(A) Introduction. Read: Luke11v14to28

This passage sounds very strange to 21st century ears. Perhaps this is why I have never heard a sermon on Luke11v14to28. Today, we do not ascribe blindness or dumbness to evil spirits. I used to play cricket with a deaf and dumb man. His affliction was caused by his drunken, brutal father hitting him when a toddler. There are very few exorcists in Britain because we do not associate most illnesses with demons.

I find it very difficult to take literally Jesus' story about an evil spirit seeking rest in the desert like a latter day hippy. If I followed my own inclination I would ignore this Scripture. However, this would be a mistake because there are lessons to be learned from what Jesus said about demons.

(B) The amazing cure.

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute, spoke and the crowd was amazed. v14. According to Matthew the man was blind and mute and after Jesus had healed him the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" Mt12v22.

Today there is no doubt that Jesus transforms lives: those deaf to God's word, hear; those blind to the truth, see and those dumb to the extent of never uttering a syllable in praise of God, speak. On the Day of Pentecost the disciples declared the wonders of God. See Acts2v11.

(C) The slanderous accusation.

In response to the people's question: "Could this be the Son of David?" the Pharisees said: "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." v15.

'Beelzebub' means, 'Lord of the Flies' - the God of Ekron - a title then transferred to Satan - the prince of demons.

In ascribing the healing of the blind mute to Satan the Pharisees denied the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that this was a blasphemy against the Spirit and as such an unforgivable offence. See Mt12v31to32.

All attempts to explain away the wonderful change to a man or woman's life who believes in Jesus remains a wilful sin against the Holy Spirit.

(D) Christ's defence.

Jesus refutes the slander of the Pharisees in 3 ways:

(1) Divided interests are an unlikely strategy.

"Any Kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?" v17and18.

We know from experience the truth of what Jesus said. If members of a political party pull in different directions the party rapidly loses its effectiveness. A family business will be ruined if the family members have conflicting agendas. Individuals are said to fall between two stools when they are torn between two, strong, competing interests - career and family or study and pleasure.

Jesus knew that Satan was absolutely single-minded in his opposition to God and hatred of men. He would never authorise another to undo his work or undermine his power. Such is his undivided detestation of humanity that he would never under any circumstances set a living soul free from his influence.

(2) The example of others.

Jesus said: "Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges." v19.

There were Jewish exorcists who were of the same religious persuasion as the Pharisees. They obviously cast out demons in the name of God. They would doubtless testify that there was no other way - there was only one name the evil spirits feared.

(3) The practicalities of conquest.

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." v21and22.

The only way to overcome a strong man is to be stronger still. In a head to head confrontation the strongest wins.

Jesus showed superior strength over Satan by delivering the blind mute from his control. The Master set the man free from his affliction that Satan was using for his own malign purpose.

Jesus sets millions free from the tyranny of Satan and takes possession of their lives instead.

(E) Application today.

Christ and his church are still slandered. The world makes three accusations that Christians can refute using the arguments of Jesus:

(1) Christians are hypocrites.

This is a very common accusation. Christians who profess to love and obey Jesus are no different from anyone else. They claim to serve God but in reality only serve Mammon.

Now it is sadly true that some Christians are, indeed, hypocrites. Certainly most Christians are not as good as they would like to be. However, it is not true that the majority of Christians are hypocrites. A hypocrite is divided against himself. He serves two masters and is torn between Christ and the World. Most Christians are not fundamentally flawed and lacking basic integrity? Any organisation whose members do not really believe in what they are saying or doing will fail. The church has not failed! It may be in decline in Western Europe but world-wide it most certainly has not failed. The church goes from strength to strength.

(2) Suspect motives for Christian good works.

Atheists are frequently dismissive of Christian charities and the good works of individual Christians who are accused of 'doing it for themselves.' Christians who act righteously are said to do so to: acquire a good reputation, feel better about themselves and book a place in heaven.

When confronted with this view it is a good idea to ask the critics about their own good deeds. My friend Tommy on a bad day is inclined to cast aspersions at the conduct of Christians. But what about his kindness to his wife, children and grandchildren? Is he only good to them to feel better about himself? Surely he puts himself out in a hundred and one ways because he cares about and loves his family. If this is the case why is it so unlikely that Christians help people because they genuinely care about them? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they might also want to please Jesus!

(3) Alternative explanations for conversion experiences.

Militant non-believers explain away dramatic conversions to Christianity in a variety of ways. It is said to be due to emotional pressure, conditioning or other forms of undue influence and people looking for a crutch.

The truth is that there are innumerable instances of people whose lives are in a mess and who are powerless to help themselves who cry out for help to Jesus, someone they scarcely know, and the Spirit of God floods into their lives changing them. This is what happened to the most famous convert of history - Saul of Tarsus. He hadn't been conditioned or subject to undue influence. He wasn't looking for a crutch! Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and the Spirit of God - a superior power - transformed his life. This has happened over and over and over again. So very often a small act of faith results in a disproportionately great change in life.

(F) The danger of being uncommitted.

Jesus said: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." Lk11v21.

There are many who are not actively opposed to Jesus. They are interested in religion and sympathetic to Christianity without being wholly committed to Jesus. He is not Lord. He is not Captain of the garrison which is their heart. Jesus told the story about the demon wandering in the wilderness to illustrate the persistence of evil and the perils of the empty life.

Jewish history exemplifies the persistence of evil. After the Jews returned from exile in Babylon it seemed as if they abandoned idolatry forever. In the time of Jesus idolatry was anathema to the orthodox Jews. Certain evil spirits - superstition, sexual indulgence, drunkeness and cruelty - had been banished. Yet a new God had arisen. The highly religious Jews worshipped the Law. This gave rise to an arid legalism and a whole host of other evil spirits - pride, intolerance, self-righteousness and racism.

During the Reformation many Christians rejected the corrupt practices of Roman Catholicism. Protestant churches were set up that exorcised the evil spirits of superstition, greed and priest craft associated with such abominations as relics, indulgences, confession and absolution. But then what happened? Roman Catholicism was replaced by a narrow Calvinism and a different kind of legalism. In John Calvin's Geneva it was a punishable offence to call a baby by a non-biblical name!

The same sort of thing can happen in individual lives. Imagine a young man who sows his wild oats and to all appearances is possessed by the evil spirits of excess, lust, recklessness and selfishness. But this young man grows out of this phase and expels the spirits playing havoc with his prospects. He devotes his life to power and money. One of his evil spirits returns - selfishness - and is joined by three more: acquisitiveness, ruthlessness and cynicism.

I heard some months ago a former pop singer give her testimony. During her career she was consumed by the desire for fame and fortune. The evil spirits left her and she tried to fill the aching void with drugs and eastern mysticism. She was taken over by the evil spirits of self-indulgence and self-abandonment. Her last state was worse than her first.

When I was at Waldringfield Chapel in Suffolk to take a ladies meeting I heard a young American girl talk about her life. She had been greatly affected by what happened to her father. He was a highly successful business executive and a respected member of the church. Then the girl's father lost his job and suddenly his life was empty. Jesus was not actually the central figure in is life. The thing that defined him was his job. He owed his self-esteem and sense of worth to his job. Without his job he was nothing. It was not long before a group of malignant spirits got control of the girl's father's life. Self-pity, despair, bitterness, resentment and depression took up residence.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes about how quickly people in the Russian prison camps became corrupted. Some became informers, women sold their bodies for a plate of fried potatoes, others scavenged at the refuse pits and the young thieved off the weak. Solzhenitsyn wrote this about the Christians in these camps: And yet who was there among the religious believers whose soul was corrupted? They died - most certainly, but ..... they were not corrupted.

Innumerable Christians through the years have lost everything - freedom, wealth, family, health - but because Jesus remains their sense of well-being is not diminished. The apostle Paul, of who this was certainly true, wrote to the Philippians from prison: I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. Phil3v8.

(G) The sign of genuine commitment.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you."

He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

The interchange between Jesus and the woman seems to teach that it is more important to be obedient than to be impressed. The woman was certainly impressed by Jesus and complimented him. But Jesus does not so much want our compliments as our practical obedience.

Most preachers know that it is much easier to impress a congregation than to get just one member of it to change his or her conduct. On Sunday morning at our church my friend and brother Peter Chaffey told the congregation how important the prayer meeting is. In the evening I spoke and stressed the need for all believers to be baptised. Several people were impressed by both Peter's sermon and mine - but I guarantee there will be no extras at the prayer meeting and no-one applying for baptism.

If we have Jesus in our heart we shall obey him. If we have Jesus in our heart we can never be taken over by Satan. Jesus, the Light of the World, is immeasurably greater than the Prince of Darkness.