What Are You Made of? – 11.15.2020
There’s a story told of a young girl who accepted Jesus Christ as her savior. Afterwards she applied for membership in a local church. Part of the membership process for this particular church was an interview, with a deacon in the church. It was an older gentleman and he asked, “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your life?” The young girl replied, “yes, sir.” “Well are you still a sinner?” The young woman hesitated, but wanted to be honest so she replied, “To tell you the truth, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.” This gave the deacon pause, “Then what real change have you experienced in your life?” And the young woman said, “I don’t quite know how to explain it, except to say I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved – I think I’m a sinner running away from sin. She was received into the fellowship of the church and proved over the years by the way that she lived that Jesus had been doing a good work in her heart. Today is the third sermon in our series “A Look In the Mirror” – this month we are slowly realizing the trend that the more we learn about Jesus, the more we begin to see ourselves clearly in the mirror. Who Jesus is, and what he teaches us – affects how we see ourselves. Let’s dive in.
Now I’m going to split this chapter into three sections. The first chunk of the chapter is all about prayer – and how we relate to God. The second bit is about what happens to sin in our life when Jesus shows up. And the final section is how those two things go together – the family relationship and getting rid of sin. So we open the chapter with the Lord’s prayer, four verses of beautiful guidance on how to talk to God. When you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for – this is a great place to start. Then in verse five Jesus tells us a very strange story. [read v.5-8]. Now in my bible I have a heading that says “perseverance in prayer” and that’s lovely, but I think a better title would be “world’s most annoying friend.” This guy says, “I can’t come to the door, my children are already in bed.” If you don’t have children I don’t know if you can quite understand the sheer rage that fills your body when you have just gotten the baby to sleep after hours of rocking or pacing and you have finally and gently laid the little bomb in the crib and successfully ninja rolled out of the bedroom to the safety of the living room and then the mail man RINGS THE DAG GUM DOORBELL. I’m not a violent person, but a friend bothering you in the middle of the night while you’ve got babies sleeping makes me rethink my position on capital punishment. Jesus says, maybe you won’t help him just because he’s a friend, but because of his persistence we will give them whatever they need.
You see what Jesus is doing here is setting up the difference between human and divine givers. Basically he’s saying, “look – even humans can figure out how to help each other, even for the wrong reasons, humans usually can do alright. How much better do you think God will be to you.” And then Jesus encourages us to open that communication with God. [read v.9-10]. Jesus is saying, there is a God in heaven, your heavenly Father and he wants to hear from you. There’s a relationship dynamic that Jesus is setting up of a loving father taking care of his children. He keeps going, [read v.11-13]. All along in this story we have known that Jesus is the son of God. But what I want you to see is that Jesus is extending that relationship to include all of you. God is our FATHER. He says that at the beginning of the chapter when he’s teaching us how to pray – start your conversation with God by calling him Father. I know some folks have a hard time looking at God as a father, maybe they had a bad relationship with their father, and so they struggle with calling God that – and that’s okay. That’s completely understandable, and to be honest, that’s part of what Jesus is saying. God is a divine father, and is so much better than even the best fathers. He says, “most dads can figure out not to give their kids snakes and scorpions, but how much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to his children.”
And before we move on, there is one more thing I have to mention. Some folk read verses 9 and 10, you know, where it says, “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find” – I gotta deal with this because some people take that verse and we interpret it like Daddy’s little princess. This whole first section is about talking to God, and setting up the relationship between God and his people as a Father and his children. And God is saying, “ask me for things, I’m a good Father, I know what my children need.” It’s an invitation to dialogue. God wants to hear from you. But some of us hear those verses and we think, “I have a genie in the bottle, ask and you will receive – Daddy I want a pony.” Some folks hear the good news that the creator of the universe wants to hear from us, wants us to ask things of him, to seek him – and we turn into Daddy’s little spoiled rotten princess demanding the world in the middle of the candy isle. But every good father knows, every parent knows – that if you love your children, sometimes you will say no. A good father knows what’s best for his children. How much more will the heavenly father give HIS HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask, not a pony. Those verses are not a promise of earthly spoils.
So the first section sets the stage, talking about a relationship between God and his people, as a Father and his children, then we shift in the middle section where we get into how Jesus relates to our sin. Basically, people start attacking Jesus and his response shows us what he does to transform our lives. So the first thing Jesus does is cast a demon out of a man who was mute, and the man is healed and can now speak. And most everybody is amazed, but some are thinking “you can tell demons what to do, because YOU are the devil” Beelzebul they call him. Jesus responds and says, “first of all, no” and then he describes what he does with sin in our life.
But before we get into that, I need to give a little sidenote on demons. The modern media, in order to sell a decent scary movie has created this idea that demons are invisible little monster creatures with horns that possess people and make them do terrible things. And most people in the light of day say it’s silly to believe in demons, but those same folks become believers real quick when they are alone in the dark in a spooky place. Some people in the room believe that demons are actual entities, external things that have an influence on our bodies. While other people believe that demons are a personification of personal sin. Like taking a temptation that you’re dealing with in your heart and giving it a face. You’ve got an issue in your heart, something you are wrestling with – so they say that you’re fighting your demons. The reason I bring this up is because I don’t want the term “demon” to distract people. Some folk believe in literal demons, and some people believe in what we’ll call “demons of the heart.” And we can respect both beliefs, because no matter which side you’re on – Jesus has good news for you both.
He basically says, “I’m not buddies with demons, I’m not friendly with your sin.” He uses the metaphor of guarding a castle to talk about sin in your life. Because we all have sin in our life, a piece of us that wants to live our way, and not live God’s way. Jesus describes it as a strong man guarding his castle. Sin has set up shop in our heart, and he doesn’t want to leave. Hear this, [read v.21-22]. Jesus is the stronger man. Whatever sin you’ve got in your life: greed, lust, addiction, pride – whatever demon you are wrestling with – it has strong armor and has set up defenses in your life. It doesn’t want to leave your heart. But Jesus comes in, overpowers your sin, takes away his armor and scatters it from your life.
But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus pulls darkness out of our life, but that’s not enough. [read v.24-26]. See, what he is saying here is that it’s not enough to just get rid of sin. You have to replace it with good. He uses a metaphor of a house. You can pull sin out of your life, but it’ll be back – worse than ever. I think another comparison is a sickness. Sin is a just a symptom, and you need a cure. It’s not enough to get rid of the symptom. Sin is a symptom of the condition that happens when our heart is far away from God. You can pull one sin out of your life, but if you don’t fill your heart with God – that sin will be back, and probably a few new symptoms too. The heart of the problem is whether we are connected to our loving Father in heaven, or not. Jesus finishes up the middle section with a bit about light. It says [read v.34]. I didn’t know this, but in ancient times they believed that light was actually contained inside of us. And the light in your eye needed to connect with light in the world for things to be visible. That’s pretty cool, right? He finishes the thought, [read v.36]. It is not enough to get sin out of your life, to pull darkness or bad habits out by sheer force of will. You have to replace it with good, replace the darkness with light.
Alright, now the final section of the chapter, Jesus sits down to have dinner with the Pharisees, and it does not go well. I’m going to call this the “woe is you” section. At the start of the meal, Jesus doesn’t wash his hands, and the Pharisee comments on it, so Jesus goes off on this big tirade and lays out three big “woes” to the pharisee. And while he’s talking there’s a lawyer at the table. And the lawyer cuts in and says, “woah, woah, Jesus – some of this stuff applies to me too. You’re insulting me too.” And so then Jesus unleashes three more woes for the lawyer. You see, all along Jesus has been teaching these radical, really intense ideas – like loving your enemy and giving up your entire life to follow Jesus. And the Pharisees and the lawyers, they’ve kind of been watching from the sides – wary. Hmm, I don’t know about this Jesus guy – he’s a little too extreme. He might challenge us. But they go along with him because he’s so popular with the people. This final section here is the last straw. And the end of the chapter, the lawyers and pharisees start actively working against Jesus. Okay, we’ve decided he’s bad news for us – we need to stop him. [read v.53-54]. And honestly? I think the Pharisees and the lawyers represent us when Jesus comes into our lives. I think a lot of us are hostile to correction. We think we’ve got life pretty much figured out, and Jesus comes in and starts getting rid of sin in our life and we don’t always want that, do we?
Now we don’t have time to walk through all the woes, I’ll trust you to spend some time with it yourself this week. But I do want to look at the big one [read v.39-40]. This is the same problem as before. The problem with pulling sin out of your life, WITHOUT replacing it with Jesus, is that you can make it look really good on the outside, but still be full of greed and wickedness on the inside. The Christian life is not about getting rid of bad habits, it’s about REPLACING darkness with light. C.S. Lewis tells a story, he says, “When I was a child, I often had a toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother, she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother – at least not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this: I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist the next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from my pain; but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they would start fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. Our Lord is like the dentists. Dozens of people go to him to be cured of some particular sin. Well, he will cure it all right, but he will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if you once call him in, he will give you the full treatment.” How many of us come to God with a deal in mind? “Alright God, I’ll let you into my life a little bit, if you help me get my drinking under control, or help me deal with my pornography addiction, or help me not be so angry all the time, or whatever it is.” Rather than seeing God as a loving Father who knows what’s best for ALL of our life, we think we’re daddy’s little princess. We want him to pull the darkness out, but we stop short of the full treatment. We want him to remove the symptoms without curing the disease. Clean the outside of the cup, make it look good – but leave the rest of my life alone.
The good news this morning is that Jesus replaces darkness with light. He doesn’t just remove darkness, he completes his work by filling us with light. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit will remove sin from your heart, but he does not leave you empty. There’re all kinds of self-help books, 12 step programs, support groups that can help you get a bad habit under control. And those are wonderful things, but that is only half the story. If you only deal with the symptom, give it time and it will return, sometimes worse than before. But Jesus doesn’t just pull out the bad. He replaces that darkness, that illness you used to have – he replaces it with light. How much more, will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Jesus replaces darkness with light, and so our response is to fill up our house with light. Don’t just empty the house of sin, replace it with Jesus. This morning if you’ve got something in your life you want gone – when you cry out to God, don’t just ask for God to take it away, ask God to replace it with his Holy Spirit.
Two quick pieces of application and then we’re done. The first takeaway from the scriptures today is to relate to God as a loving FATHER. Or loving parent, if you’d rather. God invites us to a personal connection, he instructs us on how to connect with God. So start that connection. Talk to God, every single day. We call it prayer. If you don’t have a prayer life, the best time to start is right now. Talk to God every morning, even if it’s just to say thank you that you woke up, or to ask for help to make it through the day. Talk to God at every meal, even if it’s just to say thanks for the food in front of you. Talk to God every time you’re frustrated, even if it’s just to ask for help. Open up the dialogue with your loving Father in heaven. Ask things from God, it’s okay to ask God for things! But remember, as every parent knows, sometimes the answer will not be what the child wants. But still we are invited to ask, to seek, to knock on the door. The first application is that God wants us to relate to him as a parent with their child.
The second piece of the application is that we need to help one another authentically replace darkness with light. Here I’ll show you what I mean – actually Jesus touches on this in a part of the chapter we skipped. At the end of the chapter, he turns to the lawyer and he says [read v.46]. Whew, this is like twisting the knife. You load people with burdens too hard to bear and do not lift a finger to help them. You see for a lot of Christians, their religion is about following the rules. We push people to obey a list of rules, we want to drive the demons and the darkness out of the house – but we don’t fill the house with light, we don’t fill their lives with Jesus. We push people to obey a list of rules instead of pushing them to Jesus. But the point of this entire chapter is to connect to God relationally and not legally. It is not enough to empty the house, we must replace darkness with light. Think about some of the biggest issues in our culture – abortion, LGBTQ inclusion, sex outside of marriage, drug usage, alcohol abuse. We have a rule for all those things, but do we have a method of helping someone? Do we relate to people like our God relates to us, parent and child – family relationship, OR are we lawyers burdening people with laws and then we don’t help them obey. You want to tell a young woman that she cannot end that human life that’s inside her belly – do you have a relationship with her, a way to help her in her desperate situation? If you call LGBTQ to live a life of celibacy outside of marriage, do you stop at making sure they know the rules? Or do you come alongside your struggling family members and help them thrive and live into a Godly sexual ethic. The first part of the application is to relate to God as a parent and child, and the second part is to help one another authentically replace darkness with light.
What are you made of? Is there darkness in your life? A strongman has set up shop in your house and you need to drive that sin out? Or are you really good at following rules? You drove the darkness out but now you’ve got an empty house, just waiting for the demons of your heart to return. Don’t load people up with burdens and then not help them. Don’t just empty the house, don’t just spend all your time trying to get darkness out, replace darkness with light. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you let God into your heart this morning, start up a personal connection – talk to God everyday, relate to God as a divine Father with his children. And then take that relationship, that personal connection and use it to come alongside other people and help them authentically replace darkness with light. Amen.