Sermon: The Blessing of Conversion (Luke 11:23-28)

Luke 11-23-28 click here for audio

The Blessing of Conversion

Luke 11:23-28

There are various ways people try to show that they are above reproach.  Jesus shows us in our text today that there is only one possible way to be in a right standing before God.  He says that to hear and to obey His Words are the mark of one who is blessed by God.

Here in our text, Jesus shows us three categories of people.  Two of these lead someone to Hell and judgment.  Only one places a person in right standing before God.  Jesus speaks of the impossibility of neutrality, the curse of moralism, and the blessedness of conversion.

Lk 11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Lk 11:24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’

Lk 11:25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.

Lk 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Lk 11:27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”

Lk 11:28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

1. The Lie of Neutrality

 Lk 11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Some believe that they are safe from God’s judgment because they have created the false perception that they are neutral.  I’ve heard these types of arguments before.  Some might think that because they are standing back out of the spotlight so to speak that their lives will not come under the light of divine judgment.  Jesus is ok for some, they might say.  I’m ok because I’ve never hurt anyone and I occasionally give to help the poor.  They might say, I’m neither for nor against Christ.  They might say, I’m not Christ’s enemy but neutral when it comes to Christianity. 

Compromise between Christ and world always results in failure.  Partial commitment is no commitment.  Halfhearted fear of the Lord is no fear at all.

2 Kgs 17:33 So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

2 Kgs 17:34 To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the LORD, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.

So we see, that compromise and neutrality doesn’t work.  In fact, as we just read to worship God and other things ultimately leads to just worshiping the other gods.

Jesus called this doublemindedness and compromise being lukewarm.

Rv 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Not only is this approach dangerous for the individual but also it is harmful to the body of Christ.  Rather than teaming up with the Lord and helping to gather sheep into His fold, neutrality scatters the sheep.

whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Steadfast loyalty gathers and encourages those who are in the fold; lukewarmness is harmful to the body.  That’s why it is imperative that a church engages in the biblical mandate to practice church discipline to protect the body from those who name the name of Christ but are really more committed to the world and other gods.

As we begin this New Year, let’s commit to a steadfast all out pursuit of Christ and obeying His commands.  That’s what glorifies Him, strengthens the Church and is vital for our maturity as believers.

2. The Curse of Morality

Lk 11:24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’

Lk 11:25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.

Lk 11:26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Here, Jesus shares a parable of a person who was tormented by an evil spirit.  This person had the desire to remain neutral but Jesus shows that to be neutral is to be on the side of Satan.  Here, for whatever reason the evil spirit decides to leave this person.   The evil spirit after being gone a while remembers that possessing this man is better than traveling in the wastelands of the spirit world.

While the evil spirit was gone, this man had decided to try morality, it finds the house swept and put in order. 

Initially, Jesus here, is giving a very firm warning to those in Israel who had been living as if their own morality was sufficient to be in a right standing with God.  I believe Jesus had in mind the Pharisees of His day.  They had rigid rules by which they worked their way, or so they thought, into God’s good graces.

Jesus called them whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones.  They looked good on the outside but inwardly they were full of uncleanness and sin.

Today there are just as many people who think that they can either remain neutral or be on the side of God by obeying a certain set of rules, morals, rights and wrongs.

Morality is the notion that by being good enough, by practicing a rigid set of rules, one can gain a right standing with God.

As we look closer at this parable, we find that the morality, the house being swept and put in order, means nothing to an evil spirit.   In fact, it’s as if the evil spirit would rather possess a moral host than a pagan host because the spirit brings seven more with him.  Jesus plainly tells His listeners that the state of the person is worse now than before.  We should rightly conclude that morality is worse than paganism.  Why is this true?  The moral person has convinced himself that he can access God by his own goodness and the demons are perfectly fine with a person thinking this way.  They don’t care what we think as long as in the end we go to hell and destruction.  One can believe in whatever one wants as long as it is wrong, they could care less.  From their perspective a person who thinks everything is all right is their best host.

Again we hear from C S Lewis,

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters 

A person can make his way to death and destruction by feeling very good about themselves, their life, and their set of standards.  Our enemy is fine with a person having a wonderful life while unknown to them; they are on the path to eternal judgment.

Their house can be swept and put in order, but if it remains empty, even though is seems clean, the house is open for destruction.

We’ve looked at the danger of neutrality and the danger of morality.

3. The Blessedness of Conversion

Lk 11:27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”

Lk 11:28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

As Jesus was teaching, a woman stood up and shouted out a blessing on Mary, Jesus’ mother.  The blessing may sound a little out of line at first but this blessing was very similar to the one Elizabeth spoke to Mary in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel:

Lk 1:41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,

Lk 1:42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

Here, Jesus doesn’t deny what this woman said was true.  He explains the reason it is true.  This applies to everyone not just Mary.

The reason Mary was blessed was because of God’s election.  He chose her to be the mother of Jesus and when she heard the announcement from the angel she immediately responded by faith and obeyed.

Lk 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Jesus answers the woman’s blessing with one of His own, which we should also listen to very carefully.

Lk 11:28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Simply living a moral life is not the same thing as true conversion.

Back to Jesus’ metaphor, a house not only needs to be swept and whitewashed but also it needs to have the Holy Spirit residing within.  Only then, will it be free from evil.

A person will only be pleasing to God if that person is converted.

I’m afraid that today there are many folks in our churches who have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to their souls.  They may have been told that they are saved but their lives are not reflecting a person who truly hears the Word of God and then truly keeps it.  This is much different than morality.

Morality tries to justify by living up to an imagined set of standards.  Conversion is a person listening to God and out of a saved heart obeying not to earn salvation like the moralist but out of gratitude and love living for the glory of Christ.

I pray this year we continually ask God to examine our hearts and to show us clearly anything that should not be there.  I pray once and for all, we give up the idea that we can be neutral when it comes to Christ, understanding that we are either all in or all out.  There is no riding the fence and weighing our options.  I pray that we give up the idea that we can obtain a right standing with God through good morals.  First, we can never be good enough and second, we could never stay good enough.  I pray that our hope is in Christ and His converting power.  I pray that the Holy Spirit has come to reside in all our hearts and that our hearts are swept clean and occupied with the Holy Spirit.

Then finally, lets submit fully to the Spirit’s leading.

Ps 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

Ps 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

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