Delivered from Evil
I met Patience, a young black woman from Zambia, on my recent trip to Cape Town, South Africa. She is attending the Maranatha Family Church in Masephumalele, pastored by my friend Ronni Cronje. Patience, a year or so ago, was riding with her mother on a small taxi van from Zimbabwe to South Africa when the van was hijacked by thieves near the South African border.
The van, and all aboard, were taken to the bush and held captive for three days without food or water. The intent of the thieves was to murder everyone in the van and sell their body parts to local Sangomas (witchdoctors) for use in sacrifices to appease the spirit deities. The African Traditional Religions (ATR’s) believe in god, but he is so far away from us that we can only reach him through the mediation of the spirits of ancestors who have died. When bad things happen – a child dies, one’s crops fail, the cow or goat is stolen – then the people are troubled and they look for relief. The village Sangoma prescribes a remedy to appease the spirit deities. Oftentimes the anger of the deities is so severe that strong measures must be taken, including the sacrifice of children or the mingling of body parts in the Sangoma’s medicine that he applies to his patient.
The thieves were also looking for money and they found little from those on the van. Patience’s mother, however, did have a checking account and the thieves took her mother to a bank in town, demanding that she withdraw all funds. This activity gained the attention of the local police who were able to make arrests and to set the people free from certain death and mutilation. Patience is now in Masephumalele, working a menial job, saving the money she needs to finish her college education. She hopes to become a fashion designer. She loves Jesus.
Elias Belane is also a member of the Maranatha Family Church. He had been a Sangoma in Masephumalele for many years but one night came upon an open air meeting and heard the preaching of Ronni Cronje. He was converted on the spot. The next day Elias brought all his fetishes and medicines used in his witchcraft to Ronni, placing them in a pile and burning them, like the recent converts at Ephesus did in Acts 19:19. Several days later a troubled man came to Elias, offering him a large sum of money to perform witchcraft on his behalf. Elias refused, saying that he now had a new master, Jesus, and he would not go back to his former manner of living. Coming to Christ cost Elias a lucrative lifestyle, but he rejoices because he knows he has been set free from the dominion of darkness.
You may not have come face to face with evil incarnate like that just described, but you, nonetheless, if you are in Christ Jesus, have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son where you now have redemption and the forgiveness of your sins. You were blinded by the devil. You were walking according to his ways. You were in the devil’s ‘hip pocket’ and knew it not. He had convinced you that you had plenty of time to get right with God. He told you that God is all love, that no matter what you did, he would forgive you. He told you that hell did not exist, that many paths lead up the mountain to God, that all God requires is sincerity, that the specificity of the religion was inconsequential. Or maybe he convinced you that you were so far gone, so into debt to God, so enslaved or addicted to your own perversion, that there was no hope for you, that God only works in the hearts of those who do good, and that certainly did not describe you. Or maybe you had walked with Christ for a number of years but fell back into grievous sin, like adultery, pornography, drunkenness, or thievery. So now the devil comes to you and says, ‘You had your chance. You blew it. Christianity did not work for you. You have sinned the sin unto death. You have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and trampled under foot the Son of God. Give it up. You have no hope.’
But our God, the true and living God, the One who delights in loving-kindness and compassion, the One who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; came to you through the preaching of his glorious gospel, applying Christ’s redeeming work to your own heart and soul by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. You were in darkness but now you are in the light. You were enslaved but now you are set free. You were in death, now you have life. You were headed for hell, but now you are going to heaven. Everything has changed about you. You are not the same person. You have died with Christ. Sin no longer has dominion over you. You have been raised up with Christ. Therefore you are to give yourselves as a living and holy sacrifice to God. You are to renew your mind through saturating it with Holy Scripture. You are to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into the marvellous light of the gospel.
While in South Africa, I had the privilege on two separate days to minister the gospel in the Pollsmoor Prison. Jonathan Clayton, who himself served a five-year prison term for fraud twenty-five years ago, has a vibrant prison ministry at Pollsmoor. This man is ‘wide open.’ I have rarely seen a man with such zeal, energy, and love. Jonathan brought fifty prisoners into a room and had me preach to them. He was planning to move these men into his ‘Restorative Justice’ programme, a thirty-six-hour training session preparing these convicted criminals to meet face to face with the victims of their crimes. His intention is to enable these criminals to admit what they have done, truly to understand the weight of their crimes, to repent, and to be reconciled with the victims and their families. He also meets extensively with the victim families prior to the face-to-face meeting. Jonathan tells me these meetings are often quite powerful, that the criminals often confess the full extent or their crimes, something they had not previously done. Many of them are drawn to Jesus in sincere conversion as a result of the process. On this particular day, I preached for an hour to the men, first giving them the ‘bad news,’ that not only had they hurt and offended their victims, but more importantly, they had offended God, that they were under the wrath of God and faced a certain hell. I then came in with the ‘good news’ showing them that God could justify them through the blood of Jesus, that the just wrath and condemnation of God could be taken from them, God having placed it upon his Son. I explained faith and repentance, urging them to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Twenty-nine of the fifty present did so. The next day I preached to a group of thirty men who meet daily for three hours to worship and study the Word of God. The twenty-nine new, hopeful converts also joined us as I preached on how to grow in holiness, based on Romans 6:1-13.
The only hope for these convicted felons, the only hope for the people of South Africa and beyond who live under the enslaving religion of animism, Islam, Hinduism, materialism, or Buddhism is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. Do you believe this? Do you glory in it? Do you proclaim it to others? Have you a guilty silence? Will you not remember how you too have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Christ? Will you not, afresh and anew, dedicate yourself to make Christ known to all who will listen?
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free Offer of the Gospel November 13, 2020
This article is the contents of an address first given in February 2020 at the Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Newcastle, UK. * * * It is one of the glories of the gospel that it is universal in scope. There is nothing narrow or limited about the good news of salvation. It is, Matt. 28:19, […]
Living in the World November 6, 2020
This article is the contents of an address first given in February 2020 at the Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Newcastle, UK. * * * LIVING in the world. How are Christians to live in the world? The question can be answered in many ways. The topic is potentially vast in scope — that becomes more […]