Sunday, February 2, 2014

Growing Amazing Things

'And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.' [St. Mark 1:23-26]

Not everyone believes in unclean spirits anymore, but they do exist. Unclean spirits are demons, angels that had rebelled against God and now are fallen from both heaven and the Grace of God. Cast out of heaven their abode is in the air above us - the aerial realms of which St. Paul speaks in Ephesians 6, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (By heavenly places, he indicates the aerial realms of the earth, not Heaven itself where God and the good angels and saints dwell.) Or again in the second chapter of St. Paul's same epistle, "And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience."

Demons exist, and they work on mankind to lead us into temptation, to take away our free will, ultimately to destroy us by getting us to destroy ourselves. In some cases they enter a person's body and operate from within. But even when that has not happened the demonic powers have great power over the souls of mankind. This changes when we are baptized. When we receive Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation) we are made righteous and holy, and we are sealed with the Holy Spirit against the demons. From then on the only influence they can have over us is that which we give them through our free will.

Perhaps this man in the synagogue that was possessed was a random victim, or perhaps he opened himself up to the unclean spirit through some sin or wrongdoing, or even some voluntary partnership. We are not told. That is because the lesson is not about the life of this poor man. The lesson is about the Lord Jesus and His power over demons.

Our Lord quiets the unclean spirit and casts it out. Please understand: before the coming of Christ the entire world lay in the clutches of demons like this one and worse. The devil is comparable to the wicked Pharaoh that oppressed the Israelites in Egypt. This happened when Adam and Eve believed the serpent's words in Paradise, and broke God's commandment, and brought death upon themselves, and were cast out in sinful weakness. In so doing they gave themselves up to the power of demons, which is the power of death, because they disobeyed God through the prompting of their leader, the devil. It's just as St. Paul says in Romans 6, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?"

Christ came to free us from this terrible situation. St. Paul says in Hebrews 2, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage." The demon in the synagogue quakes in fear, because it recognizes the Strong Man who has come to bind it. What the Lord Jesus does to this one demon in the synagogue demonstrates the victory He has come to achieve and share with us, namely release from bondage to the unclean spirits that secretively subvert our obedience to God, and the firm establishment of the kingdom of heaven in our midst. In freeing this man from possession by the unclean spirit, the Lord Jesus has revealed His own mission to free all of us from the clutches of sin, death, and the devil so we might return to God. This He does ultimately in His voluntary death for us on the cross, so that by His resurrection He might enable us to become temples of the Holy Spirit, slaves of righteousness leading to eternal life, and adopted children that eagerly desire to be like their heavenly Father.

Today's evolved and modern people shake their heads when they hear such things. But this is the truth, whether modern man will believe it or not. When modern man dies, he will see for himself but it will be too late, and then he will wail and wish he had believed otherwise. The kingdom of God exists and is present. Sin is real, as are demons AND angels. Christ is risen from the dead, and He IS coming again to judge everyone by their works. Today is the time we have been given to cast out the likeness of demons from ourselves - anger, despair, lust, pride, and the rest - and to become like our heavenly Father - putting on meekness, forgiveness, forbearance, kindness, and love. None of this is possible unless first we become grafted into Christ. But for those of us so grafted through Baptism, what excuse will we give if we take lightly the free gift given to us, if we adopt the unbelief of the modern world? Modern man is in a grave situation, for he does not believe or take these things seriously. He is worse off than the unclean spirits, for at least they believe and tremble! Modern man scoffs and laughs. But men and women can still change, while demons will not. This gives us hope, as does the mercy of God in Christ. Modern men and women can still be saved. Only unrelenting love can sober such a foolish heart, because modern man must have something to see that endures all things - especially that can endure himself! Unrelenting love can do this, and in this love modern man can come to see God, see himself, and see through tears the way home. So not only are we Christians called to walk in obedience to God for our own sakes, but also for the sake of those that do not yet believe. And if we will plant the seeds of Christ through love, God will amaze us with what He grows from it.

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