CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND
CHARLES EARDMAN & MATTHEW HENRY COMMENTARIES UTILIZED
COPYRIGHT FEBRUARY 2009
The great movie director Steven Spielberg made a major impact on the Hollywood scene over thirty-two years ago with a movie entitled “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He produced this film in 1977. It consisted of a five note musical motif. This movie was a portrayal of mankind being accepted into the scheme of life by other life forces. The main character, Roy, was so caught up in the encounter that he lost his family and his friends thought he was “off of his rocker”. After Laughlin recognizes a signal from outer space as a set of geographical coordinates pointing to Devils Tower, all parties begin to converge on Wyoming. The United States Army evacuates the area, using false reports that a train wreck has spilled highly dangerous nerve gas, all the while preparing a landing zone for the first human contact with the UFOs and their occupants. While the other humans drawn to the site are unable to reach Devils Tower (one of them who escaped with Roy and Gillian was hit by a sleeping drug), Roy and Gillian persist and make it to the site as dozens of UFOs appear. The enormous mother ship lands at the sight returning people who had been abducted over the years, including Barry. With an understanding of peace between the two civilizations, Roy is taken onboard the ship as an ambassador from Earth, and one of the UFO occupants comes out to greet the humans. Lacombe communicates with it by using the hand signs (using the Kodály Method) that are used to create the five tones in the human contact. The UFO occupant does the same and smiles before it boards back on the ship, which then lifts off.
In our text, we find the great Apostle Paul working diligently in Athens, Greece. He is preaching and teaching that Jesus saves. He is beginning to climb toward the pinnacle of his ministry. He is freshly converted on the Damascus road and running full speed ahead for Jesus, instead of against Jesus. He was encountering quite a bit of resistance from various philosophers at the time. However, he continued to teach about Jesus. Even though they were disputing him in the school of Tyrannus, Paul taught lessons on Jesus in spite of their divisions in the school. Some in that school were with the traditional Jews and the laws and others sided with the Apostles.
Nevertheless, we see that Paul continued the Lord’s work. His work was blessed by God. All of his encounters with various diseases and debates were wrought out as Miracles by God through Paul. The book reads that handkerchiefs and aprons were brought to him from those in need and upon his touching them, the sickness and evil spirits from those that the articles belonged to were dispersed and they were healed.
Paul worked regardless of the “haters” in the city. A group of “vagabond” Jews saw this work and wanted a part of the recognition that Paul was receiving from the people. The text tells us that they went and attempted to command an evil spirit to relinquish the control it had on upon an unnamed individual. They did not say in the name of Jesus we command you to come out. They stated by Jesus whom Paul preached about we adjure you to come out. They were addressed by that spirit in such a way, that it showed that they did not believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. So the spirit stated that it knew Paul and Jesus but it did not recognize them and it jumped on them and wounded them and whooped them into the street naked.
They had a close encounter of the worst kind. They encountered something that was truly stronger than their “so-called” faith. They encountered a demoniac. They encountered embarrassment. They encountered a debilitating situation that ruined their reputation in the Jewish and Greek community. They could never recover from the shame and injury to their egos, body, and mind. They were whipped and left in that dilemma and seven sons went away possessed and lost in their own thoughts.
My brothers and sisters we need to be careful of our encounters with various churches, church folk, individuals, fellow employees, and just general day to day people as we go through our daily lives. We need to be careful of our encounters because they can be deceiving. We need to be mindful of our encounters because they can be demonic. We need to be aware of our encounters when they transpire because they can be debilitating.
In our first point, we must be careful how we allow various acquaintances, business partners, and others to enter into our sacred refuge of innermost thoughts. People will act as if they are concerned about you when you have an immediate problem. You find that they only wanted to get your trust for something they want from you. That is deception. People tell you their issues that they have with another person cross-town and when you give your insight, they take it back to the person that they were talking to you about. You find that they were conspiring to get you caught up in gossip. That is deception. You go and lie about your income tax knowing that you don’t have any more dependents. That is deception. You get up in church and tell people about a situation that you heard someone else go through, but you place yourself in the situation so that you can get sympathy. That is deception. You have done some good things in the community and you utilize those things in the past to get what you want out of people. That is deception. You have been blessed abundantly, but you want unmerited recognition for your efforts like the vagabond Jews. That is deception. You walk around town with your head held a little too high because you feel that you are the only spiritual advisor that can tell people how to conduct church business at a church you don’t even pastor while yours is slowly going down because of your unscrupulous behavior in the community. That is deception. Be careful of those that are running games brothers and sisters because they are out to deceive you into supporting their hidden agendas.
We must be aware of deceptive people because they have a demonic attitude that arises from time to time. Mostly in the presence of God’s people is where this attitude arises. A preacher enters into the church and is known for being able to deliver God’s word in a concise and timely manner. You see the individual come in and your entire countenance and demeanor change. That is demonic because you are jealous. A singer stands to minister in song and you barely sing up in the choir stand because you do not like their voice. That is demonic because you are selfish. A deacon prays a soul stirring prayer and you keep your eyes on them while they’re praying and cussing under your breath about how long the prayer has taken to be prayed. That is demonic because you are spiritually lifeless. People attack you in your home church because you do not attend because you are growing in God. That is demonic because they are blind. Your friend attempts to get with your husband or wife after getting to know you both. That is demonic because they are lustful. You are practicing homosexuality and lesbianism (experimenting) under cover hoping that the folks in church do not find out. That is demonic because you are confused. You get mad at the pastor because he will not let you run wild in the church. That is demonic because you are one-sided. You are tipping around the county dating four other individuals besides your spouse. That is demonic because you are a nymphomaniac. No one can say anything to you because you are “always right” and if they say something you cuss them out in the church yard. That is demonic because you are egotistical. A person stands before you to address the congregation with well wishes and you sit with a dirty look on your face because they have not come to you for your limited advice and you have embarrassed yourself by volunteering information that they did not ask to receive. Your people see you and question your ministry. That is demonic because you are seeking self-aggrandizement. You fail to get to know people for who they are and not what they possess. Be careful of your encounters with demonic spirits because they will remain calm until you get them all stirred up and you may find yourself fighting for your dignity, reputation, and your life.
Lastly, you want to watch the close encounters because they are worse when they snatch you into the middle of things. The text states in verse 16, “And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” Your encounters can be debilitating as stated before. You are in the process of getting into affairs of others without an invitation and you find yourself trying to explain your way out. That is debilitating. People want to take over your ministry and have no vision. They get into the position, but do nothing because of lack of training. That is debilitating. You feel you can do better than those that have been around for a little while. You approach people the same way that those in position do only to find that you are not respected but laughed at. That is debilitating to your ego. A spouse finds out that he or she is not the only one, but one of many. That is debilitating. The child is on the streets hustling because they want fast money. That is debilitating. Teenage daughters are sleeping with the step father or with mom’s man. That is debilitating. Men are getting young teenage girls pregnant. That is debilitating. Husbands and wives are swapping partners at various functions. That is debilitating. Churches have teenage pregnancies, gang violence, and drug addicts in the neighborhood and ignore the problem. That is debilitating. Mothers and Fathers are allowing the children and the system to tell them how to run the house. That is debilitating. Churches allow anyone living any old type of way to be placed in leadership positions in the ministry. That is debilitating. A man or a woman is charged with a felony and America will not forgive them even after serving their time. They judge them in the job market. They judge them in the real estate market. They get frustrated and return to what got them locked up in the first place. That is debilitating.
Debilitating encounters can make you look good on the outside and in mental and spiritual anguish on the inside. Encounters such as these tear families apart. Encounters such as these rip a church to pieces. Encounters such as these will impair the progression of God’s Kingdom because the leader is faithless and the demon has deceived and now attacked the faithless believer and you are in a debilitating situation that only God can fix. Encounters such as these leave you feeling empty after service. You feel empty at home. You feel empty at work. Encounters such as these will cause you to question your own integrity. You will question your own faith in God. You will even question God about things that God has already brought you through.
However, we serve a mighty God. An encounter with God like the one Paul had on the road to Damascus will change your attitude. The scripture states, “And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on the m all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” You see Paul had Jesus and Jesus had Paul. Through the aid of the Holy Ghost, that evil spirit taught a lesson to all of them and to us. If you encounter anyone or anything and you are not sincere and prayed up, you will have an unpleasant experience. Yet God, in his magnificent wisdom knows how to make all of your encounters pleasant and in most cases a lot less painful. When you get to know God and have a sincere encounter with God, your life will not and cannot be the same. The closer the encounter with God, the sweeter your life will become. Your blessings will never cease. Your confidence will remain strong. Your humility will overshadow your talents.
An encounter with God will allow you to overcome obstacles that you encounter that are there to slow you down. You will realize and you will begin to tell the world, like Paul did, that Jesus lived, died and rose, ascended, and is interceding for us every day. You will tell people that you encounter that…
When I fall, He lifts me up. When I fail, He forgives me. When I am weak, He strengthens me. When I am lost, He shows me the way. When I am afraid, He is my courage. When I stumble, He steadies me. When I am broken, He mends me. When I am hurt, He heals me. When I am blind, He leads me. When I face trials, He is with me. When I face persecution, He shields me. When I face loss, He provides for me. When I face death, He will carry me on home. Jesus is a close encounter of the worst kind for the devil and his demons. The reason is because that encounter counteracts all that you used to do. All you used to say. That encounter requires effort on your part to meet the Lord and say I give up it is in your hands. That encounter causes you growing pains. That encounter causes you to become submissive, prayerful, and poised for your next level of success.