NeighborB.L.E.S.S.

Like the demon-possessed man in Mark 5, we all need Jesus to deliver us. Then we go and tell others what He has done.

On the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, there was at the time a town called Garasa. Today, the town is called Cursi. And actually what you see up on the screen, there is an aerial photo of the area where Cursi is. So this is thought to be the approximate area of where this story that you just heard read takes place. You can see a little bit of the geography. You can see the hills, you can see the cliffs. You can see the hills coming down to the edge of the lake to the edge of the sea. The area around that is all known as the the region of the Garasenes. Because if you live in Gaza around there, your a Garasene and on the outskirts of that town, you really can't see it in this photo. But on the outskirts of that town is what we would think of today as a cemetery or a graveyard. What was known in that culture as the Tombs. Tombs were the burial chambers of the dead that were carved into the rocky hillsides. They were usually high enough that a person could stand in them. Sometimes multiple bodies would be placed in them and there in the tombs lived a man with an unclean spirit, Mark tells us in verse 2. Mark later in verse 15 and 16 and 17, refers to him as a man who is possessed by a demon. So Mark uses those two terms synonymously, having having an unclean spirit and being demon possessed.

Now I know as soon as we begin to talk about demons, some people check out. Some people think of that realm of the supernatural as something that is from a prior age that we as learned educated people. We've come a long way. We dismiss the supernatural. But I've found that all you have to do is to travel to different places in the world. And you see that what may not be obvious to us here in our culture is very obvious in many other places in the world. But let me especially if you're new to this, let me just define what it is we're talking about. What is a demon? A demon is a spiritual being. It is a spiritual being, but not a spiritual being like God. God is the uncreated one. God created everything natural, earthly human beings as well as spiritual beings. So God created what we now know as demons. He did not create them as demons. He created them as angels. He created them as good beings. But a segment of those angels we read about in scripture rebelled against God, chose to go their own way, chose to define what was right and wrong in their own terms. And they became what the Bible refers to as demons. They not only rebelled against God, they hate God.

They hate God intensely. So they hate all that God has created. And now, while God permits them still for a time to operate on this earth, their intent is to do whatever they can do, to degrade, to deface, to defile, to destroy what God has created. They are limited by God. And if they were not limited, they would destroy us all. But within those limits, that's basically what they exist for. Their mission is to defile us, to deface us, to deform us, ultimately, to destroy us. The term demon possession that Mark uses here, demons certainly can make their presence known. They can oppress someone, they can oppress a believer. They can be some kind of force in a believers life that causes them pain, that causes them trials. But in the life of an unbeliever, the life of someone who is not filled with the spirit of God because Jesus is their savior and Lord, they can and do take possession of an unbeliever. And to take possession of an unbeliever is for a demon or demons, sometimes more than one, to come into that person in such a way that they have control of that person internally and they can speak through that person's voice. They can make that person do things that would not naturally be the inclination of that person. And and of course, that's the kind of situation that we find here as we encounter this man. Now, there's indicators, even if Mark hadn't told us that this man was demon possessed, there's indicators that this man is demon possessed.

First of all, Mark tells us he lived in the tombs and he lived in the tombs. That was something that people of that day who were insane or socially unacceptable for other reasons and were driven out of the towns. That to some extent is the only the only way that they could have any shelter is to go among these tombs, these burial chambers, where they could find shelter from the elements. So this is an indication, first of all, that this man couldn't fit in to Garasa or the surrounding villages and towns, that he'd been driven out by the people. He is isolated. He is experiencing social isolation. Again, a sign of demonization that we also read that there had been made efforts to control his behavior. They had tried binding him with shackles and chains. So to some extent, while he was still in Garasa, he must have been so disruptive in his behavior that, you know, their version of law enforcement tried to control him by restraints, but he being possessed with demons. He demonstrated supernatural strength and he broke the chains and the bonds that hold him. And again, in case you tend to want to write that off, as how could anyone do that? There are documented cases today around the world in different areas of people being demon possessed who demonstrate supernatural feats of strength.

This fits in with what we see in other places of the world. So no one was able to restrain him anymore. And since they couldn't restrain him and they couldn't control him, they drove him out of the tombs. Or out of the city. And he lived in the tombs, the only place that he could find shelter. And we see Mark tell us he lived a wretched, miserable existence night and day, Mark tells us, he cried out. And torments. He was internally tormented in addition to the social isolation, in addition to the pains that the restraints had caused him. And then there was some self-destructive tendency that no doubt was demon inspired. Mark tells us that he cut and he gashed himself with stones. And again, that is behavior that today in cases around the world of demon possession, that we see self-destructive attempts to hurt and destroy one's self that are in documented cases today. So we see in this man, we see typical signs of demonic possession where it occurs today. We see we see that tendency towards social isolation. He lived in the tombs away from the town. We see uncontrollable behavior, disruptive, socially unacceptable behavior. We see that in why they bound him with shackles and chains and tried to restrain him. We see self-destructive tendencies, self-destructive behavior and how he cut and he gashed himself with stones.

And we see internal torment as he cried out night and day. One day this man saw a boat nearing the shore of the lake and he came out of the tombs and ran down towards the shore of the lake. Now, this is where Mark doesn't give us all the detail. But if we read the parallel account in Matthew, Matthew gives us a little bit more, Matthew tells us that this man was so violent that no one could pass by, Matthew 8:28 if you want to look that up. And that would indicate that man being demon possessed, being rejected, having his mind set altered, this man would actually try to attack, would challenge and attack anyone who came that way. So we don't know this for sure. But my speculation, from what Matthew tells us, is that he was running towards this boat, coming to the shore to challenge and attack whoever was coming up on the shore. When he approached the boat, he saw that the man getting out of the boat was Jesus. And we don't know if he'd ever seen Jesus before. I think it's probably doubtful that he had ever seen Jesus before. So who is it that sees and recognize that this is Jesus? It's the demons in him while many people that Jesus encountered didn't really recognize him for who he is, the demons always did. This is not the first occurrence in Mark of the Demons encountering Jesus, so this man, through his demonic possession, recognizes that this is Jesus.

And Mark tells us when he sees that it was Jesus, he ran and he knelt down before him. Now kneeling down both then and to some degree now kneeling down is an act of submission. It's an act of surrender. So why would he why would he kneel down and submission or surrender before Jesus? And again, Mark doesn't tell us exactly, but I think we can we can infer that that the human part of him, that part of him that that was in torment, wanted to be rescued. And so he was kneeling down as an appeal to Jesus to free him from this demonic possession. But it also may have been that the demons recognizing Jesus, getting too close to turn around and run back to the tombs, the demons were compelled by this superior, this ultimately superior spiritual force to kneel down in submission before Jesus submitting to his greater power. Jesus spoke to this man. Come out of the man, you unclean spirit. He doesn't lay hands on him. He doesn't use any formulas or anything like that. He had just spoke. And if you read in the previous chapter, he just spoke into the natural elements, the storm on the Sea of Galilee and with the words be still just his words, the storm stopped. And now with that same authority, he speaks again.

Just the words come out of the man, come out, you evil spirit. Now the man speaks. But although it is the voice of the man, it is undoubtedly really the demons who are speaking here through the man's vocal facilities, the man, the demons who control them. And they say, why are you interfering with me? With us? Jesus, son of the most high. Again, that that title is interesting. That is a messianic title. The disciples still don't really have a clue who Jesus is. The crowd certainly don't understand who Jesus is, but the demons understand who Jesus is. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the promised one. Jesus is the one that spells their doom and their final defeat. Jesus is divine. He is the divine son of the most high God. Elyon in the Old Testament and they know, they know, recognizing who he is as the Messiah, they know that he has come to set the captives free, including this captive. And so this is a venting, I think, of their anger and their frustration and their despair. Why are you interfering with me? They knew their end was coming, but now Jesus has shown up earlier than they expected. Their time they worry is being cut short. Why? Why, why are you interfering with us now? And they know that he has the authority and the power to cast them into the abyss, into the hell. And they beg him, do not torment me.

They know about his ultimate coming. They're surprised by this coming and they think the end is in store for them and their torment is coming. And so they're pleading and begging. Jesus responds. What is your name? Now again, Mark doesn't make this absolutely clear, but I don't think he's speaking to the man asking the man his name. I think he's speaking to the demons. And this is not some formula for deliverance. This, I believe, is bringing their identity into the light. I believe Jesus wants this man to recognize what it is that has a hold of him. I believe Jesus wants the disciples and any other people who were there as witnesses to understand who and what it is that is enslaving this man. One demon speaks for all of them. My name is Legion because we are many. Again here, a little bit of the cultural history helps in understanding. A legion is that unit in a Roman army that is made up of 6000 foot soldiers and one hundred and twenty horsemen and various support personnel. It was it was the primary unit in the Roman army. And when there would be a Roman occupation of a town, they would send in a Roman legion. And so the name here, we're not exactly sure that it literally means there's six thousand one hundred and twenty demons in this man. More likely, it describes how there were many demons in this man who were all combined as one force to possess this man.

It may also communicate the strength of the demonic hold on this man. But in spite of that, whatever odds, however many demons to one messiah, to one Jesus, they are totally in submission before him. And the demon then begs, the demon speaking for them. Do not send us out of the region. Now again, Mark is really sparing on details here. And he doesn't tell us. He doesn't explain the reasoning behind their request. Their fear, though, I think we can logically infer - it is likely that their time has come before they think it really was supposed to be up and their great fear is they're now going to be thrown into the abyss. And so they're looking for any way out. If they can't stay in this man, maybe at least they can stay in the area. And that's why they, looking around probably, see the only other living being that potentially they could enter. And that is the pigs. The demons plead with Jesus, send us to the pigs so that we may enter them. Mark tells us that there was a herd of two thousand pigs feeding on the nearby hillside. And again and that that aerial photo there, you can kind of get a glimpse of how it may have been an area that that you could pasture animals in. Well, for reasons we don't fully understand, Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the pigs.

Now, this is not a compromise. This is not two warring, struggling forces and they come up with a compromise. This is not Jesus making an appeasement in any way to these demons. Jesus is in complete command here. The demons are his vanquished enemy. So why did Jesus permit this? Why did he grant their request? Again, we're not exactly sure. The best explanation that I've heard is Jesus permitted this because this was a visual demonstration to the man and to the disciples and any other witnesses who were there. It was a visible demonstration of this man's absolutely helpless condition. It was a visible demonstration of the stronghold of demonic oppression, possession that he was under. And it was a visible demonstration of Jesus's complete power to deliver this man. Well, the herd of pigs rushes down the steep bank. Again, that aerial photo gives you a little better way to imagine how this might have happened. And they ran down into the sea and they were drowned. Again, Mark doesn't give us background information here, but I don't think that's what the demons intended at all. I think the demons intended to enter other living beings so that they could continue their existence, however limited it was, and they could continue somehow their destructive work, even if it was through a herd of pigs. But the pigs are probably weaker than even the man.

And the demons entering the pigs probably quickly drove the pigs insane. And in that insane condition, they stampeded into the lake and they were drowned. So before you call the SPCA or PETA or any anyone like that, before you complain that that Jesus is somehow here cruel to animals, I would just point out it was the demons who killed the pigs, not Jesus. Well, the man who the men who treated the pigs ran off and they ran in probably into Garasa and they reported to the people what had happened. And people begin to come out of that area of Garasa and the surrounding villages to see what has happened. And when they came to see Jesus, who do they see? They see not only Jesus, they see the man who had been demon possessed. Only now he's sitting there calmly and he's dressed implying that he had been naked when he was living in the Tombs and he's now in his right mind and it reasonably causes them great fear. What has happened here? Jesus has completely delivered this man from his demonic possession. This man had been involuntarily controlled by the demons and now he's free. This man had been violent. Had been uncontrollable and now he's calm and he's at peace. This man had had been reduced to nakedness and now he's clothed, this man was being defiled, he was being deformed, he was being destroyed, and now he's a witness to the power of Christ.

Now there's a little aside of what the people around do. That's not where I want to go with my main point today. I want to stay focused on this man because as Jesus is getting into the boat, he's now preparing to leave. The people have asked him to leave. What does this man do? This man who has now been freed, the man who'd been formerly demon possessed. He was begging Jesus to be with him, to go with him, even that language, to be with him. Jesus chose the twelve to be with him. Same language. He's begging Jesus, let me go with you. Let me join and be one of your disciples. But Jesus tells him, go back home to your own people and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he's had mercy on you. We don't know exactly why Jesus did not allow this man to go with the twelve, but we're very clear on Jesus's mission. Jesus knew that this man's mission, the fulfillment of his mission, would be most effective by sending him back to the people who knew the condition he'd been in. The most impact that this man would have would be going back, now calm and clothed and free and in his right mind, and telling the people who known him, how he was under his demonic possession, telling them how God had mercy on him, how God through his son, the Messiah, had delivered him.

I want you to think about that man, that man is me, that man is you. And what do I mean by that? We all need deliverance. You're here and you're in one in two places this morning. You either have been delivered at some time in your past like I was in my early teenage years. Or you have not yet been delivered. And even though you may not be in a state of demonic possession, the indicators there are similar. We need to be delivered from darkness. This man was in spiritual darkness. The first 13, 14 years of my life. I was in spiritual darkness. You, before you came to Christ, you were in spiritual darkness. We need to be delivered from defilement to the demons. Satan starts very early in our life to, in different ways and in different methods, knowing our weaknesses, knowing our vulnerabilities, to defile us, to deform us, to deface us. He works sometimes through other people who do sinful things to us. He works as well for our own flesh and our own misshape tendencies. His goal is to defile and to deform and to deface us. We need to be delivered from bondage. Even early in life, we begin in patterns of of sin that take a hold of us in unique ways, again, depending upon our unique personality and makeup. And it's like being bound in chains that we can't free ourselves from.

We need to be delivered from isolation and our selfishness and other circumstances of our life. We move away from community, not towards community. We are created not to be alone. And yet that's where sin moves us. That's where our imprisonment moves us. We need to be delivered from torment. You don't have to go very far in life till the things that have happened to you, the things that you have done that you regret, begin to cause internal torment in you that we need to be delivered from. We need to be delivered from self-destructive tendencies. Our sin leads us to defile ourselves. Our sin leads us to engage in behaviors and patterns of behavior that ultimately will destroy us. We need to be delivered from that. Jesus shows up on the shores of our life wanting to deliver us. It's interesting, I, and many of you know this, I grew up as a child here in Rochester, then moved away for forty five plus years and now I'm back for a season and I've had the opportunity of being back to walk through my childhood neighborhood here in Rochester. And while there's many good memories I was blessed with a great childhood, there are memories. I look at houses and I remember yeah. My friends and I in that house, we began to do and I won't fill in the blank here, but we were led into patterns of sin.

We were led into patterns of of self defilement. We were led into patterns of self-destruction. I walk around and I see different places where where we pursued sinful things, where where things happened to us, even at the hands of other people. I think of how, while I feel very blessed for my childhood. I think of how Rochester represents for me really coming to a consciousness that I needed deliverance. It was that that part of my growing up where I began to realize I want to think of myself as a good person, but I am not a good person. I have done things that that are not pleasing to the Lord. And things have happened to me that that now shaped me and and have a hold on me. Jesus showed up on the shore of my life when I was about 13 or 14, and he showed up in the invitation of a friend to attend a church youth retreat. And it was at that youth retreat that I first heard, the gospel message that I first heard who Jesus is, son of the most high God, the Messiah, the savior, the Christ. It's there that I first heard that all of this that I carried, all of these chains that bound me that that he offered forgiveness. More than that. He offered freedom. He offered cleansing and freedom and new life. Think about your own life, think about your own life, what is the circumstances of your life that you needed to be delivered from, and then think about the mercy of God of Jesus showing up on the shores of your life.

And maybe it was through a church retreat like like me. Maybe it was through a friend in your neighborhood. Maybe it was through a family member. Whatever it was, that's God in his mercy, sending Jesus to the shore of your life, bringing you the message that there's freedom, that there's deliverance, that there is forgiveness, that there's cleansing. And if you're here this morning and you do not yet know that, but maybe this morning the spirit of God is even convicting you of the ways that you do need deliverance and that you still are imprisoned, that you haven't yet met the savior. Well, he is showing up on the shores of your life even this morning, and he is offering you deliverance from darkness to light. He's offering you deliverance from defilement to cleansing to purity. He's offering you deliverance from bondage to freedom. He's offering you deliverance from isolation to community. He's offering you deliverance from torment to peace, even to joy. He's offering you deliverance from self-destruction to sanctification to becoming more and more made into the image of Jesus. It doesn't end there, though, because when Jesus delivers us, he commissions us. He doesn't just save us so we have our ticket into heaven.

He commissions us like he did with this man. He sends us out as examples of witness and witnesses of his deliverance. He wants to use me. He wants to use you as part of how he's going to show up on the shore of other people's lives with his message of deliverance. Now, there are opportunities that the people in our church have experienced of being able to take that message even around the world. But where is the way that he does this in all of our lives? Where does he first send us to in this commission? It is, as the man was told, go home to your own people, go home to your own people, tell them what has happened to you. Tell them how God has had mercy upon you. Home there, it's the Greek word Oikos. Home describes not just your immediate family, the family that you grew up in home as that term was used in that culture, it describes a person's entire social system. So certainly it is your immediate family, but it is also your extended family. But even beyond family bounds, it is friends in your social system. It is people who we would think of as our neighbors. It is people who we work with. All of that is encompassed in this term. That's what Jesus is communicating, not just go back to your immediate family, but to go to all of those in your social system, your spheres of influence, who knew you, who knew you as you once were and can now see you as you as you are.

Think about the impact of that. If each of us being delivered by Christ, we go into to the spheres of those who who know us best. I've read studies even recently that show that the great majority of people, the great majority of people who who know Christ, who are Christians when they're asked to trace their their spiritual roots, you know, what is it that that led you to first hear about Christ and respond to it? In other words, where did Christ begin to show up on the shore of your life? They can trace their spiritual roots back to a relative or a friend or a neighbor or a co-worker who is the major influence on them first beginning to hear about the deliverance that Jesus offers. That's probably true of most of you, that that it is somebody in your spheres of influence who is the first one who where Jesus used as he showed up on the shore of your life. And with that in mind, you know, we want to introduce to you a way that you can intentionally do this, because if you're like me, if you do not have natural gifts of evangelism to be able to even go into these social spheres that, you know, your relatives, your neighbors, your friends, your co-worker.

It is incredibly intimidating, unless there's an intentional way, even a natural way to do it, and that's why we want to make available to you a book that that we're all going to be reading. I've read it and we're all going to be reading together over the next six weeks leading up to Neighbor Fast, our event on August 8th. Here's my great fear. If we do not do something intentional, neighbor fest, it'll stay on the calendar August 8th, and most of you will begin to think about it seriously on about August 7th. And you'll kind of make your decisions about whether you're even going to attend based on what's going on in your life. Those couple of days leading up to it and you'll have given no thought to. Is there someone I can bring with me? Is there somebody who this would be a good natural way to give them some initial exposure to my church? Well, this is a way to do this in preparation for neighbor fest, but actually to go well beyond what is blessed. Bless is certainly an Old Testament term when when the Lord appeared to Abraham and commissioned him, one of the things that he told him is that through him, through Abraham and his people, he wanted to bless all the nations of the Earth. But bless is also as it's used in this book. It's an acronym. It's an acronym that describes a simple way to bring the love of God to others, to be part of Jesus showing up on the shores of their life.

It's an acronym for an everyday rhythm of praying and listening and eating and serving and sharing your story with people. It's a way to build a relational foundation that you can begin at some time as the spirit moves to share, like this man, how God has had mercy upon you and what it is that he's done and what he has delivered to you from. So we're going to go through this in more detail in the coming weeks. But let me give you the very brief elevator speech overview. B is simply begin with prayer. If you're not sure you know who it is, who it is it that I'm supposed to be developing a relationship with, who is it that potentially I could invite to Neighbor Fest on August 8th? Who is it that Lord that you even want me to be investing in? You begin with prayer, Lord. Show me. Show me one, two, three, four, five people that you want me over these next weeks as we at Calvary, we seek to be intentional about doing this. You want perhaps to use me to show up on the shores of their life. If you're sitting here and already people come to mind then bless begin with prayer can even be I'm going to begin to pray for the movement of the spirit in their life.

I'm going to begin to pray for opening's I'm going to begin to pray for natural ways to begin to build that relational foundation with them. L is for listen, as we begin to pray for people, we identify who we're praying for and we begin to pray for them. It's amazing how the spirit of God orchestrates opportunities for us to be in conversation with them. And as we're in conversation with them, the important part is for us to listen. How how do we even know their needs? How do we even know what it is that they're struggling from unless we listen to them? So there's just some very easy practices described in this book, briefly described in this book of how can we be better listeners? And then E is for eat. As we're praying for someone and we're now in conversation and we're listening to them. The next natural step, the step that kind of takes somebody from an acquaintance to actually a friend is when we share meals together with them. So creative ways described in here. How might you even go about and do that? Could you hold a barbecue in your neighborhood? Can you invite those neighbors over for a meal? Can you take somebody out to a restaurant? That is where relationships often are built, is around meals. And then that leads to the first S, which is serve. As we get to know them and we know their needs, it's providential how God then orchestrates opportunities where they have needs that we can actually meet. And maybe it's visiting somebody while they're in the hospital or bringing somebody a meal while they have need. Or offering some skill that we have to meet a need that they have. But through meeting their needs, through serving them and meeting their needs, that relational bridge is built a little further. And then finally, in God's timing, that leads to opportunities to share our story. When relationship has been built on that foundation is existing and growing stronger. That's when people finally feel safe enough and open enough to listen to even maybe ask you about your story. This is a natural way. This is an intentional way, but a natural way for us to begin to intentionally develop relationships that ultimately lead to what this man is commissioned to, what we're all commissioned to - go out to those people and their spheres of influence. Tell them how God has had mercy on you. Tell them what the Lord has done for you. This is the way that we fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus who live out passion for Christ and compassion for people. So we would love for all of you to join us in this. There's copies of this book out there for every household. We're going to encourage our small groups to take six to eight weeks and work through these.

We're going to hit these the different points of the acronym through the services over the next six weeks leading up to Neighbor Fest. However, you can participate, however little or much, we would love for you to join us. You can join us by simply making the commitment right now as you sit right there, I'm going to get a copy of the book at the Welcome Desk as I leave today, and I'm going to begin to read it and I'm going to read it with the rest of Calvary. And I'm going to allow the spirit of God to use it to help me to be intentional and reaching out to people in my home, my spheres of influence. We cannot do this apart from the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We all falter if we try to do something like this on our own. So even as I close today, we're going to pray and we're going to ask the Lord to grab hold of this vision, this vision of Calvary and make it each of our vision. We're going to ask the Lord to do the work in our hearts, to give us the intentionality to to act upon this even today. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for your mercy, just like this man. If Jesus had not shown up on the shores of his life, he would have died.

And the self-destruction and all the other defacing, deforming tendencies of that demonic possession. Lord, if you had not shown up on the shores of our life, we would have died in the spiritual darkness of our lives and all that that it's accompanied with. So we first of all, thank you for your mercy upon us in reaching out to us in having in one way or another having Jesus show up on the shores of our life. And Lord, now we want to hear your commission like you spoke to this man. We we want to go to our home. We want to go to our family and extended family, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. We want to as we build this relational foundation through blessed by blessing them. Lord, we want to work towards those opportunities where we can share with them what it is that you've done in our lives, how you have had mercy upon us, how you have freed us, and ultimately how you can free them. So I pray, Lord, that your spirit would give us each the resolve that this is something we're going to intentionally do over the next six weeks and beyond. And I pray, Lord, that as you work through this vision and Calvary that Calvary would become a little more in line with our our mission. Lord, we want to make followers of you who love you, Lord, and have compassion towards others. We pray this all, Lord Jesus, that you would be lifted up, that you would be glorified. Amen.

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