Sunday, February 20, 2022 Brad Barrett
Blessed Are Those Who Hear And Obey
Here is a deep, philosophical question this morning. I hope you get it right. Concentrate hard. What is the purpose of a lamp? The purpose is to give light. You walk into a dark room, and what is the only way to cast out the darkness? Turn on a light.
Quiz is over. You passed.
This morning we are in the Gospel of Luke. Chapter 11.
One of several topics we will examine this morning is light. In the Scriptures light is commonly a metaphor for God and for truth. Darkness is a metaphor for lies and deception.
We are going to read several scenes and topics here, there seems to be a connection between most of it.
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.
15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,”
16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.
17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “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.
19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe;
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.
23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
24 “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.’
25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.
26 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.”
Jesus demonstrates once again his remarkable power over demonic forces as he sets people free from their oppression.
People have three responses to him:
- Some people are amazed at the power to cast out demons.
- But others are skeptics and critical.
- And a third group demand more signs.
The skeptical ones claim that his power must be from Beelzebul. This is the name of a pagan god. Here the Jews are using that name to refer to Satan. So their audacious claim is that Jesus is casting out demons by the authority of the leader of demons, Satan himself. At issue here is Jesus’ authority. Is it from Satan or from God?
Jesus now speaks about their accusations. He uses arguments of logic.
- If Satan is casting out his own demons, then his kingdom will fail.
A civil war in any kingdom is devastating. So how can Jesus’ work be by Satan’s authority?
- But if what Jesus is doing is by the finger of God…that is, the power of God… then they are witnessing the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.
Something heavenly is happening right before their eyes. Will they believe in him or reject him?
Here Jesus offers an analogy, that of a strong man protecting his own house but then someone stronger comes along.
Satan is the strong one, but Jesus is stronger, and he is going to bring Satan down.
One thing we see here is that the kingdom of God is not a matter of nice words and soft things. God is not sitting down at a table with Satan to negotiate peaceful terms. God is overthrowing evil. This really is a war. And God is going to win.
In just a matter of months from the time of this story, God will allow his Son to be killed, but then he will raise him from the dead. Colossians 2 tells us that Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has disarmed the spiritual forces of evil. He will put Satan to shame by the cross and triumph over him.
And all of God’s people, those who believe in the Son, as Colossians 1 says, will be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
So for us today, Satan has already been defeated, yet from elsewhere in Scripture we also learn that he has some authority left on the earth. He is still active today. However, his final defeat is coming when Christ comes to earth literally and bodily the Second Time, which we pray is soon.
In vs. 23, Jesus’ conclusion about all this is important and emphatic: Pay attention to this:
If one is not consciously FOR Jesus, one is against him. There is no middle ground. No neutrality.
In World War II all of Europe raged in battle against Nazi Germany. But Switzerland—geographically stuck in the middle of all these warring nations— claimed neutrality. They took no side.
In the kingdom of God, there are no Switzerlands. You and I cannot remain neutral. We are either FOR Jesus or AGAINST him. We have to choose sides.
Jesus is speaking about demon-possessed people who are set free…the demons are exorcised. But once the people are set free, they don’t turn to the Lord for him to fill them. They leave themselves spiritually empty. They have a vacuum in their heart.
Knowingly or not, they try to remain neutral. Choose no sides. They obviously don’t want the demonic side, for that is oppressive. But neither do they want God’s side.
Because they leave themselves empty, they end up worse than before. A greater evil comes upon them.
God has not designed our hearts to work in the way of neutrality. Something will fill the vacuum.
Jesus is speaking specifically of demonic exorcism. And although I am unaware that any of us are dealing with such a situation, I find there is application here for every one of us.
Many of us in this room are on Jesus’ side. We are for him. We believe in him. And so we have received eternal life. He has placed his Spirit inside us. So we’re not neutral. We’re not Switzerland.
But practically speaking, sometimes we leave ourselves in a place of emptiness more often than we realize. We’re not filled with Jesus. Not thinking of him. We’re not against him, but we may not be actively walking with him. And this leaves us in this unhealthy and even dangerous position of a spiritual vacuum.
Here is a question to consider for us today:
What am I filling my mind with?
God gives us some direction from the Scriptures.
Here’s a verse I memorized 40 years ago, and it’s still paying dividends in my life.
Philippians 4:8 NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Let us answer the simple question that springs from Paul’s words here: “What am I thinking about?” What is filling my mind? If my mind is blank, it won’t be blank for long. It’s a spiritual principle.
So Paul says, “Think about holy and pure and good things.”
Colossians 3:2 NIV Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
So what does this look like?
- Am I full of thankfulness to God? Or am I grumbling, like I was last night before dinner?
- Am I reflecting on God’s power and so walking in Spirit-inspired courage? Or am I consumed with fear because I have forgotten God’s wisdom and care?
- Am I considering how to love other people as Christ has loved me? Or am I filled with worry about what they think of me?
Not only do our thoughts matter, so do our actions.
2 Timothy 2:22 NIV Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Paul told Timothy, “Yes, run hard and fast AWAY from sin. Sin is not some cuddly pet we hold on our lap. It is a wild, untamed animal that wants to eat us alive.
So yes, FLEE from it. But don’t stop there. Pursue…go after… God and what he desires. Run after God and his ways. ”
We cannot leave ourselves empty.
Eastern religion tells us to close our eyes and empty our minds… that this is the way to inner peace.
But our Creator God tells us, Yes, empty yourself of sin and evil thoughts, but don’t leave yourself empty. Now come to me and fill yourself with me. Fill your mind with heavenly things. Run after holiness.
So from all this, let us choose to walk with Jesus and fill our minds and hearts with glorious, heavenly, eternal things.
27 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!”
28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Jesus’ earthly mother, Mary, was indeed blessed by God, we read in Luke 2. She was permitted to carry the Savior of the world in her womb.
But Jesus says that God’s blessing has long arms, reaching out to anyone who simply and humbly hears what Jesus says and obeys him.
When Jesus says, “to hear” the Word of God, he is speaking of much more than simply having ears that capture sound. Animals have that capacity. He speaks of a “hearing” that means “to heed, to understand, and to receive it.” In other words, we respond in faith to his words. We respond and we obey.
And Jesus says, “The person who does this will find blessing from God.” “Blessing” is much richer than an overused religious word can seem like. To be blessed by God means to have his divine touch on our lives. That he brings good to us. He gives us his grace. It means that his tender care and protection is on us.
God’s blessing comes in many forms and many ways.
- It can come by way of a Spirit-led peace in our souls.
- It can come as strength when we’re tempted to give up.
- The Holy Spirit can strengthen us to love someone when they don’t deserve it.
- And to believe our forgiveness in Christ when we’re guilty.
- And the grace to walk in freedom from sin that has previously enslaved us.
Basically all of God’s goodness is upon us.
So what can we take from Jesus’ words here?
Let us keep the Christian life simple:
Seek God’s blessing by hearing and obeying
We need to simply believe that the place of greatest blessing is to humbly and faithfully hear the Word of God and obey it wholeheartedly. To OBEY is not a dirty, four-letter word.
Let me address some common errors in our thinking when it comes to receiving blessing.
I wonder if we often think that blessing comes only when we have the most of something. Having the best.
For example, when we think of what the woman said in vs. 27, a mother today could think, “Wow, if I had given birth to the Savior, my life would be so fulfilled. So meaningful. But I don’t have that opportunity, so I guess I’m stuck missing out.”
It’s tempting for us all to think that blessing is wrapped up in our pedigree. In what we have to offer.
Our moral background. Only if I have a long track record of good morals can I find God’s blessing.
Our intelligence. If I had a great intellect to offer God, that is where blessing is.
Our money. If had thousands and even millions of $$ to give away, that would be a fruitful life.
Our family background. If I had grown up in a solid Christian family, then my life would be blessed.
A few months ago we looked at Luke 7 in a sermon.
Simon the Pharisee had all that we might deem important. He was highly religious, well-educated, and probably wealthy.
In sharp contrast, the sinful woman came up to Jesus and shed tears on his feet and anointed him with oil. She had nothing to offer, for she was a great sinner.
But which of them was blessed by Jesus? The sinful woman, for she humbled herself before Jesus and found life, forgiveness, and salvation. And Simon missed out, for he was filled with contempt, arrogance, and self-righteousness.
If we believe that God’s blessing comes from our human pedigree, then we will experience one of two errors.
The first error: we have too high a view of ourselves. We are boastful in our heritage, our good looks, intelligence, experiences, money, career. Even our moral history. But this view is rooted in self-centered pride. It is a house of cards, and one small breath will knock it all down.
The other error is that we have a defeatist view of ourselves. We mope around because we feel we have nothing of value. We’re not important enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, don’t have the right family upbringing, don’t have enough money. Surprisingly, though, if this describes us, we just as proud as the first person. We are absorbed in self.
But the beauty of the gospel is that it is a message of grace coming from the God of all grace. Everyone is on a level playing field. All need his help. And all can receive it.
Life is simpler than we might think.
Jesus said simply but powerfully, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Let us present ourselves to the Lord with whatever we have today. We hear what he says, and we believe who he is. We trust him. Then we do whatever he says, by the strength he provides. THIS is the blessed life.
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.
30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Back in vs. 16, the crowds were demanding signs. Now Jesus speaks to them.
He says the only sign that will be given is the sign of Jonah.
What is this? There may be two aspects to it. First, Matthew 12 tells us that as Jonah spent three days in the stomach of a great fish, so the Son of Man, Jesus, will spend three days in the heart of the earth before he rises.
Second, Jonah’s preaching to the pagan Gentile city of Ninevah—a very wicked city— brought about a great repentance. A spiritual revival. This is a rebuke to his fellow Jews: These Gentiles repented. What about you, Israel?
They had someone great….very, very great in front of them. How would they respond?
What can we take from this?
Remember that someone greater has come.
This is so easy to forget…. so easy to forget how great and glorious and powerful Jesus Christ is.
He is so much greater than Solomon and Jonah.
And back in vs. 22, we know that he is stronger than the strong man. Stronger than Satan, and able to command Satan’s demons to be silent and to depart. Like in vs. 20, “If by the finger of God he casts out demons, then the kingdom of God has come.”
Jesus is calling us to listen to him and obey him, for he is greater than everyone.
It is he…
- who calmed a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee,
- who commanded demons to come out of people, and they had to obey him (like in vs. 14).
- who healed very sick people (like a woman bleeding for 12 years who spent all her money on doctors).
- who raised dead people—very dead people— from the grave (like a young man whose body was in a casket in a funeral procession).
- And best of all, it is He who rose victoriously to conquer death. And is coming back soon to set up his kingdom on earth.
Do you recall why Luke wrote this Gospel account?
Luke 1:3–4 ESV it seemed good to me… to write an orderly account for you… that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
We have heard about Christ. Been taught about him. Luke wants us to have a greater certainty. To be more sure of who our Savior really is. Luke’s Gospel tells us in dozens of ways that our Savior is greater than all.
So how do we remember and learn of his greatness?
- Search the Scriptures.
Luke’s Gospel, for example, is filled with stories and declarations of Christ’s greatness.
Read it. Listen to it on audio. Study it with friends in Bible studies. And then believe it. And trust Jesus.
God did not give us the Scriptures to merely entertain us, to see cool things happening. He gave us the Scriptures to tell us who he is, that we might search for him and find him. He wants to be found and known and believed.
- Pray that your eyes would be opened to see his magnificence.
Moses prayed boldly in Exodus 33, “Show me your glory!” And God graciously answered his prayer.
Paul prayed in Philippians 3, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”
David prayed in Psalm 63, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you…”
Let us pray, and God will graciously answer our cry.
- Humble yourself before him.
Acknowledge his greatness and your smallness.
I love what John the Baptist’s words in John 1 when he saw Jesus: “He must increase and I must decrease.”
John’s ministry for God was one of the greatest in history, but Jesus far, far surpassed him. For Jesus is the Creator and we are the creatures. He is the Conqueror of death, and we are dependent upon him for life. He is the King of all kings. And we are his subjects.
Let us remember and never forget that there is no one like him.
33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.
34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.
35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.
36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Throughout the Bible, God and holiness and righteousness is compared to light, while evil and the demonic are compared to darkness. And our hearts can either be full of light or full of darkness.
So here Jesus offers what could be described as three independent proverbs, all linked by the image of light.
He says the point of a light is to light up our way us when we’re in darkness. Jesus and his teaching are openly displayed as the light for all to see. So the recipients of his light should respond and let the light flood their entire being.
He cautions us: Be careful lest you actually have darkness in your soul, not light.
So we should very carefully ask: What is the condition of my spiritual vision and openness to Jesus and his teaching? Am I letting his light flood my heart? Am I seeing clearly today, or am I more blind than I realize?
So what can we do?
Simply, let us:
Immerse ourselves in light daily.
What do I mean? Expose ourselves to the Truth of God’s Word every day.
He loves us and wants to illumine our hearts and cast away the darkness. The blindness. The deception.
So by his help, we must immerse ourselves in his truth in a variety of ways, none of which are unique or flashy.
What I’m referring to here is simply the normal rhythms of the Christian life. We could call them spiritual disciplines.
- Sunday service.
- Community Groups and Bible studies.
- Solid music.
- Family devotions.
- Prayer meetings.
- Youth Group.
- Midweek for CF, and Friday Little Family for internationals.
- Memorizing Scriptures.
- Messaging verses to one another.
Such things can, at times, seem routine. Not exciting or fresh. Maybe even boring. But it’s analogous to physical health. We eat, sleep, exercise. It can get mindless and routine, but we have to do such things to stay physically healthy.
When I have my annual physical checkup, the doctor asks me about those things because he knows how foundational they are.
These spiritual disciplines don’t need to be mundane.
One thing to do is pray every morning that even the routine activities of our day would be life giving.
- The Sunday service would be powerful.
- The Bible studies and Youth Group would give us life.
- Family devotions would be rich.
For example, leading up to almost every Sunday service, I pray multiple times that it would be powerful, encouraging, worshipful, instructive.
- I am praying for the pastor speaking, that he would be filled with power.
- I am praying for the band and the tech people that they would serve wholeheartedly and be filled with the Spirit.
- I am praying for Sunday School teachers and ushers and greeters to be full of faith and joy.
- I am praying for the congregation that we would come with ready hearts, to come into the presence of God with all his people gathered.
And I know some of you are praying similarly. God is answering those prayers. It seems to me that every Sunday morning is better for my soul and my walk with God than the Sunday before.
If we ignore the routine spiritual disciplines, or are half-hearted in them, slowly the lightbulb in our heart will get dimmer and dimmer. It will happen slowly, and we may not realize it. We’ll start tripping and running into walls. We will become deceived and eventually blind.
But as we engage humbly and in faith with the routine activities of the Christian life, God who is the Light of the World floods our hearts with light. We can see life and reality with clarity.
So let us give ourselves freshly to immersing our hearts and minds with the Truth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
We have seen in this passage a variety of themes and issues.
One way to encapsulate them all is with the calling to “Hear and obey.”
To hear what Jesus says. More than simply acknowledging I hear some noise with my ears,” but instead to really hear. To listen and receive it.
To fill our minds with heavenly things.
And then to trust him and do what he asks.
If the Lord is a good God—and the Cross and Empty Tomb of Jesus proves that he is—then we can trust him, obey him, and then find his blessing on our lives—his goodness and grace and power and peace.