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Tonight I am going to preach a sermon on demons and Satan, on what Dr. J. I. Packer called “the broken down condition of the present day church,” and on the reason there has been no major national revival in America since 1859. I am relying on the outline of a sermon by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – a sermon he gave on this text at Westminster Chapel in London in 1959. I am not giving his sermon word-for-word, and I am adding several ideas, but the basic theme and outline are from “the Doctor.”
“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 want you to think about those two verses. I am going to apply those verses to the crying need for God-sent revival in the “broken down” churches in America and the Western world.
I know that the very word “revival” turns people off today. They don’t want to hear about it. But the reason they feel this way is Satanic! This is a subject the Devil does not want people to think about. So I pray that you will listen carefully as I speak on this critical need in our church, and in all churches.
This is a subject that should intensely interest every one of us. Unless we feel great concern about the condition of the churches today we are very poor Christians. In fact, if you have no interest in real revival, you should question whether you are a Christian at all! If you have no concern for our church, and for others, you are certainly not a vibrant Christian! I repeat, real revival should be something that is intensely interesting to every one of us.
So let us start by thinking about this incident in the ninth chapter of Mark. It is a very important incident, because the Holy Spirit took great care to give us accounts of it in three of the four Gospels, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mr. Prudhomme just read the account in Luke, and I am reading two verses from it in Mark. In the early part of the chapter Mark tells us that Christ had taken Peter, James and John and had gone up to the Mount of Transfiguration where they had witnessed an amazing event. But, when they came down from the mountain, they found a large crowd of people surrounding the remaining Disciples and arguing with them! The three who came down with Jesus could not understand what this was all about. Then a man stepped out of the crowd and told Jesus that his son was possessed with a demon that made him foam at the mouth and gnash with his teeth. Then the man said, “I brought him to your disciples [to cast out the demon] and they could not” (Mark 9:18). They had tried, but they had failed.
Jesus asked the man a few questions. Then He very quickly cast the demon out of the boy, who was healed in an instant. Then Christ went into the house, and the Disciples went with Him. After they were in the house the Disciples asked Him, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Mark 9:28). They had tried hard to do it. They had succeeded many times before. But this time they had completely failed. Yet Christ simply said, “Come out of him” and the boy was healed. They said, “Why could not we cast him out?” Christ answered, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
Now I am going to use this incident to show the problem in our churches today. This boy represents young people in the modern world. The Disciples represent our churches today. Isn’t it obvious that our churches are failing to help young people? George Barna tells us that we lose 88% of our own young people, raised in church. And we are winning very few young people, extremely few, out of the world. Our churches are drying up and failing fast. The Southern Baptists are now losing about 1,000 churches every year! That is their own figure! And our independent churches aren’t doing any better. Anyone who looks at the figures can see that our churches are not half as strong as they were a hundred years ago. That's why Dr. J. I. Packer spoke of "the broken down condition of the present day church."
Our churches, like the Disciples, are doing all they can, and yet they are failing. They are failing as badly as the Disciples did when they tried to help that boy. The question we should be asking is “Why can’t we cast him out?” What is the cause of this failure?
Here, in the ninth chapter of Mark, it seems to me that Christ is dealing with that very question. And the answer He gave is as important today as it was back then.
“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 text can be divided into three simple points.
I. The first point is “this kind.”
Why couldn’t we cast him out? Christ said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” He told them that there are differences between one case and another. In the past Christ had sent them to preach and cast out demons – and they had gone out and preached and had cast out many demons. They had come back rejoicing. They said that the very demons had been made subject to them.
So when this man brought his son to them they were sure they could help him by doing the same thing they had done before. Yet this time they completely failed. In spite of all their efforts the boy was not helped at all, and they wondered why. Then Christ spoke of, “this kind.” There is a difference between “this kind” and the kind you dealt with before.
In a way, the problem is always the same. The work of the church is to deliver young people from the power of Satan and his demons, “to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18). That is always the same in every age, and in every culture. The churches have always had to deal with Satan and demons. But there is a difference between demons. They are not all the same. The Apostle Paul said that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). He told us that there are different grades of demons, and the leader of them is Satan himself, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Satan is here in all his power. But under him are these lower demonic powers. The Disciples could easily cast out the weaker demons. But here, in that boy, was a spirit of greater power. "This kind" is different, and therefore is a much greater problem. The first thing we must find out is what “this kind” is that we must deal with today.
As we look at those words “this kind” I wonder if very many pastors today even realize that the battle we are in is a spiritual battle. I am certain that many pastors never think that their work is a battle with Satan and evil spirits. The seminaries, and even the Bible colleges, lay great stress on human methods. But they don’t teach preachers that their main problems lie in the spiritual realm.
So they go on with certain methods that used to be successful in the past. They don’t realize that those old methods don’t deal with “this kind” today. Everyone knows that there is a need. But the question is – what exactly is that need? Until we are aware of the exact need today, we will be as unsuccessful as the Disciples were with that boy.
II. The second point is methods which have failed.
I see our churches doing things that were very helpful in the past, but no longer have much effect on “this kind.” And because we rely on the old methods, we lose almost all of our young people, and we convert hardly anyone from the world. At the risk of being misunderstood, I would put the Sunday School in that category. It was very effective a hundred and twenty-five years ago. But I think it has little value today. I would say the same thing about salvation tracts. At one time people actually read them and came to church. But I would simply ask any pastor, “Do you have any young people in your church who came in and got saved by reading a tract?” I think it is obvious that “this kind” in our time does not respond well to the methods that were used in the past. I would also put door-to-door visitation in that category. It was powerfully used in the past, but doesn’t help us get young people into church now that we are dealing with “this kind.”
There are certain things that are useless today, when they are applied to “this kind.” In other words, Christ was saying in effect, “You have failed in this case because the power that you had, which was sufficient for other cases, has no value here. It leaves you powerless to help the boy who is under the power of ‘this kind.’”
I know there are pastors who realize that many things we did in the past are useless today. But because they have been trained to think about methodology rather than the “devices” of Satan (II Corinthians 2:11) – they swing wildly into new methods that are no better than the old – that is, if we are trying to get young people to be solid members of the church. For instance we have certain men telling us that the answer is to “prove” to young people that the Genesis account of creation is true and that evolution is false. They think that young people will be converted, and others will come in from the world, if we can disprove evolution and get them to find answers in Genesis. They think by this method they can deal with the present situation.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “It was exactly the same way at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when people were pinning their faith on [apologetics]. These, they taught us, are the things that are going to show the truth of Christianity, but they did not do that. ‘This kind’ can come forth by nothing along that line.”
Another method which has failed is the use of modern translations. We were told that young people don’t understand the King James Bible. What we need is a Bible in modern language. Then young people will read it. Then they will say, “This is Christianity” – and they will come into our churches in droves. But that has not happened. In fact, the exact opposite has happened. I have been working almost exclusively with young people for 55 years. I know for a fact that these modern translations do not attract young people at all. In fact, I hear many of them say, “It doesn’t sound right. It just doesn’t sound like the Bible.”
I have never preached from a modern translation, and I never will. And we are seeing young people converted all the time, both in our church, and from the world as well. Whatever the value of these modern translations, they are not going to solve the problem. They don’t deal with “this kind.”
What else are they trying? Oh, the big one is modern music! “We’ve got to get the music right and then they will come in and be Christians.” It is quite sad. Do I really need to comment on it? There is a Southern Baptist church that meets in rented facilities in Los Angeles. The pastor wears a T-shirt and sits on a stool. Before he gives his little talk, there is about an hour of rock music. One of our men went to check it out. He was appalled. He said that the service was dark and pathetic, and not spiritual at all. He said those people don’t win souls, and he couldn’t imagine them praying for an hour like our young people do every week. An hour of nothing but prayer? Forget it! So, modern rock music has also failed to cast out “this kind.”
III. The third point is that we need something that can go down beneath that evil power, and shatter it, and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God!
Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “We have got to realise that however great ‘this kind’ is, the power of God is infinitely greater, that what we need is not more knowledge, more understanding, more apologetics, [new translations, or rock music] – no, we need a power that can enter into the souls of men and break them and smash them and humble them and then make them anew. And that is the power of the living God.” And that takes us back to the text,
“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).
Prayer and fasting. Nothing else can help our churches overcome “this kind” of Satanic attack. Our churches are not reaching young people today. What can we do? “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
Some worldly wise “scholar” will say, “the best manuscripts don’t say ‘and fasting.’” But what does that “scholar” know about demons? What does he know about converting heathens from the streets and the college campuses of our city? What does he know about revival – revival like they are experiencing right now in China? He knows nothing about those things. I have been an eye-witness to sin-shattering revival three times in my life. I am overwhelmed to think that I have been so greatly privileged to preach in all three of those revivals. They were not evangelistic meetings. They were times when the power of God entered into the souls of men, and broke them, and smashed them, and humbled them, and made them new creatures in Christ Jesus!
So, we are not going to follow the two old manuscripts from Gnostic copyists who removed the word “fasting.” We know that Christ said, “and fasting.” How do we know that? We know it for two reasons. First, the Disciples had obviously prayed when they cast out demons earlier. So something else had to be added. Something else was needed – fasting! Prayer alone was not enough. We also know it by experience. For we have fasted and we have seen with our own eyes what God can do when we pour out our hearts in fasting and prayer.
Now I will close with another quotation from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. What a preacher! What insight! How I thank God for him. In another place he said,
I wonder whether it has ever occurred to us that we ought to be considering the question of fasting? The fact is, is it not, that this whole subject seems to have dropped right out of our lives, and right out of our whole Christian thinking?
And that, probably more than anything else, is why we have not been able to overcome “this kind.”
I am going to call for a general fast in our church next Saturday until 5:00 PM. At that time we will come here to church and have a simple meal before we go out to evangelism. We are going to be fasting and praying for the conversions of young people who have been coming, but are not yet saved. We are also going to be fasting and praying for more young people to come into our church.
Now I must not close this meeting without a few words about Jesus. All we need is found in Him. The Book of Hebrews says,
“We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man... Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:9, 17).
Jesus, the Son of God, died in the place of sinners, as the sinner’s substitute. The moment you surrender to Jesus your sins are cancelled by His death on the Cross. The moment you cast yourself upon the Saviour, your sin is cleansed from God’s record forever by the precious Blood of Christ. How we pray that you will trust the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved from sin by Him. Amen and Amen. Please stand and sing the last song on your song sheet.
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
(“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 9:37-45.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Old-Time Power” (by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).
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