A few years ago, an angry man rushed through the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam until he reached Rembrandt’s famous painting “Nightwatch.” Then he took out a knife and slashed it repeatedly before he could be stopped. A short time later, a distraught, hostile man slipped into St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome with a hammer and began to smash Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture, The Pieta. Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they started the tedious process of restoring the treasures.
God is so good at restoration that it is almost scandalous. In a casual reading of the gospels, we see time and after time Jesus going into the very heart of a difficult messy situation to bring restoration and life. Jesus did not come to live comfortably. He came to bring freedom from bondage and grant eternal life. One such account In Mark chapter five shows Jesus’ determination to bring freedom and life to a social outcast who was living in a cemetery. This man was so oppressed that, “no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:3-4). This man lived an isolated self-destructive life due to his demonic bondage.
Mark points out that this man’s response to Jesus was to, “fall down before him” which is an act of worship and recognition of Jesus’ supremacy. The demons also recognized Jesus’ authority and cried out in fear and terror. Jesus casts the demons into a herd of pigs which then plunge to their deaths in the waters below. This provides a clear picture of the nature of the demonic realm and that is to, “only steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). The demonic realm has only one goal and that is to wreak as much havoc or death and destruction as possible before its final day of judgment.
After setting the demon-possessed man free, Jesus gives him the command to, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:19-20). Jesus restored this man to reach the ten Greek cities of his area. This man was freed to bring freedom to others. This is the same command he has for every person He brings into relationship with Him today. (See the Great Commission).
This story highlights three main points for me.
- Demons are real. The word demon shows up 80 times in the Bible and 61 of those times in the gospels. Jesus would talk directly to demons and cast them out which shocked His audience because no one had authority over demons until Jesus came. According to the Word of God, we see that one third of the angels fell during Lucifer’s rebellion toward the Lord. These fallen angels are now what we refer to as demons. Demons are disembodied spirits that are looking for a body. They were in the body of the man of Mark 5 and were cast out into swine.
Herein lies the proof I have been looking for to prove that animals can have demons. My wife and I got a dog for each other for our birthdays which happen to be two days apart in our first year of marriage. As the Golden Retriever grew, it became clear that this “energetic” dog had some real issues. The fateful day he tackled and started licking the girl scout coming to our door to sell her cookies was the day I realized this dog had a demon problem.
In C.S. Lewis’ famous book, The Screwtape Letters, he says, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Lewis describes the two extremes that darkness loves: the skeptic and the superstitious. We must acknowledge the reality of the demonic realm clearly spelled out through scripture but we must avoid the idea that there is a demon under every rock. Either extreme leads to deception.
Jack Hayford says, “You cannot disciple a demon, and you can’t cast out the flesh.” Some just say it is the flesh and discipline that is needed to overcome. Others say you have a demon and the reason you can’t break free is that you need deliverance. Do we need discipleship or deliverance? Answer is YES! We need both.
- Demons enter people. One key question that comes up with topic is, “Can a Christian be demon possessed?” The word possession has two very distinct meanings. One definition is ownership and the second definition is to gain mastery over or gain power over. Can a Christian be owned by a demon? No, because we are owned by God. But can a Christian be under the power of a demon? Yes. A believer in Jesus Christ can be under the external oppression of a demonic force like a leech sucking the spiritual vitality and strength from the person. Or like a sunburn that comes from exposure to the fiery darts of the enemy in hell’s attempt to afflict sounds on us.
Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry, and do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Strongholds are built by allowing the enemy to have a place or opportunity in our lives through sin. The Greek word “topos” is translated place, opportunity, or foothold in the Ephesians 4:27. It is a word with broad meaning, but it is fundamentally defined as: “territory, land: in the oldest clear use in the singular it means a defined place.” Is there any area of your life that you can’t get victory in? An area you feel helpless and powerless over? Have you confessed the same sin over and over but not had victory in saying, “I will never do that again?” This is what spiritual bondage sounds like.
A natural human reaction to issues in our life is to minimize them or explain them away as, “I have a weakness in that area.” The truth is that Jesus can’t set us free unless we know we are in bondage. Imagine your life likened unto a home that you left the doors and windows wide open. When you come back home and realize there is a thief in your home taking all your valuables, would you be concerned? While this thief does not own the home, he has control over your home until you arrest him and kick him out. The thief is in your house and must be kicked out.
- Jesus casts demons out. In Luke 17 we see that Christ’s authority is ultimate and is the source of all authority. In verses 19-20, He says, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus is speaking in types and shadows in this passage. The serpents and scorpions he is referring to are demons. He says that the spirits are subject to you. “Subject to you” means obedient submissive slaves. This is the authority Jesus His children over darkness.
It is obvious to us that Christ had authority from God. He was, after all, God incarnate. It is also easily understood from Scripture that the disciples were given the authority and power to do the very things Jesus was doing. But are we to continue on in this same authority even today—continuing the ministry of Jesus? Is there biblical precedent to believe that we have been given this same authority? Consider the twelve disciples received Christ’s authority according to Luke 9:1, the seventy-two disciples received Christ’s authority according to Luke 10:1, and all God’s children today have received Christ’s authority according to John 14:12-13 and Matthew 16:19.
In Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17, he prays for His disciples and everyone who would ever believe in Him because of their message. That is us! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are one of His disciples. You might not be one of the original twelve (neither were the seventy-two listed above who received His authority), but you believe because their message has traveled through the generations from person to person—and finally to your ears.
Jesus makes it clear in this text that we are sent into the world as He was, with the same authority and mission. John 14 states that Jesus says that “anyone” who has faith in Him will actually do even greater things than He. This is a startling revelation and an amazing mission we get to share in.
If you are in bondage or are stuck in an area of sin you can’t break, you are under the influence in that area, but Jesus can set you free. The enemy focuses on our weaknesses and history to try and convince us we don’t have authority. According to Mark 5:6, which says, “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.” Satan does not have the power to stop you from coming to Jesus. The man bowed down in worship to Jesus and Jesus set him free. Spend some time in worship before Jesus today. Confess your need for him and the area before Jesus you are in bondage too. The only ones that don’t get free are those that won’t humble themselves. Humble yourself today and watch the freedom of Jesus rush into your life!