Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Drowning Pigs

Read Mark 5:1-5.
The demoniac of the Gerasenes did not just wake up one morning and say: "Hey, I'm demon possessed." This was not something ... he was born with.
It was not something that he just came down with like the flu or a cold. Somewhere ... Sometime ... in this man's life, he made a conscious decision that he wanted to be free.
He wanted to be free of God's influence. He wanted to be free from life's restrictions and responsibilities. He wanted to be free (Slow) to do what ... he wanted to do.
And now, as a demoniac, he becomes in a strange way free. For ... no shackle could bind him, no chain could hold him. He was no longer bound by social conventions that would tell him what to do or how to behave.
He has no responsibilities to society and in turn society after a time no longer wants him. He has become free. But his freedom cost him  more than he could have ever imagined.
According to a survey, 80% of Americans still believe in some sort of God. Another survey by the Barna Group found that only about half that number, 43% of Americans believe the devil to be a "living entity".
Unlike Americans, Bulgarians are among the least religious people in the world. Each day 220 people die without having heard the good news! According to Pew Research Center, only 30% of the people in Bulgaria believe in some sort of God. We haven’t had a poll about belief in the devil, but I guess those who believe in the existence of the devil are even less.
A few months ago I talked with an old woman about Christianity and she told me that she likes to watch horror movies. She even had seen a silhouette of a man in her living room one day. But she wasn’t sure evil spirits existed…
When asked about "his belief in the Devil," C.S. Lewis addressed the question in a thought-provoking way: Lewis stated: "Now, if by 'the Devil' you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No."
As C. S. Lewis explained, "There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. The proper question you should be asking is whether I believe in devils? And I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their will, have become enemies to God.“
So, there are two equal and opposite errors into which we as human beings can fall into concerning the devil and his demons." One error is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe in and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
Be assured Satan is equally pleased if we follow one or both errors."
We that are born of God are kept safe.
For as John declared, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life… The One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them..." (1 John 5:13-21)
The one who is born of God is kept safe ... and the evil one cannot harm them.
Praise God, what a glorious promise.
Now the demoniac in our Gospel reading was out of control physically and mentally and he had a mixed response when he met Jesus.
And The encounter with Jesus was explosive.
The disciples' boat beaches near a graveyard and near by a herd of pigs are grazing. Both the graveyard and the pigs are ritually and culturally unclean for the Jews.
As Jesus steps out, a crazed man storms out of the tombs. Naked, wild hair, bloody wrists, scratched skin, broken chains on his leg, isolated from others. Fury encased ... in flesh. Arms flailing and voice screaming.
This man’s nakedness and chains and isolation and his raving and crying out are a picture of all people who live in rebellion against God. Maybe you know such people who are spiritually enslaved to sin, to idols, and to the “prince and power of the air.”
But when I read this story I can’t help but think of Bulgaria. So many Bulgarians are spiritually dead, living in the graveyard of pride and worshipping the idols of humanism, materialism and addiction...
I visit a rehab center and work with drug and alcohol addicts. A few months ago I went to the center and saw a man I hadn’t met before. I chatted with him for a while. Then I invited him to the Bible study group we were going to have in a few minutes.
He said, “I am an atheist”. I assured him that the group was open for people of all beliefs and for non-believers as well. Then I tried to friendly pat him on the shoulder and encourage him to join us. Just then this guy jumped back as if he was afraid of me touching him. I’m pretty sure that he was demon oppressed.
We see the demoniac in our story doing something different but to the same effect. He storms out of the graveyard toward Jesus and the apostles and shouts at the top of his voice:
Mark 5:7 “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”
Can you picture the apostles as they gawk and gulp and put a foot back in the boat?
The townspeople in the past had tried to help him by restraining him physically but his problem was much deeper .... For it was spiritual.
This man had an inner, spiritual problem.
The truth is, all that laws and regulations can do is treat the outer person. Which only affects behaviors ... without touching the inner source of the problem.
No law alone could change this man. No code of moral standards could free this man. (Pause) It is the heart, the source, that must be changed.
In Mark's account of this story he states that "no one could bind him.... Anymore."
Apparently at one time they could subdue him, but it seems he grew much worse over the years.
When Jesus said to the disciples, "Let us go over to the other side", He knew exactly where He was going ... and who was there.
I am convinced that Jesus heard the cry of this man.
We see in our text that Jesus first commanded the demons to come out of the man. And through this encounter we get a glimpse into the unseen world of the spiritual warfare. A war which is going on ... all around us.
For in just a few moments the invisible spiritual conflict becomes visible and we are offered a position overlooking the battlefield.
The Gospel reading goes on: "Jesus cast the demons out of the man and they entered the swine, and the heard rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned." (Mark 5:13)
I believe these swine suddenly possessed were compelled by Jesus to run immediately down the hill and plunge into the sea.
Jesus is Lord over all of nature and he surely had the authority to command the swine to go! To take the demons to the water!
That was the end of that demonic possession. The Garasene man was delivered.
But why was Jesus able to deliver and restore the demoniac?
The reason he could deliver and restore this man comes at the end of Jesus’ life. There we see Jesus stripped naked, Jesus a prisoner, Jesus isolated and crucified outside the gate. We hear him cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Jesus was able to heal the demoniac even though the latter was a sinner because eventually he exchanged places with him. Jesus is our substitute. Jesus could come into this man’s life and heal him because Jesus died for him and paid the penalty.
And Jesus did this for all of us. He did it for Bulgarians, too. He was stripped naked so we could be clothed in righteousness. He was imprisoned so we could be set free. He was thrown into the deepest despair and agony so we could know God’s love and forgiveness. He was isolated outside the city gate so we could be accepted in the Heavenly city.
But notice how Jesus did that.
Mark 5:11-13 “A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.”

Jesus sent the pigs into the lake. He rushed them into the water. Why?
Jesus Himself said, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (John 7:38).
Now Water in the Scriptures often represents the Holy Spirit. And dryness often represents one who is void of the Spirit of God. Dry places are a type of spirit-less people a people within whom God's Spirit will not dwell.
King David said, "The rebellious dwell in a dry land" (Psalm 68:6). And dryness opens one up to demonic oppression.
Whenever Jesus is preached, that living water is poured out as a flood upon the dry ground, like streams in the desert!
At our church we run many evangelistic initiatives. We also talk with non-believers in the Macedonian Culture House or in the Community Center. When I preach the people watch with eyes wide open and eagerly drink the living water that is flooding the dry desert of their souls.
The demons begged Jesus not to send them out of the area (v.10) but instead to send them into the pigs. But they didn’t expect that Jesus would send the pigs in the water!
One commentator says: “I am convinced that demons hate water! Demons cannot stand water” Why? Every demon knows the Scriptures. And every demon is clearly aware that water in the Scriptures represents God's Spirit.
And wherever the Spirit abides, they must surely flee! At the name of Jesus Satan and his cohorts must surely flee. And they will flee every blood-bought believer who stands filled with the Holy Spirit.
Greater is he that is in me then he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
They cannot stand the living water of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what we do at New Life Church. We make Spirit filled disciples of Christ who learn how to drown the pigs of demon possession!
Dostoevsky has said: “Only Christianity has in itself the living water. Only Christianity can bring man to the living sources of water and save him from dеcomposition. Without Christianity mankind will decompose and rot.”
So, Jesus teaches us a lesson here. We are to be filled with the living water. We are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit. How do we do that?
Ephesians 5:18-20 “be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Charles Finney wrote how God gave him mighty infillings of the Holy Spirit "that went through me, as it seemed, body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals were the means of their immediate conversion. My words seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men. They cut like a sword. They broke the heart like a hammer.
Multitudes can attest to this...Sometimes I would find myself in a great measure empty of this power. I would go and visit, and find that I made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray with the same results. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer...after humbling myself and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been the experience of my life."
At New Life Church Varna we have prayer meetings before the Sunday service. We pray for each other, for our non-Christian families and friends, for Bulgaria. A few times a year we run fast and prayer months. And we have seen many strongholds pulled down through prayer.
Recently the Bulgarian Parliament passed a bill on first reading that supposedly aimed at preventing religious terrorism but actually violated the freedom of religion, especially of the smaller denominations.
Thanks to the peaceful protests, hundreds of letters to the MPs, pressure from abroad and most importantly, the PRAYERS of the saints, most of these restrictive texts were dropped out on second reading.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
As Charles Spurgeon put it, “Prayers are the believer's weapons of war. When the battle is too hard for us, we call in our great ally, who, as it were, lies in ambush until faith gives the signal by crying out, "Arise, O Lord."”
Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Two thousand dead swine and a man who had the power to break chains sitting subdued in the presence of Jesus was enough to frighten the towns people. All the people were amazed. Yet they wanted nothing to do with this Jesus. That wanted nothing to do with One Who commanded such awesome power.
To truly encounter the power of God for many is a frightening thing. The towns people wanted Jesus to leave and the spiritually freed demoniac wanted to go with Jesus.
Can you blame him?
Yet does Jesus allow him to come along? NO! Why? Why wouldn't Jesus take him along? For He had greater plans for this man.
Jesus told him: "Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you." (Mark 5:19)
There it is. A commissioning. A commissioning of the first missionary.
One minute crazed, the next in Christ. No training. No teaching. All he knew was Jesus scared the hell out of hell and that was enough.
Maybe even more surprising is the fact that Jesus sent this man back to be a missionary to his own. The town's people demanded that Jesus leave them. And in our humanness we would not have sent a missionary ... we may have sent a plague perhaps but not a missionary.
But Christ did. And Christ does. We are privileged to be sent as missionaries to our own people. And so are you!
He still sends the message to the unworthy. And he uses the unworthy to share the message.
When we allow the comforter, the Holy Spirit to control our lives, demons cannot set up residence, they cannot oppress.
When the Holy Spirit is in control all fear has been conquered.... All fear is gone.
Demons cannot be in the presence of the living water. Demons cannot stand in the presence or in the power ... of the Holy Spirit.
Yield to the Holy Spirit and allow the living water the Holy Spirit to guide you to transform you.
So, please, pray with us that as we yield to the Spirit of God, He would work through us to transform the minds and the hearts of Bulgarian people, and set them  free from all demons.