Certainty in Uncertain Times: Luke 4:31-44 – The Authority and Power of Christ

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  We are going to begin reading at verse 31 today.  Remember the context . . .

  • Having been baptized and having passed the tests of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus begins His earthly ministry and He does so, Luke tells us in verse 14, “in the power of the Spirit.” 
  • Having been rejected in His hometown of Nazareth, He now travels down to Capernaum where He ministers in great authority and power. 

Beginning in verse 31, we are going to be reading about the authority and power of Christ.  My aim this morning is to exalt Jesus Christ, to lift Him up.  I want to lift Him up because . . .

He alone has all authority and power

And is therefore exclusively worthy

Of our worship and praise.

I read awhile back about the late E. V. Hill, famous African-American pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.  Pastor Hill told about an elderly woman in his church whom everyone called “1800” because nobody knew exactly how old she really was.  But she had this ministry there at the church.  This woman was especially hard on preachers who may not have had much experience preaching.  She would sit on the front row and as soon as the preacher started preaching she would shout, “Get Him up!” meaning, “Get Jesus up.  Lift Him up!”  After a few minutes of preaching, if she did not feel there was enough of Christ in the sermon she would shout again, “Get Him Up!”  If the preacher wasn’t preaching a Christ-centered sermon, he was in for a long and difficult sermon!  That is exactly what my aim is this morning, to “Get Him up!”  I want to exalt Jesus Christ who has all authority and power and is therefore exclusively worthy of our worship and praise.

Because Jesus has all authority and power . . .

I.  Jesus Is Sent To Conquer Satan – Verses 31-37.

In these first seven verses we have the first of 21 miracle events recorded by Luke.  It is not insignificant that the first of these 21 miracle accounts demonstrates Jesus’ authority over Satan and the dark, spiritual realm.  We read earlier in verse 13 that Satan, after failing to conquer Jesus in the wilderness temptation, “departed from Him until an opportune time.”  Now Satan comes against Christ again, this time through a demon possessed man in the synagogue.

Jesus is in the synagogue in Capernaum and He is teaching the people.  Luke says in verse 31 that He is doing it, “on the Sabbaths.”  We remarked last time about our Lord’s habitual weekly practice of worship in God’s house.  If this was the practice of our Lord Jesus, it should be the practice of His followers.  We should be in God’s house every week to learn the Word and to encourage and minister to one another.

The people are listening to Jesus teach in the synagogue and Luke says in verse 32 that “they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.”  Most of the teaching by rabbis in the synagogue was their quoting other rabbis.  One would stand and say something like, “As Rabbi Abramson has said,” and then a quote would follow.  But Jesus stands and He quotes no one.  He speaks His Word – the Word.  You get a greater sense of this in the Sermon on the Mount where He says, “You have heard that it was said” … “But I say unto you.”  He spoke with authority and it astonished the people.  They had heard nothing like this before.

This authority and power is about to be challenged.  Imagine as He is teaching that a man suddenly cries out, “Let us alone.”  Other translations have, “Ha!  What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth!”  Now that would get your attention, wouldn’t it?  One time, at a church I was pastoring in college, my preaching was interrupted by a wasp that made some “bombing runs” down the middle of the isle.  I believe I would prefer that interruption to this!  Jesus rebukes the demonic spirit, casting him out of the man and, verse 36, “they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is!’”  Literally, they said, “’What a word this!  For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.’”

We should note in verse 34 specifically what the unclean spirit says just before being cast out. 

  • First, he says, “Let us alone.”  Demons often speak in the plural, sometimes denoting that there was more than one spirit inhabiting the body of a person. 
  • The demon also asks, “Did You come to destroy us?”  The demons know that their ultimate fate is to be cast into the abyss (Revelation 20). 
  • The demon also says in verse 34, “I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” 

It was widely believed in Jesus’ day that one showed mastery over the other by identifying the name of the other.  This, of course, does not work for the demon.  And Jesus rebukes and silences him.  Jesus is not prepared for the entire world to know His exact identity at this point and certainly not in this manner, coming from a demon of all things so He rebukes the demon.

We should also note that verse 34 demonstrates . . .

That it is possible to know Jesus Christ

And to even know His identity

As “the Holy One of God”

And yet to remain lost.

There are many people who are members of churches all across our country, including the one I pastor, who know intellectually that Jesus Christ is “the Holy One of God,” but are unsaved, unconverted, and unforgiven. 

Just knowing truth about Christ does not save. 

We must personally appropriate that truth

Into our hearts, receiving Jesus Christ

As Savior and Lord of our lives. 

We must believe with both head and heart.

It is a dangerous thing to know only the objective truth of the Gospel without having personally embraced that truth with our hearts.

When reading these examples of demonic possession, someone invariably asks why it is we do not see this as much today.  The truth is we do see it in many places outside of our country.  You will see this much more in third world countries where Satan continues to operate this way.  We may wonder then, “Why not here as much in our country?”  We must remember that Satan is highly intellectual.  He will get us where he can get us best.  He knows the best way to detract us from Christ is not through the attention getting displays of demon possession, but through the more subtle means of prosperity, greed, and self-sufficiency.  If Satan and his demonic minions can get us to fall in love with the world, then there is no need for dramatic displays of demon possession.  So, let us examine our hearts.  Is Jesus really Lord of all?  Are we trying to hold the things of God in one hand and the things of the world in the other?

If we live whole-heartedly for the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no fear of Satan.  There are Christians running around and wringing their hands because they are afraid of Satan.  There are some who are afraid to pray out loud about their innermost concerns and temptations and worries for fear that Satan will hear and learn of them and somehow triumph over them.  What lack of faith in the authority and power of Christ!  In Colossians 2:15, the Bible talks about one of the benefits to Christians as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Jesus Christ has authority and power over Satan.  We must remember, as Martin Luther, the great reformer, writes in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” that just “one little word” from Jesus causes Satan to fall. 

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.”

Jesus is sent to Conquer Satan.  Secondly . . .

II.  Jesus Is Sent To Conquer Sickness – Verses 38-41.

Verses 38 and 39 tell us, “Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.  So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.”

I find what happens to Simon’s mother-in-law utterly amazing!  I know how weak I am even after I have had a severe cold and my fever breaks.  But . . .

So immediate and complete is our Lord’s healing

That Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who had “a high fever,”

Not just any fever, but “a high fever” gets up immediately

And serves them a meal, why?  Because, just as before,

One word from the Master is all it takes.

Such authority and power!  He just speaks the Word.  He rebukes the fever.  He talks to the fever!  He says, “Go” and it goes.  This authority and power over Satan and over sickness continues in Capernaum.  Verses 40-41 say, “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God.’  And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.”

Jesus is sent to conquer Satan and Jesus is sent to conquer sickness.  There are three things we must remember here about healing . . .

First, Because Jesus Is The Great Physician, Then He Gets The Glory For All Healings, Whatever The Means Through Which They Come. 

If healing comes through medicine, surgery, radiation, or other means, we credit doctors for their skill and giftedness, but Christ is the One who gets the glory for it.  Our Lord may elect to heal through medicine or He may desire to just speak the Word.  In either case, He gets the glory for the healing. 

This raises the question of whether

We are in the habit of giving God

The glory for healing every time

We have been sick.

Do you thank God for healing you of a headache through the means of ibuprofen?  Do you thank God every day for the health you enjoy?  None of us can produce good health on our own, we do not even deserve good health.  We are all sinners, deserving nothing.  But if, in God’s grace, He allows us to enjoy good health, should we not be in the habit of thanking Him regularly?  May we never take our good health for granted.   Our good health comes to us as a gift from the Great Physician.

Secondly, It May Not Be The Lord’s Will To Heal Our Physical Sickness. 

Not every Christian in the New Testament was healed by our Lord.  Remember what Jesus had just said earlier when teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth.  He says back in verse 27 that there were many lepers in Israel, but Elijah was not sent to bring God’s healing to any one of them, but rather to someone living outside Israel in Syria.  And we learn from 2 Corinthians 12 that Paul had his “thorn in the flesh,” that he asked God three times to heal but God chose not to  And in 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul writes that he left a fellow believer named Trophimus in Miletus “sick.”  It is not God’s will for every person to be healed of physical sickness this side of heaven.  Sometimes, He permits sickness because He knows best.  It is not the purpose of this study to talk about all of the reasons why God may allow sickness in our lives, but let us at least acknowledge that God knows what He is doing and that He always does what is best.

Thirdly, Because Jesus Is The Great Physician, He Is The Healer Of Every sickness We May Face.

Not just physical sickness, but heart sickness, emotional sickness; worry sickness, anxiety sickness, and sickness over hurts, loss, defeat, and despair.  No, this is not to suggest that if you will just “come to Christ” all will be well, and you will never hurt again.  But it is to remind us that we have in Jesus someone who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).  We have a loving Lord who says to us, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Rest!  Our Lord will calm your hearts this morning if you will but trust Him.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast your care upon Him for He cares for you.”  He will heal you of your hurts and your worries and your cares.  Just trust Him to care for you today.

Jesus can do so because He is sent not only to conquer Satan and Sickness, but thirdly . . .

III.  Jesus Is Sent To Conquer Sin – Verses 42-44.

The Bible says that following this long day of ministry Jesus gets up the next morning and finds a place of seclusion.  Verse 42-44 say, “Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.  And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.”

Before we discuss the main point of these three concluding verses, I want to pause for a moment and consider the devotional practice of our Lord Jesus.  Frequently we find Him in the Scriptures going away to a secluded place for mediation with the Heavenly Father.  You know, it is not enough that we take time to read our Bibles and have a regular time of prayer.  This is very important!  Most of us do not do that as we should.  But, in addition to our daily prayer time and Bible reading, we ought to periodically get away and just be quiet somewhere before God.  Jesus just disengages and gets away to be quiet before God.  He had to go somewhere where the people were not.  He went away from the crowds of people and got alone before God.

And again, we find ourselves confronted with the question that if this was the practice of our Lord Jesus, how much should it also be the practice of those who follow Him?  And how much more important given our busied barrage of noisy and bothersome technology: televisions, radio, CDs, DVDs, laptops, cell phones, texting, tweeting, and gaming?  We must “unplug” every once in awhile and get away somewhere and just be quiet before God.  Failing to do so increases our vulnerability to worldly temptation and exposes us to the unhappy prospect of backsliding into sin.  Let’s follow the Master’s example and periodically get away from it all and be quiet before God.

The crowd manages to locate Jesus and they are all like, “Hey, Jesus!  Come on!  Let’s get back to the town!  Everyone is asking about You!”  But Jesus says in verse 43, “I must preach (that is, “evangelize,” or, “share the Good news about”) the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”  That phrase, “the kingdom of God,” is the first of 31 references in Luke’s Gospel.  The kingdom of God refers more to God’s reign than it does to a specific place.  The “kingdom of God” is both a present and future reality.  If we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then the kingdom of God breaks into our lives.  God reigns in our hearts.  But one day, when Christ returns, He will set up a literal kingdom and God will reign on the earth.  So the kingdom can be a present reality to all who trust Christ.

The kingdom of God is the Good News of the Gospel coming into our lives and freeing us from the bondage of sin.  Jesus Christ was so focused upon His mission that, inspite of the fact that great things were happening there in Capernaum, He says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom elsewhere, too.”  Why?  “Because for this purpose I have been sent.”  Jesus is sent to conquer sin.  No one city has exclusive rights to the Gospel.  The Gospel is for all peoples in all places.  The Gospel is for people in the community, the commonwealth, the country, and the continents.  The Gospel is for everyone.  The Gospel is for you.  The Bible declares in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only, unique, one-of-a-kind Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life.”

“For this purpose,” says Jesus, “I have been sent.”  He has been sent.  Have you received Him?  If not, do so right now.  Admit to yourself and God that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself.  Turn to Jesus Christ and accept what He has done upon the cross and through the empty tomb.  Ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.   Then live under His authority and in His power.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty in Uncertain Times: Luke 4:14-30 – Acknowledging Our Personal Need And Global Need For The Gospel

Grace For The Journey

We are in Luke chapter 4 and we will pick up at verse 14.  Here is the background: Luke has told us in the opening chapter that someone is coming, the Messiah, the anointed Savior of God.  He tells us about the Angel Gabriel declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.  We read where Simeon the Prophet declares Jesus to be the Christ; Anna the Prophetess declares that Jesus is the Christ; and John the Baptist declares that Jesus is the Christ.  Now, in our passage today, Jesus Himself declares that He is the Christ. I remember preaching my first sermon as I was sensing the Lord’s call into full-time Gospel Ministry.  I remember asking the Lord for some kind of favorable response to the preaching, someone coming forward to be saved or re-commit himself to Christ.  The service went well and through that event and a combination of other events God confirmed His calling in my life.

I am not so sure how I would have felt had people responded to my first sermon the way people responded to our Lord’s first recorded sermon.  That is what we have here in the text, our Lord’s first sermon recorded in Scripture. 

His first sermon has one main point . . .

I am the Messiah, the Christ,

The long-awaited Good News.”

That is it.  What is remarkable here is the response to the sermon.  The people praise Jesus for His ministry in Galilee (verses 14-15, and 22).  Then when Jesus travels 30 miles south and enters Nazareth, His hometown, and preaches in the synagogue, the people again respond favorably at the beginning, but by the end of the message they are out to literally kill Him.  Note that progression in verses 23 to 29, as they go from liking Him for what He says to wanting to kill Him for what He says.

The passage leads us to consider how we are to respond to the preaching of our Lord and how we are to respond to the Gospel.  There are two responses we are to have . . .

I.  We Must Acknowledge Our Personal Need For The Gospel.

The Bible says in verse 16 that Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.  As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.  We do well to pause for a moment and underscore the phrase, “as His custom was.”  It was our Lord’s predictable, weekly routine to be in the God’s house every Sabbath.  It was His custom.  It was His habitual practice.  Luke does not say that Jesus went only when He felt like it . . . only when His schedule permitted it . . . only when He was not so tired from the previous week . . . only when everything at the Synagogue worship service was to His liking.  No.  He just went.  That is what this phrase means.  It was His custom.  He went because He wanted to and needed to.  Our Lord’s worship behavior is to be mirrored in His followers.  There is rich, spiritual benefit to us and to our families when we predetermine to be in God’s house every week as a custom, as a predictable behavior, a weekly routine, an expectation, not a question.  We are going.  A small child asks his parent, “Why are we going?”  His dad replied, “Because, son, it is what we do.  It is our custom.”  And week after week after week, faithful attendance to the exposition of Scripture, participation in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the singing of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs produces a man or woman in love with the Lord Jesus Christ.  What a powerfully concise statement is this, “As His custom was.”

Jesus enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and stands up to read.  It was His turn to preach, to provide an exposition of a text.  Verse 17 tells us He is handed the book of Isaiah.  This would have been a scroll at this point in history.  He is familiar with this Old Testament scroll and He un-rolls it to the point we know as Isaiah 61.  And He reads in verse 18-20, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, and the blind, and to set at liberty those who are captive.  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, (that is, ‘the season of our Lord’s favor.’”  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.”  Why?  Because now He was going to provide the exposition.  He was going to give the meaning and application of this text.  And Luke gives us the opening words of His sermon, verse 21, “And He began to say—in other words, He said more than what Luke records here—He began to say, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Of course, He said more than this as verse 22 says, “All bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.”  Luke provides a summary of our Lord’s exposition of the text.  It may be summed up with, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words,Jesus is declaring, “I am He.  I am the Good News.  I am the One who is Good News to the poor, who gives sight to the blind, who sets the captive free.  Today this Scripture is fulfilled in Me.”

Jesus Christ is Good News to the poor, both economically and spiritually poor.  In fact, what we see in Luke’s Gospel is the frequent comparing and contrasting of the rich and poor to show those who are most aware of their personal need for the Gospel.  In the Bible . . .

We see what we also know to be true

By experience that those who are poor

Are usually in the best position to see

Their personal need for the Gospel

While those who are rich are typically

Less likely to see their personal

Need for the Gospel. 

The economically poor are typically

Most sensitive to their spiritual poverty.

For example . . .

  • In Luke 13, Luke records the parable of the rich fool, a self-sufficient man who is totally blinded to his need for spiritual riches. 
  • In Luke 15, we read of the prodigal son, a young man who went from riches to poverty and was then in a position to see his spiritual need. 
  • In Luke 16, it is the rich man who fails to see his need for the Gospel and dies and goes to hell while the poor man, Lazarus, acknowledges his spiritual poverty and was therefore reclining upon Abraham’s bosom in heaven.  In Luke 18, it is the rich young ruler who walks away from Jesus sorrowful because his money was more important to him than his salvation. 
  • In Luke 21, it is the poor widow who, in putting into the temple treasury two small copper coins, gives more than all the rich people put together.  Why?  Because she, in her economic poverty, had been set free from her spiritual poverty.

It is not that the poor are more spiritual than the rich or that having riches is somehow intrinsically evil.  That is not the point.  The point is the truth captured by evangelist Billy Sunday when he said, “The fellow that has no money is poor, but the fellow who has nothing but money is poorer still.”

In Luke 19, Luke presents Zacchaeus who was rich.  He had plenty of money.  But by God’s grace His eyes were opened to his spiritual poverty.  He had been blind to his need for the Gospel, but now He could see.  By God’s grace His eyes were opened to the fact that his money had held him strongly in its grip.  He was captive to it.  But now Jesus had set him free from bondage.  Now Zacchaeus says, “Look, I am ready to part with this money because I now know true riches.”  He saw his personal need for the Gospel.

We, too, must see ourselves among the poor, the blind, and the captive.  We must see ourselves this way if we are to be saved.  Doing so requires humility.  One of the unfortunate truths about the so-called religious people in the New Testament is that they are the least aware of their need for the Gospel.  They are offended at the very idea that they need to repent and come to Christ.

The religious people in the New Testament are very much like religious people today.   They thank God that they are not poor, blind, and captive!  They are a good people.  They have been raised properly.  They are morally upright.  They a decent job and contribute positively to society.  They love preaching because it makes them feel good about themselves.  They are glad that Jesus came to speak gracious words to all those common, dirty, less religious people who need to hear them.  But they do not realize the condition that they are in.

In a moment Jesus shows that this idea of the Gospel is far from right.  He very directly says that they really do not know what they are talking about. 

The Gospel is not for those

Who think they are healthy,

It is for those

Who know they are sick.

The Gospel is not just for those who see yourselves on the wrong side of the track;, it is for those on the right side of the track too.”  This causes the people to quickly change their opinion of Jesus and before you know it they are out to kill Him.

One of the greatest challenges of ministry in America in the 21st Century is . . .

To lead people to understand that

Their goodness, morality, and charity

Neither saves them nor impresses God. 

He is not pleased with our boastings of

Our goodness, our uprightness in the

Community, our fine moral examples. 

He wants us to see that we are

Poor, wretched, and blind captives.

It is the morally upright, the good people, who are often least likely to see their need for the Gospel.  They think they are not as bad as others and certainly are not in bondage!  They think they are free.  Their thinking is like someone who looks at a mouse whose tail is caught painfully in a trap – he is in bondage, but they are fine.  But there another kind of trap that traps an animal inside of box, allowing him a freedom with limitations, the freedom to breathe and move about?  But he still is trapped, isn’t he?  Such is the nature of man.  We do not even realize it, but we are captive.  We move about as though we will live on this planet forever, but we are blind to the fact that our freedom is a freedom with limitations.  We freely breathe and move about, but judgment is coming.  We will die and we will stand before our Creator.  And . . .

He will not be pleased if we begin to boast

About how good a person we were. 

He will not be pleased with our wasting

Our lives on worldly pursuits and selfish gain. 

He will be pleased only with whether we have

Bowed humbly before the Lord Jesus Christ,

Having received Him as Lord and Savior and

Having lived our lives wholly dedicated to the Kingdom.

We must acknowledge our personal need for the Gospel. 

The other response this text requires from us is that . . .

II.  We Must Acknowledge The Global Need For The Gospel.

Jesus has just heard the crowd in the synagogue say, “What gracious words proceed out of His mouth!  Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?”  And perhaps that last question is framed in the negative as if to say, “Wait a minute!  How can this carpenter be the Christ?  Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”  Jesus knows what they are thinking, and He certainly knows how they will ultimately respond to His being the Messiah.  He says in verse 23, “You will surely quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!  Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’”  The crowd believes they know who He really is, just a local boy of Joseph’s!  If He is the Messiah, they want Him to prove it by performing some supernatural signs.  Jesus answers this proverb with another in verse 24, “No prophet is accepted in His own country.”

He says this because He knows the people in His own country will reject Him just as they rejected the prophets of the Old Testament.  And in verses 25-27, Jesus illustrates how the prophets Elijah and Elisha were better received outside Israel.  They were not received as well among their own people, “inside the beltway,” as it were.  Their ministries were better received outside Israel, not among the Jews, but among the Gentiles.  Jesus reminds them in theses verses that God sent Elijah not to a Jewish widow, but a Gentile widow in the region of Sidon (Phoenicia).  God sent Elisha not to a Jewish leper, but a Gentile leper needing cleansing, Naaman the Syrian.

When these Jews hear that the Gospel, the Good News, is not what they thought it was, Good News for “good people,” religiously favored people, elite people, but Good News for common, dirty, Gentiles, too, well – you know how this ends!  Verses 28-29 tell us, “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.”  They sought to kill Him!  But it was not yet His time, so verse 30 says, “Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”  No sooner than Jesus begins His earthly ministry do we see the shadow of the cross immediately appearing and growing larger and larger with each passing day, darkening His path until He arrives in Jerusalem three years later and is sentenced to death.

Isn’t it striking how the people move from “Good preaching, Jesus!” to, “We want to kill You, Jesus!?” 

They liked the preaching

So long as it did not

Require a personal change

On their part. 

They liked the preaching

So long as it did not

Require repentance.

It is not enough to say to the minister after the sermon, “Good preaching!  I enjoyed the message today!”  We must respond to the preaching by repenting, by turning to God in response to the message.

J. C. Ryle says, “Let us often examine ourselves on this important point.  Let us see what practical effect is produced in our hearts and lives by the preaching which we profess to like.  Does it lead us to true repentance towards God, and lively faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ?  Does it (lead) us to weekly efforts to cease from sin, and to resist the devil?  These are the fruits which sermons ought to produce if they are really doing us good.  Without such fruit, a mere barren admiration is utterly worthless.  It is no proof of grace.  It will not save the soul.”

The people of Nazareth reject the Good News, so Jesus takes the Good News elsewhere.  And as He goes . . .

He teaches them that the Good News

Is not at all what they think it is. 

The Jews think it is something they

Personally do not need because

They believe they are morally upright people. 

They have missed the point that the Messiah

Has come not to deliver the Jews

From their Gentile oppressors,

But that the Messiah had come

To create one new “people of God,”

A people consisting of both Jew and Gentile.

And when the people hear about the Gentiles coming into the kingdom it makes them angry.

This passage is a bit like the one in Matthew 8 where Jesus is talking to the Roman centurion who asks Him to come and heal his servant.  In verses 11 and 12, Jesus says to the crowd, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Jesus says, “Many will come from east and west.”  Many will come from Egypt, Greece, Lybia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and Indonesia.  He is redeeming a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.  Those who thought they were the exclusive recipients of the Good News were “cast out into outer darkness.”  We must acknowledge . . .

Not only our personal need for the Gospel,

But we must acknowledge

The global need for the Gospel.

Jesus rebukes their ethnocentric ways of thinking.  He rebukes them for their racial prejudice, for thinking that their own people were somehow more favorably disposed than all the other nations of the earth.

Do you think this way?  Do you resent taking the Gospel to the nations?  Do you look at all the people in Iran or Afghanistan as people less worthy to hear the Gospel, people who don’t really deserve the Gospel?  Do you hear the Word of God convicting your heart, exposing your feelings of religious superiority?  May God have mercy on us and lead us to acknowledge our personal need for the Gospel and the global need for the Gospel.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 4:1-13 – Overcoming Temptation

Grace For The Journey

We are preaching our way through the Gospel of Luke and we come to a pivotal passage today where our Lord Jesus Christ faces 40 days of trial and testing in the wilderness of Judea.  Most of us are familiar with this passage and know that Satan appears before Jesus and tempts Him three times, each time beginning the temptation with the words, “If You are the Son of God,” or, “If You will worship me.”  It is important that we remember where we were last time as context helps us understand what is happening in today’s passage.  Last time in chapter 3 we studied the baptism of Jesus and we recall from verse 22 that when Jesus came up out of the water He heard the Heavenly Father say, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”  What we have now in chapter 4 is a challenge to those very words.  Satan is challenging the divine sonship of Jesus.  What Satan aims to do in this passage is to get Jesus to doubt whether the Father really meant what He said when He said, “You are My beloved Son.”  His whole modus operandi is to get Jesus to doubt His unique role as Son of God and that the Father really loves Him and will provide for Him.  That is why Satan prefaces his temptations with, “If you really are the Son of God.”Immediately preceding our text, the last few words of chapter 3, we have the tail-end of the genealogy of Jesus which Luke traces all the way back to Adam who, like Jesus, was a unique “son of God,” but unlike Jesus, Adam failed his test.  So now the “second Adam,” our Lord Jesus, is being tested.  The serpent who assaulted the first Adam in the Garden now assaults the second Adam in the wilderness, and the second Adam passes the test.  The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  We may say that . . .

The first Adam

Failed the temptation,

Bringing sin to mankind,

The Second Adam, Christ Jesus,

Passed the temptation,

Bringing salvation to mankind.

As I was reflecting on this topic of “Overcoming Temptation,” it occurred to me that we could have just as easily entitled our message, “Overcoming Idolatry.”  Because when we give into temptation we are saying, “No” to God and “Yes” to something else in God’s place.  Think about it. 

  • If we give in to the temptation of greed, we do so because money, power, or possessions have taken God’s place. 
  • If we give in to the temptation of lust and commit adultery in either thought or action, we do so because our lustful desire replaces the desire for God. 
  • If we give in to the temptation to gorge ourselves on food not because we need the nutrition but because we just love the taste of something in our mouths, then we have placed that something else before God and have fallen – at least for a moment – into the sin of idolatry.

This is important for us to grasp as we study the temptation of Christ because, as the Son of God, Jesus will show that He will have nothing to stand between Himself and His Heavenly Father.  If the Father had said, “You are My Son, whom I love,” then Jesus’ actions in the Judean Wilderness reply back, “You are My Father, whom I love.”

What I want to do in our study today is keep our focus on Jesus, noting how He overcame His temptation with the obvious secondary question of how then we are to overcome our temptation.  If He is our Master, then we will learn from His actions and emulate His ways.  And the very first thing that leaps off the page and into our eyes is the phrase in verse 1, “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

This shows us the first way to overcome temptation . . .

I. Be Filled With The Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a favorite emphasis of Luke’s.  We know from having studied Luke’s book of Acts that Luke made much of the Holy Spirit in Acts and wrote of people being filled with the Spirit . . .

  • Stephen was a man “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:55)
  • Barnabas was “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 11:24)
  • Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:9)
  • In chapter 1 of Luke, John the Baptist will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:15)
  • Elizabeth was “filled with the Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).”
  • Zacharias was “filled with the Spirit.” (Luke 1:67).” 
  • Mary was overshadowed by the Spirit, and gave birth to Jesus who grew and became “strong in the Spirit” (Luke 2:40).
  • During His baptism, descending upon Him in the form of a dove, is “the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 3:22)
  • The Holy Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1))
  • Following what happens in the temptation, we read that Jesus returns to Galilee in “the power of the Spirit.” (Luke 4:14)

All of these occurrences are not accidental . . . 

Luke is showing us that if we expect

To be of any use to our Lord and

If we expect to have any victory

In this world then we had better

Be filled with the Spirit. 

And before we can be

Filled with the Spirit,

We must receive the Spirit.

We receive the Spirit when we become Christians.  We must be saved.  When we are, God indwells our bodies, our temples, by way of the Holy Spirit.  He immediately and entirely enters in and takes up residence.  He stays here with us, living within us. 

To be filled with the Spirit means that we

Regularly, continually, throughout each day,

Submit ourselves to His complete control. 

We yield our lives to Him, our passions

To Him, our desires to Him. 

To the degree we do this

We are being filled with the Spirit.

God is number one in our lives.

This is how Jesus overcomes the tempter’s first test.  After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, having eaten nothing and afterward being hungry, the devil says to Him in verse 3, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  Jesus could have done that, but He does not.  He replies, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Jesus fasts 40 days and refuses to give in to temptation to turn stones to bread to show . . .

That He will be

Enslaved by nothing,

But God.

He is filled with the Spirit and His life is focused on loving His Father, living for Him, and honoring Him.  He would say later in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”

This is to be our response as well.  When we are tempted to sin we will not give in to that temptation if we are filled with the Spirit.  If you are filled with the Spirit your mind, your heart, and your affections are consumed with God.  When you are yielding to the Spirit, you cannot think an unholy thought and a holy thought at the same time.  You cannot sin when you are filled with the Spirit.  So “say no” to the tempter and “say yes” to the Spirit.  Say, “Holy Spirit, I yield to You.  Fill me.  Take control.  I surrender myself to You.” 

This is the same thing Paul had in mind when he wrote in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  Do not allow your body to be enslaved by anything other than God.  Be filled with the Spirit. 

Number two . . .

II. Be Faithful Through Suffering.

It is important for us to stress that Christ really did suffer.  If we are not careful in our thinking we may accidentally slip into a heresy of thinking that somehow because Jesus was not only human, but also divine, that He did not really feel temptation as we feel it.  The thought has probably entered most of our minds at one point or another in our Christian experience.  The writer of Hebrew says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Perhaps we reason, “Well, because He is both human and divine, somehow it was easier for Him to resist temptation.”  As though when the devil says, “If you really are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread” and Jesus replies stoically, “I am not even hungry.  I am the Son of God.  I can do anything.  40 days is nothing.  I’m just getting started!” 

There is a reason Luke takes the care to record with precision in verse 2 that after the 40 days were ended, “He was hungry.”  Had we been there, He would have looked painfully emaciated.  I mean, starving for food.  He felt real hunger.  It was precisely because He was both man and God that He suffered the temptation in a far greater way.  You and I are clearly not divine.  For us to give in to temptation is nothing.  We are sinners.  Temptation comes knocking and it does not take long for it to knock us over.  But because Jesus is also God, He suffers a temptation far greater than ours.   Sin comes knocking at Jesus and it knocks, knocks, and knocks and He feels every single blow in a way you and I can only imagine.

His sinlessness did not immunize Him against the effects of sin, either during His life or on the cross.  In fact, He tasted our temptations with a sensitivity none of us has known precisely because He resisted them.  Whatever your experiences of temptation or suffering, Christ’s was deeper because His humanity was sinless.  The good news here is that because Christ suffered temptation, He knows what we are going through!  This is the point of the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  When we cry out to God because of our temptation, Jesus Christ knows what it is like.  He knows.  He has been there and done it.

To appreciate this, imagine for a moment that Jesus gave in to this first temptation of the devil’s and He turns the stones into bread.  He could have done that.  But then how would He have ever been taken seriously later in His ministry?  I mean, when He starts preaching the Sermon on the Mount and He says in Matthew 6, “Don’t worry about food.  Your heavenly Father loves you and will take care of you.”  His disciples would be like, “Easy for You to say, Jesus!  When You were in the wilderness You changed rocks into sandwiches!  Easy for You to say.”  No.  He knows what it is like to walk in your shoes.  He really did suffer.  When you suffer this week, He is there, with You, reaching out to You from the shadows of your suffering and saying, “It is okay.  I am with you.  I know what that is like.  It’s going to be okay.”

Then the devil takes Jesus and shows Him, perhaps in a vision, all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  He says, “I will give You authority over all this if You will worship me.”  Of course, Jesus knew that whatever authority Satan had, it was a temporary authority God allowed Him to have as the “ruler of this world (John 12:31, etc.), the “prince of the power of the air “(Ephesians 2:2).  Satan says, “I will give You their glory if You will worship me.  Jesus, You want glory?  I will give You glory!  And Jesus, You will not even need to suffer for it.  I will give it to You right now!  You cannot possibly think Your Heavenly Father loves You, can You?  Look at what You are going through, here!  You are starving to death!  Come on, just say the word and all this will be yours!”  I wonder how many of us may have jumped at the chance to be so powerful, exchanging the glory of God for the glory of the world.  But Jesus is faithful through suffering.  He says, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only shall you serve.”

It is important to see here that Satan is trying to . . .

Offer Jesus a shortcut to glory.

He was tempting Jesus to get a crown without the cross.  He was tempting Him to forego suffering.  Had he succeeded, there would have been no hope for our salvation.  This is why Satan works so hard at it.  He is trying to get Jesus to avoid suffering and, because we are Christ’s followers, Satan tempts us the same way.

The devil tries to get us to doubt the Father’s love for us.  He says to us, “If God really loved you; you would be driving a better car.  If God really loved you, you would have gotten that promotion.  If God really loved you, you would have been healed of that disease.”  How will you reply to him?  The devil tries to get us to forego suffering.  “You don’t need all that suffering business,” he says.  “I am offering a life of ease and indulgence.”  But Jesus warns us in Matthew 16:24-25 that, just as it was true for Him, there is no crown without the cross, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”

Satan promises the easy way.  He tells you that you really do not need to suffer.  He wants us to think that Jesus did not really mean for you to “take up your cross” and “lose your life” and all that.  That is far too costly!  You impatiently watch a missions video or listen to somebody sharing about missions and the devil whispers into your ear, “God does not really expect you to fly to Asia and share the love of Jesus Christ with the 70 million orphaned children there.  Look at how much good can be done here and just see how God is blessing!  God does not really expect you to share the Gospel among the 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV.  No, that is for others to do.  He is got you here to enjoy the niceties and comforts of your predictable income, your house, your recreational activities, your food and your gadgets.  Do not risk your life going to some crazy foreign country!  Let the fanatics do that.  You’re okay.”  And if you have a heart of wisdom, may you reply to those temptations of Satan the same way our Lord did when, through Peter’s offer of glory without suffering, Jesus heard him and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

 The devil then takes Jesus to Jerusalem and to the highest point of the temple and says, “If you really are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  After all,” says Satan, “The Bible says in Psalm 91 that Your Father will send His angels to protect You.”  And Jesus replies in verse 12, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”  That is, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  In essence, Jesus says, “Just because God promises His protection, I have no guarantee from Him that if I act foolishly, He is going to bless Me.”  It is like reading in Mark 16 that believers will be able “to take up serpents” and then saying, “Well, let’s just bring a bunch of snakes into our worship service and see what happens!”  How often God must look down from heaven and just shake His head.  We are to never put God to the test.  That God promises to love and care for us give us no green light to act like fools.

Someone says, “Well, I would never be so foolish as to handle snakes or throw myself down from a building to test God.”  No.  But maybe you would test God by “throwing yourself” into other things, what Kent Hughes refers to as, “willful swan dives” into situations without first seeking God.  Hughes illustrates how doing so puts the Lord to the test.  He says, for example, “Diving into a marital relationship that does not have the approval of God’s Word; misapplying Scripture with disastrous consequences, then crying out for God to catch us before we hit bottom; rationalizing a head-strong plunge by saying, ‘If this works, God will receive great glory.  Just think of the souls that will be saved.  God you have to be in this – You just have to!’”  Hughes adds, “True, (God) specializes in picking up the pieces, but we must not test Him through rationalized disobedience.”

The third mark . . .

III. Be Familiar With The Scriptures.

It is of no small importance that when Jesus is tempted these three times by Satan that every single time He responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  In fact, no other words of Jesus’ are recorded here except His quoting Scripture.  Three time He says, “It is written.”  Even the devil realizes this and so, after the first two temptations, the devil tries it out himself in the third temptation, misinterpreting Psalm 91 as a grounds for putting God to the test.  You see it is not enough to quote Scripture.  The devil can quote it.  We must rightly divide it, rightly interpret it.  This is one reason we place such emphasis upon the Scriptures here at First Baptist, Butler.  We recognize the sufficiency of Scripture to answer our every question.  We see how familiar was our Lord with the Scriptures and we seek to follow Him.   

In the words of the hymn-writer . . .

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said—

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Jesus used the Scriptures to battle the devil and so must we if we are His followers.   The Apostle Paul agrees.  He says in Ephesians 6:17 that in order to “stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil,” we must “take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  We cannot take up the sword of the Word if we do not know how to use it.  What good is a sword to a soldier in battle if he does not know how to take it up?

So we must learn the Bible.  Take it up!  Read it daily.  At times, read it slowly.   Memorize it as did our Lord that we might use it to fight against sin.  May we say with the Psalmist in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.”  Vance Havner says, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 3:21-38 – A Very Unique Son

Grace For The Journey

Several weeks ago, we began a series of messages through the Gospel of Luke.  Today we finish chapter 3 as we pick up where we left off at verse 21 and then go to the end of the chapter.  As we look at the passage you will note that the first couple of verses concern the baptism of Jesus and then verses 23-38 give us the genealogy of Jesus.  In the latter portion of Scripture, you will notice certain names that bring up memories about how God worked in and through those persons.

You may wonder what is the benefit of actually reading the some 75 names in the genealogy?  Someone might ask, “Can’t we just skip over them?”  And that is not uncommon as many people endeavor to read through their Bibles.  They come to a list like this and say, “Oh, this is too much.  Let’s just skip these names!”  But I would like to suggest that you might feel differently about the genealogy if your name were listed there; if somewhere in the list of “who was the son of whom” you could point there and say, “Look, there is our family name!  There is my grandfather; there is my great-grandfather.”  Many people, I among them, are increasingly interested in tracing out our family lines.  Websites like ancestry.com provide large networks of information helpful to us in discovering our family tree and roots.  Imagine if everyone in our families kept records like those we read in the Bible!

Perhaps the greatest spiritual reason for reading a genealogy is to remind us of the truth that one day our names will be in a list.  The Bible says in Job 7:6, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.”  Isaiah 40:6-7 says, “All men are like grass…the grass withers and the flower fades.”  We do not like to talk about it much, but we are all dying people in a dying world.  There is a better than even chance that one day someone will be searching for our name to fill the gap in their family tree.  Genealogies remind us of the truth that we need to learn in Psalm 90:12, “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” and to be encouraged that while we find ourselves in this dying world, we live each day to know and serve the living Savior, the one who says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

Our study today is entitled, “A Very Unique Son.”  The word “unique” suggests one-of-a-kind.  Jesus Christ was and is one-of-a-kind.  This is the true meaning of the word “begotten” often found in the King James Version of the Bible.  Many of us know it from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten – His unique, one-of-a-kind Son – so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Jesus is God’s only begotten – His unique, one-of-a-kind Son.

As we study the uniqueness of the Son of God, I want to take something of an inductive approach and ask two very simple questions of the text.  The questions are . . .

1) Why the Baptism? (Verses 21-22) Why the baptism of Jesus?  Why was He baptized?

2) Why the Background? (Verses 23-38) Why does Luke provide this genealogy here?  What is especially unique about his list?

By the end of our time together we will have the answers to those two questions.  Why the baptism and why the background?  First, let’s study the baptism of our Lord Jesus.  Look again at verses 21-22, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.  And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’”

We could talk about a number of things here in these verses. 

  • We could talk about the fact that Jesus prays during his baptism. 

Only Luke has this detail in his Gospel.  Prayer is important to Luke.  He will point out for us that Jesus often prayed before and during significant events, such as, the selection of the 12 disciples, and the Transfiguration.

Or . . .

  • We could talk about the doctrine of the Trinity. 

It is interesting to note here in these two verses, verse 21 and 22, that we have all three Persons of the Holy Trinity revealed to us.  God is One is essence, three in Person.  God is One in substance and essence with no division of His nature and yet, at the same time, He is three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You have the voice of the Father from heaven, the Son in the water, and the Spirit of God descending upon Him.  All three are equally concerned about man’s redemption.

1) Why the Baptism? Why was Jesus Baptized?

A common answer is that Jesus was baptized to set an example for us: “Jesus was baptized and so should we be baptized.”  There is something about our wanting to follow the example of Jesus, but that answer glosses over the theological questions we have about a sinless Savior submitting to a “baptism of repentance” when this same Savior had no sins from which to repent.  Remember that John the Baptist’s baptism was called back in verse 3 a “baptism of repentance.”  Multitudes of people came to be baptized by John to indicate that they were “turning from” their sins and “turning to” the One True God of the Bible.  So why does Jesus get into the water?

 Jesus had not sinned.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that He “knew no sin” and inHebrews 4:15 that Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  This is why Matthew records in chapter 3 and verse for us in his Gospel the startled statement by John the Baptist.  Jesus comes to John to be baptized and John says, “You’re coming to me to be baptized?!  I need to be baptized by you.”  And Jesus replies in verse 15, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Whatever else the phrase “to fulfill all righteousness” means, it surely must include that what Jesus was doing was the right thing to do.  He Himself was not a sinner so He did not need to repent of any sin.  What He is doing here He is placing Himself among these sinners so that He might identify with them.  His whole life and death revolved around His identifying with sinners.  He places Himself in solidarity with these people without participating in their actions, much as an athlete who is not playing in the game because of an injury dresses out and sits on the bench or stands with his team.  He does not participate in the activity of the team, but he stands in solidarity with the team.

Jesus places Himself in solidarity with sinners,

Agreeing with them about the importance

Of turning away from sin and turning

To the One True God. 

He does not stand among them

As One who commits sin with them. 

He stands among them as

One who bears their sin.

That is why He got in the water.  He identifies with us.

 This is why Jesus left the wonder, splendor, and glory of heaven to dwell among us in this sin-cursed world.  This is why He was not born in a golden palace and raised in a wealthy city.  Why would he do that?  He had better than that in heaven!  However beautiful a palace of gold may be to our eyes we see only an imperfect copy or shadow of glorious things unseen in the heavenly realm.  That Jesus was born in a humble, smelly feed trough in a small obscure town makes sense only if the Supreme God of the Universe really wanted to identify with us.  That is why He got in the water.  A heavenly King’s choosing to be born among common shepherds of the hills makes sense only if this King really wanted to “rub shoulders” with us, “to walk with us and talk with us, along life’s narrow way.”

 The religious people could not understand that!  When Jesus says to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5, “Come down out, for today I must stay at your house!””  The religious people complained, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!”  Dah!  That is the point . . . 

This God wants to identify with His creation. 

He Himself is not a sinner. 

He is a sin-bearer. 

He will bear their sins on Calvary’s Cross.

His baptism portrays His desire to identify with us.  And this encourages us!  It means that our God knows what it is like to walk in our shoes. 

  • Having “no place to lay his head,” He knows what it is like to be poor. 
  • Having put in long sweaty hours in the carpenter’s shop, He knows what it is like to work. 
  • He knows what it is like to be ridiculed. 
  • He knows what it is like to be in a storm. 
  • He knows what it is like to experience profound hunger, to be tired, to become emotionally drained. 
  • He knows what it is like to be in pain. 
  • He knows what it is like to suffer. 
  • He knows what it is like to be rejected and betrayed. 
  • He knows what it is like to lose a loved one. 
  • He knows what it is like to die.

This is the kind of God we want, isn’t it?  We do not want a god somewhere “out there,” far away removed and immunized from our everyday problems.  We want a God who can identify with us.  That is why He got in the water.  And that is why we today get into the water through Christian baptism . . . 

He identifies with us,

That we

May identify with Him.

That is why we get into the water.  When we are baptized we are identifying with the One who identified with us.  So, as the Bible says in Romans 6:3-5, we were, “… baptized into His death.  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Baptism pictures our identification with Christ and celebrates our permanent union with Christ.  Baptism pictures what Jesus did for us – death, burial, and resurrection – and what is consequently true for us – we have died, our sins buried, and we have been raised to walk in a new way of life.  We are now permanently united together with Christ Jesus.  Baptism pictures this.

  • Union with Christ means that all of our sin has been forever forgiven. 
  • Union with Christ means that whatever is true of Christ is true of the believer.
  • Union with Christ means that God forever regards us as covered in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Writing of the blessing of our union with Christ, Jerry Bridges in The Gospel for Real Life asks, “Have you ever thought about the wonderful truth that Christ lived His perfect life in your place and on your behalf?  Has it yet gripped you that when God looks at you today, He sees you clothed in the perfect, sinless obedience of His Son?  And that when He says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased,’ He includes you in that warm embrace?  The extent to which we truly understand this is the extent to which we will begin to enjoy those unsearchable riches that are found in Christ.”  Christians live a guilt-free life because God forever regards them “in” His Son Christ Jesus.  If we are saved, He sees us “in Christ,” united together in glorious, permanent union with His Son.

We will never truly understand the love of God until we understand this!  So many Christians live in fear and guilt.  “I am such a sinner,” a Christian says.  “I just feel like I keep on failing God and I feel horrible!”  That ought to be how we feel when we sin.  But, do not stop there, look quickly to Calvary, Christian!  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Know that God forever regards you safely “in Christ Jesus.”  You will forever be clothed in His righteousness and all of your sins paid for in Him.  Remember what the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Union with Christ!

So why the baptism?  Identification.  We understand God’s love for identification.

2) Why the Background? What is especially unique about this genealogy?

Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew, chapter 1, goes back only to Abraham.  Matthew was addressing primarily a Jewish audience.  Luke’s genealogy, however, goes back all the way to Adam.  Luke is addressing primarily a Gentile audience.  Remember in the opening verses of his Gospel he is addressing a man named Theophilus, a Gentile.  He says, “I am writing this Gospel so that you may know the certainty of the things in which you were instructed.”  Luke is addressing a Gentile audience.  Do you remember what Simeon said in his prophecy back in chapter 2 when he held baby Jesus in his arms?  In Luke 2:32, Simeon says that this baby was not only “the glory of Israel,” but is also, “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.”

Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus

All the way back to Adam because

Adam is the representative of the

Entire human race, Jewish and Gentile.

So, in the words of one commentator, we are reminded that “Jesus is the fulfillment not only of Jewish hopes and aspirations but of the hopes of the entire world.”  The Bible says in Acts 17:26 that “from one man (Adam) God has made every nation of men.”  Adam is our representative, the head of the human race.  The Bible says in Romans 5:19, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”  This is why we may refer to Jesus Christ as the “second Adam.”  He is the new representative of humanity.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  As the poet puts it . . .

“Christ the Son of God

Became a Son of Adam

That we sons of Adam

Might become sons of God”

All of humanity, then, is joined either to Adam or to Christ.  We are either lost or we are saved.  Luke’s point in giving this particular background is to highlight the importance of sharing and receiving the Gospel, the Good News that sons of Adam may become – through Christ – sons of God, children of God.

So why the background?  What is especially unique about this genealogy?  Well . . .

If the first key word was Identification,

Then

The second key word is Evangelization.

In tracing the genealogy of Christ all the way back to Adam, we understand God’s love for evangelization, for sharing the Good News of the Gospel.  And this comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  From the start we see that Jesus has come not only to rescue Jewish lost people, but Gentile lost people.  As Luke records later in Luke 19:10, what many see as the key verse to the entire Gospel, Jesus came “to seek and save those who are lost.”

Apart from Jesus Christ, all are lost. 

Apart from Jesus Christ, no one will

Hear God say, “With you I am well pleased.” 

God is not pleased with our spiritual performance

Or good deeds or charitable giving. 

None of those things earn for us

The right to enter heaven. 

There is only one way to escape

Hell and the judgment to come. 

We must be “in Christ Jesus.”

We must identify with the One who identified with us.

Apart from Jesus Christ, no one will hear God say, “With you I am well pleased.”  But if we have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, God sees us differently.  In the words of a favorite hymn . . .

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 3:1-20 – Marks of True Believers

Grace For The Journey

A professor on the faculty at Southeastern Seminary in North Carolina stated recently that his next preaching book was going to be on listening.  He said most preaching books are written to help the preacher preach, but this would be a book to help the listeners listen.  I thought that was an interesting project because . . .

Listening to the message preached

Is as important a task as is

Preaching the message that is heard.

Both do not come easily and both require the discipline of hard work.  We are dealing here with the very Word of God.  We are wise to make as our own the words of Richard Baxter who said, “I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.”

John the Baptist was one such preacher.  He was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” a man not interested in gaining a following for himself, not interested in building crowds, but interesting only in preparing people for the One greater than he, the Lord Jesus Christ.  His message was compelling and demanded to be heard.  His message divided people into two groups:

Those who were

Genuinely saved

And

Those who were not.

The one group consisted of those whose hearts had been truly converted.  The other group consisted of those whose hearts had not.  One group listened and was changed.  The other did not and was not.  And the same will be true in my blog today.  The teaching of the Word will go forth and, to borrow from the words of Jesus, those who “have ears will hear” and those who do not, will not.

Some will hear the Word of God and, like a seed sown into fertile soil, the seed will spring up and bear fruit in their lives.  Others will not hear the Word of God but, perhaps because of a thousand things going on in their minds or a propensity for mind-wandering or critiquing all around them, their hearts will not receive the Word, but the Word will be to them like a seed scattered among rocks or thorns – It does not take root and it bears no fruit.  This is at least one reason why we speak sometimes about those who are truly saved and those who are not.  They both look the same . . . They both hear the same Word . . . but some have truly confessed Christ while some have made merely a false profession.  In the words of JC Ryle, “The visible Church is now a mixed body.  Believers and unbelievers, holy and unholy, converted and unconverted, are now mingled in every congregation, and often sit side by side.  It passes the power of man to separate them.  False profession is often so like true, and grace is often so weak and feeble, that, in many cases, the right discernment of character is an impossibility.  The wheat and the chaff will continue together until the Lord returns.”

If there is one thing that John teaches us in this passage it is . . .

Some of the distinguishing

Marks of true believers.

There are a few things that are evident in the lives of true Christians that separates us from false Christians, those who have merely made a decision of some kind, but are not truly saved.  As we look for those features, let us first note that this passage divides into two parts . . .

  • John’s Ministry – Verses 1-6.
  • John’s Message – Verses 7-20.

We will make our way through these verses and note these marks of true believers.

In verses 1 and following, Luke mentions no less than seven historical figures to let his readers know something of the time frame in which he was writing.  Remember from the opening chapter of his Gospel that he is writing an “orderly account” (1:3) of the events and so he gives the background before telling us how John begins his ministry.

Had we time, we would spend awhile on two phrases that are necessary to the Gospel ministry.  Verse 2, “the word of God came” and verse 3, “and he went.”  The Word of God comes to a man and then he goes.  A man does not decide to become a preacher in the way he decides to become an accountant, a salesman, or a pilot.  He does not sit down with a guidance counselor and conclude that he will apply to become a pastor somewhere.  No, the Word of God comes to him and then he goes.  And at least one reason why people walk out of so many churches shaking their heads and saying of the sermon, “Those things he said I could have read myself in the paper or in news magazines.  He knows a lot about current events, but I’m just not sure what he was trying to do up there,” is likely because the Word of God did not come to the man and he went without being sent.  The Word of God came to John and John went. 

Verse 3 tells us, “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”  John’s message was essentially the same message preached later by Jesus and by the early church.  John preached the Gospel.  Verse 18 says, “And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.”  The word “preached” here is the word from which we get evangelism from, the telling of the Good News.  It is the Gospel.  John’s message called for people to repent, to turn away from their sin, and to turn to the One True God who would forgive their sin on the basis of the coming Messiah.  Those who did repent were then baptized in the Jordan River there to indicate their break with the old life and their start of a new life.

Luke tells us John’s ministry was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah some 700 years earlier as written in Isaiah, chapter 40 verses 4 to 6, “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’  Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”  John the Baptist is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is preparing people for the Messiah, the One who brings the salvation of God.  John wants to make the way smooth for the Messiah, something akin to filling the valleys and bringing the mountains and hills low, so as to make a level path for the coming Christ.

Luke tells us that “multitudes” came out to be baptized by John.  This is the modern preacher’s mark of a successful ministry!  What preacher today would not smile at the prospect of hundreds of people coming to him for baptism?  It is important to notice what John said to the multitudes.  Verse 7 tells us, “Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’”  That is quite a statement.  It is very different the from popular notions of “effective preaching” today.  He doesn’t say, “Welcome, you lovely people.  God loves you.  Come!”  He says, “You all are a bunch of snakes, slithering away from a fire, hoping to escape the flames of judgment!”  We may well imagine one of John’s disciples nudging him and quietly saying, “John!   We are never going to build a following that way!  Tone it down a bit!”  But John senses that a great number of these coming forward are insincere.  They are coming for the wrong reason.  They are coming merely to escape the wrath of God, to “get their card punched,” if you will.  There is no real repentance, there is no real conversion, just a desire to get this thing done so that they may be forgiven. 

John continues in verse 8 and 9 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  9 “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

At this point we begin to see some of the identifying marks of true believers . . .

1) We Must Exercise Saving Faith.

John’s preaching was the Gospel (recall verse 18).  He warned people to flee the wrath to come by receiving the Good News, the Gospel, the truth that their sin would be forgiven in the coming Messiah, revealed shortly thereafter in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way to be forgiven of sin.  There is only one way to get to heaven.  It is not by joining a church, not by being baptized, not be being a good person. 

It comes by God’s grace

Through faith in Christ. 

We must believe that

Jesus Christ died on the

Cross for our sins. 

He took the punishment

We deserved . . .  He died

For our sins, was buried,

And rose the third day

For our justification. 

Without Christ we are lost

And destined for eternal hell

Because of our sin. 

With Christ, our sins are

Forgiven once we receive Him

As the very Lord over

Everything we think, do, and act.

We receive Him as Savior. 

We do so by faith, belief, trust in Him.

This is a decision that we must make personally.  When we speak of trusting Christ as a personal decision, it does not mean private.  It means that we personally, on our own accord, are placing our faith in Christ.  We are not relying upon someone else’s life or faith.  John says in verse 8, “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”  John is saying we cannot get to heaven on the back of someone else’s faith. That you come from a Christian family means absolutely nothing if you have not personally placed your faith in Christ.  Your family ancestry is not what gets you saved.  John says, “If God were concerned only about the physical, he could make physical descendants out of physical matter, turning stones into people.”  That is not what God is after here.  He is after the spiritual.  He is after your personally trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  You cannot be born physically into the family of God.  You must be born spiritually, personally coming to faith in Christ.

The second mark is . . .

2) We Must Truly Repent.

John says in verse 8 that true believers are to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” which implies, of course, that true repentance is necessary in order for one to be truly saved. 

Repentance is both

A “turning from” and

A “turning to.” 

We turn from our sin

And we turn to the Lord.

Repentance is more than just being sorry for our sins.  It is that, to be sure, but it is more than that!  If we are only “sorry” for our sins and we come to God looking for something like a “Get out of hell free card,” then we have not truly repented.  We have merely turned from our sin, but we have not really turned to God. 

We have come to God

In a different way

Than we may “use”

Him for our benefit,

Much as we would “Use”

A fire Insurance policy.

We do not really bother with the policy unless we really need it.  In fact, we resent that we even have to deal with the policy at all.  It is costly and maybe we think it is even unnecessary but, just to be sure, we get this policy “just in case we need it.” 

We do not treat

God this way.

Repentance is a

Turning from

And

A turning to. 

This is why we thank God for the ministry of John the Baptist.  One expositor likens him to sandpaper that is necessary to sand away the rough edges so that the paint will stick.  John’s bold, confrontational preaching was used by the Holy Spirit to sand away the rough edges of the peoples’ hearts so that the Gospel would stick.

We ask this question sometimes?  We ask, “That person heard the Gospel, but it didn’t seem to stick.  Why is that?”  Could it be because they never truly repented?  They only “turned from” sin.  They were sorry for their sins.  They wanted to be sure they would go to heaven.  But they only “turned from,” like a viper turning from the flames of judgment, but did not “turn to” the one true God and living for that God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We must remember this in our evangelism!  True repentance requires both a “turning from” and a “turning to.”  We dare not ask people to bow their heads and repeat a prayer with us unless the Holy Spirit is convicting their hearts like sand paper sanding away the rough ages so that the Gospel takes hold and sticks.  We tell them they must also “turn to” the Lord.  They are wasting their time repeating a prayer if they will not let the Holy Spirit give them the life of Christ and changed their lives for God’s glory.  Repentance is a turning from and a turning to.

The third mark it . . .

3) We Must Be Baptized.

We are not baptized in order to “get” saved.  Salvation is not a work.  One cannot be baptized until his heart is first purified and cleansed through conversion, through faith and repentance.  At the same time, however, baptism is not to be isolated from faith and repentance as though it were some unnecessary, optional step.  True Christians are baptized. 

They indicate that they have, in fact, repented;

They have in fact turned from their old life

And have turned to the Lord. 

He is number one now.

That is what baptism pictures: Just as Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to new life so we have died to the old life and have been raised to walk in a new way of life.   True believers will be baptized as soon as possible to demonstrate their love for and commitment to the One to whom they have in repentance turned.

The fourth mark is . . .

4) We Must Live Differently (Bear Fruit).

In verses 8-9, John the Baptist warns that true believers must “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”  That is . . .

If one is truly repentant,

You will be able to tell

Because his life is different.

He will live a life that proves the sincerity of his repentance.  The things he used to do no longer form the dominating pattern of his life.  He is different.  There is a visible change in his or her life.  He now “bears fruit” that indicates he has truly repented.  Just as a good tree brings forth good fruit, visible evidence of a living source, the true believer lives out his life before others in such a way to give visible evidence that he really is alive . . . He is different.

So serious is this matter of living differently and bearing fruit that John says in verse 9, “Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”   This is very similar to the words of our Lord Jesus.  Warning about the false teachers who come to the people as wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing, Jesus says something that has implications for the way to recognize true believers from false believers. Matthew 7:16-21 states, “You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  Then He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  Not everyone is a believer who says he is a believer.  True believers must live their lives differently.  It is not that they are perfect and never sin again.  It is that they now hate their sin.  They have turned from sin and have turned to God.

This hard, sandpaper-like preaching of John’s is a blessing.  It makes sure the paint of the Gospel sticks.  It elicits the right response that comes by the power of Holy Spirit conviction.  The people are convicted.  Note how they respond in verses 10 through 14, “So the people asked him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’  He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics (the inner garment worn under the cloak), let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’  Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ (known for collecting more than required; pocketing the difference)  And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’  Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’  So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’”

Three times different people ask, “What shall we do?” (verses 10, 12, and 14).  That is the question of a true believer.  We need not beg true believers to do anything.  They will come asking themselves, “What shall we do?”  The answer will always be: live your lives differently now.  Bear fruit proving the sincerity of your repentance.

As we look at verses 10, 12, and 14 and we ask ourselves, “Am I generous?  Do I enjoy giving?  Am I willing to give to the poor?  Am I honest in my work?  Do I intimidate others, use power unwisely?  Do I accuse people falsely? Am I always truthful?  Am I content?”

Verses 15 through 20 tells us, “Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.’  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.”

John the Baptist makes clear that he is not the promised Messiah.  The Messiah is coming and coming very soon.  He is the supreme Judge.  He is the One who will separate the true believers from the false believers on the Day of Judgment.  Those who have turned from sin and turned to Him will be saved.  Those who have not will, “burn with unquenchable fire (verse 17).”

In so many congregations it is hard to tell those who are saved from those who are not.  They both look very similar.  The wheat and the chaff will continue together until the Lord returns.  But there will be an awful separation at the last day.  The unerring judgment of the King of kings will divide the wheat from the chaff, and divide them for evermore.  The righteous shall be gathered into a place of happiness and safety.  The wicked shall be cast down to shame and everlasting contempt.  In the great sifting day, everyone shall go to his own place.  I could not be considered a loving preacher of the Gospel if I did not conclude our time together today without asking, “Have you really placed your faith in Jesus Christ?  Have you truly repented?  Have you been baptized?  Is your life different?”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times – Luke 2:41-52: Jesus: About His Father’s Business

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Book of Luke, verse-by-blessed verse.  I have a love for the Word of God and a passion to preach His Word.  One of my chief roles as a pastor is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ through the preaching of God’s Word.  I am not fishing for one verse here and another verse there or a little anecdote here and a moralism there and all this held loosely together by a silly string of funny stories.  No.  I am after nothing less – and nothing more – than God’s intended meaning in a passage of Scripture as originally given and then the meaningfulness of that passage for today.   Here is where the power for life-transformation is found, found in what the Apostle Paul calls, “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). When we were last in Luke’s Gospel we were in the temple at Jerusalem and Jesus was merely 8 days old.  We now fast forward 12 years and Luke takes us to the temple in Jerusalem again.  We may wonder why there is not more information about the years of Jesus’ childhood but, we can be sure that where Scripture is silent it is for our benefit.   God in His perfect wisdom Has given us in His Word all that is sufficient for us to know.  Most of us have some inkling of how it may have been possible for Mary and Joseph to be on their way home to Nazareth only to realize that they have left their son back in Jerusalem.  If that still seems a bit odd to us, let us remember that Passover in Jerusalem was a time when thousands upon thousands of people filled the city and at times there was scarcely any room so much as to breathe.  Pilgrims to Jerusalem often traveled in large caravans to avoid trouble on the way, walking through the hostile and dangerous parts of Samaria, for example.  And men often walked with men and women with women and so Jesus, being only 12 could have been with either company and probably often was with either one or the other.  And we can imagine the similar responses between Mary and Joseph: “Well, I thought Jesus was with you!”  “With me?!  I left Him with you!” 

Verses 41-42 tell us, “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.”  There were three annual festivals Jewish men were required to attend: Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles.  Joseph was a devout man who took worship of God seriously.  He followed God and his family followed God with him.  This is always the way it is.  If the husband and father takes the lead in the family, his family will nearly always follow him.  Jesus is going up with His parents and Jesus is 12 years old.  This may well have been the first time Jesus would be in Jerusalem for Passover.  It was customary to go to Passover at age 12 in preparation for one’s becoming a Jewish man at the age of 13.  It was at 13 that a Jewish boy officially became what is now called a “son of the commandment, or son of the law,” the meaning of the Hebrew phrase, bar mitzvah.  This is a huge rite of passage for Jewish boys.   

What was Passover like in the days of Joseph and Mary and 12-year-old Jesus?  Kent Hughes, drawing from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, provides an engaging idea of what Jerusalem would have been like when Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were there to celebrate the Passover, “When the jostling, merry throng passed through the gates of the holy city, a grand sight met Jesus’ twelve-year-old eyes.  Some 200,000 pilgrims packed out the walled city.  Every available space was rented, and in lieu of rent cheerful hosts were given the hides of sheep sacrificed by their guests.  Merchants who had come in advance lined the streets displaying their ware, and beggars stationed themselves strategically by the city’s ancient gates.  The most intense activity was at the sheep stalls, where pilgrims bartered for sheep and goats to sacrifice at the temple.”

When the sun rose on Passover, intense activity filled the encampments, the homes, and especially the temple.  A full contingent of priests (twenty-four divisions instead of the customary one) attended the temple.  Their first task of the day was to take the leaven that had been gathered by candlelight from each home and ceremonially burn it.  Next, they prepared for the ritual slaughtering of the Passover lambs.  By midday, all work stopped, and a holy air of anticipation rested over Jerusalem.

At about 3:00 the sacrifice began.  We may well surmise that Joseph and his relatives, in preparation for Jesus’ manhood, took Jesus into the temple with them so he could observe the sacrifice.  If so, as the gates of the temple court closed behind the vast group of worshipers, he heard a ram’s horn sound and saw Joseph, in concert with hundreds of other worshipers, slaughter his family’s lamb.  The priests, standing in two long rows, caught the blood in gold and silver basins, then doused it against the base of the altar.  Levites sang the Hallel Psalms (113-118) above the din as Jesus’ father dressed his lamb and, before leaving, slung the animal, wrapped in its own skin, over his shoulder and departed with his young son in tow.

At home, the lamb was roasted on a pomegranate spit and eaten after sundown by the whole family.  In the flickering amber light of a candle-decked room, the meal was joyfully consumed according to Passover liturgy with interspersed hand-washings, prayers, and Hallel Psalms.  At the conclusion, the son asked the father the ceremonial question, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ (Mishnah, Pesahim x.4), and his father responded with a moving review of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.  The night ended late, with many people returning to the streets for more celebration.  Others went back to the temple mount to await the opening of the doors at midnight for further worship and prayer” (Hughes, Luke, Vol. 1, p.100).

That description paints a colorful picture for us of Passover in Jerusalem.  Verses 43 to 44 tell us what happened after the full week of Passover, “When they had finished the days (7 days), as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey (that’s like 20-25 miles), and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.”  It is a repeat of the exchange between Mary and Joseph. 

Verses 45-47 state, “So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.  Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”  Now that really is amazing, isn’t it?  Here is Jesus at age 12, involved in a theologically-rich “Q&A Session” with the Jewish teachers at the temple.  Luke writes in verse 47 that “all who heard Him were astonished.”  This includes Mary and Joseph, verses 48-49, “So when they saw Him, they were amazed (it is like they do not know what to say); and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously..  And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’”   Now this statement by our Lord Jesus at the age of 12 represents the earliest recorded words of Jesus in the Bible, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  And I do think that is the best translation.  Some translations have, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”  The Greek literally reads, “Did you not know I had to be ‘in the_____ of My Father.’”  That sounds like a strange way to talk, doesn’t it?!  Like there is a blank there: “I’m in the _____of My Father!”  But that is common Greek and it would be like saying today, “I’m in the things of My Father.”  One of the things or business of His Father was to be in His house, to worship Him.

 Verse 50 tells us, “But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”  They did not understand this statement.  After all, it had been over 12 years since the angel appeared to Mary to tell her she was going to have a special child.  It had been 12 years since Simeon and Anna spoke those prophetic words of the boy Jesus when He was an infant at the temple.  Like the disciples later, there was so much about Jesus that was difficult to grasp at one precise moment of time that became much clearer later.

Verses 51 to 52 say, “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them (or, “He was continually obeying them), but His mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Two points of application surface from this text and largely from the key verse here at verse 49.  Verse 49 represents what is the summit, or zenith, or apex of the text.  Jesus says, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business.”  I see two main points of application here.  First . . . 

I. We Must Know Who Jesus Is.

What kind of a boy was Jesus?  Was He perfect in all that He did?  Did He never cry as a baby?  That is what we’re told in the Christmas hymn, “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”  Really?!  Never?!  When His room was messy as a child did Jesus just snap His fingers and everything was in order?  Did He play basketball on the school team?  Did they always pass the ball to Jesus and did He always sink a three-point shot?  Or did He prefer to slam-dunk the ball every single time without exception?

How important that we get our Christology correct!  Jesus was and is fully God and fully man.  As the second Person of the Holy Trinity, God took on flesh; the incarnation is the enfleshment of God in the Person of Jesus.  So while He was God, He was man.  The very fact that Luke says in verse 52 that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature” reminds us that Jesus is fully human and that He grew as any human would grow, growing in “wisdom” and “stature.”

He had to learn arithmetic.  He had to learn to tell time.  And His mother worked with him just as our mothers or fathers worked with so many of us.  He was fully human.  His body had the same physical composition as yours and mine.

When the eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity takes on flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ, as God He gives up the right to exercise all of His attributes.  He never ceases to be God in doing so; He remains fully God.

Because Jesus is fully God He is omniscient; as God He knows all things.  However, as He is also fully man, He chooses not to use that omniscience.  Without ever ceasing to be God, Jesus gives up the free use of the attribute of omniscience.  Somehow, in a way known only to Him, He is able to bracket-in that omniscience so as to not use it on the human level.  This is why, for example, when speaking of the events surrounding the Second Coming, Jesus says in Mark 13:32, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Verse 49 represents the fact that Jesus, at this point in His life, at age 12, now recognizes and is fully aware of His unique sonship to God.  And while He now recognizes this unique sonship, He will not perform His first miracle, John tells us, until the wedding feast in Cana when Jesus is around the age of 30.  So no, Jesus did not always make every basketball shot and did not snap his fingers to clean His room and yes, He cried as a baby.   He was a child and grew like any other child and now at age 12, He recognizes His unique sonship to God.  He is fully God and fully man.

But does this all really matter?  Of course it does.  We understand that Jesus as the God-Man does for us what we could not do for ourselves and both natures – God and Man – are necessary for this to happen. 

  • As God He perfectly fulfills all the righteous commands of the Law that God expects us to keep. 

He does this for us.  He perfectly fulfills the Law and gives us the credit so that whatever may be said of Jesus may be said of us who have received Him as Lord.  He lived the law in my place.  He lived a perfect righteous life and I get credit for it.

  • As man, He dies to take our punishment for sin. 

His real body, His human body, is crucified in our place.  He dies.  He is buried.  He is raised from the dead because He is not only man, He is God!

You see, these two natures are inextricably united together into one Person and this forever and ever.  It makes all the difference in the world, not just with regard to our salvation, but with regard to our daily living.  We look to Christ and we are encouraged, strengthened, helped and energized for every challenge and every setback.  Why? Because the Bible tells us in Hebrews 4:15 that He was, “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses.  He sees to it that we will receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  He knows what we are going through.  He knows what it is like to suffer, to be beaten, to bleed, to hurt.  The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:21, Jesus has left us, “an example that we should follow in His steps.”

We Must Know Who Jesus is.  He is the unique Son of God, fully God and fully man.  The second principle follows.  Once we know Who Jesus is . . .

II. We Must Live as Jesus Lives.

If He is Lord, really Lord, then we will want our lives to be surrendered to Him, reflect His character, and honor His name..  We will want what He wants, do as He does, go as He goes, give as He gives and live as He lives.

Jesus says, “I must be about My Father’s business.”  The words convey a strong, divine causality: “I must be about My Father’s business!  This is no option.  This is my life, my soul, my all.”  That is how we’re to live.

Are you about your Father’s business?  Really?  How is that reflected in your praying?   How is that reflected in your giving?  How is that reflected in your being missional this week and this year, reaching those who are unchurched in your community?  Did you share the Gospel with at least one soul last week?  Did you?  Will you pray, give, or go to the continents this year?

Are you about the Father’s business?  How much time do you spend in the average week doing things for yourself and how much time doing things for your Father?   TV time, video gaming, sport, recreation, connecting with others, or lounging around?  How much time cracking the Bible, or actually studying God’s Word?  Have you taken time to invite a friend over for coffee to talk about the things of God?  Have you taken time to send a note of encouragement, visiting the sick, or giving to the poor?  Are you about your Father’s business?

The question is not just for adults, the question is for children and young people, too. Are you about your Father’s business?  J.C. Ryle put it this way, “Let them remember, that if they are old enough to do wrong, they are also old enough to do right; and if able to read storybooks and to talk, they are also able to read their Bibles and pray.”  This week, be about the Father’s business. 

We are not called to live as Jesus lives in order to be saved from sin.  Keeping moral commands does not save.  Being good does not save.  We must first know who He is,  believe Him, receive Him into our lives, and surrender to Him.  Being about the Father’s business begins with being saved from sin.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 2:21-40 – My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

We are in a verse-by-verse study of the Book of Luke.  Last times we looked at Luke 2:1-20, which tells us of the birth of our Lord.  Today’s text tells us what happens 8 days after the birth of our Lord.  The main passage is known as the Song of Simeon.  And studying this song this past week has brought to my mind many other songs, as well.  For example, given the fact that Mary’s child is called “Jesus,” which means Savior or Deliverer, I reflected yet again on the irony that Mary would deliver this child who was, Himself, her deliverer.  We recall the song . . .

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

We have in today’s verses the Song of Simeon, and we may even refer to the words of Anna, also mentioned in this text, as a song, too. 

Few of us would claim to be masters of the discipline of waiting.  Most of us know what it is like to go to a place like the doctor’s office, sign the board at the window, or log in at the kiosk, of the receptionist’s area and then sit down to wait.  Or, perhaps we have had the privilege of going to the office of some government agency and “taking a number,” waiting for our name to be called.  Then some of us are familiar with going for that job interview, sitting for what seems an eternity, waiting for someone to come and ask us why they should hire us.  Waiting. If you had asked Simeon what his plans were on this 8th day after the birth of Jesus, he would very likely say that he would do the same thing he had done the day before – wait.  This was what he did every day.  Verse 25 identifies him as one who was waiting for the Consolation of Israel.

The “Consolation of Israel” is Jesus Christ and all things pertaining to Him.  People in the Old Testament were saved the same way as people in the New Testament and today. 

Old Testament believers looked forward

To the Messiah who would come. 

New Testament believers look back

To the Messiah who has come.

In some sense, we might even say that Old Testament believers had a greater faith than we do today.  For generations, they looked forward to the coming Messiah, their Savior, the Consolation of Israel:

Come thou long-expected Jesus,

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear Desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

As we look today at verses 22 through 40, we think of one of the choruses that says . . .

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry to final breath.

Jesus commands my destiny.

Little wonder, then, our Lord Jesus refers to Himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”  We learn several things in these verses . . .

I.  We Must Wait On The Lord.

To wait is to trust.  The Bible says in Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” 

  • Wait on the Lord to answer your prayer.  How long did Simeon wait?
  • Wait on the Lord to guide your steps.  Impatience caused Abraham and Sarah to get ahead of God’s will for them.  An inability to fully wait on the Lord and trust solely in Him kept Moses from entering the Promised Land.
  • Wait on the Lord…Trust Him to meet your need – Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” … Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 
  • Wait on the Lord to help you through your times of struggle – 1 Peter 5:7,
  • Wait on the Lord to work things for His glory and your good – Romans 8:28-29,  “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,”

God has a plan for you, and He is working it out.  It is a perfect plan this week, this month, this year, and every year.  He knows what He is doing in your life, in your school, in your career, and in your relationships.  Patiently trust Him.  Simeon lived for the Lord, so must we.

Take some time every day to get alone with God and bow your head and read His Word.  Say, “I trust you with my life today, Lord.”  We must wait on the Lord.

Another truth we learn is . . .  

II.  We Must Worship The Lord.

Both Simeon and Anna had a love for God’s house.  The Bible locates both of these folks at the temple in Jerusalem.  Simeon comes “by the Spirit into the temple” (verse27) and of Anna it is said in verse 37 that she “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”  What a wonderful, godly example Anna is for women and single moms today!  There was nothing particularly exceptional about this woman, nothing that suggested she was somehow gifted with more spirituality than other women. 

Anna was simply a woman

Who loved to worship the Lord.

She did not depart from the temple.  Today we might say, “She was always in church.”  There are many places women may go today.  Today’s family, especially, the single-mom family, is challenged with taking the kids from one sporting event to another.  There is a league for this and a club for that, and women shuttle their kids from one hectic event to another.  To make Christian living even more challenging, many of these events are now held on Sundays.  So, off the family goes in feverish pace, intent on maximizing all the opportunities for youthful growth, discipline, and recreation.  To make matters worse, many moms and dads seek validation from others in their respective “busyness,” hoping somehow their packed schedules demonstrate their ability to victoriously conquer so much or earn for them the “Star of Approval” in the parenting prowess.

But what of the discipline of Christian worship?  Why must worship take the back seat in today’s American family? 

Could anything possibly be more important

Than a family’s being together in God’s house?

It is not an “either, or” as though we have to choose one and not the other.  But certainly, we will value the discipline of Christian worship above the frantic and frenetic running around creation with kids in tow simply to make the next “big event!”  When they are adults most of our kids will forget our running them around when they were small to make the next T-Ball game or the band concert, but they will be eternally grateful for the spiritual disciplines we taught them.

Simeon represents a real man! 

Here is a man of God who

Has his priorities right.

I love the statement in verse 29, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word.”  Here is a faithful, fruitful child of God who says, “Now, I’m ready to die.”

 It is hard not to hear the Apostle Paul in this.  He says in Philippians 1:20-21, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Simeon speaks like one for whom the grave has lost its terrors, and the world its charms.  When worship of the Lord becomes something we do not just on Sundays, but every day, then the grave loses its terrors, and the world its charms.  

Worship is living for the Lord. 

It is bowing to

His “Number Oneness”

Every moment of every day.

Is He number one?

  • Is He number one in the way you choose to spend your time? 
  • Is He number one in the way you choose to use your talents? 
  • Is He number one in the way you choose to use your treasure? 

Does your living reflect He’s really number one?

Notice, a third truth . . .

III.  We Must Witness For The Lord.

Simeon says in verse 30 that the Lord Jesus Christ is the “salvation” of the Lord.  He says in verse 30, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples.”  Then Simeon refers to Christ in verse 32 as, “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and all the glory of Your people Israel.”  Whatever else verse 32 means, it certainly means that . . .

The scope of the Gospel

Is universal in its appeal. 

Here is good news for

Both Gentiles and Israel.

This theme is introduced earlier in chapter when the angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and said in verse 10, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”  All people, regardless of race, nationality, goodness, or badness.  John the Baptist will continue to trumpet the universal appeal of the Gospel when he quotes from Isaiah the prophet in Luke 3:6, “All flesh will see the salvation of God.”

Here is a reminder that . . .

Our Lord’s Commission in Acts 1:8

Is that His church share the Gospel

Not only in their community,

But also to the continents.

John’s glimpse of heaven in Revelation 5 includes a new song sung by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders.  The Bible says that they each have a harp and they fall down before the Lord Jesus Christ and sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

God loves all the people of all the nations.  The old hymn we often sing drives home this point . . .

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,

That shall turn their hearts to the right,

A story of truth and mercy,

A story of peace and light,

A story of peace and light.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright;

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

God’s heart is big not only for the people of our community, but for the people of the continents.  God’s heart is big for the nations.  I trust we will each be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commandment (Matthew 36-39) which will lead us to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  I trust that in our community, you share the Gospel with at least one person this week.  One person at work or in your family or at school or in your community who does not know Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Maybe just one seems like a small task.  But if we each take time to share with one person this week then we will make a greater difference in our community for the cause of Christ.

Have our eyes seen God’s salvation in Jesus Christ?  If so, we will not fear death.  We can say, with Simeon, “Let your servant depart in peace.”  There is no fear in death if we have been saved.  If we have not been saved, we have every reason to be afraid.  If we have not been saved from our sin, we have every reason to be anxious about death.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.”  And In Isaiah 64:6, the Bible says, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  The only way to see God’s salvation is to see and accept the One Whom Simeon saw and accepted – the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 2:8-20 – Priming Our Hearts To Praise And Glorify The Lord

Grace For The Journey

How many angels did the shepherds encounter at the announcement of Jesus’ birth?  We know that there was one angel who brought the good news concerning the birth of the Savior.  He is simply identified as “an angel of the Lord.”  He made the greatest announcement any angel ever made, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  

Accompanying this angelic messenger was “a great company of the heavenly host.”  This unnumbered group was a part of the singing angelic army of heaven.  That they were angels is obvious from the reference in the text, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven.”  The word “host” is the ordinary Greek word for a sizeable army.  It has as its background a Hebrew word that is translated “host” in the Old Testament.  It, too, referred to an angelic army.  Whenever “the host of heaven” made their appearance, ordinarily they were involved in some struggle on behalf of the people of God or some judgment upon the people of God.

There is no way to over estimate

The power and potential of this

Heavenly army whenever they

Are involved in a human struggle.

  • It only took one soldier from that army to devastate the army of Sennacherib and to leave a hundred and eighty-five thousand dead soldiers lying on the field of battle after only one night of struggle.
  • It only took one angel to bring devastation upon the nation of Israel when God moved against them in judgment during the reign of King David.  

This is the only occasion that the army appears on Earth in their role as a choir.  Their responsibility in heaven ordinarily is to serve as a choir offering praise to God.  What we have in the heavenly host is a singing army.  

It brings before us one of the

Basic functions of the angels –

They sing the praises of God.

I want us to take this familiar part of this great event to learn something more about the angels and its significant lesson for our lives.  

I.  THE SCENE OF THEIR SONG.

This is one of the most surprising things in the Christmas story.  Throughout Biblical history every appearance of the heavenly army on the earth had been on some mission of death and destruction.  This time they are on the earth as the heavenly choir.  Their time in the presence of God in heaven is taken up with the singing of His praises.  We have notable examples of this both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

This appearance in this particular setting is of great significance.

1.  The Scene Is Not The Temple.  

If the singing army is to make an appearance on earth and give a brief concert, is it not logical to expect that they will do this in the temple at Jerusalem?  There was a human choir that sang the praises of God generation after generation in the temple at Jerusalem.  The temple is the place where religious leaders of the land of Israel congregate to do their service to God.  The fact that the singing angelic army did not give its brief concert in the temple at Jerusalem is a judgment on the temple.  It indicates that the God of heaven is by-passing the religious structures of Israel in bringing His Messiah into the world.  He evidently does not consider the religious leaders to be the proper subjects to hear this brief concert.  That the religious leaders of the people of God could slip into such a decadent state that when God is getting ready to do something significant He would by-pass them needs to be a warning to all of us who are involved in the spiritual leadership of our day.  

2.  The Scene Is In A Field With Some Shepherds.  

There may not have been more than two or three in company that night.  But they are the ones who are allowed to hear the earthly concert of this heavenly choir.  This says something about the purpose of God at this point in history.  

The shepherds should be seen

As representing the common

And ordinary people.

They would have been held in contempt by the religious leaders in Jerusalem.   Shepherds were considered ceremonially unclean since their lifestyle made it impossible for them to live by all the rules that the religious leaders had put in place.  They would not be welcome in the temple to hear any concert by any choir.  So . . . God sends the singing angelic army to give their brief concert to a place outside of the temple.   The concert is shared with people of the ordinary way of life.  

It is a reminder to us that the

Mission of Jesus into the world

Was not to save the religious

Structures of the day, but it

Was rather to save sinners.

We must not forget that this aspect of His mission has not changed.  He is more likely to have a heart for someone who would be considered outcast by us than He is for those of us who have worked so hard at achieving a certain level of respectability.  

The scene for this brief concert is in itself a part of the Good News.  The coming of Christ is about bringing joy to those who have had very little earthly opportunity to ever know joy.  

II.  THE SUBJECT OF THEIR SONG.

Their anthem was rather brief, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace , goodwill toward.”  What were they singing?  What is the essence or the theme of their anthem?  It obviously divides itself into two statements.  The first is concerned with God in heaven; the second is concerned with man on earth.

1.  The Glory Of God In Heaven.

We should see in this brief anthem sung by the singing angelic army a statement concerning what is to be accomplished by the mission of the Messiah.  As a result of the coming of the Baby born in Bethlehem, there is to be “glory to God in the highest.”  The primary result of the mission of Jesus in the earth will be to reveal to mankind the essence of the Divine Being and to bring great glory to God in the highest.  In this statement we are to understand “in the highest” as referring to heaven itself.  Because the Messiah, the Son of God, came to earth, there will be great praise, honor, and glory given to God in heaven.  This singing angelic army is sensitive to who God is and what God has done, and they are prepared to acknowledge who God is and the glory of what He has done in their Christmas song.  

2.  Peace To Man.

The second statement in the Christmas song indicates that something is to take place on earth.  We should see earth standing in contrast to the highest.  The thing that is to take place involves men and this is to be seen in contrast to God.  Something is to happen in heaven in reference to God and then something is to happen on earth with reference to man.  The thing that is to happen on earth with reference to man is “peace.”  

The inclusion of peace in their Christmas song refers to peace in a comprehensive sense.  

The mission of Jesus is to bring

Peace with God to men.  

His mission is to reconcile

God and sinful man.

Because of His mission to earth, lost human beings will now be able to draw nigh to God and enter into a relationship with God that is best described as “peace.”

When man knows peace with God, then he begins to know the peace of God.  The peace of God includes a man coming to peace with himself.  This is the experiential side of peace.  When through the Lord Jesus we are reconciled to God, it removes those destructive and negative thoughts we have about ourselves and replaces them
with a sense of acceptance, even being under the favor of God.  
The peace even goes a step further for when men are at peace with God and at peace with themselves, then it becomes possible for them to be at peace with others.  

  • The family and the home benefits from us being at peace with God.  
  • The business and market-place benefit from us being at peace with God.  
  • The community benefits from us being at peace with God.  
  • The world benefits from us being at peace with God.

When we are not a peace with God, we tend to be at war with ourselves and with others.  

Another aspect of this peace is described in this passages as, “goodwill toward men.”  This phrase gives emphasis to the fact that the good will is God’s good will.  Those who know the peace of God are those upon whom God has set His heart and to whom He has extended His grace.  It is when we come under the grace of God, even the favor of God through the Lord Jesus Christ, that we know the peace with God.  

We must never forget that even though our world only dreams about peace, peace is still a possibility through the Lord Jesus Christ.  In their Christmas anthem the singing angelic army celebrated this accomplishment on the part of the Messiah that was born that day.  He was born to be “The Prince of Peace.”  Because of His mission into the world our God is now known as “the God of peace.”  Peace is a possibility for you personally because Jesus came.   

Peace is a possibility in our world because Jesus came.  The subject of their Christmas song related to God and man, heaven and earth, glory and peace.

III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SONG.

What significance are we to see in this brief concert given by the singing angelic army on the hills just outside of Bethlehem.  There seems to be two points of real significance . . .

1.  A Sign.

The angels made this musical mission to earth as a sign of the significance of the birth of the Son.  

Holy God wanted it known on earth that

What was happening in the stable

Outside of the inn in Bethlehem was

Of eternal and heavenly significance.

The concert was in honor of the occasion.  This singing angelic army does not sing for county fairs, or inaugurations of presidents.  Its concerts are reserved for those significant points of redemptive history.  This is the moment that is best described as “the fullness of time.”  In order to make it known to the citizens of earth that something significant is happening, God sent His heavenly singing army to give this brief concert there on the
Judean hills.  

2.  A Sample.

When I was growing up, my parents would visit a relative in northern Missouri.  They were old time farmers who did not have a lot of the conveniences that people enjoy today.  They had only one source of water.  There was an old well in back of the yard with an old-fashioned iron pump on it.  Sometimes the pump would become dry and the leather piece that created the suction that pulled the water up would shrink.  The best way for them to get the pump to operate in those circumstances was to prime it.  You would take some water, pour it into the pump and then begin to work the handle.  It would swell the leather and would be used to prime the pump.  Soon when you poured in the water, and worked the handle, fresh water would begin to flow from the pump.

It occurred to me that this was what God was doing when He sent the singing angelic army to give this brief concert there in Judea.  He wanted to prime the pump of the man’s spirit and to cause mankind to begin to sing the praises of His name and to express the proper response to the coming of His Son to earth.  

His strategy worked.  As you read the text you find that these shepherds who heard the brief concert went to search out for themselves to see if what the angels had said was really true.  When they came to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph with the new born Son.  Luke reports that they responded with joy.  Verse 20 tells us, “Then shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”  Before Christmas day was over . . .

There was not only a heavenly choir

Singing the praises of

The one born to Mary,

There was an earthly choir.

It was made up of humble men who had seen for themselves the new-born Babe and had embraced for themselves the message of the angel that He was “Christ the Lord.”  Because of the joy that is in their hearts they are giving glory to God and offering praise to His worthy name.  The Father started earth to singing the praise of the Son by sending the singing angelic army for its brief concert.  

Almost without interruption since that first Christmas morning there has been a company of people somewhere on the earth prepared to lift their voices in praise.  There has been a company who were ready to sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest , and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

I am thankful that I can be a part of such a company.  

Because of what God did in Christ,

He is worthy of our praise.  

Because of what God the Son

Did in His mission on earth,

He is worthy of the praise of my lips.  

Because of what God the Holy Spirit

Did in sustaining God the Son in

His mission to the earth,

He is worthy of my praise.  

There is no need for any new priming for there is flowing forth from my spirit spontaneously and gladly praise to the name of the Lord.  Are you prepared to join me not only on this day but in every day of life in singing of the goodness, grace, and glory of our God so that all may know what He has done in the Son?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Time: Luke 2:1-5 – Missing The Opportunity To Know God

Grace For The Journey

Phillips Brooks, a Boston pastor, wrote the words of a favorite Christmas hymn: O Little Town Of Bethlehem . . .

How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary:
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch at wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,  
And praises sing to God the king,
And peace to men on earth.

It is a matter of history – Bethlehem slept through Christmas.  God visited their village and they missed it completely.  We have focused on the innkeeper that did not find room for the traveling couple from Nazareth, but what about the whole town?  The inn was not the only place one could spend the night in Bethlehem.  They blew it!  They missed it!  Each home in Bethlehem had the opportunity to have God take on flesh in their house, but they missed it.

Are we in danger of missing God?  Could it be that we will take the children to see Santa, but will miss God completely at Christmas?  Let’s allow Bethlehem to be a warning to us.  It is rather obvious why they missed Him – things have not changed that much.  We still miss Him for the same reasons . . .

I. THEY WERE NOT LISTENING.

Contrast what happened in Bethlehem with what happened in the temple forty days later when Mary and Joseph went to the temple to present the Newborn Christ.  When they arrived in the temple, they were greeted by a joyous welcome from two faithful souls – Simeon and Anna.  Each of them had been waiting in the temple week after week in expectation of the appearance of the Messiah.  Yet there was no Anna or Simeon in Bethlehem.  Why?  They were not listening.

1. They Were Not Listening To The Word Of God.

Eight hundred years earlier God had spoken concerning Bethlehem.  He had spoken through Micah that the Messiah would be born in this little Judean village.  For eight hundred years they had known that He was coming, and yet they were not ready.  When He came, they missed Him.  They had not been listening to what He had said in His Word concerning them.  They heard the promise, but it had just become too familiar, they were no longer excited about it?


Are we listening?  Does not the Lord still speak through His Word?  Our generation has laid the Bible aside as having nothing to say to them.  We are the most Biblically illiterate people to ever live in this country.  The men and women who established this country were a people of the Book.  Even those who did not believe were familiar with its teachings.  But not us!  Not our children and grandchildren!  Not our neighbors!  We are in danger of missing God because we are not listening to His Word.

If Bethlehem had been listening to the Word of God, they would not have missed Him that Christmas.  He would never have been born in a cow-stall and laid in a manger.  If we are listening to the Word of God, we will not miss Him.

2. They Were Not Listening To The Spirit Of God.

The thing that set Simeon and Anna apart was that they were full of the Holy Spirit. They were listening to both the Word and the Spirit, but Bethlehem was listening to neither. Of Simeon Luke writes, “And the Holy Ghost was upon him” and, “He came by the Spirit into the temple.”  This good man was a part of the believing remnant that was waiting for the Messiah.  Evidently there were no citizens of Bethlehem in this remnant. There was no one there listening to the Spirit as He prepared those who were to welcome the Son of God Who had He arrived on earth for His mission of Redemption.
What about us?  Are we listening to the Spirit?  Have we heard His quiet voice as He speaks of the Savior?  O, we do not want to sleep through Christmas.  We do not want to miss God.

II. THEY WERE PREOCCUPIED WITH LESSER THINGS.

There were other things going on in Bethlehem—there are always other things going on. The temptation to become preoccupied with lesser things is always with us.

1. They Were Preoccupied With The Requirements Of Government.

Does this sound familiar?  Rome was the government of the day. The Caesar was Augustus, and he had issued a governmental decree that disrupted many lives, including Mary and Joseph.  The decree required a registration of the people for the purpose of taxation.  Actually, even though Augustus knew nothing of it, God was using his decree to get Mary to the proper place to give birth to her Son.  God had already decreed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and His word must stand.  This must have created something of a homecoming atmosphere in Bethlehem.  People who had moved away were coming back to register.  The registration was the hot topic of conversation when the men gathered for their morning cup of coffee or tea.  This was a major disruption.  Who would think that God would come in the midst of such a disruption?

2. They Were Preoccupied With The Demands Of Life.

Everyone in Bethlehem had their own set of problems.  We pick on the innkeeper but he was just typical of the whole village.  He had an inn to run, guests to take care of, and a family to feed.  He was so caught up in the affairs of his world that he did not notice anything different about the couple standing at his door looking for a place to spend the night.  Without a lot of thought he turned them away to find a place in the stable near the inn. He had other fish to fry!

But, so did everyone else in Bethlehem!  Do you want to defend the citizens of Bethlehem?  How were they supposed to know that Mary was the Virgin that the prophet Isaiah had foretold?  How were they supposed to know that her Son was to be the Savior of Israel and the world?  Everything about them seemed so ordinary. But it always does.

God works through little things in unexpected ways to come to us.  If we are not paying attention, we will miss him.  We must not allow the demands that surround us to cause us to miss God!  There will never be another opportunity like this for this little town of David, for they had their day of opportunity to be saved and missed it.  Do you realize that as far as we know from the Gospels, Jesus never returned to Bethlehem.  What are you allowing to crowd out your Christmas?  

III. THEY HAD DISTORTED EXPECTATIONS.

While they knew the tradition that the Messiah would come from their town, they expected the Messiah to be a royal figure.  If He was the Son of David, would he not come like a king?  Yet when it happened, his parents did not look like royalty.  Joseph had the calloused hands of a common laborer; Mary looked like any young peasant maiden from Galilee.  There definitely was not a halo around her head.

What about you?  Do you have a set of expectations that has kept you from receiving the Messiah and Savior?  Have you allowed your prejudices to form in you some expectations that cause you to miss God?  God may not come to you dressed the garments you expect.  You better be prepared to receive Him whether He meets your expectations or not.

2. They Expected Him To Come With Power.

Will you meet God today?  Are you listening to His Word and His Spirit?  Are ready to obey the promptings of the Spirit as He calls on you to receive the Messiah and Savior? Are you ready to set Him in His proper place, give to Him the first place in the matters of your heart?  Are you ready to surrender your expectations, and to give Him the freedom to do things His way?  It is urgent that you not miss God today.  

How can you make sure that you do not miss Him?  First, make sure that you have a relationship with Him and worship is a priority.  Open your life to His Word.  Give the Spirit an opportunity to speak to your heart as you join others in worship.  He will come to you just like He came to Bethlehem!

Second, Make room in your home for Him.  Make sure that the family gathering includes a recognition and worship of Him.  Do not get some involved with the bustle of the day that you forget the reason for the day – to know Jesus and glorify Him.

Third, renew your commitment to Him.  If you have never acknowledged Him as your Savior, this is the day to do it.  Do not be like Bethlehem.  It is the very nature of life that we have only a few opportunities to really be saved.  This is one of them for you.  Do not miss it.  He may never come your way again.

May the Christ of Christmas find a place in your heart and home today.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 1:67-80 – Salvation: Something to Sing About

Grace For The Journey

A few weeks ago, we began a study of the Gospel of Luke and today we are finishing chapter 1.  In this opening chapter we have read how the Angel Gabriel appeared to two different persons at two different times in two different locations to tell them about the soon arrival of two very important people, one the Lord Jesus who is to be Messiah; Savior of the world, and the other, John the Baptist, the one who will prepare the people for the Messiah.  When Gabriel appears to Zacharias, while he is in the heart of the Jewish temple, Zacharias does not believe what the angel says.  He does not believe that his old, barren wife Elizabeth, will conceive and bear this little child who is John the Baptist.  Because he does not believe, he is stricken with the inability to speak until the child is born.  Nine months later John the Baptist is born and his father, Zacharias, is able to talk.  His tongue is loosed and the first thing he does after nine months of silence is to praise the Lord.

What we have before us in our passage today is the substance of this praise or hymn of Zacharias.  The praise is often referred to in the Catholic Church and liturgical Protestant churches as the “Benedictus,” called so because of the first word in the hymn which begins at verse 68.  The first few words in verse 68 state, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,” in the Latin Vulgate translation is “Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel.”  You will hear this hymn referred to by that phrase and this is our Latin lesson of the day!

I do find it interesting that this phrase, Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, or, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,” is a phrase that occurs at two significant times in biblical history . . .

One from the Old Testament

And

One from the New Testament,

Both of them in connection to

The Messiah, the coming Savior,

The Lord Jesus Christ.

In the opening chapter of 1 Kings, with reference to Solomon, the son of David, the first son to rule on the throne, David says, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 1:48).  And now, in the New Testament, with reference to the ultimate Son of David, the one who would reign forever upon the throne of David, we have the words again, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel” (Luke 1:68).  I note this largely because it reminds us of the sweet, divine order of events as unfolded in the Scriptures by our providential God.  We will look at this hymn of praise Zacharias speaks when his tongue is loosed.

Have you ever been a place with no light.  I remember when I was young that my parents took us to see Carlsbad Cavern.  It was a marvelous day of exploration and adventure.  At one point in the cave the guide wanted to point out the danger of the darkness of caves.  He had the lights turned out and I was amazed and startled at how dark it was – I could not see anything even with time to adjust to the darkness.  I thought how ill-prepared we were if we had to find our way out without the aid of light.  Without light, we were in major trouble! 

In the text we will look at this morning, the Lord Jesus Christ is spoken of as one who “gives light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  This is a perfect metaphor to describe salvation.  Most of us can relate to this metaphor, like my experience at Carlsbad Cavern.  We can also relate spiritually – we once lived in darkness.  We did not understand the things of God.  We sat in darkness as one sits in the dark depths of a cave.  Then, some way or another, the glorious light of the Gospel shined upon us, and we were guided out of the darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).  We now are children of the light, and we walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).

This song, this praise, this benedictus, is . . .

A song or prophecy about salvation. 

Salvation is something to sing about!

Let’s make our way through the verses and then I want to sum up with three crucial questions for reflection.  I have arranged the material under three descriptive headings.  First, we have a . . .

I.  Prophecy Of The Spirit – Verse 67.

Verse 67 introduces the praise or hymn of Zacharias.  It is important that we pause long enough at verse 67 to note that this praise or prophecy is made possible by way of the Holy Spirit.  Luke writes, “Now his father Zacharias was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit,’ and prophesied.”  Why is this important?  Well, for one, we see that we have a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy, namely that spoken by the Prophet Joel back in Joel 2:28, where he says, “it shall come to pass” … “that (God) will pour out (His) Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams.”  So, Zacharias, an old man, is filled with the Spirit of God and utters a prophecy about the coming salvation for all people.

This phrase in verse 67 also reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit who makes possible all that Zacharias says here about salvation.  This word about salvation is spoken by Zacharias because God is guiding him.  God is behind this.  This is a prophecy of the Spirit.

What follows from verse 68 to verse 79 is the benedictus proper.  It breaks down into two verses of song, the first verse from verses 68 to 75, one sentence in the original Greek, and then the second verse from verse 76 to verse 79. 

The second descriptive heading is the . . .

2. Promise Of Salvation – Verses 68-75.

Verse 68, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.”  The word “redeemed” means “to be set-free from slavery, in this case, slavery from sin and oppression.”  The verbs here, “visited” and “redeemed” are both spoken by Zacharias in the past tense.  So certain is the coming salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord that Zacharias can speak of it as having already occurred.  There is no question here.  The Lord God “has visited” and “has redeemed” His people.  What is true for His people Israel, is true for all the nations of the earth.  Salvation has come in and through the Person of Jesus Christ.  What else has God done?

Verse 69 tells us, “And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”  The phrase “horn of salvation” occurs frequently in the Old Testament.  In fact, scholars have identified in this text are over 30 allusions to the Old Testament!  The phrase “horn of salvation” refers to the God who is “mighty to save.”  For a person of the ancient near east, the horn of an animal was the strength of the animal.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  People then could not look at modern military tanks or intimidating jets that fly in the sky.  They looked at animal with horns and said, “That’s where the strength and power is.  Don’t let that horn find you unawares!”  Jesus Christ is the Strong One of God who is mighty to save.  And He comes – last part of verse 69 – from “the house of His servant David.” Jesus fulfilled the promise of Messiah who would reign on David’s throne.

Verse 70 declares, “As He (God) spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began,” here is a reminder that the Messiah was prophesied to come from the House and lineage of David.  Then, the description of this salvation in verse 71-75, “That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”  Zacharias is speaking both of spiritual and political salvation but has in mind here primarily that of political salvation.  God’s people were very much interested in “being delivered from the hand of their enemies.”  Jesus comes the first time, however, to take care of our spiritual salvation.   When He comes the second time, He will then take care of our need for political salvation.  That is, when Christ comes again, He will rule and reign on earth over all those who are opposed to the things of God.  So, ultimate salvation, in terms of being delivered from the hand of the enemies will occur at Christ’s second coming.

The third descriptive heading is the . . .

3.  Preparation For The Savior – Verses 76-80.

At this point in the Benedictus, Zacharias looks down at this little boy, little John the Baptist, and he speaks concerning this one who lives to prepare others for the coming Savior.  He says in verse 76, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.”  John the Baptist was born to prepare people for the ways of the Lord.  That someone who would come before the Lord to prepare His ways was known to every faithful Jew who studied the Old Testament Scriptures.  Recall that the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, ends this way, looking forward to this one who would come in the spirit of Elijah to prepare a people for the Messiah.  Or Isaiah 40:3-5 states, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”  These believers in Old Testament times grew up looking forward to, and living in expectation of, the coming Messiah.  They knew that a messenger would come first to prepare the way for the Savior.  Zacharias looks down at his son on the 8th day, the day of his circumcision, and he recognizes his son, John, to be the one to prepare people for the Lord, the One in whom salvation was found.

In this sense, we are not surprised by his preaching method.  We will look at it more closely at a future time, but most of us know how John began his sermons.  People would be coming up to the Jordan River to be baptized by him and he would welcome them with, “You brood of snakes and vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?!” (3:7.)  Not exactly the most “seeker friendly” sermon introduction!   

  • John spoke this way so that this people would know their sin. 
  • He spoke this way to prepare them for the One who would come behind him. 
  • He spoke this way so that when Christ would come and John would say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • He spoke this way so that there would be no question of their need for Him, no question that they were ugly snakes and vipers, sinners in need of a Savior.

 John the Baptist prepared people for the Savior. John would tell God’s people how to find salvation.  Verse 77 tells us that John’s message would, “(to) give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission (or, forgiveness) of their sins.

From whom would this salvation and forgiveness of sin come?  Verses 78 and 79 state, “Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  That phrase, “the Dayspring from on high,” is a reference to Jesus Christ.  The “Dayspring” is a word that conveys the “Dawn,” the rising of the sun.  Christ is described in Malachi as “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2).  He is described in Peter as “the Day Star” (2 Peter 1:9), and in Revelation as “the Bright and Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).  Jesus said of Himself in John 8:12, that He is “the light of the world.”  He brings us out of spiritual darkness into glorious light.

Verse 80 says, “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.”  Here is a summary statement of John’s early years.  He became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts, or the wilderness, till the day of his manifestation to Israel.  He lived in the wilderness until he emerged publicly as the one who prepared others for the coming Messiah.

These verses are all about “salvation,” a term used more by Luke than any other Gospel writer.  I want us to conclude our study today by asking and answering three very crucial questions about salvation.  These questions naturally rise from the text before us. 

First question . . .

1) Do We Know Anything Of Forgiveness?

Verse 77 describes a “knowledge of salvation.”  This word “knowledge” means more than an intellectual grasp of something.  It means more than merely understanding some facts.  The word knowledge here has to do with “experiential” knowledge, that which we experience personally. 

This is very important as

We talk about salvation.

A concern I have about much evangelism is that it deals only with the intellectual grasp of information and does not deal with the experiential grasp of information.  In concerns merely the head and not the heart.  People are given a set of facts to believe and then they are asked if they believe those facts and if so, why not bow their head and repeat a prayer, and that is it.  The person is told he or she is saved and we mark them off the list.  Evangelism must involve the head to be sure!  We must grasp intellectual facts, but to “know salvation” as in verse 77, then we must have both head and heart.  As someone has said, “Salvation is at once cerebral and cardiological.”

It is that which was experienced by Lydia in Acts chapter 16 where the Bible says that, as she listened to Paul teach the Gospel, that the Lord “opened her heart to believe” (Acts 16:14).  You see the two working together, head and heart.  The Holy Spirit must bring about conviction of sin.  Our heart softens and we then accept these things as true.  We know they are true not only objectively, but subjectively.  In fact, the subjective knowledge of salvation comes through or by the objective forgiveness of sin (verse 77).   We move from merely understanding some factual information about the Gospel to personally appropriating that truth into our hearts.

Do you know anything of forgiveness?  Do you know, experientially know, that your sins have been forgiven?  It is not the joining of a church that brings forgiveness, or the memorizing of information, a creed, or a catechism, it is not the participating in a sacrament, ordinance, confirmation, or baptism.  Salvation comes to us when heart and head work together as one and we receive the truth of the Gospel into our lives.

Second question . . .

2) Have We Turned From Darkness To Light?

An implication of this question is whether or not there is a visible change in our life.  Some who have supposedly “prayed to receive Christ” are still walking in darkness.   There is no visible change in their life.  You prayed a prayer someone led them to pray, but you are still living in your sin and not being changed by the power of the Gospel.  In these cases, it is highly possible, if not probable, that a person merely prayed a prayer to get out of a fix.  Your prayer was not for salvation but, “God, fix my marriage!  Get me this job!  Keep me sober!”  And so, a person rushes to Christ in an emotional experience and at first there seems to be some change but, in time, the person goes back to that old lifestyle.  Why?  Because they never really turned from darkness to life.  These are they who, like our Lord Jesus teaches us later in Luke 8, are like seed sown among thorns.  At first, the seed begins to grow, but is later choked out by the cares of the world and pleasures of life and so never grows.  Why?  Because this person never really turned from darkness to life.

If you are truly born again, there is a visible difference in the way you live your life.  You once did not go to church except on Christmas and Easter. God has changed your life and your want to.   Now, you want to be in God’s house every Sunday morning and evening.  Once, you found the Bible boring.  Now, you cannot get enough of the Scriptures.  Once, you lived for yourself.  Now, you live for others.

Have we turned from darkness to light?  If so, we need also to ask, “Are we helping others turn from darkness to light?”

The hymn-writer reminds us that . . .  

Millions grope in darkness,

Waiting for Thy Word,

Set my soul afire,

Lord, Set my soul afire.

There are folks in your family sitting in darkness.  Will you shine the light of the Gospel into their lives?  There are people at your workplace and at school sitting in darkness.   Will you tell them about the Light of the World?  How will they hear if not from you?  What of the over 6,000 unreached people groups all over the world who sit in darkness?  Will you be missional by praying, giving, or going to them?  One-third of the world’s population sits in darkness waiting for someone to guide their feet into the way of peace, unreached people groups.  We worry over our trivial problems that are so self-centered.  Why am I not happy?  Who will care for me?  How much money did I lose?  Nobody calls me!  Meanwhile, millions grope in darkness, waiting for God’s Word.   

Do we know anything of pardon?  Have we turned from darkness to light? 

Third question . . .

3) Have We Tasted Peace With God?

Verse 79 tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ comes, “to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Our greatest need is peace with God.  Note, not peace “of God,” but peace “with God.”  This peace comes to us by our being forgiven of sin.  Apart from Christ we stand in opposition to God.  It does not matter how nice you are, how good you are, or how generous and kind you are.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23 that we are all sinners.  Every one of us!  We are at enmity with God.  We are separated from God because of our sin – He is holy and we are not.  God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ to bridge the gap of separation so that we have peace with our Maker.

Peace comes to us when God declares us forgiven when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master.  The Bible says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Do you have peace with God?  You cannot have the peace “of God” until you first have peace “with God.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”