Kingdom of God or Prison of Anger? A Sermon for Oculi on St. Luke 11:14-28

Jesus casts out demon

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Today we see the finger of God doing what it does best. Now we all know it’s rude to point. We’ve all seen people get worked up and start pointing the accusing finger as if to throw darts in the heat of battle. God’s love for His people is such that He gets worked up whenever something threatens them. He doesn’t sit idly by and let Satan and his demons have their way with you. When God starts pointing His finger, demons shudder.

This is what the finger of God does best. It accuses Satan of all of His lies and renders him impotent in the presence of God. Satan did his worst to Jesus, but in the end, the tomb was empty. Even the pagan magicians of Pharaoh recognized the finger of God at work in the ten plagues. They knew this because they couldn’t reproduce the plague of gnats. Finally they had to confess, “This is the finger of God.” It’s funny how it often takes us being rendered helpless in a situation to recognize the working of God in our lives, even though He’s been at work all along.

Pharaoh’s reaction to the plagues also shows how blind we can become when we’re angry. Think about it. God sent these plagues to call the people to repentance and to convince Pharaoh to let His people go. But blinded by his anger, Pharaoh had the nerve to start a competition with God, trying to get his magicians to reproduce the plagues.

How foolish! If your land is infested with gnats, how would producing more gnats help? Had God allowed the magicians to make their own, it would have only made matters worse! Pharaoh determination to show his superiority was his downfall. In his anger, he didn’t realize that even if he proved God’s equal (which he couldn’t), it would have only added to his troubles!

So I ask you: what good has ever come from holding on to your anger? Sure, people sin against us and do all sorts of terrible things. But anger only makes matters worse. Anger blinds us, just like it blinded Pharaoh. Satan is the strong man Jesus spoke of, and given the opportunity, he will bind you up in a prison of your own anger and throw away the key.

Anger puts us at odds with one another, but there is no division in Christ’s Kingdom. Anger puts us outside of His Kingdom. Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

And how often have you scattered, bringing division into the household of God! Jesus loved His enemies enough to lay down His life for them. How, then, can the redeemed hold on to anger? Even today, Jesus speaks His Word of forgiveness, sealed with the testimony of His Body and Blood.

“Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” It’s only natural for children to imitate their parents. This goes for the good and the bad. Sometimes parents get upset when they see their children imitating some of their less desirable qualities. This explains the existence of that phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

But our heavenly Father has no undesirable characteristics. When we imitate Him, we do both as our Lord says and does. We forgive as we have been forgiven. Or, as St. Paul says, walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.

So repent of your anger and walk in love. Jesus bears with you even though you sin against Him repeatedly. For all his evil, God sent these plagues even for the benefit of Pharaoh, and even for you. He sent them that you might know that He is the Lord. Jesus has nothing but compassion for His enemies. Why should it be any different among Christians? People may say and do hurtful things to you. Jesus knows all about that. But for the Christian, the only option is compassion. Where forgiveness is lacking, so is faith. That’s why the only unforgivable sin is unbelief. Every other sin is covered by the blood of Christ. Be merciful, even as God is merciful to you.

Forgive, lest your heart become hardened like Pharaoh. Jesus warns us against sin because the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Do you remember the first time you ever held a grudge against somebody? Surely it ate away at your heart. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And when something eats away at your heart long enough, eventually all you’ll have left there is an empty hole. But it doesn’t happen all at once. It takes place slowly and gradually over time. After a while you don’t even realize it’s happening.

The Psalm warns us against this, too. It says “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” The psalm assumes that our feet are in the net, that we have walked into a trap, whether we know it or not. You do something long enough and you get used to it. Before long, you’re walking into sin’s trap again and again and don’t even realize it. Keep your eyes on the Lord. Imitate your heavenly Father and walk in love with those around you. When others sin against you, treat them the opposite of what they would expect. Love them and forgive them, even as your Lord loves and forgives you.

For He said, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Is the kingdom of God evident in your life? Or will you allow the demons of anger and the spirit of grudges to remain? Will you remain bound in the prison of your own fury? The demons don’t leave the baptized alone, but if you give them opportunity, they will come back with a vengeance. As Jesus said,

“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.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 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.”

But God’s greatest work is that He casts the demons from you, lives at peace with you, and puts you at peace with everyone around you. Keep your eyes ever toward the Lord, for He is the Prince of Peace.

Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. Luke 11:14—28; Ephesians 5:1—9; Exodus 8:16—24
Oculi, 2014: Kingdom of God or Prison of Anger?
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