Three Tricks of the Devil
Our texts bring up three tricks of the devil. Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me.” The devils trick then 1.) wants to convince those who are with Christ, that Christ is against them, 2.) to convince those who are against Christ, that Christ is for them and/or 3.) to convince those who are against Christ not to actually care that they are against the very finger of God and the maker of heaven and earth and their judge.
A Hardened Heart
Third one first, our Exodus reading is about the plagues of Egypt. Aaron is used by God to stretch out his hands and strike his rod on the dust and then it will become gnats. The magicians try to reproduce it and can’t and exclaimed to Pharaoh, “this is the finger of God.” In other words, “Let these people go before we are destroyed anymore.” But Pharaohs heart grew harder, and he did not hear them, just as the Lord had said. Saints be careful of hardened hearts and hardened consciences, especially of your sins that are repeated over and over again. These are often the sins that have the greatest danger of hardening your heart. God is not for your sin, He is against it. When called to repentance for being an imitator (Ephesians 5:1), not of God, but of the world, when called to repent of using your mouth for foolish talk that tears down others or crude joking that is out of place of those called pure and children of God, repent. Do not say, “Ehh, who cares?” That is the beginning of a hardened heart.
A Heart that Straddles the Fence
A second trick of the devil is not a hardened heart that is obvious but a confused heart or an indecisive heart. If Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me,” then this trick is to be convinced that we are with Jesus when we are in fact against Jesus, opposed to His will and His Word. It is to be convinced that He is okay with things, that is sins, that He has clearly spoken against. Listen to His voice, come to church, pray, be gentle and show self-control, don’t be greedy or lustful, use your mouth for thanksgiving. If Jesus says “He who is not with me is against me,” then we are to be for the things that Jesus is for and against the things that Jesus is against. If Satan can convince one that he is for Jesus but still not treasure God’s Word and will but rather straddle the fence, then he has succeeded in his trick. This comes out in the text with the group that asks for more signs (Luke 11:16). They are not clearly convinced. They think they need more. What God has given in the death, resurrection and ascension of His Son is enough. What God has given in His Word is enough. Really, they just doesn’t want to choose a side. By not choosing, however, they have chosen.
A Troubled Heart that Loves Jesus
The third trick is for Satan to tempt us who are with Christ, the one who belongs to Christ, whom Christ is with, is baptized, loves the Lord’s voice and knows that the Lord is gracious and merciful, that Christ is in fact against them. If God isn’t their enemy personally, then it was God who certainly placed them on His enemy list. The devil’s temptation is convince the Christian that Jesus is against them. “Look at your sin. Look at your sufferings. Look at your life. God is not with you or for you, He is against you or at least He should be.”
Jesus Receives the Accusation In Order to Defend Us
Those are the tricks, but here is Jesus’ solution – He receives the evil accusations into Himself so that you don’t receive them eternally. These markings that Jesus receives, those things which accuse him of being in team with the devil and his kingdom, these are accusations that are 100% true of you. Too often do we believe the devils lies. If we team up with our fleshly temptations, uncleanness or covetousness or foolish talking or making idles out of things of this world, then we show ourselves to be against God and Jesus. “He who is not with me is against me.”
But in a wonderful show of God’s great love and mercy for us, these accusations of being in team with the devil go on to Jesus. He defends himself here, shows how unreasonable and foolish this accusation really is, shows that He is really innocent and doing God’s perfect will. And yet when those accusations come that are true of us, Jesus takes them upon the very shoulders the bear the cross and says “No. That is not true of them, that is true of me.” He takes the condemnation. He is surrounded by criminals who are getting what they deserve. He takes the finger of God’s wrath. Why? So that you can know that He is not against you. Why? So that rather than being in team with the devil, you get placed on the team of angels and declared God’s treasure. You are innocent of the accusations. Jesus took away Satan’s armor of accusation and temptation by wiping clean your guilty regard and giving you His innocent record. You do not belong to Satan, you belong to His Father as His dear child.
The Shepherd Dies for Sheep Who Love to Wander
Oh what wonder is this Christian truth. The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander; the master pays the debt his servants owe him. He is not against you, even though you were against him and even though you are at times battling against being against him. He is for you. He is with you. He does not scatter you and leave you to what you deserve but gathers you to Himself.
Dear saints he is your light when worldly darkness fails you. He is your shield with earthly armor fails you. And even when Satan’s kingdom assails you, he is stronger than the strongman of Satan.
God’s Word gathers us today and warns, “Be not against Jesus and His.” He said, “Who is not with me is against me.” But He also comforts us. By grace, He is not against you. He is for you.