This New Year’s morning a story in Scripture hit a personal note. It is the story of the man with many demons, a man struggling against evil forces within his body, stranded alone among tombs. His fate was anything but pretty, and yet the story takes a beautiful turn—another Man arrives and removes the incredible burden. The demon-possessed soul is free. However, the Rescuer is not finished, and instead has one final direction:
“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 8:39
After years of torment and isolation from his community, the newly healed man had encountered amazing mercy. Three points of thoughts arose from this stunning account:
- The extraordinary Healer is not only a man, He is God, and His Name is Jesus. He had the sole supreme power to release the man of his demons and unlike other (pre-crucifixion) miracles Christ encourages the man to declare His work, and specifically as the work of God.
- From this, an application questions arises. How often do we forget what Christ has done for us? This man, once shunned for his destructive nature, was now restored to normalcy. Would he forget the day Jesus walked toward him, commanding His darkness to leave? I don’t think so. And we must not forget Christ did the same for us. From the salvation of the cross and promise of eternal life, to the daily blessings we receive from His continued faithfulness—Christ is not only to be forever praised but shared with those who have not experienced His radical kindness. Our lips, like those of this man, must declare His goodness, never forgetting the purpose He has given us in this earthly existence. What is this purpose? See point 3.
- This is where it hits home—literally. Jesus told the man, “Return to your home.” I remember hearing a sermon about this passage, where the pastor imagined the possible feelings of the recently saved man.
“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away” Luke 8:38
Here he is, at the feet of the Man who helped him, his heart desperately yearning to follow this Savior. He may have wanted to be one of the disciples, walking beside Him all the days of his life. And yet, this was not to be. He would have to walk by faith, not by sight.
He is told to remain in the place haunted by his wicked and ostracized past. In fact, it was a place where the people had just demanded his precious Helper to leave. Nevertheless, he would have to be faithful follower there, outside His comfort zone. That was the pastor’s point. Despite the pains of this world and the opposition he would face for worshipping Christ in his old community, Christ was calling him to stay and bring Him glory.
As I recalled this sermon, the words “return to your home” also struck me personally. In the past year I did come back to my hometown, and initially it wasn’t smooth. At first I developed a very selfish mindset, secretly wallowing in shame and self pity. Earlier in my life I had never anticipated backtracking to Visalia.
Four years ago when I set out for Cornell I had ambitious expectations defined by the world’s standards—a hunger for my own glory, for recognition, a high reputation, for a praiseworthy career, for my own “good works”…and that didn’t include Visalia. In the midst of classes and experiences that promoted those desires I encountered Jesus—or I should say He reached out to me—and instead by His grace I fell into a greater love for His mercy, His mission, His wisdom, and His heart-transforming victory at Calvary. He readied me for a new calling—marriage and ministry.
Isaias and I were to begin our post-graduate lives not in a corporate office or foreign country but in a familiar mid-sized town in Central California. And alas, when we arrived, I rediscovered that human flesh is weak. When old friends, teachers, and neighbors questioned my return, wondering why I would resettle in little Visalia after an Ivy-League education, discouragement quickly settled in my consciousness.
I sinfully questioned God’s will, doubtfully asking, “do I deserve more than this?” instead of thinking, “I can tell them about Jesus!” Though I had spent my first 18 years of life in this city, Jesus had put me outside my comfort zone. And Christ was sovereignly gracious. I had lost sight of what God had done, and His Word and Church helped me to remember.
He had saved me (and every other human) on earth from our “demons”—the bondage of sin. Before His compassion I truly deserved nothing but eternal separation from the God I had forsaken. Before Christ’s work I had been under a delusion, seeking insatiable achievement and wealth, not seeing the spiritual desert of fears I was walking in.
Like the man in chains among the tombs, I was destined for destruction and death until Jesus stepped in and brought freedom from my inner evil. Peace now rests upon me, and a holy purpose. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, I and anyone else who trusts in Him can be a child of God. How could I forget what God had done? How could it not be shared? How could I value man’s temporary praise above so great a salvation?
It’s New Years Day, and the resolution is this—that by the power of the Holy Spirit Christ’s gospel and glory would be shared through our lives, in Visalia and wherever He takes us.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16