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I got a couple of great follow-up questions from some folks after the sermon about Jesus delivering the demonized man in Matthew 8:28-34. Here’s my best attempt at giving an answer.
The first question was asked by more than one person. It basically went like this: “Where did the demons go after the pigs died? Did they die too, or just disappear, or did they go to their eternal torment after that?” In addition to that, there are a couple of related questions about the events themselves.
The easiest way to answer is the first question is, “I don’t know where the demons went, because the Bible doesn’t tell us.” Unfortunately, I don’t really have a better answer than that. It doesn’t make sense why the demons would ask to go into the swine, and then promptly destroy their new “home.” I do not believe they went to their eternal torment, because their request mentions that it was “before the time” (8:29) to enter into that torment. Where did they go? We don’t know, but we can safely conclude that they went off to the next place to wreak their cruel, destructive, devilish havoc on their next victims.
Someone else asked about the dynamic of a demon inhabiting an animal. I can only conclude that this is possible, because the text says that they “went into the swine” (8:32). There have been a number of suggestions about why the demons wanted to go into the swine in the first place. Some say that the demons were just evil and destructive, and wanted to possess the pigs for the express purpose of destroying them. Some have added to that the theory that Jesus wanted the swine killed too, because they were unclean animals, and therefore it was against Old Testament regulations to be raising them. Their death was an instant judgment, consistent with Old Testament civil law. While I am sure the deliverance of the two men was a higher priority than keeping the animals alive, I don’t think it is fair to conclude Jesus would desire random and wanton destruction of property. The account is about the power of Jesus to deliver from demons, not the authority of Jesus to punish men for compromising behavior. We are missing the point if we get hung up on that detail. In fact, the townspeople DID seem to get hung up on that detail, and it was to their shame that they did so.
A final question I got was related to the statement I made in my sermon, that in the New Testament there was never any confusion or doubt about identifying who was, and who was not, demon possessed. I commented that a demon possessed person exhibited certain kinds of uncontrolled behavior, either physcially or morally, that made them easy to identify. They asked about the man who was “sitting quietly by in the synagogue, listening to all that was going on, and seeminly no one knew he was there” (the man in Mark 1:23-26 and Luke 4:33-37). After reading the accounts in both gospels, there is actually no indication that he had been sitting there for weeks or months, quietly participating undetected. Mark says his appearance was sudden (“Just then,” a word that indicates some kind of immediacy). We don’t know how sudden it was, but it does not appear his presence was not the norm. In both accounts, however, the man bursts out screaming at Jesus in the synagogue — not exactly normal, every day, conduct at the local worship center. It seems his boisterous actions, and the subsequent violent convulsions when the demon comes out, serve more to illustrate my assertion that demon possessions were readily and easily identifiable. Granted, it is possible that they guy had been quietly sitting by for a weeks. But we are not told that specifically. Mark’s language seems to indicate that his presence was as a sudden, and new arrival.
The question is a good one though, and the silence of the text may serve as a good challenge for me to think though that principle. I was first pointed to that principle through observations made by Alex Konya, in his book, “Demons: A Biblically Based Perspective.” I highly recommend the book as having a balanced, and very biblical approach to understanding a very difficult subject.
With all that said, please recognize how difficult it is to sort through some of these issues. A lot of it is shrouded in mystery because it relates to things that take place in the spiritual realm, which we have very little knowledge of. There are a lot of things said and written about demons that is nothing more than conjecture or “best guesses” on people’s part. When you hear people speaking very confidently about knowing when, how, and where demons are operating, I suggest that you be very cautious and discerning about listening to them. There is definitely more we don’t know, than what we do know.
Thanks for your questions! See you next time.
Social Media, Technology, and the Christian
We are in a technological revolution. Even the print media is recognizing the shift from paper to pixels. For example, the founder of Facebook has been named, “Time Person of the Year.” How is the Christian to respond? How will this revolution shape our lives in the future? What are the questions we should be asking? What are the actions we should be taking? Quite frankly, I am perplexed when I try to ponder all the ramifications this revolution is having on our world.
Watch this video to get a sense of just how impacting this revolution is … so far!
In pondering all of this, what I have come to understand the most, is that we need to be sure our lives are interacting with people and not pixels. In other words, let’s be sure we know that ultimately, our interaction is with people. We need to see the people at the other end of our messages. We need to see the people that are reading our status updates. We need to see the people that are posting on our walls. Most of all, we must do our very best not to allow the pixel interaction to replace the people interaction. Face-to-face always was, and always will be, the best way to communicate. And when you do Facebook instead of being face-to-face, remember the golden rule of Facebook, “interact unto others as you would have them interact unto you.”
Here are some principles we can employ while navigating through this information revolution. Many of these principles were taken from blogs and other internet resources. Please use the links to go to the sources.
1) God created all things, including technology. God created the forces (electricity, wave-lengths), elements (needed to make electronic components), and the human intelligence needed for the creation of technology.
2) God is good, and the gift of technology may be used for good. Technology has many good uses. Sharing of videos, photos, communication, access to news sources, education, shopping, banking, etc. There are many things we can do to serve and to demonstrate love to others using technology.
3) Technology is not inherently sinful. It is just sending signals. Without interaction with human beings, technology is amoral. However, Technology has been perverted and abused by the sin nature of man. This changes God’s good gift to be bad.
Here are ways we could respond to the technology (the third being the advised way):
1) Enthusiastic acceptance: accept and welcome any technological development without considering the consequences. When we do this, we do not consider the possibilities and consequences of embracing something which man may have changed from good to evil.
2) Complete separation: going to the opposite extreme of embracing. Some would reject digital technology as completely wrong and unacceptable for the Christian to use. This response fails to consider the goodness of God. Furthermore, in doing this, it will separate and remove us from society and may result in our being ill-equipped to engage in the world.
3) Disciplined discernment: distinguish between true and false, sort out what is good or harmful. We need to approach technology with a Biblical view, much the same way we approach everything else in life.
Here are a few guidelines that are useful when using digital technology.
1) Permanence: Whether we realize it or not, what we post, message, email or otherwise share on the internet, is forever available permanently. Electronic media has the appearance of being temporary. However, it is not. Realize that all your Google searches, all your Facebook status posts, and all your messages are captured. Someday, they may be used against you.
2) Politeness: The correspondence you have with someone today, may be tomorrow’s “wikileak.” Therefore, be polite and Christ-like in all you write. If you don’t want what you are writing to be displayed on the church projection screen on Sunday, don’t write it. Harvard Business Review writes, “Thanks to Wikileaks, you can now expect that day to come when your most private and candid communications will appear for all to peruse. In preparation for that moment, you better make sure that your private dealings match your public declarations, if not perfectly then at least pretty close.”
3) Moderation: What do we accomplish when we spend time online or playing video games? What do we have to show for our time? Will we be held accountable for our lack of doing worthwhile activity?
4) Mundane versus meaningful: What characterizes our technological activity? Are we building the Kingdom of God or a larger enterprise on Farmville? Are we reaching Spiritual maturity or are we reaching the next level of Halo? Are we cultivating spiritual conversations or are we gossiping about the latest celebrity? We are accountable for what we say and what we do with our lives, the talents God has given us. It is certainly acceptable and good to be entertained and to have fun, but we should not be a people characterized as amusing ourselves to death.
5) Relationships: Don’t let the internet, text messaging, Facebook, and other technology become a substitute for face-to-face interaction with people. An online blog by Tim Challies states, “Studies show that time spent interacting online comes at the expense of face-to-face relationships at about a a 2:1 ratio. So every hour we spend on Facebook comes at the expense of 30 minutes talking to a person face-to-face.” Consider verse 12 in the second letter of the Apostle John, “Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.” Whenever possible, do not allow technology to remove us from face-to-face interaction with people. Think people over pixels.
Here are just a few Scriptures that help us define good Biblical principles for technology use. Basically, any Scripture passage that describes how we are to communicate and interact with one another is applicable.
Matthew 12:35-37 35A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. 37For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Romans 12:1-2 1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Corinthians 10:31 31Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
1 Timothy 4:12 12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
Titus 2:6-8 6Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
Hebrews 13:15-18 15Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. 18Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.
1 Peter 1:13-16 13Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
I hope this will help you as you seek to point people to the cross.
Some of you have noticed that the elders have been doing the “call to worship” on Sunday mornings, and have asked us ‘why the change?’ We thought we should let you know what our plan is (a couple of you thought so too–thanks for the nudge).
The “call to worship” is really intended to be a short moment at the open of our corporate worship service where our minds, through biblical truth, are directed toward the glories of God in Christ, and away from ourselves (and others . . . and the clutter of life in general). Over the years it had kind of grown into a “mini bible study” presentation, often going longer than the intended time-slot. While the content and encourgements were generally good, the inconsistency of length makes it very difficult to plan and arrange the other aspects of the Sunday morning corporate worship. The “call to worship” was never intended to be a 3-point Bible lesson, with applications. Because this became a frequent example (more common than not), many of the men did not want to participate, thinking that they would not be able to prepare anything “worthy” of being a “call to worship.”
We have tried a number of things over the years to help prevent or curb this frequent pattern. We have a ‘guideline booklet’ that was either not being used, or not being paid attention to. We tried sending short email reminders of the purpose, goal, and approach for participating in this ministry. We have had personal conversations with many of you who participate in this ministry. We have been involved in the preparation process with some of you. All of these things have helped, but not really accomplished the goal of setting a consistent pattern, both for time and content.
So after some careful consideration of the issues, the elders thought it would be most helpful for us and for you, to simply set an example to follow. So, that is what we are trying to do over the next few months or so. We would like to show you how simple, helpful, and encouraging a brief but pithy call to worship can be. And we hope to demonstrate for everyone how focused we can become with a short bible reading, and a few pointed comments that focus our attention on a particular aspect of God’s character, person, power or work of salvation.
We are hoping that seeing this regular pattern of simple, direct, bible reading and brief reflection (over a longer period of time) will help those of you who encourage others through this ministry to imitate our example. And, more importantly, we want some of you men who haven’t wanted to participate, to see how simple and encouraging it can be, so that you will jump in too. We want to benefit from your brief reflections on the character and work of Christ too!
Our plan is to do this for a few more months, and then transition back to a pattern of having other men initiate our worship, and to lead us all into that experience by “calling” us to focus on Christ and His work through the Scriptures.
I think this addresses the questions that I have been asked, or that have made their way to me through others. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to talk to Eric, Jon or me.