The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, "No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you." So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him. -- Luke 8: 38-39 (NLT)
What a beautiful before and after picture is painted in the story of the demon possessed man in Luke 8. While we normally focus on what the new creation looks like I think it is important that we look at both. There is too much pride creeping into modern Christianity. There is too much grandiose judgment passed by Christians who do not understand that they are merely sinners saved by grace. Our righteousness is still like filthy rages before a holy God. It is only through the blood that we have any righteousness at all. Yet to listen to some Christians and even pastors, they seem to forget how far down God had to go to save them as they pass judgment upon a fallen world.
Whenever I see stories such as the anti-homosexual rants from the pastor in North Carolina it saddens my spirit. Is that going to win any souls to Christ? No; it will only serve to drive them further away. Whenever we read about Paul visiting his new areas for missions work we never see him chastising those that worshipped idols. We never saw him condemning those who did not yet believe and were still steeped in their sins. And some of the areas he visited would make modern day San Francisco blush. No, instead we see Paul as a believer who always remembered where God found him and was always singular in purpose:
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. -- 1Corinthians 9: 19-23 (NLT)
A slave to all people to bring many to Christ. Trying to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. Spread the Gospel and share in its blessings. Are we seeing the singularity in his purpose? Paul's Christianity was never about him -- it was always about the unsaved. That is the model we should be taking in this country with regards to our Christianity. Instead of berating people who are walking in darkness for the darkness they walk in -- show them the light of Jesus Christ! If you think you have no common ground as Paul speaks about I can assure you that you are mistaken. The common ground we all share with the unsaved is that we were once where they currently are. We can testify to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. God never asked us to try and do the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. He commanded us to bring the Gospel to the lost.
So I think it is a healthy exercise to remember where we were before Jesus Christ saved us. To recall how far down into our condition He had to reach to pull us up. Here was the condition of the demon possessed man:
So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in a cemetery outside the town. As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, "Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon's power. -- Luke 8: 26-29 (NLT)
The first thing we see in the man is that he was dealing with multiple demons. Realize that while we were in the world we very well may have been as well, with or without the dramatic side effects listed here. We may have dealt with abuse, drugs and alcohol, inappropriate relationships, pornography, or any number of other demons we could have been battling. The point being is that prior to salvation, we were immersed in our sin issues. Secondly we see that the man was homeless. Now, I am not suggesting that we were as well but the theological point to be made here is that we too had no protection when we were living in the world. Likewise when it says that the man was naked -- we too were exposed in our lives prior to Jesus saving us. We had no covering. No protection. Jesus also described the Church at Laodicea in revelation the same way:
You say, "I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. -- Revelation 3: 17 (NLT)
Remember that the things of God are foolishness to those in darkness so we cannot see our exposure when we walk in that darkness. We do not realize the state we live in. This man was also living in a cemetery outside of town. The world is on the outside of eternal life looking in beloved -- they just do not realize it. It was the same for us. I remember living life haphazardly, not caring about God for decades. Believing there was a God but not caring what He might have to say. Thinking I was a pretty good person and not the wretch I know I am now. Thinking the misery of my life was happiness. Thinking my poverty was wealth. Thinking my blindness was vision. Thinking my nakedness was shameless. How many people do we see week after week who achieved the great financial and material status this world convinces us will make us happy only to see them end their lives in misery. How many demons was Junior Seau fighting when he took his life? How many demons did Whitney Houston face? Amy Winehouse? I am sure that by the world standards they felt they were rich, happy, and protected. But in the realities of this world and in the spirit world they were poor, wretched, and exposed. They were living in the graveyard this world actually is; on the outside looking in.
Next, look at the reaction of demons when they see Jesus! They start whining and complaining. That sounds a lot like I would feel when I was unsaved and someone tried to talk about Jesus to me . "Just leave me alone with that stuff! Why are you interfering with me and the way I like to live my life?" Let's be honest, sin often feels too good to want to leave it. Even after we are saved how often did we refer to the things Christ delivered us from as things we had to "give up for Him?" We didn't give up anything for Him -- He saved us from them! Next we see that those in the world would try to shackle him and put him in chains. What a word picture for the sin condition we lived in. Slaves to the sin we embraced:
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. -- John 8: 34-36 (NLT)