Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Demon-Possessed Man: Part 1 - Tombs

The story of Jesus and the Demon-Possessed Man may be my favorite recorded Jesus-incident.  This week, I've been reading through it and reading through it, and, each time, I've gained something more from it.  As a result, I want to take a break from recounting my Koreaisms and focus on this passage until I exhaust what I've been learning from it.  Of course, if something major happens in my life, that will be posted, but I feel no need to post nothings for you when I could be sharing this.

I want to start by focusing on the second half of verse 27 (assume I'm using NIV unless I say otherwise):
For a long time, this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.
In today's culture of Christianity, I feel like we're being pushed toward the unusual, the out-standing acts of faith, be it through extended missions trips to the poorest reaches of the earth, the sustainable living movement, or even homeschooling.  We are inundated with these things daily, and it can become easy to feel like a better Christian for doing them or a worse one for not.

The man in this scripture was living in such an extreme way, without clothes or a home.  Now, before you turn your nose up at this, let me draw a parallel.  Not even a full chapter earlier, Jesus says this of John (Luke 7:24b-25):
What did you go out into the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.
Let me put this another way (Mark 1:4a, 6):
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness... John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
 In case you're confused as to where I'm going with this, the point that I'm making is that we can't assume anything negative of this demon-possessed man simply by the first part of that verse.  Likewise, we can't assume anything good of John by his similar actions.  These men, one possessed by G-d and one possessed by demons, are extraordinarily similar to the untrained eye.  The distinction is in the details:

The demon-possessed man chose to make his home in the tombs.

What you do does not necessarily mean that you are walking with G-d.  You can be making all the motions of extreme faith yet still dwelling in the grave.  It is crucial that we daily beg the Spirit to search us and know us, to try us and test our hearts, to refine us like silver in the fire.
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, "They are my people," and they will say, "The L-RD is our G-d." (Zechariah 13:9)
This prayer is not one to be taken lightly.  This prayer is one the guarantees pain in your life.  The only way to refine silver, to test gold, is by means of the hottest fire.  These precious metals are placed into the heart of the flame and left to burn off the impurities.  [*Note - I know I've talked about this before, so, if you're feeling a sense of déjà vu here, you're not insane.*]  BUT these metals cannot be left unattended; it is imperative that someone be right by the fire, lapping in the heat themselves, to ensure the the metals are not destroyed.  The metals must be removed at a precise moment, and so the caretaker never falters from their position.  G-d is promising us that He will allow us pain, but He will be there, ready to pull us out at the precise minute to make us the most valuable  most beautiful things in the world.

G-d compares us to gold frequently in the Bible.  With this in mind, I want you to watch this video, replacing the word "gold" with your name, and any reference to miners, geologists, refiners, etc. as G-d.  Note the temperature of the "smelter" and how close the man caring for it gets to it for most of the time (if that's not love, I don't know what is).

If you're not both awed and terrified by this, I think you need to repeat the exercise.  This is what G-d is promising He'll do for us when we pray that prayer... and that's just to get to 80% purity.  But this is what we must do if we are ever to find our way out of the grave.  This is the difference between John the Baptist and the demon-possessed man.  Simply acting the part of extreme faith is not enough.  Christ knows our hearts, and will hold us accountable for them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" - Matthew 7:21-23

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