When Three Worlds Collide (3): The Choice
Intro – The topic for training at the Army Airborne School was what to do if your parachute malfunctions. The answer – use the reserve chute. One student asked: “If the main chute fails, how long do we have to deploy the reserve?” The instructor replied, “The rest of your life.” His point? Life can be very short – but decisions we make in the short-term have long-term implications –eternal ones. That’s a long time. Urgency attaches to getting it right.
We’ve been looking at how the world of God and the good angels battles with the world of Satan and his demons in spiritual warfare. God is predetermined winner. But we must choose which side to join. There’s no neutral ground. We are all part of the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness.
In our passage, the warfare has broken out into the open and teaches much. Our outline is the Destructive Power of Demons which we’ve studied the past 2 weeks. Today we want to look at the Delivering Power of Christ and the Damning Power of Self. This shows the urgency of choosing for Jesus.
II. Delivering Power of Christ
A. The Repression
This man was so completely under the power of the enemy that he had lost all sense of his own identity. V. 27, “For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. He was beyond human help at the mercy of his captors. V. 29, “He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.” He thwarted every attempt to help or at least control him by the power of the demons who had taken him over. V. 30, “Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him.” This man cannot say his own name. His identity has been swallowed up by the demons. He is completely enslaved to the evil within.
But, Beloved, his bondage depicts that of every person outside of Christ. We may live in wonderful homes, wear the latest fashions and claim a multitude of friends. We certainly know our name, but outside of Christ, we are just as enslaved as this man – it’s just not visible. This passage illustrates in physical terms the spiritual reality of life outside Christ. Turn to John 8 where Jesus addressed some religious elite -- people who lived in nice homes, wore the right kind of togas, had credentials that society admired. They would have seen absolutely no resemblance between themselves and poor “Legion.” But John 8:31 ff: “31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him (a passing infatuation, not a saving faith as we will see), “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. (To v. 37) I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” And who is their father? Jump to v. 44, “44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires (Believe me, that was news to them!). He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” These fine people in fine clothes with lots of friends looked great. But Jesus knew they were just as much enslaved to sin as was Legion.
The perception is that there is a middle ground. There is not! We are either the children of God or the children of the devil! The outside is just a façade. You may not look like a reprobate, but remember that Satan comes like an angel of light, and he does not mind that his children look just like angels of light – just so they don’t make a real commitment to Christ. Inside, without Christ, we are spiritually dead -- enslaved to sin, whatever we may look like outwardly. Just as much in bondage to evil as was Legion – our identity just as lost as his for we can only find our true selves in Christ. Only in Him can we be who we were made to be. That doesn’t mean we never do any good thing. Even Jesus said in Matt 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children.” But Isaiah reminded us long ago, “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” How could that be? How could God say that? Because He looks on the heart; He sees the selfish motive behind the good deed. Invisible chains bind those outside of Christ. Gordon Dalbey says it well: “The question for our lives is not whether we will surrender, but to whom or what we will surrender.”
B. The Release -- Legion was hopelessly in bondage. But Jesus released him. Luke shows Jesus’ absolute authority over demons in several ways:
They Knew Jesus Was God – Note v. 28: “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? This isn’t Jesus talking; this is the demons talking. They thought they’d harass the new arrival. But suddenly they see who they are about to attack, fall at his feet and let loose with a loud cry of terror -- like the demon in the synagogue in Capernaum. They are horrified. They’re not worshiping – they are scared witless – frightened out of their mind. Why? Reason # 1 – they know who He is -- Son of the Most High God; they want nothing to do with Him. But now they’re caught.
Demons constantly acknowledge the deity of Jesus. That’s fascinating because demons have been so successful at creating two great questions in the mind of modern man – Is there a God at all? If so, is Jesus God? Most people still believe in a God of some kind. But the vast majority deny the deity of Christ. They will not accept that Jesus was God in human history. But while modern man may deny the existence of God or the deity of Christ, or both, the demons labor under no such misconception. They are not atheists; they just like to create atheists! They know there is a God, and they know Jesus is God.
So, why do they labor so hard to get people to deny Christ? Because they know the whole issue is, What do you think of Christ? If they can separate Jesus from God in people’s minds, they win! The Bible says in I John 5:5, “Who is it that overcomes the world (has salvation) except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” You can’t have God without having Jesus. We come to the Father through the Son. That’s why the demons want to separate them – they hate to see people move from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light thru faith in Christ. They despise it.
They Knew They Had to Obey – V. 29 tells us, “For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.” Jesus commands the demons out. A brief negotiation follows, but it is not about whether or not they had to obey. That was a settled issue. No one on either side doubted for a moment that they had to go. The question was where, not if! Obedience was an absolute given!
Demons hate and fear Jesus, but they never argue His commands. Greek philosophy was dualistic; it saw good and evil as 2 equal and opposite forces. That is not the biblical perspective. Good and evil are not equal. God is superior! So, why doesn’t He just wipe them out? Because His ways are not our ways. He allows the free will of men and demons to play out to demonstrate in that His will is always best. He will be glorified by all He allows. But He sets the boundaries! He proved His supremacy in Christ’s resurrection. These demons, like all those encountered in the Bible, knew they had to obey Jesus. They had no choice.
They Knew He Could Jail Them Immediately. This was a major concern. Twice they are said to “beg” Jesus. What does that tell you about His absolute authority? V. 28, “I beg you, do not torment me.” Then in v. 31, the demons further define this: “And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.” Ah, so they didn’t want to go to the abyss. What is that about? Well, we get the answer in some rather obscure passages of Scripture.
In II Pet 2:4 we read, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [literally, Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.” This tells us at some point in the past, certain angels sinned so badly they are confined in a place called “Tartarus”, a holding place, until final judgment. Peter doesn’t say when this happened, although the next verse mentions Noah. Now, I Pet 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which (His resurrected spiritual body) he went and proclaimed (the victory of His death and resurrection) to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.” This further confirms that in Noah’s time, some angels sinned leading to their confinement in “prison.” Jude 6 provides one further NT clue: “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” So, somehow these angels violated their God-given restrictions as a result of which they’re chained up awaiting judgment, just like Peter said.
All this points us to Gen 6:1 where we find rebel angels, “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God (these are angels – the term is used 6 times in the OT, all but 1 referring to angels) saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” Some think this means demonic beings assumed human bodies and married women producing a wicked breed of people mentioned in Gen 6:4. That is possible, but more likely these demons possessed actual men, against their God-imposed restrictions, leading to the extreme evil that prevailed pre-flood – a Godlessness so severe that only 8 righteous person could be found in the whole of the earth. However you interpret Gen 6, it is clear that some demonic beings got way out of line and paid a severe price. The whole realm of demons knows that.
There is further reference to the abyss, or bottomless pit (same Greek word) in Rev 9 where a good angel opens the abyss middle of the 7-year Tribulation freeing captive demons to roam the earth briefly – a horrendous description is given. Whether these are the demons from Noah’s time is not clear, but they are confined in the same holding area or jail cell – the abyss. And the demons in Luke 8 desperately wanted to avoid going there. They’d been caught red-handed possessing this poor man and knew what Jesus could do if He so chose. So they begged for the pigs; they wanted nothing to do with the abyss.
They Knew Jesus Will Judge Them – Matt’s full version is instructive: “Have you come here to torment us before the time? (Matt 8:29). Before what time? The time of judgment. These demons are under a death sentence and they know it. In Matt 25:41 Jesus talks about “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Jesus is their ultimate judge; He has absolute authority, and they know it. Luke’s urging us to cast our lot with Him, we cannot lose.
III. The Damning Power of Self
Having seen the Destructive Power of the Demons, and the Delivering Power of Christ, we look at the third world in the collision – mankind. Two kinds are here. First, Legion, who by submitting to Christ and denying himself, gets a spectacular new life. V. 35: “Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.” Look at him! Clothed. In his right mind. Able to speak. He begged not to be tormented in v. 28, now he begs differently. V. 38, “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him.” This is a changed man, Beloved. He’s been transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ. All he wants is to be with Jesus. Whatever had opened his life to demons was old news. He wanted Jesus and got a new identity and purpose.
We’re not told his name, but twice (vv. 35 and 38) he is called, “the man from whom the demons had gone.” I bet he reveled in that identity. No longer the man possessed by demons, but now the man possessed by Christ from whom the demons had gone. What a change! He had a new purpose. He wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus said v. 39, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” He found his identity and he found his mission. That’s what happens when people accept Jesus. Lives change. Purposes change. Identities change. Paul says in II Cor 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” You can’t be in Christ and stay the same. The test of salvation is not, did you make a profession or get baptized or say a prayer or fill out a card. Those are good, but the test is, did your life change? Did self die and Christ come to live within? That’s the test – a transformed life.
But there’s a second tragic group. . Vv. 34-37: “When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.”
One man turned to Christ, but what of the rest? They turned Him away. Why? V. 35 says “they were afraid.” And in v. 37, “they were seized with great fear.” There sat their deranged neighbor, completely sane and in his right mind – and they were afraid. Why? Why weren’t they happy? Why afraid? Because they knew they were face to face with the holiness of God. They issue not one complaint about the lost pigs. Not one. Why? They knew they sinned by raising those pigs. To complain would be to admit guilt. So they begged Him to leave. To accept Him would mean to change, and they wanted nothing to do with change. They liked who they were more than who they could be.
May I ask, are you rejecting Jesus for fear that He will ask you to change? Are there habits He’d change? A profane mouth? An uncontrolled temper? Business practices that would not pass His integrity test? Unfaithfulness, at least in your heart, toward your spouse? There is not one of those that Jesus cannot overcome -- to make you the person you were born to be, fulfilling the mission you were meant to fulfill. Jesus can forgive and clean up the evil in any life! But the saddest of all words are those found at the end of v. 37, “So he got into the boat and returned.” Jesus longs to transform your life, change your identity and give you hope for now and for eternity. But if you reject Him, He will get into the boat and leave. He will not force you. That is the damning power of self. It takes most people into a Christless eternity.
Conc – So, how do you choose this morning? For self and or for Christ? Have you moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light? Bruce Larson tells of living on a little island off the coast of Florida which featured a restaurant called Scotty’s Pub. Outside a sign promised “free drinks tomorrow.” Larson said in the 6 years he lived there not one free drink was ever dispensed. Why? Bc tomorrow never comes! If there are free drinks tomorrow, there are no free drinks. Beloved ultimately, that’s all that world of Satan can promise – a tomorrow that never comes. The only way out is Jesus Christ. He alone can straighten out your life. Let’s pray.