Archive for the ‘Epiphany 4B’ Category

The Battle Belongs To The Lord!

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The Battle Belongs To The Lord!
Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
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INTRO: This morning-this very second you and I are engaged in a battle-a battle with sin and the devil.  This battle has been ragging since the fall of some of God’s angels.  Scripture says very little about the fall of the angels other than they are awaiting their punishment (Jude 6). We know that there is a chief devil formerly known as Lucifer, now known as Satan.  We know that when he revolted against God, he took many other angels with him, because scripture says that there are many devils (Mark 5:9). “From the beginning” of man’s relationship with God the creator, the devil has been intent on taking away the life that God had given the human creature, that is, he wants to destroy our relationship with God (John 8:44). All devils recognize that they are engaged in a war to the death with God (Mark 1:23-24), but God is God and He has already won the battle. He has condemned all of the devils to “eternal chains under gloomy darkness” (Jude 6); that place of “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Even though they are already defeated, they are intent on continuing their attack on God by practicing their limited but formidable power (Eph. 6:11-12; Acts 26:18). And how do they attack God?  By attacking His most prized creation…you and me!  The devil’s aim is to make you forget about God’s love and power and to trick you into thinking that you have been abandoned by God.  They want to attempt to destroy the power of God’s Word in your lives; they want to destroy the trust that forms the human side of the relationship between God and you. They do this by undermining your confidence in the truth of God’s Word.

I. In our gospel reading this morning, we join Jesus at a worship service.  Imagine that you are sitting in a church in Galilee, and in walks a teacher and some of His followers.  Now you’re used to hearing guest preachers, so this wouldn’t be anything new, but all of that hum-drum changes when Jesus begins to speak.  You know how your mind begins to wander after the first few minutes of listening to something?  Well not with this teacher; you are glued to every word He is speaking.  In fact, you find yourself dumbfounded-mesmerized by the very Words that are coming out of His mouth.   He wasn’t teaching like the other rabbis; He wasn’t talking about rules and laws; He wasn’t even quoting the traditional teachings of other famous teachers; no this Man was speaking with authority and His teaching was clear and easy to understand.  It was if God were speaking to His people directly through the mouth of this new teacher. Everyone at worship that morning was struck by His Words as if by a powerful blow, and as long as Jesus kept speaking, every eye and every ear was fixed on him; they didn’t want to miss a single Word. But when His teaching had ended and the voice that held them spellbound became silent, the tension was relaxed, and then amazement swept over the listeners-something special had just happened in that little church.  Jesus teaching was not like anything they had ever heard.  Normally, the rabbis, priests, and Pharisees who usually taught were concerned with little things like the proper use of mint and cumin, or the length of a man’s fringes on his garment, and the proper washing of cups, and platters.  But Jesus talked about life and how to live it in abundantly.  He talked about eternal things and God’s love for man and His hatred of evil.

II. Dear friends, God’s Word has always been with us, even from the beginning of creation (Gen. 3:6), but through Jesus presence it comes to us new and with authority over sin, death, and the devil.  Scripture doesn’t say exactly what Jesus taught that day, but whatever it was, it came out with the power of God.  It cut into the hearts and minds of everyone listening like a sharp double edged sword.  It pierced their ears and their soul.  And here is a truth that we must learn: Jesus Word is always delivered and received with authority because it is the very Word-the very mouth of God speaking to His people, a people He so desperately wants to be in relationship with, and that includes you!  His Word is meant to destroy the power of sin and the strongholds of evil that hound you and take the joy out of your life.  He wants to free you from the control and direction of the devil and have you walk with Him in peace.  Does this sound like something you want as well?
ILLUS: There was an old man that lived in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. One summer, one of the old man’s grandsons spent his school vacation with him. The Grandson said, “PAPIE, I read the Bible and I don’t understand it, and what I understand I forget as soon as I close the Bible covers. What’s the use of reading the Bible!” Without directly answering the question, the Grandfather told the grandson to get the dirty, sooty basket he used to carry the heating coal and run down to the river and bring back a basket of water to the house. To please his grandfather, the boy grabbed the basket, ran to the river and got a basket of water. The boy ran back to the house with the water, but by the time he had reached the house the basket was empty. The grandfather simply looked at the young boy, and told him to hurry-up and bring another basket of water. The boy ran quickly from the river this time hoping to at least bring a little water, but once again, by the time he arrived at the house the basket of water was dry. After his third trip, the boy told his granddad, “It’s no use PAPIE, the water just spills out by the time I get here. It is useless.” The grandfather looked at the disgusted young boy, and said, “So you think it’s useless?” “Yes! Papie, it’s useless to try!” the boy replied. The Grandfather said to the boy, “Son, look at the basket.  Can’t you see something’s happened?” The boy was amazed, after three trips to the river; the dirty coal basket was clean-it looked new! The grandfather said, “See that’s what the Word of God does to you. As you read, you say you don’t retain and understand it, but your heart’s being cleaned. THE WORD OF GOD DOES THE WORK OF GOD!”
Friends, since we believe that the Son of God came to destroy sin, death, and every devil, and since we understand that there is true power in the Word of God, then we can understand the hatred that comes directly at us from the kingdom of darkness.  We understand that the devil hates God and us because…

III. God’s Word has power over the devils and over our own sinful flesh and desires.  Starting in verse 23 of our gospel we see this idea come alive.  After Jesus was through teaching, and while astonishment still held the people, “all at once,” a demon possessed man burst into the synagogue.  “And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God.”   Can you imagine the shock of those worshiping that day.  They had just heard this great teaching-this message from God-their minds and hearts were still trying to sort out what just happened and in bursts this poor demon possessed man, screaming at the very man that just changed their whole way of looking at the world and their life with God.  The people must have been thinking, “Why did this demon possessed man rush into our solemn assembly and violate both the sacred time and place and why is He so focused on this teacher?  

Yes friends, why indeed!  We can all agree that logically, the demon should have done everything in its power to drive the man he possessed away from Jesus in order to keep his hold on him. So why didn’t the demon do this?  Because the power of God, the very presence of Jesus compelled Him to come and receive that which every demon knows is their future…DEFEAT!

“(And) Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.” (vs. 25-26) Dear friends, the miracle of defeating the demon and freeing the man possessed, is a graphic example of how the power of Christ has saved us from sin.  It shows us that this power to free and to save doesn’t lie in the person who was saved, but instead it lies wholly in the authority of Jesus Word. Can you see that this person who was freed was so far gone that no one could expect faith from him, yet the freeing Word of Jesus, the gospel of peace with God, brought faith all by itself and through its own work. Do you understand friends that the Word of God is a seed that makes its own soil! It’s a spark that carries its own fuel to create a fire, and it’s a Word that can create new life and hope where there is only death and hopelessness.  Yes friends, the miracle here is the power of Christ’s Word alone to save from sin, and it doesn’t depend on the person being saved. This is the miracle of your baptism when God’s Word along with the water freed you from the power of sin, and the fear of death and the devil.  It is God’s Word that opens your ears and heart to hear these Words, “Do you renounce the devil and all of His ways?”  And it is that very same Word that moves you to answer, “Yes I do renounce them!”  Friends, your salvation lies wholly in Jesus himself. When Jesus speaks, His Word accomplishes its intent: “And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (vs. 26-27)

CONCLUSION: Friends, since we believe that the Son of God came to destroy the works of the Devil, we can understand why we are always under the attack of the kingdom of darkness; and if we will but look at Jesus as True God, who lives within us through His Word and Holy sacraments, then we can also understand how the Prince of Darkness might, in a counterfeit way, might try to do something similar by trying to possess or harass a person in order to cause injury and destruction, and separate that person from Christ and His healing and saving presence.  But through His Word, Jesus has snatched you from this fear and freed you from the grip of sin, death and the devil.  Live this truth-be bold in life-follow Jesus-and work for the advancement of His kingdom: “And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” (vs. 28)

Dear friends, this is our simple mandate-to spread Jesus fame, His love for all men-His Holy gospel, where ever we go.  We do this as individuals and we do this together as His church when we live our lives under His power which comes through His Word and then when we share that Word with who ever will hear. 

May the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life + everlasting.  In Jesus name…AMEN!