Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
I hope you listen carefully at the beginning of the service,
and maybe like some of us, we kind of space out sometimes in quiet moments, but
the collect of the day that is on the front of your bulletin insert is kind of
a summary prayer of the readings and the theme of the day. And a summary
statement in this prayer is this: first, it's a statement about us, and second,
it's the request to God for that which we need.
The statement about us says, "You know we live in the
midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright." The
request is, "Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers
and carry us through all temptations…" It's interesting isn't it? There is
not really a prayer that talks about "Give us glory, show us power by
something that we can do, or observe miracles, or so on." It's really a
statement of a beggar, isn't it? We're frail, we can't stand upright, and we
can only stand because God gives us strength and protection.
Now take that statement, and I want to compare that to
another statement. It's a statement of, I'm sure, a well-intentioned pastor of
our church, but the statement is at variance to that prayer. The statement is
this: "My personal mission is to be a wise Christian man, believing
wisdom, biblically understood, to be the key to abundant missional living, and
I am committed to living wisely with my wife."
The reason I say it's at variance is good intentions, and
good intentions are not bad. It's just that is that reality? Because the way
that we're portrayed in that prayer and in the Scriptures this morning,
especially in the Gospel reading, is not as good intentions but as weak beggars
who stand only to receive from God, and not perform anything for Him, but to
have it performed upon us who are frail.
Now, this fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, take time to
look at it when you go home today because the fourth chapter of the Gospel of
Luke, which last week we had the middle section, and this week we have the end
section…the first Sunday in Lent we'll get the first section. But all three
sections all have Jesus dealing with Satan in three different manifestations of
Satan and demons and demonic ways. The first part of the Gospel of Luke, in
chapter 4, is Jesus and His temptation in the wilderness, and that is kind of
how we end up typecasting Satan and our interaction with him.
We stand over here in God's kingdom. Satan throws his best
at us with his temptation, and we thwart it and fight it off with God's Word.
Satan tempts us again, and we thwart it and fight it off with God's Word. And
again, and we thwart it and fight it off with God's Word, as if it's a thrust
and parry, give and take, and we always come out on top. Jesus came out on top
without a doubt, but Satan isn't so obvious as we may portray him in that text.
A much less crass, more refined manner is how Jesus dealt with Satan in a
different manner or form when He preached in the synagogue of Nazareth, which
was the middle section of this fourth chapter which pastor preached on last
That is where He comes and sits down in the midst of His
godly people who know the Scriptures, and He proclaims Himself to be the
fulfillment of that which they have heard read and proclaimed in that
synagogue, for how many centuries we know not, but over and over. And He says,
"I am the One upon whom this Scripture speaks." But how do the people
respond? With joy and gladness, praising God and shouting, "Now we can
see! Now we can hear!"? No, they take Him out to the brow of a hill to
throw Him off the cliff.
Now that is interesting because we end up portraying Satan
as something abstract and out there and not in a way that is seen that beats
within your and my bosom, because in this world there is idle faith or
unbelief. There is either destined to heaven or destined to hell. There is either
child of God or child of Satan. There is either dead or alive, blind or seeing,
hearing or deaf. That is all there is. There is not as if there is a third
alternative where we will decide as kind of an ambivalent third party whether
or not we choose to be here or there. It is either or.
When Jesus comes to them in Capernaum and preaches in a
synagogue to godly people whom you would think would receive such word with
gladness, as wasn't received in Nazareth, demonic possession takes over a man,
and Jesus drives out the demon. Now we tend to think of demonic possession as
being extreme, and we typecast it over here as kind of the way of how Satan
really is. Crazy enough, we tend to want to make the Christian life in such an
extreme, like that fellow brother's statement. Godly living, missional living,
wisdom understood from the Bible…it's kind of a glory-filled life where there
isn't struggle and strife, where there isn't difficulty, temptation, and
That is of Satan because it does not lead to confidence in
Christ but visible and recognizable confidence in our own flesh, and that is
frightening, because your and my struggle is not in understanding grace, per
se. That has to be given to us by the Holy Spirit. That is not an intellectual apprehension
of our mind; it is apprehended by the Spirit. What we struggle with is that
intellectually, this looks like triumphant, godly living. It's not. It's the
beggar who awaits from God in his frailty for God's gift of forgiveness and
grace, and has nothing. That is our daily life in Christ.
But Satan loves to pull us to either of these extremes, to
view him as some abstract thing, some bizarre and warped demon, and to view the
life of Christ of this extreme of having everything shown and seen. Brothers
and sisters, if that is the case, Jesus would have never said to Peter,
"Get behind Me, Satan." And if that is the case, Jesus would not have
rebuked Peter's mother-in-law who had the fever. Not her, but He rebuked the
fever, because everything about the sin in this world is demon-possessed,
tainted with evil. There is nothing redeemable about this world. It will be
This flesh that we stand in and I animate is not redeemable.
It too must be destroyed and made new. Everything about this world, everything
about us, is tainted with, tempted to, and struggles with sin. Satan is all
about us. And as we've learned so clearly in Pastor's Bible study on The
Screwtape Letters, his greatest deception is not to come in this
magnificent, glory-filled manner, but in very fine, subtle manners, and to wear
us down like a rock is worn down with water over time.
When Jesus rebukes this demon and the demon comes out of
this man, the demon cries out great theological truths about Jesus. Clearly,
clearly states who Jesus is! The problem is he doesn't believe. He doesn't have
faith. He doesn't believe that He is the Son of God for him. That is how the
world views whether or not it really is for us. And how do we know it's for us,
this Jesus whom He has come to give, because if we only look at life as either
of these, we will never see Him really needed by us as beggars unless God
crushes us really, really good? Sometimes, that is what He must do.
Maybe you are blessed in the fact that maybe you haven't had
those kind of crushing moments in your life. God be praised. Don't wish for it.
Maybe you have had it, and as you have struggled with your frailty, as we
prayed in the beginning of this service, we know we are in all dangers daily,
and we are daily tempted by our own flesh and reason to think otherwise of
ourselves and of God.
So, what is this word that Jesus speaks that drives out
demons? It is the same word spoken to an infant at the beginning of a service
at her baptism. But wouldn't it be grand to see the demon flee out of that
child? Same thing happens there as happened in this text. It's not as dramatic.
Both are demonic possession manifested in different manners. Both are demonic
possession. But we weren't given such signs, or were we?
The signs we've been given is that word that He speaks which
does what it says it's supposed to do. The difficulty for us is that we don't
always see Satan as he really is in our own sinful flesh as it really is. So,
the word becomes nothing more than a lecture, a preponderance of how to live
and breathe and act and be to show forth missional living, godly living, holy
living. It denies our frailty. It denies the temptation that beats within us
and is all about us, and it denies our fleshness, that which God has come to crush
and to resurrect, to kill and to make alive. That is the good news of His Word.
At the baptism of a child, you know we renounce the devil,
we renounce his works, and we renounce his ways. That isn't just fluff to throw
into the baptismal service; it is our daily life in Christ. But if how we view
Satan is only this extreme, as we have already learned in The Screwtape
Letters, he has us and has us hard if we only see him as this and don't see
our lives as beggars in a world that is continually seeking our demise. Not
recognizable demise…slow, degree by degree demise.
If our demise is assured by such a degree by degree, our
salvation is not always glory-filled either. Our life is degree by degree
because daily we live and know not whether we will be here tomorrow. We live
and breathe and have our life for this day, and we give thanks to God for such
a gift, not knowing whether tomorrow will come or we will be here. So, we live
as beggars with our hand out from the One who alone gives us what we need in our
frailty, undeserving, ugly as sin are we, and does He with His Word bid us
healing, bid us freedom from the bondage, does He begat hope in a hopeless
heart that only sees our sin, does He enliven that which is continually showing
us that we're dying day by day, and yet coming alive by Christ day by day.
What is this word that He speaks? It is word that brings
effect, but it's not seen or recognized most of the time. It is hidden. We
spoke about this in Bible class this morning. It is hidden. It's probably a
good thing that it is for clothing a beggar with radiant garments may not
change the fact he is still a beggar. The heart has to change, and that is an
invisible part of us that can't be seen, but believes and trusts in the One who
brings death and resurrection, sight to blind eyes, and hearing to stopped
ears, and the loosing of the tongue of one who trusts in such mercy. In the
name of Jesus whose Word has freed us from ourselves and Satan and this world,
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.