Surpassing The Faith Of Demons
I suspect that everyone who is here today is here because you have a measure of faith in Jesus Christ. The question we need to ask ourselves is, 'What is the nature of our faith?'.
When you say that you 'believe in Christ', what do you mean by that? What should that mean? What does genuine faith look like? I say 'genuine faith' because the stark reality is that there is a type of faith in Christ that is less than saving faith . There is a type of faith that is less than saving faith, and it is the faith of demons.
Now I recognize that there are some who sit in church pews today who do not even believe in demons. I admit, the idea of evil angels roaming the earth and possessing humans is a rather unpleasant thought. Yet, as I have often said, it is unwise to form our beliefs according to personal preference.
Regardless of what we would prefer to believe, the reality is that Jesus believed in demons. And here, in Luke 8, we read about a face to face encounter between Jesus and "a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons "(v.27).
The context of this particular encounter is very important. And the context of this particular encounter is that it belongs to a chapter where the primary subject matter is faith in Christ .
Luke, chapter 8, begins with 'The Parable of the Sower', which describes the varying human responses to hearing the word of God. The chapter continues with 'The Parable of the Lamp' where genuine faith is said to belong to those who "hear the word of God and do it "(v.21).
'The Parable of the Lamp' is followed by the account where Jesus stills the sea. The significance of this passage is seen in Jesus' response to the panicked disciples, "Where is your faith? "(v.25).
If we leap past Jesus' encounter with the demon possessed man, we read about "a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years "(v.43), but when she "touched the fringe of (Jesus') cloak " she was immediately healed(v.44). Jesus' response to this woman was "Go in peace, your faith has made you well "(v.48).
The final account of chapter 8 has Jesus on His way to a synagogue official's house to heal his ailing daughter. Before Jesus reaches the house, however, it is reported that the man's daughter has died. "But when Jesus heard this ", Luke reports that Jesus answered the man, "Do not be afraid any longer; only believe , and she will be made well "(v.50). Shortly thereafter, Jesus spoke to the dead girl, "Child arise! ", and Luke reports that "her spirit returned, and she rose immediately "(v.55).
Does it surprise you that, in the middle of this chapter about faith in Christ, we have an encounter between Jesus and a demon possessed man? Not only is this account smack in the middle of a chapter about faith in Christ, but this encounter is the most lengthy of all the passages in Luke 8.
What should we conclude from this? What can we expect to learn from this account? By studying the encounter between Jesus and the demon possessed man, we can expect to learn a great deal about the nature of genuine faith .
Picking up Luke's account then, in verse 27, we read that "(Jesus) was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs ".
Admittedly, our personal experience does not resonate with such a story. But again I remind you that we must not base our beliefs entirely on what we have or have not experienced.
Do you know what I find most striking about this encounter? No, it is not the fact that the demoniac hadn't worn clothes for a long time(although that is, indeed, very strange). And no, it is not the fact that this man lived in the tombs(we would expect as much, I think, from a demon possessed man).
What I find most striking about this encounter is how the demoniac approaches Jesus. The demoniac did not run away from Jesus, but rather, he fell at His feet(v.28). The demoniac did not curse or swear at Jesus, but rather, he said to Him, "What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me "(v.28).
Is this not a profound moment, to have a "Legion " of demons affirm without any doubt that Jesus is the "Son of the Most High God "? Only one chapter ago, chapter 7, verse 39, the Pharisees expressed their doubt that Jesus is even a prophet, let alone the Son of God. In chapter 7, verse 19, we read that even John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else? ".
Up to this point, just about everybody was uncertain about who Jesus was. But not the demons. They knew for certain that Jesus was the "Son of the Most High God ".
There is a sense where the demons had a type of faith that surpassed the faith of the disciples. I call this type of faith, 'Intellectual faith'. Intellectual faith believes strongly in what is true, but neglects to properly apply the truth. The apostle James refers to this in his epistle, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe this, and shudder "(2:19).
The demons knew for certain that Jesus was the "Son of the Most High God " and, for this reason, they begged Jesus not to torment them. They begged Jesus "not to command them to depart into the abyss "(v.31).
Interestingly enough, Jesus listened to their request. Luke tells us that "the demons entreated (Jesus) to permit them to enter (a herd of many) swine. And (Jesus) gave them permission. And the demons came out from the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned "(v.32, 33).
The faith of demons--bare, intellectual, faith does not save because the truth is never applied. The demons knew Jesus was the Son of God but they refused to worship Him.
In the same way, many people today--even many 'churchgoers', believe in the existence of God. They may even believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but they refuse to worship Him. They refuse to follow Him at all cost. These people may have become convinced of the facts about Jesus, but the condition of their heart has not changed. These people have limits to how far they will follow Jesus.
I recently came across an excellent illustration that manifests the difference between intellectual faith and genuine faith. In the late 1890's, a famous tightrope walker strung a wire across Niagara Falls. As 10,000 people watched, he inched his way along the wire from one side of the falls to the other.
When he got to the other side, the crowd cheered wildly. Finally, the tightrope walker was able to quiet the crowd and shouted to them, 'Do you believe in me?'. The crowd shouted back, 'We believe! We believe!'.
Again he quieted the crowd and shouted to them, 'I'm going back across the tightrope but this time I'm going to carry someone on my back. Do you believe I can do that?'. The crowd yelled back, 'We believe! We believe!'. He quieted the crowd one more time and then asked them, 'Who will be that person?'.
The crowd suddenly became silent. Not a single person was willing to apply the very truth that they professed to believe in--that the tightrope walker could cross the falls with a person on his back.
We may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but does our faith surpass the faith of demons? Are we willing trust our lives with Jesus? Are we willing to follow Him regardless of the cost?
When Christ calls you to serve His church, are you going to climb on His back or are you going to stand silently by, hoping that someone else will volunteer? Are you a spectator of the Christian life or are you a participant? Genuine faith responds to the call of Christ to follow.
Read how the man possessed by demons responds to Jesus when he is made well, "(the man) was begging (Jesus) that he might accompany Him; but (Jesus) sent him away, saying, 'Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.' And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him "(v.38, 39).
Has Jesus done great things for you? I am certain He has. Let me ask you then, does your faith surpass the faith of demons? If it does, then you must follow Christ. You must join in proclaiming to others what great things Jesus has done for you. Amen.