The Lord's Day Morning
June 27, 2010
“Jesus: Ruler of the Ruler of Demons”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
Sing to the Lord a new song all the earth. Tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations and His marvelous works among all the peoples for great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. He is to be feared above all gods for all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but our God, the Lord, made the heavens and the earth. Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty in His sanctuary, so let us give unto the Lord the glory due His name. Let us worship God!
Our Lord and our God, You are holy, holy, holy and we are not and because of this only You can provide a way for us into Your presence to enjoy Your blessings, Your benefits, Your fellowship. And You have done this in Your great love and mercy and grace in Your Son, Jesus Christ. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. You sent Your Son, Your only Son, whom You love, the Lord Jesus, into this world so that all those who believe on Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
So we come to You the Gospel way this morning. We come to You by the cross of Jesus Christ, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ for our forgiveness. He is the one who bore our penalty that we might receive the blessings that flow from His person and His finished and perfect work, come into Your presence as blood-bought declared right sinners, accepted as Your children, adopted as sons of God, all by Your doing, all by His accomplishment, all by Your grace. We have contributed nothing to this. We simply stretch our hands out in faith and receive what You have accomplished and provided.
So we come by the Gospel and by the cross today to give to You the glory due Your name. Make the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts to be acceptable to Your sight. Speak Your Word deep into our hearts today and make us to be not only hearers but doers of Your Word. Exalt Yourself in our praises and enable us to worship in spirit and in truth. We ask all these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke 11 as we continue our way through this gospel. We come to an extraordinary passage in which Jesus casts a demon out of a man who has been made mute by the activity of that demon and it evokes varying responses from the multitude that were observing this. Some marveled but others ascribed Jesus’ activities to the power of Satan while still others demanded that that sign of casting out a demon was not enough. They wanted yet another sign to certify to them that Jesus was indeed from God. In the course of His response to these various questions that are laid at His feet by the crowd that has assembled around Him, Jesus not only manages to show the illogic of their position assessing Him, but to tell them much about the activity of the prince of demons and of what it means to be demonically possessed and oppressed. But even deeper still Jesus teaches us about what true Gospel conversion involves in this passage, where the power comes from to bring a human being out of darkness and into the marvelous light of God's grace. And of course in this passage He identifies Himself as the One who is able to plunder the strong man and so He shows Himself to be the Ruler of the ruler of the demons.
Now before we read God's Word let's look to Him in prayer and ask for His help and blessing to understand it.
Lord, this is Your Word. Your Word is powerful and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword. It can pierce down to the very depths of our being and separate in us what is wrong from what is right and clarify for us where our hearts are right with You and where they are not. And Your Word, O Lord, is profitable for reproof and correction and training in righteousness. It is fully sufficient to equip the believer in every good work. And so we ask O Lord that You would cause us, by Your Holy Spirit who inspired this Word, to both hear and understand and believe and do the truth. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is the Word of God, hear it:
“Now He was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,’ while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.’
As He said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed!’ But He said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
This passage tells us a lot about the hearts of those who are blind to the grace of God, to hearts which have not been converted to Him. We see that first of all in the case of this poor man under the power of this mute spirit. He was unable even to speak. But we also see it in the heart attitude of those, who instead of joining with the people in the crowd who marveled at Jesus, instead accused Him of doing this great miracle of relief and blessing on behalf of Satan, or those in the crowd who demanded still another sign from Him to see whether He was in fact from God. How blind do you have to be, how dead does your heart have to be, how hard does your heart have to be not to see what is going on in this passage? Is it really believable that Satan would be behind the casting out of Satan? And so we see something of the hardness of the unconverted heart in this passage.
We also see the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, don't we? We see that power in the way that He casts out this demon. There's no description of how He does it. There's no elaborate ritual that He goes through. There are no words of incantation that are recorded that He speaks. He simply casts the demon out and the demon is gone, the demon leaves. It's a testimony to the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, later in the passage Jesus also testifies to His power because He says that a strong man can only be despoiled from his palace by a stronger man. And Jesus Himself is that One who is able to cast Satan out, and then come take occupation of our hearts, and take the spoils that Satan was ruining in our lives and use them for His glory and for our good.
And we could meditate on those things for a while but I want to take you where Jesus Himself goes in this passage, to a reflection on conversion itself because in response to the accusations of some in the multitude that He was doing this great miracle by the power of Satan and in response to the demand that He show some other sign that He was really from God, Jesus not only teaches us about demon possession and shows the illogic of the charges that have been brought against Him, but He also tells us something very important about conversion and what conversion really means and what is required for a human heart to be transformed from the inside out and to be given new life, eternal life, and to be changed so that we walk with God.
And so I want you to see two things today.
I. Conversion is more than an exterior renovation.
The first thing I want you to see is that Jesus makes it clear here that conversion is more than mere external, moral renovation. It's a fascinating thing. Jesus saves this man from oppression by a demon. The immediate response of some in the crowd — look at verse 14 — is that they marveled. Now that's so far, so good. Marveling is a proper response. One would want more than that as a response but that's a good start at a proper response to what Jesus has done. They ought to have marveled. But some in this crowd, hardened hearts with the leaven of the Pharisees in them, respond by accusing Jesus of doing this by the power of Satan. And Jesus shows the illogic of that position by telling them three things.
First of all look at verse 17. Jesus says that makes no sense. “If a kingdom is divided against itself it will not stand. Surely you don't think Satan is divided against his own kingdom. Surely you don't think Satan is trying to undermine the dominion of his own kingdom. It does not make sense that Satan would be casting out Satan or that Satan would be giving Me the power to cast out those who were under his rule.” Then Jesus goes on to say, if you look at verse 19, “And by the way, if I'm casting out demons by the power of Satan, who exactly is it who is giving the power to the exorcists who are amongst your own village and your own people to cast out demons?” Now Jesus is not necessarily commenting on whether these exorcists are actually doing what they claim. He is saying however, and we know this — it was common among the Jews for there to be people whose business what that of casting out demons and they often did it through incantations and sort of semi-magical rites and words that are said in order to cast that demon out.
We, in fact, encounter this in several places in the gospels as other people attempt to duplicate Jesus and His disciples casting out of demons. But His point is simply this — “Why would you accuse Me of casting out demons by Satan when you don't accuse your own of casting out demons by Satan? That doesn't make sense.” And then He says this, “But if it is of the finger of God” verse 20 “that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” In other words, He's now turning to the people who've said, “We want another sign,” and He says, “Now look, here's your sign. How is it that I'm casting out demons? How could I possibly do that unless I'm sovereign over demons? And who's sovereign over demons but God? And so the only way that I could do what I'm doing is if God has empowered Me to do it and that is the sign that the kingdom of God is among you and at work and that ought to evoke in you of all people, people who have grown up on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, those of you who have grown up on the law and the prophets ought to know that this is an irrefutable sign that God is afoot, that I am the anointed of God, and that I ought to be believed and followed.” And yet they want another sign. This is not unlike other places where other signs are demanded from Jesus and His disciples.
And so He responds to the charges that are made against Him and He shows the illogic of them and He explains to them why they ought to have believed at this great display of God's relieving mercy to this man who had been under the foul domination of this mute spirit who kept him from even being able to talk.
But He doesn't stop there. He goes on to tell them a little bit about how demons work. And in the course of doing that He explains to us something very, very important about the human heart and about our own attempt to renovate ourselves, as opposed to how He goes about liberating a sinner. Look at what He says beginning in verse 21 — “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe.” Now this is a description of Satan's dominion over us. Jesus, by the way, is not saying that everyone who is not a Christian is demon possessed, but what He is saying is that everyone who is apart from Christ is under the dominion of Satan and the principle set down here in relation to demon possession apply to everyone. Everyone who is apart from Christ is under the dominion of the strong man and the strong man is armed and he guards what is his and everything that is in his dominion is safe.
What happens then? Verse 21 — “One stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him.” By the way, do you notice how Jesus makes it clear that His kingdom is not on the defensive? He's not pulling up the bridges, filling up the moats with alligators and hunkering down in some castle somewhere hoping to hang on. His kingdom is advancing. Sometimes we misunderstand what He says in Matthew when He says, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Sometimes that sounds, in our ears, because of the word “prevail” like it's hell attacking and we're on the defensive.
But notice gates are not usually an offensive weapon in battle. Gates are designed to keep something out, so hell in that illustration of Jesus is stationary and who's attacking hell? The kingdom of God is coming against the gates of hell and He's saying the gates do not prevail against the assault of the kingdom of heaven. That is, the gates aren't able to keep out the assault of the kingdom of heaven. And here again is that kind of illustration. One stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him. Who is that? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. And He's illustrated that of course in this extraordinary event of the casting out of the demon. He is more powerful than the demon or the ruler of the demons because He's able to cast him out.
Then He says this — “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.” He makes it clear that He is the dividing line. There are only two types of people in the world — those who are with Him and those who are against Him, those who have been liberated by Him and those who have not been liberated by Him and are under the dominion of the evil one.
And then, beginning in verse 24 going down to verse 26, He describes how demonic oppression and possession works. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none, it says, ‘I will return’” — notice — “'to my house from which I came.’” In other words, He's saying it is possible for a demonic spirit to leave a person of its own accord and to wander and then to decide, “You know, I'm going to go back where I came from and retake possession of my palace, my house, my place.” The demon in this passage is describing that human heart as his abode. “And when it comes” — look at verse 25 — “it finds the house swept and put in order.”
Now this is Jesus’ way of describing a person who has tried to turn over a new leaf, tried to make a new start in life, tried to clean up his or her act, tried to engage in a moral self-renovation, tried to be a better person, tried to live a better life, tried to stop doing really, really heinous sins and get things cleaned and swept up and in order in life and try and live at least outwardly a more righteous way, a less obviously ungodly way. When he returns to the house he finds it swept and put in order, but what's the problem? There's nothing in that house. That heart is empty. That heart has not been changed. The heart has been swept up a bit, things have been tidied up a bit, but the house is empty.
“Then it goes and brings seven other spirits” — verse 26 — “more evil than itself,” and then listen to this horrific judgment — “the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Now what Jesus is talking about here in this immediate instance of course is the activity of demonic possession. But it has a broader application because this is exactly how Satan operates generally. Listen to what J.C. Ryle says —
“How dangerous it is to be content with any change in religion short of thorough conversion to God. This is a truth which our Lord teaches by a dreadful picture of one from whom a devil has been cast forth but into whose heart the Holy Spirit has not entered. He describes the evil spirit after his expulsion seeking rest and finding none and then planning a return to the heart which he once inhabited and carrying his plan into execution and finding that heart empty of any good and like a house swept and garnished ready for his reception. And He describes him entering once more with seven spirits worse than himself and he winds up all with a solemn saying, ‘The last state of that man was worse than the first.’”
Now this is what Ryle goes on to say — “We must feel, in reading these fearful words, that Jesus is speaking of things which we fainting comprehend. He is lifting a corner of the veil which hangs over the unseen world. His words no doubt illustrate things which existed in the Jewish nation during His own time of ministry but the main lesson of His words concerns us. It is the danger of our own individual souls. There is a solemn warning to us here never to be satisfied with religion reformation without heart conversion.”
What does Paul pray for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-19? “That the Father would grant you power by His Spirit so that Christ would dwell in your hearts by faith.” That is a picture of the renovation of a life that only comes by the occupation of our hearts by the Lord Jesus Christ and that is by the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and conversion and it is received by faith. But Christ is to dwell in our hearts by faith. This is a picture of a person who has tried to sweep up and clean up his or her life but Christ is not dwelling in that heart.
And Ryle goes on to say this — “There is no safety except in conversion. In thorough Christianity to lay aside open sin is nothing unless grace reigns in our hearts. To cease to do evil is a small matter if we do not also learn to do well. The house must not only be swept and whitewashed, a new tenant must be introduced or else the leprosy may again appear on its walls. The outward life must not only be garnished with the formal trappings of religion, the power of vital religion must be experienced in the inner man. The devil must not only be cast out, the Holy Spirit must take his place. Christ must dwell in our hearts by faith. We must not only be moralized, but spiritualized. We must not only be reformed, but born again. Jesus is teaching us that conversion is more than mere external, moral renovation. It is a heart which has been changed and transformed and softened and given new and eternal life by the work of the Gospel by Jesus Christ.”
II. The evidence of conversion is a heart change.
Now after Jesus has done this teaching you can almost feel the awe of the crowd. He has talked about things that human being just don't understand. He's talked about the heart. He's talked about the satanic world. He's talked about the spirit, the hidden things of the unseen spiritual world. I remember Gordon Reed preaching a sermon on one of the demon possession passages from the gospel of Mark at the Trinity Presbyterian Church here in town in the early 1990's and he began that sermon by saying, “Now I don't know much about demon possession, but I've read some books by people who say they know something about demon possession, and they don't know much about demon possession either.”
Well I'm sure that this crowd standing around Jesus must have been in absolute awe at His knowledge and His comprehension of the unseen hidden world. And finally one woman blurts out, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and blessed are the breasts that fed You as a baby!” And Jesus does not rebuke that woman. She is complimenting Him. She's saying, “What a privilege it would have been to have been Your mama! What an amazing Man You are! What unbelievable wisdom You have just displayed to us!”
But what does Jesus say? He doesn't rebuke her. In fact, He affirms the reality of the statement that she says but then He takes it up. And He says — look at His language — “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” He says, “Ma’am, as a matter of fact, the reason that the Virgin Mary is blessed is that she heard the Word of God and she kept it.” Do you remember the testimony of Jesus’ mother before He was ever born? When the angel came to tell her that she was going to bear the Lord Jesus Christ, do you remember how she responded to the angel? “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me” — how? “According to Your Word – Lord, I'm going to do, I'm going to accept whatever Your Word says. Be it done to me according to Your Word.” She heard and she did the Word of the Lord.
Now Jesus is saying that that is the mark, that is the evidence of every heart that has been converted. The heart that has been converted hears the Word of God and shows its loyalty to the Word of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ and then does what the Word says. That's the evidence of conversion that we hear and obey God's Word, that we trust and obey. That we trust and obey is not a way that we earn our way to conversion. It's not the way that we earn our way into the presence of God. Remember Jesus is saying that conversion is far more than some human attempt at personal, moral, self-reformation. No, it takes Jesus coming in and removing the strong man and taking up residence in our life and giving us a new heart and a new spirit and new life, eternal life, and then we hear and we obey. And so this is the evidence of conversion that Jesus is talking about.
Now there's a sense in which this sermon today is simply the prologue, it's an appetizer, it's an hors-d'oeuvre for the message that Derek is going to preach tonight because he's going to be preaching on “What is the Gospel?” It is the Gospel that bears this converting power in our hearts. And Derek is going to tell you what that Gospel is that bears the converting power that changes our hearts and lives from the inside out so that we are not merely people who've tidied ourselves up a bit, but we are people who have a new occupant in our souls. And we have a new desire and we have new affections. We want to love the Lord God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. We want to live in such a way that we show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control — and why do we do that? Because our hearts have been changed by the One who is stronger than the strong man, by the One who is the Ruler of the ruler of the demons.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this Your Word. We ask that You would work its truth deep into our hearts and that we would trust and obey. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Would you take your hymnals in hand and turn with me to 672 and we’ll sing the first stanza of “Trust and Obey.”
Now receive God's blessing. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.