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Demon possession and the 3 forces

Unsplash/Marek Piwnicki
Unsplash/Marek Piwnicki

Not long ago, a Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans believe in the devil. It’s interesting to notice that belief in Satan usually goes up whenever an evil act takes place in our country.

Sadly, there have been quite a few such acts in recent days. But it’s nothing new. The evil one has been wrecking human lives for a long, long time.

Two Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, give a graphic account of two men who had been completely taken over by the power of Satan. These men were tortured, lonely, suicidal, frightening to their neighbors and utterly miserable. In short, they were in an absolutely hopeless situation.

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Hopeless, that is, until Jesus came along.

Effectively we see three forces at work in these parallel accounts: Chaos, culture, and Christ. Those same forces are at work in our world at the dawn of this new year. As we enter 2024, our nation and our culture have some serious choices to make.

Here is how Matthew sets the scene:

“When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area. They began screaming at him, ‘Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God's appointed time?’” (Matthew 8:28-29, NLT).

Someone might ask, “Do you think people can still be demon-possessed today?” Absolutely, I do believe that. When we see gross acts of evil, terrorism, murder, cruelty, and sadistic behavior in our news reports, we can’t figure it out. It makes no sense to us. How and why could such things happen?

Actually, there is a very reasonable explanation for these acts of pure evil. Satan is at work, and individuals who perpetrate such things can even be possessed by demons.

Luke’s account zeroes in on one of the men in particular — evidently the more extreme of the two. Luke 8:27 puts it this way: “Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains this man was always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones” (Amplified Bible). This was a dangerous and frightening man.

I mentioned the three forces at work in this story: Chaos, culture, and Christ. Or to put it another way, Satan, society, and the Savior. We have already seen Satan’s part: He brought heartbreak, chaos and calamity into this man’s life. So, what did culture or society do for him? Not much. They chained him up. They couldn’t rehabilitate him and couldn’t change him.

Society does not have that power. Politics does not have that power. Religion doesn’t even have that power.

As I write these words, America is experiencing a wave of violent crime sweeping across our cities. Too often, law enforcement is understaffed, underpaid, and certainly underappreciated. Most of the police officers I know are wonderful people who work very hard and risk their lives every day. We should support them. The Bible says they have been placed among us by God. But they are limited in number — and doubly hampered by liberal, activist district attorneys and judges determined to set the guilty free.

Meanwhile, in our schools, we continue to teach “situational ethics.” In other words, there is no right and wrong or black and white — just 50 shades of gray.

America stands at a crossroads today.

Peter Marshall, the former chaplain to the U.S. Senate, wrote prophetically in 1947: “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos. Conviction or compromise. Discipline or disintegration.”

That is well said and very true. I believe America needs a spiritual awakening, and if we don’t have one — I fear our days as a nation are numbered. At the very least, we will continue in a steep national decline. And we may even face the full judgment of God. America needs to turn back to Him.

Going back to the demon-possessed man in the Gospels: What the shackles and chains could not do, Jesus did with one word. And that brings us to the third force in this story. Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do for these men? He walked the path others avoided and actually sought them out in their spooky little graveyard. And He offered them hope.  

God will always pursue people. The apostle Peter tells us that, “He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9, NLT). In Isaiah 65:2 (NIV) the Lord says, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations.”

He loves us. Jesus is always looking for lost people. He picks them out of a crowd and goes out of His way to reach them. These tormented men are a perfect illustration. What culture could not or would not do, Christ could. What religion could not do, Christ can. What treatment programs cannot provide, the Lord can.

You don’t need 12 steps. You just need one. Turn to Jesus Christ and watch Him transform your life.

When word got around that Jesus had delivered these guys, the people in the area flipped out. They saw the wild and savage man who couldn’t even be chained sitting at Jesus’ feet — clothed and in his right mind. He wasn’t naked anymore. He wasn’t cutting himself. He was calm and peaceful.

So, what was the reaction of his neighbors? They were afraid! They should have been rejoicing, but they were stunned and frightened by what they were seeing.

It’s the same way with people coming to the Lord today. Men and woman undergo such a radical transformation in Christ that you can hardly believe it when they tell you what they used to be and used to do before they were believers. And that’s okay. We should be known for what we are in Christ rather than what we were. Don’t be defined by your past but by your present.

The neighbors in this account, however, were frightened by the transformation. This demonstration of God’s power scared them, and they asked Jesus to leave the area.

And that’s what He did. You see, Jesus is a gentleman. He won’t go where He is not wanted. He won’t force His way into anyone’s life. In Revelation 3:20 (NLT), Jesus says: “I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

He is waiting for you to open the door to your life. But if you choose not to open that door, you don’t have to.

This true story teaches us that no one is beyond the reach of God. Not your prodigal child. Not your non-believing husband or wife. Not that crazy person that gives you trouble every day at work and is always antagonizing you. Not that person who has set himself or herself up as your enemy. No one is beyond the reach of God. So don’t give up. They may be in Satan’s control today, but they could be in Christ’s control tomorrow.

Keep praying for those people. Remember Jesus Christ is more powerful than Satan. The Bible tells us that the light — His light — shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5).

This is not a year to retreat or hunker down as darkness advances around us. It’s a time to take every opportunity we can find to let His light shine through our lives.

Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.

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