Gadara: The city on a hill

Gadara - File photo
Gadara - File photo

A pastor had an eccentric member who wanted desperately to be a zealous Christian. Unfortunately, the man was mentally deficient and usually said and did the wrong things.

While working as a barber the man lathered up a customer for a shave, came at him with the poised razor, and asked, “Are you prepared to meet your God?” Well, his heart was in the right place!

I would like to touch on the need to give away our faith. I believe it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit of God and withhold that gift from others. Selfishness and sloth are not gifts of the spirit. A flowing river will always be fresh and pure, but one which takes in but never flows out becomes stagnant and stinky!

I notice, especially in Alabama we have no shortage of people who are willing to share their political views as well as their views on college football and NASCAR! Don’t shout me down!

I have heard myriad excuses as to why some people are reluctant to share their faith. But we typically sell what we believe in. 1 Cor 9:16 says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

It is hard to keep the Holy Spirit bottled up inside you without superhuman effort, and probably takes more effort to hold it in than to just let it spill out.

I remember hearing the Reverend Al Green respond to being called a holy roller in this way: “A holy roller I may be, a holy roller that’s true, but if you knew what I was rolling about, you’d be rolling too!”

Jesus described his church, you and me, and the work we are commissioned to do in this way in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

It is God’s desire that we become lean, mean witnessing machines! Let’s look at some examples of people whom God used in spite of their circumstances, excuses and self-imposed limitations.

Jeremiah claimed that he was too young to preach; Jeremiah 1:4-10: “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'”

“Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (God has put His word in our mouth and His spirit in our bodies)

Those who have been bound up in sin and oppressed by the devil make good witnesses. I don’t know about you, but before I got saved at twenty-one, I got into some devilish mischief.

Jesus had a run in with a demon-possessed man in Gadara. This was a dangerous man who lived in the tombs and routinely terrorized the people and supernaturally broke chains. When Jesus stepped off the boat, the demons in the man (from 2-5,000) were compelled to come before him. He begged to be sent into a herd of pigs. And after Jesus delivered the poor man, they had a conversation.

Mark 5:18: As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. He became the first missionary to the Decapolis, a ten-city region that lay at the heart of the Palestinian trade routes.

Some people still hold to the outdated notion that women in the church are second-class citizens and not able to witness. A woman led me to the Lord and made a believer out of me. Who am I then to say who God can use.

Let’s see what the bible says about it. John 4 tells the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. She had come to draw water and Jesus engages her in conversation even though she is both an “unclean” Samaritan; a woman, and an adulteress. She is astounded but captivated.

Finally, after revealing himself as the Christ, he comes to the point. We’ll pick it up at verse 13: Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.”

Jump to verse 25: The woman said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

Skip to verse 28: “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

“Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” Thus the saying, “One sows and another reaps” is true.

“I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples that He was in the process of planting the seed that would win the city). Your witness may plant the seed, you may water, or you may reap the harvest!

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (Jesus planted a seed, and that seed spread through the city by way of this woman missionary, someone of questionable reputation).

Some witnesses have spent forty years in the desert playing at religion. Paul was such a man. He had the world in the palm of his hand. But he was empty. He was sincerely religious but sincerely wrong.

Acts 22:3-5: Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”

“I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.”

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Well, you know the rest of the story. Paul is blinded, stumbled into the city and is prayed for by Ananias and healed; and later became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Acts 9:19: Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.

I have presented you with a cross section of biblical characters who had a life altering experience with God. They all went on to change their world doing things that they were convinced they were not suited to do.

As Christians, we are all given the ministry of reconciliation. No one is exempt. Here are some steps to consider:

1. Faith must be shared. It is not faith if it is not offered to others.

How can they hear? How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?

As it is written in Romans 10:14-15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

2. Fear of men must be overcome. Luke 12:8-12: “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.”

“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

3. Opportunities must be taken advantage of. How many have told me, “I was supposed to witness to so and so and the next thing I knew, they were dead?”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

4. Preparation. Know the word! Speak with authority.

2 Tim 2:15: “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial); a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.”

Being saved is not the end of the race, it is the beginning. The Bible says that whosoever endures until the end will be saved. Now you are called to be His disciples. You have a charge to share what you have received. Freely you have received, freely give. You don’t have to be able, simply available.

Finally, consider this – You tell yourself, “I’m just a simple man or woman, not a preacher.” This is the biggest copout of all time.

James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man just like us with a nature such as we have [with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours]. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.”

“Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

That’s what God wants, that’s what we should want. It is as simple as just being yourself for Jesus. He has equipped you with everything you need.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.

He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

Article by Cameron Reeder

© 2010 Our Prattville. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.