There Is No Middle Ground For You, But There Is A Strong Man

Text:  Luke 11:14-28

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

There is no neutrality, no middle ground, and no third party ticket in regard to our eternal destiny.  A person may choose the middle road of being an Independent, rather than a Democrat or Republican; a person may choose to drive a Toyota pickup, rather than a Ford or a Chevy; and a person may choose Minot State University, rather than NDSU or UND; however, in regard to eternity and the spiritual realm, there are only two options – God’s kingdom or the Devil’s kingdom.  Otherwise stated, there is no third alternative, no middle ground, and no third kingdom – it does not work this way in regard to our spiritual identity.  Just two kingdoms: the kingdom of Light and the kingdom of evil. 

Now, “each of these kingdoms has their distinctive mark and power.  Each makes an appeal, each claims its followers.”[1]

On the one hand, the kingdom of evil goes the way of self-independence, where a person: rejects God’s will and grace, exalts their own desires, winks at filth, embraces material things over people, and boasts of their own freewill to choose whatever makes themselves happy. That is right, the kingdom of evil teaches mankind to depend on their own abilities to obtain whatever religious endeavor they so choose.  Furthermore, those in the kingdom of evil hate the Lord and they despise His Word as well.  They call anarchy freedom, murdering of babies in the womb is apparently compassion, sexuality immortality is love, and the Biblical labels of man and woman are apparently oppressive.  Also, according to the kingdom of evil: being discerning is categorized as bigotry, speaking the truth in love is called hate speech, integrity is called intolerance, and the wisdom of the cross is considered foolishness.  For the kingdom of evil, 2 plus 3 is 4 and sometimes 6, depending on the circumstances and depending on whose feelings might be hurt.  The kingdom of evil is for the strong and for those who are self-sufficient and for those who can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.  It is for those who do not need a Savior, but are a savior unto themselves. 

On the other hand, the kingdom of Light – the kingdom of God – goes the way of beggarly-dependence, where dependent like children: need God’s will and grace, confess their sins, acknowledge virtue and goodness, receive material things as gifts, and exalt the Lord who frees bound sinners such as themselves.  At its center, the kingdom of God teaches its members to depend upon the Lord’s Word and Sacraments for forgiveness, life, and salvation. It teaches its members to speak the truth in love, even when it hurts.  It teaches that the Word of God is the standard and source of ethics, faith, rule, and reality, even when it contradicts culture.  For the kingdom of God: thoughts, actions, and desires are captive to the Word of God and not the aspirations of mankind.  The kingdom of God is for losers and sinners and the sick and the beggarly and children and the weak and those who can’t pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.  It is for those who are in need of a Savior, who are spiritually bankrupt.         

As you have just heard, these two kingdoms are rather different, are they not?  Indeed, they are not the same and there really is no compromise between them.  What this means for you and for me and for our neighbor is that there is no middle kingdom and it is impossible to be in both kingdoms at the same time.  Otherwise stated, you cannot straddle both kingdoms, for the divide between them is just too wide and too deep and too contradictory.  Frankly stated, you, I, and your neighbor are completely in one kingdom or in the other kingdom. Whether a person is male or female, young or old, a parent or a child, white collar or blue color, an employee or a boss, there are only two realms that they can be placed in – the kingdom of God or the kingdom of the Satan.  No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.[2]

Tragically, many people in the kingdom of evil wish to be called Christians.  Blindly they wish to be neutral.  They do not want to make a complete break with the kingdom of evil.  “They want to be considered a Christian brother, but when they see that Christians are busy on behalf of God’s kingdom and against Satan’s in a completely different way than they are, they say that that is uncalled for.”[3]  As a result, they will slander and accuse Christians calling them fanatics or calling them as too strict or too intolerant.  They may even say that these Christians should give in a little bit or simply learn to accommodate for the changing times.  Whether these accusers know this or not, they are attempting to have an alliance with the kingdom of evil, while thinking they are in the kingdom of God.  They are attempting to use Satan’s ways in a good way for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Dear friends, we may not use Satan’s weapons in the cause of God.  As we learned in our Gospel lesson, Satan will not have a divided kingdom; therefore, how can a divided Christianity be for Christ?  Christ is not divided.  Furthermore, Christ does not war against the kingdom of evil using the armies of the Devil.  Therefore, what gives us the right or the audacity to think that we can make an alliance with the kingdom of evil?  This is the thinking of a fool, for our Lord explicitly states that if His church allies herself with anything that is evil, she goes the way of separating herself from Christ. 

Now, there are those who will hear that there is no middle kingdom, no middle ground.  These individuals may conclude that it is best to drop the ball and simply go home – to not play a part in either kingdom.  They will confess,

“I am neither for nor against the kingdom of evil or the kingdom of Light.  I simply choose not to play this game!  I want no part of it.   I do not want to play spiritual politics.  I want to be known for what I am for, not what I am against.  Count me out of all of this!”

Again, there is no such thing as neutrality.  There is no such thing as an alliance.  You, I, and your neighbor are either with Jesus, or against Him.  That means that even if a person could take the middle ground, they would still be against the kingdom of God. 

So, my dear friends, I ask you this morning, which kingdom are you a part of?  Have you tried to straddle the fence?  Have you tried to compromise?  Have you attempted to make an alliance?  Which kingdom do you belong to? 

If you have gone the way of trying to make a middle ground or have tried to make an alliance with evil, repent.  I say this with love for you and for me, repent!  Why should you and I repent?  You and I need repentance, for that is not who we presently ‘are’ or who we ‘belong’ to.  Yes, you and I do not belong to the kingdom of evil, we are not of darkness, and Satan is not our master.  Sure, we sin daily and we are sinners by nature, like all people; however, you ‘were’ dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.  You ‘followed’ the course of this world.  You ‘were’ ruled by the prince of the power of the age.  You ‘were’ children of wrath.[4]  But all of this changed.  The strong man Jesus Christ came for you and made you His own – nothing will ever be the same. 

You, who have ears, hear!  

God in mercy looked upon our predicament and had pity.  “He promised one who would overthrow the kingdom of Satan.  He promised He would restore the rule of God’s love in the hearts of people, that is establish the kingdom of God.”[5]  And He has.  You do not belong to evil!  You do not belong to the kingdom of darkness.  You do not belong to Satan’s kingdom.  Satan has no authority, no voice, no power, and no say over you.  This means that we shall not straddle the kingdoms.  We shall not make allegiances.  Satan has no part of us and we have no part of his evil lies and kingdom. 

While it is true that when you were conceived and born into this world that you were conceived and born under the power of the Devil and the condemnation of sin, it is not true that you are now.  You are not ruled by Satan and you are not under sin’s condemnation. Why is this so?  At your baptisms the Strong Man, Jesus Christ, came to you.  He crossed the great divide between the kingdom of evil and the kingdom of Light, in order to rescue you in the mighty waters of baptism.  As the stronger man, Jesus declared that the powers of the Devil must be cast aside – away from you – so that room could be made for the Holy Spirit.[6]  At your baptisms there was a hostile takeover as Christ, the stronger man, came and rescued you from the dominion of darkness, placing you in the kingdom of Light by mighty water-words upon your head and heart. 

Now, as children of God’s kingdom, “at every turn we may see the efforts of Satan to dethrone Christ from our hearts.  [In fact,] the more earnestly we mean to have the rule of Christ’s love in our lives, the more we shall feel of the devil’s efforts. . . . The devil doesn’t much bother with the godless for the time being.  They are safe in his bag, so he bends his special attacks on the children of God.”[7]  The more we cling to Christ, the more the Devil will attack.  The more we are shaped and formed by Lord’s Word and Sacraments, the louder Satan will yell and scream.  The more that we remain steadfast in God’s Word, speaking the truth in love, the more the world will scorn and slander us. 

But do not be discouraged.  Satan’s kingdom will come to an end, while the kingdom of God remains forever.  Furthermore, the decisive battle between the two kingdoms of evil and Light has already been won by Christ on the cross.  Therefore, when the Devil attacks, when temptations arise, and when the world scorns us, we shall fear not.  But rather, we will confess,

“Satan, I am not yours.  Christ has died for me, I am baptized, I have been bought back, and I am forgiven.  You, sly Serpent, have been blinded and are muted; shut your face evil one; be gone.  I belong to the stronger man, Christ crucified and resurrected.”

From faith we will also laugh in the face of the Devil.  We make the sign of the cross, confess our sins unto the Lord, receive forgiveness, and tell Satan to depart from us, for it is Jesus Christ who sits on the throne of our hearts, minds, and lives – now, tomorrow, and into eternity.

Jesus is the stronger man; you commune with the Lord; you are of the kingdom of God. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Fred H. Lindemann, The Sermon and The Propers: Volume II (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 70.

[2] Paraphrase of Matthew 6:24.

[3] C.F.W. Walther, Gospel Sermons: Volume 1 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), 180.

[4] Paraphrase of Ephesians 2:1-3.

[5] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 94-95.

[6] Paraphrase of Martin Luther’s Baptism Rite. 

[7]Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, 96. 

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