The Freedom of Forgiveness

Have you allowed Jesus to forgive you? I am not asking if you have asked the Lord to come into your heart. What I am asking is have you given Him everything, maybe there is some act so egregious you have not let it go, or something said that your struggle with. No matter what it is, Jesus can and will forgive you. We all need forgiveness of sin in our our lives. When Jesus gets back into the boat, He goes back to His own city, Capernaum and performs His greatest miracle so far. Matthew 9:2~And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (ESV) Sin, what, I want to walk. Has the Lord ever met a need or done something other than what you asked? Sometimes we are simply focused on the wrong thing. 

Our greatest need is having our sins placed under the precious blood where we are forgiven. It is the greatest of all miracles. Matthew 9:4-6 ~Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said…which is easier…forgiven or…Rise and walk…he then said to the paralytic…pick up your bed…(ESV) This is the voice of His command, Christ Jesus speaks and life is forever altered. Has the Lord changed your life? Jesus Christ has the power to forgive you, to forgive us, of all our sins. This man gets a double blessing in his life, he is forgiven of all his sins and he gets up and goes home. 

The crowd is wonderstruck. When is the last time the Lord left you in a state of awe and wonder? I only need to count my blessing and I soon realize God is so amazing. Matthew 9:8~When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (ESV) Some said blasphemer, but others recognize Jesus has power and authority that can only come from God. It is not altogether different from any given Sunday. Where some say, that’s so irreverent and others say, wow, I never saw the Gospel like that before. Billy Graham used to say, “The same sun that melts butter hardens clay.” 

So, today I ask you, will you grow the seed of faith? This week we have witnessed Jesus demonstrates three miracles here in Matthew. Each time proving He is the Lord over all. Jesus can calm our storms, He cast out our demons, and most importantly, forgive all of our sins. Isaiah 55:6~Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. (NIV) As you journey out into our wide and beautiful world, remember it needs men and women who will take a stand for the Lord, and He is near today. I want you to know that Jesus will meet you right where you are. So go ahead and take that step of faith, minister, pray with and for, share the love of Christ with everyone you meet.



Legion

I think that it’s time we ask Jesus. As believers, we need to understand who is in control, who is Lord over all, ask Him, Jesus, to cast the demons out of our life. After calming the storm, Jesus and His disciples arrive on the east side of Galilee—that’s the Gentile side, any Gentiles here today? Matthew 8:28~And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. (ESV) They are now in the country, or region, of the Gadarenes. A Gadarene is a resident of Gadara, one of the 10 cities of Decapolis. About 6 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has demonstrated His awesome power over disease and nature. Now, He will demonstrate His power over demons. As Jesus gets out of the boat, two demon-possessed men come from the tombs, or burial caves, to greet Him. Mark and Luke mention only one man, the more outstanding of the two (Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27). Mark also tells us the lead demon’s name in Mark 5:9~Then Jesus asked him, What is your name? My name is Legion, he replied, for we are many. (NIV) 

(λεγιών legiōn) or Legion refers to a Roman regiment of up to 6,000 soldiers. The demon-possessed men are so violent no one can go through that area. The word demon-possessed, or possessed with devils literally means demonized. There are various degrees of being demonized, and what is presented here in the Gospel is an extreme case. Mark calls the lead demon an unclean spirit (Mark 5:8). The word unclean means foul or morally lewd. This unclean, filthy element is always a part of demonized people. The astronomical rise in profanity, pornography, violence, irreverence, and general disrespect for authority in our culture is a very clear indication of demonic activity. 

The fastest-growing addiction among men, boys, and young girls in America is internet porn. In 2018, one site logged 5.6 Billion hours of porn. That’s 14 movies per person, for the whole world’s population. Saints, we need the Lord to fight this battle. God gives us a warning in 1 Peter 5:8~Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. (NIV) There is no place Satan and his demons are prowling around more than on the internet and social media. The statistics are staggering. The average age of a boy’s first exposure to porn is eleven. According to familysafemedia.com 42% of internet users are between the ages of 10-17, and Profanity is up 69%. The only answer we have is Jesus.

Maybe we need a new post on our screens, tablets, and devices. Psalm 101:3~I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. (NLT) The demons begin to scream out to Jesus and ask if He has come there to torment them. The demons know they will eventually be judged and punished at God’s appointed time (8:28b-29). If it ever struck you why pigs were herding here hillside, this is a Gentile region. The demons know they have no power over Jesus, so they plead for the pigs. (8:30-31) Jesus issues a single-word command. Matthew 8:32~And he said to them, “Go.” (ESV) The swine whined and said, no way, we are out of here. One word, that’s all it took from Jesus. One single word is enough to defeat the powerful evil forces of the spirit world. Mark records there are about 2,000 pigs (Mark 5:13) that stampede over the edge.

Jesus wants us to understand that He is Lord over all. Therefore, casts out the demons to demonstrate His power over Satan and his cohorts. The reaction of the pigs was proof that the demons left the two men and entered the pigs. Some may say, Jesus, these two men were infinitely more valuable than the pigs. Those taking care of the pigs run to town and report what has happened. Instead of revival breaking out, the people from the city come and beg Jesus just to leave. (8:33-34) Whatever the reason, they want nothing to do with Jesus, so He leaves. 

Some people listening or watching are fighting unclean spirits. It may be your language, computer, TV, social media, or behavior in general. Whatever unclean spirits are in your life, Jesus can cast them out. We know this because of what we read in Philippians 4:13~I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (NIV) We need the strength of the Lord at work on, in, and through our lives to make the journey through life and faith. Today, I want you to pray over your life for His defense. Then ask God who you can be a resource for, who needs a word of encouragement, a prayer offered in Jesus name or even a visit to anoint in the name of Jesus. When the Lord reveals this to you, just respond.



FEAR

If you did your homework yesterday, then God is Lord over all of your life. If not, then we may need to begin with that. Though the disciples have seen the many miracles, heard the best sermon at the hillside chapel and even had a mother-in-law fixed, the disciples are still struggling with Jesus as Lord over all their life. Same problem, different day. This is unfortunate for us in our humanity. Some of us have had the same class on faith more than a few times. We feel like junior high was the best six years of our life. Hear me clearly, Jesus must be Lord over all, or He is not Lord at all. The disciples are a living picture of lots  of people who go to church and have changed their lives, but do not see Jesus Christ as Lord over everything. 

As we read this passage, there should be a flash of bright colorful bars followed by an annoying BRR! This is just a test. If this were an actual emergency, Christ Jesus would not be asleep. Listen to what He asks them in Matthew 8:26~And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.(ESV) Why so fearful, is it because you have little faith? Do you suffer from lil faith? Does life have you trusting God too little? Then try our new drug hitting the market (ὀλιγόπιστος oligopistos), side effects include: failure, fatigue, forgetfulness, thoughts of worthlessness, emptiness, and sin.

Jesus gets up and rebukes the winds and the sea. As a result, there is a great calm (8:26b). The disciples are amazed because they still do not understand Jesus is the Messiah. Therefore, they ask each other in Matthew 8:27~And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (ESV) Listen, unexpected storms happen in every life. We never know what the next twenty-four hours will bring. Just one doctor’s exam, one phone call, a pink slip and we can be reeling, ankles deep rolling on the swells rocking our boat. Like the disciples, we may be fearful, terrified, living in great trepidation right now because we are in the midst of the greatest storm of our life. Our storm may be financial, could be a relationship that is raging, our career may be swirling. Nowhere in the Bible are believers promised a storm-free life. However, when we find ourselves in a storm the Lord offers us a three-pronged response. Romans 12:12~Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

The Apostle Paul says turn to God, and actively wait. The storm we are facing may be a Trusting Test, a Diagnostic Test, an Educational Test, or a Certification Test. These four areas seem to be the most prolific tests we face. One very important lesson in our pericope is learning that being a believer doesn’t mean storms will not come into our life. They surely will! The disciples don’t even know Jesus is giving them a test. Ever lived out that moment? The disciples are facing a combined test, that takes the Education of Jesus they’ve received over the last few weeks as well as a Trust exam. It supplies a baseline for where they are in their faith in God. This blue water exam is part of the day’s teaching curriculum. Like a Father, our Lord says, tell me what you’ve learned. Parents ever asked your child, what did you learn at school? Tell me what you know good? One purpose of life’s storms is the faithful application of learning. 

Fear and faith cannot coexist. We cannot live by faith and be bound by fear. Fear and faith cannot occupy the same heart because they are mutually exclusive. There is an Old English Proverb—Fear knocked at the door, faith answered the door, and lo no one was there. We must answer the door of life, as David did. He writes in Psalm 118:6~The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (NIV) Someone created an acrostic to explain FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real. We need to be reminded that perception is not reality. Growing in our spiritual walk takes work. 

That is why Jesus says to us in Luke 17:6 to plant the tiny seed of faith and let it grow to the largest herb in the garden. What have you done in your spiritual life lately to grow your faith?  Have you watered your faith with the word, affirming yourself with the scriptures. Have you learned to take time to pray about your needs and concerns and when feeling them weigh you down, you again go back in prayer to leave them on the altar. Have you learned to fight through the storms with praise. It is a powerful weapon at our disposal. Psalm 68:4~Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him–his name is the LORD. (NIV) Take time to let God know.