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Self Reliance

Luke 11:14 -- 36

Lesson audio

Perhaps no society on earth (as of late) so clearly represented the kingdom of Satan as Nazi Germany. One of the clearest examples of why such a kingdom seems to prevail – and doesn’t – is found in the history of Operation Sea Lion. This was the planned invasion of Great Britain. The story may be apocryphal, but it found its way into Bartlett’s: When Churchill made his famous “fight them on the beaches” speech, it is recorded that he put his hand over the microphone and said, “And when they land, we will hit them over the head with beer bottles, which is all we really have.” Contemporary opinion held that the Nazis could not lose; so how is it that they never invaded?

Let’s look at some of the mistakes:

  • The navy – essential to convoying ships over the English channel – was practically destroyed in Norway, a secondary campaign theater.
  • The army never wavered from its demand that the navy put it ashore over a broad front, simultaneously – a feat well beyond the physical capability of Germany. They even insisted that all the troops land at high tide, simultaneously. As the tides over that front varied by about four hours, that would have been quite a trick.
  • The air force refused to go after the Royal Navy – the core of the problem – but instead decided on an “absolute” air war. When they had the RAF almost whipped, Hitler decided to change that to a terror bombing campaign. The result? Both the Royal Navy and the RAF were capable of resisting the assault – which therefore was never attempted.

Why? Because all these leaders were jockeying for position and power – and thus saw cooperation with the other services as worse than useless. It’s the way of this world. It’s Satan’s method.

Let us see this same lesson in the Scripture.

The Great Divide

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. "If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. "And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. "But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. "But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.

(Luk 11:14-23 NASB)

On demons

We must begin with a brief explanation on the subject of demons. Kindly remember that Satan is a liar, the father of lies. His lie to the modern world is that demons – indeed, all things spiritual – do not exist. Therefore, Satan does not exist; therefore the Bible is false. But to the third world he says, demons are more powerful than the missionary’s God.

Of course, he is greatly helped now in that demons are regularly portrayed on television. Sometimes they are evil, sometimes they are not – but our ideas about them now come from Buffy the Vampire Slayer rather than the Bible. I leave it to you which of the two is more likely correct.

If you wish to pursue it – and I don’t recommend that you do – start by talking with those on the mission field of the third world countries. The tales will enlighten, and possibly frighten, you.

The Kingdom of this world

Let’s go over the basic rules. See if these sound familiar to you:

·         Might makes right. He who has the gold, rules. I’m the biggest, do it my way. And – people need to be made to do things. Clamp down tight on everybody.

·         Authority ≠ power ≠ responsibility. The guy with the power distributes it via authority; responsibility is below that. The most common circumstance is to have the responsibility without either the power or the authority to carry it out.

·         Man is supreme. Everyone knows that I have the power to reform myself – if I just believe in myself strongly enough. Man is the ultimate judge of things. (Which is yet another great lie from Satan).

Seen this before? That’s how it was back in Christ’s time. Hasn’t changed much, has it?

Now arriving: the kingdom of God

Remember that in this time anyone who could cast out demons was considered to be approved by God. The phenomenon is not at all unusual; now as then the interpretation by most people is simply this: if you have the power to throw them out, you must have gotten it from a stronger spiritual power than the demon. The only such power is God himself. Therefore, the speaker is “God approved.”

But in this instance the speaker claims to be the Messiah; indeed, the speaker claims to be God in the flesh. How can this be? The others who cast out demons have a rather humble air about them; they acknowledge that it is not by their own power that the demons are cast out, but by God’s. This man says he is God – and somehow still has the power. It forces the choice: either he is indeed God in the flesh, or he is the Prince of Darkness.

That’s the great divide. Who is this Jesus? The decision is forced; you cannot have it both ways. Sadly, our generation replies, “Whatever.” We are content to sit on the fence, honoring this Jesus without allowing him to really affect the way we live. We are the Laodicean church.

The Value of Self Reformation

"When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' "And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. "Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first." While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

(Luk 11:24-28 NASB)

Let me begin with a little human experience:

  • How many diet books have hit the best seller list? Dozens, maybe hundreds over the years. If they’re so great, why do people keep on writing new ones?
  • Smoking. Did you ever hear someone tell you, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it dozens of times.”
  • Alcoholics Anonymous. While they’re not specific (any more; they used to be) about just what is that “higher power” they keep talking about, they make one clear point: if you don’t ask for the help, you’ll be back on the bottle very shortly.

The point? Trying to reform yourself, without help, is useless.

Oh, but that’s only for physical things, right? Think again:

  • How many times have you had the same argument with your wife? (Sorry about that dear, and I have taken this to the Lord).
  • How many times have you taken “invisible vengeance” – the rage of dreaming sheep?
  • How often have you allowed pride to swell in secret – saying to yourself, “How they ever picked him I’ll never know.”
The solution

The solution to self-reformation is to ask God to help. That help is both available and fruitful if you will keep your eye focused on Him. That’s the part that you can do (you focused on those diet books, didn’t you?). To make this work, however, you need to do two things:

  • First you need to hear the word of God. That will tell you what to do. Listen to the sermons and lessons; read the Scripture daily; ask your fellow Christians how they do it. Make an effort to hear.
  • Then you must do the word. Faith without works is dead.

Christ considers this of first importance. Indeed, his illustration here is this: it is better to hear and do than it is to be His own mother.

But what if I don’t want to do this? Suppose I’d rather do it my way? Surely God wouldn’t punish me for my good-hearted attempts at doing it myself, right?

Wrong. In a sense. He simply lets you do it yourself, working under your own delusions. That produces the inevitable consequences – which He intends as a stimulant for you to ask, “Why isn’t this working?”

OK – how do I know this is really true? Teacher, how about you passing a miracle or two so I’ll know that you’re really giving me God’s truth here. If you want the right answers, you must ask the right questions.

The Sign

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. "For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. "The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. "No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. "The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. "Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. "If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays."

(Luk 11:29-36 NASB)

Well, maybe that was then and this is now, right? But let’s see the symptom of a wicked generation – and see if it applies to us. It’s simple: the wicked generation is one which seeks a sign.

What’s so bad about that? If I’m looking for an auto mechanic, the sign I look for is that he can fix my car, right? Yes, but the mechanic is a man just like you. God is not.

If you look for God, you must be prepared to deal with him as God. You cannot say to the Lion of Judah, “jump through my flaming hoops.” God is not your equal; he is Creator of all things. He will give you a sign, all right; it’s called the Day of Judgment. That, by the way, is his to choose.

Can you not see that the “Me” generation will seek a sign like this one? If “Me” comes first, then God should do as I please. So give me a sign. “Me first” is the social equivalent of the Bible’s “wicked generation.” Now you know what’s wrong with this generation we’re in.

Compare yourselves

There’s another characteristic of our generation which is very telling: anything that happened before I was born is unimportant. So the fact that other generations repented means nothing to me. Indeed, we as a society have driven the church so far out of mind as to have forgotten that there ever was such an example in America. But it has happened; twice, in fact. The first “Great Awakening” (for such it is called) started in 1689 with Jonathan Edwards famed sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” About a hundred years later, approximately 1790 or so, there was a similar awakening which lasted at least through 1840, It makes interesting reading to see how pious and devout were our ancestors. As a Civil War history buff, it is astonishing to see the difference.

The real question: will it happen again?

Single Mindedness

In the meanwhile, we have life to live. The picture Christ uses here depends upon a Greek concept. They saw the eye somewhat like a searchlight. Failures of vision were, in effect, the searchlight going out. Christ uses that idea to explain the spiritual equivalent: your eye must be single, as the King James had it. It means quite simply single minded devotion to him – and also single minded reliance. Make God your first resort, not your last. As the Scripture has him saying,

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me."

(Psa 50:15 NASB)

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