'The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:38-39
This passage of scripture strikes us modern readers as odd. Stories of demon possession and pigs diving over cliffs aren’t what most of us face in our daily schedule. But there’s more room for us in this passage than we might first assume. This man who encounters Jesus is commonly called “The Gadarene,” “Gerasene,” or simply “The demon-possessed man,” depending on which translation of scripture you might use.
The Gadarene’s encounter with Jesus is different than other healing miracles recorded in the Book of Luke. The Gadarene wants to follow Jesus, but is instructed to stay home. Does this also strike you as odd? Perhaps it should. The Gadarene’s life is changed drastically, and certainly for the better! In such a situation, the only right response seems to follow Jesus. This man’s life was a wreck, and Jesus was the only One who is able to make a difference. The Gadarene was safe with Jesus, safe even from himself.
But how does Jesus respond? “Stay here and declare how much God has done for you.” Stay here, where you’ve alienated and terrified those around you for years. Stay here, where the despair of your life drove you to the isolation of a cemetery. As John Bloom said, “It was a hard call to return to the place where he had known demons, chains, tombs, self-mutilation, public humiliation, abuse, loneliness, and suicidal torment. But it was there that the grace of God in his life would shine the brightest.”
We see in the Gadarene’s life that no person is beyond the love and rescue of Jesus Christ. God gave His only Son as a ransom to free us from the hold of shame, guilt, and sin. But we also see that there is no where that Jesus Christ, in His love and wisdom, might not invite us to follow. There are no options off the table with Jesus. He is Lord and He has complete discretion over our lives. We are His.
This is hard, certainly. We all struggle when God’s plans differ from our own, especially when we assumed them to be good plans. Moreover, we hear no shortage of voices telling us that only we know what is right for our lives, that we must be true to our own hearts. But if Jesus Christ is who He claims to be, and He both created us, and rescued us, can He also be trusted when we find His agenda to be different than our own? Can we trust that He knows what is right for our lives?
As with the Gadarene, what shall we say if His plans differ from ours? Shall we respond that we know better than He? Shall we call Him cold, unkind, and unfair? He’s the One who was willing and able to rescue and heal us when none other could. Where has Jesus invited you to trust Him with the unexpected? Will you join the Gadarene, and trust that the unexpected call is where the grace of God in your life will shine the brightest?
Questions for Reflection
1. Do you think Jesus was upset with this man for wanting to come with Him?
2. How do you think this man felt hearing Jesus’s command to stay? Can you relate to this man in any way?
3. What reasons did this man have for trusting Jesus and joyfully obeying Him?
4. What reasons do you have for being able to trust Jesus? Read Romans 8:31-39 and see what other reasons you can find to trust God when His plan is different from yours.
5. What will if look like for you to trust Jesus Christ and follow Him in the unexpected calls He’s made in your life? In what ways will you let the grace of God shine brightest in your family?
Quoted Excerpt from John Bloom article: “The Gadarene: When Following Jesus Means Going Home” http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-gadarene-when-following-jesus-means-going- home. accessed 6/17/14.
Photo courtesy of (cc) 2014 sis/siskata.
This week's edition of the Cru Blog features a guest post from Jim Geyer, Campus Pastor at Summit Church's Spartanburg Campus. To find out more about Summit, visit http://www.summitupstate.org , follow them on twitter, and like them on facebook!
That moment that any sports fan has seen or experienced. That one big play, the sway of the big “Mo” (momentum for those not versed in sports dialect!), the unforced error. These are all game changers. Those moments when what appeared to be a certain outcome was suddenly transformed into a whole different outcome by that one slice of the action that changed everything – especially the outcome of the game at hand. Game changers have oftentimes taken the certain win from one team and given it to another.
So what is a “win” in the Christ-follower's walk? What can change this “win”? The first thing that we must understand is that a win for the Body is certainly not man-made. It is the purpose of why God is on the mission of redemption to redeem all peoples back to Himself. The win comes when every man, woman and child is given the repeated opportunity to see, hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ without them having to come or go anywhere!
I think that we would all buy into the first part of the game plan for the Christ-follower and the Church. Where things go a little against our hard-wiring is when we say that this can and will best be accomplished when those who God is passionately pursuing come to Him by the means of our being the Gospel. Our being the vehicle by which God has no other plan. That becomes the game changer in the walk of the believer.
If we truly believe that the Gospel is the story of God, who created the man who fell by his own choice away from the intended fellowship eternally with God, but who was then offered redemption through the work of Christ on the cross and will one day be fully restored into that eternal intent of Creator God, then we must know that this news changes everything. All of life. Because if the Gospel changes anything, it must change everything. And we, the Christ follower, must make this game-changer for the world in which we live our passion; our goal.
The way the game has been played for too long in the world of the redeemed is that if we can just get people to come with us to hear the paid professional tell them of the Gospel, then they can be redeemed. Or if we program enough Gospel-related events, programs, concerts, “hooks” to catch the fish, provide all the written instruction books at the local Christian book store, then the Gospel will effectively be proclaimed. For all too long we have placed the responsibility on the backs of those called, trained or anointed.
But that is proving more and more, as we see people moving further from the doors of the American toward church and more toward what the European church looks like: mission-less and dying. The big “Mo” has been in the hands of the enemy, aided by the Church.
If we as Christ followers truly want to be change agents in the world around us than we must be the Gospel, we must live like the Gospel goes in us! Then, and only then, will the game change, will the win of seeing every man, woman and child having the opportunity to see, hear and respond to the Gospel, will the reason why God has us sovereignly placed where we are become the adrenaline that gets us out of bed every day.
Draw a circle of a 4 mile radius around where you live, work, shop, go to school; do life. Who lives in that circle with you? Who works there? Who shops there? Who goes to school there? What business, government and other entities exist there? This is your God-given circle of accountability. This is the place where you, 24-7, must allow the Gospel to go in you. By the way you live, interact with, react to, share with, hang out with those within this circle will the Gospel go most effectively and passionately. This is the game changer – not staring at the back of someone’s head for 30-40 minutes within a walled cathedral listening to the paid professional. The game is changed when you and I, as Christ followers, fully devote ourselves to laying claim to that area and those people within our sovereign circle. It changes when we live as if the Gospel truly does go in us.
I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 and take time to let the power of this plan sink into your heart. It is a game changer. It is the formula for the “win." Let’s take the game back…let’s be the game changers!
The following is a post from Neil Downey for the CruPress Green Blog.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15
What is the current reputation of Christianity in our culture? How does the world perceive those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus? One word that likely doesn’t make the Top Ten list is “rational.” Fair or not, Christians are often viewed as judgmental, illogical, and unreasonable. However, apologists like Tim Keller and William Lane Craig have been working hard to change these perceptions and to help Christians gently and respectfully give the reason for the hope that we have. Let me explain:
I just completed an online IBS class called Apologetics, which can be defined as “a rational defense of the Christian faith.” The goal of apologetics is not to win an argument, but to be a faithful witness for Christ by being a good diagnostician: both of culture and of individual lives. If sharing the gospel can be compared to sowing seed, then apologetics is thoughtfully, wisely cultivating the soil.
Apologetics is by no means a new enterprise: the apostles used miracles and fulfilled prophecy to prove that Jesus was the Messiah (when talking to Jews) as well as the evidence for God from nature (when addressing Gentiles). Scripture both demonstrates for us and commands us to give evidence for the truth we proclaim, trusting the Holy Spirit to use us to bring people to faith.
Covering subjects like theology, philosophy, history, physics, psychology, anthropology, and sociology, the class equipped us to engage with culture-shaping institutions (media, the arts, universities, business, and technology). It also gave us practical wisdom — primarily from Keller’s The Reason for God and Craig’s On Guard — for interacting with our non-Christian friends in a way that removes barriers to the gospel and helps them see the truth more clearly.
The class (which is part of Cru’s theological education curriculum) has reinvigorated me to proactively engage with people who don’t know Jesus: asking thought-provoking questions, uncovering their values, beliefs, and pursuits, and helping them to see the brilliant and beautiful Savior in a way that changes them for eternity.
What about you? What is your experience with Apologetics?
* Photo courtesy of Just Ard (Flickr Creative Commons).
Our passion is seeing stories where Jesus Christ captures heart and transforms lives. So, we thought we'd share just such a story. Meet Michael. This has been reposted from Cru.org.
God punched me in the face when I was 16. I can still look in the mirror and see the damage it caused to my tooth. But really, I don’t mind at all. I’m actually really glad that he did. But before I tell you why, let me back up a little and tell you my story.
I grew up in a wonderful, stable family where I felt loved and learned about God at a young age. But when adolescence hit, I forgot about faith and tried to find satisfaction without God. I felt a deep need to be accepted by my peers so I began to compromise the morals I’d been taught at home.
I got involved with friends who had a negative influence on me. It didn’t take long for me to start drinking, getting physical with my girlfriend and smoking a lot of pot. I wasn’t just out skateboarding like I told my parents. I became joyless and miserable. I remember feeling this profound emptiness – like I knew I was wasting my life and that I wasn’t meant to live like this. One evening when the house was empty, I curled up in a ball on the living room carpet and cried until my stomach hurt. I was looking for something to fill the void in my life.
A short time later I was in the van going to a movie with my dad. There was this thick, dead silence. My dad knew I was rebelling against everything our family stood for. He clearly wasn’t pleased. And I knew I was driving my mother crazy with worry. But instead of giving me a verbal lashing, my father looked over at me and said, “Michael, guess what?” I responded, “What?” knowing exactly what he’d say next: “I love you, son.”
It was the special way my dad had of telling us kids that he loved us. But I totally wasn’t expecting him to say that when I was busy deceiving my family. Experiencing my father’s unconditional love helped keep my heart from getting too calloused. In the back of my mind I felt God knocking on my heart: “Michael, guess what? I love you.”
But I continued to isolate myself from my family. I’d walk in the door and head straight to my room, hoping they wouldn’t smell the marijuana on me or see my eyes all blood-shot. I didn’t really talk to them anymore. This continued for about ten months until my brother came home from college. I was on the phone with my friend planning our next time to smoke up, but then I heard my brother yell across the house: “Michael is smoking pot!” I knew he’d been listening on the other phone.
I’d been ratted out, so I stormed off fuming, smoking a cigarette as I strutted through the park next to our house. My mom was watching through the window. That evening my dad came home and grounded me from my friends for a month.
I counted down the days till freedom and then went straight back to hang out with my friends. But by now someone new had asserted himself as the leader of the group. He’d been to juvenile prison and was tough as nails compared to me. Half an hour into my stay, this guy looked straight at me and said, “I don’t like you. I’m going to beat you up.” So we all went outside to the walkway between two houses. I put up my fists, ready for the fight. Wack! He walloped me right in the tooth. I’d never been in a real fight in my life. I knew I was no match for this guy, so I turned away and stormed back home. That was the last time I hung out with those so-called friends.
A Wake-up Call
I like to think it was God who punched me in the face that day. God knew I needed a wake-up call to question whether those friends were really good for me. I needed to realize they couldn’t give me the acceptance I was looking for. This was a huge turning point in my life. God used this experience to set me on the path to finding true acceptance in him.
It still took me a while to warm up to God and his love, but I was making steady progress in that direction. I found better friends and began participating in my church youth group. Eventually God worked his way into my heart, freeing me from the insecurities that drove me to go along with the crowd. I started to believe that God really did have wonderful plans for my life, and I discovered a sense of purpose helping out with music at my church.
My last few years of high school could have been very self-destructive, but they turned out to be some of the best years I’ve had. I was making Jesus my priority, and He was filling me with joy and peace. I stopped caring so much about what others thought of me. I felt his acceptance and that’s what mattered most. It still is to this day!
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