Summary: A sermon on the transformative power of grace in our lives and the church
“Go back home and report all that God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39a NJB). This is the command that Jesus had for the man at Gerasenes. It’s a command that speaks across time to all who have been saved from their own personal demons.
This man, the Gerasenes, had been afflicted by not just one demon but a whole host. In fact, the chief spokesman of the demons makes the statement that they are a legion. Can you imagine a legion of demons infesting a person? A legion is roughly 6000 soldiers in the Roman Army. We today would call this a division. No wonder when Jesus exorcised them from him, he gleefully went to spread the message of the good news!
How about us? How many of us are sitting right here saying “not me”. “We are not those kind of people.” That is an answer that has puzzled me for a while now. Some years ago, I would have gone along with it, but not anymore. Now my question to you is this, “aren’t you thankful for what God has done for you?”
Are we willingly going out and telling others about what God has done for us in our lives? During church service, we call this sharing of Joys and Concerns, during the contemporary service we called that Acts of Grace. In both cases, we take time during our worship to tell others and thank God for the blessings He brings into our lives.
So I ask again, are you willing to share your renewal through God with others? Or, is there something holding you back, such as those personal demons of doubt, fear, and skepticism.
In our reading from Galatians, Paul is telling the newly converted of Galatia of the imprisonment to the ritual laws the Jewish people were beholden to until Jesus took all our sins upon His self.
One could rewrite much of Galatians 3:23-26 to read this way for us today;
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by our own desires , locked up to wait for the faith which would eventually be revealed to us. These desires served as a slave to look after us, to lead us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But now that faith has come we are no longer under the control of our personal desires; for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus,
You see like the Law stifled the growth of the spiritual connectedness to God for the Jewish people, so too do our own personal ambitions and desires affect our relationship with God. They too hold us back, keeping us from stepping forward, pronouncing and giving thanks for what God has done in our lives.
In both Luke and Galatians we are introduced to different forms of the same gift from God… the gift of redemptive transformation. For the demoniac, he went from being afflicted and scorned by his community, to being a person newly restored through the grace of God. His health, mind, and body returned to his own, no longer to be under the influence of outside forces.
Meanwhile Paul explained to the new converts, that they too were new in body and spirit. For it was through Jesus Christ that all their sins were taken away. More over, they were not bound by the laws that had previously substituted for the grace of God in other words their redemption was completed in Christ.
So to quote an old Wesleyan greeting, “How is it with your soul?” Do you feel you are being oppressed by outside forces beyond your control? Do you feel you are hemmed into behaving in a certain way in order to fit into the community? Or, maybe you are expected to behave in a certain way, because that is the way people see you.
Well hear the good news! By remembering what God has done for us and what he wants us to do for Him, we are not under the subject of “man made” expectations of us. These expectations get in the way not only relationships with each other, but more importantly our relationship with God.
These are the kinds of things that Paul was speaking of in Galatians. When we put our own personal expectations of each other above what God wants for us and each other.
By following what Jesus wants for us we are always justified. No matter what others may think. Carrying out the will of God for our lives is the most important thing.
This brings me back to the opening paragraph and Jesus’ command for not only the demoniac but for us all; “Go back home and report all that God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39a NJB). Earlier this morning you heard Bob’s report on the Iowa Annual Conference. One of the most disturbing reports given by the Conference Treasurer was that unless things change as far as our abilities to evangelize and create a healthy and true stewardship among our members, the United Methodist Church in Iowa will cease to exist in 64 years!! That’s right the church that has been the dominate body in the state of Iowa for over 150 years will cease to exist in this state in just six decades.