March 22, 2015
Intro – (Read Luke 11:14-23). You probably heard about the CW vet who had relatives on both sides. He couldn’t decide which way to go, so he finally dressed in Union blue pants with a Confederate grey shirt. So – the Rebs shot him in the legs and the Yankees shot him in the chest. When war is in your back yard, you can’t remain neutral. You must declare a side!
Such is the spiritual warfare that envelops us. People all over the world are dying – literally and physically in this warfare. It is very real and present. It is a war between a kingdom of darkness and a kingdom of light – an empire of Satan and an empire of God. God already won the war at the cross. But for purposes of His greater glory the battles rage until He says, “Enough!”
The world in which we live is right in the middle of this battle. C. S. Lewis says, “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed… and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign in sabotage.” That leaves us with two questions. First, which side are we on? God’s or Satan’s? The illusion of a middle ground called “Self” is just that – an illusion. There is no such place. We are born as residents of the evil empire and remain so until we choose for God. Then the issue becomes will we live in our new present rather than our old past. We’re in enemy occupied territory, and compromise is easy.
This passage is about how we can have continued victory against the evil empire – the kingdom of darkness. How do we escape and how do we stay out of its clutches. Five principles for overcoming evil.
I. Evil Does Not Cast Out Evil
14 “Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.” The amazing has become commonplace in Luke. This man was possessed by a demon that prevented his speech. Jesus cast the demon out and his health was restored.
Crowd reaction is mixed. Many still marvel. But opposition is deepening. For the first time in Luke we see the story the Pharisees have concocted to counter Jesus. 15 “But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” Now the most important thing to notice here is that the one thing they do not do is deny the miracle. They can’t deny the miracle! That would be the modern approach, right? Claim it was tricks, sleight of hand. But no one in Jesus’ time ever questioned the miracles. They were undeniable. And they could never catch Him in any moral or legal issue. Every effort to discredit Him failed.
So here’s their last resort. “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” So who is Beelzebul? Well, in II Kings 1:2 reference is made to a Philistine god, Baal-zebub which meant Exalted One. The Jews had changed a couple of letters to rename him Beelzebul – Lord of the flies or Lord of dung – a gross insult to their hated enemy. Over time the name became Yiddish slang for Satan. So unable to deny Jesus’ miracles or catch Him in any legal or moral impropriety, the Pharisees hit on the idea of attributing His work to Satan. They were saying, “You think he’s great? He’s empowered by Satan himself. He’s an infiltrator, a phony. The Devil empowers him to fool you and lead you to disaster.” It was enough to get a few on the fence thinking, “Maybe.” So they reacted as in v. 16, “while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.” Jesus will come back to this request for a further sign in v. 29. But first He deals with the accusation that He is empowered by the Devil. He attacks their argument in 3 ways.
First, he notes that if He were casting out demons by Satan’s power, Satan would be working against himself. That would be sheer stupidity. V. 17, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.” Maybe Satan would allow 1 or 2 exorcisms to set a trap – but Jesus is casting out demons all over the countryside. He is leaving devastation in his wake. This is no con game.
I used to pitch a little. But I never let a ball go hoping the batter would tag one. That would be a house divided, right? I was pitching to 3-year-old Meagan one day (found someone I could get out!), She hit a few, but after about 5 futile swings in a row, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Grandpa – you’re supposed to hit my bat.” She hadn’t quite got the picture yet. Pitchers don’t help hitters. And Satan wasn’t helping Jesus. That’s Jesus first point in answer to this charge. Divided houses fall!
He gives a second answer in v. 19, “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” Judaism had exorcists – people who used crazy incantations and spells to cast out demons. They experienced little if any success. In Acts 19 Paul arrives in Ephesus casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Now Acts 19:13, “13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” [Obviously they were having little success with their incantations, so why not try this?] 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” Don’t you love it?! That’s the exorcists Jesus had in mind. He’s saying, “If you say that I – who never fail – am casting out demons by Satan, then who in the world is underpowering the miserable attempts of your colleagues?” If they claimed God empowered the failures, then God must be empowering Jesus who never failed. Thus the failure of their own exorcists brought judgment against them.
Jesus’ final point is v. 20 If someone enters the house of a strong man and takes what he is so intent on protecting, that one must be stronger yet. And since Jesus is ordering demons around like new recruits in book camp, there is no question about who is stronger. By every measure, Jesus is acting by the power of God.
So what is the principle behind all of this? Simply this. Evil does not work against itself. Evil does not cast out evil, and if we are ever to be freed from the kingdom of darkness, it will not be by our good works which to God are as filthy garments (Isa 64:6). David said, “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa 51:5), and as an evil person I have no hope to save myself. There is no escape humanly speaking. Redemption comes only through Jesus.
A man stood up to R. A. Torrey one time and said, “Sir, I am an atheist. Your gospel defies reason. I challenge you to a debate.” Quite a challenge in front of a bunch of people. Torrey’s response was precious. “I accept your challenge. See you here tomorrow night. One condition. Bring along 100 people whose lives have been changed for the better by atheism. I’ll bring 100 people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Some reformed drunkards and prostitutes. Some reformed ordinary selfish people whose families have been restored. You bring yours and I’ll bring mine and we’ll debate.” Torrey is still waiting. Evil does not cast out evil. Jesus does.
And the same is true after you’ve come to Christ. How many Christians get into the kingdom of light only to revert to dark behavior thinking it will bring peace and happiness? Yes, God says not to covet, but if I can only have that new car, I’ll be truly happy. Besides, I deserve it. If I can only make vice-president, even if it means stabbing someone in the back, I’ll be happy. Besides, I’ll be able to give more. My husband does not understand me, but John at work does. Surely God will understand why I need that relationship. But, Beloved, evil does not cast out evil, it just brings more evil. You can’t get good ends by bad means. God’s blessings don’t come from compromise much as we would like that.
When Christians go rummaging thru the garbage piles of life and avoiding the ultimate source of satisfaction we destroy ourselves. We’re like the cartoon showing a dog drinking out of a toilet bowl. Water dripping from his snout, Fido looks up to tell us, "It doesn't get any better than this!" Really!?
We’re like Saul in I Sam 15 when God told him to go destroy the Amalekites after 400 years of warnings. Saul was victorious but he returned with the king and all the animals. Claimed to the prophet Samuel they were for sacrifice. But of course, they were really for Saul. Trying to get God’s best by disobedience. Doesn’t work. Saul lost his kingship. Samuel told him in I Sam 15: 22, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” Evil does not cast out evil, Beloved. It didn’t for the Pharisees; it didn’t for Saul and it won’t for you. Whatever game of compromise you are playing thinking to get a good result by disobeying God will lead only to destruction. You’re part of the kingdom of light now a child of God. Live like it. Don’t live in your past; live in your present.
II. Victory Requires a Savior
Second principle: to escape the presence and influence of the evil empire, we need a Savior. Jesus gives a short parable. 21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; The strong man is Beelzebul, Satan, guarding his palace and his captives. John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” People outside of Christ don’t feel like slaves, but they are – slaves to self, which is the same as being a slave to Satan. And Satan is doing all he can to hang onto what he claims as his. The doors are barred; the gates are closed; the moat is full of gators; the chains are locked. There is no escape. And he allows just enough pleasure that people don’t even notice the chains.
Satan even uses success to bind people. Ralph Barton was a popular cartoonist for The New Yorker who committed suicide a few years ago. Listen to his chilling note: “I have had an exceptionally glamorous life, and I have had more than my share of affection and appreciation. The most charming, intelligent, and important people that I have known have liked me.… [Yet] I have run from wife to wife, from house to house, and from country to country in a ridiculous effort to escape myself.… No one thing is responsible for this suicide and no person except myself.… I did it because I am fed up with inventing devices for getting through twenty-four hours a day.” It’s not just the down-and-outers who are down-and-out; so are the up-and-outers. Satan will use any means available to bind us in darkness.
The only answer is in 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” Who is stronger than Satan? Who was demonstrating it multiple times daily in His earthly ministry? Jesus is the only answer. I Jn 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Satan is the strong man. Jesus is the stronger one. To reject the 3 years of evidence that He covered the earth with is to willfully and purposefully ignore God’s grace. It is to attribute to Satan the works of God – and that is the unpardonable sin.
Note v. 20: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” I love the phrase – finger of God. The weakest part of our anatomy. As opposed to the Jewish exorcists, Jesus didn’t resort to incantations and spells to be rid of demons. He didn’t wrestle with them, argue with them, struggle with them, or go through hours of emotional and spiritual trauma. Nothing like that. Instead, as though with a flick of his finger He demanded their departure and Boom! They were gone. Day after day after day after day. And He’s saying, “Can’t you see the kingdom of God is here!? Who else could do this? Reject this evidence – attribute it to Satan – what else is left? You’ve condemned yourself against all reason.” People who say God never gave any evidence of Himself have never bothered to read the New Testament.
Of course, Jesus’ power over sin and Satan and death is on credit, awaiting payment thru His death. Heb 2:14-15, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” This is ultimate victory! In His own death, Jesus destroyed the power of death. Satan is strong; Jesus is far stronger. There is no one like Him. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Not Muhammad; not Buddha; not Joseph Smith; not Zoaraster; not Lau Tzu. They all died – all weaker than the strong man. Only Jesus faced and overcame death. Only He can move us from Satan’s evil empire of darkness.
And only He can keep us living consistently with our new family name. Only He can remove the anxiety, the lust, the selfishness, the anger, the bitterness. We cannot do it ourselves; we need to revisit the cross daily. Milton Vincent in The Gospel Primer says, "There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemning's of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil than to overwhelm such things with the daily rehearsings of the gospel.” Jesus is the stronger One who can deliver us from the hold of sin in our life – the only one.
III. Neutrality is Fatal
23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” This addresses the fence-sitters, the doubters. You can’t declare neutrality regarding Jesus. Not an option. We’ve either committed to Him or we’re in rebellion in Satan’s domain, however outwardly good we are. To refuse His Lordship isn’t to declare neutrality; it is to align against Him.
Pilate wanted to be neutral. When the Jews brought Jesus to him, he found no fault in him. The Jews insisted. Pilate said, “I can release a prisoner for the Feast. Take Jesus.” They took the murderer Barabbas instead. His wife sent word, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream” (Mt 27:19). When he saw he could not win we read, “[Pilate] took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves” (Mt 27:24). Pilate declared neutrality. But Billy Graham says, "Tradition tells us that Pilate spent the last years of his life up in the mountains of Switzerland, washing his hands constantly. When anyone asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "I am trying to wash the blood stain of Jesus Christ off my hands." Through all eternity Pilate will try to wash the blood stain off, but he will never succeed. Nor will any other fence-sitter. They will find themselves washing the blood of Jesus Christ off their hands for eternity. But it will not wash. It was shed for them and it will not wash. There is absolutely no escaping Jesus’ death. If God really died for sinners, how could there be. Jesus’ blood either saves or condemns.
Conc – Peter Kreft in Heaven says, “The escape from worldliness is made urgent by the fact that we are already embarked on our journey to the other world. As soon as we are born, we begin to die. The world is like a rocket ship; we are already launched into the beyond. Life is an escalator, and there is no way off except at the end. The only choice is between directions: up or down.” Jesus calls it the difference between staying on the broad road that leads to destruction vs. changing to the narrow way that leads to life. Everyone must decide. Neutrality is fatal. No decision is a decision against God. Remember what Elijah said the day he called fire out of heaven before the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18:21? “If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” You must choose. Choose Jesus. Once you do you will find that He had chosen you before time began. What love He has for you. Let’s pray.