Through the Bible in One Year

Day 49

Mark 3:7-30

Up until today our primary focus has been on why the crowds all flocked to see Jesus, but in today’s passage we see Jesus sending his disciples out with specific instructions and then we see what Jesus’ family and the religious leaders of his day really thought about him at this time.  Today’s focus passage starts in Mark 3:13 and runs through Mark 3:19, which says:

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons. He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, he gave the name Peter; and to James the son of Zebedee, and to his brother John, he gave the name “Boanerges” (that is, “Sons of Thunder”); Andrew; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

The first thing that we need to notice here is that Jesus “named” them apostles.  The word apostles means “messenger” or “sent one”.  The apostles were sent out as Jesus’ agents or representatives.  The next thing we should notice is the phrase “to be with him”.

The primary call of a disciple, which is disciplined learner and devoted follower of Christ, is to “be with” Jesus—to develop a close personal relationship with him.  Serving God’s purposes involves instruction and practice of various ministries, but these things must flow out of time spent with Jesus.  Anyone who desires to serve Christ must first practice his presence.  And it is out of this deep relationship with Christ comes the power and sensitivity to effectively serve and minister for him.  After having been with him, Jesus sent his disciples out to preach his message.  And that message is to be proven with power, which means it is accompanied by signs of healings and authority over demons.  Such power comes from being with Jesus and knowing him.  Our activity for God must come after our intimacy, or spiritual closeness, with God.

The last thing we should notice in this first section of today’s passage is the phrase “to have authority to drive out demons.”  Driving out demons means commanding evil spirits to come out of people whose bodies they have inhabited and to release their control over these individuals’ lives.  In coming to earth, Jesus’ purpose was to destroy the works of the devil and release those oppressed and enslaved by Satan and sin, more about that later.  Jesus gave his followers his power and authority to continue his battle against the forces of darkness.  This truth is verified by the following observations:

  1. After Jesus appointed the twelve disciples, he gave them “authority to drive out demons”.  After he appointed the seventy-two, he gave them “authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy.”
  2. The disciples were not only to go out and preach, but also to display the power and authority of God’s kingdom by doing battle against Satan, driving out demons and healing every kind of disease and sickness.
  3. Mark teaches that after his resurrection, Jesus reminded his disciples again to preach his message and exercise their God-given authority over Satan and his demons.

Today’s focus passage ends in this way:

Jesus entered a house, and the crowd gathered again so that they were not even able to eat. When his family heard this, they set out to restrain him, because they said, “He’s out of his mind.”

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons.”

So he summoned them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”—Mark 3:20-30

We immediately notice two things as we come to the conclusion of today’s passage.  The first thing is that Jesus’ family thought he was crazy and the second thing is that the religious leaders thought Jesus was possessed by demons.  And as we all know both of those believes are dead wrong.  Jesus was neither crazy nor was he demon possessed.  And that leads us to our actual focus for today, which is power and authority over Satan and demons.

Jesus came to earth to destroy the work of Satan, to establish God’s kingdom and to free us from Satan’s power.  One of the main themes in Mark’s Gospel is Jesus’ constant aim to defeat Satan and his demonic powers.  In Mark 3:27, Jesus puts into the action the principle behind this spiritual conflict with Satan and his powers in his use of phrases like “tying up the strong man” (Satan) and “robbing his house” (setting free those who are slaves to Satan or “possessed” by demonic powers and reclaiming their lives for God’s kingdom).  Jesus overcomes the enemy by driving out the demons or evil spirits.  “Driving out” or “casting out” means that Jesus is exercising his authority to force demonic powers to give up control of people whose lives and bodies have been in Satan’s control.

Satan and Demons

Satan, meaning “accuser or “adversary” in Hebrew, was once a great angel created perfect and good.  He was appointed to serve directly around God’s throne in heaven.  Yet before the world began, he became filled with pride and rebelled against God.  As a result, he became God’s primary enemy and an enemy to all humanity as well.  We must, however, keep in mind that Satan is not equal with God; he is a created being and his power must yield to the superior power of God.  God is omnipresent (everywhere at the same time), omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing).  But Satan has none of these characteristics; therefore, most of his activity is assigned to demons.  In his rebellion against God, Satan misled a multitude of lesser angels who, after their “fall” from heaven, could likely be identified as demons or evil spirits.  Satan and many of these lesser angels were exiled to the earth and the atmosphere around it.  This where they do their evil work, as God allows.  Because of this constant presence of evil and its influence, all of humankind must choose whether to follow God or to follow evil.

Demons

As a result of humanity’s sin and rebellion against God, the New Testament describes the world as estranged from God and seized by Satan, who now exercises a great deal of authority on the earth.

Demons are spirit beings that have personality and intelligence.  As members of Satan’s kingdom, they are part of a highly organized empire of evil that has authority over “the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  As agents for carrying out Satan’s purposes, demons are enemies of God and humans.  Demon spirits are totally evil, filled with hate and under Satan’s authority.  In order to overcome the schemes and temptations of Satan and his demonic forces, we as Christians must wage continual spiritual warfare against them.

The many accounts in the Bible make it clear that it is common for demons to dwell in the bodies of some people who do not have a personal relationship with God.  The evil spirits make slaves of the individuals they “possess.”  They use the possessed individuals’ voices to speak and can influence them toward evil, immorality and destruction.

Demons can cause physical diseases and illnesses in the human body.  This does not mean, however, that all sicknesses and disease are the result of evil spirits.  Demons are the real power behind the “gods” and “idols” of false religions.  This means that worshipping false gods is basically the same as worshipping demons.

Those involved in spiritism, the attempt to communicate with the dean, and sorcery, the supposed use of magic, are dealing with evil spirits.  Such activity can easily lead to a person coming under demonic control.

Evil spirits will be especially active in the end times, leading people to take part in the occult (witchcraft and satanism), sexual immorality, violence, cruelty and mass deception.  They will attack and attempt to discredit God’s word, steering people away from correct teaching and truth.  The fullest display of demonic activity will be through the antichrist and his followers.

Jesus and Demons

The New Testament (NT) frequently describes individuals who are suffering from Satan’s oppression and influence due to evil spirits that take up residence in their bodies and gain control of their lives.  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows his power and authority to free people from this spiritual slavery.  The Gospel of Mark, for example, describes many times in which Jesus comes in contact with and stands against demons with the power of God.

In his miracles, Jesus often attacks the power of Satan and demonic forces.  Jesus states clearly that one of his purposes in coming to earth was to destroy the works of Satan and to set free those the devil hold as slaves.

One way Jesus binds and destroys Satan’s power is by driving out demons, which is by his authority forcing them to leave the person’s body and give up control of the individual’s life.  But the total defeat of Satan and evil came through Jesus’ death and resurrection, by which he paid the penalty for our sin.  This victory shattered the power of Satan’s kingdom and restored the power of God’s kingdom in people’s lives.  Jesus’ work and personal sacrifice made Satan’s defeat certain and gained God’s victory over him.  And hell, the place of eternal punishment, torment and separation from God, has been prepared by God for the devil and his demons.

Believers and Demons

God’s Word teaches that because God’s Holy Spirit lives within each true follower of Christ, a Christian CANNOT BE DEMON-POSSESSED.  God’s spirit and demons can never live in the same body.  Demons may, however, influence the thoughts, emotions and actions of Christians who fail to follow and respond to the leading of the Spirit.

Jesus promised his followers that they would have authority over the power of Satan and demons.  As we confront them, we must rely on Jesus and use his authority to break the power that demonic forces want to force upon us and others.  This mean we must wage intense spiritual warfare through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The power of God is the only source that frees us from the power and influence of the devil’s darkness and brings us into God’s spiritual light with victory.

According to the parable in Mark 3:27, spiritual conflict against Satan and his demonic forces involves three stages of spiritual battle:

  1. Declare war against Satan according to God’s purpose.
  2. Enter Satan’s territory, any area of life where he has a “stronghold” or has strongly forced his evil control, then attack and overpower him through prayer and God’s Word.  By doing this, God will destroy the devil’s weapons of deception and temptation.
  3. Take what the devil possesses.  This means helping to liberate those who have been enslaved by Satan’s power and helping to restore them to God so that they may receive forgiveness and new life through faith in Christ.

As we boldly embrace the authority and power of God, we should take the following steps in our spiritual battle:

  1. Recognize that we are not in a conflict against flesh and blood, meaning humans persons, powers, and purposes.  Rather, we are fighting against spiritual forces and powers of evil.
  2. Remain deeply committed to God’s truth and to living by the standards of his Word.
  3. Have faith that Satan’s power can be broken in any specific area where he might have control.  We must also realize that God has given Christ’s followers powerful spiritual weapons for the destruction of Satan’s strongholds.
  4. Boldly proclaim the message of Chris and his kingdom, which is his highest power, authority, purposes and way of life, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Challenge Satan and his power directly by relying completely on Jesus and taking authority in his name, using God’s Word, praying in the spirit, fasting and driving our demons.
  6. Pray particularly that the Holy Spirit would work in the consciences of people who are spiritually lost, those who have not accepted forgiveness from Christ and do not have a personal relationship with God.  Only the Holy Spirit can truly convince them of their sin, the truth of God’s Word and the fact that they will be judged by God’s standards.
  7. Desire, pray for and expect the Holy Spirit to be active in your life, your ministry and your church through his spiritual gifts, which are special abilities and empowerment he gives for the purpose of building Christ’s church and encouraging those who are a part of it.  Among those gifts are healing, prophecy tongues, miracles, signs and wonders

It cannot be emphasized enough that we must be in a right relationship with God and fully equipped to do spiritual battle by spending time in prayer and God’s Word.  We must have a deep understanding of God and his Word, and we must be actively growing in all spiritual areas of our Christian life.  Doing this is important because we are no match for Satan’s powers on our own.  As Christ’s followers we must pray constantly and remain spiritually alert, relying on God’s strength and resources to recognize and conquer Satan’s evil schemes and to maintain a strong faith.  We must also rely on God so that when we do come face to face with demonic powers, we will be able to fearlessly exercise Jesus’ authority over them.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Leviticus 7:28-9:6, Mark 3:31-4:25, Psalm 37:12-29 and Proverbs 10:5

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