Well folks, [tomorrow] [today] is the day all good football junkies have been waiting for for a whole year. Super Bowl Sunday. It has become a national holiday – the high holy day for all armchair quarterbacks. And if your favorite team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl – again – well, just remember that saying that’s so popular here in Western New York, “There’s always next year.” Or, maybe the year after that, or maybe the year after that.
But around here, here in this place that we call church – we don’t have to wait another whole year for Super Sunday to roll around, because every Sunday is Super Sunday. And every Saturday is Super Saturday. And the wonderful thing is is that we already know the outcome. Every Saturday – and Every Sunday we celebrate a victory – Jesus’ victory over the powers of sin, death and the devil. Can I get a woo-hoo on that?
Now our Gospel lesson today from the book of Mark, is just one example of what that battle looks like. Of course, this one does not take place in a crowded football stadium. No, it take place in a synagogue. Jesus and his disciples are in a place called Capernaum. It’s the Sabbath day, and Jesus has entered the synagogue in order to teach. The people of course, are amazed at his teaching. He teaches like one who has authority.
And right then and there, his teaching is interrupted. A man enters the synagogue – a man who the Bible says has an unclean spirit. And he suddenly cries out:
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
Folks, I want to tell you, I have seen some strange things happen in church, but never anything like this. And immediately Jesus takes control of the situation – in other words, he’s in the middle of the huddle – and he calls the play. And this is the play that Jesus calls: he goes for the two point conversion. Are you ready? Point one: “Be silent!” Point two: “Come out of him!”
And that unclean spirit begins to convulse the man –it cries out with a loud voice – and comes popping out like a football that has been fumbled.
Jesus shows up in Capernaum that day as a teacher who not only amazes everybody with the authority of his teaching, but with his authority over unclean spirits as well. Jesus shows up in Capernaum that day, and the forces of evil know that their Super Bowl days are over. In Jesus Christ, evil has met its match.
You see, folks, when it comes to Jesus –
– when it comes to having faith in Jesus Christ
– when it comes to having a relationship with Jesus Christ
– when it comes to letting Jesus help you deal with your personal demons
– let me suggest that we would do well to pay attention to Jesus and his two-point conversion.
Because it is not a bad strategy. For any one of us. Regardless of where we are in our walk with the Lord. Regardless of whether we are on the Lord’s team – or we are considering what it means to be a member of the Lord’s team – let me tell you – the two-point conversion is a great strategy – to help you deal with whatever burden you might be dealing with right now.
Here’s the thing. In football – a two-point conversion can be a game winning event. And it occurs after a touchdown has been made. The team on offence – in other words the team with the ball – has a choice. Do they go for the one extra point – or two extra points? The safe route – the usually safe route – is to go for the one extra point – by kicking the ball through the uprights of the goal post. Or, they can go for the more difficult two-point conversion, which involves running another play from the two yard line and attempting to run or pass the ball into the end zone for another 2 points. That’s the two-point conversion in football, and it can often be a game winning event.
For the Christian – the two-point conversion is a life-changing event. So we can talk about conversion – we can talk about an “aha” moment – as a time when you realize that Jesus is who he says he is – in other words – that Jesus truly is the Son of God – the Savior of the world –and you become one of his disciples. That’s conversion – and it’s a conversion from an old way of life to a new way of life. Conversion can happen dramatically – all at once – or it can happen little by little, bit by bit. Over time. Either way. Doesn’t matter. Conversion can lead to a change in lifestyle. Or a reordering of priorities. But it always involves a transformation – simply because you – the believer – have had an encounter with Jesus Christ.
Now, I’m going to take a risk here, and ask all of you a question. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands – but I just want you to think for a moment if you feel that you have grown in your faith over the last few years. You see, whenever we grow in faith –whether it’s a stronger devotion to God – a deeper love and respect for others – or when we have gone deeper into God’s Word – when we notice a change – or other people notice a change – in us – well then, that is what we call transformation. That’s what the 2-point conversion will lead to – transformation.
So – the two point conversion that Jesus used. What does it look like again?
First – be quiet. Learn to be silent and to listen. Listen to the voice of God. Listen to the words of Jesus. Get away from distractions. Spend time alone in prayer, in Bible reading, in devotion with God, in worship. Just soak up and experience the love, forgiveness and peace of God. Second – listen as Jesus says, “Come out of him.” In other words, break free, let go, get rid of something. Whatever it is that’s slowing you down – whatever it is that is keeping you from being all that God wants you to be.
We might even call these things we need to get rid of – demons. And just as the man Jesus encountered may have been possessed by a number of demons – so too, we might have more than one that we need to deal with. The demon of desire for worldly success at any cost. Or fame. Or fortune. The demon of pride. Of destructive habits or lousy attitudes. The demons of hate – jealousy – guilt – revenge. You name it. We all – including myself – we all deal with these demons from time to time. We all – regardless of where we are in our walk with the Lord – we are all still in need of the two-point conversion that leads to transformation.
Two-point conversions can make a difference in a football game. Now wouldn’t that be something if that happens [tomorrow night] [tonight]? Two point conversions make a difference in the life of Christians too. Wouldn’t that be something if something like that happens here this [evening] [morning]?
Let me share with you a story. “A woman once came to [her pastor] to talk about her son in college. He had been getting involved with a rather conservative Christian campus group, and she was worried, fearing the kind of Christianity they were teaching. [The pastor] advised patience, believing more good than harm would result.
“Sometime later [they] talked again. An unbelievable change had come over her son. Whereas once he had been, in her words, a little spoiled rich kid obsessed with his own selfish concerns – (know anybody like that?) – he now was generous, thoughtful, outgoing, and determined to help others – (know anybody like that?).
“What had happened? He had fallen under the spell of a new kind of teaching – the teaching of Jesus Christ. The demons of selfishness, contempt, and greed had been cast out by the authority of Christ. He was a new man, and now he is helping make a new world as a missionary.” Conversion.
Let me share with you another story. This one is from Chuck Swindoll from his book Growing Deeper in the Christian Life. He “tells about a commercial venture of one of the largest department stores in our nation. It proved to be disastrously unsuccessful. It was a doll in the form of the baby Jesus. It was advertised as being unbreakable, washable, and cuddly. It was packaged in straw with a satin ribbon and plastic surroundings, and appropriate biblical texts added here and there to make the scene complete.
“It did not sell. The manager of one of the stores in the department chain panicked. He carried out a last-ditch promotion to get rid of those dolls. He brandished a huge sign outside his store that read: ‘JESUS CHRIST – MARKED DOWN 50% – GET HIM WHILE YOU CAN.’”
I guess you could say that that department store manager didn’t know what to do with Jesus. I trust that it is not the same with us. We can know what to do with Jesus – and his teachings. Jesus is – well, I guess on a [weekend] [day] like [this weekend] [today] – I guess we can call him our coach. And when he speaks, we can choose either to listen – or to ignore. He offers us the option of a two-point conversion.
And if I were a gambling man – and I’m not – but if I were, I’d bet that most of us are here today because we already know – or WANT to know – what to do with Jesus. Regardless – all of us need to hear what Jesus has to offer.
And what Jesus offers is life. A new way of life and a new way of living. A new way of relating to God and to each other. A new person in place of the old. A two-point conversion that will lead us to love God, and love our neighbor.
And when you think about it, does anything else really matter? Amen