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FASTING TO OVERCOME SATAN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, August 26, 2012

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28, 29).


The Bible says, “...in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1). That verse makes it clear that demonic activity will increase “in the latter times,” just before the end of the world as we know it. Satan will unleash his demons in a fierce attack against the churches. Every sign seems to indicate that we are now living in that time. Yet the churches in the Western world seldom think about the Devil and demons today. Dr. Merrill F. Unger of Dallas Theological Seminary said, “...the professing church of the twentieth century to an alarming extent refuses to recognize the existence of evil supernatural forces. This condition of unbelief can be attributed only to the low level of spiritual life and power in the church.” Then Dr. Unger said, “the unbelief of Christian people is all the more tragic as many believers suffer demonic deception and despoliation because of sheer ignorance of Satan and his devices. Even many spiritual believers are unable to wage a successful war against this army of wicked spirits, through lack of knowledge of what is involved.” He said that many ministers today are “blinded by the prince of the power of the air to the revelation given in the Scriptures concerning the Satanic powers” (Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Ph.D., Biblical Demonology, Kregel Publications, 1994 edition, p. 201).

Dr. Unger was no fanatic. He held a Th.D. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Concerning Dr. Unger’s book that I quoted, Dr. Wilbur M. Smith said, “It will remain for many years to come the standard treatment of Biblical demonology” (jacket statement). Dr. Smith was one of the most trusted Bible teachers of the 20th century, and his endorsement of Dr. Unger’s book shows its reliability.

Was Dr. Unger right? Do many ministers and churches today “suffer demonic deception...because of sheer ignorance of Satan and his devices”? Are they “unable to wage a successful war against this army of wicked spirits, through lack of knowledge of what is involved”? Of course he was right! Everyone knows that the churches lose 85% of their young people by the age of 25! Everyone knows that the churches are too powerless and weak to convert many young people out of the world today! To a large extent this is due to an ignorance of Satan and his devices.

Dr. Timothy Lin was my pastor for twenty-three years. Before I knew him he taught in the graduate department of Bob Jones University. Later he was a professor at Talbot Theological Seminary and at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Dr. Lin went on to be the president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan, following the presidency of Dr. James Hudson Taylor III. Dr. Lin said, “Many pastors, evangelists and even seminary professors are falling under Satan’s pressure so that they never pray after getting up in the morning! The situation will continue to worsen as time gets closer and closer to our Lord’s coming. Unaware of Satan’s control over them...the result is both sorrowful and pitiful” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, 1992 edition, p. 96).

Many churches today are weak and powerless, completely “unaware of Satan’s control over them,” as Dr. Lin said. Churches like that do not even know that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

That brings us to our text in Mark 9:28, 29. It is a very important text, which is also recorded in Matthew 17:19, 21. Please stand and read Mark 9:28 and 29 aloud,

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28, 29).

You may be seated.

Before I apply these verses, I need to make a few comments on the last two words in the text, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” The words “and fasting” have been removed from almost all the modern translations, except the NKJV and a couple of others. Buying into the thought behind removing “and fasting,” John MacArthur said, “The earliest manuscripts omit this word” (The MacArthur Study Bible; note on Mark 9:29).

What he doesn’t tell you is the fact that it is virtually certain that those two manuscripts are flawed. The one they depend on almost exclusively is the Sinaiticus manuscript, which Tischendorf found in a waste basket in St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It was a manuscript copied by monks in Alexandria who were heavily influenced by the Gnostic heresy, which downplayed both demonology and the importance of the human body. That is why the Sinaiticus manuscript leaves out the words “and fasting.” The use of this mutilated text did not begin to influence the churches until the publication of the Revised Version New Testament in 1881, which was the first translation to remove the words “and fasting.” Since then all the modern translations except those of J. N. Darby (1871), James Moffat (1913) and the New King James Version have removed the words. Only the IVP Commentary does not consider the evidence conclusive for leaving out those words.

There are five reasons why I insist that the words “and fasting” are really the words Christ spoke, and should be kept in all translations: (1) because it is clear that the Gnostic heresy influenced the copyists of those two early manuscripts, (2) because hundreds of other manuscripts from nearly the same time do have the words “and fasting,” (3) because pastors in China, like Dr. Lin, have always known that certain demons cannot be overcome without fasting. I heard Dr. Lin say that many times. Thus, many pastors in China, like Dr. Lin, who have done hands-on ministry with demon possessed people, know perfectly well that certain powerful demons cannot be overcome without fasting and prayer. Therefore practical experience reinforces the words “and fasting.” But (4) the churches of the Western world that removed “and fasting” have become increasingly weaker, partly as a result of giving up the practice of “prayer and fasting.” There has been no major revival in the Western world since the words “and fasting” were removed. As Dr. Merrill F. Unger put it, “This condition of unbelief can be attributed only to the low level of spiritual life and power in the church” (Unger, ibid.). I think that awareness of Satan is one of the reasons the churches in China are growing so rapidly, while Western churches are declining.

One more point: – (5) I am convinced that Satan himself preserved those two Gnostically mutilated texts until the late 19th century, and then brought them to the attention of modern scholars, to confuse and weaken the power of the churches in the last days. I believe that these modern scholars themselves were influenced by Satan. As Dr. Lin said, “Unaware of Satan’s control over them...the result is both sorrowful and pitiful” (Lin, ibid.).

That takes us back to the text itself,

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28, 29).

We can learn two things from this text.

I. First, demons have different degrees of power.

These verses come at the end of the account of the Disciples’ inability to help a demonized boy. The young man’s father brought his son to the Disciples. The boy was demon possessed, but the Disciples could not cast the demon out. They had been given power to “cast out devils” earlier (Matthew 10:8), so they had been casting out demons for some time before this incident in our text. But they were unable to cast this demon out of the young man. The father said to Jesus, “I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not” (Mark 9:18). Jesus rebuked the Disciples for their lack of faith. Then they brought the boy to Jesus, and the demon tore the boy and he fell on the ground foaming at the mouth. Jesus said, “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him” (Mark 9:25).

The demon screamed, threw the boy into a terrible convulsion, and then came out of him. The boy lay there, so still that the people thought he was dead. Jesus took him by the hand, lifted him up to his feet, and he was well. A little later, when Jesus had come into the house, the Disciples asked why they couldn’t cast the demon out. Jesus said,

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

“This kind” can be removed only by prayer and fasting. Dr. William Hendriksen said, “[Christ] is saying, therefore, that in the world of demons there are differences: some are more powerful and more malignant than others” (William Hendriksen, Th.D., New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark, Baker Book House, 1973, p. 352; comment on Mark 9:29).

When I was attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in the San Francisco area in the early 1970s, I started a church, with two of my friends, that reached many young people from the Hippie movement. It is now a Southern Baptist church. Many of those young people were deeply involved with psychedelic drugs and the occult. We had to spend at least one day a week fasting and praying or we could not have seen very many of those young people converted.

I remember one girl who came to our church in Mill Valley. Like so many others at that time, she had been using drugs and living a very loose life. She heard me preach the Gospel and was converted, and delivered from Satanic control. But when she became a Christian her mother kicked her out of the house, and she had to stay with some of the girls in the church. I thought it would be best for her to go home, so I went to visit her mother. I put on my suit and tie and went to the house, in a rather wealthy area of Marin County. I knocked on the door and the mother let me in. I could smell alcohol on her breath. I told the woman that I felt it would be better if she let her daughter come home. I will never forget the evil look on her face when I said that. She sneered at me and said, “I could handle it when she ran around with boys. I could handle it when she took drugs. But now she has become a CHRISTIAN” (she spewed out the word “Christian” as if it was the most horrible thing imaginable) – “But now she has become a CHRISTIAN, and I cannot and will not put up with that!” I was surprised because the woman was a white Anglo Saxon from a Protestant background. One would have thought she would be at least neutral about her daughter becoming a Christian. I left the house unable to convince her to reconcile with her daughter. The poor girl was never able to live at home again. Later I heard that the girl had married a Christian man and had gone as a missionary to the Czech Republic in Europe. I left the San Francisco area and didn’t see that girl again for over thirty years.

Two weeks ago my wife, my son Leslie and I went back to Marin County to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the church Mike Riley, Roger Hoffman and I started there. At the end of the anniversary service I came down from the platform and I saw that girl coming toward me with tears in her eyes. She hugged me and introduced me to her husband. They were there on furlough from the church he pastors in Prague, in the Czech Republic. We rejoiced together with tears of joy. Then I asked what happened to her mother. She told me that the woman had died of alcoholism at the age of fifty. How very sad! But that lovely girl had been delivered by Jesus from a horrible life of Satanic misery. It could only have happened through prayer and fasting!

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

II.. Second, fasting is used of God to free sinners from Satan’s power.

Please stand and turn with me to Isaiah 58:6. It is on page 763 of the Scofield Study Bible. Stand and read the verse aloud.

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

You may be seated.

One of the ways to tell if a doctrine is true is by the analogy of Scripture. If a subject appears in only one place in the Bible, it is dangerous to build a doctrine on it. But fasting to deliver people from Satanic power is found not only in Mark 9:29, but also in Matthew 17:21. I know that the textual critics also try to take Matthew 17:21 away by appealing to those two mutilated Gnostic texts. But no one can take from us the clear words of Isaiah 58:6. That is the verse which corresponds to Mark 9:29. That is the analogy of Scripture which proves Jesus was right when He said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

That is the fast which God has chosen! Such fasting can be used by God to loose the chains of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to set free those who are oppressed by Satan, and break every demonic yoke! The great evangelist John Wesley was used by God to convert thousands of people in the eighteenth century. John Wesley said,

“Have you appointed any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace, and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.”

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

John’s brother, Charles Wesley, said it well in one of his hymns,

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
   His blood availed for me.
(“O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

If you have had the chains of wickedness broken by Jesus in your life, stand and sing it with me!

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
   His blood availed for me.

Amen and amen! You may be seated.

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

Fasting and prayer can be used of God to break the power of cancelled sin, and set the prisoner free! Praise God! Hallelujah!

Therefore I am asking you to join me in fasting and prayer next Friday – as we pray for God to deliver many young people from the chains of Satan, among those we bring to church this Fall. I am asking you to fast, abstaining from food, with only water if possible, all day Friday – until we come to church. We will give you a light supper on Friday evening. If you have a medical problem, please ask your doctor before you join us in that day of fasting. Be sure to drink lots of water. If you are used to drinking coffee or tea, you should probably continue drinking these, since you may experience a headache if you stop them suddenly.

And be sure to spend time in prayer for the new people, by name if possible, as you fast on Friday. If you are very old or sick, or if you are working on Friday, perhaps you could fast by taking tomato juice as a partial fast. And please remember the words of Dr. Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty University,

      Most people should fast only for one day, especially if fasting is new to them. Only those who are mature in Jesus Christ and have had years of experience in fasting should abstain from food...for a lengthy period of time (Jerry Falwell, D.D., Fasting: What the Bible Teaches, Tyndale House Publishers, 1984 edition, p. 29).

If you are planning to spend next Friday fasting for the lost to come into our church and be saved, please come here in front of the pulpit now, and Mr. Winston Song will pray for God to help you fast and pray next Friday (prayer). You may be seated. “He breaks the power of cancelled sin.” Sing it.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
   His blood availed for me.

One more thing – if you are not yet a born again Christian listen carefully. The Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. And Christ shed His precious Blood to cleanse you from all sin. Christ rose physically, flesh and bone, from the dead on the third day. He ascended back to Heaven, and He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, where He is praying for you. Come to Christ by faith and you will be born again, and you will receive pardon for your sin and eternal life. May you come to Christ very soon! And be sure to come back here to church next Sunday. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Kyu Dong Lee: Mark 9:20-29.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Then Jesus Came” (by Homer Rodeheaver, 1880-1955).


THE OUTLINE OF

FASTING TO OVERCOME SATAN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28, 29).

(I Timothy 4:1; Revelation 3:17)

I.   First, demons have different degrees of power, Matthew 10:8;
Mark 9:18, 25.

II.  Second, fasting is used of God to free sinners from Satan’s power,
Isaiah 58:6.