The Bible is clear that we are involved in a great spiritual battle and therefore we need to put on our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:11-13). Spiritual warfare is real, and Jesus frequently found himself confronting demonic forces. In Luke 11, Jesus uses an encounter with demonic forces to drive home the importance of making a conscious spiritual commitment to God: “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” (v. 14). By this time in his ministry, Jesus was no longer laboring in obscurity. Word of his miracle-working power had spread throughout the land. Everyone had an opinion about him. Some liked him, some hated him; no one was neutral.
Many who lived in Jesus’ day saw miracles of a profound order, yet they remained in unbelief. In verses 15 and 16, we see two responses which fell short of faith. “But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.” Some were hostile, accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan himself. Others were impressed, but remained noncommittal. Some were hoping for another sign, another miracle.
The crowd understood that an exorcism had taken place. There was no question in anyone’s mind about that. Only one question remained. Where did the power come from to perform this miracle? From Satan or from God? Using irresistible logic, Jesus seeks to lead these skeptics to the truth. He does so by examining the accusation that Satan lay behind his miracle working power (vv. 17-20). First, Jesus argues that such a conclusion is illogical. Why would Satan undermine his own kingdom? Why would he work contrary to his own interests? The answer is obvious. He wouldn’t. Second, Jesus charges that such a conclusion is self- incriminating. Jesus says to the crowd, “Listen, if demons are cast out by Satan, then by whose power are your religious leaders casting them out? By condemning me, you condemn them. In effect, you are claiming that they, too, are in league with Satan.” Third, Jesus argues that their accusation is really an admission that Jesus has power over Satan (vv. 21-22). Here Jesus is comparing Satan to a powerful, well-armed man guarding his home. By casting out the demon, Jesus demonstrated his power over Satan. He invaded Satan’s territory, and set this mute man free.
Satan is no match for God. They are not equivalent beings. They are not dual deities, one representing good and the other evil. Satan is a created being, a fallen angel, fully subject to God’s power and authority. He can do nothing that God does not permit. He cannot act outside of God’s sovereignty. Having demonstrated the absurdity of the claim that he was in league with Satan, Jesus presses for a personal commitment: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (v. 23). In other words, when it comes to Jesus, you cannot be neutral. He demands that you take a side. You are either for him or against him. In Jesus’ mind, to be neutral is to be against him. Think of it this way. Someone breaks into your house and grabs your child, intent on killing him. You have two choices. Either you help or you don’t help. You are either for the intruder or you are against him. There is no neutral position. To be neutral results in the death of your child.
Whether you realize it or not, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Satan, the god of this world, wants to hold men’s souls captive. And they are, until we look to Jesus in faith. Which side are you on? If you are not for him, you have already cast a vote for the other side. Jesus concludes his teaching with a warning to those who have tasted of God’s power but have not followed up with a commitment of faith. His warning was especially appropriate for the formerly mute man he had just set free (vv. 24-26).
Jesus is describing a person who, despite having experienced a miracle of God’s grace, in this case an exorcism, refuses to make a faith commitment. He is unwilling to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior, and thus refuses to allow God to become Lord of his dwelling. He is grateful for the deliverance; he appreciates God’s good gifts; he just doesn’t want God! It is business as usual. In this passage, Jesus warns us of the folly of making such a terrible mistake. What was the result? The expelled demon would eventually return with seven more demons, each more evil than himself, and the last state of this man was worse than the first.
To taste of the things of God, to seek his help and to receive it, only to sink back into a state of spiritual apathy, is to invite spiritual disaster. In the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves engaged, we simply cannot remain neutral. We must choose sides.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
Neutrality toward Jesus is a myth; to fail to trust him is to reject him (John 3:16-18). If you love the world, you are hostile toward God. Stop living a life of compromise (James 4:4-8).
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)