Summary: Who is the "strong man" in Jesus' parable? Who's kingdom was Jesus speaking about? Was it Christ's Kingdom... or someone else's? I invite you to read the greatest sermon I never preached.
On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, for the Republican State Convention, and they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. That evening Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues and the main focus of his remarks were on the issue of slavery:
“Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention. If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, NOT ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand."
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." That's a powerful sentence! Did Abraham Lincoln come up with that phrase all by himself? No. Well, where did he get it? That’s right … he was quoting Jesus.
Every week I meet with several preachers and we plan out our sermons months ahead and when we started working on this sermon series on the Math of God I got to thinking about Accounting, Adding and Subtracting… and DIVIDING. And from the moment we decided on that series, I just knew what text I was going to use for today’s sermon (Mark 3:22-27) and I just knew I would build the sermon around that phrase: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
I already knew how this sermon ought to be preached. It was going to be a GREAT sermon. It would be powerful and insightful, and inspirational and life changing! I was going to talk about the dangers of division in the local church and how evil it is. A church divided against itself cannot stand… it cannot succeed in its objective.
I knew if I could preach on that topic, this was going to be a real barn burner of a sermon.
And this IS a topic worth preaching on. Divisions and splits have plagued the church for centuries.
ILLUS: I read about a church that had grown to the point of needing a new building. After the building was completed, a disagreement arose about which side of the auditorium they should put the piano. Words were exchanged, tempers flared, and the church ultimately split. The side that “won” kept the building, but they no longer needed the extra seating and could not afford to pay the mortgage … so they had to sell it.
(Tim Seevers, in The Pleasantviewer June 2000)
ILLUS: And I also have read about another church down in Texas where folks go so mad at each other that the church split and then they fought over the property. Each group filed lawsuits against the other group. During a hearing, it was discovered that the conflict had begun years before at a church dinner (pause) when an elder was served a smaller piece of ham than the child seated next to him.
(Jim Belcher, 10/12/09 Sermoncentral.com article)
(Pause) Are these people daft? Are they insane? Why would “Christians” possibly do things like this?
Well a lot of times it’s because they truly believe they’re right. It’s the other guy/group that is wrong. And not only is that other guy/group wrong… but they are also woefully misinformed, ignorant, and perhaps even hateful and evil.
And so the TRUE BELIEVER feels justified in doing whatever is necessary to get their way. They’ll threaten to leave (take their ball and go home) and they’ll tell you they intend to take other people with them. They’ll say unflattering or offensive things about those who disagree with them. And sometimes they’ll even split and destroy a church in order to get their way. Why? Because they are the true believers.
But the real reason they behave this way is this: they don’t really LOVE anyone who disagrees with them. They don’t care about the church… all they care about is being right!! And so they’ll do whatever they have to WIN.
This has been going on for centuries. Even in the early church this type of thing was going on. Paul wrote the church at Corinth and said:
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.” I Corinthians 1:10-15