The Baddest Man In the World – Mark 5:1-20

MyNameIsLegionForWeAreMany“And Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea…As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:9-13, 18-20, ESV).

As Jesus was preaching on the east side of the sea of Galilee, He encountered a man possessed or controlled by evil spirits or demons.

This man lived alone in a cemetery and he was so bad that the people living in the region had tried to bind him with shackles and chains but he was always able to break the chains apart.

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American Idols – Psalm 106:20-21

“They traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass-eating bull. They forgot God, their savior, who had done such great things in Egypt” (Psalm 106:20-21, NLT).

This Psalm recounts the sin and rebellion of Israel during the exodus from Egypt.

The Israelites committed a major act of idolatry while Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s law for His chosen people.

What happened to the Israelites in Egypt can happen to Christians today. It’s just that we describe it using different terminology rather than the term “idolatry.”

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Don’t Give Up the Fight, Find Delight – Psalm 28

In Psalm 28, the psalmist, referring to wicked people, lamented: “They care nothing for what the Lord has done or for what his hands have made.” (vs. 28:3)

To the psalmist, the “wicked” were people who did not acknowledge God or obey His law. They did not discriminate between the sacred and the common, and therefore, had no respect for God’s authority, creation, law, or salvation.

The primary characteristic of the wicked was faithlessness–they had no belief or faith in God.

Sometimes God’s people can grow complacent in their faith and develop an attitude where they care little or nothing for what God has done or is doing.

Such ambivalence occurs when you let the circumstances of life cause you to lose focus on God and give up on the struggle to remain faithful.

But, if your faith grows cold, then you should ask God to restore joy and satisfaction in living for Him as the psalmist did: “The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple”(Psalm 27:4, NLT).

When you don’t care, don’t give up the fight…that’s when it’s time to find delight in God!

The psalmist encourages you, then, to wait on the Lord for restoration: “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14, NLT).

When Jesus is the focus of your life and His Spirit is the guiding force of your life, then you will again find excitement and fulfillment in accomplishing His will and you will beseech God: “Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path” (Psalm 27:11, NLT).

God’s Merit Badges – Job 36:15

“God rescues the afflicted by their affliction; He instructs them by their torment” (Job 36:15, HCSB).

In the story of Job, Elihu was the fourth and last to speak from among Job’s friends. Elihu was younger than the others and waited to speak, giving deference to the older men.

Though younger, Elihu believed he was speaking God’s truth in confronting Job, but he claimed neither human superiority nor inferiority to Job.

Elihu had listened carefully to Job’s claims of being pure and innocent and being unjustly oppressed by God.

And Elihu reminded Job that as a human being, he was not in a position to bring accusations against God, his Creator.

Elihu declared to Job that instead of being a sign of God’s unconcern as Job had supposed, affliction was a mark of God’s mercy, keeping one from the path of iniquity.

In other words, the very thing that afflicts you may also be what saves you.

God can use your affliction to rescue and restore you to Him and His will. Your affliction can spiritually develop you into a human being that is prepared for spending eternity with God!

Admittedly, affliction is not my first choice for spiritual growth. In fact, I like to avoid affliction as much as possible. So, I often recite from the Lord’s prayer the supplication that Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from affliction: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, HCSB).

Indeed, our affliction may sometimes be one way that God deals with issues in our lives that could potentially cause us to be unfaithful. But this verse does not say that God afflicts us, but that He rescues and restores us through our affliction. (Remember, it was Satan that afflicted Job; it was Satan that tested Job, not God.)

Because affliction causes us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy!

That which causes my pain and suffering is also that which can restore me to intimacy with God.
     That which causes me to give up and quit is also that which empowers me to endure and persevere.

So what we perceive to be our problem is actually the solution to our problem!

In fact, our affliction may even prevent evil or temptation from overtaking or overcoming us: “Be careful that you do not turn to iniquity, for that is why you have been tested by affliction” (vs. 21).

When I was a boy, I joined the boy scouts. In scouting you earn merit badges for demonstrating a useful skill or a good behavior. By earning merit badges, a scout may advance in rank. Advancement in rank acknowledges the scout’s growing ability to serve others better.

Our afflictions are God’s merit badges. They are designed to empower us to become more obedient and productive as Jesus’s disciples.

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7, HCSB)

In Sync – Romans 8:28

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, HCSB).

This familiar verse is probably one of the most often quoted, yet, often misunderstood verses in the Bible!

We generally quote the verse and its promise to someone who has suffered tragedy or misfortune or we claim its promise for ourselves when we personally encounter tragedy or misfortune.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some very powerful theology embedded in this verse. It’s just that we sometimes misapply or misappropriate it to our lives!

On one hand, we interpret Romans 8:28 to mean that God does bad things to us (or allows bad things to happen to us) to drive us back into line with His will.

We were bad so God caused something bad to happen to us so we’ll start being good!

On the other hand, we interpret Romans 8:28 to mean that God will take the bad things that happen to us and turn them into good things.

The problem with these interpretations is that both views cause you to miss out on the powerful promise that’s contained in Romans 8:28.

The promise of restoration!

Both views impede what God actually wants to do in your life when you encounter adversity.

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us to make us obey Him nor does He change the bad things that happen to us into good things!

Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world.

When I have encountered tragedy in my life, I find that I wake up each day and the tragic event has still occurred and its residual grief, stress, frustration, or sadness is still felt deeply and the havoc that it has reaped in my life and others is still evident.

So am I being cynical and sterilizing this potent promise, this powerful theology, with cynicism?

Not at all. I’m not being cynical, I’m being a realist.

I want to show you how the wonderful promise contained in Romans 8:28 can have a transformative effect on your life when you understand God’s reality as it is explained in this verse.

After all, God really, really wants you to experience His reality. His reality, not our version of it.

The fundamental basis for forming a relationship with God is restoration. God created a perfect world. That perfect world has become imperfect; it has fallen from its original splendor because of rebellion, specifically, humanity’s rebellion against God’s plans.

God wants to restore this world and humanity from its fallen state to a perfect state. God wants to restore this world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to live and die as a human being for it, for us.

So restoration is God’s purpose. And our redemption has always been God’s plan since before the creation of the world, and will always be His plan even to eternity.

And God not only wants to redeem and restore this world, He wants to redeem and restore you!

He redeemed you from your fallen state when you first believed in Jesus. Now, God wants to restore you everyday of your life as you struggle in this fallen world to live for Him. And He especially wants to restore you when you encounter hardship and suffering.

That’s how a relationship with God works–restoration!

But God does not restore you by removing the problem. If you think that, then you are missing the blessing of the Romans 8:28 promise.

God wants to apply the healing balm of restoration to your problems as you seek refuge from your difficulties under the protection of His love and grace.

He wants to draw you into His lovingkindness, His mercy, His redeeming love!

And He’s so mighty, so powerful, that evil and the consequences of evil are inconsequential to God.

Nothing, not even evil and the bad that it produces, can thwart God’s good purposes or prevent God’s love. So much so, that God even uses evil to accomplish His redemptive plans and purposes.

The bad of this world can never stand in the way of God’s good: “Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT).

Wow! God’s love is incredible, amazing, incredibly amazing!

God is almighty and, therefore, makes all things, even evil, even tragedy or misfortune, work together for His good purposes!

When bad things happen to you, God puts your life back in sync! He realigns your life for you. He restores you to His will!

So the marvelous promise of Romans 8:28 should not be stored away to be grabbed off the shelf when tragedy strikes. It’s a way of life. It’s the way we maintain a relationship with God!

God restores you. God continuously synchronizes your life with His plans and purposes when you love Him and seek His will as the way for your life.

“Whatever has been born of God conquers the world” (1 John 5:4, HCSB).

God’s Unrequited Love – Zechariah 1:3

“Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” After their exile to Babylon, God invited his people to renew their commitment to Him. The Lord was angry with their forefathers whose sins caused the exile. Now their time of exile was coming to an end and God did not want to extend His anger toward this new generation. If they would but return to Him, then he would return to them in favor and blessing. This promise to God’s people, Israel in the Old Testament, is the same promise He makes to His people, the Church, in the New Testament in the book of Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). God describes His love for His people when they have sinned and turned away from Him as unrequited love. Even though you may “break up” with God, He is still in love with you and does not want the relationship to end. If you want Him back, you must make the first move. You are assured, however, that if you return to Him, if you open the door, then He is always ready to “make up” with you.

The Latter Glory Promise – Haggai 2:9

“The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” Haggai the prophet encouraged the repatriated Jews, the remnant from the Babylonian captivity who had returned to Judah, to start rebuilding the temple. The Lord told the people to “Be strong” and “Work” because He was with them beause they were His covenant people (vs. 4). And as His covenant people His Spirit remained with them (vs. 5). God promised that He will once again fill the temple with His glory and adorn it with treasures of silver and gold so that its future glory will be even greater than when Solomon first built the temple, and it will be a place of peace–Hebrew shalom, meaning well-being or peace with God. While the ultimate fulfillment of this prophetic verse may be found in Christ’s first and second comings, it has inferences for the individual lives of God’s covenant people in the present, who are the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). Contained in this verse is the promise that you have the potential to be more productive for God’s Kingdom as you grow older if you work and be strong in the Lord because His Spirit remains with you! Be encouraged that the physical aging process is also a spiritual strengthening process for those who have God’s Spirit.

A Sudden Change of Heart – 2 Chronicles 29:36

“And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had prepared for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.” During the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, he closed down the temple and built altars in many places around Jerusalem and in many cities in Judah to make offerings to other gods. When Hezekiah, his son, became king, the first thing he did was to open and repair the doors of the temple. Then he called in the Levites and priests and commanded them to cleanse and consecrate the temple. Sixteen days later they completed the repairs and consecration of the temple and the people of Judah brought so many sacrifices that there were not enough priests to prepare the burnt offerings. God had changed the people in such a way that they “were of a willing heart” (vs. 31). The change of heart of the people and the restoration of  temple worship happened suddenly. In fact, it was so sudden a change that the people, who but a few days earlier were ready to comply with wicked King Ahaz in his idolatrous ways, were now ready to be obey and worship God. King Hezekiah recognized the hand of God on the people and he seized the opportunity to repair the temple and restore the people of Judah to the worship of God. Like Hezekiah, we must be spiritually perceptive and prepared so that we can seize any opportunity to lead or restore a person to faith in God when the Holy Spirit is drawing her or him.

If My People Pray – 2 Chronicles 7:14

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” After the temple was built and dedicated, the glory of the Lord filled the temple (vs. 1–3) and God appeared to Solomon and told him that He had heard Solomon’s prayer (vs. 12–22). God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer was a message of repentance and restoration. God’s purpose above all is to forgive his people and heal their land when they repent of their evil ways. This verse describes the process of individual and collective repentance: humble oneself, ask God for forgiveness and mercy, and turn away from sin and unrighteousness. When God’s people truly repent, then He will “heal their land,” which includes not only deliverance from drought and pestilence but the restoration of people to their right relationship with God. Be assured that God hears you and will restore you into fellowship with Him when you repent and turn away from your sin and unbelief.