February 15 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 11)

Submitted by Hannah Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

·       Interpretation of God’s activity; Pride; spiritual responsiveness

As Jesus is doing his ministry and driving out demons, it is interesting that it says that the crowd was amazed but some of them questioned Jesus and had this sinister view of him even coming up with their own theory of how he was driving the demons out, and still others tested Jesus and asked for a sign. I thought about how this is so true to life.  Often I find that when God is working in undeniable ways, there are some who put a negative bend on it and stubbornly refuse to believe.  They discount it as a coincidence, or they place ill-motive on God and His people.  They are cynical and want to explain it away according to their own theories that may seem so sophisticated and convincing.  I have seen others just discounting God’s work as a one time freak of nature and say that they can not believe unless this or that happens. They say, If God works in X way, then I will believe.

Ultimately I think it comes down to pride and this insistence that God work the way I want him to and unless that happens I will come up with whatever excuse or story to dismiss it. The people who came up with the story of Jesus being the prince of demons, just didn’t want to believe that Jesus actually had power from God. Perhaps they are like the people today who spend their whole lives in academic and scholarly work, trying to explain away God’s work with different theories and or explanations.   Or people who might even experience God working in their own lives but immediately see it in a cynical way and demonize God or His people for the work they are doing.  They might say they are doing it for their own ego, or because they want something from me, or because they want to just feel good about themselves.  The people who tested Jesus by asking him for a sign might be like people today who say that I won’t believe in God unless he appears in some miraculous way or they pray to God saying that I will believe you if you give me a good job, that girl/guy I’ve been pursuing, that nice house on the hill, good health, etc.  They put up all these conditions and are blind to all the work that God is already doing around them.

It’s so tragic to see how these people missed out.  But this is exactly what my pride does when I expect God to work under my parameters.  It causes me to be so bent on myself and on my own expectations.  It blinds me to the amazing work that God is doing all around me.   I think society tells us not to be such a fool and believe what we see.  We’ve been programmed to think that being devils advocate and thinking of 1001 explanations of how God’s activity can be explained away is so sophisticated and intellectually sound.  But this is so far from the truth.  Our pride just leaves us hollow and empty, devoid of the capacity for awe and amazement and wonder.  It also numbs our hearts to respond to God’s work and we remain unchanged and untouched by God.

·       Strong man … stronger man

This analogy of the strong man, fully armed, guarding his house is such an apt description of Satan and how he has taken captive the hearts of unbelievers and protects their hearts with all sorts of sin and lies.  He is the strong man who has completely taken over peoples’ hearts, causing shame, guilt, and making people powerless to overcome their sin.  As I have been in college ministry for the past 9 years, I see how Satan, the “strong man,” is fully armed and he plunges people deeper in sin.  I thought about how the Internet is such an issue for a lot of people.  It is such an effective way that Satan causes people to remain in their captive state.  There are so many addictions, depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, lust, greed, all sorts of bitterness and resentment that seems like the “strong man” has no chance at being overthrown.  We ourselves are powerless to overcome him with our own self-will. People try all sorts of self-help, different methods to silence the voices, to change themselves by sheer effort, but never being truly set free.  But thank God that Jesus is the “stronger man”!  Indeed, Christ has the power to disarm the strong man, bind him up and set us free.  Time and time again, I see Christ binding up the strong man who has occupied people’s hearts and setting them free from their addictions, their remorse and shame. Just this past month here in Riverside, we experienced 4 salvations and these students have been witnessing Christ, the stronger man, setting them free from years and years of bondage under the strong man. The imagery of the stronger man, completely disarming the strong man, making Satan powerless to grab a hold of them again is so true and right.

Submitted by Abe Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Luke 11:24–26

What constitutes a house being swept clean and put in order?

A house that is swept clean and put in order is someone who has put his life in order by his own efforts. It’s someone who has tried to purify himself on his own merits and efforts.

What is the danger of keeping the house empty (i.e., without the “strong man” occupying it)?

The danger of keeping the house empty is that for a time, it may seem like everything is fine and dandy – but the reality is that there’s nothing preventing disaster from striking. Just because something may be “clean and put in order”  doesn’t mean that something big can’t just come in and cause a wreck. Thus, the person with the clean, empty house thinks everything is under control – but that’s merely an illusion.

I’ve experienced possessing an “empty house,” both in my own life as well as in the lives of some of those I minister to. The mindset goes something like this: I’ve been clean for x many weeks now, so I must be clean. And indeed, for the past x weeks, I have been clean; the house is in order, and everything is great. Yet, as soon as I start developing this attitude, it doesn’t take very long before I succumb to temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:12 offers a great warning, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

What we need is not just a clean house – what we really need is the stronger man occupy our home. This strong man is Christ himself. I have experienced this. It is only when I become completely open and vulnerable about my struggles, about my issues, about my pitfalls, weaknesses, sins, and character flaws – only then can I experience true relief that lasts. Logically, it only makes sense: I cannot guard my own house alone – I cannot keep myself from sinning on my own. I need the help of the Holy Spirit, and accountability and help from believers, the body of Christ. In order for Christ, the Head, and his church, the Body, to enter in, I have to die a thousand deaths to my pride and ego. It means I need to acknowledge, each and every time, that I cannot safeguard my own house, that I am too weak to do it on my own. Yet, that is simple truth: if I don’t allow the “strong man” to come in, I’m only opening myself up to Satan’s attacks.

Luke 11:27–28

Why does Jesus call the crowd “a wicked generation”?

Jesus calls the crowd “a wicked generation” because they come asking for preposterous things like asking for signs, even after Jesus demonstrated for them a sign. If casting out demons and making the mute speak was not enough, what could possibly help them to believe? Thus, Jesus labels them as “wicked” because they’re not really searching for the truth – they want to see signs for the sake of seeing signs.

What are the characteristics of the Ninevites and the Queen of the South that will condemn the “wicked generation” at the judgment?

Neither the Ninevites nor the Queen of the South were part of God’s chosen people, yet they both sought after God with a genuine heart. The Ninevites took Jonah’s rebuke of them to heart – they put on sackcloth, fasted, and repented for forty days, and turned away from their sinful lives (Jonah 3). The Queen of the South made the long journey to meet with Solomon. She questioned and tested him, but unlike this “wicked generation,” she did this out of a genuine search for truth. When she was satisfied by the answers Solomon had provided, she lavished praises upon God and upon his kingdom, knowing how wonderful it is for them to be governed by one who has possessed wisdom from God (1 Kings 10). Jesus is saying that even though these people are God’s chosen ones, they don’t take the time to thoroughly do an all-out search for God; they merely want to be entertained by miraculous signs.

What is implied in Jesus saying that the sign of Jonah is the only sign that will be given?

Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection – this “sign of Jonah” – will be the wedge between the beliefs of people. Among the many signs and miracles that he’s performed, this is the only one by which all men must answer to. Who is Jesus, why was he was nailed on the cross, and what happened to him after three days?

This is the sign that each of us needs to answer – even to this day. How we answer this will determine how we answer Jesus’ question: “who do you say I am?” Was he a lunatic who died on the cross because of his lunacy? Was he a liar, and his deception is so great that his disciples continue to spread such lies? Or is he Lord, one who willingly went to the cross to die for our sins, and who has triumphed over sin and overcame the grave?

This is a sign that a simple “by Beelzebub” answer will not suffice. Yet, it’s a sign that does require thinking – those who are a part of the “wicked generation” will just shrug it off and not think much about it – but this is the only sign given to them. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15, this is the linchpin of all Christianity. It’s an opportunity for them to choose to deal with it, to struggle with this, and come out with their own thought-out conclusions. It’s the sign in which those who are like the Queen of the South or the Ninevites will gladly take, and those who have wrestled with it will come out satisfied.

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