As we continue our way through the Gospel of Luke, we come to an extraordinary passage in which Jesus casts a demon out of a man who has been made mute by the activity of that demon and it evokes varying responses from the multitude that were observing this. Some marveled but others ascribed Jesus' activities to the power of Satan while still others demanded that that sign of casting out a demon was not enough. And of course in this passage He identifies Himself as the One who is able to plunder the strong man and so He shows Himself to be the Ruler of the ruler of the demons.

I want to take you where Jesus Himself goes in this passage, to a reflection on conversion itself because in response to the accusations of some in the multitude that He was doing this great miracle by the power of Satan and in response to the demand that He show some other sign that He was really from God, Jesus not only teaches us about demon possession and shows the illogic of the charges that have been brought against Him, but He also tells us something very important about conversion and what conversion really means and what is required for a human heart to be transformed from the inside out and to be given new life, eternal life, and to be changed so that we walk with God.

And so I want you to see two things today.

[I. Conversion Is More Than An Exterior Renovation

The first thing I want you to see is that Jesus makes it clear here that conversion is more than mere external, moral renovation. Jesus saves this man from oppression by a demon. Some marvel, but some in this crowd, hardened hearts with the leaven of the Pharisees in them, respond by accusing Jesus of doing this by the power of Satan. And Jesus shows the illogic of that position by telling them three things.

First, in v.17 Jesus says that makes no sense. "If a kingdom is divided against itself it will not stand." And then He says this in v.20, "But if it is of the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." In other words, He's now turning to the people who've said, "We want another sign," and He says, "The only way that I could do what I'm doing is if God has empowered Me to do it and that is the sign that the kingdom of God is among you and at work." And yet they want another sign.

Then, He goes on to tell them a little bit about how demons work. And in the course of doing that He explains to us something very, very important about the human heart and about our own attempt to renovate ourselves, as opposed to how He goes about liberating a sinner. Look at what He says beginning in v. 21 - "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe." Jesus is saying is that everyone who is apart from Christ is under the dominion of the strong man and the strong man is armed and he guards what is his and everything that is in his dominion is safe.

What happens then? V. 21 - "One stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him." Who is that? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. And He's illustrated that of course in this extraordinary event of the casting out of the demon. He is more powerful than the demon or the ruler of the demons because He's able to cast him out.

And then, in v. 24-26, He describes how demonic oppression works: "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.'" In other words, He's saying it is possible for a demonic spirit to leave a person of its own accord and to wander and then to decide, "You know, I'm going to go back where I came from and retake possession of my palace, my house." The demon in this passage is describing that human heart as his abode. "And when it comes it finds the house swept and put in order."

Now this is Jesus' way of describing a person who has tried to engage in a moral self-renovation, to try and live at least outwardly a more righteous way, a less obviously ungodly way. When he returns to the house he finds it swept and put in order, but what's the problem? There's nothing in that house. That heart is empty and has not been changed.

"Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself and the last state of that person is worse than the first." Jesus is talking about the activity of demonic possession, but it has a broader application because this is exactly how Satan operates generally.

J.C. Ryle says, "There is a solemn warning to us here never to be satisfied with religion reformation without heart conversion... the power of vital religion must be experienced in the inner man. The devil must not only be cast out, the Holy Spirit must take his place. Jesus is teaching us that conversion is more than mere external, moral renovation. It is a heart which has been changed and transformed and softened and given new and eternal life by the work of the Gospel by Jesus Christ."

[II. The Evidence Of Conversion Is A Heart Change

After this teaching, the crowd is in awe and finally one woman blurts out, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and blessed are the breasts that fed You as a baby!"

Jesus affirms the reality of the statement that she says, but then He takes it up: "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!"

Now Jesus is saying that that is the mark, that is the evidence of every heart that has been converted. The heart that has been converted hears the Word of God and shows its loyalty to the Word of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ and then does what the Word says. That's the evidence of conversion that we hear and obey God's Word, that we trust and obey. Remember Jesus is saying that conversion is far more than some human attempt at personal, moral, self-reformation. No, it takes Jesus coming in and removing the strong man and taking up residence in our life and giving us a new heart and a new spirit and new life, eternal life, and then we hear and we obey. And so this is the evidence of conversion that Jesus is talking about.

We are people who have a new occupant in our souls. And we have a new desire and we have new affections. We want to love the Lord God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. We want to live in such a way that we show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control - and why do we do that? Because our hearts have been changed by the One who is stronger than the strong man, by the One who is the Ruler of the ruler of the demons.