Luke 11:19. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?
Luke 11:21-22. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.
Luke 11:24-26. 24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
How does change take place in a person’s life? What is God’s process for spiritual progress? What gives us the power to be truly transformed from the inside out?
In the scriptures above, Jesus tells us that there are two ways that people try to change. One of them fails every time. But the other produces true, lasting transformation.
This teaching from Christ comes as he was casting out demons. When some of the people began accusing him of playing for “team Beelzebub,” Jesus used it as an opportunity to show us, one again, that there are only two options in this life. Only two ways to live. Only two kingdoms. Only two power sources. His kingdom of life, light, and love, and Satan’s kingdom of darkness and self-righteousness.
Jesus’ words are hard to take. Here’s what he’s saying – any change in your life, even if it looks good, sounds good, and acts good, if it is not from the power of the indwelling life of Jesus, it is from the power of darkness, the kingdom of Satan.
Look at Luke 11:19 again. Jesus is acknowledging that change is happening. Demons ARE being cast out. But not by the power of God.
Many things in this life can help you “be better.” There are many ways to solve your problems. Most religions can turn you into a “good person.” Self-help. Behavior modification. Moralism. Coping mechanisms. Law keeping. Traditionalism. All of these can make you look better, sound better, act better. There are many ways to remove your “demons.” But if the source is not the power of Christ and his grace, then you’ve just used Satan to cast out Satan.
But wait. Why would Satan cast out Satan? Jesus even said “a house divided cannot stand.” So why would Satan allow our “demons” to be removed? Why would the Devil let us be “better?”
Jesus explains it for us in Luke 11:24-26. When we sweep out our house (our life) and get our home in order. When we send that unclean spirit into the desert. When we make commitments, resolutions, re-dedications. When we make “good choices,” change behaviors, get therapy, join a program, all in order to be better, to be acceptable, to overshadow our shame and guilt, to improve our lives. When we do all of this apart from the unconditional love and acceptance of Christ, we are actually just clearing out space in our heart and inviting seven more evil spirits to move in. Nastier spirits like pride and self-righteousness.
In the end, even though it looks like true change has occurred, it hasn’t. Not really. Maybe your lust is gone but legalism has come. Maybe anger left, but passivity took its place. Maybe you don’t argue with your spouse anymore, you just join them in judging everyone else’s marriage. Maybe you’ve stopped lying or cheating, but it’s only because pride moved in and convinced you that “good people” don’t lie or cheat.
Could it be that the vast majority of “Christian change” is actually this sort of false transformation? One demon out, seven new ones in? Clean cups on the outside, but filth on the inside (Luke 11:39)?
Jesus tells us that the only real way to change is to have the stronger man come in and defeat the strong man (Luke 11:21-22). Change can never come by simply removing “demons” from our lives, because new demons just move in. What we need is a whole new master of the house. A stronger man to drive out the “demons.” We need a whole new source of power for transformation. We need the powerful unconditional love of Christ to take up residence in our hearts. We need the strength of his grace to bring true change. Change that comes from dependence upon his goodness alone, not from self-righteousness and pride.
“To live is Christ” offers us the power of true change. The power of the Stronger Man, Jesus Christ, making his home in our hearts, transforming us by his true love and real grace. Change that comes from a pure heart of dependence, rather than from demonic self-righteous pride.
Have the “good” changes in your life been true gospel change, or demonic self-righteous change?
You in Christ
In Christ the Strong Man has moved in. He is actively fighting off the demons who come knocking. How does this encourage you in the fight?
Christ in you
What would it mean for you to let the Strong Man take control of your heart today?
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