It’s either seen as something very old fashioned: Victorian children all prim and proper; or something rather stupid - a happy dog looking up at it’s owner. The idea of Obedience
On holiday in France looking after an enthusiastic french sheep dog. Java. ‘Au Pied’ come straight to your heel! Obedient dogs are great. Obedient childen are great - as long as you don’t crush their spirit.
But in our culture and day which puts so much emphasis on personal freedom, to be an obedient adult is seen as a very weak thing. Yes you can be a good employee but the idea of being obedient to your faith or your church or your god - that’s seen as seriously suspect. abusive. you’re not thinking for yourself. No, every individual should have the right, within a few limited constraints, to do whatever he or she likes. No-one has the right to tell you what to do. How often do you hear that?
So the very idea of obedience is disparaged and called into question..
Yet, into our culture and into our lives speaks the eternal word of Jesus Christ. The living God come among us as a man says ‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
The greatest blessing, joy, privilege, happiness, peace is found in a life of obedience to Jesus Christ.
[because - obedience is not just some optional lifestyle for the devout. We are not contrary to popular opinion FREE to do our own thing. We are not masters of our own lives. All of us are controlled by something external to ourselves. It’s part of our human nature that we constantly search and we give our time, our money, our energy our gifts to things that we believe will give us the security, significance and satisfaction we need. Humans are dependent and religious - we pour out our worship (our time, energy, money) to the god we believe will deliver - the god of Career, or Family, or romance, or pleasure.
We either give our obedience to Jesus or we’re controlled by something else - something dark - our idols, our demons ]
Here in this encounter we are told that Jesus has exorcised a demon that has caused a man to be mute. When the demon is gone, the mute man, to the amazement of the crowd who presumably knew him, speaks!
But many in the crowd do what most people in our culture do - they find a way of sidestepping Jesus’ authority.
v15 some of them said, By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons. Others tested him by asking for a sign from a heaven.
Some said - we need more proof. Do another miracle.. and just one more… Hmmm i do believe in God but I’m not convinced about Jesus. I’d still need more proof. He’s still just a good teacher to me.
Others acknowledge Jesus’ powers but ascribe them to malignant forces. He’s in league with the devil! It’s dangerous that Jesus stuff. Deception. Don’t be stupid enough to get sucked in to that.
These objections allow Jesus to tell us something about Satan and demons and himself - as i am sure we are anxious to know what we should believe about these things
I mean, was ‘demon’ that culture’s shorthand for mental illness or some kind of spiritual affliction? Well, Jesus here speaks about Satan, a powerful spiritual being and demons exerting an evil and destructive influence on human lives. It all sounds a bit Lord of the Rings doesn’t it but most people believe in Spiritual reality, believe in a God and here Jesus affirms the sobering truth of the existence also of evil spiritual forces as do the grim realities of the world we live in affirm their existence.
Satan is a spiritual ruler, a king, we are told here. He has a kingdom. Actually it’s a rogue state. self appointed. something like ISIS. But he ‘rules’ this present evil age, says the NT, keeping people captive to their sin and away from God.
But Jesus, we see here, has come to challenge Satan’s kingdom. Driving out demons doesn’t mean he is on satan’s side! vv17-19 - what a ridiculous idea. On the contrary, v20 “If i drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”
That phrase ‘by the finger of God’ is important. It evokes memories of the Exodus from Egypt. The ten plagues of Moses that the Egyptian magicians sould not imitate and discredit because they were clearly ‘the finger of God’ bringing freedom to those held captive to the evil power of Pharoah.
here again. the true King, God himself has intervened to challenge Satan head on and bring freedom to captives.
Jesus speaks a parable to illustrate what it is that he has come to do. vv21-22 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.…”
Jesus is not condoning breaking and entering and robbery here. It’s an illustration of his work. The strong man is Satan – his possessions are people under his control – kept away from God by their sin which Satan can always hold up and use to say we are his and not God’s, but soon Jesus knows he will die on a cross, paying the price for our sins, taking them away, disarming Satan, defeating him. Overpowering the strong man so he can rob his house. Plundering Satan’s Kingdom. Setting people free!
CS Lewis said that there are two equal and opposite errors when it comes to ‘devils”. The first is fascination and fear. To ascribe too much power to Satan. To see demons in everything and everyone. We have to be very careful. Human beings are complex - our emotional, mental, spiritual lives intertwine.
But the second equal and opposite error is to ascribe too little power to these spiritual realities. To be materialists. To be prayerless. To walk through a battlefield unguarded against the ways Satan seeks to control people through lies and temptations.
Perhaps we have to demystify
We all have our demons don’t we?
things that control or afflict; memories that haunt; addictions we can’t shift; insecurities that belittle us. Demons can feel like curses and sometimes like curses, they can pass from generation to generation.
The tattooed stand-up pastor Nadia Bolz Webber decided to give her demon a name; Francis (after the child of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, themselves no strangers to demons)
This is her story
‘Francis first stopped by in my teens and early 20s which was easily written off by my family as me being “moody” Francis liked: booze, emotionally unstable boyfriends, and self- destruction, she finally just moved in, turning my studio apartment into a Wilderness.
She was a terrible roommate. She kept the place filthy and always told me really devastaing things about myself... She distracted me so much I would forget to eat and then my parents started to worry. One day my mother Peggy realized that Francis not ever moving out was my problem and suggested I go talk to a nice lady about evicting her.
She’s a bit of a dope fiend, Francis, but it ends up there is one drug that she doesn’t like. It’s called Wellbutrin. Two weeks after I started taking it, the bitch was gone.
But not for good. Now, 20 years later it still seems like she knows how to find me and sometimes she’ll show up, unannounced and stay a couple days even though I’m now into so many things she hates: sobriety, exercise, community, eating well – and of course, Jesus’.
Nadia goes on to talk about how our demons really, really have a problem with Jesus.
‘Maybe the demon of anger knows to steer clear of the Gospel, lest you end up forgiving some jack ass who you really want to punch in the throat. Maybe your demon of inertia knows to avoid of Jesus lest it be cast off a cliff and you have to start showing up in life. Maybe your demon of compulsive eating knows to not listen to Jesus lest it find itself in a lake and you clothed and fully in your body and sitting at Jesus feet. Maybe your demon of always, always, always having to prove yourself fears Jesus since if you listen to Jesus and not that demon you may start really believing that you are already good enough and then you’ll have to stop over-functioning’
Our demons are experts in colluding with us in that old practice of Jesus avoidance. Our demons will do anything to keep us from Jesus. Because he has the power and he has come to drive them out. To establish his Kingdom.
I don’t really know what demons are? Whatever they are whether addictions or evil spirits.. one thing i do know is that they are not what Jesus wants for us. Because every time he encounters one he tells it to piss off. He drives it out. You, in Christ have the authority to do that too. Face your demons in Jesus’ name. Call on his name.
But maybe really you’re still sidestepping Jesus’ authority
Yeah - i could use more proof
Nah - I don’t trust him
We all do it. It’s what all our friends are doing. Sidestepping God’s authority.
Does that matter?
v23 23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Sometimes we’ll even take the good things from Jesus. Allow him to save us but we’ll be sidestepping his authority. [Come in Giles, stay out Fouhy! .. Ridiculous. I’m both.] We do it to Jesus - Come in Saviour, stay out Lord.
BUT,…Jesus can’t be divided. He is Saviour and Lord
here’s the thing: Jesus’ lordship IS his salvation. You NEED HIM on the throne of your life.
Look at the story he tells us from vv24-26
24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
There’s no neutrality in life.
All of us are controlled by something external to us. It’s our nature to worship. We’re never FREE to rule ourselves - the only freedom we have is the freedom to choose who rules us. Our idols, our demons, or will it be Jesus.
If you take Jesus’ salvation - his clear out and clean up job - but you sidestep his authority, you resist him as Lord … You leave yourself more vulnerable than ever to the demons, the idols
27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
True blessing. True Freedom, True life is filling your life with Jesus’ obeyed word.