"My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you." This is the Introit prayed by the church this morning. It is a prayer for deliverance from those held captive in a foreign kingdom. We pray this Psalm of deliverance, because we live in a world ruled by Satan.
Satan is the strong man. He is fully armed and he guards his palace and all his goods with diligence. His goods are all mankind, children of wrath, sons of disobedience. They are bound and stored safely in his dungeon.
Jesus Christ is the Stronger Man. He attacks and overcomes Satan, strips him of his armor and takes the spoils. That is, Jesus Christ destroys the Kingdom of Satan with the very finger of God and sets all people free, as he did for Israel when he delivered them from Pharaoh's kingdom. We know that Christ loosed the bands that bound us by his very blood, which he shed on the cross, which forgives our sins and gives us peace with God.
But Satan isn't going to roll over and let his loot be taken from him so easily. He fights back. The way the devil fights back is by confusing the situation. He lies. He tries to prevent us from recognizing the finger of God. And so Satan led these people in our Gospel lesson to say that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Beelzebul means lord of the flies. It's a title for Satan. Yet, Jesus casts out demons by the finger of God, the Holy Spirit Himself!
Jesus does good. He casts out a demon from a mute man, so that he could speak. Yet these people call the good Jesus does evil. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness," cries our God through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah (5:20) This is the work of Satan. He calls God evil and the evil he does good. And so St. Paul must warn the Christians in Ephesus, "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:3-6)
Satan uses empty words to deceive those set free by the finger of God. He tells them they have freedom to sin as if God has given them a license to do what is evil. And so those, who were brought to the light of Christ are led back into the darkness. Those who are given the right to become children of God are seduced to become sons of disobedience.
And so we see that the strong man, although pillaged and humiliated is still a great danger to us Christians. He is more than a lord of flies, rather a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. His goal is to murder your very soul. He lies, not simply to make you slip into sin, but to doubt the very Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus defeated Satan, dethroned him, and stole his loot, setting you free. So Satan will do anything to convince you that the finger of God, which sets you free is actually your enemy.
"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." This isn't a quote from President Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is Jesus Christ, your God and Lord declaring that you are either working for him or against him. There is no neutral ground in this battle against Satan. Therefore Christians must not only say what is right and true, but they must also say what is evil and wrong. Jesus Christ is true God and man. He died on the cross for our sins and gives us eternal life through faith in his name. This is true. False religions are evil. Marriage is a good blessing from God! Sexual immorality, fornication and adultery and homosexuality are evil. Children are gifts from God to us. Abortion is murder and evil. We cannot be neutral. We must pick a side.
When Satan is cast out, you either become a child of the light or go back to slavery under Satan. Jesus says that when a demon is cast out it searches waterless places looking for rest and when it comes back and finds its home swept clean and put in order it finds seven demons more evil than itself and they enter and join there. And so it is for those who try to remain neutral. If you are not filled with the Holy Spirit, you will be filled with sin. If God casts a demon out of you, freeing you from your sin, you will be plagued with even worse sins if the Holy Spirit does not make his dwelling in you.
After hearing Jesus' wonderful teaching a pious woman in the crowd shouted, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!" But Jesus replies, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" Now certainly the Virgin Mary is blessed. Yet she is eternally blessed not even because she bore and nursed the Godman, Jesus Christ our Savior. She is blessed in heaven, because she heard the word of God and kept it, cherishing it and pondering it in her heart.
And so you too are blessed, because you hear the Gospel and keep it. To hear the word of God and keep it sounds like law. And certainly God wants us to hear the Ten Commandments and do them. But you don't get to heaven by following the Ten Commandments. You don't earn your salvation by obeying the Law. You are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from your works. And this is the Word, which saves. The Gospel. Jesus Christ disarmed the strongman by joining our human race and dying on the cross for your sins and my sins, because he had no fault of his own. Satan had us stuck in his dungeon with our own sins. But Jesus took our trespasses from us. He put them on himself and he washed them clean in his own blood. This is the Gospel that sets us free.
You must keep this word of God. The word for keep used here by Jesus means guard or keep watch. It's the same word used for the strong man guarding his palace. So you must guard this special word of God. With this Word you are set free from Satan and with this Word you yourself will defeat Satan.
You were touched by the finger of God in your Baptism. That is to say, the Holy Spirit came to you when you were baptized and drove out Satan through the water and the Word. Where you have the Word of God, you have the Holy Spirit. So where you have the Word of God you have the finger of God. The finger of God drives out Satan. So if you guard this word of God, you too will drive out Satan.
God drove out Satan when he baptized you. And so he drives Satan away from you whenever your faith receives the Gospel. When the pastor in the stead of Christ says, "I forgive you all your sins." Satan is evicted. When your faith guards the mystery of "This is my body" and "This is my blood" when you receive the Sacrament of the Altar, Satan's forces are driven back. To keep God's Word means to have faith in the Gospel that Jesus, the stronger man, defeated Satan and freed all his captives by dying on the cross for their sins. And it is this Word, the good news that gives you the victory over Satan each and every day.
The Kingdom Satan founded has been overthrown. He has met his doom by the finger of God. Yet he still rants and raves and lies, seeking souls to kill. But armed with the Gospel you are equipped with the very finger of God. That means the kingdom of God has come near to you and Satan must flee from you. Amen.