When Jesus Speaks, Demons Clear Out                    7/1/2018                Luke 4.33-37

A man named Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts in the 1950’s, and the story goes that he was running hard to be elected to a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no time for lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and the governor was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

  • Governor: “Excuse me, do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
  • Woman: “Sorry, I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
  • G: “But I’m starved.”
  • W: “Sorry, only one to a customer.”

Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but his hunger got the best of him and he thought he would take advantage of his position, at least this once.

G: “Do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.”

W: “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.” (Not sure if there is any connection, but he was not reelected.)

In this section of Luke 4, that is the same question is asked and answered, “Who’s in charge?” We saw last week that Jesus spoke with authority. He backs up his words by confronting and casting out a demonic spirit who challenged that authority.

I’ve emphasized the fact that Jesus regularly went to church, that regular worship was a given. Verse 33 says the devil and his demons do too. I would submit to you that the devil has perfect attendance in church—not to worship, of course, but to work against worship of God in any possible way.

As Jesus was speaking, suddenly everyone heard a loud scream. The Greek word indicates a kind of shriek or guttural croak like a raven or a crow. It’s the same word found in Mark 6:49 when the disciples on the stormy sea at night cried out, or shrieked, thinking Jesus walking on water was a ghost. Interestingly, and tellingly, it is the word used in Luke 23 to describe the crowd crying out, or shrieking, when they called for Pilate to release Barabbas the criminal and to crucify Jesus—just like the demon cried out against Jesus in the synagogue here in Luke 4.

We can make a couple of observations here.

  1. Demons exist and are very real.

There is only one devil, i.e., Satan. The Bible refers to Satan as the “prince of demons,” who are supernatural, superhuman beings, in the service of Satan and evil. They are unseen, but their work and effects, like the wind, are quite visible.

This is why demonic spirits crave embodiment. Demon-possession is the reality of one or more demons inhabiting a human or even an animal to the point of control or domination. Demons do not inhabit people to bless them but to curse them resulting in things like erratic behavior, irrationality, self-destruction, insanity, and disease, physical distortion or disruption. (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:29; 9:39, 42; 11:14; 13:10-17).

  1. Demons can possess a person.

Not all demonic work or influence rises to the level of possession. There is not necessarily a demon of every single problem or ill (baldness, mosquitoes, bad driving, or post-nasal drip), but demons serve the work and intent of the devil which is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10.10). He may indeed masquerade as an angel of light and make evil look enticing, but don’t be fooled—his aim and goal is always our destruction.

1 Peter 5:8 Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Becky brought this out well a couple of weeks ago in the message on Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. The Son of God himself was confronted by Satan head-on, and though Jesus never gave in, the account ends by saying that Satan withdrew until “a more opportune time.” This ongoing activity of the devil common to us all is a long way from demon possession.

But it is possible for a person to yield to temptation and sin and ignore the voice of God and Scripture and go so far down a road of spiritual, moral, and even physical destruction that it becomes possession and domination of one’s thinking, one’s will and decisions, feelings, and spiritual vision.

  1. Demons are opposed to the work of God, but are not independent of the authority of God. When Jesus speaks, demons clear out, because He has authority. He is in charge in the unseen world as well as any other world or realm.
  • For one thing, demons know that Jesus Christ is the Holy One of God.

This demon-possessed man confronting Jesus in the synagogue cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are! Have you come to destroy us?”

This was not a question of if, but when. The devil and his demons know their day of destruction is coming. As Luther put it in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “for lo, their doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.” Here the demon was asking if this was the time for the inevitable to take place.

  • That is why, also, demons shudder and tremble before God.

James 2.19 “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

  • Demons must submit to Jesus.

1 Peter 3.22 “… [Jesus] has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

  • Demons cannot escape their final judgment.

2 Peter 2.4 “… God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.”

This means that while the work of the devil and his demons is real and ongoing, it is limited and temporary. God and the devil are not two equals locked in a contest whose outcome is unclear. We don’t have to wonder how it’s going to turn out.

However, the devil has not yet laid down his arms. As long as we are following Christ in this world, we will be in a spiritual battle. Jesus said, “In the world, you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The world is indeed in the throes of a titanic spiritual warfare. Paul talks about it in Ephesians 6.10-20 and describes our spiritual armor that equips us to win the battle. But you first have to wake up to the fact the battle is going on. The cool thing to say today is that you’re “woke” about something. Well, you and I had better get woke to the war that’s going on for your soul and the soul of this country and the future of the world.

That’s how the movie Gettysburg begins, with a scene of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine regiment being awakened by his aide early one morning on their way northward through Maryland. He’s slow to get fully awake and get going, groggy, trying to get his coat buttoned, and at least resemble a commander; but the sergeant is persistent because orders have just come to break camp and lead the division to the great battle that is unfolding just a few miles up the road. The general doesn’t have the luxury of time to just ease into the day at his own pace. The battle is already joined and we’ve got to go get in it.

So it is Paul says in Ephesians 6, Ephesians 6:11-12 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I’ve never been one to blame the devil for every little problem or worry about him lurking and leaping out from behind every door or tree. But I am sure we are now seeing spiritual warfare breaking out into the open. We may think and act like it’s all about economics or politics or entertainment choices or how real the news is or isn’t or harmless lifestyle choices or whose team is winning or losing. The real battle, however, the fundamental conflict, is the unseen spiritual struggle at the root of all the chaos and the senselessness and the meanness and hatred and bitterness and the selfishness and godlessness we are seeing today.

How else can we explain, for example, a rationale that twists our constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion into a freedom from religion and leads to suing Christians who dare to live out their faith and values in the marketplace; to mocking and ridiculing any who would lead and legislate and litigate according to a Christ-centered worldview; and to firing someone who would teach and educate from a Christian foundation of truth and morality?

How else can we explain the rise of so many mass shootings and murders in a country that has always had guns available—yet without the senseless killing that has sadly become so common?

How else can we explain minds, bodies, families, and babies sacrificed on the altars of hedonistic pleasure and self-centered preference, consequences be damned?

You know you’re in a spiritual battle when a country decides it can summarily redefine marriage, sexual morality, and even one’s God-given identity as male or female. Don’t ever forget: what you believe matters. Ideas have consequences. So this is what you get when the so-called “Supreme” Court concurred with Justice Kennedy in a 1992 ruling related to abortion in which his reasoning concluded, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Ideas have consequences, indeed.

You know you’re in a spiritual battle when a Christian church denomination spends years and millions of dollars in dialoguing and debating whether or not the Bible is authoritative for faith and practice; when we spend more time accommodating sin than repenting of sin; when our property and positions become more important than our God-given purpose; when love and compassion are stretched out of shape far beyond the bounds of truth and holiness.

You know you’re in a spiritual battle when the church of God is shaped by the world, instead of the church shaping and influencing and impacting the world we live in; when families are torn between worship and sports; between prayer time and play time; between the Word of God and the world around us.

You know you’re in a spiritual battle when truth itself is up for debate, when right and wrong become conditional, when our ethics become situational, when feelings trump objective truth, when convenience and comfort take the place of morality and virtue.

You know you’re in a spiritual battle when you know what the right thing is, when the Bible is clear and plain, when the voice of God is still guiding your conscience and your spiritual warning lights are flashing—but something inside you pulls you in another direction, saying yes, yes, yes, when you know you should answer no, no, no.

Some of you can remember hearing Paul Harvey on the radio, and he once broadcast a piece called, “If I Were the Devil.”
“If I were the devil…”

  • I would delude people into thinking that they had come from man’s efforts instead of God’s blessings.
  • I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, not the other way around.
  • I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue.
  • I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership.
  • I would make it legal to take the life of unborn children.
  • I would take God out of public places, government, schools, and politics and make even the mention of his name grounds for a lawsuit.
  • I would get control of the media so that every night I could pollute the minds of every family member for my own agenda.
  • I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation.
  • I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable. If the family crumbles, so does the nation.
  • I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art.
  • I would convince that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marvelled.
  • I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naive.
  • If I were the devil, I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are.

Luke 4:33-36 A man possessed by a demon began shouting at Jesus, “Go away! We want nothing to do with you…Jesus “rebuked him;” or as the Living Bible puts it, “Jesus cut him short.” At the knees! Or ankles, or toes! Just shut up already. And he did.

Don’t be afraid of any demon. Just turn to Jesus and cut him down to size, and by faith in the Lord who holds absolute authority, you’ll discover that the roaring, shrieking demon is in reality pretty small and pathetic and ridiculous.

Because Jesus is Lord, every enemy, every attack, every temptation of the devil and negative influence of his demons are doomed to fail. Yes, we may get wounded. It might get hard to fight back – always easier to just lay down and give in. We may even take some casualties—this is war, after all, of the severest, most serious kind—more serious than wars with bombs and bullets, because here our very soul, our very survival is at stake.

Remember that in the end, Philippians 2:10-11 at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And for that reason, God has issued all the equipment, the spiritual gear, that we will ever need to prevail over our ancient foe who, remember, is already defeated at the cross and at the empty tomb. That equipment is our spiritual armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6, Ephesians 6:14-18 14  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

 

I invite you to come forward today and put on the spiritual armor of God through the prayer of faith. Listen: whether it’s our country, our homes and families, our church, or your own heart and soul—the devil can’t get any victory over you that you don’t let him get.

Some of you need to take time to put on the armor because you have not been a faithful soldier. Maybe you want to enlist and give your heart and life to Jesus Christ for the first time. Maybe you’ve let others do the fighting. Some of us here may even be away without leave. Why not come forward and declare that you are on the Lord’s side.

Others may want to come and pray about a particular need, a particular person, problem, obstacle that you are struggling with. The enemy is strong and you may be about to give in and surrender—maybe for the umpteenth time.

You come—and take on the armor of God by faith.

And in this battle, you and I are not alone. Praise God for the family of God, and we are ready to stand with you and around you this morning if you would like someone to pray with or talk with. Come and stand with Jesus, because the Bible says, 1 John 4:4 Greater is he who is in you than he that is in the world.