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TEXT: Luke 4:31-44
SUBJECT: Luke #11: The Power of Christ's Word
SATAN IN THE WORLD NOW
Thirty years ago, Hal Lindsay wrote a best-selling book called Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. I wouldn't recommend the book itself, but I sure like its title. It describes the world-and what's wrong it-better than any book you'll find from University Presses or any speeches our President and other world leaders make every day.
Read the scholars, listen to the politicians and you'll hear plenty of bad guys-poverty, racism, Islamic Fundamentalism, communism, capitalism, on and on it goes. The Iranians call us The Great Satan; we call them (and others) The Axis of Evil.
Yet, when naming all the bad guys in the world, nobody ever names the Devil. Yet the Bible teaches that he is behind all them all! He is
"The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now energizes the children of disobedience".
SATAN IN THE WORLD THEN
The work of Satan did not start in 1972. It goes way, way back. The devil was not created wicked-God "Made everything beautiful in its own time" .said the Preacher, including Satan. But the devil fell from holiness and beauty and became the ugliest and most sinful thing in the universe. Our Lord called him a "Murderer from the beginning, a liar and the father of lies".
The Lord was not exaggerating. Look at the devil's record and you'll see he spreads nothing but misery wherever he goes. He corrupted Adam and Eve in the Garden-and ruined us all there too. In the New Testament, you see the hideous effects he had on people-making one man a lunatic, throwing a boy into the fire, doubling up a dear lady for eighteen years. On and on it goes!
This brings us to our text. Look what he did to the people of Capernaum. He possessed a man in the synagogue and made him scream out at the Lord Jesus Christ. That one man wasn't alone. Near the end of the chapter, we see many more were indwelt by unclean spirits, who no doubt caused them much grief.
But that's not all the damage he did in the town. He also made people sick. Peter's mother-in-law has a high fever and others are sick as well (though we don't know with what). Now, don't misunderstand me here. Satan is not the direct cause of all sickness. Being ill doesn't mean you're in sin. Mary or Martha sent our Lord a note one day about their dying brother, "Lord, the one whom You love is sick".
The sick man was loved by the Lord Jesus Christ. His sickness was not the direct result of giving in to the devil; it wasn't a scandalous or a secret sin that killed the man.
But, with that qualifier, we can still say that Satan is behind all sickness, disease, and death. Indirectly, of course. Had he not tempted Adam and Eve, they wouldn't have sinned. If they wouldn't have sinned, then illness and death would not have been unleashed in the world.
Last year, a good friend of mine died after a long bout with cancer. Looking at him for the last time, I could only mutter sin must be far worse than I think it is. To loose cancer on the world-to take healthy bodies and rack them with pain and turn them into living skeletons. Sin is very bad. And the devil is behind all sin, thus, indirectly, the cause of all sickness and death.
HOW CHRIST FELT ABOUT IT
When the Lord came to Capernaum, He was very unhappy with what Satan had done to the town. Very often in the Bible, we read of his reaction to human suffering- "He was moved with compassion".
He felt sorry for people possessed by demons or suffering with sickness or the death of a loved one. But not only did he feel compassion for them, it also made Him mad! At the tomb of Lazarus, "He groaned in the spirit".
This means something like anger. He was mad about what Satan had done to His world. Remember, Jesus Christ is the Creator of the world and man is made in His image. Thus, when he sees sin and suffering and death, He cannot be indifferent.
Think about it: What if you came home from work one day to find your house burned down and charred remains of your family who couldn't get out in time. How would you feel? You'd be heartbroken!
But what if you then looked next door and saw your neighbor smiling? And holding a can of gasoline and a box of matches? It wasn't an electrical fire-which is nobody's fault. It was arson! Your neighbor had burned down the house on purpose and destroyed everything you love. Now, how would you feel? Heartbroken, of course-but not only that. You'd also be furious. You'd want to kill the man who did it! And no jury in the world would convict you for it.
This is how the Lord feels when He sees the carnage Satan leaves all over the world. Think of a magnificent cathedral-littered with dead bodies. That's what the world is-beautiful as originally built, but marred by the devil's non-stop malice.
WHAT CHRIST DID ABOUT IT
The Lord was very upset by what He found in Capernaum. But He didn't leave it there. He also did something about it. What He did is speak.
You've heard it said, "Talk is cheap". And so it is-but not the Lord's talk. He spoke and things happened! His Word cast out demons and healed the sick.
And more, too. It also enlightened men and moved them to repentance and faith. The scribes were fine preachers-in terms of style. But their preaching didn't get the job done! It may have justified their salaries or made people say, "Ah, that's what Ezekiel 37:2 means!"
But whatever their preaching did, it did not overthrow the kingdom of Satan. The demon-possessed man may have sat in the synagogue for years before hearing a sermon he didn't like! But the Lord comes in-and he flies into a rage-because he knows the Word of Christ means the end of his wicked rule.
The Word of Christ overthrew the Kingdom of Satan in those days.
THE WORD OF CHRIST LATER
And it didn't lose its power.
The Early Church had an incredible job set before them. Conditions could not have been worse-Israel was under the thumb of the Pharisees who had perverted the Word of God to their own wicked ends. And the rest of the world was wholly given to idolatry.
And if this wasn't bad enough, the Lord gave the Church nothing to nations with but one thing-His Word. They had no money, no organization, no friends in high places, no armies, no nothing you'd think they would need to do the job.
Yet they did the job. Paul says-in his day-no more than thirty years after the crucifixion-
"Have they not heard? Yes, they have; their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world".
What the wisdom of Greece and the power of Rome could not do in centuries, the Church did in thirty years. They pushed back the darkness and broke Satan's power in the world.
And they did it with nothing but the Word of Christ. Luther had it right,
"The Prince of darkness grim; we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure- one little WORD shall fell him".
I wish I could say the Reformers never stooped to carnal means-that Luther and Calvin and Zwingli, Knox, and so on, never fell back on human wisdom or political intrigue, or even armies. But, they did. Yet these things did not promote the Reformation, but hindered it. What broke the power of Rome and freed men to live under the Lordship of Christ alone was the Word of Christ.
"That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth".
THE WORD OF CHRIST NOW
What the Word of Christ did then, it still does. Even today the Word of Christ saves sinners; it makes believers holy; it comforts the sad, rebukes the proud, and fits us for heaven.
"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek". "Sanctify them through Your Word, Your Word is truth". "The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple". "The Word of God is alive and sharper than any two-edged sword". "Through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, you might have hope".
Since the Word of Christ overthrows the rule of Satan, we've got to rely on it. In the 1970's we had "The Battle for the Bible". On one side, you had people who thought it was inerrant. On the other side, you had men who said it was true in matters of faith, but on other issues, it was full of mistakes.
Thankfully, our side won that battle. The Liberals were thrown out of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis; gradually they were purged from the Southern Baptist Seminaries too. That's good.
But while winning the battle for inerrancy, we lost the war for sufficiency. And most of us didn't even know we were in it! "Every word of the Bible is true!" roars the conservative pastor, but when someone has a mental or emotional problem, he sends him to a psychiatrist who doesn't believe the Bible. Or, maybe a Christian counselor who does believe the Bible, but never uses it in his therapy!
The same is true with child-rearing. The Bible says a lot about that-what to do, how to do it, in what attitude. It urges prayer and teaching and correction, a good example, and so on. The Evangelical agrees with every word of Proverbs. But when his kid won't behave, it's off to the doctor for Ritalin.
Unlike some Christians, I am not against Ritalin. Like other drugs it can be helpful. I don't pray when I have a headache, I take an aspirin. However using it in the rare case where it is needed is a lot different than giving it to every obnoxious kid whom you don't want to deal with.
Using drugs as a first resort is tame your kids is another example of affirming the inerrancy of the Bible while denying it's sufficiency.
Personal growth in grace is a third example. The Bible teaches that is done through prayer, meditation, Bible study, confession, fellowship, and plain old effort! Believers say, "Amen" to that.
But when they have personal problems-especially stubborn ones-they try the old ways for a while-and then look elsewhere. Maybe the means of grace worked for St. Augustine, but I need to find My inner child or dig up my Repressed memories.
Can you see the folly of this? We say
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for all good works".
But we don't act as though we believe it.
In effect, it's the same thing the Liberals believe and we denounce, namely that the Bible is true about a few religious issues, but it cannot be trusted for the real things in life.
Yet the most real thing in life is the work of the devil, which is destroyed by the Word of Christ!
If the Word of Christ overthrows the Kingdom of Satan, we can rely on it-and use it with confidence.
If the Word of Christ is to overthrow the devil, then it must be read, remembered, and understood. The Bible is not a good luck charm to ward off Satan. Bible words are not magic spells. There were some men in the Bible who thought otherwise. And were they sorry!
They were the sons of a famous Rabbi. When they saw Paul casting out demons in the name of Christ, they figured this is a good way to make some extra money. They came to a possessed man and commanded, "In the Name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, come out of him".
But the devil laughed at them.
"Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?"
He jumped on all seven brothers, beat them bloody, and ran them out of the house-naked! It served them right, thinking the Word of Christ is an incantation!
Study the Bible-don't settle for the mere words, but get their meaning. Pray for understanding. Commit verses to memory. Then, when the devil tries to tempt you or confuse you, unsheath the Sword of The Spirit, and go to war with it!
No one who ever handled the work skillfully and with prayer, ever lost a battle.
"Resist the devil and he will flee".
You resist him with the Word of Christ. If it worked way back when, it will work now. For that Word-and the One who stands behind it-is unchanged and unchanging.
Now, get out there and do it. And the love of God be with you.
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