Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 12, 2012
 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.  And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain,  for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.  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.  The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.  And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.  And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs.  And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.  As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
-- Mark 5:1-20, ESV
“T” is for “trouble.”
This text in the Gospel is about the great deal of trouble Jesus is willing to go to in order to win souls, to make disciples, to engage in personal evangelism. It seems that of all the callings we fulfill in the kingdom of God, none is more difficult than going to lost or unchurched people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’d rather worship in worship services, pray in prayer meetings, study the Bible in Bible studies, or witness anything but witnessing to those who need a witness for Christ. It’s just too much t-r-o-u-b-l-e.
Consider the trouble Jesus encountered on His way to witness to this man. He crossed a stormy sea which threatened to drown Him and His disciples (ref. Mark 4:35-41). He entered a graveyard with far fewer amenities than a southern suburban home. His target for evangelism was a demon-possessed man with a reputation for breaking chains, and apparently chins, with his bare hands. This is the trouble Jesus went to in order to bring good news to a bad man. I wonder what trouble we would be willing to go through in order to tell someone about Jesus.
“R” is for “reward”
A reward awaits those who are consistently willing to witness the gospel to others. Not everyone you are willing to talk to about Jesus Christ will listen. Even in this story, there is another lost man who fled the scene when Jesus showed up (ref. Matthew 8:28). Not everyone will listen and not everyone who listens will believe. But if you sow enough seed, some of it will fall on good soil (ref. Mark 4:1-20). There is no greater reward in this life than giving eternal life to a family member, friend, or complete stranger who -- by the grace of God and a faithful witness from a child of God -- becomes a fellow follower of Jesus Christ.
I learned a lesson growing up on a long dirt road in South Georgia, before the advent of canned soda. You can’t redeem an old coke bottle if you don’t go looking for them. Some cannot be found, some are broken, but some can be reached and redeemed for a bag of candy. The reward was greater than the trouble it took to collect the bottles. The reward for one soul won to Christ remains forever. Getting the gospel out to the world is worth the storm, the graveyard, Satan’s threats, and even a few dead pigs. Speaking of pigs,
“O” if for “opposition.”
The trouble with witnessing and winning souls is that it can make a bit of a mess. It can reorder our lives, change our churches, even cost us money. I think I know why Jesus broke up the barbeque in this village. I think Jesus knew they valued pigs over people.
Mark 5:17 is one of the most haunting verses of Holy Scripture. Grasp the picture of people begging at Jesus’ feet, then gasp when you realize they are not begging Him to stay, but to leave. I have had the painful experience of being asked to leave a church. It was not because of any immoral or unethical behavior on my part. It was because I was preaching the gospel and the church was changing. The old guard valued their sacred pigs much more than the sacred truth of the Bible. Eventually, all churches must decide whether they want to save our pigs or other people.
“U” is for “united.”
Have you ever heard of back-masking? In the days when music came in record albums, some record players could play the record backwards. Allegedly, creepy messages could be deciphered. In a typical country music song, you lose everything. Back-mask it, and you get everything back.
Look at what this man got back in this story -- everything. It was much more than a reunion. It was a real union. For the first time, he was united with God. With this union in place, he was then united with his lost mind, his lost soul, and his lost family and friends. Imagine the scene at his house that night. Imagine fear giving way to celebration. Uniting one soul to Christ has a rippling effect that will ring throughout eternity. It is well worth any trouble that a Christian or a Christian church must endure.
“B” is for “behind.”
Where are the twelve disciples in this text? They stood behind, backing up and following their leader. They were probably a little shell-shocked from the storm. They were probably a little terrified of the graveyard and the demoniacs. They didn’t have to be told twice to get back into the boat. But all the way they were right behind their leader. They were supportive all the way, even if they didn’t understand His ways.
What if they had taken a vote the day before? Who wants to sail through a storm, go into a scary graveyard, witness to two demon-possessed men, and then get back into the boat? If they had been a Baptist church, this Gerasene man would have never been saved. Sometimes you just have to trust your leaders as long as they are headed in the direction of lost souls. And sometimes, as the next two letters will indicate, you have to go to those souls yourself.
“L” is for love and “E” is for everyone.
Yes, now is the time for the general Christian admonition to love everyone. The young and the old, the black and the white, the high-class and the low-class, the friend and the foe – we must love everyone. But sometimes loving everyone in general is an excuse for loving no one in particular.
Our Lord made an intentional, deliberate effort, at great trouble and risk, to tell a particular person that the kingdom of God is at hand. He loved someone, specifically, enough to address their sin and shame and offer them salvation. And, because of personal love that showed itself in personal evangelism, a troubled man left his troubles and came home, to God and to his family.
And once he was saved, he wanted to get into the boat and go tell everyone about Jesus! But Jesus told him no. Instead, the Lord instructed him to go home and tell some people in particular about the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Someone telling someone about Jesus, beginning with our very own circle of family and friends -- that sounds like a sound plan for evangelism; if, we are willing to go to the trouble.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org