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A Weak Man, a Strong Man, and the Stronger Man

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
January 19, 2022 9:00 am

A Weak Man, a Strong Man, and the Stronger Man

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 19, 2022 9:00 am

Pastor J.D. talks about the cosmic struggle between God and Satan, a struggle that bears on our lives every day. We’ll see that apart from God’s power, even the best attempts to change are ultimately doomed to fail.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Religion and self-improvement apart from Jesus opens the door to more deceptive and more dangerous demons. Religious change, I don't care how eloquent or good-looking the person that is peddling it to you is. Religious change or self-improvement is often accompanied by pride and judgmentalism and a sense of self-sufficiency and those things are infinitely worse than alcoholism or a bad temper. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. Today on the program, Pastor J.D. will be talking about the cosmic struggle between God and Satan, a battle that has direct impact on our lives every day. And we'll soon see that apart from God's power, even our best attempts to change are ultimately doomed to fail. But with the strength and the wisdom of God, not only can we survive, but we can actually plunder the enemy. Now, if you missed any part of the study that we began a few weeks ago called In Step, remember that you can always catch up online at But right now, let's dive on in. This message is titled A Weak Man, A Strong Man, and The Stronger Man. Here's Pastor J.D.

Luke 11, if you got your Bible with you this weekend, if you're joining us there at home, you can even pause me if you want and we'll go run, grab your Bible and turn it to Luke chapter 11. As you're turning there, it is hard for me to believe that this year will mark 20 years since the 9-11 attacks. They say that those attacks rewrote the book on how nations think about warfare. In previous wars, you had an identified entity like Germany or Japan, but the 9-11 attacks were carried out by citizens of countries who were our allies, some by people who lived right here within our own borders. After the attacks, Congress felt like a declaration of war was appropriate, but the dilemma was they weren't quite sure what to call this war. Previous wars have been called the war with England or the war against the Axis powers, but this was a war against terrorists. So the media dubbed it the war on terror. The strategies for fighting it were different. You couldn't just amass an army and go after the enemy. There were no territories that the enemy really called home, so we started to hear about things like sleeper cells and race radicalized operatives. These realities required different strategies for fighting and different security protocols, and of course that gave rise to new dangers like the invasion of privacy or racial profiling. Many of the hit drama shows of that era, shows like 24 or Alias played on the premise that this new war is very dangerous and we better learn the new rules of engagement or we just will not survive.

I share that because I think you're going to find parallels in how Jesus instructs us, the church, to approach the Christian life in Luke chapter 11. He says that if we don't realize the real nature of the enemy, then we're going to be ill equipped to survive the battle. You see, just like in the war on terror, our enemy in this battle is not one entity that we can isolate and identify.

He doesn't have a headquarters somewhere like Hollywood or the New York Times or Wall Street. He's not at work in only one particular culture or people, nor is he isolated to one political party. You are certainly going to find him at work in all of those things, but he's also going to be at work in our churches, in our small groups, in our families, and even in our own hearts, and that requires different rules of engagement. By the way, in illuminating these things for us, Jesus also is going to answer a question that a lot of us ask, particularly around the new year, and that is why we struggle so much to bring, to effect real change into our lives. I would say that one thing almost all of us have in common, maybe all of us, is that there are things in our lives we would love to change, but many of us are so discouraged at our persistent inability to do so. In fact, some of you didn't even make a new year's resolution this year because you didn't need anything else to feel guilty about failing at.

After 2020, I just want to come out with some big wins, and so that means I'm not even going to play the game. Jesus explains that that's because spiritual forces are at work in us and around us, and so apart from his power, any attempt to change is doomed to fail, even if for a while it looks like it succeeds. Let's take a look. Luke chapter 11, let's begin in verse 14. Now, Jesus, he was driving out a demon that was making the man mute.

Let's just stop right here, because I have a feeling that some of you might read that one sentence and just say, really? I mean, Jesus actually believed that some physical and psychological problems were caused by demons? Short answer, yes, and that is consistent throughout the Bible. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes in situations like this than many of us realize, and maybe that strikes you as naive, and you're like, well, we now know that diseases have viral causes. Emotional and even spiritual problems can be explained by psychological or physiological causes or the result of past trauma, and by the way, I don't think Jesus would disagree with you at all. That is certainly not inconsistent with what the scriptures teach about these things, and it's why God gave us the scientific method to discover those things, but Jesus would say that if you think that all of life's issues can be explained by merely physical factors, then maybe you, maybe you are actually the naive one.

Do you really think that at the root of the Holocaust was just a man with chemical imbalances who got flunked out of art school? Do you really think that the strife and division we experience in our own society simply owes to differing political ideologies? When we see the rage that animates the discussions that we are in, how can we not see the evidence of spiritual, evil spiritual forces at work whose intent is to divide and to destroy? Or today, when we look at our society's disregard for the lives of innocent babies in the womb and the dogged determination to celebrate our right to discard them, how do we not see evidence of spiritual forces at work?

When we think about, when we think about the tragic history of our blindness on racial injustice, how do we not recognize the hand of the enemy? So yes, evil in our world has physical causes, but if you think that physical factors alone explain all human evil and suffering, perhaps you're the naive one. And that's why the vast majority of people throughout history, even today, have recognized the reality of supernatural spiritual forces at work.

That's not because everybody else around the world is so naive and we alone are so sophisticated. Now, just to be clear with you, okay, this is not to say that every problem, every problem is directly connected to demonic activity. That's not what I'm saying at all. Just that according to Jesus, these things are sometimes at work. So back to verse 14. When the demon came out, the man who had been mute spoke and the crowds were amazed, but some of them said, no, he drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. Now, quick note here, Beelzebul means the ruler of the demons, or some translations say Lord of dung.

Scholars say it was a bit slang, calling someone the lord of dung, but using the curse word for dung. Calling Jesus the lord of the demons or the lord of dung was a way that the religious leaders could explain away his power. Jesus obviously had supernatural powers, but they didn't want to acknowledge that he was from God.

So the only way to, the only alternative, the only way around that was to say that he got his obviously supernatural powers, they had to come from Satan. Verse 17, knowing their thoughts, by the way, have you noticed how many times in the book of Luke that that phrase occurs? That's another hint by Luke that Jesus is God, because he always knew what everybody was thinking. So he tells them, every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction and the house divided against itself falls. If Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

Now, y'all, this is as logically simple as it gets, right? How does it make sense that Satan would empower Jesus to destroy his other works? If Satan is the one behind certain diseases and afflictions, if he loves to spread dung, beelzebul, if he loves to spread dung into people's lives in the form of disease and death and strife, why would he empower Jesus to clean up those very things? Jesus's works are going the opposite way of Satan's. Verse 19, he continues, and if I drive out demons by beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out?

For this reason, they will be your judges. All right, now here's his second piece of reasoning. His second piece of reason is, if I cast out demons by Satan's power, then by whose power do your people cast them out? By what standard do you say that my power is from Satan and theirs is from God?

If my powers to do these things are from Satan, well then maybe your people's powers to do those things those things are from Satan also. He's showing them the inconsistency of their accusation. Theirs is not an honest intellectual objection. They're just making up objections because they don't like Jesus. By the way, I have found that same insight really helpful when talking to people about the gospel today.

Sometimes people will come up with objections to the gospel, but they're not real objections because they would never apply those same standards to themselves. Many Muslims, for example, apply a historical cynicism to Christian history that they would never apply to their own. They believe all these crazy conspiracy theories about the Bible, but they would never look at their own history through that same lens. Or for you college students on your college campus, you'll hear a professor apply a cynicism to the historical evidence for the resurrection that they would not apply to any other event in history.

They assume that for this one event, for this one event, that there was some elaborate, almost inexplicable historical ruse. Or they'll raise objections from Christian history like, what about the crusades? And they'll imply that those things invalidated Christianity itself. And when you respond with, well, yes, the crusades were a tragic chapter where Christians departed from Jesus's teaching, but I'll tell you what, I'll see your crusades and I'll raise you Mao Zedong's China and Stalin's Russia, which in the name of atheism committed genocides exponentially larger than anything that happened in the crusades. And when you say that, they'll respond, they'll say, well, that's got nothing to do with the intellectual integrity of atheism. And Jesus would say to them, just like he says to these people, why are you applying a cynicism to me that you would never even apply to yourself? This is not a real objection.

This is a rationalization for a decision you've already made. And that is you don't like Jesus. Perhaps your cynicism has less to do with intellectual honesty and more to do with the dislike of Jesus and his claims of authority over your life.

That's the point. Jesus continues, verse 20, if I drive out demons by the finger of God, well, then it's logical for you to conclude that the kingdom of God has come upon you. Now this finger of God image here is a reference that all those religious leaders would immediately have recognized. The phrase finger of God was a phrase that was used by the Egyptian sorcerers in Exodus eight to describe the power that Moses was displayed in the Exodus. In the Exodus, God had done a series of miracles to convince Pharaoh to let the Jews leave Egypt.

You remember this? Well, for the first couple of plagues, the Egyptian magicians use some trickery to replicate some of those things. Moses, for example, throws down his staff on the ground and it becomes a snake. And the Egyptian magicians, they've got this little trick rod where they could make it look like they also had that power. By the way, the Bible didn't tell us if that was just an optical illusion or if there was some kind of actual sorcery involved.

Either way, in Exodus chapter eight, Moses raises the stakes. Moses then takes his staff and he throws it down into the dust. And as the dust poofed up, it turns into what?

You remember? It turns into gnats. And from there, gnats multiplied and covered the land. Well, the Egyptian magicians, they couldn't duplicate that. Creating an optical illusion where it looks like a staff turns into a snake is one thing, but this, creating gnats out of dust, they can't touch that. And so they tell Pharaoh privately, Exodus eight, 19, they're like, this is the finger of God.

We just can't do this. Even the pagan magicians knew the finger of God when they saw it. And Jesus is saying, your Jewish exorcist can do some pretty impressive things, but they cannot do anything like what you are seeing here. And it's safe to conclude that at the finger of God is present. Well, then so is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is here because the King is here. Verse 21, Jesus continues, when a strong man fully armed guards his house, his estate, his possessions are secure. But when one stronger than he attacks and he attacks and overpowers him, he takes from him all the weapons that he trusted in. And then he divides up his plunder.

Now in this analogy, don't get lost here. In this analogy, who is the strong man? Satan is a strong man. And who is the stronger man? That's Jesus, right? Jesus is the stronger man that overpowers Satan and plunders all his possessions.

Now, this is important. In this parable, who are you? You are the property who was first owned by the strong man, but then liberated by the stronger man. The implication is, and this is so important, you are either going to belong to one or the other. You cannot be free of the strong man until you are under the control of the stronger man. You see what he says in verse 23?

Look at it. Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters. Neutrality toward Jesus is not an option. And so if you are not actively pursuing and serving Jesus, you are against him, because you are still under the control of the strong man.

Do you see that? We'll come back to that, but first let's finish the parable. Because Jesus is going to make this point even more clear. Verse 24, when an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest. And then not finding rest, it says, I'll go back to my house that I came from. Returning, it finds the house swept and put in order. Jewish law demanded rigorous cleaning techniques after you've gotten rid of any kind of disease or defilement. It even applied to your property. For example, if you had a mold problem in your house, you couldn't just clean that area with soap and water or a bottle of Clorox. The book of Leviticus said you had to remove that whole section of the wall.

And if the mold came back, you had to burn the whole house down. Jesus uses this as a picture of the person who tries to use the law to clean their life up. So they make a bunch of resolutions. They get rid of their bad habits. They bring their addictions under control. They get rid of bad relationships, and they turn over a new leaf.

They are serious about change. What happens? Verse 26, then that unclean spirit goes and brings seven of the spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there.

As a result, the person's last condition is even worse than the first. They're worse after they got rid of the demon than before they got rid of him. The demons don't mind this cleanup.

In fact, they kind of like it. And it certainly does not stop them from coming back in much bigger numbers. The use of the number seven, by the way, is meant to imply completion. That's what the number seven usually indicates in Hebrew. It's like saying the last state of that man is infinitely worse than the verse. Listen to me. I want you to hear a pastor in a church say this. Religion and self-improvement, apart from Jesus, opens the door to more deceptive and more dangerous demons. Religious change, I don't care how eloquent or good-looking or multi-million dollar the person that is peddling it to you is.

Religious change or self-improvement is often accompanied by pride and judgmentalism and a sense of self-sufficiency, and those things are infinitely worse than alcoholism or a bad temper. Tim Keller uses this as an illustration. He says, say you got a little boy who falls down and scrapes his knee. And let's say that he's really being overly emotional about it.

So his dad comes over and his dad says, son, get up. Be a man. You don't want to be a little pansy in your life, do you? Stop crying. Okay, here's the question. Can that motivation help that little boy stop crying?

Yes, it can. His dad's words help him sweep his house, tame his emotions, get some control. But what's happened now? The little boy didn't just take himself back from being overly emotional. No, now he's given himself to a new master, and that master is the fear of looking weak. And let's just say that that becomes a driving force in his life. Never look weak, because weakness makes you look deficient as a person.

So cover any weakness at all costs. Now I want you to imagine this guy's marriage. You cannot have a healthy marriage if you're always scared of looking weak or you refuse to be vulnerable. You cannot have a healthy vulnerable or you despise your wife when she does. So yes, through that dad's motivation, the little boy was freed from being overly emotional, but he did so by giving himself to a new master, a worse master.

The medication had worse side effects than the disease. You conquered alcoholism, but you developed a judgmental and an arrogant spirit. Seven more demons. You overcame your insecurity by becoming a driven, domineering, and self-sufficient person. Seven more demons. You avoid conflict by retracting inward and shutting yourself off and just not having friends anymore. Seven more demons. You avoid pain by never committing to anybody.

Seven more demons. By the way, we see the same thing politically. People on the left will say, well, the problem in our society is the institutions of capitalism. They serve the interest of white supremacy or the patriarchy, so let's tear them down and redistribute all the wealth. So you do that.

But then guess what you're left with? People still have the same sinful heart of greed and exploitation who will use whatever power they have to subvert the weak around them. That has been the history of every Marxist country in history.

Seven more demons. People on the right say, no, no, no, the government is the problem itself. Just make everybody free and that'll take care of it. And we might agree that power distributed amongst a bunch of corruptible people is less dangerous than power isolated in the hands of a few corruptible people.

But even then you haven't dealt with the problem. Selfishness and greed and corruption still fill the heart of man and Satan still finds those things and uses them to create the despair and loneliness that comes from materialism and self-sufficiency. Seven more demons. You see, the point is, whether you're talking individually or politically, Jesus is the only master who can free you from your demons and make you whole again. It is ironic, but freedom in the Christian life only comes from giving yourself fully to Jesus.

Let me say that again. The irony is this freedom only comes from surrender. So again, let's ask, what does this passage teach us about change? What does it teach us about how to bring change both in ourselves and in others? Jesus teaches us in this passage that there are two conditions for real spiritual power. Number one is in verse 23.

I'd encourage you to write both these down. Number one, total surrender. Total surrender. Again, verse 23. Anybody who's not with me is against me and anyone who does not gather with me scatters. Until you are under the full possession of the stronger man's authority, you are powerless to fend off the domination of the strong man who is Satan.

Clean up or self-reform or pledges to do better are not going to do it. You're either all in with team Jesus or you're still on team Satan. And to be on team Jesus means that you've surrendered 100% of who you are, all your hopes, all your dreams, all your ambitions, all your ideas. You've given them all to him.

Now you're like, hold on, hold on, hold on, no way. I may not be a fully committed Christian, but I don't belong to Satan. Yes, you do. Your argument's not with me, your argument's with Jesus. He who is not actively pursuing me, actively serving me, still belongs to Satan. Jesus is stronger. He's the only one who can save you.

Maybe that's the truth you needed to hear today. Embrace Jesus today. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. Today's message is titled, A Weak Man, A Strong Man, and The Stronger Man, and it's part of our teaching series from the Gospel of Luke called In Step. If you've missed any of our previous teaching, or if you want to study the transcripts, you can find them free of charge at As a way to help us all ensure that God is first in our lives this year, we'd like to focus this month on the spiritual discipline of memorizing scripture. For most of us, the problem isn't that we don't know how valuable the Bible is. The problem is that we've never brought the practice of reading it and memorizing it in line with this belief. For instance, if I offered you half a million dollars to never touch the Bible again, never read it, hear it, talk about it, or even think about it, would you accept that deal?

I'm guessing you'd say no, but think about that. You've just identified the Bible as an asset worth over $500,000. Is there any other half a million dollar half a million dollar asset that you would simply ignore? We need a weapon to keep us from falling prey to the enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for people to destroy. And guess what? The most valuable weapon that we can wield is the Word of God. That's why we have to keep putting it into our hearts so that when life cuts us, we bleed the Word of God. This month, we've put together a pack of 50 memory verse cards for you to use as a daily weapon. If you want to carry God's promises in your heart, our new Summit Life memory verse cards make it easy to memorize Scripture.

We'll send you the Rejoice Always! Scripture memory card set as an expression of thanks when you donate today to support this ministry. Ask for it when you give by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can give online at That's If you'd rather mail your donation and request for the cards, our address is, PO Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. Before we close, let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list, you'll want to do that today. It is the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog posts, and we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or series.

It's quick and easy to sign up at You also don't want to forget to follow Pastor JD on Facebook and Instagram for more updates and encouraging content. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join Skin Thursday when Pastor JD helps us see in the Gospel of Luke that as believers, we have nothing to fear.

As strong as Satan is, he's no match for the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us. Listen Thursday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-22 05:48:27 / 2023-06-22 05:58:31 / 10

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