An Ancient & Rediscovered Evangelism

…the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demonized man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:35-39

No one could help this man. Scripture says that “for a long time” he hadn’t worn proper clothes or even lived in a house. The locals had tried to contain this man full of demons with shackles and chains but his demonization gave him supernatural strength. Nothing seemed to help.

No one needed to convince this man that the spirit realm was real. No one needed to convince him that there were supernatural things that happened in the natural world. He was living this reality; he was being tormented by these demons daily.

When Jesus shows up, the response by the demons living inside this man is telling. They cause the man to shout at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28)

A couple things to notice here. First, the very thing that they were doing to this man, torturing him, is what they were afraid that Jesus would do to them. In other words, just as the man had no power over the demons, the demons had no power over Jesus.

Secondly, they call Jesus the Son of the Most High God. There were other “gods”––we might call them demonically-backed idols (read 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:19-21 & Revelation 9:20)––but the demons knew that there was only one Most High God.

What I find so fascinating about this encounter with Jesus is that this demonized man gets totally delivered and completely restored to his right mind, and the result is that he essentially becomes an evangelist to his hometown.

I believe this connection between deliverance ministry and evangelism will only grow in the coming years in the American church. I’m already seeing it happen. People are dabbling in the spirit realm and then finding themselves bound by darkness and harassed by demons. They don’t need convincing that the spirit realm and the supernatural are real. They are fully convinced that the spirit realm is real because they experience the dark side of it daily.

They have nightmares and night terrors regularly. They are racked by fear and can feel evil presences around them. They feel like they are being haunted or attacked by spirits, but they don’t know what to do about it. They visit mediums and fortune-tellers but they don’t seem to help. These so-called “spirit guides” actually make the problem worse. Even more darkness is hanging around after a visit with them.

What a spiritually harassed person needs is someone with answers as to how to get free. What they need is someone with the kind of authority and power that can break the demonic chains in their life. What they need is the Name that is above every other name, the Son of the Most High God, Jesus. They need followers of Jesus who carry His name, His delegated authority, and the power of the Holy Spirit to come alongside them and show them how to get free from all the darkness.

And when they get free, they will go and tell their story to their friends and family! When they get free, they will go and declare that only Jesus was able to rescue them from the hauntings, from the darkness, from the nightmares and spiritual oppression. When they get free, they will become the next generation of evangelists to a culture that already believes in the supernatural but has only experienced the kingdom of darkness. When they get free, they will become ambassadors of the freedom, power, and love that can only come from the Kingdom of Light and the name of Jesus!

…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:11-14

COVID-19 and The Gospel

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-20

The gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit were always meant to spread like a virus, not unlike COVID-19. One person can “infect” a whole group of people. Yet, what are the preventative measures that stop the spread? Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and inoculation.

Masks = when people hide their face, when they are afraid to be transparent about their life

Hand sanitizer = when people refuse to get their hands dirty, when they want their Christianity tidy and neat and don’t want the mess that comes with the Holy Spirit and a servant-life of following Jesus

Social distancing = lack of connection, lack of community, relational distance

Inoculation = vaccines work by exposing the immune system to part of the virus without being exposed to the whole thing. People get inoculated from the gospel and the Holy Spirit when they get a partial exposure but don’t experience the whole thing. This leads them to believe they have experienced the whole thing, and they are not impressed when it is offered again. They’ve built up a hardness of heart, an immunity.

By far the strongest preventive measure against a virus is a vaccine. Likewise, the strongest preventive measure the enemy can enact against the gospel and the filling of the Holy Spirit is partial exposure without full exposure.

I see this with the gospel when people say, “Oh yeah, I grew up in church.” What they often mean is, “I already know all about Jesus and the church and I don’t want any part of it.” But of course, that isn’t true. They were exposed only partially to the Kingdom and all that comes with following Jesus. If they knew the whole thing, they’d want all of it.

I also see this with the filling of the Spirit, mostly from those who have some experience (usually bad experience) with the charismatic tradition. People saw a charismatic televangelist or went to a charismatic. church for a time in their life and had horrible experiences with that. They now believe they are an expert on the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. They reject so much of the Spirit’s work in the world because “they already know.” But if they really knew the fullness of the Spirit, they would be running around telling everyone about it. They’ve become inoculated with just enough exposure to leave a bad taste in their mouth but not enough exposure to see what all the fuss is about.

This is why it is vital for churches and Christians to be “all in.” When we give people a partial exposure to the gospel or a partial exposure to the gifts of the Spirit, we run the risk of eventual inoculation. We must be all in ourselves, sold out for Christ, and invite people to an uncompromised experience of the Kingdom and the Spirit.

The Reason For The Hope

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 

1 Peter 3:15-16

We are called to be ready to give the reason for the hope that we have. If someone asks about our good life, our good attitude, our good marriage or our good parenting, we are to use this as an opportunity to point people to the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. And, using all the emotional intelligence we can muster, we are to do this with gentleness and respect.

The question for us is why would anyone ask? Are our lives marked with blessing, kindness, generosity, love and hope such that people would be curious about it?

Here are some practical ways to display the love of Christ:

  • pay for the groceries of the person in front of you in the “20 items or less” checkout line
  • leave a tip that is 50% or 100% of your bill
  • help someone pick up their stuff after they’ve dropped it and made an embarrassing scene in a store
  • encourage a parent who is struggling with the behavior of their child in public
  • be the person who is immune to the cries of the baby on the flight and offer to help
  • let someone else go first
  • let someone use your umbrella in the rain
  • tell someone that they are good at their job (especially in service industries)

If they ask why you are doing these things, be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have. Tell them that you’ve been changed by the love of Jesus and want others to know that they are loved by God. Keep it simple. Keep it personal. Don’t preach. Don’t sell the gospel. Simply live it and then speak it. Let God do the rest.