January 30, 2015

Exorcism is an Epiphany Moment (Epiphany 4)

I speak to you about exorcism today knowing that there will be serious consequences in my life and in the life of my family. So I ask for your prayers for protection in advance. I was about three quarters of the way through another sermon for today when I realized I was missing the great Epiphany moment of the Gospel Reading. Jesus very clearly and very publicly does an exorcism. This in turn revealed who He was, His spiritual authority and His view of this world as being involved in an ongoing spiritual battle. This is a potential Epiphany moment for each of us. The question is - can we get our heads out of our rational, scientific and psychological worldview a moment - and open our eyes to see the very different unseen 'spiritual battle' worldview
of Jesus?

1. Jesus revealed His spiritual authority by doing an exorcism
This was an Epiphany moment for those around Jesus. They were used to clever intellectual teachings on the Torah. These were nice, neat and very safe teachings on how to live a good life under the spiritual authority of God. Suddenly, Jesus is interrupted by an evil spirit. How could this be? Well, like most people, I would have said it couldn't be. That was before I heard someone
I know well saying things she would not normally say in a very low pitch male voice. It seems evil spirits can speak, if they are given permission or commanded to speak, using the normal voice of the person they are inside. You have to experience this to believe it. In the Gospel story the evil spirit reveals something unique. It knows that Jesus is the "Holy one of God" (Mark 1.24). This would probably be new information to the people around Jesus. The spirit probably knows this because information is shared more effectively in the spiritual world than in the physical world. This is the first part of the Epiphany moment. Before this goes too far, Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave the man. This is the beginning of Jesus ministry. It could all end very suddenly if it became public knowledge that He was claiming to be the Messiah. Without actually claiming to be the Messiah
Jesus does however give the people a sign of His spiritual authority. When He commands the evil spirit to leave, the evil spirit obeys Him. The exorcism authenticates Jesus as more than a teacher. It opens the eyes of the people to the reality of a divine intervention in human life. Jesus has publicly engaged in spiritual warfare. This is a the spiritual battle between God and the fallen angels of Satan who are in rebellion against God.

2. Jesus opens our eyes to a new spiritual worldview
This is a view of the world that has been lost by most people in our time. Most people regard the healing miracles and exorcisms of Jesus as superstitious myths from a primitive, pre-scientific culture. In our time most people are so focused on the wonders of science and rational thinking that they dismiss the miraculous events that are all through the Bible. Many people believe the church has historically used these stories to frighten and control people. Our society as a whole is in rebellion against what could be called a Biblical worldview and the spiritual authority of God. The Biblical worldview of Jesus included a largely invisible spiritual battle between God and the angels God had put out of Heaven. These dark angels or evil spirits are the "principalities and powers" the Apostle Paul warns us against in Ephesians. They operate in this world where they seem to have the power
to oppress, deceive, enter into and sometimes even possess human beings. There seem to be some very legalistic rules about who they can afflict. Dr. Charles Kraft teaches that evil spirits can only be present in a person if they have "rights". These rights are generally sins the person has committed that have not been repented and forgiven. Other rights seem to be inheritable guilt from un-repented past sins and curses. The good news is it is still possible in our time to remove these rights by leading a person through a counseling process of self-examination, confession and absolution. This seems to weaken the spirit to the point where they have to leave when commanded by someone in spiritual authority. This is not something people should try at home. Most of us will not believe this is possible in our time, until we see it personally and have an Epiphany moment of seeing this new spiritual
worldview of the Bible.

3. Exorcism is an Epiphany moment for each of us
It is difficult to explain. Our minds are so conditioned to the scientific, rational worldview that this is hard to believe. But belief is very important as it moves our Faith beyond belief in a system of good human morality. We are taken to a deeper level where we see the reason why sin is so dangerous. For example many people think the church goes on and on about sexual sin. Worldly people think this is just about two people and the risk of emotional or medical harm. What this worldview misses out on
is the invisible spiritual ties that link people involved in 'one-flesh' relationships. These links are like a pipeline along which all the spiritual garbage of guilt and evil spirits can flow from one person to the other. These spirits can then oppress both people.
If it is a sinful relationship, outside of marriage, there is also an open doorway for new evil spirits to enter each person. When we see an exorcism, we see hard evidence of the reality of an invisible spiritual world that can affect individuals in the physical world. This wakes us up to the danger of un-repented sins and sinful lifestyles. It also wakes us up to our need for daily prayer for spiritual protection. The good news is that we can personally discover this as the spiritual gifts of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. This wisdom strengthens us and transforms us from cultural Christians into serious Christians capable of doing serious ministry in this world and freeing ourselves and others from the 'deep dungeon' of spiritual oppression.

Exorcism is an Epiphany moment for all of us.

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