Greg Laurie — Chaos, Culture, or Christ
A recent Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans believe in the devil. Seventy percent. What does it matter how many believe in him. It is interesting to notice that belief in satan goes up whenever an evil act takes place. After 9/11 belief in satan rose. I am sure it will rise a little bit more after this horrible massacre in Paris, France. As far as satan goes it suits him just fine if you believe in him or if you don't believe in him. He doesn't really care. He knows who he is. He knows what he can do.
Let me just throw out something maybe you didn't know satan is not the equal of God. You need to take your star wars thinking and put it aside. It is not like some good guy became the bad guy like Darth Vader and so forth. There is some truth to the fact that satan was once a good angel. Then he became a bad angel. But his power is nowhere equal to the power of God. Having said that, satan is a powerful intelligent spirit being with a distinct agenda. What is that? Jesus defines it for us in John 10:10 he says, "The thief," speaking of the devil, "Comes only to steal, kill, and destroy". Before he gets to that he might entice you. He might put something in your life that will bring you some short-lived pleasure. But his end game, his ultimate agenda is to steal, kill and destroy. That pretty much sums it all up.
In contrast to that Jesus said, "I have come that you might life, and that more abundantly". I bring this up because here before us in our text is the story of two men who had been completely taken over by the power of satan. They were tortured. They were suicidal. They were miserable lonely men in an absolutely hopeless situation. That is until Jesus came along. This shows satan's package deal if you will that he has in store for the person who is in his grip. He will entice you but once he gets you he will chew you up and spit you out you see. Effectively we have three forces at work in this story. Chaos, culture, and Christ. We see what the result was.
Read with me Matthew 8:28-9:1. "When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, there were two men who were possessed by demons who met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent no one could go through that area. They began screaming at him, 'why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God's appointed time?' There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. So the demons begged, 'if you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.' 'all right,' Jesus said, 'go!' So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus". This is really interesting. "But they begged him to go away and leave them alone". Chapter 9. Verse 1. "Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town". We will stop there.
What a story. As it begins we find these two pathetic demented demon possessed men. You might ask, "Do you think people can still be "Demon-possessed today"? Oh absolutely I do believe that. I think when we see gross acts of evil. Mass murder. And we try to figure it out I think a very reasonable explanation is satan is at work. It is literally pure evil. These individuals can even be possessed by demons. Now in Luke's account of this story he zeroes in on one of the men in particular. He seemed to be the more extreme of the two. Luke 8:27 talking about this same story, the amplified translation puts it this way. "Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains this man was always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones". Hey that sounds like a lot of fun. Wow. He was a dangerous and frightening man. Cutting.
It is interesting. This has become a trend among young people today. Kids cutting themselves with sharp objects like razor blades. And girls do this more often than boys. Most teenagers that cut are young adolescent girls from the age range of 11 to 12 or 17 to 18. These are kids in deep pain. They are so numb. They are hurting so badly they want to feel something even if it is pain. This is a horrible thing. Despite our sophisticated culture here we still have people cutting themselves and worse. Here we see these guys in this miserable state reminding us that sin is indeed a living death and the nonbeliever is spiritually dead in their sins. You are like a spiritual zombie. You are one of the walking dead.
So in this story the demons are waiting for Jesus. According to Luke's Gospel 8:28, "As soon as he saw Jesus". This is one of the men who was possessed, "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? I beg you, don't torture me.'" See this guy was so wrapped up in demon power he couldn't even speak for himself. The demons were effectively speaking through him. We learn some interesting things about the devil and demons here.
1. If you are taking notes. The demons, though wicked, are quite orthodox in their beliefs. Let me say that again. The demons, though wicked, are actually quite orthodox in some of their beliefs. They scream out this bizarre question. Verse 29. "Why are you interfering with us, oh Son of God? Have you come to torture us before our appointed time"? First of all they acknowledge who Jesus is. They call him the Son of God. And also Mark's account of this Gospel tells us that one of the men ran up and bowed down before him". That is interesting. Here is a demon-possessed man but he bows down before Jesus Christ. The word that is used there for bowed down proskyneo in the Greek is usually translated worship. So in effect the demon had to fall down in submission to Christ.
You see demons hate and loathe everything about God but they are powerless to do anything in his presence but worship. Because they know the power of Christ is greater than their power. In Luke's account of this story we read that Jesus asks one of these men, "What is your name"? Not the name of the man. The name of the demon. The demon responds, "Legion for we are many". Now that is kind of a freaky answer because there was more than one demon in this guy. How many soldiers are in a roman legion? Well looking back historically a roman legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers. Is it possible this man had 6,000 demons inside of him? I don't know. I know this guy was completely under the power of the enemy. They lost everything. They lost their homes, their families, their friends, their sanity. Now they have even lost their very will. They have controlled this man.
Bringing me to point 2. Though not as powerful as God, demons do have considerable power. Notice he casts them into the heard of pigs and immediately they go over the side of the cliff and commit mass sueycide. Right. As I have said for years it was the first case of deviled ham OK so it shows the power they have. These pigs are powerless. What are they going to do? It reminds us that satan's power trumps other powers though not the power of God.
3. Christ has power over the devil and the demons. Christ has power over them. I already quoted this verse. Let me quote it again. "God has raised him to the heights of heaven, given Him a name that is above every name so at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father".
So we see three forces at work in this story. Chaos, culture, and Christ. Or to put it another way, satan, society, and the Savior. We have already seen what the devil has done. He brought chaos and calamity and effectively ruined their lives. OK what did culture or society do for these men? Not much. They chained him up. Just chain him up. They can't rehabilitate them. They can't change them. Society does not have that power. Politics does not have that power. Religion doesn't even have that power.
For instance we have a wave of violent crime sweeping our country. Law enforcement is often understaffed, underpaid, and certainly underappreciated I emphasize. I appreciate those that serve as police officers. Are there bad cops? Of course there are. There is bad everything. Pick any profession. You are going to find some bad apples. Including people in ministry. By and large being chaplain with two departments. Most of the police officers I know are wonderful people that work very hard and do a good job. We should support them. The Bible says they have been placed there by God. But they are limited. You know because a cop will go out and arrest somebody and send him to court and you have a liberal activist judge that will set the person free.
Meanwhile back in our schools we are teaching situation ethics in our culture. There is no right and wrong or black and white. There is just 50 shades of gray. Right. Then when things go wrong, when a kid is taught he is merely a highly evolved animal and then he starts acting like one we scratch our heads and wonder why would this child do this? He probably came from a broken family. He probably was never taught right and wrong. So you see the results of this big social experiment. Now it is affecting our entire nation. America stands at a crossroads today.
Peter Marshall, the former chaplain to the U.S. Senate, wrote prophetically in 1947. "The choice before us is plain". He is speaking of America. "Christ or chaos. Conviction or compromise. Discipline or disintegration". I am rather tired of hearing about our rights and privileges as American citizens. "The time has come". Peter Marshall writes, "It is now when we ought to hear about the duties and responsibilities of our citizens. America's future depends upon her accepting and demonstrating God's government". Well said. Very true. I believe we need a spiritual awakening and if we don't have one I fear our days are numbered. We will certainly decline as a nation at the very least and perhaps even face the full judgment of God. America needs to turn back to God.
OK so what the chains could not do Jesus did with one word. And that that brings us to the third force if you will in this story. Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do for these men? He sought them out in their spooky little graveyard and offered them hope. This is the thing. God is always going to chase down people. He loves us. Jesus is always looking for lost people. He picks them out of a crowd and goes out of his way to reach them. These tormented men are a perfect illustration. What culture could not do Christ could. What religion could not do Christ can. What treatment programs cannot provide the Lord can. You don't need 12 steps. You just need one. Turn to Jesus Christ and watch him transform your life.
Now listen to this. Jesus delivers these guys. All of the demons are cast out. They go into the pigs. The pigs flip out. They go over the side. So the demons are gone. Here are these two men. According to Luke's version of the story chapter 8:35 "They went out to see what happened. They came to Jesus and found the man" this one guy is identified in particular whom the demons had departed". He is not naked anymore. He is not cutting himself anymore. He is sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. Their reaction. They were afraid. What? Afraid? They should have been rejoicing. No. They were afraid.
In the same way you look at some Christians. They are so transformed you can't believe it when they tell you what they used to be before they were believers. I mean sitting all around you are miracle stories quite frankly. In fact if you knew what that person sitting next to you used to do, you may not want to be sitting next to them. This is something I would like to remind you of. You should be known for what you are in Christ rather than what you were. Don't be defined by your past but by your present. How did the owners react after this man was transformed? They were afraid. This demonstration of God's power scared them.
Look at this reaction. Verse 34. "They begged him to go away and leave them alone". Can you believe this? "Yeah. Could you go now? You are freaking us out". Why is that? I think it is because Jesus probably just wrecked a profitable industry because these Jewish men in this community were raising pigs. By the way, that is forbidden in the Jewish law. Not a kosher thing to do. They were making their money raising swine. Raising pigs. Jesus, they felt, just ended their whole industry by casting the demons into these pigs. You know Jesus is bad for some people's business. All I would say is that if Jesus cannot bless your business you need a new job brother. I don't know what you do for a living but if you can't say, "Lord bless me as I do this job today" then get another job. Whatever you do, you need to do it for the glory of God and be able to ask the Lord's blessing.
That is not only true of jobs. That is true of anything we do in life. You are going to go see that movie tonight. "Hey Lord bless us as we go to that movie". "I can't say that". Why not? "Do you know what I am going to see"? Well then don't go see it. Can you say, "Lord bless this relationship". "I don't know if I want to". Why? "I am not really sure if he would approve". Then don't have that relationship. This is not rocket science. If you can't say, "Hallowed be thy name" over what you are doing then don't do that thing. He was bad for their business.
Now we come to the end of the story. They ask Jesus to go away and you know what? He answered their "Prayer" and left. The Bible says of Israel, "He gave them the desires of their hearts but sent leanness to their souls". What does that mean? It means sometimes God will give you what you ask but you ain't going to like it. "Go away". "Ok. Bye". He answered their prayer. You don't want that prayer answered. See Jesus is a gentleman. He won't go where he is not wanted. He won't force his way into anyone's life. That is why the Bible says, Christ speaking, "I stand at the door and I knock and if you will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in". He is waiting for me to open the door so to speak. If you don't want to open that door, you don't have to.
There are three prayers in this story. 1. There is the prayer of the demons. They plead with Jesus to send them into the pigs. He answers their prayer if you will. Secondly there is the prayer of the people. They foolishly pleaded with him to leave their city and he did just that. Thirdly there is the prayer of the man who was delivered from demons who asked Jesus to let him become a follower. That is recorded in Mark 5:18. "When Jesus got back into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go too. But Jesus said, 'no, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done and how merciful he has been'". Interestingly Jesus answered the prayer of the demons and the hardened people but not his follower. Why? Because he wanted that man to stay where he was and influence the people around him. Our service for God always begins at home. When he overrules your prayer it is for a greater purpose because God cares about lost people.
So now in conclusion no one is beyond the reach of God. Not your prodigal child. Not your nonbelieving husband or wife. Not that crazy person that gives you trouble everyday at work and is always antagonizing you. Not fill in blank here. No one is beyond the reach of God. So don't give up. They may be in satan's control today but they could be in Christ's control tomorrow. We need to be praying for those people. Remember Jesus Christ is more powerful than satan. Don't let the devil freak you out and say, "Hey man I have a foothold in your life and you are never getting free". No. I am going to get free. "No you have done all of these horrible things. I have got you". You just say this. "Go to hell". This is the one time you can say it legitimately. "Go to hell satan. I rebuke you" and stop the conversation. The devil is not in hell now. But he will be one day in the future. And he knows it. So the next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.