Mark 5:1-20 (excerpts below)
2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces.
9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
The narrative of Good vs. Evil permeates virtually every story we know and love. There is always a protagonist and an antagonist; a good guy and a bad guy; light vs. dark.
- Skywalker vs. Vader
- Avengers vs. Thanos
- Axis vs. Allies
- John McClane vs Hans Gruber
- Kevin McCallister vs. Wet Bandits
The reason this battle is so pervasive in our stories is because it is written in our very DNA. From our inception we have been designed for perfect love, but we’ve listened to and followed the lies and deception of the evil-one. What is so terribly embarrassing is that his schemes are not creative in the least. From the beginning he keeps whispering twisted lies that God isn’t who He says he is and we aren’t who he says we are. These same lies keep coming in different forms, enticing us to live for ourselves, be our own rulers, kings….gods…usually coming back over and over to sex, money and power. But when you think about it, why would he change his schemes since they are clearly working just fine.
As we look through the most vivid demon-story in Scripture we can see several tactics our enemy uses, followed up with the one true remedy and victory. Here are a couple of these tactics:
- Divide and Conquer. The man with an “unclean spirit” (“demonized”) was overtaken by the enemy and separated from community, from himself, from hope. This is a first-stage tactic: isolation, loneliness and hopelessness.
- DeHumanize. We are made men and women of value, precious in God’s sight. But this tomb-dwelling man was so hopeless he became less “himself” — he felt that his God-Image was so broken that he wailed and cut himself. In our sin we are literally becoming “less ourselves” by living contrary to our identity of love.
In reality, we see two different truths about our enemy:
- They are more powerful than we think. These demons teamed up and dominated this tomb-man. They played him like a puppet. For a moment, don’t get lost in the “possession” language. The truth is that these horrible and personal forces either have an evil controlling behavior, or they have (more often) an evil influential behavior. Every one of us hear and respond more than we know to these whispers, telling us to serve ourselves, turn our backs on truth and our Savior, use others to elevate ourselves.
- They are less powerful than we think. Re-read the incredible narrative of Jesus’ encounter with these beasts. There was no battle whatsoever. When the demons even saw Jesus, they fell face-down and pleaded for mercy. Jesus didn’t have to lift a finger…he merely spoke. He simply commanded the demons to go, and they went. Though we can easily be afraid of evil, the honest truth is that, though we ought to respect it, Jesus has full and utter control over them, and he has come to “give abundant life” (John 10:10). He has come to set us free from the power of sin and darkness. Even at Jesus end, when Peter wanted to free Jesus from arrest, Jesus said that he had twelve times the ability to be free…
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
But…he chose to go to the cross instead because, in so doing, he put death to death. He finally and fully crushed the head of The Serpent so that, though his tail whips back and forth causing damage, his defeat is sealed and Christ’s victory is fully won.
But for now we live in a world filled with trials and temptations, with our enemy whispering lies and death into our ears. To get a clearer vision of these lies, of Satan’s schemes, as well as the Truth we need to hold onto as we face the lies, Thomas Brooks wrote a book in 1652 called “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” where he lists out dozens and dozens of our enemy’s schemes, each followed with a handful of different Gospel Truths to combat and protect our hearts and lives from what the enemy is trying to do: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
You can read the entire book online for free HERE
Or read a short summary (for free) HERE
Here are a few of these scheme/remedy combinations:
Scheme: “Others sin worse than me”
Remedy: The Truth that we need to have our eyes humbly and repentantly on ourselves, not on others. We don’t know others’ hearts and are called personally to take God’s love, life and truth seriously. Life and morality are not a competition but a life of Jesus-given victory, life-long repentance and dependence.
Scheme: “God will forgive me”
Remedy: The Truth that sin decays and destroys. Yes, God will forgive you, but sin has consequences and causes damage to others and you.
Scheme: “You are worthless; focus on your failures”
Remedy: The Truth that you are made in God’s image. For all who are in Christ the Lord proclaims over us what he proclaimed over Jesus as His baptism: This is my son, whom I love, in him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17)
There are dozens and dozens of these lies/remedies. I would encourage you to give them a glance and ask the Spirit to guide you into a place of God’s joyful presence