Monday, July 1, 2013

Fear of Civilization

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me"--for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26-39)

Let's talk about the civilizing effect of Christianity. What is this man like in Luke 8?  He was a man possessed with demons.  He had not put on any clothing for a long time, and he was not living in a house but amongst the tombs.  Let us think of our current culture: it's a culture of death, and this isn't new.  This has been the case forever.  All of the countries that surrounded Israel were cultures of death. Egypt was a culture of death.  The most opulent part of Egyptian culture was the tombs.  When Pharaoh died, he took all of his stuff with him into the tomb.  It was the most important part of Egyptian culture.  It was a culture of death, and that hasn't changed.

We live in a culture of death now.  The things that people can't get enough of are horror movies, and they tell you it's because they like to be thrilled.  We have a fascination with the evil, with the darkness, and its a preoccupation.  We have Twilight, which is about vampires, which don't exist, but the concept of the dead feeding on the living is real to our fallen, evil nature.  We are into zombie movies; we like the dead feeding on the living.  This has always been the case throughout history, and it's a sign of a culture that is doomed to hell, doomed to separation from God.

So here is a man that is no longer civilized; he is out in the tombs, symbolic of death (and us living in a world of death).  Now, after Jesus casts out demons--and I'm not saying that we are possessed by demons, but there is such a thing as demon possession, and there are principalities and powers among us, trying to undermine us, but they can be separated from us and still have influence over us.  There is direct possession--not for a Christian or someone who has accepted Jesus--but we can be tormented externally by demons, and the world is suffering from demonic possession as a whole, in actuality and also metaphorically.  So we do suffer from demons in many ways.

So here Jesus is, casting out these demons from this man, and they are going into the pigs, which drown, and the rest of the city comes up to see what has happened, and they see three things.  They see the man, and there are three things about the man.  One: he is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Two: he is clothed, and three: he is in his right mind.

He is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  This is the first of the civilizing effects of coming to Christ.  We are learning, and it's not just any kind of of learning: it is apostolic learning; it is Christ-centered learning. Cornelius Van Til said not only is someone who does not have Christ in their life misunderstanding Christianity, misunderstanding the nature of reality, misunderstanding a God-centered universe, but he doesn't have proper understanding of ANYTHING.  Without Christ, all knowledge is corrupted; even secular knowledge is corrupted. 

You can see it: without the foundation of God, the most brilliant scientists reach wrong conclusions about things, about what they are studying. Sir Isaac Newton is what is considered the greatest scientist in history, and it's because it's because he always had a foundation of Christ beneath everything he studied.  He was learning about God's creation.  He told people he was learning at the feet of Jesus; he was sitting at the feet of Jesus.  I know people who are brilliant, or they SEEM brilliant; they seem like brilliant people, until you start to think about what they've said.  You think about what they have ponderously and thoroughly reflected upon--sometimes for hours, sometimes greatly philosophical and deep--and you realize that their conclusions have been corrupted.  They have reached the wrong conclusions.  As it says in Proverbs--the first verse in Proverbs--"fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  These people do not have fear of the Lord.  They, therefore, do not have the beginning of wisdom, even the BEGINNING of wisdom.  It's like playing chess with a man who stares at the chessboard for 3 to 4 times longer than you do, and then he inevitably makes the wrong move, and ends up with a checkmated king.  He has spent so much time thinking--and overthinking--and he still comes up with this stupid move.  Van Til says this is what happens without God, when you are ungodly, meaning without God, you are corrupted to the point where you can't think properly.  Even the most civilized atheist cannot think properly.

Second, he was clothed.  Now, this is something that fascinates me, because if you have a conversation with someone, especially one of our younger people, there's a lack of modesty with ideas that are not founded in God.  There's a preoccupation with challenging societal norms.  There are thoughts and ideas that come rushing to the forefront that involve what they think is breaking down these "societal norms", norms that they think were created by man, and now it's their turn to change the world.  But where did these cultural things come from--these aspects of civilization, like wearing clothes and living in houses?  They are not things that we decided to come up with arbitrarily.  They are things that came from God as helps for us.  They came from God and naturally come to us as things that we should do when we have a foundation of God in our lives. God provided the first clothing for Adam and Eve, when they had transgressed his law, when they had fallen.  After the curses are announced, and all the horror and defilement have now been heaped upon themselves, because they broke the one law that God had given them, he has mercy and compassion and he clothes them, and this is one of the aspects of the civilizing nature of Christianity.

So what happens with the secular world, what happens with the anti-Christian crowd, is they try to attack this.  You'll be talking to a young person and the conversation will eventually come around with a how, "I think that we should be wearing no clothes" or "nudity is nothing to be ashamed of" or, this is a good one: "in Europe they've detached sex from nudity, and so people can be nude and walking around without it meaning anything sexual; because we in America are puritanical, and blah blah blah blah" and then, in the next breath they say, "Europeans can't understand why we have cheerleaders, because that's sexual," so there's the hypocrisy there.  But what is happening is they are looking to destroy these cultural norms and want everybody to walk around naked, and they want other immodest proposals like covering your body with tattoos or putting metal through your face, all of these self-mutilation things, because the norms need to be destroyed, and they're trying to destroy something that they think man came up with, when it was really a stabilizing effect of Christianity, so keep your eyes and ears open for that.  You'll notice that people tend to try to undo basic civilization, basic things that they think that we came up with to oppress people, but really it was a natural progression of being civilized by Christianity.

The final thing is being in your right mind.  CS Lewis said that reason is supernatural; it is something we have that none of the other animals have; it separates us from the animals--the ability to reason, to be able to reach right conclusions. This is also about thinking properly, which I already talked about.  Your reason can be faulty, and when this man was possessed by demons, he was not in his right mind; he was incapable of thinking properly; and now that Jesus cast out these demons, he is suddenly in his right mind.  As Augustine said, "Faith precedes understanding."  You cannot have understanding without faith, which is a belief in God, in the promises of God, and what God has said, that it is true.  The Holy Spirit incites belief, because our natural proclivity is to not believe.  So faith precedes understanding; the Holy Spirit precedes faith; God is always previous.

The last thing I want to talk about is what happens when the city comes up and sees this civilized man--this man who for years was not civilized--and they see the civilized man sitting at the feet of Jesus, fully clothed, and in his right mind.  What happens?  They are all afraid, and they send Jesus away. This is our natural state: we FEAR civilization; we fear transformation in a person.  We fear.  We want to have nothing to do with it; we say, "can't we all just get along? Leave this person alone! They're living their own lives out here by the tombs, the way they want to live.  Why must he be transformed?"

Looking at John chapter 6 or John chapter 5 and 6, what happens after Jesus feeds the 5000?  What happens?  They try to seize him; they try to make him king, because he is a magic genie who will give them food without them working for it, without them lifting a finger for it.  They want to make him king, so he will just provide for them, and they can go on living their lives exactly the way they've always been living: no transformation, no change. Jesus will take care of us! Look at our culture today: Obama's going to take care of us; the governments going to take care of us; the world will take care of us! We don't want to change! We want a magic genie! We want manna to fall from the sky every day, and even if it tastes like tree bark we will eat it, because it was free; it was something we did not have to work for, because we're fallen sinful people.  We don't want to be transformed. We want to stand on the edge of the abyss, the place where the demons don't even want to go; we want to stand on the edge of the abyss, we want to hold hands, we want to grab each other arm in arm and just hold hands and jump in and say, "let's go!" Whee! And here we are: civilized Christians, people transformed by Jesus, and we're saying, "no, that's not the way to go! Don't go into the abyss!  Go to Jesus's feet! Clothe yourselves! Stop mutilating yourselves! Be civilized! Be in your right mind!" And they say, "no thanks, hater! We don't want your intolerant hating anymore!" And they hold hands and they say, "Whee!" and they jump into the abyss and we watch them and we cry for them, and we pray for them.  Fear of change, fear of transforming our lives.  Jesus has come to transform our lives, to make us in our right minds, to clothe us, to civilize us, to give us homes, to cast out away our demons, to cast them away from us, to cast them out of us, to bring us to his feet, so that we may learn, because knowledge of God is everlasting life. Amen.