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Friday, December 18, 2009

Of Pigs & Demons

All too often it seems that today's Christians drift toward one of two views about demons. Some don't take them seriously. They act as if Satan doesn't exist - as if his demons are tantamount to the tooth fairy or Easter bunny. Others are so frightened of the notion of demons that they turn away in fear. They figure if they ignore the horror and don't acknowledge it, they can pretend it isn't there. While these seem to typify the condition of modern-day Christians ... they are both ignorant and misguided positions.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. - Mark 5:11-13

What kind of food to pigs eat? Garbage! So it had to have been the town dump that they were in. Let's get a complete picture of the setting. (Two thousand pigs wouldn't have congregated anywhere else.) The demoniac man, Legion, lived in the cemetery next to the town dump. But then, society usually casts its most unwanted people into the stinky places.

But Jesus goes where decent and moral people typically don't. He goes where the deranged live among tombs and an army of pigs roots around in the town dump. Of course Jesus also goes to the homes of the rich (like Zaccheus), but He most often comes to the desolate, the cast-offs, to the broken people living in awful places.

The demons know they have to leave the man. The only two alternatives are destruction ("Have you come to destroy us?") or permission to enter the pigs. Unstated in this text is the fact that the demons themselves do not ask for deliverance from their condition. They are fallen angels, so their fate is not reversible. That in itself comprises a solemn warning for all human beings --- the choice we make in this life about Christ has eternal, irreversible ramifications.

Jesus grants the demons' request by letting them enter the herd of pigs. The disciples must have stood in awe of the sight of 2,000 pigs going crazy, running into the lake and drowning themselves. But the incident shows the tremendous power of demons. Just a moment before they all resided in a man. And now they disperse into a herd of pigs. What does that tell us?

One thing it tells us is that evil destroys. The devil destroys. His demons destroy. They disintegrate the personality of the man they possess. They stampeded the swine to their death. The devil and his legions cause personality disorder and all manner of destruction and devastation. So do we have to be fearful?

If you study carefully the ministry of Jesus, you will notice that He never permitted a demon to leave one person and enter another. Demons were always cast out. (The only time they were ever allowed to enter another piece of flesh was in this example with the pigs.) You see, Jesus makes things whole, complete.

The good news of this story is that no demon or bondage can successfully resist the ministry of Jesus Christ. No evil can stand against His healing power. And Jesus has given you and I His authority over these pesky demons. But we must be so full of the Spirit that evil has to go when we tell it to.

Did you know that? Are you living that truth? How much power do you exercise over the evil in your world?

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