The Third Sunday in Lent

2017

 

The Epistle. Ephesians 5:1-14

The Gospel.  St. Luke 11:14-28

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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The Gospel today from St. Luke tells quite a story.  Jesus is found casting out a demon that possessed a man. 

 

The demon’s affect on the man was that it made him mute.  Unable to speak.  As soon as the demon was gone, the man could speak again.

 

Sadly, upon delivering this man from this oppression, some people around said that Jesus had done this work by some sort of demonic power…the power of some pagan god we read about in the Old Testament.

They were attributing His work to demonic forces.

 

In 2 Kings 1:2-4 we read this account of Ahaziah king of Judah.  He falls through some latticework in his upper chamber.  He is lying there not doing well and he sends messengers to inquire of this pagan god Baal-zabub the god of Ekron whether we would recover from his fall.

 

And angel of the LORD steps in and tells the prophet Elijah to go and intercept the messengers and tell them to go back to the king and ask why he doesn't consult the LORD God of Israel for things such as this.

 

God immediately makes this pronouncement through Elijah to the king because he went after another god for help, “You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” (ESV)

 

 

Ahaziah was not going to recover after all.  He was going to die of this fall.

 

Lesson: I am the LORD thy God.  Thou shalt have no other gods but me.

 

So this is apparently the god to whom they are accusing Jesus of getting his power from.  Baal-zebub.

 

A pagan god.

A false god.

A non-existent god.

 

Jesus points out the foolishness of their argument.  If I were to go after another god for help…a pagan, false god….which is nothing more than a demon…how would I then be able to use his power to cast out a demon?

 

Why would satan be divided in such a way as to allow defeat to himself?

 

So there is the first dialogue.

Then Jesus teaches something about demons and unclean spirits and with a parable-type teaching. 

 

When an unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders around aimlessly until it decides that it should really just go back to where it came from.

 

When it returns it finds the place (or the person) swept clean and in order and inhabits it again, only this time with greater fervor…greater intensity.

 

It brings 7 other spirits with it more evil than itself and the state of the person possessed is now worse than it was before.

 

The teaching here is, “…lifting a corner of the veil which hangs over the unseen world.”[1] 

Meaning, this message….all of it this morning is a warning about the spirituality of the situation.  This is spiritual warfare. 

 

Bishop Ryle says of this illustration, “…the main lesson of his words, which concerns us, is the danger of our own individual souls. They are a solemn warning to us, never to be satisfied with religious reformation without heart conversion.

There is no safety excepting in thorough Christianity. To lay aside open sin is nothing, unless grace reigns in our hearts. To cease to do evil is a small matter, if we do not also learn to do well.—The house must not only be swept and whitewashed. A new tenant must be introduced, or else the leprosy may yet appear again in the walls.—The outward life must not only be garnished with the formal trappings of religion. The power of vital religion must be experienced in the inward man.—The devil must not only be cast out. The Holy Ghost must take his place.

Christ must dwell in our hearts by faith. We must not only be moralized, but spiritualized.” [2]

 

He even closes his comments like this, “Let our daily prayer be, “Search me, O God;—and see whether there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24.)[3]

 

Now coupling this teaching with what Paul writes this morning, we get a fuller theme for today.

 

In Ephesians 5:1-14 he tells us how the heart is transformed and what we are in Christ, so that we might hear what Paul says, strive toward what he says, and find the grace of God at work in us…in our hearts.

 

He notes three things about us. 

We are beloved children of God.

We are saints.

We are light in the world.

 

He begins his 5th chapter, where we pick up today, by saying this, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 

This call to imitation of God or imitation of Christ is valuable.  We can see why this is used, as most of us, especially those who have children, can see how the child imitates its parents.  This is Paul’s analogy here.

 

They not only develop facial features or a certain walk or behavioral pattern that mimics one of the parents.

 

As they get older, their behavior develops and they imitate the parent in choices they make.  The actions they take.

Copied behavioral patterns are more prominent. 

 

Well this is what Paul is getting at here with this.  We are children of God…children of Christ.  He calls us to imitate God as revealed in Christ in ways that we can. 

 

He wants us to develop a pattern of charity for others….concern for others.  He wants us to avoid certain things that do harm to body and soul.

 

He is not calling us to perform miracles or thankfully get crucified.  But He does tell us that we are to take up our cross as well and follow Him. 

Paul says be imitators of Christ.  He calls us to be longsuffering with those who may need us.  Stand by people who are sick and need us.  Visit people.

 

All of the things that Jesus did that we too can do to others to share Christ’s love.

Paul’s list is specific today. 

No foolish talk, or crude joking.  These, he says, are out of place. 

Being morally pure as was mentioned last week. Keeping the body in check. 

Not coveting. 

Being satisfied with what God has supplied you.

 

Second then, we are saints.  This term is so plain in Scripture as it is applied to all Christians.  It is baffling how the notion developed that saints are only those we see in pictures in art, or on the walls of Churches or statues.  As if they were sort of beyond human in some way.

 

Other than being with Christ in glory now, they are human beings just like we are….fallen…in need of a savior. 

 

 

 

 

But the title saint evolved from referring to all Christians as the early Church understood it to mean….to be attached only to those who showed great piety….to those who showed great faith…or were martyred. 

 

But Paul here is talking to the congregation in general.

 

So with no further arguing the case, we are called saints.  The word saint shares the same root as the word sanctify.  Saints, like us, are sanctified, called out…separated out as holy.  Last week Sanctification was a prominent word in the sermon.

 

Saints are sanctified already in that they are separated out by the effectual call of God…by baptism and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 

 

And yet there is an ongoing sanctifying that is being done in us also by the Holy Spirit as well. 

 

Any behavior that goes against the Spirit’s sanctifying grace is, as Paul says, not proper among saints.

 

So we are beloved of God and saints.  But we are also light. 

 

The things Paul lists are done by those who are in darkness. 

They dwell in darkness. 

They don't like the light. 

 

When we sin against God or someone, we try to then hide it.  We hide them in the darkness.  If there is no light, then no one will see. 

 

But the Scriptures tell us that God is light and He dwells in unapproachable light.  He sees all things.

 

Those who walk in darkness, Paul says, we are not to become partners with them.  We are not to associate with them. 

We are to separate ourselves from them.

 

Paul says, we were at one time darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light. For the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true. 

 

Walk as children of light.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.  Rather, he says, expose them.  The way to expose something in the dark is to put a light to it.  We are to expose sin as it hides in the dark. 

 

So Jesus, casting out a demon demonstrates to us that He has done a similar work in us.  We were not demon possessed before we were Christians, but He has in fact come in and made His dwelling in us.

 

So now the life of the Christian is to be such that the presence of Christ is known and felt and outwardly shown. 

 

The bad that is cast out must be replaced with what is good.

 

“A religion empty of religion will prove no safeguard. What alone can keep Satan out is Christ in. Only the new growth casts off the withered leaves.”[4]

 

As beloved of God, Saints, and Light in the world…as swept clean, put in order and indwelt by Christ, let us be what we are.  Let us live as appropriately as the titles bestowed upon us.

 

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.



[1] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 26–27). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[2] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 26–27). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[3] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 26–27). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[4] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/YQ09A.l