Matthew 8:29 | Demons

Do you believe that demons exist? When I was younger the idea of creepy monsters or evil aliens would make me unnerved. I remember as a teenager watching, of all things, Larry King on CNN. He was broadcasting his show from the middle of a cornfield at night. They had set up a stage with bright lights focused on him on this stage. He sat at his desk in the normal talk show format, but in the background was darkness and the outline of corn stalks. His topic was a special on aliens and I was completely unnerved and found the setting a little scary. I would not have been surprised if Aliens announced their presence to Larry King on that stage at that very moment.

Any look through history will find stories of demons, goblins, and monsters off all forms that kill and terrorize the population. In contemporary America one would not be hard pressed to find mainstream scientists or celebrities convinced that aliens exist. Yet from within these same groups one might be hard pressed to find public acknowledgment that demons and specifically Satan exist because we are now “civilized”. This is because contemporary America is a materialist society. Only the material world matters. Only the physical world is real. Ghosts, goblins, and demons are fun stories but Aliens are real because they exist in the material world. It is hard to believe in God let alone evil demons when one is cutoff and blind to the spiritual nature of humanity.

28 And when [Jesus] came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.29 And behold [the demons] cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29 ESV

The gospel accounts make regular notice of Jesus encountering “demon possessed” people. All four gospels reference demonic encounters as if this was normal. In this instance the author uses the Greek word δαίμων (daimōn) which means inferior gods to describe that these men living in the cemetery were possessed by. While these so called gods were tormenting the people they possessed they also tormented anyone that came near. When they approached Jesus the demons cried out asking if he had come to torment them before the appointed time. It is an interesting exchange.

While all this talk of demons is normal in the New Testament one would think that demons would be spoken of in the Old Testament but that is not the case. Very few times do scholars translate any Hebrew texts using the word demon. The Hebrew word for demon שֵׁד (shed) only occurs twice and in both instances the author is referencing rampant idol worship making clear that the idols of wood, metal, and stone that the people worshiped were the retail front of evil demons.

37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters. whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Psalms 106:37-38 ESV

Every generation deals with this spiritual reality in their own way. The ancient people worshiped demons by way of idols and false Gods and contemporary Americans worship demons by way of materialism. The contemporary culture ignores that we are more than our physical bodies. Most ignore any spiritual reality at all fooling themselves into thinking that the materialism or science they worship is somehow void of spiritual truth. Worshiping themselves they are influenced by the demonic without even being aware.

Demons hate God and want to destroy his image on earth. Since mankind was created in the image of God then we are all a target of their hate. It is no wonder that child sacrifice has always been a marker of their presence. Imagine God’s people sacrificing their own children to a demonic idol in the old testament. Is it not horrifying? How could they be so barbaric we think. Now realize that this same child sacrifice continues today but in a much more accepted way through abortion. Babies are sacrificed to the gods, demons, of materialism and convenience every day.  

They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:17-18 ESV

When I was younger the idea of occult or aliens caused me to fear. As an adult I recognize the demons that they represent and my fear of the unknown is no more. Jesus was not afraid of the demons in fact they were exposed from their hiding places and became afraid of Him. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) reference demons more than 40 times between them. This is far more than the rest of the Bible combined. Jesus deals with our physical needs but he primarily is concerned with our eternal spiritual state. Is it no surprise that the demonic was exposed and dealt with everywhere he went?

Where have demons set up shop in your life? What do you worship that is not the one true living God? Jesus came that we would have freedom and life restored to worship our maker.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10 ESV

Eating at the Table of Demons

food

Who do people eat with the most outside of family? Eating with friends is fun. Coworkers can be fun or at the least expected since so much time is spent with them when working outside the home. But do people ever stop to realize they fellowship at a spiritual level and not just the physical means of eating food? Living in a physical world without easily visible means to experience a spiritual plane leaves people naturally to focus on the physical while forgetting about the spiritual. Most people in western society are almost completely cut off from recognizing the spiritual aspects of interactions with other people and the world. People rarely stop to ask questions like “Is there a God”, “Where will I go when I die”, or “Is the physical reality the only reality”? When I ask those questions to people I meet there is most certainly an awkwardness that comes over the conversation. The answer to those questions is yes there is more to life than the physical. So why do people avoid it? Not only is there a spiritual world but people need to realize that this world is at war spiritually speaking. Paul reminds his congregants of this fact.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

In the same way that I prayed for President Obama I will pray for president Trump. My issues whatever they may be politically are not against the person. I have a charge to love all people and to pray for the leaders of the country. My issues are against the true ruler behind the person. I pray that the leaders and those in authority would be servants to God (even if it is clear they are not). This is part of my duty in this war of the heavens. Jesus died on the cross to break the god of this world’s grip on humanity.

31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:31-32 ESV

Even if one lives unaware and distracted from the fact that the physical is not all there is the truth remains that God created everything both spiritual and physical. He is the author and the spiritual world is there with humankind because God created people to live forever in both spirit and body. He has recorded events by way of the Bible to highlight the creation from His perspective. God has chosen to open the eyes of his children to the spiritual world. Do not shy away from this reality. Look past the physical frustrations and temptation to be angry at a fellow human being and know that evil is directed from the spiritual plane.

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV

God is in control of both the physical and the spiritual. The duty of followers of Christ is to pray for His will and actions in the events of History.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20 ESV

In the spiritual war with the evil ruler of this world, the evil ruler who is controlling what he can, a question rises up “What are those who have eyes opened to do?” “Do we continue on as before?”

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 ESV

“Do we continue on eating at the table of demons?” No we must no longer be who we were. When we verbally assault fellow human beings. When we relish in the tears of those who have lost. When we champion unity over truth. When we seek selfish lusts over self-denial and self-control. When we want all religions to be a source of truth… THEN we are eating at the table of Demons. Saying no to the table of demons will cost friendships because it is where most people fellowship and fellowship is both physical and spiritual. Saying no to the table of demons may cut some out of the market square because that is where business occurs. Saying no to the table of demons may cost an opportunity for power or leadership because the ruler of this world will not give up his control to anything from God. Saying no to the table of demons leaves only one table from which to eat and that is of the Lamb of God. This table requires only that we serve Christ by sharing the good news of the gospel to this world. That may be a simple question of “Tell me who is God to you?” worked into the next conversation. Eating at the table of God means we give way to the needs of others. Eating at this table means we pray for enemies and we love those who hate. It means trusting Christ and not falling back to the selfish lust of this physical world. The light of Christ must shine into the darkness of demons.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV

 

Why are you so Super Spiritual?

What does super spiritual look like? Is it following the laws to the letter? Is it living life in a monastery or in a farming utopia community away from the rest of the world? Maybe it is living with an anguished life that is always outraged at far away injustices. One should be able to tell from my tone that these are not the answer to the question. So what is super spiritual and maybe an even better question would be is super spiritual something that one should seek to achieve?

Spiritual as defined by Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology is a “state of deep relationship to God”. This makes the idea of super spiritual seem odd. A deep relationship with God is either there or not. To add Super to that seems redundant especially if one thinks of a relationship with God to be extraordinary to begin with. The claim to be super spiritual or to accuse someone of being super spiritual is really better understood as super religious. For our purpose here I am going to define religious as the act of keeping or maintain the laws, customs, reverence, and disciplines related to the Christian church that one might be part of. Maintaining all of those rules can be done casually or intensely and in that case when one thinks of a super spiritual person what they might really be thinking of is a super religious person. And super religious people can be just down right annoying, impressive, frustrating, or all of the above at the same time.

Jesus had very harsh words for the super religious of his day. They came in the form of a ruling class of priests who had very detailed ceremonies and rules that must be followed. These men were very proud of their rules and the fact that only they could maintain the order of those rules.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 ESV

Paul ran into the super religious even inside the Christian Church. These super religious people actually claimed to be “Super Apostles” claiming to be greater than Paul who was simply a regular apostle. This group of super apostles challenged Paul’s authority and wondered why he seemed week or timid in their presence. Not unlike a coward that boasts of his skills and the weakness of an adversary when said presence is not available.

5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. 2 Corinthians 11:5-6 ESV

So why did Jesus call the super religious hypocrites? He demonstrates the example in a parable.

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 ESV

The super religious Pharisee lived according to the laws and he compared himself to the tax collector that was most likely an evil unjust man. The Pharisee exalted his good works on the back of the horrible tax collector. Paul when speaking about the super apostles drew the same parallel.

But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12b ESV

Jesus teaching the disciples tells them that the tax collector humbled himself, boasted on nothing in this world, and confessed his failures to God in a real relationship of love, mercy, and God’s forgiveness.

Paul to make a point about the super apostles recounts his resume to let the Corinthians compare between himself and these men who boast in their greatness. Paul’s resume is impressive. He is after all the man called by Jesus to be the minister to the Gentiles and write a large portion of the New Testament. But Paul recounting his resume calls it foolishness to do so.

11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 2 Corinthians 12:11 ESV

Paul tells us that he is nothing. He is humbled in his relationship with God the creator of the universe.

7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV

God knowing what the power given to Paul for the good of the Church would make him like the Pharisee kept him humbled and dependent on the only true source of strength. That strength is not in man but God himself and a relationship with the Creator.

Spiritual is a state of relationship with God. Humbled and overwhelmed by His love. Weak but strong by His power. Resting in the arms not of self or men but the work, of Jesus Christ. This is where I want to be. Please don’t call me super religious because I try to live a life honorable to God. I know already how much I standout and make others uncomfortable with the direction of my life. It is not my intent to make people uncomfortable and please do not think I compare myself to anyone else because that as Paul said is foolish for me to do so. Know however that God has found me and started a relationship with me that I am unworthy and unfit to be part of. In that way I am spiritual and I wish to be more spiritual because Christ allows me passage to the King as His child. You too can have this spiritual nature if like the tax collector you humble yourself and ask for his mercy on your life.