Thinking a bit more about your freedom these days? A little frustrated? Anxious? Freedom is back in the national conversation. Although that conversation is 100% political, I was predisposed to think about it spiritually in what may seem an unusual place, Mark 5.
Jesus and his disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee. Upon arrival in the Gerasenes, they were met immediately by a man possessed by a legion of demons. The conversation between the demon and Jesus is fascinating:
And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
This passage provides refreshing peace and rest for our weary souls. About this, I will make two points.
First, in the exchanges between Jesus and the demon, we see that Jesus is in full control of Satan and his dark forces. Satan must submit to God!
It helps to remember this at a time when so much evil is on public display. It is a powerless feeling to watch what is happening to our nation. But God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and is still in control. We need not be afraid. God is not the author of evil. That God allows it is a deeper conversation beyond the scope of this article. But we know from Scripture that God’s redemptive plan is not stymied by evil.
While we rest in his sovereign control, we can be thankful for the opportunity we have as the Church to creatively and powerfully give testimony to the hope that is within us. Certainly, this is one way that God is using the current crises. There is a great opportunity for people to come to know God personally.
If you are looking for a place to read in the Bible, please consider Mark, especially the first nine chapters. These chapters are full of examples of Jesus’ absolute power over Satan and his demons, the forces of nature, sickness and death. This is a perfect place to read during these times when the world seems to be spinning out of control.
Second, how many times have you read a passage like this and thought, “Why can’t change in specific areas of my life be as immediate? Why can’t I be like that person?!”
It is in this kind of self-talk that Satan slithers in and does some of his most effective work. He gets us to think about our battle with sin as something yet to be accomplished that WE must do on our own. Indeed, we must apply effort but the effort is more in applying THE victory that has already been accomplished by Jesus Christ through his life, death and resurrection.
The power of Satan to force us to sin is already broken! Jesus’ work with the demoniac did not make him sinless but it miraculously freed him from possession and sin as a controlling condition. Those who are in Christ are like the demoniac in that we have been freed from sin’s tyranny. How are we freed from sin’s tyranny in our lives?
Attracted as we are to our idols, the pleasure they offer us is replaced by a much greater pleasure: the pleasure of knowing The God Who loves us so much He died for us. Do we remember that and act on it? This is the locus of work in our daily battle with sin. It takes Holy Spirit energized faith that is grounded in Jesus’ once for all victory. Like the demoniac, we are free indeed! Like the demoniac we are filled with the same joy.
We are free and might not know it.
When I listen to Christians talk about their struggles, sometimes it sound as if Jesus never came. I wonder, “Do they know they are already free?” I find myself asking this question in my own struggles at times. Now, certainly we struggle with temptation and it is painful. But Jesus has already accomplished the victory we need over our present sin. Do we really believe that we are already free?
Ultimately, mercifully, and gloriously the freedom we need most is not given by politicians, but by God alone. He alone has the power to free us from what troubles us most: our sin. This is the only real message of freedom there is for us personally and as a nation. We need it now more than ever.