Another Sunday, another sermon that hit a spot I really needed hit. Obviously, this whole time can get pretty dark pretty easily. This morning, my pastor did a first-person theatrical type of sermon from Luke 8:26-39, where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man. He talked from that man’s perspective about wandering down the road that led him to this horrible condition, and especially his hesitance when he saw Jesus approaching. This man approaching certainly didn’t seem to belong in the same place as this crazy man chained up outside of town, but that outsider was coming right for the demon-possessed guy.
A note that really stood out to me here: this man had to be overcome by fear over and over. These demons were more powerful than he was. They could overcome him any time that they chose to, and they did over and over. When Jesus approached, this man experienced something different. He experienced these demons trembling, because they were afraid of Jesus and His power. Paraphrasing Pastor Will here, “If these demons are afraid of Jesus, then why do I need to be afraid of them? He’s more powerful.” It’s something worth exploring. 🙂
I’m not saying that grief and mourning come from demons. They come from emotions and experiences that are very real, and don’t need any help to overcome any of us, and they overcome me a lot. They’re just natural, and they have good purposes, even in the hardest of times. I don’t want to take that away, and I don’t want it to sound trivial. At the same time, life marches on, and I need something that helps to work through those. Also, another thing that Pastor Will included, and I’m paraphrasing here, was a question: “Do I want to be an object of pity or a picture of hope?”
I feel horrible most of the time. I get that. I know it more than most people around me because I smile a lot. I don’t want it to end there. If it ends there, at just feeling horrible, counseling experience tells me where it really ends. That’s not what I want. I want something better. The sermon reminded me of one of my favorite verses. My Jamaican students and I have had great times around this verse–Hebrews 4:16, which says “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Since this is benefiting me, I want to share some of what teaching this verse has taught me. If you never wanted to learn anything about New Testament Greek, you might want to blink and scroll here. I’m about to nerd out, Bible-style!
1. “Let us come near” gives me (and us) a cool invitation. When I studied it out, the word itself involves approaching someone with boldness or confidence, with the full assurance that we belong there. It might be an intimidating place, and this involve’s God’s throne, so that could be intimidating, but with an attitude of openness that stems from freedom and a lack of fear (thanks to the Louw-Nida and Friberg lexicons there). As Christians, with every sin paid for and washed away, there’s no reason to fear God. He wants His people to come near.
2. This is available all the time. This is a little more about that first part, it’s a present tense verb. Those indicate constant, habitual actions. This invitation is always open, so God always wants me to do this. Hmmm, I was really good at that until the last few weeks. I think I’ll get better at that. Pastor Will mentioned that Jesus welcomed this man and spent time with him. This invitation is open from the Father and the Son, and both delight in spending time with their children. I really want to take advantage of that.
3. To help in time of need—The circumstances are really vague here, and that’s by design. It really is a “catch-all,” because there aren’t circumstances which fall outside of this. It just means “when you need help, and you will, Erik, come here to the throne of grace. I have grace and mercy to help you. I want to do this all the time.” That’s not bad. I want that. I need that. I really need that. God wants to give it. I think I’m seeing an obvious connection for me to make here.
Today is still overwhelming. The piles of stuff aren’t going away. Grief isn’t going away by dinner. Reality is all still real, but this is really encouraging. It also reminds me of something really important:
1. If I believe this, then it has to mean something in my life.
2. If I’ve taught this, and I have, then I sure ought to believe it.
3. If I believe this, then it has to mean something in my life.
OK, that’s my big learning for the day. Gotta run. I’ve got a meeting!