Fruitful Life @ Trinity
Freedom from Bondage--Demons and Doubts, Luke 8:26-39, Proper 7 (Second Sunday after Pentecost)
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        September 20, 2018 - 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
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      • Psalm 42NRSV

      • Luke 8:26–39NRSV

  • What are demons by the way? I believe none of us here have seen a demon live, other than what has been depicted in the movies and TV shows, and some of those demon shows are quite popular, such as Walking Dead, Teen Wolf, Penny Dreadful, Salem, the Originals, etc. People find it both fascinating and entertaining. Maybe it’s because each of us have some demons to fights metaphorically.
    How about demon possession? Have you ever seen a demon possessed person? I’m sure you haven’t. If we do see one today, we will assume that he or she is just a mentally ill person. He or she must be dealing with some psychosis. We don’t think in terms of demon possession, do we?
    However, the Bible uses these terms quite often. How do we understand demons and demoniacs if we don’t have instances in our society?
    I’ve got two answers. First, some demoniacs are the equivalent of what we called psychosis today. Officially, there are 297 diagnosable mental illnesses today, according to DSM-5--the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
    The numbers of diagnosable mental illnesses are growing, but it has slowed down significantly starting with DSM-5 mainly because the insurance companies are not willing to pay for it. DSM-5 has 947 pages (almost a thousand). In a few years, it will be thicker than the Bible and no one can carry it with them.
    Jesus has the power to heal physical illnesses, so it’s not surprising to see him healing mental illness. However, is a demoniac merely a mentally ill person? Could they be spiritually ill as well?
    The second answer is that some demoniacs are spiritually ill persons. If we look at the scripture lesson we read today, it says in verse 27 that “a man of the city who had demons met him.” Then, verse 29 says, “Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.” It shows that another word for demons is unclean spirit.
    This makes it easier for us to interpret what demon possession means. It’s the possession by the unclean spirit. What is the CLEAN spirit then? It’s called the Holy Spirit. What is the outcome of the possession of the Holy Spirit, which we usually call the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit”? We bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
    Anything that is opposite to these fruits of the Holy Spirit is from the unclean spirit. If we summarize the fruit of the spirit, it’s about healthy relationships. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness … all these nine fruits of the spirit are relational terms. If you have love, you develop healthy relationships, don’t you? If you have joy, you have healthy relationships; if you have peace, you have healthy relationships; and so on.
    So the opposite of the fruit of the spirit is unhealthy relationships. The Bible says, “For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.” (v. 27b). This demoniac could not relate with people. He did not know how to dress. He had no sense of shame. He lived in the tombs. He couldn’t relate with the living, but with the dead.
    This proves that demon possession is a disease of broken relationships. He could not not only relate with people, but also with God. The next verse says, “When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” (v. 28). He knows Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, but he doesn’t want anything to do with him. He is living with broken relationships with people and with God.
    This case of demon possession is the worst case recorded in the Bible. Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. (v. 30). A legion is a unit of about 5,000 soldiers in the ancient Roman army. That means he has about 5,000 demons in him. How do we interpret this scenario?
    I have mentioned to you previously that the word “devil” means “doubt.” I won’t go through the entire etymology of this word, but if you just remember the word “devil” mentioned in the Bible means “doubt,” you will find it easier to interpret the Bible whenever it talks about the “devil” or “demons.” Demons are generally the minions of the Devil. So you can interpret them as little doubts under the big doubt.
    Remember in the Garden of Eden, the devil simply cast doubts on Eve and the history of the broken relationships of human beings began. Doubt produces anxiety and anxiety brakes relationships. Sin is manifested in broken relationships—nothing more, and nothing less.
    You can say, this demoniac has 5,000 doubts in his head, making him unable to relate with people. How did these demons or doubts enter him? We don’t know, and the Bible did not mention it. It maybe because he was mistreated by some peers or adults. It maybe because he was abused by the gentiles. The Gerasenes is a gentile region. There are swine herds around. The Jews don’t herd swine.
    After the demons went into the swine, the villagers asked Jesus to go away because they were afraid of being punished by the gentile swine owners. This hinted a situation that these Jews must have been living under oppression by these wealthy gentiles who put unclean animals in their neighborhood. The fact that Jesus redirected the demons into the swine also implies that drowning those swine might be the healing process for him. Maybe this young man was abused by the swine owners.
    After all, it doesn’t matter how this demoniac became a demoniac. The spiritual fact is that he had developed a severe case of broken relationships. He couldn’t relate with people, he didn’t live in his home, he lived in the tombs, he couldn’t relate with God, even though he knew Jesus was the Son of the Most High God.
    Can you imagine? A person who knows the Most High God cannot and does not want to have anything to do with Him? Can you imagine how much pain he must have? How much doubt he must have? He must be thinking, “God, I am so broken and sinful, I don’t deserve you. You and I are worlds apart. You are holy, but I am unclean. I am too sinful to be forgiven. I know you are a forgiving God, a God of grace and mercy, but I don’t deserve you.”
    You know, I have seen people like this. Someone told me that his uncle refused to become a Christian, and his excuse was, “I am a businessman, and I have to cheat and have told many lies in the business dealings. I can’t be a Christian. I am too sinful to be one.” Many people in this world think they are too messed up to be forgiven, so they refuse to come to church. They feel they are too dirty to enter this holy place.
    This story also forces us to review our own lives, particularly our relationships with people and with God. Of course, we are far better than this demoniac. The fact that we can come to church and seek fellowship with people and with God means we are not as broken as he is.
    However, even if though we don’t have 5,000 demons, we might have a few. How do we know? Review your relationships. I have told you that there are certain relationships in my life that are too broken to reconcile. They are my demons that I have been trying to cast out, or waiting to be cast out by Jesus.
    My worst enemy recently reached out to me on Facebook with a friend request. I can’t decide which button to click, “Confirm” or “Delete.” I have told you before that I was repeatedly abused by her when I was young.
    Some people might say, how comes, as a pastor, you still have people that you can’t reconcile? I understand, but I don’t think pretension and hiding your skeleton in your closet is a healthy solution. I confess my struggles so that you don’t shy away from exposing your own demons because only through exposing them, Jesus can cast them out for you.
    Some broken relationships are subtle, not as serious as abusive relationships. Still, the force behind all these broken relationships is--again remember--doubt. Doubt produces anxiety and anxiety breaks relationships, overtly, or covertly; slowly or surely.
    This story also has a unique ending. Usually, Jesus liked to ask people to follow him, but when this recovered demoniac begged Jesus to let him follow him, Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” He listened to Jesus and did as Jesus commanded him. He is more useful as a witness to healthy relationships in this gentile region than in the Jewish regions that Jesus usually traveled.
    What a contrast! Previously, he didn’t want anything to do with Jesus, but now he wanted to follow him and declare how much God has done for him. It’s a beautiful ending. In the same way, we can also have a beautiful ending when all the demons of doubts are cast out.
    Let us cast away the doubts, have faith, and cultivate a fruitful life and relationships. Amen!
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