October 10, 2010
INTRODUCTION – As we have been working our way through the gospel of Matthew – one thing we have learned is that there are two kingdoms on the earth -led and ruled by two unseen rulers; and that all of humanity belongs to either one or the other, whether they are aware of it or not.
The first one is called the kingdom of darkness. This kingdom is ruled by Satan with the aid of his demons, which are fallen angels that chose to follow Satan when he rebelled against God – rather than to continue to bow down and worship Him. Every man, woman, young person and child that does not intentionally enter into the kingdom of God by being born again by the power of the Holy Spirit – is enslaved in this tyrannical kingdom of darkness.
The other kingdom is the kingdom of God. This kingdom is ruled by King Jesus with the aid of his good angels. This kingdom is characterized – the Bible says – by righteousness, peace, joy and spiritual power. One of the primary objectives of the gospel of Matthew is to present this King to us in all his glory and majesty, and to encourage us to enter into His kingdom.
Since Jesus Christ is not physically here anymore; and His angels – on the most part – go unnoticed – – even though they are quite active – – His primary instrument in expanding His kingdom – or helping others enter His kingdom – is His church – or His disciples, who make up His church.
And one of the things that is necessary to enable some to enter into the kingdom of God is helping them get free from the demons that hold them captive in the kingdom of darkness.
This morning we come to a passage that finds – as is often the case – Jesus casting out a demon – and then the crowd responding one way, and the Pharisees – the religious leaders of that day – responding in quite another way.
Let’s read the first part of this passage, and then I want to talk to you about how to properly respond to Jesus Christ and what He is doing on the earth today– through His people – – and specifically how to assess people who claim to be casting out demons in His name.
(read Matt. 12:22-29)
Before we draw some lessons from this story, let’s make sure we have the facts straight.
Some caring friend or friends brought to Jesus a man who was both blind and mute – that is – he was unable to speak.
Jesus healed the man and immediately the man was able to both see and speak.
Now that didn’t happen every day in Israel; in fact I’m sure the people in the crowds there had never seen this done before. It was such an amazing miracle that the crowds wondered if He possibly was the long awaited Messiah. They knew the Old Testament prophets had often prophesied that a Messiah was to come who would do miraculous things like this, and who would care for the oppressed.
But when the Pharisees heard of this miracle, they immediately concluded that the source of His power was not God, but rather the devil – the ruler of demons.
Now if I had just done such a miracle of this magnitude, and all the crowd around had the sense to know someone special was in their midst; and then the religious leaders, who should have known better than anyone – – cynically accused me of operating by the power of Satan – – I probably would have stormed out of there – or said some things I would have later regretted.
But Jesus patiently reasoned with them as we see starting in vs. 25. First He used war time principles to help them see how unreasonable and illogical their claim was.
Basically Jesus stated that Satan – the fallen ruler of demons and the god of this world – as he is called in the gospel of John – is trying to build a kingdom. The way he builds his kingdom is by enslaving people to sin; and literally possessing some of them by his demons. If that is the only way he has to build his kingdom and to keep his subjects in his kingdom, why in the world would he empower Jesus to set people free from the very demons he is using to keep them bound in his kingdom? That’s His first argument.
His second one in vs. 27 goes like this. If I – Jesus – by Satan’s power, cast out his own demons from people, …..when your Jewish ministers cast out demons, who is to say they are not doing the same? You would never say that about them.…. And I have lived a perfect life in absolute obedience to and dependence upon the Father, which they haven’t. Because of the hypocrisy of your accusation, every one of these men will be a reminder of the cynicism and hard heartedness and foolishness that you are guilty of.
His third argument in vs. 28 & 29 is that if the source of His power and authority was not Satan, but was instead the Holy Spirit of God – – then this is evidence that the very kingdom of God that you have longed for is in your midst. The only rational explanation for someone being able to break into Satan’s kingdom and steal and rescue one of his subjects is that they have a greater power to overcome and bind his power, which is only found in the kingdom of God.
Transition: Now in this next section of scripture we are going to find answers to several questions about blasphemy, which is what these Pharisees were guilty of. Let’s read it first (vs. 30-32)
Jesus introduces His short discussion on blasphemy in vs. 30, by first making sure everyone listening knows that there is no neutrality with Jesus Christ. You are either with Him by accepting who He says He is and following after Him, or you are against Him – – there is no middle ground. Even if you are not aggressively trying to attack Him or those who follow Him, if you do not believe Him, trust in Him and follow Him, you are against Him. You might as well be one of His most vicious critics.
He goes on to say, If you are not working with Him to expand His kingdom and help more people enter into it, you are actually scattering or hindering people from entering it. If you just live a good moral life; and do not vocalize your devotion to Jesus Christ, then you allow people to just think you are – – and thus they can be – good moral people on their own – and that is enough. No bowing the knee to Jesus Christ and asking Him to forgive and cleanse you from all your sin is necessary. Just be a good person. This is a heavy statement that cuts through the spiritual fluff that we hear so often in this Coastal Region.
Now we jump into the subject of blasphemy. Vine’s expository dictionary defines it as “speech defamatory of the Divine Majesty.”
Jesus says there are two kinds. One is forgivable. One is not. The first kind is blasphemy against Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus says in vs. 32 that if you or I speak blasphemous words against Jesus Christ; and then some time later come to our senses and repent of our sin – – we will find forgiveness.
But if we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. That is – if we attribute His work to Satan. We will not be forgiven.
Now those of you who have learned of the amazing grace and tender mercies of our God – especially since Jesus Christ has made a sufficient payment available for our sin on the cross – – you know there is no sin that is beyond the cross of Christ. So what gives with this statement?
Well the best commentary on scripture is the scriptures. And with a verse like this – you have to harmonize it with the rest of scripture that has to do with the forgiveness of sins. Didn’t the apostle John say that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness?”
I mean was there ever a more vicious opponent of the faith than the Pharisee of Pharisees – Saul (who became the apostle Paul after his conversion)? And yet he says in his first letter to his young disciple Timothy that “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
So the only thing we can say here is Jesus must be referring to people who to their dying day claim that works of God – done by the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit – were in fact inspired and enabled by Satan.
Now we could quibble about this, but the more serious issue here is whether you or I are guilty of this sin. This pharisaic spirit that judges the source and validity of a supernatural or miraculous act – – without any objective grounds – and determines it is not of God, but rather of the devil – is a very dangerous spirit or state of one’s heart.
There are self appointed judges in the body of Christ that think it is their duty to inform people that certain things going on in the body of Christ – while claimed to be of God – are really of the devil – – or at least are definitely not of the Holy Spirit. Whether they are speaking of a healing, someone speaking in tongues or prophesying, casting out demons, or whatever – – this goes on way more than it should. And these judges often have no objective grounds or evidence whatsoever to back up their claims.
Now am I saying therefore that we should just accept at face value any and every claim to having done something supernatural or miraculous by the power of the Holy Spirit? No – Jesus is not saying we are to do that. In fact He has already told us in ch. 7 of this same gospel of Matthew – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” So clearly there will be people under the large Christian umbrella so to speak – – who claim to be Christian because of the miraculous works they claim to do, but who in fact are not Christians at all – or perhaps better to say born again Disciples of Jesus Christ.
Transition: In this last paragraph – Jesus Christ wants to give us a better handle on discerning the source or authenticity of all the various religious voices out there. (read vs. 33-37)
Now if you have been paying attention in this series – you know that Jesus has already spoken of this analogy of a tree and its fruit – in Matt. Ch. 7. Both there and here – the issue at stake is discerning whether a person is authentic and of God and inspired by God or not. For Jesus to refer to this twice within five chapters – we need to know that this challenge to discern properly and accurately is significant. There will always be people on T.V., and even in our Coastal Region, who will claim to be followers of Christ, who claim to do miracles in Jesus’s name, and it will not always be easy to know whether they are the real thing or not.
Thus we need help – practical and tangible ways to examine what we are seeing and hearing. Basically what Jesus is saying is this, pay little attention to their words; watch their lives like a hawk. Are they humble before God and men – seeking to glorify and please Christ and not bring attention to themselves? Do they love their wives as Christ loved the church? If they are women ministers, and are married, do they gladly submit to their husbands and respect their authority? Are they hands on with their children in loving , non manipulative and abusive ways? Are they people of integrity in their work and with financial issues? Are they people who are under authority and who pursue authentic accountable relationships with other people? Do they put down other ministries to build up their own? Or do they trust Christ to vindicate them and validate them?
If their lifestyle and character is in question; then their fruit or works should be as well.
If their lifestyle and character and family life is in keeping with Biblical righteousness; then their fruit and works can be trusted.
Jesus gets a little passionate with the Pharisees in vs. 34, but much is at stake here! If they continue in this vein of baseless accusation against Him, they will burn in hell for all of eternity, because they will have blasphemed unto the end of their days the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus. So not only is He concerned for them, and wants them to see the seriousness of their error, but He also wants them to know how serious their negative influence on the crowds or the Jews is. Thus He ends with the reality that every callous and careless word we speak about others that is baseless, and that is out of our own insecurity, jealousy, envy, hatred or pride – – instead of from a heart that is righteous before God – – – we will have to give an account for – – or we will be judged for.
Are we to discern and examine fruit? Yes. But that takes time, and you have to know a person and be around a person to do that. Or at the least you need to get your information from someone who first walks in righteousness himself; and second who personally knows and has known the said person in question.
O.K. – – let me bring this to a close with some concluding observations, that I trust will help us all be more confident – that when we meet our Maker face to face, we will not bow our heads in shame for having judged people or ministries unrighteously; but rather we will have done our due diligence in examining the tree by its fruit.
1. Usually when Jesus Christ cast out demons – there were specific physical symptoms that the demon possessed people were tormented with. And once the demons were cast out, they were immediately healed or set free from these physical symptoms. Let me share a few examples:
– Matt. 8:28-34 – – Jesus encountered two men who lived in tombs; and they were extremely violent to everyone who passed by there. If you look at the parallel account of this story in Mark 5:15 you will find that after Jesus cast the demons out of them – they were found sitting down, clothed and in their right minds (actually Mark only mentions one of the men, but we can assume this was true of both).
– Matt. 9:32-33 – – A mute demon possessed man was brought to Jesus. Jesus cast out the demon, and the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed because those kinds of things just didn’t happen.
– In our passage for today – Matt. 12 – a demon possessed man who was both blind and mute was brought to Jesus and after Jesus cast out the demon – he could both speak and hear; and again the crowds were amazed.
I have seen Christian ministers purportedly casting out demons out of Christians who were struggling with some sin. There were no physical symptoms of this demon being present. And thus there were no visible removal of those symptoms either. And yet the Christian minister claimed that he or she just cast out a demon. It seems to me – – Biblically speaking – when someone is possessed by a demon it is obvious before with various physical symptoms and it is obvious afterwards that those problems have been fully taken care of.
2. Most if not all cases of casting out demons in the New Testament seem to have to do with unbelievers or seekers, not with believers who have been seeking the Lord for a while. I personally have seen a lot of questionable demon casting out practices from Christians on Christians. Can believers be harassed and oppressed by demons? Absolutely. But I do not believe they can be possessed; and again there just are no biblical examples of known believers who were a part of the growing church having demons cast out of them.
3. My strong conviction is that as we get more and more involved with the folks in this community who are lost and do not know the Lord, we will be found increasingly having to cast out demons. But in the meantime, we need to all be cleansed of some of the images and perceptions we have of this ministry that are not in keeping with the Biblical pattern.
– For instance – rarely if ever do we see people yelling at demons in scripture. We do see demons shrieking and sometimes the people they have possessed crying out with a loud voice. But whether it is Jesus or Paul or Phillip or whomever…there are no statements that lead us to believe they were yelling and screaming at the demons.
– Sometimes the scripture tells us – as in our passage today – that a person is demon possessed – and then it says Jesus healed them. Doesn’t even mention Him addressing the demon. I think the more we walk in the power and authority of the Lord, the more we will sometimes see that happen. I know in the Healing room movement, they encourage the workers to not overtly address demons; but rather to just soak them in the presence of God and speak truth over them. In saying that, my guess is that most of the people who go to the Healing Rooms are saved.
– Well we can talk more about the biblical pattern as we get to passages where this is discussed.
4. Finally I just want to make sure that we all see that Matthew’s main concern in this passage – vs. 22-37 – – is the problem and/or sin of unrighteously judging or accusing Jesus or someone who represents Him of doing a work of God by the power or inspiration of the devil. Jesus Christ only carried out His ministry on earth for about 3 and a half years. But in that short time He did a truck load of miracles; and He lived an absolutely pure and spotless life – beyond reproach. There is no excuse whatsoever for anyone today refusing to bow the knee to Him and acknowledge Him as the one and only Savior of the world and the Son of God.
As to the works and ministries being done in His name today all over the world – – be very careful how you judge and assess them. I’m not saying – do not judge and assess them. I’m just saying do not be drawn into this spirit of the world that considers everyone guilty until proven innocent. All of us need to grow in this spiritual skill of judging a tree or minister or so called servant or disciple of Christ by the fruit of their life. And the more you and I are seeking to bear Biblical Spirit produced fruit ourselves, the more we will be able to detect it in the lives of others.