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I have never seen the movie “The Exorcist.” In the first place I was too young to go see it in 1974. In the second place I had (and have) no desire to see it. Having seen scenes here and there on television, the special effects look (to me) really cheesy and dated - like Sid & Marty Krofft are off their meds. I know the movie has a powerful ability to frighten some people, even after all these years. But the occult has never held any interest for me.
I am, therefore, a bit nonplussed and banal when confronted with some pentagram wielding mortal. I was asked once to talk to a kid who described himself as a Satanist. I asked him why, and he replied he wanted to be in touch with the dead, and harness their power for his own plans. “How has that been going for you?” I asked.
So I was a bit put off when a woman called my office in Ohio one morning and asked me to perform an exorcism. She was attached somehow to a local motorcycle gang I had had dealings with doing flood relief. This was why she called me. I told her I didn’t do exorcisms, didn’t believe in them, but I did believe in Satan’s power and would like to talk to her about how to overcome it. She told me to come, so I came. I arrived at a rambling, shambling farmhouse which seemed home to an assortment of burly bearded men, ragged unsupervised children, and mangy mongrel dogs. The men were tinkering with the flotsam of Harleys and pick-up trucks in the weedy yard. I nodded and said “Hey” to everyone as I climbed the porch steps and knocked on the front door.
She seemed a little too well kempt to be the woman of the house. She welcomed me in, and calmly explained to me that ghost children played in her attic all night long, and she wanted me to get rid of them. My thought was “maybe those aren’t ghost children, maybe they are chemically induced children.” I said that Satan wielded great influence, and that our only defense was the shield of Faith (Ephesians 6.10-17). She interrupted me: “Listen, I didn’t ask you to come here and convert me, I just want you to get those ghost children out of my attic.” I offered to pray for God to protect all in the house from evil, and give them greater understanding of His will. She was fine with that. I said the prayer, and left. I guess the ghost children left. I never heard from her again, although every year I sent the children (the living ones) an invitation to VBS.
I was thinking of all this after Joe Dunlap’s wonderful, insightful lesson last Sunday night. His text was Luke 5.1-11: the great catch of fish, and the calling of Peter. Joe pointed out that although Peter had been introduced to Jesus as Messiah, had hosted Jesus in his home, had seen Jesus perform miracles, even seen Jesus heal his own mother-in-law – he had resisted becoming a disciple. It was only when Peter decided to become obedient - against every impulse - that he came to life-changing faith.
I thought, listening to Joe speak, “I have known Jesus all my life, but how often have I come to Him to get rid of the annoyance of evil, and not evil itself?” “Most often,” is the honest answer. The remedy, of course, is obedience for its own sake, or rather for His sake. This response alone exorcises the weakness, the selfishness, and the self-indulgence that keeps us in darkness, and away from His light.