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Apr 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 17, 2011

And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” Luke 8:25 (Read Lk. 8:22-39)

INTRO: How should we read the Bible?

The way we read a school text-book? A novel? A love-letter? A newspaper–reading the headlines and then jumping to our favorite section and skipping the rest?

There are lots of different ways to read scripture
– books like Job and Psalms were meant to be read as poetry
– other parts of the Bible were meant to be read as history, stories, letters, and so on
The best way to get at its message and meaning is to read scripture as it was meant to be read

Along with our careful study and analysis of the Bible, there are other beneficial ways to approach it
– for example, if you want it to speak to you personally, there is self-reflexive reading

Here is how I simplify what it means to read self-reflexively:

  • First, bring to mind your own understanding and your prejudice regarding the passage your reading
  • Second, pay attention to how the information in the text differs from your understanding and prejudice
  • Third, let what you read in the text and your own thoughts engage in a mental dialogue
  • Fourth, let the Scriptures correct, modify and enlighten your understanding and prejudice

We can bring all the contents of our mind, emotions, beliefs, thoughts, opinions, and feelings to the Bible and allow it to examine, enlighten and transform us

This self-reflexive reading has really helped me deal with personal issues:
– sometimes I will choose for my meditation a passage that I find disturbing
– I will then notice my feelings and thoughts (not analyze them, but simply observe them)
– frequently, what has emerged is a disturbing revelation about myself–something hidden within me
– then I thank God for showing it to me and I ask him to work on it and give me grace to cooperate with him

We are going to see how Jesus opens events in these stories to promote self-reflection among the characters

Verses 22-25, The climax of the story comes in the form of two questions

Last week, Jesus’ used the parable as his method of teaching
– in this instance, he used a question, “Where is your faith?”

Let’s clarify something
– when God asks a question, it isn’t to learn new information
– it is typical for first-time readers of Genesis to ask, “If God knows everything, why did he ask Adam, ‘Where are you?'”

I doubt that Jesus expected the disciples to know the answer to his question
– he meant for them to let the question search their hearts and minds
Their response to the storm indicated a malfunction in their relationship with him
– Jesus wanted them to probe their soul for the source of that malfunction
– his goal was for them to come to a realization regarding themselves and perhaps bring it up and discuss it with him or ask for his help

We constantly face two specific challenges in our life with God:

  1. What is the next step I need to take?
  2. What is holding me back?

But when I ask the second question, I may run into a huge obstacle
– I can be totally unaware of what it is that holds me back because

  • it may be buried too deep in my mind
  • it may be so habitual that I never think about it
  • I may have a strong unconscious attachment to it
  • it may be involve too much pain to face it, so I unconsciously avoid it

God has been working me over about an issue recently and it may sound stupid to you
– but this has been a hard lesson for me to grasp and it has taken a while to get to the heart of it
Someone will ask me, “How are you?” and I say, “Really, really good”
– that is my honest answer, but the moment I say “Really, really good,” I want to take it back
– I’ve spent so many years in depression and anxiety that it feels wrong to say I’m doing well
My life isn’t perfect and I have to deal with many unresolved challenges, but every day I am finding moments of joy in God

So God has been trying to help me become aware of my resistance to happiness
– but instead of being grateful, I get defensive with him (although I do not always know it is him)
– I say things like, “I know that already,” or “I’ve tried that and it didn’t work”

According to Gerald May, one of the forces that oppose our spiritual growth “is our own internal fears of and resistances to spiritual realization. Spiritual growth demands much that we are unwilling to give. It threatens to loosen our cherished attachments, to change or even dissolve our frozen images of ourselves, and to reveal certain truths about ourselves that we are loath to admit.”

We may need help bringing our most serious issues to the surface

Acquit me of secret faults (Ps. 19:12) – acquit translates a Hebrew word that means “cleanse,” “strip,” or “free” and the word translated secret is also used for “hidden,” “concealed,” or “covered”
– the psalmist is praying for God to free him from those hidden things within him
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom
(Ps. 51:6) – in this instance, hidden translates a word that means to “shut out,” “stop up,” or “keep secret”
– he recognizes his need for God to help him explore what has been buried deep inside his soul and to bring truth and wisdom to it

Jesus does not asks questions to accuse or condemn us, but to illuminate the inner self and reveal what’s in it
– in fact, we could almost say that he does not so much ask us the question as he gives us the question
– the question becomes ours, for our education, discovery and spiritual benefit

So listen carefully not only to the question but to your response to the question
– it will also reveal something about your inner life
– but as you listen, listen with patience and compassion

Jesus’ question did not seem to penetrate the disciples’ consciousness
– they did not even acknowledge his question or attempt an answer
– they were too preoccupied with their own question,
“Who then is this . . .?”
They realized that their previous understanding of him was insufficient so they were forced to re-evaluate him
– the category in which they had mentally placed him was too small, “He commands even the winds and the water”

If they had brought enough attention to this moment, they could have seen how the two questions in the boat were linked
– the answer to second question, provides the answer to first

Verses 26-39, The climax of the story comes in two very different responses

Sometimes I am in the storm, other times the storm is in me

Scene One: A demon-possessed man
– his body was unclothed except for occasional chains and shackles
– he lived, not in a house but in tombs

We are protected by layers of covering: our skin, clothing, and houses (cf. Lev. chs. 13-15). That this man’s tortured existence lay far outside the boundaries of normal society is evidenced by his deficiency or else dark and damaging forms of covering (in Mark’s gospel we learn that he had been lacerating his skin with stones – Mk. 5:5)

– he fell down before Jesus

Scene Two: A man in his right mind
– his body is clothed
– he will be sent back to his house (v. 39)
– he is sitting at the feet of Jesus (as a disciple)

Gerald May, again, said that another force opposing our spiritual growth comes “from sources that can only be called evil. . . . especially in the course of intentional spiritual searching, evil can surface in the form of real spiritual forces (spirits) that seek to divert and sabotage our journey towards deeper realization of god’s truth and will.
“Whatever its specific manifestations may be, it seems to me that evil always functions to subvert one’s surrender to God . . .”

The one theme that ties this story to the previous story is fear
– Luke is very clear that fear motivated the locals’ request for Jesus to leave their area (vv. 35 & 37)
– the disciples, the townspeople, everyone was afraid of Jesus – there was only one exception,
“But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him” (Lit. “be with Him”)
We saw in verse 2, that discipleship consisted in being with Jesus
– learning by experience and example as well as by instruction
– that is the privilege this man asked of Jesus, and it is one of the great surprises in the Gospels that Jesus said, No

I love the way this man interpreted Jesus’ instructions
– there are three significant differences between what Jesus told him to do and what he did:

  1. Jesus told him to return to his house – he went to “the whole city”
  2. Jesus told him to describe his experience – he proclaimed it (“proclaim” was Jesus’ activity in v. 1)
  3. Jesus told him to describe what God had done for him – he proclaimed the great things Jesus had done for him

 CONC: We are one week away from Easter

Today is Palm Sunday
– the crowds that shouted their praise, saw Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem as their liberation

This is your Palm Sunday, today is your day of liberation
– the day you break free from your treadmill existence, from heartache, from obsession, from resentment, and from the frustration of feeling that God in whom you have put your trust and with whom you travel walks too slow

This is your day to shout to the sky
– because some small area deep inside of you has heard the Lord’s question and in that hidden place you have felt the Savior’s touch
– whatever was locked up inside you has been released
And you have been set free

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