No Neutral Ground.
“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working for me is actually working against me.” – Luke 11:23 NLT
This is Luke’s version of the incident we looked at yesterday. Jesus had just healed a man who was demon-possessed, blind and unable to speak. The people who witnessed the event were amazed. But according to Matthew’s account, the Pharisees accused Jesus of getting His power from Satan. Notice that they didn’t attempt to deny the validity of what Jesus had done. They couldn’t. They had witnessed it with their own eyes. They knew the people could and would easily refute any attempt on their part to deny that something miraculous had just happened. So they resorted to discrediting Jesus’ source of power. They refused to believe He was from God, so that left them with only one option. He must be from Satan. Jesus obviously had power, so He was getting it from the enemy. If they could get the people to believe that, surely they would turn on Jesus and His ministry would fade away into oblivion.
But Jesus quickly exposed the fallacy of their premise. It made no sense for Satan to cast out his own demons. Why would the Prince of this world aid and abet God? Would possible benefit could Satan get by casting out a demon from this man and releasing him from a life of blindness and muteness? As Jesus was prone to do, He quickly turned the moment into an occasion to expose the hearts of the Pharisees and religious leaders. Luke reminds us that “He knew their thoughts” (Luke 11:17 NLT). He didn’t just hear what they said, He knew the thoughts behind what they said. Jesus knew that these men were against Him. They stood opposed to Him and His ministry. They refused to believe that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. As a result, they spent all their time trying to discredit Jesus, trap Him, trick Him, expose Him and get rid of Him. And Jesus makes it very clear that the real enemy in this story was them. If anyone was working in allegiance with Satan, it was this very same, self-righteous men. Jesus said, “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me” (Luke 11:23 NLT). This statement presented Jesus’ listeners with a problem. If He was who He claimed to be and what His miracles seemed to prove Him to be – the Messiah – then He was from God. He was the messenger of God doing the very work of God. And to oppose Him was to oppose God. Yes, the Pharisees had offered up another option, that Jesus was in league with Satan himself. But now they were faced with the challenge of choosing which option they would embrace. Jesus makes the decision even more difficult by adding these words: “and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me” (Luke 11:23 NLT). The choice was theirs. And it would have eternal implications. Was He the Son of God? Was He working on behalf of God as He claimed to be? Jesus easily refuted their argument that He was receiving His power from Satan. That choice made no sense. But if He was casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God had truly arrived among them, and He was proof.
In the world in which we live, there is a battle going on between the Kingdom of God and the forces of the enemy. It is a real battle with real casualties. Satan has never let up in his quest to dethrone God and destroy His creation. Jesus Himself told us that “The thief comes only to steal and killand destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NLT). Satan hates God. He loathes Jesus. And as a result he has an insatiable desire to destroy all those made in the image of God. He is out to steal, kill and destroy us. And the world he rules, according to Jesus, hates us. Every day of our lives we have a choice to make, whether we will love God and live according to His will, or whether we will love this world and allow it to influence our beliefs and behavior. We must daily choose to work with God and His cause. To not do so is to stand in opposition to Him. Remember when Jesus had informed His disciples that He was going to have to go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, tried and killed? Peter rebuked Jesus and told Him that these things could not and would not happen. He literally said, “Heaven forbid, Lord!” In other words, may God Himself stop what He intends to do. Peter was in essence denying God the right to be God. Jesus’ response was harsh, but it reveals the seriousness and danger of opposing the will of God. “Jesus turned to Peter and said, ‘Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.'” (Matthew 16:22 NLT). Peter was standing in opposition to Jesus. He was opposing the will of God. Why? Because He was seeing things from his limited, human perspective. And we can be guilty of the same thing. So we must walk carefully. We must choose wisely. We must evaluate our circumstances from a heavenly perspective. We must learn to ask, “What is God doing here?” “What is His will in this situation?” In opposing Jesus and His intent to obey the will of God for His life, Peter had become an unwitting ally to the enemy. May we constantly strive to work with God and not against Him. To do so, we must always be seeking to know what it is He is doing in this world and in our lives. We must always assume that God is in control and is using any and every circumstance for our good and His glory, whether we like it or not. He is sovereign. He is God. And we must always choose to work with Him and His Son, never against them.
Father, it is so easy to stand against You and not even know we are doing it. We can oppose Your will for our lives by simply rejecting what You allow to come into our lives as uncomfortable, unwanted, and even unnecessary. We can refuse to listen to and walk in Your plan for our lives because we have better plans. We can reject Your way for our own. And when we do, we stand opposed to You. We end up working against You, not with You. Help us to see life from Your perspective, not ours. Show us how to seek Your will and live in it, regardless of whether it is pleasant or even makes sense at the moment. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men