Running with The Devil: How Can People Be Set Free If We Do Not Tell Them How

Posted: January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

Jacob Koshy grew up in Singapore with one driving ambition: to be a success in life, to gain all the money and possessions he could. That led him into the world of drugs and gambling, and eventually he became the lord of an international smuggling network. In 1980, he was arrested and placed in a government drug rehabilitation prison in Singapore. He was frustrated beyond endurance. All his goals, purposes, dreams, and ambitions were locked up with him in a tiny cell, and his heart was full of a cold emptiness. He was a smoker, and cigarettes weren’t allowed in the center. Instead, he smuggled in tobacco and rolled it in the pages of a Gideon Bible. One day he fell asleep while smoking. He awoke to find that the cigarette had burned out, and all that remained was a scrap of charred paper. He unrolled it and read what was written: “Saul, Saul, Why do you persecute me?” Jacob asked for another Bible and read the entire story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He suddenly realized that if God could help someone like Saul, God could help him, too. There in his cell he knelt and prayed, asking Christ to come into his life and change him. He began crying and couldn’t stop. The tears of a wasted life washed away his pain, and God redeemed him. He started sharing his story with the other prisoners, and as soon as he was released he became involved in a church. He met a Christian woman, married, and is now a missionary in the Far East where he tells people far and wide, “Who would have believed that I could find the truth by smoking the Word of God?”

This illustration is an analogous to our text for today. There was a song by Van Halen back in the 1980’s that seems appropriate too, “Running with the Devil.” Some of the lyrics are:

I live my life like there’s no tomorrow
and all I’ve got, I had to steal…
I found the simple life ain’t so simple
When I jumped out, on that road
I got no love, no love you’d call real
Ain’t got nobody, waitin’ at home

There are people running with the devil every day in every part of the world, in every part of America, in every part of South Carolina, in every part of our town. The devil’s “angel of light” persona speaks eloquently to those who will listen. Therefore, this passage teaches us several things. First, the Word of God must go forth. It must be shared. Second, running with the devil can be costly. Third, those who reject Christ often would rather pursue their own destruction without change. Finally, we must make disciples of those who accept Christ. All of these points will lead us to find that there is a great big world out there running toward the cliff that must hear of the miracle of Christ.

Jesus took his ministry outside the traditional Jewish boundaries. This was no coincidence. In the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark, you see in Mark 4:35, Jesus said “Let’s go over to the other side.” Where and what was this other side of the Sea of Gallilee?

Many New Testament manuscripts refer to the “Country of the Gadarenes” or “Gerasenes” rather than the Gergesenes. Both Gerasa and Gadara were cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee. They were both Gentile cities filled with citizens who were culturally more Greek than Jewish; this would account for the pigs in the biblical account. Gerasa and Gadara are accounted for in historical accounts (by writers such as Pliny the Elder and Josephus) and by archaeological research. Today they are the modern towns of Jerash and Umm Qais. The area also was known to the Greeks and Romans as the Decapolis (meaning “the ten cities”). The Roman government wanted Roman culture to flourish in the farthest reaches of the empire, which at the time included eastern Palestine. So they encouraged the growth of these ten cities, allowing them some political autonomy within the protective sphere of Rome. Each city functioned as a polis or city-state, with jurisdiction over an area of the surrounding countryside. Each city also minted its own coins. Many coins from Decapolis cities identify their city as “autonomous,” “free,” “sovereign,” or “sacred,” terms that imply some sort of self-governing status. The Romans strongly left their cultural stamp on all of the cities. The Romans sponsored and built numerous temples and other public buildings. The imperial cult, the worship of the Roman emperor, was a very common practice throughout the Decapolis and was one of the features that linked the different cities. So, this area of was more Roman than Middle Eastern. It was more Roman than Jewish. It was indeed a foreign mission field even though it was close to home for Jesus and his disciples.

Jesus said let’s go. It was a command. It was purposeful. The implication here is that the Good News of Jesus’ ministry was for everyone, the whole world, and not just the nation of Israel. Thus, Jesus carrying the message to regions of Palestine that were not Jewish is significant. He was the Light of the World, not just of the Jews. He practiced it before he preached it – The Great Commission Matthew28:19-20). Jesus lived it. The disciples knew it and repeated it. We say evangelism, but rarely practice it. There’s hurting world out there. When Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission, He was not asking them something new. He was not asking them to do something that He had not already done. Jesus took the news to the Jews first, but He also took the Good News to non-Jews. Here, He purposely goes into a non-Jewish region. This demonstrates to us that the Great Commission is a command not an option. We are to share the Good News with a hurting world, a world under the spell of false gods, under the spell of Satan, under the spell of self-destruction. We are to preach. We are to go. Jesus says to us through the centuries, “Let’s go!” Go and make disciples. The Great Commission is an imperative statement. Go! It is urgent. Our mission field is right here and around the world. Jesus crossed over to what amount to a foreign land but it was right across the lake. We do not have to go far to find a mission field. Our mission field begins right outside our church parking lot and goes to the ends of the earth.

The second thing worth noting in this passage is that following Satan can be costly. Satan seeks to torment and devour us – using our sinful nature against us (1 Peter 5:8-9). In this text, we see the cost of running with the devil. Demons possessed this man. Flirting with evil can lead to possession. Obsession with the occult, satanic rituals, Ouija boards – just inviting demonic activity! It’s real! Even if we are not being possessed by demons directly, Satan is happiest in anything that takes our eyes off the Lord (Ephesians 2:1-3). Satan was happy with my history. Prior to coming to Jesus Christ, I had a history of seeking approval from women rather than God. Seeking approval from the woman in my life led to making stupid financial mistakes to please others. It led to ignoring my children. It led to separating myself from my family. Ultimately when we flirt with gods other than the Real One we end up empty and alone. Others may experience loss of homes, possessions, families, friends – just like the demon-possessed man here. Pursuit of greed and wealth can lead us to loss of decency, loss of self-control, loss of peace, loss of our purpose. Just like in the opening illustration, Jacob Koshy became so consumed with the pursuit of wealth and power that it possessed him. We don’t know the back story on the demon-possessed man but we do know that at some point he became susceptible to Satan and his minions. Whatever you become possessed by other than God, you will end up alone, empty, in a cell, hanging out in the tombs, all like I was, alone, lost. They would still be possessed. We would still be possessed…if Jesus had not be missional, evangelical. Unless we hear the Word of God, unless someone is missional with us, we will stay in the tombs, lost and hopeless. But as we know, Satan and his demons have to authority over Jesus. They know it too. He is God in flesh. They know who He is and they are afraid of Him because He is truth. He is light. He is love. He is perfection. God is greater than any demon in your life. He is greater than any trouble that you may have. He is God.

The next point here is that some will reject Jesus because it involves change. The demons requested that Jesus send them into the pigs. The citizens request that Jesus leave the area. Some who hear the Word of God would rather continue in their sin – blindly carrying themselves over the cliff. The demons recognized Christ but did not want to submit to Him. Some of us are the same. Later, Jesus, later. I don’t have time for you now. Some are so concerned with wealth and possessions that to follow Christ seems foolish and ask Him to leave the area. You are going to upset my lifestyle, Jesus. Go on get out of here. Because God gives us free will, He is not going to force Himself on us. We see that in the scene here. Jesus departed. He did not force Himself on them. But Jesus went to the mission field. He planted the seeds. The people of the area could not say that they had not met or heard of Jesus Christ. He took the message. He planted the seeds. Some will listen immediately. Some will ponder and respond later. Some will reject the message always. The seeds must be planted. The seeds cannot take root unless we throw out the seed. They say that it takes at least eight encounters with the gospel before a person will respond to it. How can they have the intersection points with the gospel if we do not go and throw the seeds? Jesus demonstrates here that we must go. We must share the gospel with people outside our cozy little Christian world that many of us Christ followers, including myself, insulate ourselves in.

The final point here is about soil that is ready for the seed to take root. The soil that is ready to accept Jesus Christ. The demoniac here is the recipient of freedom from that which possesses Him through Jesus Christ. He wanted to stay by Jesus’ side. He wanted to go back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee with Jesus. Sure, that would have been great. To be a disciple at the feet of Jesus. That would have been cool. I often wish that I could have been a direct disciple. Hanging out with JC. But, here, we see Jesus had bigger plans. He created a missionary right here in this passage. He created a disciple and commanded him to spread the word of what Jesus had done in his life. Jesus created missionaries outside his core group frequently in the gospels – the Woman at the Well (see John 4), the Blind Man at the Pool of Siloam (see John 9), just to name two examples. Each of these changed people left Jesus and told their spheres of influence about what Jesus had said to them and what He had done for them. Those who receive grace from Jesus Christ share their stories of redemption and life change. Remember when the Pharisees questioned the blind man. The Blind Man whose sight had been restored told them basically that He did not know all the theological answers they were seeking. All he knew is what Jesus had done for him. Can we do no less? Steeped in sin. Controlled by the demons of our lives. Running with the devil. Set free by the Word. The demoniac, the Woman at the Well, the blind man, Jacob Koshy – telling what Christ did for them.

We know the world is steeped in sin. It seems rampant and epidemic. The envelope of decency keeps getting pushed to new borders. What was once unacceptable behavior is tolerated and celebrated today. In the name of tolerance and “whatever make YOU feel good, do it” so called enlightenment, we are running ourselves right of the cliff like the demons in our text today. Should we sequester ourselves away from the world? Should we just sit back and complain about how the world has changed for the worse but do nothing as we sit in our living room watching television – that we complain about but keep watching? Should we blame it all on “them”? Should we blame it on whoever is the current President? The answer my friends is an emphatic “No!”

No, my friends, the Word must go forth. There are people who do not even know who Christ is in our own town! We must share the gospel. We must share the Good News of Jesus Christ. People are hurting out there. Possessed by real demons because they have not heard of Christ. Possessed by demons of their own making, Satan’s greatest ploy. There are people drowning in the depths of pain that Satan revels in. People worshiping the gods made by human hands – possessions – that leave them empty and searching. People worshiping the approval of others but coming up empty and alone. We must share the gospel. Sure, some will reject us because they think they have to give up something to come to Christ. They think that they have to be in control. They will reject the story of what Christ did in your life. But share the gospel anyway. Share the gospel anyway. Seeds get planted. One person after another that make the soil ready. The miracle of Christ happens then. They are set free by Christ in a flood of exiting demons. They are made new. Jesus thought the demoniac was worth it. There is nothing more important to Christ than the residence of your soul in eternity. We should think no less. Maybe, because someone here today, right now, is here because a Christ follower “went to the other side” as Christ did in this passage and shared the gospel. You are here because someone planted a seed. Are you ready to be set free from your demons? Are you tired of running with the devil? Are you tired of heading toward the cliff? Now is the time. This altar is the place. Come. Let Jesus exorcise your demons! Be set free! Please come! Amen.

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