In the presence of the Son of Man, the demons flee.
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Between Good and Evil
by Scott Austin
In 313 AD, Constantine officially adopted Christianity as the state religion of Rome. Constantine, a brilliant administrator, realized that embedded in the fabric of Christianity where certain aspects that if lived out by an empire would make it’s people much easier to govern. Among these elements love, patience, peace, and kindness.
There’s a great deal of debate as to whether Constantine ever truly believed in Christ as his Savior, but there’s widespread agreement that adopting Christianity as a state religion was the most practical thing for a leader given the cultural climate and overall state of the Roman Empire.
This might be a bit rambling given our text today, where Jesus chases off a pack of demons, but it’s the contrast we need to focus in on. For Constantine, and many others, Christianity is practical, but for Jesus it is spiritual. Not only was it spiritual it was spiritual warfare. Jesus could see the temporal and spiritual worlds, and he moved in both. Don’t allow anyone to boil Christianity down to practical sayings about how to have a good life… it’s warfare, between good and evil, death and life.
We see this in Mark 1:21-28. Jesus is in the synagogue with scholars who had turned the law into something practical. Jesus’ knowledge is astonishing to them. Then a man with an unclean spirit comes face to face with the Son of Man. He asks if the Holy One of God was going to destroy the unclean spirit. What was practical had suddenly become spiritual. With authority, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit and the spirit leaves.
When we make our faith practical, we depart from the mission calling of the church, in the same way the early church struggled after Constantine co-opted Christianity. Look for the power in your faith and realize there is something much deeper happening in the hearts of man, something deeply spiritual. Instead of rules, the Son of Man has brought freedom and life.
What is your idea of spiritual warfare? How have you heard it explained before?
What can you learn about spiritual warfare from this example in Scripture?
How often does faith become a practical thing rather than a spiritual reality for you? What does this do to your spiritual disciplines of prayer, of community and of worship?
Is there something spiritually plaguing you? Share this and ask for prayer in your Missional Community, as is appropriate. This might require a gender-specific group.
Read Psalm 111
In your journal, write a prayer of confession of the times you have turned your faith into something practical instead of something spiritual.
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Is there someone you know who is struggling a spiritual battle? Find time this week to pray with them.
What would our church look like if we fought for each other in these spiritual struggles? Take some time to write a plan for how to ask about and pray for the spiritual struggles in our church.
Holy and awesome God, your Son’s authority is found in integrity and living truth. Open our imaginations to new dimensions of your love and heal us of all that severs us from you and one another, that we may grow into the vision you unfold before us. Amen.