Sermon 2/1/2015 Epiphany 4

Face down evil with God’s Word
1.  Satan is real and active
2.  Jesus’ word has power to defeat Satan
3.  Jesus’ works undo Satan’s attacks 

Mark 1:21-28 Then they went into Capernaum, and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. 22 They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority.  23 Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, 24 “What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”25 But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him.  27 Then they were all amazed, so they began to argue with one another, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 News about Him then spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee.​

“They sat in a circle, holding hands.  The room was dark, except for the dim light cast by a flickering candle in the center of the ring.  An aroma of incense floated through the air as Madame Zerkee chanted, ‘The one the candle flame points to will be the one through whom the spirit will speak.’  Suddenly a young mother of two screamed and fell off the chair.  As she lay unconscious on the floor, a voice not her own began speaking to the group.
“Meanwhile in another city, the chauffeur driving three members of a top money-making rock group asked what its name stood for.  ‘It means we’re in Satanic service,’ replied one of the young masked millionaires, as their car sped toward a concert date and a waiting audience of thousands of impressionable teenagers.” (The Lutheran Witness, July 1980)
Demons.  Are they real or are they relics of superstition to be tossed into the junk heap with all those things debunked by science?  Rudolph Bultman, a church leader some years ago, said what many American Christians believe, “It is impossible to use electric lights and wireless (communications) and avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.”  (Quote from Clarence Eisberg)
Can you really dismiss the spiritual world just because you own an iphone?  Not only should we recognize the reality of spiritual enemies, we should also see them as our greatest problem.  We are quick to think of the hassle of financial problems, or of people who don’t like us, or even of our poor health, as our great enemies.  The Apostle Paul tells us that battle is really taking place on a totally different level.  “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)
The Apostle is not trying to minimize our other problems, but he is saying that Satan seeks to use our misfortunes, and our good fortunes, to work against our spiritual well-being.  We are involved in an epic struggle between good and bad.  That struggle was vividly on display in the synagogue in Capernaum.  
Then they went into Capernaum, and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. 22 They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority.  Jesus went on the offensive in that synagogue because the people had been under the influence of false teachers for so long.  Legalistic scribes taught the people to rely on more and more technicalities of the law as the way to salvation.  The people lived in fear of not having done enough to be right with God.  
Make no mistake about it, Satan was behind that false teaching.  In fact, Satan is behind every false teaching.  The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) False teachings are the teachings of demons and Jesus had come in to the synagogue to attack falsehood with the truth.  
Mark tells us Jesus taught with authority.  There was power in his teachings.  Many people make the mistake of thinking that the power was in the way Jesus taught.  But the power is in what he taught.  Jesus’ teaching was different from that of the scribes and every false teacher.  All false religions set up rules and regulations that you need to do to be saved.  They focus on what you should do rather than on what God does.  Mark doesn’t record what Jesus said on this day in the synagogue in Capernaum, but we know the powerful message Jesus taught.  He said things like, “I am the light of the world.  Before Abraham was born, I am.  I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.”  He said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near” because it was near in the person of Jesus Christ.  
His message had power because it was the message of the gospel which is the power of God for salvation.  His message had authority also because it was God’s Word.  God told Moses that he would raise up a prophet like him.  Then he said, “I will put My words in his mouth.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)  Jesus’ word has authority because it is God’s word.  God’s Word is the only authority and power for life.  
Is Jesus’ teaching the authority in your life?  Maybe, like Eve, those pleasures that are pleasing to the eye lure you away from God.  Maybe, like King David, lust has lured you away from the Lord and become your authority that controls your thoughts and actions.  Whatever has become the authority in your life, if it’s not Jesus’ teaching, you are under Satanic power.
Jesus had come to attack Satan’s power.  In the synagogue in Capernaum, he came in swinging with his powerful truth.  Satan fought back.   Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, 24 “What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”At first glance, we might say it’s good that someone is confessing who Jesus really is.  But having a demon confess him would be like Kim Jong-un endorsing Scott Walker for president.  That’s not a guy you want on your side.  
And let’s take a closer look at what he said.  Notice that he didn’t call Jesus the Savior of the world.  He called him the holy one of God who comes to destroy evil.  Jesus was someone to be afraid of, someone who will destroy you, too, if you don’t measure up to his holiness.  While it is true that Jesus is holy, he didn’t come to destroy us in his holiness but to save us in his love.  
He came to fight Satan for us and to take that battle all the way to the cross.  In skirmishes in synagogues and sweat filled battles at Gethsemane, Jesus was war with Satan until he crushed Satan’s head with his victory on the cross.  He didn’t come to impress us with his holiness, but to save us with his love.  
And so Jesus had to fight back.  But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him.  People had come to the synagogue for what they thought would be a nice, quiet Sabbath service.  They found themselves with a front row seat of a powerful showdown, a cosmic battle between good and evil.  
It was a battle, however, that was over almost before it started.  With the power of his Word, Jesus cast the demon out of the man.  He didn’t negotiate with Satan.  He didn’t compromise.  You don’t negotiate with evil; you destroy it.  
Jesus spoke and the demon had to release the man.  Satan had to submit to the power of God contained in the words of Jesus.   The power of Jesus’ word is still driving Satan out of hearts and lives.  The gospel is the power of God that converts souls and makes free those who were trapped in the clutches of Satan.   The power of the Word is symbolized in our churches with a pulpit.  Do you know why pulpits have been made so large and, in some churches, so high?  It’s a symbolic message of the authority of God=s Word.  Pastors proclaim God=s Word from the pulpit not just out of tradition or because it=s an ego trip but because it’s a visible reminder that this is not man=s word, but God=s Word, a word that has the power to change hearts.
That is the only power that can build our church.  We will soon have a remodeled sanctuary and new child care center.  What will we do with them?  G. Campbell Morgan wrote, AThe Church of God apart from the Person of Christ is a useless structure.  However ornate it may be in its organization, however perfect in all its arrangements, however rich and increased with goods, if the Church is not revealing [Christ], lifting Him to the height where all men can see Him, then the Church becomes an impertinence and a sham, a blasphemy and a fraud, and the sooner the world is rid of it, the better.@ (Christianity Today Vol. 40, no. 6)
 Our power to grow, to build, to be better Christians and a stronger church is found in the power of the Word.  We can=t rely on church buildings or kids singing or programs to build the church.  These are all great things, but the real building of the church happens when the gospel is proclaimed.  We need to do that and that takes simple hard work.  It’s time for us to change our whole thinking as a church.  It’s time for us to focus on those outside of our church.  It’s time for all of us to see ourselves as missionaries, lifting up Christ to the community.
  We are in a spiritual battle.  Our greatest problem is not the church budget, heating costs or the price of health insurance.  Our greatest problem is the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  But we have the power of God in his Word.  We have the victory of Christ who has already defeated Satan on the cross.  Let’s use that power in our lives and in our community.  Let’s face down evil with God’s Word.