We are at war. No one likes the reality of it, but that doesn't make it go away. All throughout history and all throughout Scripture, there is a war going on between good and evil, between God and Satan. It is this conflict that is drives the plotline of so many ancient myths and modern day stories. It is this conflict that drives the plotline of our lives also. But the Scriptures are replete in injunctions not to be afraid, even of this war. The way we fight is to know the work of our enemy so that we can stand against him.
The story of the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 can really help us here, clearly showing both the work of the enemy and the work of Jesus to undo Satan's work. The description of the man before Jesus encountered him is pathetic: driven from his family and community, incessantly crying among the tombs, and mutilating himself with stones. It is a graphic picture of the work of Satan. His tactics are to tempt, deceive, and accuse us, but his goal is to cripple, maim, and destroy the image of God in us. The story in Mark shows only the most advanced state of such a goal, total possession.
Yes, there is a malevolent power seeking to destroy us. It may sound overly dramatic, but I know it’s true from hearing countless stories of abuse, abandonment, sin, and shame. It’s also my own story. In early adolescence, during a time of feeling unwanted and disconnected, I remember looking in the mirror in my father's bathroom and hating what I saw. As I left the bathroom, I remember thinking, "The only way I will ever be happy is to try to be someone else." Satan took that lie and tormented me with it for years, seeking to destroy my unique gifts and calling. For how can anyone live out his God-ordained destiny when he is always trying to live in someone else’s?
But there is more to this story in Mark. Jesus comes with a demonstration of such power that the demonic spirits are forced to leave the man. He allows them to enter a herd of nearby pigs to reveal their destructive intent to the surrounding community. What about the man? He is freed and restored to his right mind. Satan came to destroy, but Jesus came to destroy his work (I John 3:8). As we put words to those lies of Satan and resist him, Jesus will do that same work in us, freeing and restoring us.
He has done just such a work in stunning ways, both in my life and in the lives of others with whom I have closely walked. To be free to own my gifts and use them for the Kingdom is just a sweet and beautiful release. He can and will do the same thing for anyone who follows Him.
For His truth will set us free and win the war.
Only His truth.