Teens, what is the hardest thing that your parents can ask you to do? I am not asking you collectively. I am asking each of you individually, "What is the hardest thing my parents ask me to do?"

Singles, what is the hardest thing that a close friend can ask you to do? Again, I am not asking you collectively. I am asking you individually to state to yourself the hardest thing a close friend can ask you to do.

Husbands, what is the hardest thing your wife can ask you to do? I want each husband to answer that question.

Wives, what is the hardest thing your husband can ask you to do? I want each wife to answer that question.

  1. Consider a hard request that Jesus made of a man in Luke 8:26-39.
    1. Jesus traveled by boat to the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the side opposite the district of Galilee.
      1. The people who lived in this area were not Israelites.
      2. Shortly after he went ashore he met a man controlled by demons.
    2. The gospels make it quite clear that one of the major battles that Jesus fought was his battle against the demons who possessed people.
      1. The gospels also clearly distinguish between a person who was sick and a person who was demon possessed.
        1. Matthew 4:24 made a clear distinction between those demon possessed and those diseased, epileptic, and paralyzed.
        2. Luke 7:21 distinguished between those who were diseased, those who had a plague, those who were blind, and those who had an evil spirit.
      2. Demon possession could produce conditions that duplicated sickness, but people could distinguish between conditions that were and were not caused by evil spiritual powers.
      3. Paul reminded Christians at Ephesus,
        Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      4. Among the many wars that Jesus fought in his life and death was the war against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places as he confronted the demons that possessed and controlled people.
    3. The man Jesus met was literally controlled by the living force of demons.
      1. The demons used the man's voice.
      2. They controlled his behavior.
      3. For a long time he went about naked.
        1. He lived in tombs among the bodies and skeletons of the dead.
        2. He was dangerous and uncontrollable.
        3. He was captured many times, restrained by chains, and held under guard.
        4. Each time he broke the chains, escaped, and was driven by the demons into the desert.
    4. When Jesus encountered the man, he began the process of casting the demons out.
      1. Jesus spoke directly to the demons, and the demons spoke directly to Jesus.
      2. He asked their name, and they replied that their name was Legion because they were many.
      3. They knew Jesus' true identity, and they knew the power that Jesus commanded, so they begged Jesus not to send them to the abyss.
        1. The abyss is the place that Satan will be imprisoned at the final judgment.
        2. They were begging not to be imprisoned in that place right then.
        3. Instead, they asked Jesus to cast them into a herd of pigs nearby.
        4. Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs.
      4. When the demons left the man and entered the pigs, the pigs stampeded down a steep bank into the sea of Galilee and drowned.
        1. The herdsmen tending the pigs witnessed everything that happened.
        2. I personally suspect that they had been keeping an eye on the demon possessed man from the moment that they saw him in the area.
        3. When the pigs stampeded into the water and drowned, the men ran into the city informing everyone along the way and in the city what had happened.
      5. People who heard came to see for themselves.
        1. Remember, this is not the age of telephones, radio, and television.
        2. It took a while for the word to spread and the crowd to gather at the sea.
        3. Can you imagine what the people heard as the word spread?
      6. The actual scene was more awesome than the reports they heard.
        1. The dead pigs were floating in the water.
        2. The man that everyone recognized as the dangerous, powerful, demon possessed man who ran around naked and lived in tombs was there.
        3. He was sitting clothed and quietly in his right mind at Jesus feet.
    5. The sight of the dead pigs floating in the water and the man sitting quietly, clothed, and in his right mind terrified the crowd.
      1. I am sure they were struck by the expense of having this stranger visit the area--the dead pigs were a major financial loss.
      2. They were unnerved at the sight of the demon possessed man acting perfectly normal.
      3. Obviously, they were in the presence of enormous power, and that power terrified them.
    6. But for the man who had been rescued from the demons, it was an entirely different matter.
      1. Listen to Luke 8:38,39:
        But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, "Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. The man wanted to leave with Jesus and follow Jesus.
          1. Can you grasp how much that man wanted to do this?
          2. Jesus had rescued him from one of the most horrible forms of slavery imaginable.
          3. Had Jesus not approached him, he would have remained a slave to the demons.
          4. The man deeply appreciated Jesus and wanted to be with him.
          5. But not the crowd; the people feared Jesus and wanted him to leave.
        2. But Jesus would not let the man go with him; Jesus said, "Return to your house and describe the great things God has done for you."
      2. Have you considered how difficult it was for this man to honor Jesus' request?
        1. Go home? Do you realize what an embarrassment this man was to his family and relatives?
          1. How do you think they reacted when they saw him coming home? "Oh, no!"
          2. First, it was his demon possessed behavior; now he constantly talked about what God had done for him.
        2. And to whom would he tell these things?
          1. The people who saw him running around naked.
          2. The people who were terrorized by his behavior.
          3. The people who saw him living in tombs.
          4. The people who captured him and kept him under guard.
          5. Doesn't that sound like a wonderful, exciting, enjoyable mission?
        3. "I am not the person I used to be. I am not the dangerous man who ran around naked and lived in tombs. Let me tell you what God did in my life."
      3. What was Jesus' hard request? "Show your appreciation for what God has done for you by staying here and telling people what God did."

  2. What about the forces of evil in your life?
    1. What have you suffered because some force of evil ruled your life and controlled your behavior?
      1. "God has never done any powerful thing in my life."
      2. You are a Christian?
        1. What did you repent of? In what way did you redirect your life? What evil did you turn away from in your commitment to belong to Christ?
        2. As an act of faith and repentance, as an act of conversion, you were baptized so that God could destroy your sins through Jesus' blood.
          1. If you were baptized to remove past sins, what were those sins?
          2. What evil in your life did you bring to God to forgive?
    2. "Wait a minute, David. You are making me nervous with all this talk about evil in my life."
      1. "I was baptized because that is what you are supposed to do according to the book of Acts."
      2. "I was just becoming a member of the church; it didn't have anything to do with all this evil stuff."
    3. Let me ask you to consider this in another way.
      1. What would your life be like without your demons?
        1. What would your life be like if the powerful forces of evil were removed?
        2. If any segment of your life is controlled by evil, if there is any area of life in which evil determines your behavior, what would your life be like if that control ended?
      2. If that kind of power was available to your life, would you want it?
        1. If you saw that kind of power, would you be like the terrified people who asked Jesus to leave?
        2. Or would you be like the man with profound appreciation who wanted to go with Jesus?
    4. Let me make a few observations.
      1. Observation # 1: A person never knows the blessing created by being free from his or her demons until the demons are gone.
        1. Commonly, we are afraid to be free of our demons.
        2. We know what life is like with the demons; we know what to expect.
        3. We cannot imagine what life would be without them.
        4. We are afraid to be free.
      2. Observation # 2: The spiritual agents of evil exist to destroy.
        1. Satan exists to destroy; he never builds anything; he only tears down.
        2. Evil functions by destroying; Satan's intends and designs evil to destroy.
        3. Wherever evil exists in your life, it destroys.
        4. Any control evil has in any area of our lives is destructive.

[Prayer: Father, deliver us from the evil one.]

Teen Christians, if you shared the great things God has done for you, what specifically would you share?

Adult Christians, if you shared the great things God has done for you, what specifically would you share?

It is impossible for God to free us from evil and forgive us of sin, and we have nothing to share.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 5 September 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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