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The Spoils of War

April 14 2024

Book: Luke

Scripture: Luke 11:14-28

Thank you for reading this sermon from Christ Fellowship. I hope and pray that this sermon will be a blessing of grace and truth to you. With that said, let me encourage you not to use this sermon as a replacement for your local church. Christ Jesus did not establish his Church simply for us to consume content. Instead, He calls us to be part of a real, covenant family. 


Last week, Jesus taught us to pray. Luke follows that teaching with a story and this story helps us understand WHY we need to pray. We need to pray because we’re at war. And we need some understanding of this war and our enemy to compel us to pray.

I love this quote by Samuel Chadwick – “The Devil fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

And that’s because He doesn’t fear us – but He does fear God. Luke 11, verse 14:

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.

Somehow a demon was preventing this man from speaking. That doesn’t mean that every physical problem is the result of demonic activity. But it does mean that such things are possible.

And that is the nature of this war. The Bible clearly teaches that there are unseen spiritual forces at work in our lives – no less real than the air we breath.

God has power over these forces, as Jesus demonstrated. But a significant part of the battle, for us, is a confusion and a mental resistance to these spiritual realities. Notice how some people responded to this miracle.

15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 

16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.

They doubt. In this case, they accept the reality of demons. Virtually everyone did at that time. Instead, they doubt the source of the power that Jesus demonstrates.

Notice how Jesus engages these doubts.

17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 

18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 

19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 

Jesus uses logic to answer their doubts. Doubt is a mental exercise and I appreciate that Jesus patiently answers their doubts with logic.

He uses two simple arguments. Argument 1 – if Satan is using his own power to cast out demons, then he is damaging his own kingdom. Argument 2 – couldn’t you make the same criticism of your own exorcists?

The point here is that when we are lost, we are so bent against the kingdom of God, we will turn to anything to justify our position – even disregarding simple logic.

Seeing the total eclipse on Monday – the ring of fire in the sky with several planets around it – it made me want to worship God. How amazing that the moon is the perfect size and distance from the earth to make something so beautiful, something that serves no purpose except to be beautiful. To surprise us with beauty, maybe once in our lifetime.

There is no way such things are cosmic coincidences. That we are the perfect distance from the sun and in the perfect place in our galaxy with the perfect atmosphere and tilt and rotation and a million other things necessary to sustain life. Indeed, the fool says in his heart – there is no God. And we see that same resistance here. But…

20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 

And there it is. This is the claim of Jesus… the claim of the Bible. The kingdom of God is being revealed to you.

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. 

In other words, our enemy is strong. But Jesus is stronger. The kingdom of God is actively overtaking the kingdom of the enemy. The dividing of spoil is what happens after the battle has already been won. Jesus is right now actively plundering the devil’s kingdom. And He gives us an ultimatum.

23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Pick a side. Pick a team. Neutrality is not an option with Jesus. He’s forcing you to make a choice. You should not delay the choice because of what Jesus says next.

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.”

This is a bit cryptic, but the message is simple. The demon will come back if nothing replaces it. And it will bring friends. Spiritually empty is no better than spiritually dirty. You must become empty to be filled – that’s true. But unless the Holy Spirit takes up residence, you are still vulnerable to the enemy.

The same is true of sin. You may work hard to rid yourself of something you’ve decided is bad behavior. But something else will quickly replace it. The human heart will never cease making idols until something more powerful takes up residence in your heart. This is the reality of the war we are living in.

This is why repentance and faith are necessary in the kingdom of God. It’s the daily emptying and filling of the Christian life – the daily rhythm of living in a warzone. Daily remembering our allegiance… daily submitting to our King.

To paraphrase a pastor friend – “There is nothing in our culture that is going to help us focus on the unseen realities of Jesus and his kingdom. If you are not intentional about this, the only reality will be entertainment. The only reality will be your bank account balance. The only reality will be what your children do on a field with a ball. The only reality will be who gets elected and what their policies are.”

There are unseen realities fighting for our allegiance. That’s really the point of this story. We don’t just need Jesus to cast out demons. We need Jesus to claim authority over US!

This must be the point because look at what happens next.

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 

Someone in the crowd, at least, wants to honor Jesus rather than question Him. And yet, Jesus responds with direct authority.

28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

In other words, you can be blessed too! How? By hearing and keeping the Word of God.

But what does it mean to be blessed? That word, in contemporary religious language, usually means success or physical health. When we think of someone who is “blessed” we think of someone living the kind of life we wish we had. And that’s a message that sells, which is why so many preachers are peddling that kind of blessing.

But that’s not what the Bible means. That’s not what Jesus means. I know this because very often the word blessing is used in the same sentence as the word suffering. We can be blessed even in the most difficult circumstances.

And that’s because the word “blessed” speaks of the condition we experience by our union with Christ. It’s being at peace with God and at peace with others. It is the experience of being filled up with the message and the mission of the kingdom.

And prayer is a key part of experiencing that blessing. What did Jesus just finish teaching His disciples to do? To pray. And so that is the most immediate example, fresh on their minds, of what it must mean to hear the Word of God and keep it. To pray!

There are other practices, yes. But prayer is our primary way to engage with the spiritual realities of this world. Why?

I love how Jack Miller describes prayer in one of his letters. He says:

“God-given prayer and praise have as their essence a waiting on God, a willingness to be wrought upon by the hammer and the fire of the Almighty, until the chains of self-centered desires fall away, and the love of Christ becomes the deepest hunger of the inner life.”

“From God’s side our constant seeking of His face is nothing less than the establishment of Christ’s rule over us, His conquest of us, His equipping and empowering us to serve Him in a manner that we are ourselves miracles.”

This is deep stuff, I know. But this is what it means to be blessed. I must decrease so that He may increase.

Jesus emptied Himself so that we might know the love of God and be filled with the fullness of God. But you can’t know this truth, you won’t know this truth, unless you submit yourself to the means of grace. Regularly hearing the Word, because you can’t keep it unless you hear it.

And if you think you don’t need it, you’re underestimating your enemy. But even more so, you’re underestimating your God.