike the United States has historically been, Satan views the enemy with hatred.  The US, as a general rule, treats their enemies with respect and kindness (see the general treatment of prisoners of war, or even terrorists).

Satan is fueled by hatred, and doesn’t just want victory—he wants to destroy us completely!  He is “seeking whom he may devour.”

on earth is not his equal.

No one on earth can stand against Satan on his own.

 

This thought leads us into the second verse.

Verse 2 – Our strength in the War.

We touched on the two combatants in the war, but something that needs to be remembered is that we are in this war as well.

Remember Job?  There was a war between God and Satan, and the battlefield to determine the winner was Job himself.  Satan is not just God’s adversary, but OURS as well (I Peter 5:8).

Since there is no one on earth equal to Satan’s power, we cannot defeat him on our own.

Did we, in our own strength, confide, our striving would be losing.

Satan is too powerful for us to defeat on our own.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Every person is a slave to sin if he is on his own.

There is good news, however: we don’t have to fight Satan alone—God has sent one to defeat Satan for us!

Our striving would be losing were not the right One on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.

God so loved the world that He sent someone save people from perishing (John 3:16).  Our strength in the battle—our ability to overcome Satan—is found in one Man.

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He.

  • It is Jesus Christ who has fought for us.
  • It is Jesus Christ who has already won the victory (Hebrews 2:14, Revelation 12:7-11).
  • It is in Jesus Christ that we win the victory as well (I John 2:13).
  • The One who fights with us is more powerful than the one who fights against us (I John 4:4)!

Lord Sabaoth is His name.

The word Sabaoth means armies.  Christ is the captain of the armies of God (Joshua 5:13-15).  Christ is called “the captain of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10).  In Revelation, He is described as the leader of the army of God (12:7-11).

From age to age the same.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He is eternal—He is God (John 1:1).  If God (Christ) be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

And He must win the battle.

The outcome of the war has already been determined, for Christ has won!  Now, all that we have to do is choose which side we are on!

Verse 3 – The war continues.

Even though Christ has won the victory for us, we must still continue with the battle here on earth.

And though this world, with evil filled, should threaten to undo us

Just because Jesus has won the victory, that doesn’t mean we can rest.  We must be vigilant because Satan is still on the attack (I Peter 5:8).  Christians cannot get the idea that we can sit back and relax!

We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.

Christians have need to fight, but they have no need to fear, for God has given us a spirit of power, not of fear (II Timothy 1:7).  God has already determined that His truth will endure; His truth will triumph; and that victory is through US!

  • WE—the church—are the pillar and ground of the truth (that which hold up the truth).
  • WE—the church—are the ones who have been entrusted with the faith (Jude 3).

God’s word will stand forever, and we are the ones who are supposed to carry it to others so that we can conquer hearts!  In order for us to be victors in the war, we have to stay focused on heaven!

Let goods and kindred go.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).  Don’t be like the rich young ruler (Mark 10:29-30).  We can’t let the things of this world take our eyes off the prize: eternal life in heaven with God!

This mortal life also; the body they may kill.

When this song was written, the Catholic Church had threatened to take property of those who fought against it.  You could be tried and executed for heresy if you left the Catholic Church.  So when this song was written, they had a great fear of being killed for their faith.

In the first century, it was much the same—the Jews killed many Christians.  But the point is that even though they may be faced with death, they must remain faithful (Revelation 2:10).

God’s word abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

Regardless what happens to us, God’s word still stands.  Even if thousands—millions—of Christians fall away, God’s word still says what it says.

God’s kingdom will never fall.  It is eternally victorious—and those who are part of that kingdom have eternal life in heaven awaiting them (Matthew 25:34).

Conclusion:

Let us never forget that we are in the greatest war in history!  The two greatest enemies of all (God and Satan) are fighting on the biggest battlefield of all—the human race!  And WE are in that war!

We have a promise of protection and help from one side if we join Him.  We have a promise of being destroyed if we join the other side.

Which side are you on?  God never fails.  We cannot win the battle on our own; we can only win it through Jesus Christ.  But that victory is guaranteed if we stay on God’s side.

Whose side are you on?

-Bradley S. Cobb