Luke 8:26-39 (NIV) 26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. 30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
What we read about in this story in a nutshell is an amazing transformation. Don’t we all love a story with a happy ending? We love the Cinderella story where she goes from house maid and oppressed to beautiful princess and living “happily ever after.” I love those makeover shows on TV where someone is taken through a makeover process and is transformed. It seems, at least in that moment, the person has more confidence and has a whole new lease on life. Let me show you what I mean.
Show pictures one through six in that order. J
You see what I am talking about, right? In that last pairing you saw a man go from mildly handsome to wildly handsome. Right?
The man in our Scripture passage experienced more than a haircut and new set of clothes. His whole life was radically changed by Jesus. A person who had been relegated to live in obscurity, who was tormented mentally by demonic spirits, got his sanity back, his life back, his ability to have friends back, and new meaning and purpose for living.
Let’s start to unpack the passage by examining where he was:
- He was living in a place of death.
- He was living in a state of torment.
- He was living in a state of isolation.
He was a TOMB DWELLER.
We don’t know how he got into this condition. Demonic possession usually begins through a spiritual opening somehow in a person’s life. They either investigate the powers of darkness or leave an opening for the powers of darkness to enter their lives somehow and once Satan gets an inch, he takes a mile. You know Satan’s job description from John 10:10 is to steal, kill, and destroy. Occupying someone’s life and mind to the point where the only place they are welcome to live or feel safe to live is a graveyard is certainly an indication that Satan has super control of that person. This man was in such a state that no one could help him, even those who had tried to chain him to subdue him so he wouldn’t hurt himself or others couldn’t help him. He certainly couldn’t help himself. What a sad and hopeless existence, the life of a tomb dweller.
Perhaps you don’t identify with the intensity of having a legion of demons controlling your mind and actions, but you can identify with life on some level as a tomb dweller. God doesn’t want us living in a place of death. God doesn’t want us living in a state of torment or isolation. That is not abundant life.
Jesus is here today with all authority and power. He is calling all tomb dwellers out of the place of death, torment and isolation. While we don’t know what caused the condition of the man in the story, let me suggest some possible causes for those who become modern day tomb dwellers.
1.We become tomb dwellers and live in a place of death when we let sin reign in our lives.
Romans 6:11-14 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore DO NOT LET sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
Sin never produces life. It never creates anything positive in our lives. Nothing positive will happen in your life by getting drunk at a party. Viewing pornography isn’t going to enhance your life. It will warp your idea of sex and intimacy. Gambling won’t produce the life you’ve always dreamed of even if you win. Ask Jack Whitaker. Having sex outside of marriage isn’t going to make your relationship or identity secure. Experimenting with drugs won’t make you more likeable or fun to be with. Lying to fit in will never produce real friendships in your life. Yelling at your spouse and cussing your kids won’t make you more powerful. Your family won’t respect you. They will only fear you. There is nothing good that comes from sinning, ever.
Something the Bible teaches that we must embrace is that sin destroys our lives. It might look good or glamorous, but it is like the worst form of cancer spiritually speaking, and it will kill you one bite at a time. The Bible is so full of warnings and consequences about sin because God wants us to be spared all of the heartache that goes along with it. He talks about it on about every other page of the Bible because we are so drawn to what we see, what we feel, and what we think about the “fun” we are missing out on.
Sin gives Satan an open door. Whether that is what happened to the man in the story or not, I don’t know, but sin will give Satan entry into your life. Sinning is like giving the devil a key and saying, “Come right on in and sit a spell.” The Bible calls it giving the devil a “foothold.” Ephesians 4:27
Romans 6:12 says, “DO NOT LET sin reign.” We have a choice to make when it comes to serving our flesh, serving Satan, or serving God. I’m not saying it is easy to say “no” to sin, but it gets easier every time we say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. His power at work in us is more than enough to help us overcome every temptation, but we must make the choice to live righteously.
2. We become tomb dwellers and live in a state of torment when we let our past define us.
Outside of the love of God and being born sinners, the one thing we have in common is that we all have a past. We all have done, said, and thought things we wouldn’t want others to know. Things have been done to us that have caused us to redefine who we are, what we are worth, and what we can accomplish. Many choose to live life with less passion, less faith, and less hope because their past has told them they can’t fulfill their dreams. Many have shrunk themselves and isolated themselves to a degree because they believe they are damaged, not capable, and not valuable due to things that have happened in the past.
Jesus is calling us out of our caves, out of our self-defeatist states of mind. If you will believe God’s word today, your future could never be brighter. Maybe you tried something and it failed, and as a result you decided you wouldn’t try again. That’s not the life God wants for you. Today can be a day of fresh starts. Today can be a day when you look the devil in the eye and tell him that his claim on you from your past is no longer valid. I love what Beth Moore said about this topic. She said, ““Whatever God has for you, it’s not behind you.”
And don’t let your past make you to paint everyone you meet with a broad stroke. Just because certain people were a disappointment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust those God is bringing into your life. Not everyone is like your old boyfriend or girlfriend, your father or mother, your grandparent, your friend, or a spouse that let you down. Maybe you flunking out of that program was a clue it wasn’t for you or maybe you need to learn how to study differently. Don’t just give up on getting an education. Maybe God wants you to give Him the tragedy you suffered so that He can redeem it or use it somehow to benefit someone else. Give God some credit for being able to turn things around. His Word says, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) And last time I looked there weren’t a lot of new things happening in the graveyard. God wants us to be free from tomb dwelling today!
3. We also can become tomb dwellers and live in a state of isolation when we let the world distress us.
This world is a tough place in which to live. Too many Christians are listening to the barrage of messages coming to them from the world rather than listening to God’s voice. If we allow ourselves to be defined by the world’s definition of success, we might as well all go live in caves. We will never measure up. We will never be good enough. We will never be pretty enough. We will never have enough money. We will never have enough status. We will never be smart enough. We will never achieve enough success. We will never be popular enough.
You also can’t let what other people might label you limit you. Part of living life to its fullest as believers is an opportunity to prove to others that with God all things are possible. There is a snowboarding champion who is currently a cast member on “Dancing with the Stars” named Amy Purdy, and she is a double amputee. Yes, you heard me correctly. She is a double amputee. We may call her disabled, but she isn’t going to be limited by any label.
When she was 19 a form of meningitis caused her to have both legs amputated just below the knee. She also lost her kidneys, spleen and her hearing in her left ear. Two years later she received a kidney from her father on her 21st birthday. Already a seasoned snowboarder, Amy learned to snowboard again on prosthetic legs within seven months of having her legs amputated.
Along with her doctor she has helped developed a new kind of prosthetic leg that would assist athletes. At 32 she is currently a three-time Golden Cup winner for her snowboarding. She is also helping people who have lost limbs following a military tour or other accidents. Amy has been oversees to help get shoes to kids in foreign countries who need them, and travels the country doing inspirational speeches.
This past week, I watched a video testimony she did in which she said, “Our biggest disability is up here (pointing to her mind). That is where we limit ourselves. Then she went on to say, “My life isn’t about my legs.” Wow! How many of us would feel as if our lives were over if we lost both of our legs? I tried to find out if Amy was a Christian, but no search said she was. I thought, “If someone who has suffered and overcome who doesn’t know Christ as Savior how much more should we have a determination to overcome when we have the power that raised Christ from the dead available to us in any difficulty?”
How often do we let people put labels on us that have a limiting factor to them? I’m just a “stay-at-home mom.” I’m a product of divorce or abuse. I’m just an average student. I’m only good in math. I’m not athletic. I’m not crafty. I’m clumsy. I’m fat. I’m only one person. I’m shy. I’m awkward. I’m ugly. Whatever label we are wearing if it isn’t out of the pages of God’s Word, if it isn’t what God says about us, it is causing us to be tomb dwellers and live in a place of isolation and insecurity God hasn’t prepared for His children. You were made for relationship. God doesn’t want you to be shut off from other people and shut off from your dreams.
Amy’s life wasn’t about her legs. Your life isn’t about your bank account. Your life isn’t about your figure. Your life isn’t about your marital status. Your life isn’t about whether you were able to have children or not. Your life isn’t about the abuse you suffered. Your life isn’t about your failures. Your life isn’t about your test scores. Your life isn’t about your learning disability or physical challenge. Yes, those things are parts of all of our lives, but they are not our life. Don’t give them your life. Don’t let your life be defined by them.
Jabez, a man in the Bible, was labeled early in life. His name meant, “Born in pain.” Isn’t that lovely? Isn’t that cheerful? How many children are growing up today feeling like they are a pain to their parents, a burden they have to bear? Listen to his story in 1 Chronicles. 4:9-10. Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. (NKJV)
Jabez didn’t become what his mother named him. He made the choice not to be limited by his label. He chose instead to ask God to define his life. He asked God to define where his borders would be. He asked God to do something in his life that would keep him from ever acting out the label his mom gave to him. And Scripture says God granted him that request!
Now we know God doesn’t answer every prayer the way we would hope, but He will answer the prayer of a tomb dweller who is ready to be set free from limitations caused by labels from others. We are not what others have decided we are. We are who God says we are and we are becoming what He knows He intends for us to become!
Is there anyone here this morning who would like to ask God what your true identity is and where your borders are? Because I am pretty sure God is interested in expanding the borders we have accepted from others and borders we have imposed on ourselves!
When Jesus asked the demon its name, he was calling out that which had caused the man to become a tomb dweller. Is there something Jesus wants to call out of your life this morning? Is there something that has caused you to become a tomb dweller?
What names you will take authority over you. What you name you can take authority over.
When asked his name, the demon in the story could have very well said, “It’s complicated!” There was more than one demon possessing the man. By getting the response that it wasn’t just one demon, but a legion of demons, Jesus was able to address the full scope of the problem.
Do you ever feel like what you are dealing with is complicated? It isn’t just one thing, but it is thing after thing on top of thing. Naming what has isolated and limited you will help you understand and address the full extent of the problem. It will give you an opportunity to bring the full problem to Jesus. Sometimes we want to bring partial problems to Jesus because we don’t want to tell the full story. We don’t want to give all of the details. We don’t want to admit the scope of the problem.
I think that happens sometimes at prayer altars and in counseling rooms where people want to minimize or downplay all of the issues. Counselors can’t deal with the root of the problem if clients just keep chasing rabbits. Jesus wasn’t going to chase rabbits. He wasn’t going to let Satan minimize what was going on. He wanted to get everything out in the open and deal with it so the man could truly regain his life.
I also believe Jesus asked the demon, “What is your name?” because the precious man who had been tormented for so long had lost his own identity. A case of identity theft had taken place. The man was NOT the demons, and the demons were not the man. The demons were controlling the man.
When the possessed man was free from the demons he was so grateful and in awe of what Jesus had done for him that he wanted to leave and go with Jesus. It’s interesting, though, that Jesus didn’t allow him to. Instead he told him to go home and tell what God had done for him.
Jesus sent him back home where he could rebuild the life that had been stolen from him. He sent him home where he could rebuild relationships with his family and friends. God doesn’t always just allow us to move on and not look back. Sometimes He wants to send us back to the place where our pain began so we can regain our lives from a position of health and spiritual strength.
Verse 34 is a sad sentence. Even though people had witnessed Jesus’ miracle power and saw the transformation of the man, they asked Jesus to leave town. In Mark’s account in Mark 5:17 it says, “Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” Can you even imagine? An amazing miracle was performed in front of their eyes, and they wanted the Miracle Worker to move on. After all, He had killed their pigs. That was a lot of bacon now floating down the river. Pigs were big business on their side of the river. Jesus’ miracle was a sign to them that keeping Him around meant it would no longer be business as usual. Things were going to change.
Yes, Jesus came to change lives. It is no longer business as usual for people who bring their demons to Jesus. Instead of living a life of sin that leads to death, instead of being tormented by our past, instead of living in isolation due to worldly stress and the oppression of labels that limit our lives, Jesus brings a new way of experiencing life. It is a life out of the shadows. It is a life with a great future. It is a life without limits. Is anyone here ready to go from being a Tomb Dweller to a Miracle Teller? It’s time to tell Jesus the whole story and let Him do His job as Deliverer and Healer!