Saturday, April 01, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 5-6

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.  Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of Christians whose lives were transformed by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior!  Among the thousands of radio dramas are the testimonies of drunkards and drug addicts who became preachers and missionaries; prostitutes whose lives were so transformed they became godly wives and mothers; runaway teens… Desperate sinners who, hearing the Gospel and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior, had their lives changed forever.

My friend, the great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   Modern medicine, bearing the label “psychology”, has for more than a century attempted to address the ailments of mind and soul.  Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions are all attempts to address what man has been unable to fix…a troubled soul.

Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible toll sin takes on a man’s life.  Crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara and met a man described as having an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).

We note three visible details about the man.  The first is his pitiful physical appearance:  His body is scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hang around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists evidencing the desperate attempts of family and friends to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he had made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited in his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

The late Dr. Adrian Rogers observed, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the heart”; and so it is with this man of Gadara when we read he was “…a man with an unclean spirit.” (Mark 5:2), “…possessed with the devil, and had the legion….” (Mark 5:15).  We are not told when this man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had not only taken every corner of his affections and thoughts; it had degraded and destroyed his life.  We read in the Book of James: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).  Sin had destroyed his life, family, and future.

In a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran to Jesus and worshipped Him (5:6); however, the demons that ruled his miserable soul wanted nothing to do with Jesus (5:7). Jesus, evidencing His command and authority over the demons and the ruler of darkness, cast the demons out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting…he was at peace, no longer needing chains and ropes to bind him;  clothed…no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself; “in his right mind”…repentant and rational.  The late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. observed of such a sinner, “If you give God your heart He will comb the kinks out of your head.”

How great was the change in the formerly demon-possessed man?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Mark 5:16-17 reveals, in spite of the undeniable transformation in the former maniac’s life, the citizens of Gadara wanted no part of Jesus.   Jesus was not welcome in their country, their hearts or homes.   Knowing the man of Gadara could go where He was not welcome, Jesus commanded him to, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (5:19).

I close with two exhortations:   The first, like the man of Gadara, believers are commissioned to tell others what Jesus Christ has done for them and that ministry begins first at home (Acts 1:8).   The second, when a sinner is genuinely saved his life will be a testimony of transformation.  In the words of the apostle Paul, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed:  1) His attitudes—he was “in his right mind” (5:15);  2) His actions—he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15);  3) His appearance—he was “clothed” (5:15);  4) His affections—he “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).  God’s power had not only overcome his rebellious spirit, but transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.

The change in the demon-possessed man’s life was an undeniable evidence of his salvation. Can that be said of you?

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith