I am honored to be speaking at the upcoming Holocaust remembrance event at Devar Emet, a local Messianic (read: they believe Jesus is the Messiah) Jewish synagogue in Skokie, Illinois, on April 30, 201.
The featured speaker will be Steven Grund, a survivor of Nazi oppression in Poland.
As for my part, the plan is for a couple of other Christian pastors and myself to each give a short, non-political spiel on why it is important to stand with the Jewish people against antisemitism.
Please feel free to come out if you can.
And if you are a follower of the Messiah yourself, pray that I will speak well, represent the Lord and Park Community Church in a faithful way, and in some small way, even contribute to the efforts toward bridging the gap between Christians and Jewish folks in the North Side and Suburbs.
This Sunday, the children of our Loop Kids ministry will be learning about the subject of baptism. As part of their lesson, I’ll be making my rounds of our elementary classrooms at Park Edgebrook, saying a short spiel about baptism and answering a few questions the young’ns might have.
Easter (which, as I write this, is coming up in a couple of weeks on April 16) is a popular time for churches to have baptism services. Have you ever thought about is? What is the connection between Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you think the word “Easter” signifies pagan deity worship (N. B. it doesn’t))? Let’s look at this question in four ways, to get our answer.
Why do people get baptized?
The word baptize comes from an old, Greek word (the language in which the New Testament was written), βαπτίζω (“baptidzo”) which means “immerse.” Though the practice changed over the years, originally baptism was done essentially by completely covering a person–by dunking them into–water. While the person is under the water, he or she is “dead” to the world above–they cannot see or hear anything. Then when they are lifted back up out of the water, it’s as though they are brought “back to life.” So then, baptism symbolizes death and resurrection–a person coming back to life from the dead.
Romans 6:3-5 says, “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (emphasis added).
So then, by being dipped below the water and brought back up, we are symbolizing our unity with Jesus. Just as he died for our sins, was buried and rose back to life, so we have died to our former, sinful way of life, and been raised to new life with Him.
Baptism is also a reminder of the hope that followers of Jesus have that, like Jesus, we too will one day rise physically from the dead.
Easter is the holiday when we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is therefore the perfect day to also celebrate the new life that believers have in Him.
What happens when a person gets baptized?
When a person repents and trusts in Jesus, God the Father (and the Son, according to whom you ask–whole empires of Christians have divided over that question) gives them the Holy Spirit to dwell inside them. The Holy Spirit is God. Yes, God actualIy comes to live inside you, when you are a Christian.
Because baptism is so connected with a person’s initial moment of receiving Christ by faith, sometimes in the Bible it can seem as though a person receives the Holy Spirit because they were baptized. In fact, there is one account like that in Acts 19:1-6. 12 guys, who had been followers of John the Baptist, had previously been baptized. But they had not really believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul met them, preached the Gospel to them, and they were baptized. Then Paul laid his hands on them, and they immediately received the Holy Spirit.
However, when we look closer, we see what’s really going on: God gives the Holy Spirit to people when they believe, not because they are baptized. What happens at baptism is nothing “magical,” but it is important. The person being baptized is outwardly showing that they desire to obey Jesus (who commanded His followers to be baptized), that they believe His death has made them right with God, and that they love Him. That is why baptism is so closely connected in Scripture with saving faith. It is often the first act a new believer does in obedience to their new King.
Of course, what also happens during a baptism that is done publicly is that the church congregation, along with the person’s family and friends, come together to celebrate the person’s new spiritual life. If you have been to a believer’s baptism ceremony before, you have probably witnessed the amazing joy that surrounds that special occasion. When baptism happens on Easter Sunday–a day already filled with celebration–that joy is multiplied.
Who should be baptized?
According to the baptism orientation materials from Park Community Church (which I did not write, but greatly appreciate), “Anyone who has repented and come to saving faith in Jesus Christ should be baptized in accordance with Scripture.”
Every example of baptism in the Bible always follows a person believing in the Gospel.
While the person being baptized must be a true believer, it is of course no requirement that the folks in attendance all be believers! When a person is baptized, they will typically share their testimony of how they came to believe the Gospel for themselves. Because Easter is a big day for non-Christians to visit a church gathering, Easter baptisms can be excellent evangelism opportunities.
When should I be baptized?
Right away! That is, if you are a believer in Jesus–if you have repented, believed the Gospel and received Christ by faith, then why wait? There is an example in Acts of a man who believed the Gospel while traveling down the road. Immediately they came to some water (it doesn’t say what kind of water–a river? A lake? A retention pond?) and the man asked, “What would keep me from being baptized?” And just like that, he was dunked.
Now, many churches will insist on a waiting period, so that (a) the church can be sure the person really understands and believes the true, good news, and (b) the person does not enter into baptism lightly but truly grasps its significance, but there is not biblically-required waiting period. If you are a new Christian (or even if you have been one for years) and have not yet been baptized, I suggest talking to your pastor or elders about it soon. Why not get baptized this Easter?
To learn more about upcoming baptism gatherings at Park Community Church, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
This didn’t make it into an article I’m writing for Park’s apologetics resource, but I thought it was was worth not completely throwing away.
By nature, God is a being who communicates.
He reveals Himself in Scripture as Triune. He is three-in-one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three Persons of the Trinity have been loving and communicating with one another since forever.
This means God does not need to create before He has someone to communicate with or reveal Himself to. Christianity is unique in this way; no other religion presents its “prime reality” as both plural (God is three) and singular (God is one).
So when this God creates, He endows creation with both plurality (there are many components to creation–planets, galaxies, atoms, persons) and oneness (there are universal laws and categories governing the components). The Bible says God reveals something of His own nature in His creation.
We Christians may tend to think that there are other “faith systems” out there, other than biblical Christianity, that, while they may miss out on the whole truth, they still contain a lot of good in them, and maybe God will sorta smile and wink at their adherents at the end of the day, because after all, they were just trying to live a good life, and honor God, and what’s so bad about that? Maybe you have friends who are, in general, upstanding and moral people. And maybe you might, sometimes, possibly be tempted with the idea that you don’t really need to tell them about the Gospel–Because after all, you think, They might not know the full truth about Jesus, but they’re such good people! I’m sure they’ll be fine. The Gospel is “good news” for really bad sinners, not good folks like these… right?
Not according to Jesus. According to Jesus, manmade religion (or “faith systems,” or lifestyles, or worldviews) that purport to show God great honor, while denying the necessity of the cross and resurrection of Jesus–those aren’t some kind of lesser piety. They’re not “Christianity Lite.”
According to Jesus, such systems amount to nothing less than cold, hard, condemnable satanism.
The Devil is fine with us ascribing all kinds of honor to the Lord, as long as we miss the cross, burial and resurrection of Jesus–and our need for the Savior who did all that for us.
“Good” religion goes bad when it substitutes “goodness” for the Gospel. Even Christ-likeness is no substitute for the crucifixion.
The Gospel is the good news, that Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me–so that we could die to our old life (which was really death) and receive His life. Get the Gospel, and you get God’s life. Reject the Gospel, and whatever else you may have–however “good,” you’ll lose your life and miss out on God’s life.
This is serious business–which it would have to be, to make Jesus call one of His top three disciples “Satan.” So if Jesus takes it that seriously, maybe we ought to reconsider how we think about those other “faith systems” (really they should be called works systems, since they deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone). Trying to show God honor, while denying God’s plan (by which He was more incredibly honored than He could have ever been by any scheme moral man could have come up with!) is from Satan.
In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
That’s what’s going on in Mark 8:31-38. It’s what Jesus has saved former moralists like me from, and it’s what we have to remember when we’re communicating the Gospel to our religious, well-intentioned, and moral friends. In so doing, we’re giving them the best “good news” we could give them.
…and it’s coming to a city near you. Provided you live somewhere near Phoenix, AZ. That’s right, “Conversations from the Porch,” (AKA the PorchCast, the podcast I co-host with some good brothers out west (and one in the D. R.)) is hosting a theological conference, centered around New Covenant Theology (NCT). If you don’t know what NCT is, go here, then go here and find out more about the conference.
To be sure, I’m pumped about the three plenary speakers (A. Blake White, David H. J. Gay, and Geoff Volker), but I’m most excited about meeting my fellow PorchCast “divines”–guys whom I consider friends and brothers-in-Christ, but whom I’ve never actually met in person–and recording an episode of the PorchCast in front of a live audience.
If you want to be a part of that audience (and why wouldn’t you?), check out http://www.PorchCon.com and get your tickets early, while early-bird prices last. It’s a limited-admission event, so once these bad boys are gone, they’re gone.
This morning I had the honor of preaching to the saints at Park Edgebrook. Here are the notes I took on stage with me.
(3 mins) Introduction:
Christmas trees make memories, but why have them?
Real or plastic pines don’t belong in homes!
Martin Luther’s first one emulated pines and stars.
25-30 million real trees sold annually in U.S.
Trees symbolize memories, togetherness, family, and sentimentality.
Christmastime also involves depression, anxiety, and bad memories.
Today’s passage reveals the glory of Christmas.
Similarly out of place, but far greater than!
Read Luke 2:8-20. Page 857.
Need: Miss the glory and miss the point.
Big idea: Jesus brings God’s glory to life.
Jesus reveals the glory of God’s goodness.
Jesus reveals the glory of God’s relevance.
Jesus reveals the glory of God’s grace.
(10 mins) Tell the Story:
Shepherds: bottom social rung. Everyone’s within God’s reach.
Angel appears! Glory!
Shepherds fear. Was angel there to punish?
“Shekinah” “dwelling” glory from OT.
Humbles, prepares shepherds, attests to the announcement’s truth.
“Do not fear.” Lit. “I am evangelizing you!”
God’s glory revealed will result in their joy.
“Good News” “for all the people.” Offered freely!
Do we remember it’s Good News for all?
Who in your life needs to hear it?
Savior for you! God’s glory to your life.
David’s city–Micah 5:2. Page 779. “ [Slide] “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
Messiah: “anointed one” Israel had been waiting for.
Lord: Septuagint translation of YHWH. God made flesh.
The sign–there would be only one.
God revealing glory humbly: baptism water (new life); communion bread & cup (atonement).
In a trough, helpless, weak, God meets humanity.
The angelic multitude provide many witnesses.
They call the church to unify in worship.
Glory to God: the Father sent His Son!
Peace on earth: the Son of God reigns!
Men of God’s favor: Applied by the Spirit.
The Triune Gospel, Triune God revealed by Jesus.
Shepherds believe. Not going to verify but witness.
We must repent for our prayerlessness, inaction (faithlessness).
We must encourage each other, like the shepherds
Falling Action: (18-20)
They who heard, marveled.
We love to marvel. Facebook feeds. Marvel superhero movies.
Usually, it stops quick as it starts.
Even Christmas sentimentality ends. January, lights, carols!
Sinful sentimentality replaces God’s glory with lesser glory.
Sentimentality is about self. Life lived for self–>death.
God’s glory, Jesus reveals, gives life forever!
Mary treasured these things. Take time to do that.
Shepherds returned. Transformed.
Meeting Jesus–you go back transformed. Meaning. Cut some things out. Life looks different.
(14 mins) Application: The Three-Fold, Thrice-Told Gospel
Jesus reveals the glory of God’s goodness.
God’s work is Good news (10)! He is the standard for good.
God has come to His people (Jesus is Lord) (11).
God is worthy of praise (14).
Jesus reveals God’s relevance.
God is faithful to “all the people”–Jew and Gentile (10).
God is faithful to meet our needs: God’s truth, forgiveness, and justice (11).
God is faithful to bring peace–with God, one another, ourselves (14).
Jesus reveals God’s grace.
Jesus replaces sinful sentimentality and fills me with real joy (10).
(as Savior) Jesus sets me free me from God’s wrath and my slavery to sin (11).
Jesus earns me God’s favor by taking my sin upon Himself, atoning for it and sending the Holy Spirit (14).
All completely unearned. Free. Gift of love.
(2 mins) Conclusion/application:
Why this matters: need something more. Sentimentality=trap.
Jesus reveals God’s majesty, faithfulness and grace.
He alone deserves our undivided attention
If we miss this, we miss God’s glory.
And opportunities to glorify God.
Because you see, we’re like the shepherds
Jesus has revealed God’s glory to us.
We in turn are expected to glorify God. by making Him known.
This makes us depend less on lesser glories–like sentimentality.
Puts our hearts where they belong: on Jesus Christ and on His Gospel.
This advent, ask: where’s my focus right now… on God’s glory, or something else?
Because if you miss Jesus, who alone brings God’s glory to life, then you’ve missed the point.
Unbeliever? Glad you’re here.
Christmastime: magical. Depressing. Routine. Don’t miss it.
Opportunity (maybe last?). Trust in Jesus today. Angels still celebrate when Christ is born anew in a sinner’s heart.
The Gospel is good news that changes everything.
Jesus reveals God’s glory (goodness, relevance, grace); we respond by glorifying Him.
I challenge you this Christmas to ask God to take your mind off of sentimentality and onto Gods glory. That you would seek and find opportunities to announce the good news to the people who don’t yet know it.
[SLIDE] Jesus has brought Gods glory to life.That’s good news. We glorify God by making His good news known. Let’s pass it on.
What follows is the transcript I preached from at Park Community Church, Edgebrook this Sunday. The passage was Mark 3:22-30. Please excuse any typos.
Are you trying to win a war that’s already been won?
Once upon a time (there are children worshiping with us this morning, so I thought that was a good way to start my opening story).
Once upon a time, there was a man named Hiroo Onodo. Hiroo was a general in the Japanese army during World War II. His commanding officers put him in charge of defending the Philippines. And Hirooo took his job very seriously.
In fact, he took his job super seriously. When the American forces invaded the Philippines in 1945, Hiroo and his soldiers ran to the hills.
Japan surrendered later that year. The war was over. To let Hiroo know, the islanders dropped leaflets out of an airplane, which read, “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” Hiroo and his soldiers looked carefully at the paper, and decided… it was a fake! They didn’t believe it!
So Hiroo and his men stayed up in the mountains. Over the years, people sent more leaflets their way, and even search parties. But Hiroo stayed in the mountains. From time to time he would come out and attack fishermen and police. He was still fighting–as though the war wasn’t already declared over.
It wasn’t until 1974–almost 30 years after the war had ended, when Hiroo’s old commanding officer (who had become a bookseller) flew back the area and met with Hiroo, that Hiroo was convinced that the war really was over. He came down from the mountains and returned to civilian life.
See, Hiroo kept fighting, even after the war was over. Now, the Christian life, is sometimes compared to a battle, in the Bible. But what we’re going to see this morning is this: that Jesus has won the victory. So in an important sense, the war is already decided. God has won.
Because of this, we don’t fight in the same way, as though the war is undecided–as though either side could win.
This passage is going to address two big problems we have.
Many of us see the battle between good and evil as a war between two equally matched forces. It’s as though Good and Evil are locked in a wrestling match, and we feel caught in between.
When we think that way, we think that the devil’s side is more powerful than it actually is. That evil could possibly win the battle. Some days it feels like evil really is winning! And we feel powerless against it!
This passage is going to show us that Jesus has become victorious!
That Jesus and the devil are not equally matched.
Jesus created everything! He is infinitely greater than all forces–including the devil and his agents. There is no contest.
Now the second problem this passage solves is this: those of us who have been following Jesus for a long time, we may get complacent and forget what a dramatic rescue we’ve experienced. We may forget how bad our former state was. And we may forget that Jesus alone won the battle for us.
When we minimize the darkness of sin, we don’t see it as dramatically opposed to good as it really is, we forget how great the canyon is between good and evil. Then we think, you know what, it wasn’t that bad, was it? And we get tempted to wander back into sin.
We think that, if things get too bad, we could just jump back over to the good side. But we forget that we didn’t jump over the first time. We didn’t set ourselves free. Jesus rescued us, and we had nothing to do with it. So this passage will remind us of our need for a rescue, and the danger of living like sin really isn’t that bad.
Here’s the Big Idea this morning: It was Jesus who has defeated what held us captive, and He sets His people completely free.
Read Text: Mark 3:22-30.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Tell the Story:
(22) Scribes’ accusation
They were the religious teachers of the day
Mark tells us they had come down from Jerusalem
Because Jerusalem was situated on a hill, then to travel away from the city, you were heading “down.”
Why were they coming? They came down on a fault-finding mission. They wanted to stop people from believing in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was claiming that He was equal to God. And He was doing miracles to back it up! He was claiming to be able to forgive people’s sins. But the scribes wanted people to follow them, and think that they were important. The scribes knew that, if people started kept following Jesus, then people would stop following them. They wouldn’t listen to the scribe’s rules anymore.
So they get to Jesus and they said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”
Beelzebul means “Lord of the House. It comes from the word “Baal.” Baal was a false god that other nations had worshiped in the old days.
By the time of Jesus, the word Beelzebul came to be associated with the prince of evil spirits. Satan himself.
In other words, the religious teachers were accusing Jesus of working with the devil.
The scribes and the people all believed in the spiritual world. They believed in angels and demons–evil spirits.
And they believed that demons could attack people and take control of them.
They also recognized that Jesus was casting demons out of people.
Mark doesn’t mention it, but in Matthew 12:22-23, we learn that Jesus has just healed a man who couldn’t see, couldn’t speak, and was paralyzed–he couldn’t move.
The man had been controlled by a demon, and Jesus made the demon leave the man.
The scribes could clearly see that the man had been healed, and that the demon had been there, and that Jesus forced the demon to leave the man alone.
For some of us here, this all seems very strange.
We don’t tend to see things like angels and demons in our everyday life. So it can be easy, sometimes, to think that they aren’t real. Or if they are real, they don’t have anything to do with us.
And yet the Bible clearly teaches that the spiritual realm is real. And there are plenty of people who could tell you that these forces are very real.
On the other hand, many people go the other direction and get super scared when they think about the devil and evil spirits. They think that everything that goes wrong in life is due to the devil.
But God’s word teaches us that, while the devil is very real, he is defeated. When Jesus rescues a person from the devil, the devil cannot keep us from Jesus or from God’s love. We see that in Romans chapter 8, verses 38-39. So the question is, have you been rescued? Do you need to be rescued? We’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.
If you believe the Bible is from God, then you have to accept what it says about the spiritual realm.
And there is every good reason to believe the Bible is true. That’s for another time; talk to me after the service if you want to know more.
In saying that Jesus was working for the devil, this was the meanest thing the scribes could say about Jesus.
Really, they are out of arguments. They are just slandering Jesus–just saying the worst thing they can think of.
But they haven’t thought it through. As it turns out, by accusing Jesus of working for the devil, they have actually opened themselves up to an incredible attack from Jesus. Jesus is about to give one of the most stunning counterarguments in the entire Bible. Watch what He does.
(23-26) Jesus is going to demonstrate for us how to do apologetics–giving an explanation to show why what God says is true:
(23a) Look with me at verse 23. “And he called them to him and said to them in parables…”
A parable means to “place one thing beside another,” for comparison. Jesus often taught this way.
Sometimes He did it to make things clearer, other times He did it to hide His meaning… to make sure only certain people understood.
Jesus is going to show the scribes why they are wrong, and then He’s going to tell them the truth–and He’s going to do it in a way that they can’t possibly argue with. Watch this!
(23b) He begins by asking, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”
He’s not asking, “Can Satan do this?” He is asking “Why would Satan do this?”
Let’s think about this logically, Jesus says.
See Jesus is not afraid of logic, of wisdom. Logic is His friend. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, logic is your friend too. We should not be afraid of it; we can use it.
Jesus tells them two proverbs–two wise sayings–that He knows everyone will agree with. He says in verse 24,
(24) “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand.”
And then in verse 25:
(25) “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
Remember Jesus’ word picture of a house. That’s going to come back later.
Jesus lays out these two sayings, knowing they will agree with them. He’s setting them up.
Then He goes on to say in verse 26:
(26) “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end”.
Literally it says “he has an end.”
Another translation says, His end has come!
In other words, “Satan is done for!”
Jesus is showing them their own argument contradicts with itself
An argument that contradicts itself has to be false.
Jesus is proving them wrong.
He is saying,
“If I’m possessed by Beelzebu;, then I’m working for Satan.
If I’m driving out demons, then I’m working against Satan with the same action.
I can’t be working for and against Satan! It makes no sense!
Satan isn’t going to work against himself. They knew Satan is evil, but that he’s not stupid.
So why did the Scribes insult Jesus like this? It had nothing to do with the evidence or what actually made sense. They didn’t WANT to believe in Jesus. So they were grasping at explanations. They were desperate to believe anything except that Jesus really was who He was clearly proving Himself to be: the Son of God. And now, Jesus has shown everybody the condition of the scribes’ heart.
Next, Jesus is about to explain explains what really did happen. Because remember, everyone agreed that Jesus had cast out demons from people who had been oppressed by them. Not even the scribes disputed that. So just how was Jesus able to do that?
(27) In verse 27, Jesus gives them the answer. He says,
“But no one can enter a strong man’s house…
Okay, now we are back to the house metaphor. What’s going on?
The house symbolizes control. A house is a place of safety. Think about your own house, about your own room. It’s where you are comfortable. It’s where you know what to expect. If it’s your home, you get to make the rules. Kids, remember: obey your parents’ rules, because it’s their house. So when Jesus describes a strong man’s house, He’s painting a picture with His words to make us see a house where the strong man feels comfortable and in control. He feels safe there.
Because someone might attack a man on the street, but it’s entirely different to break into his house and try to steal his stuff.
In this parable–this comparison–the strong man is the devil. His house is the control he has over sinners.
So How does salvation–being saved from our sins and from the devil–happen according to the Bible? According to Jesus’ own words in this story, it happens like this (go with me on this):
Weak and pitiful sinners like you and I are trapped by the devil–like we are in a strong man’s house.
When people sin, when they do wrong things, they are really sinning against God–and the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The Bible talks about how, when you let sins, like anger, for example, get into your life, you are giving the devil an opportunity to move in and take control (Ephesians 4:27).
When someone makes a practice of sinning, Jesus says they become a slave to sin (John 8:34).
When you sin, it’s like you’re picking sides. You’re saying, “I don’t want God to be my Lord, my leader. I want to be His enemy. Well, God does have an enemy, and that’s the devil. So sinning is picking the devil’s side. It’s saying that the devil is right. It’s like saying you want to serve the devil as master instead of God. And Jesus says that no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
So the devil has bound them by their sin. Because they rebelled against God, they rightfully belong to the devil.
And here’s the sad fact: we all start out as sinners like this. We are all bad!
While he has us captive, the strong man is gloating over us and tormenting us. The prisoners hate the strong man, but they hate God and each other too. It’s miserable and seems hopeless.
Is there any hope for sinners like us? The only hope would be if there were someone who was not under the control of the devil, and free from His control. Thank God, there is someone like that. And His name is Jesus!
Right after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. Out there, Jesus fasted–He ate no food–and the devil came and tempted Him; he tried to get Jesus to sin (Mark 1:12-13).
But Jesus fought back. He used the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). He quoted BIble verses to the devil, and the devil was powerless against them.
Hebrew 4:15 says Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.” The devil failed in his mission to get Jesus to sin. Jesus would not join the devil’s side.
So Jesus is the one and only human being who resisted Satan’s temptation.
That means that Jesus is free from Satan’s control.
The devil can’t stop Jesus. And because Jesus is God, He has the power of the Holy Spirit. And He, the Holy Spirit, works with Jesus to set people free from the control of the devil.
Isaiah 49:24-25, in the Old Testament, says something that the scribes would have known very well: “Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? Surely, thus says the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.”
This is being fulfilled here in the life of Jesus.
Jesus is here to save His people from the “tyrant,” the devil.
In Luke 11:21-22, which tells the same story as this one here in Mark’s Gospel, but with a few more details, Jesus says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil”
So the parable continues: Jesus has come to “plunder his goods”–to take from the Strong Man what belonged to him.
Picture this: Jesus smashes down the front door and charges into the strong man’s house. He marches over to the strong man, grips him by the back of the neck, and before he can say “Boo” Jesus slams his face into the table. Then, while the strong man is dazed, Jesus binds up the strong man with a chain, rendering him powerless.
In full view of the strong man, Jesus strolls from room to room in the house with a pair of bolt cutters. The prisoners of the house are so wretched that they actually mock Jesus as He does this. They can’t possibly understand just what a good thing is happening to them–but they are about to find out. Undeterred, Jesus snaps the shackles off of the prisoners and hoists them up onto his shoulders.
Jesus fireman-carries the prisoners out the front door–He’s going to feed them, restore them to health and give them an awesome new life with Himself. After kicking over a lamp on the way out, just to show who’s boss, He turns over His shoulder, points two fingers at the strong man like a gun, and says to him, “I’m gonna come back. And when I do, I’m going to finish you off.” And the devil can’t do anything. Because Jesus has bound him up with that chain.
That chain that Jesus bound the devil with is Jesus’ own death and resurrection. When Jesus died, He took the punishment for the sins of all His people. See, [Slide] Jesus actually rescued people from the devil’s control when He died on the cross.
Since Jesus took the punishment, there’s nothing more the devil can do.
The devil can’t accuse us before God, and say, “they’re a bunch of no-good sinners!” Because Jesus took our sin and and died for it. He dealt with our sin and wiped away our guilt–Colossians 2:14 says Jesus nailed the record of debt that stood against us, to the cross. It’s gone!
And the devil can’t force us to sin, because we aren’t slaves to sin anymore. Jesus has set us completely free!
The devil is so powerless against Jesus’ people now. It’s like the devil has been bound with a chain. We don’t have to listen to him or his lies anymore!
The Bible says, “the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And one day soon, He is going to come back and take us to be with Him forever. And He’ll throw the devil into the fiery lake. Scoreboard: the devil, zero. Jesus: infinity.
Jesus has now clearly shown the scribes, and everyone watching, that the only possibly correct explanation is that He is more powerful than Satan.
Well, the only one more powerful than Satan is God.
The scribes believed this.
So Jesus is forcing them, by what they already believe–by their own worldview–to accept that He is God.
What other options do they have?
They could deny that Jesus really did cast out demons. But these it was way too obvious that He actually did, that to deny them they would have to deny everything supernatural, spiritual and invisible. These Scribes were Pharisees, and Pharisees had to believe in the spiritual world. So if they said that, they would be disqualified from being scribes.
Their only option was to bow the knee to Jesus. But did they?
No. Their hearts remained hard toward HIm.
So Jesus gives them a warning. Look at verse 28. Jesus says,
(28) “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.”
Jesus knows their hearts are still hard.
But he also knows he has a crowd watching.
For the crowd’s sake and theirs, Jesus announces that God’s rescue plan won’t just be for people who have become oppressed by demons. It’s going to be for every kind of sin people commit. Because Jesus is going to die for all His people, all their sins will be forgiven. Our sins will be forgiven when we realize that we need Jesus, when we truly say that Jesus is Lord and believe that He died and came back to life to save us.”
But, Jesus says, there is one sin that will keep people out of the people of God, from belonging to Him forever. He continues,
(29-30) “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” –for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
In Matthew 12:31-32, which tells this same story with a few more details, Jesus says, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Alright now, we are all probably wondering, “What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and how do I keep from doing it?” right?
The scribes saw with their own eyes, exactly what Jesus was doing. He was setting people free from the devil and restoring God in their lives. [Slide] Jesus rescued us through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through any other power. And the scribes, instead of glorifying God, they said it was all the work of Satan. They didn’t love God. They hated God. They said that God was Satan, and that God’s rescue plan, carried out by Jesus, and applied to the lives of His people by the Holy Spirit, was all one big Satanic scheme.
There is no coming back from that, because there is never any repentance. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings people to Jesus. If you are speaking against the Holy Spirit, then you aren’t submitting to Him. And you aren’t coming to Jesus–the only one who saves sinners.
Now if you are nervous and asking, “Have I committed the unforgivable sin? I don’t want to commit that sin!” Let me reassure you.
If you are worried about having committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then you haven’t done it.
The Scribes weren’t worried about that. They didn’t repent–their hearts and minds didn’t soften toward God. They got worse. They weren’t sorry. They hated Jesus more and more, until they killed Him.
What this meant to the original audience:
It meant that, in short, Jesus is the Boss.
The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, had been working hard to make sure people believe that there were only two sides to the spiritual battle of life: people could either be on the devil’s side, or they were on the Pharisees’ side (supposedly, they were the good guys). They had built this whole system, like a tall stack of Jenga blocks. It was tall, it was impressive. And it made sense.
But Jesus comes in, and He undercuts the whole thing at their most basic belief. It’s like he takes the bottom block out of the Jenga stack. The whole system comes crashing down.
Jesus says, “No, the Pharisees, unless they believe in Me, are actually on the Devil’s side.
Jesus frees people from demonic control and brings them to God’s side.
Then He smacks down the religious leaders and says they are committing sins that will lead them beyond the possibility of ever being made right with God.
Jesus is the boss.
What does this mean for us today?
It means that, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then Satan is totally defeated in your life. He’s bound. He’s powerless because of what Jesus has done for you.
As a culture, we often don’t understand this at all. We think that God and the devil are somehow equally matched. Like either one could win the war. Like it’s the World Series (GO CUBS GO) and the winner hasn’t already decided in advance. Sometimes in our culture that takes on silly examples.
For example, the Washington Times recently reported that an organization is trying to start Satanist clubs in schools. The article reads, “They [the Satanists] point out that Christian evangelical groups already have infiltrated the lives of America’s children through after-school religious programming in public schools, and they appear determined to give young students a choice: Jesus or Satan.”
See how Jesus and Satan are portrayed as equal opposites.
Let’s make it abundantly clear. Jesus isn’t on Satan’s level. Jesus is God. Satan is a fallen angel (Isaiah 14:12-15). Jesus created the angels (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is infinitely stronger than the devil.
In our own lives, we might not be in a Satanist club. But don’t we sometimes forget how much stronger God is than the devil? Do you ever sometimes feel as though sin is so powerful, that it just might win in your life? In reality, for the Christ-follower, sin doesn’t stand a chance.
Sin seems strong. The devil seems strong. Like if you’re a fourth grader, and some high school Freshmen come over and start messing with you. That’s scary, right?
You can’t deal with those guys on your own.
But then Jesus comes in like the Incredible Hulk.
In one of the coolest Bible passages of all time, Isaiah 22, the Lord says this to His enemy–a man named Shebna, who historians think betrayed Israel and was proud, arrogant and incredibly wicked: “Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die….” Are you serious? That’s terrifying! God is going to ball him up and whirl him around and around and just whip him out into a field to die.
THAT is what God does to sin, and to the devil. He utterly deals with them! The truth is that,
Jesus has defeated the power of the devil and the power of sin. And He loves you. And He is helping you even now, and when you pray. You will be with Him forever, and your sin will one day be a distant memory–if you can remember it at all, it will only be to give God glory for His incredible rescue of you
If you are a follower of Jesus here this morning, you don’t have to be a prisoner to sin, because Jesus has set you free from the power of the devil.
Here’s why this matters when you walk out those doors:
You’re going to be tempted to forget that you were ever trapped. You’re going to forget how bad it was in there. Sin is going to look very attractive to you, and you’ll to be tempted to slip back into Satan’s house. Into sin. Under his control. Into some of those old habits again.
You’re going to be tempted to forget that it was Jesus who brought you out and who sustains you to this day.
But truth of the Gospel–God’s Good News–is this: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).
We are free to walk in liberty and follow Jesus. Even the guilt of our past sin, has been decisively dealt with by the Son of God.
We have been bought with a high price–that of God’s own blood.
So we’re free; but we are not free to wander back into Satan’s house. As though we had never been rescued.
We must not forget what Jesus has done to rescue us. Don’t go back to sin like it isn’t that bad.
If you’re struggling with sin, and feeling trapped,
God has given you a weapon to use against the devil. God’s Word, the Bible, is a weapon to use against the devil.
Remember the devil is already beaten and bound. His threats against you are lies.
You can fight the devil by proclaiming and believing the promises God makes in the Bible, because those promises are truth. And the truth has incredible power.
Now maybe you’re here and you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus. Maybe you’ve gone to church for a long time, or this could be your first time. Maybe you don’t consider yourself spiritual, or maybe you are still evaluating your options. There seem to be many ways to God–many paths up the mountain, so to speak.
The truth is, what Jesus says is, there are only two ways to live: under the control of the devil, or in the freedom found in Jesus.
Jesus alone can save you and has already done what it takes.
Without Him, you are still trapped in your slavery to sin. But God is offering you His rescue today. Are you ready for that?
You can be set free from your sin and from the enemy’s control once and for all this morning. God is still working, still setting His people free, and He can and will do it for you.
Believe in Him. Come to Him and embrace Him as Lord and Savior, Who died and rose again to forgive you and make you right with God.. You can do that right now sitting there listening to me. God will without a doubt rescue you and set you free!!
Jesus is the only one who can beat our enemy–the one who held us captive–and liberate us. And He did.
As His followers, we do have a battle to fight, and we do pick up our sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We wrestle against our the devil every day, who would love to regain control over us. However, we fight against the devil knowing Jesus has already won the war.
The Son has set us free.
And if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.
This topic has come up a couple times in recent days, so I wanted to just bang out a few thoughts on it.
What follows is not a full, scholarly treatment on Problem of Evil (in any of its various philosophical formulations). However, I hope it might be helpful to you, the next time someone poses this question to you.
I’m happy to get any feedback on this–and certainly let me know if you are able to use it in a spiritual conversation!
Why does the all-powerful, perfectly good God allow evil in the world?
God is good and the ultimate standard for what can be defined as good. Without God, there is no way of accounting for good.
And evil is the opposite of good, so there is no way to account for evil if you don’t already know what good is.
Therefore, unless you believe in God (as He has revealed Himself in the Bible) you can’t say anything meaningful about evil. So we have to start there.
If God allows evil to happen in the world (and He does), then there must be a good reason behind it. The perfectly-good God of the universe is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28-30).
In this world or any other, evil can never ultimately “win.”
God does allow evil–both natural “evil” and evil committed by evil beings (humans and evil spirits). We see this in Scripture and in life.
There are biblical examples of God intending and even predestining evil people to freely commit evil actions, in order that God’s surpassing goodness might be worked out in the end. For examples, consider Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery (explained in Genesis 50:20) and the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus (explained in Acts 1:16-17; 4:27-28).
God is not the author of evil–He is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). However, He is sovereign over everyone and everything, the righteous and the wicked, and He is free to use it all according to His good purposes. He uses good people to make good decisions and bring about in good outcomes (often far better than was even intended!); He also uses evil people to make sinful decisions and result in (ultimately) good outcomes. How incredibly frustrating that must be for the devil! All his evil schemes keep being turned around against him to bring about good in the end!
Take, for example, the worst sin that was ever committed. The unjust torture and crucifixion of the only perfect man to ever live–God Himself in the flesh–turned out to be part of God’s plan to carry out the greatest rescue act in history.
Every time the Lord does this, the good He brings about far surpasses the evil that was worked, which, while still being authentically wrong, pales in comparison to the glorious greatness of God’s goodness.
To keep from making this any longer, let’s summarize: God allows evil in the world, in order to demonstrate that He is so good that even evil cannot upset His good, pleasing and perfect will.
When the redemption of Jesus becomes a reality in your life, He gives you a completely new perspective on the evil in the world and in your life. Jesus gives you the Holy Spirit to be with you and comfort you during your suffering.
Even in your hour of death, He will be there to strengthen you and to welcome you into Christ’s kingdom, where evil is finally overcome and only goodness remains. Again, the worst thing becomes the best thing. That’s how incredibly good God is.
Trying to Do It Yourself?
The Bible says that God is the one who brings good out of evil and calamity in the world. However, if you are like me, you naturally like to be the one in control. You would rather shape and direct your own life, but you and I cannot possibly work everything out for good. That is a God-sized task, and we can only get that from Him. And the Bible says we can only get to Him through Jesus (John 14:6).
If you don’t yet know Jesus, you can meet Him right now! Repent–give up trying to bring about your own good in your life (how’s that been working for you anyway?), and trust in Him. Claim Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (the ultimate good-out-of-evil story), and He will save you (Romans 10:9-11).
Want to know more? Looking for more resources to use in spiritual conversations? Got Bible questions? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesus was a master of apologetics (what John Frame calls “the theological discipline that defends the truth of the Christian message). Of course, He is the Master of everything, so it makes sense that He would defend truth in a masterful way. In the New Testament, there are many examples of Jesus engaging with His opponents in apologetical discussions. A brilliant example of this is found in Mark 3:22-30:
The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”
So He summoned them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.And if Satan rebels against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished!
“On the other hand, no one can enter a strong man’s house and rob his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he will rob his house.I assure you: People will be forgiven for all sins[b] and whatever blasphemies they may blaspheme.But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
In this encounter with his perennial opponents, Jesus is engaging in presuppositional apologetics. He begins with a claim of theirs–it happens to be common ground they both agree with–that a demon has been cast out of someone.
Then Jesus hits them with a one-two punch. First He goes on offense: “Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he’ll become wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:4). Then He plays defense: “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself” (Prov. 26:4).
(vv. 23-26) Offense
Jesus goes on the offense against their argument. Jesus steps into their worldview for the sake of argument and shows them that their reasoning is self-refuting and therefore necessarily false.
If I were possessed by Beelzeboul, then I would be working for Satan’s kingdom.
If I am casting out demons, then I am working against Satan’s kingdom.
If I am casting out demons by Beelzeboul, then I would be working for and against Satan’s kingdom.
That is logically incoherent and self-refuting. It is necessarily false. (Side note: this shows that the scribes could not actually believe this in any kind of rational way. Jesus is betraying their heart commitments. They couldn’t really believe that Jesus was working for Satan, but because they refused to believe in Him, they were forced to accept an obvious, irrational falsehood. This is what inevitably happens to all non-biblical world views.)
I suppose they could have argued back, “Well then Satan is obviously stupidly working against himself!” But this is refuted by considering that their whole argument was based on the craftiness of Satan’s strategy. So is Satan being crafty or stupid? Jesus implicitly says (as one commentator has pointed out), “Satan is evil, but he is not stupid.” This would have been accepted by all.
(v. 27) Defense
Jesus defends the truth. Jesus refuses to accept their presupposition (that He is not the divine Messiah), and demonstrates that the only possible correct view is that He is more powerful than Satan. The only one more powerful than Satan is God. The scribes believed this. Therefore Jesus is forcing them, by their own worldview, to admit that He is God. Of course, this entails that they owe Him their allegiance and faith. But the only way around that is to deny what they already claim to believe. Look at their options:
They could argue that a demon was not really cast out–but the exorcism was so obvious that this would turn them into radically skeptic anti-supernaturalists–not even an option in that culture, and surely this would disqualify them from being scribes!
They could argue that a mere man could possibly cast out demons without God’s approval and power–but this too would force them to abandon their pretense of a biblical worldview, disqualifying them from being scribes.
They could admit that Jesus actually is the Messiah sent from God, operating in God’s power, and actually is God (because He’s claimed divine attributes and clearly has God’s approval for doing so), and is casting out demons by God’s power and authority.
What they cannot argue is that Jesus was casting out demons by the “ruler of the demons.” Jesus has brilliantly taken that option away from them and masterfully backed them into an inescapable corner.
It’s interesting that, after Jesus speaks, we don’t hear from the scribes again in this exchange. After all, what could they say? Their argument and lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God has been destroyed, and their thoughts have been taken captive to obey Christ, the Master Apologist.
Application for us
When we face challenges in spiritual conversations we may (must!) follow the Lord’s example.
Go on the offense. Demonstrate that our conversation partner “can’t get there from here.” Their worldview doesn’t lead them to where they want to go, and in fact it refutes itself.
Defend the truth. Show that the biblical teaching is the only possible way to get there.
For example, a man who says God can’t exist because evil exists, has no way of accounting for a meaningful definition of evil according to his worldview. However, the Bible not only accounts for evil but also provides a solution for it in the Gospel, which they have an obligation to hear and obey (believe).
In this passage, Jesus teaches important truth about His identity as the God-Man Messiah, also on blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, but He also gives us a template for handling challenges and objections in spiritual conversations.
Note: I originally wrote this article in English with the title, “Is Christianity Exclusive?,” for my previous blog. You can read it in English here. Thanks to Antonio Salgado for translating it into Spanish.
El cristianismo ha sido llamado religión más exclusivo del mundo. Después de todo, se presenta una visión de Dios y el reino de Dios, que está completamente centrada y enfocada en un solo requisito. Otras religiones ofrecen un sistema de normas y prácticas religiosas que puede seguir, para adherirse a las creencias y formas de vida para que pueda llevar a cabo. La idea es que, a medida que tratan su más difícil de hacer lo mejor, Dios (o Alá, o Jehová, o quien sea) podrá ver tu corazón y, tal vez, llenar los vacíos en su obediencia defectuosa e imperfecta. Hay un gran número de sistemas de fe que ofrecen esto. Los métodos y los requisitos varían, pero la esencia general es el mismo: hacer lo mejor para obedecer, y lo más probable es ponerse en No podemos garantizarlo, pero las probabilidades son mayores que la media..
No es así con el cristianismo (o, como los primeros seguidores lo llamaron, “El Camino”). Hay uno, único, inalterable e inflexible exigencia de estar en “buena con Dios” según la Biblia (la Biblia es la fuente de las creencias cristianas – a diferencia de otros sistemas de fe seudocristianas, como el catolicismo romano, que tiene un gran cuerpo de tradición de la iglesia que se mantiene en pie de igualdad con la Biblia). Sólo hay un requisito de una persona debe cumplir con el fin de ser perdonados de sus pecados y se transfiere desde el estado de “bajo la ira” a la condición de que este requisito es “justificado.”: Jesús tiene que salvar.
Eh? ¿Por qué me hacen parecer que el requisito es algo que Jesus hace, en lugar de algo que tengo que hacer? La razón es porque eso es lo que la Biblia enseña. Contrariamente a lo que cada otra religión enseña (que yo sepa, y yo soy un estudiante de la filosofía religiosa, por lo que vale la pena), en el cristianismo no hay nada que puede hacer – en absoluto – para merecer el favor de Dios. Cuando se trata de la salvación, no se puede hacer absolutamente nada para ganarla. Todo totalmente, totalmente, descansa por completo en la obra de Jesucristo para salvarte. Él vivió la vida perfectamente obediente que nadie pudo. Sin embargo, él murió como un asesino, cuando los pecadores como nosotros merecemos castigo. Hizo un cambio cósmico, salvando efectivamente a todo aquel que cree en Él. Solo aquellos que creen esto, se arrepientan de sus pecados (porque quién no, después de ver lo mucho que Dios los ama en sacrificar a su propio Hijo?), Y la confianza en la obra terminada de Jesús será salvado.
Debido a esto, el cristianismo es exclusivo. Toda paisaje espiritual y religiosa del mundo está plagado de falsas puertas que conducen a callejones sin salida, y Jesús es la única puerta que conduce al reino de Dios. Entrar a través de él, el autoproclamado “puerta estrecha” (Mateo 7:13), y serás salvo. Salvado del reino de la oscuridad, del pecado, de la destrucción, de la adicción, la delincuencia, de rebelión contra Dios, de vivir su vida fuera de la gracia y la bondad de Dios. Guardado en el reino de Dios, lleno de perdón y la misericordia, la bondad, el propósito y el placer. Y Jesús es la única manera de entrar. Punto. La Escritura no puede ser más claro en esto.
Es por eso que los primeros cristianos fueron llamados “seguidores del Camino.” El “camino” no es un sistema; el Camino es una Persona. Él es un ser humano, que también es Dios encarnado. Dos naturalezas (una humano, una divina), un hombre, un puente perfecto entre Dios y la humanidad. Jesús es la persona perfecta para cerrar la brecha de otro modo infranqueable entre la gente pecadora y el Dios Santo y perfecto. Así que el cristianismo es exclusivo. Cualquier cristiano que es honesto estará de acuerdo con eso.
Pero el reino de Dios es también sorprendentemente, inclusivo. Voy a explicar por qué en la segunda parte de este artículo.