Here Is the Life You’ve Lost In Living!
A surgeon watched while a mechanic removed parts from his car engine to get at the valves. The two men began to discuss their lines of work. After a few minutes, the mechanic said to the surgeon, “You know, doctor, I sometimes believe my type of work is as complicated as the work you do.”
“Perhaps,” the surgeon replied. “But let’s see you fix my car while the engine is running?”
In Mark 5:1-20 we see Christ working like a surgeon to fix a broken man while his “engine is running.” And look at how much He is able to do! God does not have to wait for a man to die in order to heal him. Right now, in this life, the Lord performed a case of open heart surgery and made him well. All this while his motor was running!
Broken Like Adam
You might say that the man in this story is a real Humpty Dumpty. He had obviously had a great fall and no one seemed to be able to put him together again.
If you look closely you will see that this man named Legion is broken in every way that the book of Genesis teaches that man is broken. Notice his strained relationship with God. When Jesus got out of the boat and walked up the beach, Legion ran to Him, threw himself down in the dirt, and the demons within him cried out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” This is Legion’s way of saying, “What are you doing here, Lord? You’re God and I am a sinner. Please, please don’t cause me torment!” We still see this broken response to God today, don’t we? A young person comes to church and is bored. When the gospel is preached, he wonders what it has to do with him. Worship is simply torture, and so many stay away. When their parents force them to go anyway, they whine and complain, “Anything but that. It’s torture!”
You will also notice Legion’s broken relationship with himself. The text says that he was always “bruising himself with stones.” This act of violence aimed at himself was Legion’s way of expressing self-reproach. He didn’t like who he was, so he struck out at his own body. Do we not still see this same behavior today? There are those that bruise themselves with alcohol, drugs, too much food, tobacco, or too much work and too little exercise and recreation. And of course, there is suicide, the most extreme form of self criticism.
Not only do we see Legion’s broken relationship with God and with himself, there is also evidence of Legion’s problematic relationship with other men. The text tells us that Legion lived alone. He had no neighbors. Long ago people had exiled Legion to the wilderness of a cemetery. There he had been chained. There he lived a lonely life. And there he cried out night and day for companionship. Even today there are with us the lonely, broken souls of the world. Society is still quick to put a misfit in his place. Often they are even chained there like Legion, except today’s fetters are often invisible. They are chains of oppression or injustice. They might be chains of a strict cast system or a locked cell door. There are even the chains of the generation gap. Do you know how lonely some elderly people in our society can be for a youngster’s companionship? Many senior citizens pine away night and day in the desolate wilderness of a rest home. An elderly woman once showed me her new wallet and the new identification card she was filling out. Tearfully, she complained, “But I’ve got no one’s name to write in the space that says, “Whom to notify in case of accident.’”
Examining this man Legion is a depressing chore. He is no nursery rhyme’s “Humpty Dumpty.” He is for real. He is fallen and horribly broken just like the tempted twosome of Eden. He is broken with God. He lives alone and he is full of venomous self-reproach. You will also note that Legion has very poor personal hygiene. He had “an unclean spirit.” He lived in a cemetery. The parallel account in Luke 8 says that Legion wore no clothing. He probably had a scraggly beard and an unbearable body odor. For these few reasons, it is no overstatement to say that Legion was broken in his relationship with the environment. The poor man was a walking case of pollution. You have heard of numerous types of pollution today. There is visual pollution. And Legion was hard to look at. There is noise pollution. And Legion was crying out night and day. (How would you like to have a big nude man crazed and crying out all hours of the day and night in the cemetery of your town?) Then there is odor pollution. Legion probably had that, too.
Human Nature Is Legion
In the story of Legion, we have a picture of the human condition. All of us are in this man’s predicament. His nature is our nature. He is human nature broken by sin. But you say, “I’m not that bad off!” No, perhaps you are not that bad off— yet. But if we are separated from God by our sins, our lives are crumbling in their basic relationships. It may not be this advanced yet, but if we do not come to terms with the Lord, it is only a matter of time until we too are in Legion’s condition.
Home, Cursed Home
You will notice that Legion lived in a graveyard. This is no accident. God is saying that mankind is dead. Though he is a man, he had lost his ability to act like a man. Now you can see why the psalmist could look at himself and say, “There is no health in us.” Without God we are as good as dead and the world is our cemetery.
What’s In a Name?
Legion’s name is also a particular interest. It means “We are many.” Once whole like Humpty Dumpty, Legion is now fallen and shattered. There is no longer one completely integrated man. He is now possessed by “many” demons so that his real name is lost to us. We still see something of this phenomena about us today, do we not? There is the lady who is moody. On Sunday she is cheerful and energetic. Monday she is introverted and by Wednesday she is gloomy, depressed. Part of her is joy. Another part is hate. She is struggling with the many different pieces of her oppressed Legion self. We also see this multiple self-expression in youth. What about the high school lad who has one vocabulary that he uses in the school locker room, another that he uses in the presence of his girl friend, and still another that he uses around his parents? I counseled with a young man who had been that route. He had put on all the airs, played all the roles until one day he forgot which character was the real him.
Sad to say, but not only can people become shattered in many pieces by Satanic temptation, oppression and even multiple possession, whole cultures can become so, too. Notice in the Old Testament the gathering wholeness of Israel under the faithful leadership of King David and King Solomon. When the people were faithful to the covenant, the nation became unified. But see the disintegration that occurred when the peoples’ sin separated them from God. After Solomon the nation split. There were various factions until the tribes splintered and scattered. Some of those tribes are still lost. We are seeing this same process of disintegration in western society today. The young and the old are so far apart they cannot communicate. Music is disintegrating in its forms— classical, country and western, rock and punk. Art is losing all semblance of structure. Marriages and whole families are failing at a startling rate. Nations have so many special interest groups that they are becoming increasingly ungovernable. The words of Psalm One are becoming alarmingly true, “The wicked are like the chaff which the winds drive away.” Our unity is no more. We are flaking apart. And now the wind is scattering us in a thousand different directions.
It is obvious from the text that the people of Legion’s day tried to save him. Don’t you imagine they prayed for him? He was counseled, scolded, fussed at, and exorcized. But no one could seem to help Legion expulse the evil inside himself and pull together again. So the townspeople put Legion away. They chained him outside the city where he could do no harm.
Modern man makes many attempts at salvation, too. They say, “Legion, boy, come here. What you need is diet, doctors, and drugs.” And what do you have? A healthy sinner. Next someone says, “All Legion really needs is money and a job.” And what do you get but a rich sinner, a man with money but no wholesome and basic relationships with God, men, self, and creation. Finally, there comes a representative from the educational world. “Legion, money and medicine are not enough. What you need is an education.” And all you’ve got then is an educated sinner.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not belittling education, food, medicine, and money. In their places these things contribute immensely toward human wholeness. But these things are not saviors! They do not even touch man’s basic problems, and that is a restoration of his basic relationships. It is modern heresy to believe in salvation by education, technology, economics, politics, revolution, and religion. Only God can help us.
What All the King’s Horses and Men Could Not Do
In the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” we are told that, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” The same was true of Legion. No one could make him whole again. So they took this shattered man outside the city and consigned him to the cemetery.
But thank God that what all the king’s horses and men could not do, God can do! Jesus Christ, God walking in the cool of the evening and looking for man, God come in the flesh, the incarnated heavenly Father, came to Legion and saved him.
You will notice that when Christ drew near Legion’s habitat, Legion did not run and hide like Adam and Eve did. He did not make excuses for his sin, blame others or even rationalize. Instead, Legion, seeing Jesus from afar, ran up and worshiped him. Agreed, Legion did not worship confidently or even very liturgically. He cried out a recognition of Christ, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.” He cried out a confession of his sin, “What have you to do with me?” This pitiful expression of worship might not seem like much but it is a faith-response to God. And the Bible again and again teaches that faith, a sense of utter trust and dependence upon God, is the basis for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus, seeing Legion’s faith, responded to the situation with salvation. He saved the man. Now, don’t let the word “saved” bother you. In the Greek “saved” is “salvere.” It simply means “to be in good health or to be made well.” It essentially means to have a healthy relationship with God, yourself, neighbors, and with the environment.
So, with a word Jesus brought salvation to the man of the tombs. And as we shall see, Jesus saved Legion from the guttermost of hell to the uttermost of wholeness. Just take a look at the new Legion after his contact with the Lord and see the difference God made in him.
Man Made New!
What about Legion’s relationship with God? The text says that Jesus cast out Legion’s unholy spirit of Satan and, no doubt, filled him with God’s Holy Spirit. Now the man no longer feared God or found it necessary to cower before Christ in the dirt. Instead Legion was “sitting at the feet of Jesus.” Right here we sense something of the Christian’s position before God. We can be relaxed, we can even sit in the Lord’s presence. The apostle Paul said that we can come boldly into God’s presence because of what Christ has done for us (Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16, 10:19). Christ himself taught that we can talk to God not like a criminal does to a warden, but like a son to a father. He taught us to pray, “Our Father…” It is exciting to note that in Luke 11:2 the Greek word for father in the Lord’s Prayer is the familiar. It could easily be translated “our papa” or “our daddy.”
Then there is Legion’s new relationship with himself. No longer is he bruising himself. No longer is he suicidal. He has a future. He is begging for a career. He wants to live. See him in the text begging Jesus to let him go with Him!
What about Legion’s relationship with people? Once he had lived among the dead. Once he had been chained. Now his loneliness is turned to companionship. He is in the company of Jesus. He is with disciples. And you will note that Christ even restored him to his original community. He said, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” Right after this healing, Jesus left Legion’s home country. The people actually begged Christ to depart from their neighborhood because they were afraid of Him. But later Jesus was to return again. And on the Lord’s second trip there, great crowds met Him and heard His teaching. Undoubtedly one may attribute this to Legion’s evangelistic work among his own countrymen. For as people saw the true and lasting changes in Legion’s life they came to see if Jesus couldn’t save them as well. Truly God had healed Legion’s broken relationship with people!
So far, God was wonderfully able to restore Legion’s relationships. Christ made him at peace with the Lord. He took away his self-reproach. He even restored his relationship with men. But what about Legion’s relationship with the environment? Did God fix that, too? The text points out that Legion, after salvation, was clothed. That means he probably had a bath. He was also “in his right mind.” No longer was he a public nuisance crying out night and day. Instead he went throughout his entire region preaching the gospel that God is searching for us all in love and that He really can restore us to healthy relationships.
Notice the Difference
Right here in this saving event we have the difference between Christianity and other religions. Some religions such as Hinduism by diet and meditation will get you right with yourself. They will bring you peace. But they offer little or nothing for your other relationships. Then there are those religions like pantheism that will restore you to nature, and others will work on your humanitarian instincts to restore you to people. But no other religion is like Christianity in that it offers salvation in all areas of such a high quality to the God-man, man-self, man-to-man, and man-environment relationships. Now you see why the biblical faith is so positive about God’s salvation in Christ being the only faith that can fully save the human race. Now you understand why the Bible makes statements like Acts 4:12. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And now you understand why Christian missionaries on every continent call all men to forsake their idols, their false hopes in other religions, and call on Jesus Christ, and Him alone, for salvation. No other faith in the world can do for man what God did for Legion.
It is at this point I must confess that the Church has not always preached the whole gospel for the whole man for the whole world. There have been times when pastors from ignorance preached a half-gospel. There have been times when missionaries were more interested in preaching their cultural values than the Word of God. It is a shame, but sometimes Christians have not been good news but bad news for people.
Only In the Sweet By-and-By?
Today in the Bible belt of the United States we hear the gospel preached like this: “Repent! Believe in God! Get saved so you can go to heaven when you die!” It is true that this is part of the gospel. But it is also true that this is not all of the gospel. Restoring your eternal relationship with God is not all there is. There is also the relationship to other men, the self, and the environment. What we have in Jesus Christ is not just a faith for the sweet by-and-by! It is a faith also for the nasty now-and-now!
Around the world today, Christians are arguing among themselves over the meaning of the gospel. Some say it is only to get man right with God so he can go to heaven. These are often called conservatives or fundamentalists. Then there are the liberals who are not concerned with heaven so much as they are with earth. They are very eager to talk about the restoration of man’s relationship with other men, with themselves, and with the environment. I submit to you that both sides are wrong! It is not a matter of this or that, either/or. The gospel is a matter of both! It has to do with all our basic relationships!
Take a look at the great commandment in Luke 10:25 and following: “You shall love the Lord your God.” And we are broken with Him. And “you shall love your neighbor.” We are broken there as well. And “you shall love…yourself.” Actually the Bible says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It doesn’t say “instead of yourself,” but “as yourself.” And we are broken in our self-esteem, too.
Now you are probably saying, “Ah ha! We have you now! We have caught you in a point of liberality. Nowhere does it say we have to love the environment.” Yes, it does say this, too, at least in principle. The first part of the great commandment says we shall love God the creator. The last part says we should love men and ourselves. This is the creation. And included in on the creation is the environment, our very real and necessary neighbor created by God for our well-being and given us as a responsibility to “dress and keep.”
Substantial Healing Now!
So, God offers to the world a kind of salvation that is relevant to every one of man’s basic relationships. It is a salvation, as you can see in Legion’s life, that brings quality healing right now in every area of our lives— sociological, ecological, theological, and even psychological. Now, here I must make a very clear statement as to the exact extent of this salvation or “health” in this lifetime. Our healing today is not a full salvation. It is, rather, a substantial approximation of full salvation. I choose that word “substantial” very carefully. The Christian can be very substantially healed in his broken relationships, but he cannot be fully healed in this life. Full healing, perfection, comes at the Second Coming or the resurrection. This means that until whichever of these final events comes first, Christians will continue to sin and manifest brokenness in various relationships. This, of course, gives us no license to say, “Since I can’t be perfect I won’t even try.” The Bible is very clear about our commitment to living wholesome lives by purifying our relationships of sin. 1 John 3:2-3 makes this clear.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now;
it does not yet appear what we shall be,
but we know that when he appears we shall be like him…
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
So, then, salvation is a process. Though God does not offer complete healing in this life, He does offer substantial healing now. And looking around Christendom today it is easy to say that God’s level of wholeness for this life, His substantial healing, is being largely unobtained. I know Christians of faith who have peace with God but whose lives are not abundant. They have dire problems with self-esteem. Their lifestyles reflect gross over-consumerism. And they can’t get along with their neighbors. If you discuss the abundant life with them, they are quick to confess their sins, but there is a kind of toleration for the lack of healing in their earthly relationships. “After all,” they say, “I will go to heaven when I die. That’s all that really matters.” What a shame! God offers so much and we accept so little! God not only came to give us eternal life in heaven but abundant life on earth! And we fall so short.
I don’t say all this to make you uncomfortable with your humanity. The fallen nature of man is inescapable even for the Christian. We must resign ourselves to the fact that we are sinners. And we must trust Christ and Christ alone for salvation. But the fact that we are still sinners should not impede the process of salvation. It shouldn’t make us give up. Instead, we should, like Jesus himself said, “Hunger and thirst for righteousness” in our relationships (Matthew 5).
Christian Nature Holds No Surprises
What does all of this say about our fellowship together? What does it say about the nature of the Church? It says that the Church is a gathering of people who have faith in Christ and who, though not perfect in regards to sin, are being substantially healed now. This means that the Church is going to have some rough spots in it. There will be quarrels. There will be criticism. There will be heresy. People not yet whole, but in the process of being made substantially whole, can be expected to sin.
The fact that Christians are still sinners surprises and disappoints many new converts. And this same fact has angered the world. Many think Christians are setting themselves up as perfect or something like that. But such is not the case! Christians go to God and His church for the same reason people broken in body go to the hospital. By going to church one does not confess a “better-than-thou” attitude. Quite the opposite! By joining the church we confess our sin and our need for God’s help in salvation.
Lord, I come to you as Legion. Save me! For Christ’s sake. Amen
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