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Ever felt like you've sunk too low to turn around? If so, take a look at how Jesus interacts with the raving, self-destructive man in Mark 5. Society rejects those whose lives are spinning out of control, but Jesus has a different plan.
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Christ's Change of Strategy - His Plan for Them Then and His Plan for You Now
Their Opposition and His Answer - Getting to Know God for Who He Really Is
I can tell you that in my life, every time I have had the wisdom, the humility to realize it, when using my own wisdom as the compass of my life, I regret it, and there's not a single time I have submitted myself, humbled myself to God's Word, to God's leading that I've regretted it, not one single time. It hasn't always been easy, but it's always been without regret.
If you've been here with us very long, you know we're working our way through one of the accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. The particular book we're in is the book of Mark, and we're in chapter 5. Just to kind of remind you of where we've been, the last time we were here in Mark, chapter 4, Christ had a group of friends he had taken on a little sailing trip across the sea that got a little stormy.
They were rather concerned about his apparent lack of concern with that storm that was around them while he napped in the back, and we talked about how real the storms of life are to all of us, who is the captain of them and how we can respond to those storms in a way that will be a blessing to others, good for us, and a glory to God. I encourage you, if you happened to miss that, we'd love to get that little tape in your hands as you navigate some of your own personal and private storms.
When Christ went through that sea that had some severe storms in it, he made his way to the other side, and when he got there, in Mark, chapter 5, this is what he ran into. It didn't get a whole lot easier. What you're going to see just as an overall rule is, whether you have stuff happening around you and circumstances that are great or whether you have turmoil within, Jesus is the answer to both of those problems. He is the Lord of all life.
His is the Lord of all situations, and he himself can give comfort, whether the storms are external or whether you're fighting a battle within. We want to let you know about this King who we seek to walk after and love and respond to his great gift of love with our lives in response. Here we go. Mark, chapter 5, verses 1-20. We're going to read a little bit here.
"They came to the other side of the sea…" After that storm. "…into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him…" Now, let me just make a quick comment right here. It doesn't say, "a demon-possessed man." The Bible never uses that phrase.
It never uses the phrase demon-possessed individual. It does talk about folks who have been demonized, or these words right here are the exact same words, who have an unclean spirit. An unclean spirit is any spirit that is in you that is not the Spirit of God. It is an unholy spirit because the Spirit of God alone is holy.
If you are not being guided by God in a love relationship with him in which specifically as you by faith acknowledge that you are poor in spirit; that you are corrupt, bankrupt, and have not come to him and said, "Lord, I need to trust in you with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, and in all my ways acknowledge you," then you're being driven by an unclean spirit.
There is no question that there are some folks who appear to have an unclean spirit that has very, very much and in a very real way gripped them. You're about to see as extreme of a case as you have in the Scriptures of that here in Mark, chapter 5, but what I want to make sure we don't do is make a category mistake and think the problem here is one that always necessitates an exorcism.
No, what more often it demands is a repentance, a repentance of trusting in self and depending on self and listening to the world, your flesh, and the Enemy. The idea of repenting is simply this. It just means it's a change of mind, metanoeo. It means I'm no longer going to think the way I was thinking; thinking the way the world wants me to think, thinking the way the liar wants me to think, or thinking the way my flesh wants me to think.
You need to know, this week, I had unclean spirits tempting me. I didn't see anything Linda Blair-ish in my world. I don't need that. I have enough of it hanging all over me. My appetites of my flesh continue to be very strong, but what has changed in me is God has given me a new heart. He has given me a love ultimately for the things of Christ and not for the things of the world, and he is changing me.
You need to know that I don't always choose the things of Christ. There are times I choose to accelerate the appetite of my flesh or yield to it, though I have the ability to choose life. Every time I do, as I shared with you a moment ago, I regret it, even if they're just short bursts of anger like when I grab my child not out of love but out frustration. Often this week, I've battled with unclean spirits.
I didn't need an exorcism. I needed a spirit of humility that said, "You know what? It's not about Todd and his agenda. It's not about Todd and his feelings. It's about the Holy One who has won my heart and who indwells me and who I can surrender to." John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Paul said, "…the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
Earlier in that same verse, he said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…" That is a positional fact in Paul's life. Paul said, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." That doesn't mean that the old things, specifically your appetites and affection for sin and the attractiveness of sin, are forever gone.
No, Christians, followers of Christ, still are attracted to sin. We are not sinless people, but we do sin less as we increasingly yield our hearts to God. I don't like the bumper sticker, but I love the theology: "Christians are not sinless, but they are forgiven."It's true. That is why, when we stand before him, we will not offer him the fact that we attended some great church.
We won't offer him the fact that we took the tragic decisions in our lives and turned back to him and then led a ministry to others who were making those same terrible decisions. No, we're going to present to him one thing, and that is a faith in his provision for our unclean spirits; the spirit of self-will, the spirit of self-love, the spirt of self-indulgence, the spirit of deceit which the Enemy, the world, and our flesh draw us towards. The problem most often in our lives is not one that needs an exorcism but one that demands a repentance. Look what it says.
"When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!' For He had been saying to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' And He was asking him, 'What is your name?'
And he said to Him, 'My name is Legion; for we are many.' And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. The demons implored Him, saying, 'Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.' Jesus gave them permission.
And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea." This, by the way, is the very first time we have in the history of the world deviled ham. That's the very first time right there. Verse 14: "Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.
They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the 'legion'; and they became frightened." Now you're saying, "Todd, you just said the Scriptures never said there was a guy who was called demon possessed." It's the same word right there as before. We're the ones who just have implied it's demon possessed, and I don't want you to be confused.
There's no question that a man who is not possessed by the love of the Christ is possessed by a spirit that is unholy. If you want to call that demon possession, fine. I'm going to offer to you the solution is not some miraculous event that some external person can come and exorcise that demon from you.
The event that needs to happen is you need to be penetrated by the life of Christ, the declaration of his Word, and then, hearing that Word, have a heart that responds to the offer of freedom and life where you repent and turn to him and your heart is made new. It says in verse 14,
"Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the 'legion'; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.
And they began to implore Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, 'Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."
What I want to do, as we always try to do, is just say, "So stinking what? Wonderful story, but what difference is that going to make in my life?" Well, this is a great little text to walk through and introduce you to some truths about all of us apart from knowing Christ.
The very first thing I want to just take a moment to do is tell you that, in this guy who Christ is confronted with, you have to understand that Mark, the writer of the life of Christ here in this particular gospel, who's declaring the good news of the Servant of God who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many…
He is talking about how that Jesus is King and that King can help you with whatever the storms are, external or internal, so he's going to give you a man who is a picture of all men before they know Jesus Christ. Let me just lay it out to you this way. A little bit later, a guy named Paul, who wrote most of your New Testament, wrote a letter to this church in Ephesus.
It's the one we started our entire service with, where he talks about how wide, how deep, how long, how high the love of Christ is, and he was desperate for those folks to know that because he knew that those people themselves had lived as unclean men and women, had been demonized, had been possessed, if you will, by a spirit that was not the Spirit that God intended for man to have.
In Ephesians 2:1-3, we have a little section here where Paul describes the state of all humankind prior to them coming into a relationship with God, and what I have done is I have inserted descriptions of this individual in Mark, chapter 5. I want you to see how this guy is a picture of you and me apart from Christ, and we're going to make some observations about what sin always does in our lives.
"And you were dead…" If you will, you were a living dead man. You were walking among the tombs, just like this guy. "…you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." Do you catch that? Any man who is not filled with the Holy Spirit of God is filled with a different spirit.
It is called an unclean spirit, a spirit which is now working in the sons of disobedience, those who would do that which is separate and apart from what God would call us to. It is possible to make sins of omission, and that is not just what you commit. We most often think of sins as things we do that we shouldn't do, but you need to realize there are many of us who are guilty of sins of omission.
There are things God wants us to be about, loving out neighbor, building relationships with those who are far from God, being gracious towards them, not treating them as projects but as people with real hearts, real life and not to put a notch on our belts but to enter in their world and to love them as Christ entered into our world and came through a storm to do it. Some of us are just flat unconcerned with lost people, and we just go on about our little Christian churchy way.
It breaks God's heart. It's a sin of omission. It is a spirit that is not the Spirit of Christ. As those of us who want to walk as fully devoted followers of Christ, we need to repent of that spirit that says, "Hey, I'm kind of in now. For the first time in my life, I've found a place I can identify with. I found some people who are authentic. I found some people who don't want to play church but who really want to be followers of Christ, who teach God's Word.
They call people to community and deal with struggles in a very open and a real way and don't ask folks to get fixed out in the parking lot and then come in here and smile and hold hands but to come in here and say, 'Let's just talk about the fact that we're all sinners in need of grace and that God can do a work and he calls us and considers us saints as we trust in Jesus Christ.' I want to be a part of that community."
It's not enough just to say, "I'm in and to hell, literally, with everybody else." God wants us to be intimately concerned, actively involved with those who would never think about stepping into this body or those who are already part of another body where God's Word isn't taught, where Jesus isn't lifted up, and where folks are not challenged to walk fully and follow him.
Primarily here, Paul is talking about those who have no relationship with God, have no faith understanding, and are still trusting in their own will and way. They acknowledge that Jesus has some good things to say, but they've never made that ultimate transaction. They've never crossed that line of faith, so ultimately, they're depending on their own spirit or some other spirit for guidance.
Paul continues in verse 3 of Ephesians, chapter 2. "…we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh." In other words, we were indulgent. There was no restraint. We did whatever we wanted to do. For the man in Mark 5, it was described this way. "…the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces…" His conscience was seared. He didn't care what society thought of him. In fact, he was separated from society because he indulged in the desires of the flesh and of the mind.
No one was able to bind him anymore. This man was not fit for public intercourse, so they stuck him away, as society often does. They were by nature children of wrath even as the rest. Look who this guy is. He's somebody living among the dead, filled with rebellion and strife. He is filled with compromise, a lack of conscience. There is no restraint in his life. If he sees something and he wants to do it, he lives according to that way.
He's not fit for public interaction. He's separated from his friends and from family. He's living among the tombs and in the mountains, and he is self-destructive. He is suicidal. Paul reminds the folks who he wrote to, "…** remember **** that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."**
This guy was crying out and was gashing himself. There are some folks here this morning, I guarantee you, who have destructive thoughts. You have beaten yourselves up, and you're wondering, like Lulie a number of years ago, if your problems are so big, your sin is so deep, your pattern is so strong that there's no love, no forgiveness that God could overcome it. You need to know there's a guy in the Scriptures who should encourage you.
I know you're not naked and living among the cemetery over there at Sparkman/Hillcrest, but some of you feel like you can't control your flesh anymore. Every time you get that urge to click on a certain website, man, you're there. Every time you drive by one of those places, you turn in. Every time your spouse responds in a certain way, your anger and your pride… You raise your voice, and you become a wounder and not an enabler, not a life-giver but a destroyer.
Every time things at work don't appear to be going your way, you find your flesh being filled up with stress, and your life is out of control, and you wonder if there's a God who can come in and speak some sense to you. There are some of you who are so racked with guilt and hurt and pain that you are destroying yourselves, not with stones but with a destructive self-esteem and self-view that God desperately wants to intervene in.
This guy is there for you and for me to be reminded that there is no storm within that is so great that he can't speak peace to it. Sin makes you more and more immodest. Look what this guy did. This guy was naked, running around. This is what the writer and the guy who shared, Luke, said when he talked about this story, that the guy had not put on any clothing for a long time. Have you ever seen somebody like that?
I mean, you know, in our sense, we kind of think of somebody without clothes as somebody who is just out of their mind or who is just so shameless. We think of Rich on Survivor. We're all going, "What is that guy doing? Put some clothes on! He's lost all sense of shame." Maybe it's one thing when you're on an island with 16 folks…maybe, but I can remember when I was down in Jamaica with a group of guys who were playing with their basketball team down there on a mission deal.
We were helping them get ready for the Olympic Games a couple of years back, and the guy who was hosting us…. When we were staying at the hotel and we would drive from the hotel to the stadium to play ball, there was this guy who walked around Jamaica. He was naked. In this third world country, everybody had clothes but this one guy, and he had lost all sense of shame everywhere he went. He would walk right by a five-star hotel just buck naked.
It was a little bit humorous at first, but it was tragic to watch women and children just run from this guy. He had lost all sense of modesty. He was unable to experience any shame, and he was fearless that he would be exposed. Have you gotten that way? I want to tell you something. If you keep dabbling with sin, it won't be enough for you anymore to just commit that sin. Eventually, you're going to become brazen in your sin.
You're going to become arrogant in your committing it, and you're going to tell folks just to stand down and to tolerate it and to get over it because that's who you are, and you'll become more and more shameless. Our culture, if not individually, very much corporately is heading this direction. Boy, you look over the last 50 years what has happened in our culture, and it is amazing what we have become comfortable with.
Sin will grow increasingly immodest. It is not comfortable with the status quo. You know, I flip on MTV every now and then just to kind of stay up to date with what's going on in the youth culture and not just the youth culture but really the 20-something and 30-something culture that's out there. Have you tuned in to MTV lately? They have not only just now started to play music videos and groups that talk about certain lifestyles.
They are clearly and publicly and gladly declaring that they are on a campaign of indulgence to tell folks just to enjoy life and to seize all the sex, flesh, fame, and wanton pleasure that you can. You watch what's going to happen here again. They're going to bring Jerry Springer (they've already announced it) back down to Spring Break, and it's amazing what's happening at spring break right now.
I mean, I can't even share it with you here without, you know, stepping over the line with a mixed audience, what they're doing. It's not a wet tee shirt contest anymore. That is way too tame. I pulled an article out of Rolling Stone magazine last year about spring break; the hot spots, what goes on there. It described the games they're playing. MTV has a show on right now called Undressed. It's just soft porn. That's all it is.
It's just from one scene to another about a homosexual, a heterosexual, a lesbian relationship, and it's just one episode after another…a quick jump cut, jump cut, jump cut saying, "Hey, that's who we are. That's what you guys need to be about," and just go in there shameless in the declaration of it. The MTV Music Awards… Every year, it's a big joke about who's going to take the next step, who's going to cross the next line.
Even folks who are in Hollywood that felt like there was a line they would never pass… With the new movie that the Wayans brothers just came out with, it was mocking some of the horror genres. They said they just crossed over that line. This last fall, when I was with William Bennett, the former drug czar under the Reagan administration downtown at an event, I had a chance to dialogue with him.
One of the things he shared about was he and two congressmen had gone to the chairman and the board of directors of Time Warner, and they asked them, "Is there anything that you guys will not put on a record, put in film, or put on TV? Is there anything? We just want to know if there's one thing that you'll tell us you'll never do it." He said, they sheepishly looked around the room at each other, and somebody mumbled something about not encouraging people to smoke. True story.
You know, listen, you need to know this. I am not surprised when sinners sin. They're just fulfilling their job description. That's what they do, and I shouldn't ask them to act like me because they don't have the heart that, by grace, I have, but I want to speak into their world, and I want to show them this cycle of destruction they're in. I want to show them how they're increasingly more difficult to be around, even as I am when I choose that way.
I want to show them, after losing all relationship with decency and modesty and sin makes you more and more immodest, you'll become bolder in your sin. You mark my words: it happens. Look at what it says in Psalm 73. This is a psalm where the worship leader of the day just writes this. He goes, "For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity…" I saw they were just having a big time on MTV, and there wasn't any consequence to it.
"For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them." It says in Psalm 73, verse 7, "Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot. They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth."
That's what's going to happen as you deal with that spirit which is not holy. You're going to increasingly grow in immodesty towards sin and the things that are not of Christ, and our culture is headed strongly in that direction. I'm not here this morning to correct our culture because I don't think our culture will be corrected by the next election, and I don't think it's going to be corrected by the next time somebody stands on TV and wags their finger at Time Warner.
It's going to be corrected as individually hearts are won to have spirits that are holy and not unholy. I want to tell you something. We should do all we can as moral agents to vote for godliness in our country, not individuals but law, and individuals will certainly say they're going to represent that kind of moral law, and people will say, "You can't legislate morality." You need to say to them, "Hogwash!" All legislation is, is legislating morality.
Thou shall not steal; we're going to legislate that. The question is not, "Should be legislate morality?" The question is, "Whose morality should we legislate?" As people who are not filled with the Holy Spirit continue to set that bar (you need to know this), the bar is going to get lower, and lower, and lower because then modesty will go away, and don't be surprised. Be aware. That is why the battle that we fight is a battle that is won a heart at a time.
Every heart that loves the Holy Spirit, every heart that loves God, should do all it can to vote for morality that is higher and higher and higher, but ultimately, we have to work individually with our friends, love them, reason with them to understand why a biblical Christian-Judeo worldview makes sense.
If we keep setting our mouths against the heavens and parading our tongues throughout the earth, mark my words: we're going to stand before this Jesus just like this man did, and they're going to be individuals who are going to beg for mercy and that they would not be sent into the abyss, the deep, and it won't happen. They're not going to get that gift of mercy. They're going to go.
If that doesn't break your heart, then you don't have his heart because he crossed a big storm to get to these kinds of people. Think about all that Christ went through to come and to break through our hardheartedness and waywardness. I was driving back. We were with some friends last week just for a day at the lake, and there were a bunch of Baptist churches that apparently had gotten together.
They had put on their little marquee out front (I don't know if you saw it) simply this, "You give Satan an inch, and it won't be long before he's a ruler." I thought it was kind of creative, and I thought of it when I was thinking through this passage. You give him an inch in your life, you give him a foothold, and he's going to go for two inches. He's going to go for three inches, four inches before he has a full foot, before he's a ruler in your life.
Some of you've felt like you could just manage Satan, and part of the deceitfulness of sin the Scriptures warn us against is you think you'll be the first one. "I think I'll be the first one to control it. I think I'll be the first one to work a 100-hour work week and have a life that is misappropriated priority wise and not lose my family. I think I'll be the first one to just dabble a little bit in porn and not become addicted to it and not eventually shame my family and lose my marriage.
I think I'll be the first one who'll not restrain my flesh when it starts to get frustrated, and I can control anger at the level I want to control it." You need to know something. You are on a slippery slope to destruction, and before you are naked and walking amongst the tombs, go to the Savior. Sin makes you more and more self-destructive. It makes you, as we already said, increasingly immodest, and not just increasingly immodest but more and more difficult to be around.
It also makes you more and more self-destructive. Lulie shared before how, after she made the decision that she did to terminate that pregnancy, her life didn't get better. Because of the pain that was in her life, she continued a pattern of self-degradation and indulgence that continued to hurt her and bring about the need for another abortion and more pain, more heartache, more loss of life.
She kept trying to cover it up with lots of different things, but always, she couldn't get over that question in her heart of, "Is there a God? Is there something that's big enough to come and deal with that issue in my life?" You will become increasingly self-destructive. I told you that the Enemy in John 10:10 says simply this. "The thief…" Jesus is speaking about Satan. "…comes only to steal and kill and destroy…" He wants to destroy your self-respect.
He wants to steal away your reputation. He wants to kill your testimony and ability to serve Christ, and he wants to destroy your life and all the life that is around you. Look what this man had stolen from him here in Mark, chapter 5. He lost his self-control. It was flat stolen from him. He lost his decency and reputation. He lost his fellowship with family and friends. He lost his peace of mind, but he still had an opportunity to be transformed by grace.
It wasn't too late for him, and it isn't too late for you. This is a great story to teach. You need to know this. If you sit out there today, there is a Savior offering you freedom from your slavery to the forces of the destruction that surrounds you. You need to know that, if you know that freedom, God wants to use you the way he used the other people who witnessed the transformed life to tell others the good things Jesus can do.
I want to just very quickly walk you through four things, four different forces that are trying to influence and control the lives of men, and they're right here in this little passage. First is self. Self wants you to indulge. If you listen to self, it's going to be increasingly about you, and it's going to be a slippery slope of self-indulgence, increasing immodesty, increasing difficulty to be around, and then eventually increasing guilt, despair, and hopelessness to where you'll want to destroy yourself.
Secondly is Satan. He's real. He's the Enemy. The Bible talks about how he is the roaring lion. He goes around, and he wants to destroy you. This is what it says in Ephesians 2. "…you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." He wants to destroy your life. He takes no greater joy than in doing that.
If you are a follower of Christ, you are untouchable in terms of being forgiven, but he can still destroy your testimony. Today at this moment, about two and a half hours from here, there's a man whose ministry is being destroyed. The elders are standing up, and they're talking about how this guy is no longer fit to serve in a certain role because of some decisions he made. He wants to destroy your witness and your testimony.
When you drive, he wants to destroy you. When you parent, when you communicate at work, when you make decisions at tax time, he wants to destroy you, and he wants to control your life and not for your good. Self wants to indulge you. Satan wants to destroy you. Third is that society, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, doesn't know how to transform individuals.
What it tries to do is it just isolates them and puts them away. An increasing number of folks in our society, when we see that they're just too dangerous to pass by, we just build more places to put them. You need to know, I absolutely believe that folks need to be in a place that they're restrained because of their evil, but ultimately, society cannot touch hearts.
We have a sweet young girl in our body who has just observed an opportunity. She has a passion for young men and women who are incarcerated and who are on the road to federal penitentiaries and state prisons, and she's going to help us. She's going to lead the charge in going into those systems and doing what society cannot do, and that is to transform hearts. If you have a heart for that, you're going to hear more about that ministry in the coming weeks and months.
We're going to throw her every bit of resource we can to make a difference with those who are on the brink, who society will isolate but will not change. We want to go in there with the message of hope of Christ, and we want to say something, "We know what it's like to be under shackles and chains. Maybe ours weren't material, but we had stuff that gripped us, and we have found freedom. You can find freedom too before you make that decision that's going to have you locked up materially for a long time."
There's a fourth thing. It's the Savior, and that's what today is all about. The Savior doesn't steal, kill, or destroy. The Savior comes and offers life, and he delivers you from hopelessness and despair, from guilt to forgiveness, from law to grace, from hopelessness to hope, and like me, you need to meet that Savior. Let me just tick off some things for you, some various obvious things we're not going to have to spend long on.
First, don't be surprised when your efforts to share the truth about God's love are met with resistance. Here comes Jesus across the stormy sea, and he lands on the other side. Boom! There he is, and the very first thing he's met with is a raving mad lunatic who everybody has to avoid. Everything about that guy is to drive Jesus away.
Secondly, don't confuse doctrinal knowledge with dependence on Jesus Christ. Look at what the demons knew. They knew he was the Son of God. They knew he had authority, and they knew the reality of hell and judgment was out there, but they never understood. As demons, they didn't have the opportunity you and I do. See, you can know this about Christ. You can know he's the Son of God.
You can know he died on the cross, but if you don't deal with that and you yourself make that faith transaction where you cross that line and trust in him, your doctrinal knowledge and competency will not satisfy the Holy God. He's looking for folks who are poor in spirit, who are meek, and who say, "I want to depend on Jesus Christ." The Scriptures are very clear. They say, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."
How about this? It's right here. Beware that your love for things doesn't cause you to resent the good work of Christ. Remember what happened with the townspeople? They came out, and they were frustrated because he had taken those 2,000 pigs and he had allowed the demons to go into them. Christ didn't cause them to. He just permitted it, and they went rushing into the ocean, and they lost a great deal of money.
They said, "Would you just leave us? Would you get out of here?" Christ granted them their request, even as he granted the demons their request to not be cast out at this time into the great abyss but to go into the swine. Into the swine they went. Then the people came and said, "Christ, would you leave us? We want nothing to do with you," so he gave them that request. One guy observed this, and I think it makes a lot of sense.
In Matthew, chapter 12, he talks about how, when Christ was talking about the value of a man on a Sabbath day. He just asked simply, "'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, 'What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!'"
One of the things he exposed right here is that these guys were more concerned with their industry than they were with an individual. They were more concerned for their swine than they were a soul, and they said, "Get out of here because you threaten that which we value." This was a society that did not value that man. It valued the profit they could make. You need to be aware, just as I do, that our love for things can cause us to resent the good work of Christ.
Let me leave you with this. For those of you who know and who have already met the Savior, your transformed life and your testimony is always the best declaration about the goodness of God. Do you remember what it says about this guy? It says he was sitting at the feet of Jesus. He was clothed and in his right mind, and people wanted to understand that. Has your life been changed and transformed in that way?
It's always God's pattern to send folks back to folks they have a relationship with first. You'll see it with Andrew. He first went and got Peter. You'll see it with Nathanial. He first went and got Philip. You'll see Barnabas in the Scripture. He was committed to going to his native land of Cyprus before he was going to rest, and God wants us to be effective with our life stories with folks who we have a relationship with.
If you don't have a transformed life, you don't have a testimony. People want to see God making a difference in your life, and in your life story, and if they can they see it you and if can they see it in me. It's the best testimony, a transformed life, and then you need to tell people why your life has been changed, because you met the Savior, and you need to be unashamed in your declaring about that. Lulie is unashamed to tell you she didn't just go to some self-help deal and figure it out.
She met Christ, and for the first time in her life, though she grew up in a church, she experienced the redemptive work of grace. You talk about a life that has changed in the last few decades, and there are some other lives that have changed in this room. You need to be glad to tell people about it. For those of you who don't know Christ yet, this is the one for you.
It simply says this. There is no one so lost, so depraved, so possessed by hate, so removed from acceptable behavior, so controlled by sin that the Savior doesn't want to free and restore you to a place of fellowship and usefulness to him. Come. Come. What I want you to see today in this guy, in this miracle is you can't go so low, you can't go so far… There is no problem too big that God can't touch and God can't love.
That is a lie from the one who wants to destroy you and wants to steal from you the meaning and purpose in life that Jesus is dying for you to know. Matthew 11 says it best. I have a friend who's in this room whose heart was changed last week. We read this verse together, and she, for the first time in her life, came to this Jesus who loves in this way.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…" Who are self-destructive and destroying themselves deeper into immorality and immodesty and are difficult to be around. Jesus says, "I don't want to isolate you. I want to go into your death place and clothe you with my blood and make you acceptable in the eyes of my great and glorious Father, as I come and offer you grace." Will you come, and will your life be the next testimony of the goodness of this God? Let's pray.
Father, I thank you that you just take stories like this and you just show us by taking an extreme example that there's no one so lost, so depraved, so possessed by hate, so removed from acceptable behavior, so seared in their conscience, so controlled by sin that you still don't want to free and restore to a place of fellowship and usefulness to you. We see you even crossed a storm to do it.
I thank you this morning that we're reminded again that, whether we're being persecuted by storms from without or godlessness from within, you are Lord and you are able to deliver us from that which seeks to destroy us, to isolate us, to separate us, and to take from us all that is good that you intend. Our wonderful, merciful Savior, blessed Redeemer and friend, who would've thought that a lamb could rescue the souls of men?
We thank you for that lamb who is Jesus who tells us to come, and he will bring healing, and he will teach our hearts to repent, and he will come and fill us up with love and gentleness, goodness, peace, kindness, and mercy. May that be the increasing testimony of people who call themselves yours. In Christ's name, amen.
We would be sorely remiss, if we didn't tell you how to come out of that living among the dead and walk with Christ. The world's going to tell you that you're a fool. It is what the Scripture says. The cross of Jesus Christ to the Greek or to the non-Jewish world who didn't have the law was foolishness to them, and to the Jews who thought through their own works and efforts they could be pleasing to God, it was a stumbling block, but you need to know this, this morning. To those of us who believe, it is life.
If you have never in your life dealt with your sin by acknowledging that you had it and if God did not mediate, if he did not cover the gap our sin created from him, and if you don't acknowledge your lostness as I did, if you don't acknowledge your lack of shame about your sin as I did and say that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of all men who can teach me repentance, who can exorcise that demon of self-will and who can cover me with his love, you need to know this morning here's an opportunity to do it.
That little card…you can just rip it off. You can just check, "I want to know more about how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ," and we'll follow up with you individually today or tomorrow, or you can come up here and visit with some of us. We'd love to tell you about this Jesus who you are no fool to follow.
Father, I pray for my friends who are out there, for those who know you already, that their transformed lives will be the testimony that makes a world demand that somebody explain to them who this Jesus is who can do such a thing. I pray for those who are out there today who are still racked by guilt, who are still living among the dead.
I pray for those who are still destroying themselves with guilt and patterns of deepening immorality and immodesty and they are still filled with a spirit that wants to steal, kill, and destroy all self-worth from them. I pray today they would come out and that you would free them from the shackles which bind them to sin and they would experience the life that is in Christ and that they too could stand and testify it to others. We thank you for that opportunity. In Christ's name, amen.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 2:14 through Mark 6:6.