I know many people in the West who see our society crumbling and growing darker, more evil. They remember what life was like decades ago, see it now, and wonder how the Church has lost so much ground. Of course, most of them are also quick to point out how the Church is growing in other parts of the world and wonder why not here. (I should say here that the Free Methodist Church in the USA has been growing for several years now. You can see the statistics here.)
Jesus’ comments say something about this situation:
25 Because Jesus knew what they were thinking, he replied, “Every kingdom involved in civil war becomes a wasteland. Every city or house torn apart by divisions will collapse. 26 If Satan throws out Satan, he is at war with himself. How then can his kingdom endure? 27 And if I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul, then by whose authority do your followers throw them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. 28 But if I throw out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, then God’s kingdom has already overtaken you. 29 Can people go into a house that belongs to a strong man and steal his possessions, unless they first tie up the strong man? Then they can rob his house.
Who is the strong man? Satan. What are his possessions? Those who are possessed. How does Jesus have the ability to cast out demons? Through God’s Spirit and because Satan is already bound. When God entered into this world, Satan was bound. Because the devil is not equal-but-opposite from God, there is no dualism or yin-yang concept in Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is, Satan has no power.
Given this reality, the situation in the West means something that is hard to hear, but very true. Our culture is becoming more dark because we do not have the Holy Spirit within us as much as we had in the past. We have, as John Wesley was so fond of saying in his own day, the form of godliness without the power. We know how to do Church. We know what the right and wrong things are. We know how to stand up for justice and be in ministry to and for others. But we have lost our first love, and we are doing all of this because of rote tradition, because of political ideologies, because it is what we have always done (or think we should have always done).
Yet for all of our action on behalf of Jesus Christ, we no longer have the living, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We have the form of godliness without the power.
We need to repent of our self-sufficiency. We need to repent of our resistance to change. We need to repent of our political activism. We need to seek God with a passion that realizes that without him, we will cease to exist. We need to be relentless in asking for the Holy Spirit to be poured out once again in our congregations and fellowships. We need to have a serious discontent with any Christian group that would try to organize around personal preferences, hanging out, or certain causes, and seek out other people who will settle for nothing less than the very power and presence of the Living God in their lives.
Jesus has bound the strong man. If we are in fellowship with him, we will see that reality all around us. Just look at the Christians in the two-thirds world and how the Good News is being proclaimed with power there. May we in the West cease settling for tradition, familiarity, political activism, and fellowship based on affinity. Instead, let us seek the power of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then we will see God’s wonders once again.