Dear radio friends,
The only true power to deliver from sin is to be found in Jesus Christ. There are other powers which claim that they can produce changes in a person’s life, which, so to speak, are able to cast out a demon. In the world a person’s life may be ensnared in a particular vice: greed, lust, drinking, envy, abuse. And, perhaps by physical means of medication, or pagan religions, or different forms of counseling, a change can be made. In the church of Jesus Christ there is, among many, the clamor over the power of the Spirit – the emphasis that there needs to be a dramatic result. The oft-repeated phrase today is: “What matters most in connection with religion is not so much whether it is true but whether it works.” There is the desire in Christianity to see something happen. Tangible results, results alone, matter. How you feel and your experience counts. Truth in doctrine and understanding are regarded as secondary at best and, in reality, hindrances for a real change. The trite expression is: “Religion is caught, not taught.”
Yes, there are many powers today which claim to be able to produce a change in a person’s life. The only true power to deliver from sin is to be found in the sovereign, almighty, ruling Lord Jesus Christ by His Word and by His Spirit.
We are going to look at that today.
The passage we use is Luke 11:24-26. You will remember the facts concerning this passage. Our Lord had just cast out a devil from a poor sufferer – a devil which had made a man dumb – and all the people wondered. The moment the Lord did this, some of the Jews standing by said that He had done this and, indeed, all similar acts by the power of Beelzebub, prince of the devils. Our Lord’s reply to this charge was along two lines. First of all, He showed that if He had done this by the power of Beelzebub, it would mean that Satan is fighting against Satan, which is ridiculous. His words were these: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.” The Lord says that Satan does not on one hand give power to possess, and then on the other hand give power to cast out, thereby defeating all of his works. Satan’s kingdom is not divided. The kingdom of evil is well oiled and does not work against itself.
The second line of reply went a little further and carried the attack right into the enemies’ camp. The Lord said, “If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges.” In other words, Jesus reminds the Jews that there were others who had cast out devils, of whom they never said a word – other powers who succeeded in removing a particular unclean spirit from a person. You remember that, even in the Old Testament, Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers and magicians also were able to make their rods become a serpent. Moses cast down his rod and it became a serpent, and, by their enchantments, the magicians were able to repeat this amazing thing. So our Lord is saying that the mere fact of casting out a devil proves nothing.
Then, in the text I want to consider, the Lord contrasts those methods of casting out demons with His own. He brings out the truth that the mere ability to remove a demon does not prove anything. It does not, in itself, constitute true deliverance. The Lord says that the mere fact that a demon goes out of a man does not necessarily mean that the man is delivered in his soul. His words were these: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
The unclean spirit went out of this man, says the Lord. Now that was not at that time a picture of His saving work of the Spirit of God, because, when Christ saves by His Spirit, the end result for that man is not worse but it is glorious deliverance through the power of Jesus Christ. But the Lord simply means to admit that there are other powers which can succeed in the mere removal of an evil or an unclean spirit, just as there are other influences which can produce changes in a person’s life. The Lord admits that it is possible for men and women to get relief for many of their ills and troubles apart from His gospel. Jesus says, I am not simply one among many behavior changers. The Pharisees’ doctrine also could produce change in people. The Gentiles who were converted to Judaism by the Pharisees evidenced in their life a very dramatic change. So, it is true that the principle of pride in us, that self-righteousness, that self-love which exists within our nature, can exorcise many unclean spirits of lust and drunkenness, greed and envy.
But the Lord is warning. He says to us, “My power is not simply, it does not stop at, a mere change of behavior. But My power is seen in how I do this and the reason I do this.” Round about us we see men and women whose lives have seen great changes, who are able to testify of great relief and release obtained from many difference sources. There is false religion and philosophy which claim to be able to change a man. Now there is yoga, sticking pins in your body, kung-foo, herbal tea, manuals on self-improvement. By these, men say, we have been delivered from a craving for drink and drugs, sexual desires, worries and anxieties, all sorts of problems. We have found the solution in these things. And in Christianity, well, the emphasis is not upon discernment and understanding of principle and doctrine. The emphasis is not what John says to us in I John 4, “Try the spirits whether they be of God.” No, Christianity is simply something that we need if it is going to work in our life. So Christ, for many, is just another one of the movements and fads and cults that are able to produce these external changes in people’s lives.
But the Lord says, “My power is not simply that. You see, My power reaches down into the soul of a man. My power is the only power to deliver a man from the grip of sin.”
On a very practical level the Lord calls us to examine our own life and our faith and the reason for our doing and not doing. There are other powers which can produce changes in us, which apparently can produce outward deeds of religion. The eyes of other people, peer pressure, the consciousness of the opinions of others can produce change. Oh, yes, they can produce change. Peer pressure can move one to dye his hair orange.
So we need to ask ourselves the question, “Why do we do what we do?” We need to be warned that there is always that principle of self love. That self love is able to produce changes and give us to say with proud satisfaction, “Well, I licked that one. I delivered myself!”
The Lord says, Not every relief from a problem is true relief. There are false treatments which can produce changes just as well. The counterfeit, says the Lord, may appear amazingly similar to the genuine. The devil is subtle and able to deceive. He is able, said the Lord in Matthew 24, apart from God’s grace, to deceive the very elect. So a person is able to find himself better off, free from certain vices, happier than he was before, and believe that he has been delivered.
Now, do not ignore the Lord’s warning. What matters is not just what you do and what you do not do. What matters is how it happened, who delivered you, why you do not do that anymore. Not just, “I don’t do that anymore.” But why? Was it the eye of man that caused the change? Was it your will power? Was it common sense? Was it a change of age – you grew out of it? Or was it by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ?
This becomes very urgent because the Lord goes on to teach us that those other powers which produce external change and behavior ultimately make a person’s state worse than it was. He said, “This devil then goeth and taketh seven other spirits more wretched than himself. And they enter in and dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first.” The Lord pictures that an evil spirit is cast out of a man. And that spirit wanders vainly looking for a place of lodging. Not finding any place, he returns and finds that man empty and so returns with seven other demons. Now the state of that man is worse. The Lord is saying that those other powers which produced changes will make our condition worse, worse than when we started out.
What does that mean? I believe the answer is along these lines. First of all, the Lord is saying that those other powers ultimately do not work. They do not deliver; they do not change the heart before God. They change external behavior. Where does the grace of God work? What is the difference that grace makes in a person’s life? The heart! Make the heart clean, says the Lord. So David says, “Cleanse me within. Make me pure within!” Deliverance is when Christ, by grace, works in the heart and gives to us a new heart which will serve Him and love Him as Lord and Savior. And the result is that from that heart we cry, “What shall I render to Jehovah now for all His gracious benefits?” Those other powers wear off. You constantly need to be re-infused. You go in for the cure, perhaps for gambling. Gambling is threatening everything in your life. Not only your finances, but your entire life – your job, your family. You go in and experience for a time a marvelous change. But soon those old troubles which led to the gambling begin to return and you are back to where you were. Are you back to the same place? No. Worse. Now disillusionment and distrust of everything fills you.
That is the terrible danger of false doctrines and false movements in the Christian church. These false movements and doctrines produce cynics in the Christian church. Through these false doctrines and movements there seems to be a rush and a thrill – a liberty of casting off the old. But because they are false and are not rooted upon the truths of infallible Scripture, these changes soon begin to wear off and people are in a worse condition than when they first began. No one is harder to help than a person who has been disappointed in something that he believed in and now has become cynical when he sees that it cannot help.
But, perhaps you say to me, that still presupposes that there is going to be a relapse, that a person who has experienced a change in behavior is going to fall back into his former ways. Our Lord says that, nevertheless, even if there is not a relapse, the condition is still worse than the first. Why? Because, you see, all of those other powers to change behavior in reality have hid the real problem. They have covered up the problem. That is the horror of self righteousness which, when it gets hold of a man, is able perhaps to get this man to quit swearing, womanizing, drinking, looking at pornography. And he thinks that everything is well. A false cure is dangerous because it relieves the symptoms and persuades us that the disease is cured. A false cure keeps one from a true physician.
Suppose the pain that you are having today in your stomach is cancer. You go over to the neighbor and he says to you, “Well, I had that pain once too. A little warm milk with rum mixed in it – you drink that and you’ll get relief.” So you get a little relief today. Is that for your good?
Children, do you ever want to go to the dentist? Well, no! But if you have a bad enough toothache, oh, then you want to go to the dentist. You see, if you cover up the pain, you are hiding the cause.
The Lord is saying that those other powers which produce change will bring a worse result because they will leave a person in the grip of delusion. Christ has come and declared most solemnly and urgently, “Ye that thirst, come to Me, and I will give you waters to drink.” The gospel declares most solemnly that there is but one way to be made right, there is but one way to be released from the power of sin. That way is the way of God in Christ by grace alone. You cannot save yourself. You are dead in sin. You are a child of wrath. The whole world lies in darkness. It is only by grace, through Christ Jesus alone, that there is deliverance. The other ways of behavior changing leave a person deluded, thinking that there is nothing wrong with him. The other gospels which claim that they are able to change behavior bring people to the temple to pray, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are; everything is OK with me.” But the publican came to the temple and he was convinced that everything was all wrong with him. When we rely on other powers to help us, then we are under the power of delusion, and our real problem is hid from our eyes.
But how glorious is the power of Jesus Christ to deliver from sin! That power is the power of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And that power is first of all that through Jesus Christ God has defeated our sin. He has made an atonement for our sin in the blood of Jesus Christ. By that blood of atonement He has redeemed us from the dominion, from the power, of evil. The deliverance of Jesus Christ is, therefore, a work of God in the heart, a renewal of the heart. A new heart will I give to you and a new spirit will I place within you.
The power of Jesus Christ is not merely that He makes us free from this or that sin, but from the power of that sin itself. What does that mean? It means that now I see it as sin. I grieve over it. And in my heart of hearts I hate it and I do not want it. I would rather live my life in obedience to Christ than in that sin. That is the power of Christ.
Still more. Christ’s deliverance is that He does not leave the house empty. When the other power cast out the demon, the house (the person) was left empty, so that the devil and seven more could return. But when Christ casts out the demon, delivers from the power of sin, that means that He occupies the house with His own presence. He does not leave it empty. He takes up His power, His presence within us.
Oh, the mighty power of Christ!
He said to them at that time, “But if I, with the finger of God, cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” With the finger of God. Note those words. His power and His mastery. He is the One who has suffered and died for our sins. He is risen again. He is the power of salvation. He is the way, the truth, and the life. All power belongs to Him. His is the truth, the only truth. Everybody else is a thief and a robber. But His is the power unto salvation.
Consider your life. Consider your soul. Are you free? Free indeed? Freed by the mighty power of God? Not simply a change here and there, but within? The strong man of sin bound by the grace of the Lord? Free to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? Christ alone is the power to deliver us from the dominion of sin. Christ alone is able to bring a sinner to know sin and bend the proud knee in humble repentance before God. Christ did not come merely to grant relief for a short time on the earth. But He has come to save to the uttermost – now and to all eternity. His is the true, only power to deliver from sin. Look unto Him, for He alone is the Son of God – both Savior and Lord.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the truth of Thy word. And we pray that Thou wilt apply it unto our souls. Amen.