The Weakness of a Reformed Life
If you’ve been walking through the gospel of Matthew with us you have probably noticed that Jesus has been giving a lot of warnings. The subject of His warnings was their spiritual state.
He warned certain cities. He said “Woe” to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. He told them that historic pagan cultures would have repented if they had seen the works He was doing (11:20-24).
He warned them about certain sins. He told them there was an eternal sin they could commit that would not be forgiven in this world or the next (32).
He warned them about seeking signs. He said that an evil & adulterous generation sought after signs. The only sign given would be the resurrection.
In our present text Jesus warns them about the danger of a reformed life. He warns them with a parable. It’s an interesting parable. In fact, it’s not an easy one to preach. This text is one of those the preacher would like to skip over. But God has it here for a reason. He wants us to learn something from this parable. The truth is, when you study this text you see that is a text we need to understand and apply. We’re going to break the section down into two parts:
1. The demons.
2. The danger.
1. The demons.
A. The parable.
We have a man who had been possessed by a demon. This man’s life was ruined. One day the demon left him. This man was freed from the demon and decided to make some changes in his life. He swept and garnished his life.
He cleaned his life up.
He put things in order.
Later the demon decided to return to his house. Notice his house was this man’s body. The demon discovered the man had straightened his life up, so he took seven more demons with him that were more wicked than he was. All eight demons possessed the man, and he was in worse shape than he was before the first demon left.
B. Some truths about demons.
The point of this parable is not to teach us about demons. But we can learn some things about them from this text. Let’s do that before we go any further.
Demons can enter people. Demon possession is not a superstition. In fact, they can enter people and those people may appear quite normal. Judas is an example of this.
Demons can leave people. This demon went out of the man.
Demons leave for a few reasons:
1) They are cast out.
2) They decide they want to leave.
3) They’re not accomplishing what they want to accomplish.
Demons can travel. They roam all over the earth.
Demons strategize. This demon in order to accomplish his goal gathers other demons unto himself.
Demons experience discontentedness. This demon was seeking rest. In other words, it was looking for satisfaction. Jesus says this demon was walking through dry places seeking rest. Dry places were places without rain or water. Drought is often viewed as a curse from God. This cursed demon is looking for satisfaction but can’t find it.
Demons speak. This demon spoke to other demons about his situation.
Demons remember. He remembered where his “home” was. He knew how to get back to the man he had possessed.
Demons can be more sinful than other demons. This demon gathered to himself demons who were more wicked than he was.
C. This parable is connected to the spiritual state of Israel.
Jesus has been warning the religious leaders about the spiritual condition of Israel.
He called them a generation of vipers (12:34).
He said Gentiles who were saved would be a witness against this generation of unbelieving Jews (12:41-42).
In verse 45 he says that this generation is going to be worse than they were before if something doesn’t happen.
A huge part of Jesus ministry was expelling the demonic. The devil was having a field day in that region. The people who sat beneath the teaching of the Pharisees were being targeted and overcome by Satan.
The bottom line is this: What the Pharisees were teaching the people was not helping them overcome the forces of darkness.
When Jesus left there would be no one to cast out those demons. If the people didn’t come to Christ, they would be helpless. The devil would come back with a vengeance.
This parable is probably directed toward the spiritual leaders. Jesus is telling them that they can’t help these people. Their message is weak. Their message is not one of regeneration. Their message is one of reformation.
They gave the people a rule book and said “Here, keep these rules.” There was no life in that. That brings us to the meat of what we’re going to discuss this morning.
2. The danger.
A. We need more than something removed from our life.
The guy in our story swept and garnished his home.
Swept- removed stuff.
Garnished- beautified. You know what garnish is. It’s a tiny umbrella in a drink, lemon wedge, green chives on white potatoes or parsley on the bare spot of your plate. It has no real substance it’s just there for looks.
This guy had cleaned his life up. But he was still in danger. He looked better but he wasn’t better.
When the Pharisees thought of salvation, they thought of having their sin removed. The problem with that is sin keeps coming back. We don’t just need our sin removed.
When the demon left, this man was able to reform himself. The problem was he was still empty. Moralism isn’t the answer. We can’t will ourselves into salvation.
Roaches aren’t afraid of a clean house. They’ll come right on in. The devil isn’t afraid of a clean house either.
We need something added to our life.
When we get saved what gets added?
The imputed righteousness of Jesus. His righteousness is given to us.
The Holy Spirit of God. We are sealed with Him until the day of redemption.
B. Without Christ we are helpless to keep the demons away.
We see these with which this demon returned. Not only him, but others as well. Why did this demon bring more wicked demons with him? Maybe he wasn’t accomplishing what he wanted in this person’s life. There are lost people who are extremely self-disciplined.
Lost people can discipline themselves into great physical health.
Lost people can discipline themselves into proper spending.
Lost people can discipline themselves into a great education.
Lost people can discipline themselves to learn new languages, difficult skills and great relationships.
The human will can be a very strong thing. I would imagine some people make it easier for the devil and some make it harder. Maybe this parable illustrates a strong-willed person a demon was having difficulty with.
We can only assume these eight demons had their way with the man eventually. This is a man who didn’t have Christ. The demons came at will.
If you’re not saved there is a vacancy sign hanging on the door of your soul. Satan doesn’t have to kick down any doors. Without Christ they are wide open. There is no power in reformation.
But with Christ there is great power. The only protection for our soul is Christ dwelling in it. The devil called this man his house (44). When a person is saved God calls that person His house.
1 Cor. 3:9 “Ye are God’s building”
1 Cor. 3:16 “Ye are God’s Temple”
None of God’s buildings are unoccupied. He lives in all of them. I watched a video this past week of a hiker in California. In October 2019 he was videoing himself exploring a cave. After walking a ways into the cave he shined his flashlight on a bear that was hibernating. Very quickly he made his way out of the cave. He left that cave because he knew it was occupied. He was no match for the bear.
When a devil comes to a believer, he sees that house is occupied. It’s occupied by someone greater than he is. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has made every believer His den.
No saved person can be demon possessed because every saved person is already Holy Spirit possessed. God will not let the devil take over any of His homes.
C. Reformation only changes what people see.
Reformation doesn’t change the heart it only disciplines the flesh. Normally people reform for the wrong reasons.
Finances. A person gets tired of being broke so they: work, save, quit spending money on liquor, tobacco, gambling, etc. Their desire for money naturally brings about a reformation in their life.
A person doesn’t want to go to prison so they stop their life of crime.
The doctor tells them if they keep indulging in something they’re going to die early. To protect their liver, their lungs or their heart they discipline themselves in the area of vices or even foods.
They believe the lie of a false teacher, so they join a false religion because they are afraid of judgment.
They don’t want to get a divorce, so they make major changes in their life. They don’t want to embarrass their children, so they stop engaging in a certain activity.
Throughout the years I have spoken with a number of men who admitted to me they only went to church because of their family. Their motive for going to church was to keep their wife happy or to keep their kids straight. Some of these men came to Christ and others died without Him.
People who reform often appear to be Christians. The truth is they’re only moralists. Moralism may make us appear better to people. But it will not protect us from the demonic or the judgment.
God sees straight through moralism. Morality does not equal salvation. Think with me for a moment. What if the demon had not returned to this man? If he had not returned the man would have still been lost. You don’t have to plunge into the depths of depravity to die without Christ. This man likely did once the demons returned but even if they had not, he would have still been lost. The problem was his soul was empty. Christ did not occupy it.
God doesn’t want us to turn over a new leaf. He wants to give us a new life.
D. Those who seek to live the Christian life without Christ will often become the most skeptical of the faith.
Some people who reformed their life end up leaving the church. They even leave the faith. Scripture says that such people were never saved (1 John 2:19).
The reformed person doesn’t know the power or comfort of the Holy Spirit. They only know the strength of sin and the power of the flesh. They only know how hard it is to try and do right. They see a relationship with God as a list of rules. There is no joy in their religion. It’s all flesh and no Spirit.
Nothing is more frustrating than seeking to live the Christian life without Christ.
I remember witnessing to a guy one time who said he’d already tried being a Christian and it doesn’t work. Our country is filled with people who at one time claimed to be a Christian and left the faith because they weren’t satisfied.
Listen friend. Christ satisfies every soul. If you weren’t satisfied you didn’t have Christ.
You may have had religion, but you didn’t have Christ.
You may have had morality, but you didn’t have Christ.
A clean house will only stay clean if it has the right tenant. Many moralists become enemies of the cross because they do not have Christ.
They become atheists.
They become agnostics.
They become Muslims or some other false religion.
I think parents should take this to heart. If you raise your children to be moralists, they may abandon the faith altogether. Our children need Christ. A set of rules won’t keep them. Only Christ can keep them. The ten commandments aren’t the proof of salvation. The fruit of the Spirit is the proof of salvation.
Good children doesn’t necessarily equal God’s children. It’s our job to get our children to the foot of the cross not the foot of Mount Sinai.
Take them to the foot of Mount Sinai and what will they see?
They can see their sin there. They can see the power of God there. But it will only work fear.
Take them to the foot of the cross and what will they see?
Above all things get your children to Christ. Without Him when they leave your home, they will likely leave church as well.
One of the most heartbreaking things to hear is a former so-called Christian who has deserted the faith and now attacks that faith. Such people were never regenerated, only reformed.
E. The devil finds dark hearts and leaves them darker.
Demons manifest themselves in different ways. Some people who are impacted by the demonic appear moral by our world’s standards. Others plunge into obvious sinfulness.
I think of the Gadarene who was a wild man because of the legion of demons who possessed him. Whether your sin is obvious or hidden, the demonic will leave your heart darker.
Think of how quickly the Pharisees plunged into darkness. It wouldn’t take long before they would be rejoicing at the torture and death of Jesus.
Make no mistake, moralism does not make a heart softer. Merely sweeping the house hardens the heart. The truth is if we merely reform our lives we will eventually become:
More sinful than we were before.
More hardened to the truth than we were before.
More accountable than we were before.
That means if there is a window of opportunity we should immediately take it. Jesus was giving the Pharisees that opportunity. They didn’t want it.
I wonder if this parable symbolized a window of opportunity for the Pharisees. Satan left the house. Jesus was making His words plain to them. When Satan returned would he find the house empty or occupied with Christ? If it was empty they were in trouble.
The same principle can be used for many of us. God by His grace beats back the devil. By His grace we hear the gospel. We have the truth plainly spoken before us.
There is clarity in our minds.
There is soberness in our spirits.
Now is the time. If we do not listen, we may find our hearts darkened.
F. A reformed culture will devolve.
Jesus warns the entire generation. He says last will be worse than the first for this generation. I couldn’t help but think of our generation as I studied this. In America we have attempted to sweep the house clean in many areas. But in the end, we found ourselves worse than we were before.
We have swept our house clean with education, now we are so educated we believe in evolution rather than creation.
We swept our house clean with feminism, now we give women the right to kill their unborn children.
We swept our house clean with civil rights, now we are told to repent of our whiteness.
We swept our house clean with marriage equality for all, now boys can girls and girls can be boys.
We are worse than we have ever been. The reason is simple. We don’t need reformation. We need Christ.
We can’t fix it, only God can.
Our country is more sinful than it has ever been. We are devolving. We are a wicked generation.
This is the weakness of a reformed life. It cannot save us. It cannot keep us from sin.
We must be born again.
RC Sproul said of this text the unsaved are in the same condition as demons.
They are walking through the dry places.
They are seeking rest.
They are condemned.
The demons have no hope but we do.
We must be born again.
If you have not been born again you are empty. An empty life is a perfect home for a devil.
Come to Christ.
See your sin. Repent of your sin.
See Christ. Believe in Him.
Call on the name of the Lord in humility, repentance and faith and He will save you. He will enter your life.