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A Punch in the Mouth

Joel Leffler is a security expert who trains school boards in active shooter situations. He was on a business trip this week when he received a hysterical phone call from his 16 year old son who was running out of Douglas High School in Broward County Florida. His son had heard shots coming from the building where his 14 year old sister was. It was all Leffler could do to restrain his son from going after her. She survived the attack.

Over the years he had talked to them about what to do in these situations. He hoped it helped. He adds, “But you know everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth and then the panic sets in.”

Another school shooting—we’ve all been punched in the mouth again and the panic has indeed set in. Consider this reality: There is a Satan. He does release unclean spirits into human hearts. A heart that is swept clean and empty is no match for the intruders Satan sends to fill the vacuum. Mick Jagger sang it a generation ago: “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and fame. I’ve been around for many a year and laid many a man’s soul to waste…just call me Lucifer.” The Florida gunman never went to church. He did not have a habit of prayer. He’d never been on a mission trip. He didn’t sing praise songs. He never had a confirmation mentor. He didn’t make a habit of Holy Communion. He didn’t play Upward basketball. He didn’t pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child. He lacked a purpose for his life and never bonded with his community. A clean, empty heart is no match for the power of evil. To withstand evil, a heart must be full of the truth and goodness of God.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Jesus’ ministry begins in face-to-face conflict with Satan in the Judean wilderness. Jesus emerges triumphant. No mere mortal could spend 40 days with Satan and say the same. The gospels portray Jesus’ numerous exorcisms. He faces down Satan, casts out evil spirits and successfully invades Satan’s kingdom. Jesus said, “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Mark 3:24) Jesus is the one who has bound the strong man. Christians say with confidence, “God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…” (Col 1:13)

Today, scholars downplay the notion of evil spirits. It’s argued that modern people won’t believe such stories. It’s better to rationalize away demons as mental illness or epilepsy. But evil is not so easily rationalized away. Mick Jagger knew that. South Florida knows that. It’s time to reconsider the Gospel confrontation with evil—the domain of darkness.

Research shows that teens need purpose. In a Wall Street Journal article titled “Why Teens Need a Sense of Purpose”, Clare Ansberry said:

Teens with a sense of purpose do better in school, are more resilient and healthier. They are also a minority. About 20% of teens are considered purposeful, which means they have identified something that really matters to them and are doing something about it.

Last week you heard from teenagers full of purpose, full of God. Only about 20% of teens are like this? That’s a lot of empty hearts. You can see where this goes.

I don’t preclude necessary discussions about security measures, access to guns or mental health services. Yet it would be foolish to assume Satan is dead—even more foolish to believe that we could kill him. The only one who can bind the strongman and deliver us from evil is Jesus Christ. An empty heart is vulnerable—a full heart is secure. The Filler here—he is Jesus.

Connect, Grow, Serve

Pastor Tom Anderson February 15, 2018

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