We left off last week in chapter 8 with Jesus giving us the parable of the soils - the four conditions of the heart that hears the Word of God. This morning, we pick it up at verse 16, as Jesus continues to give us instruction and insight:
John 9:5 "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
The amazing thing is now that He is no longer in the world, He accomplishes it through us, saying:
Matt. 5:14 "You are the light of the world.
What have we done with that light? Have we displayed it and discharged it all over our city? Being lights to lost people, to a dying world? Or have we put it under a basket, because of intimidation and humiliation?
It's an important question, because this is God's economy: The Lord says, "You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things". This applies to every aspect of our lives. When we wonder, "Why hasn't the Lord blessed me with lots of money?" the logical question to ask ourselves is, "Have I been faithful with the little that He's given me so far?" When we wonder, "Why haven't I been put in that high position of authority?" the question to ask is "Have I been faithful in the low position I'm in now?" When we're faithful with little things, God entrusts us with greater things. When we're not faithful , He won't take us further.
This especially applies to spiritual matters. I have a friend out of state who's always wanted to be a pastor - ever since he was a little boy in church. And he can't understand why God's never put him in that position, never placed him in the pulpit. And I've said time and again, "Why don't you teach Sunday School or serve at the church in some way? Why don't you get involved in some smaller ministry first?" His answer: "But I'm called to be a pastor!" The problem with that rationale is that "God always promotes through the ranks." (Smith) Until you're faithful with the miniscule ministries, you'll never see the bigger blessings.
Let's be faithful with those little things, and trust God to bring us to the bigger ones. Specifically, being faithful to be the light of the world that Jesus commanded us to be - not hiding it under a basket.
Jesus was the eldest son in the family. Certainly, all His brothers had heard the gospel from His own mouth. But John tells us that at this point in His ministry,
John 7:5 ...Not even His brothers were believing in Him.
Jesus makes this remark about His family. "It doesn't matter who you are", He says, "it matters what you do. If you want me to consider you as family, you must do two things: 1) Hear the Word of God, and 2) Do the Word of God."
Hearing the Word of God - You accomplish this by being in the Word, being in church, being in the Bible studies. But that's not enough. Doing the Word of God - that is a completely different level. It's far more than acknowledging in your brain what the Word says. It's more than giving lip service. Jesus said in Matthew 7:
Matt. 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven."
Lip service doesn't cut it - we've got to do it. James gives us an illustration of simply hearing vs. hearing and doing:
James 1:22-24 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
Imagine that you're looking in a mirror. You notice that you've got a big piece of spinach in your teeth. What do you do? You pick it out. You notice that your hair is looking horrible. What do you do? Brush it, comb it, do what you have to do to fix it. One of your shirt buttons is unbuttoned. What do you do? Button it. When the mirror shows you something wrong, you fix it. Can you imagine seeing all these things wrong, and just walking away and forgetting about it?
The Bible is a mirror that we look into. It details our defects, and compels us to correct them. When you read the Bible, is it an educational exercise, or is it a challenge for change? When you read a verse that says
1Ths. 5:11 ...Encourage one another, and build up one another...
Do you begin to encourage and build people up? Or do you just forget about it? When you read:
1Ths. 5:22 ...Abstain from every form of evil.
Do you consider what that means, beginning to reject all things that you expose yourself to that are indecent and immoral, gross and ungodly? Or do you just forget about it? You see, you can read the Bible passively or actively. You can be a hearer of the Word, but if you're not a doer of the Word, you're deluding and deceiving yourself.
Luke 8:21 ...My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.
The disciples are freaking out because a storm picks up, and by all accounts, it looks like they're going to be sunk. "Silly disciples", we think. But remember, most of these guys grew up on the sea - they're fishermen. They've seen it all. So this must have been one massive storm to be this afraid. It even says in verse 23 that they were in danger.
But Jesus had said, "Let us go to the other side of the lake". The Lord had set them on this course. When you have the Word of God - when Jesus has told you that you're going to the other side of the lake, there is no way you can go under. That's why He rebukes them, saying, "Where is your faith?"
Oftentimes, when I'm in one of life's storms - when things look horrible and hopeless - the Lord reassures me and reminds me about promises that He's given me for my future. He assures me that I'll endure this storm, because there's so much more ahead. Learn to stand on the sure Word of God - and when a storm kicks up, you'll have the faith to ride it out.
This man would break his chains and be driven out into the desert by the demons. Jesus said in Matthew 12 that
Matt. 12:43-45 "...the unclean spirit (passes through) waterless places..."
Demons hate water. Why? Because water is symbolic of the Word of God. As Paul described in Ephesians,
Eph. 5:26 ...The washing of water with the word...
Or as Psalm 1 says, that the man who meditates on the Word of God will be like a tree planted by streams of water. Demons hate the Word of God. Jesus resisted the devil in the desert with the Word of God. No wonder demons drive to the desert - they want to be as far away from the water of the Word as possible!
Jesus asks him "What is your name?" The answer? "Legion, for we are many." A Roman legion of soldiers consisted of between 3,000 and 6,000 men. If there were in fact that many demons in this man, how in the world did it happen? Reading the rest of what Jesus said in Matthew 12, we learn that:
Matt. 12:43-45 "...When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
So, this man got demon-possessed. The local Jews probably sent an exorcist to cast the demon out. The exorcism was successful, but provided no protection for the man when the demon came back. His life had straightened up and shaped up, but all it did was make it more attractive to the demon and his 7 buddies! This must have happened many times - 1 was cast out, and 8 came back. 8 were cast out, 64 came back. After the 4th exorcism, there were 4,096 demons in this poor guy! The only safety for this man would be in Christ. 1John 4:4 declares:
1John 4:4 ...Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
Why did Jesus ask the demons' name? To show us that there were thousands in there. Why do I mention that? Because this is the only place in Scripture that anyone ever asks the name of a demon. In the church, we have fallen into a practice of naming this "demon of lust", or that "spirit of addiction". That is not a Biblical practice. This misunderstanding comes from the fact that the Bible says that we ourselves may have a spirit of jealousy, or a spirit of fear, etc. But in context, it is not talking about a demonic, unclean spirit, a spiritual entity possessing us. It is talking about the nature of our own spirit. Let us always reevaluate everything we do in the name of our faith. If it's not Biblical, let's throw it out.
The Abyss. What is it? Would we be safe just calling it "hell"? There are several Greek and Hebrew words that we should learn before coming to any conclusions: "The Abyss" is the Greek word "abussos", sometimes translated "the bottomless pit". There is a place called "Tartaros", where the angels who sinned (as described in Jude and 2Peter) are kept bound in chains, waiting for the day of judgment. Then there is Hades (in the Greek) and Sheol (in the Hebrew). This is the place in the center of the earth, where people descend to at death. The ultimate destination for eternal destruction is Gehenna - "hell", which Jesus described as outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So hell and Hades are two different things - Hades is in the center of the earth, and Hell, or Gehenna, is outer darkness. So what is the Abyss? The Abyss is a shaft, a bottomless pit leading to Hades in the center of the earth. In Revelation (11:7, 17:8), it says that the beast, the antichrist will come up out of the Abyss. Also in Revelation (20:1-3), an angel has the key of the Abyss. This angel binds Satan with a great chain, and throws him into it, where he will be sealed for 1,000 years.
I think a logical question would be: How can it be bottomless, yet lead and end at the center of the earth? Simple: if you are in the center of the earth, where is the bottom? The center of the earth is the one place that has no bottom - only top. Whatever direction you go, it's up, not down!
So the demons beg Jesus, "Don't command us to depart into the abyss!"
It's so easy to judge these people from the Gerasenes, but before we do, picture their circumstances. They came to see what had happened, and came across a strange scene: a boat, 13 guys from Galilee, this demon-possessed man calm and clothed... and a few thousand dead pigs floating in the water. Tell me you wouldn't be a little frightened and freaked out!
So the townsfolk beg them to leave. The man says, "Let me come with you!" Jesus tells this guy, "No, go home and tell what God has done for you, give your testimony." Now, I tend to give testimonies a hard time, and that's because most times I've heard people give testimonies, they tend to glorify the sinner instead of the Savior. But testimonies are Biblical. What is a testimony? Jesus gives us the definition: Not, "Tell what you have done", but "Tell what God has done".
Sure, the man has to say, "I was possessed by demons". But he doesn't have to spend the majority of his message going into sick detail of the satanic things he did when he was demon-possessed. It might make for an interesting story, but it brings the attention to him instead of to God.
Someday, you will probably have the opportunity to give your testimony. Here's the advice Jesus gave this man: Tell what God has done, not what you have done. That type of testimony will glorify God.
Next week, we're going to see several miracles - each one able to educate and edify us as we continue to study through the Scriptures.