(An article for the Faith section of the Park Rapids Enterprise - February 11, 2017)
“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive 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 safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” – Luke 11:17-23
We are kingdom people. We like to build up our castles, shine our armor, pick our boundaries, and savage one another. We do it well both out of desire for progress and out of fear of loss. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Jesus is a kingdom person too. He has His own agenda. He is actually an active force working to enter into our worlds, the worlds we use to hide and fight, to bind up the strong and to plunder the castle.
Here Jesus is using his infiltrating powers to enter into the castles of sin and evil to bind up those things which have taken us captive. Tying up the age-old enemies of sin, death and the devil, Jesus storms the gates of the house of these foes to plunder the rooms. To enter like the thief he is, Jesus has no need for a key, but barges his way in and imprisons those who have kept our souls captive in order to bring freedom; to bring you into his Kingdom and rescue you from the dangers that come in the hidden ways of the spiritual forces that crush us.
However, Jesus also can come into our homes, our lives, our souls, and bind us to rob our houses. Have you ever thought that you could be the strongman/woman? The one who puts up the walls, attempting to hide and bar God from the things that shame us or hurt others? The funny thing is that this is not unusual. Those foes I spoke of work this way, to help us become the strongman. Sin creeps in to make us think we have to protect our stuff and ourselves from the world, not realizing that we actually have to protect them more from Christ which in the end is futile because he knows all our tricks of hiding our sin.
Death stalks us at every turn causing us to fear the unknown. The fact that we have a mortality that is evident in illness and weakness makes us very good at taking the stance of the strongman.
The devil is not to be thought of us some guy with a goatee, dressed in red pajamas, horns and a pitchfork. Imagine evil – pure evil. That which wishes to destroy rather than create. That which causes fear and trembling. Do you think we would then wish to be that strongman? For sure.
The truth of the Gospel is that it is the work of God in Christ to redeem you. It is not about you opening up the doors to Jesus, or you cleaning up your own house. It is not about you fighting off the attackers or freeing yourself from sin. It is about Christ doing it. It is about Christ stepping in, imprisoning your sin, and letting you go. It is about Christ storming the ramparts and flinging wide the gates of death to give you life.
Gracious God, make us to know the freedom that is in you. In all our ways of guarding the things we need to lose, let rescue come to us through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen