Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 7:18-35 – When Faith Has More Questions Than Answers

Grace For The Journey

The danger which faces us as we come to the account of the question which John the Baptist relayed to Jesus is that we will not take it as seriously as we should.  Several major factors could hinder our grasp of the gravity of this situation.

  • We Have A General Problem with what someone has called “the PIOUS BIAS.”.

We are inclined to think that because John the Baptist was a prophet, he must have always been pious.  We hold this erroneous viewpoint in spite of the fact that most of the heroes of the Bible are described as mere mortals, with the same sinful tendencies and temptations as the rest of us, and with unbecoming behavior at times.

  • We Tend To Think Of John Only In Positive Terms Because Of His Past Piety.

He is the one who identified Jesus as the Messiah.  He is the one who said that Jesus must increase, while he must decrease.  He is the one who encouraged some of his disciples to become Jesus’ disciples instead.

  • We Tend To Think Of John Positively Because Of The Good Things Which Our Lord Had To Say About Him.
  • John Died A Hero’s Death, And Thus We Do Not Want To Speak Of Him In Any Way Which Would Tarnish His Reputation.

While John the Baptist was a great man, he was not a perfect man.  This was the worst moment of John’s life, so far as the biblical record is concerned.  

We will not appreciate

This passage of Scripture

And its relevance to our lives

Unless we begin by understanding

The seriousness of the error

Which is depicted here.

Set aside your pre-conceived opinions of what happens here for a moment and consider exactly what is taking place when John sends two of his disciples to Jesus with this question in verses 19-20, “Are You the One who is coming, or do we look for someone else?”

(1) The Question Which John Asked Was John’s Question.

Initially I wondered whether or not John’s disciples might have embellished John’s question, but Luke’s account repeats the question.  The first time the question is spoken by John to his two disciples.  The second time the question is spoken by the disciples. The wording of the two questions is the same.  The question which John’s disciples asked Jesus is precisely the question John instructed them to ask.

(2) John’s Question Was The Result Of His Unhappiness With What Jesus Was Saying And Doing.The section begins with these words: “And the disciples of John reported to him about all these things” (Luke 7:18).

The two miracles recorded in the previous verses of chapter seven – the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the raising of the widow’s son from the dead – would surely have been included in the report which was given to John.  Clearly, John was not altogether pleased with the reports he was receiving as to what Jesus had been saying and doing.  The question which John sent to Jesus via his two disciples reflected John’s displeasure.

(3) John Is Questioning Christ, The Messiah.

John does not here openly question God, nor does he question himself or his ministry. John does not question the fact that Messiah will come.  John questions that Jesus is the coming Messiah.  And this is in light of his own words to the contrary in the past recorded in John 1:32-34, “And John bore witness saying, ‘I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and He remained upon Him. And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’”

(4) John’s “Question” Is Not Really A Question – It Is A Public Challenge.

The question, once again, is this: “Are You the One who is coming, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke7:19, 20).  The “we,” given the context of this account, would seem to include not only John and his followers, but the crowd which I believe was present at the time the question was put to Jesus.  The “we” thus is nearly equivalent to “Israel.”  The response of Jesus to the crowd about John also suggests that the question was put to Jesus publicly.  Given all the miracles which Jesus was doing at the time, He could hardly have been alone, so that this question could not have been put to Jesus privately, even if the two had wanted to do so.

The biggest difficulty with the question, however, is with the inference of the last statement, “… or do we look for someone else?”  There is a clearly implied threat here. If you fail to answer our questions satisfactorily, we will look for someone else to be the Messiah.

(5) John Is Forcing, Not Following, Jesus.  Rather than following Jesus, as John has done in the past, John is attempting to force Jesus into declaring Himself as Messiah and acting as John has predicted.  This is not as clearly stated in Luke’s account here, as it is by Matthew 11 verses 12-13, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.”

If the forcefulness began with the time of John the Baptist and was present at the time of Jesus’ words, it is not unlikely that John and/or some of his followers were trying to “push the program,” to forcefully help things along.  I believe that it is evident from our text that John is being pushy, overly forceful.

(6) John Was Challenging Jesus To Do What He Had Purposed Not To Do.  

John was pressing Jesus for a public announcement, a public commitment to be the Messiah.  He was demanding that Jesus proclaim Himself as Messiah or John and the others would reject Him and turn to another.  It is obvious that Jesus did not intend to bear witness to Himself in this fashion.  Jesus did not want men to accept Him as the Messiah because He claimed to be Messiah, but because the evidence was compelling that He was Messiah.

The so-called “great confession” of Peter will come later in the Gospel accounts, but when Peter does finally conclude that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, it is not because Jesus has told him so.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 16:15-17, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’”

The reason why Jesus refused to publicly claim to be Israel’s Messiah was so that flesh and blood would not reveal His identity, but that the Spirit of God would do so, based upon the Old Testament prophecies concerning Messiah, and the works and words which Jesus did, proving Him to be Messiah.

Luke’s account of the “great confession” of Peter goes even further – showing the reader that even after Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Christ Jesus did not want His disciples to proclaim His messiahship: “And He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?”  And Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’  But He warned them, and instructed them not to tell this to anyone …” (Luke 9:20-21).

John’s question, or rather John’s challenge, was wrong for various reasons, but one of these was that it was Christ’s purpose not to publicly identify Himself as Messiah, the very thing John demanded, or else he and others would find themselves another “messiah.”

Put in its crassest form, John was saying to Jesus, “Put up or shut up!  Enough of the way You have been functioning.  Either you identify Yourself as Messiah (and get on with the program of judgment and of arranging for my release) or else we will find ourselves another Messiah.”

Given this perspective of John’s words here, conveyed by two of his disciples, we can see that John has fallen far from what he once was.  

  • He who gladly accepted his role at one time, is now threatening to change things.  
  • He who was given the great privilege of identifying Jesus as Messiah, now challenges Messiah to prove Himself, not altogether unlike the challenge of Satan during our Lord’s temptation.  
  • He who once encouraged his disciples to follow after Jesus now sends two of his disciples after Jesus, not to follow Him wherever He would go, but to change His course.

In this study, we will seek to understand some of the reasons for John’s spiritual decline.  We will then focus on Luke’s emphasis in this section, which is to show how our Lord responded to the challenge.  Finally, we shall seek to discover how John’s failure is like our own, and how, given our Lord’s teaching here, we can avoid falling into the same trap.

I. The Reason John Asks His Question.

It is important to begin by pointing out that in neither Luke nor Matthew’s account is there an emphasis on explaining why John went astray, at this point in time.  I believe there are inferences in the Gospels, but no clear statements nor emphasis on the reasons for John’s questions here.  It may be of help to us to briefly consider some of the factors which contributed to John’s attitudes and actions.

1) John Had Very Little Contact With Jesus.  

From what Luke tells us in his Gospel, we would have to conclude that Jesus and John were virtual strangers.  There was the contact between Mary and Elizabeth, at which time John leaped in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41), but early in his life, John began to live a secluded life in the wilderness.  The only way that John recognized Jesus as the Messiah was by means of the Spirit’s descent upon Him (John 1:29-34).  Jesus avoided contact with John and his disciples to minimize competition and friction between them (John 4:1-3).  It was not until John’s arrest that Jesus’ public ministry officially commenced (Matthew 4:12, 17).  The point here is that John did not have a close relationship with Jesus which might have assured him of Jesus’ identity and of His ultimate fulfillment of the messianic prophecies, especially those John had emphasized.

2) Jesus Had Not Publicly Identified Himself As Messiah.

It was not from the mouth of Jesus that John learned He was the Messiah, but from the revelation of God to John and the witness of the Holy Spirit, in the form of the dove, which descended upon Him at His baptism.  John seems to be seeking from Jesus what he had never heard, our Lord’s own testimony to the fact that He was Messiah.

(3) John Had Been Israel’s Great Prophet, But It Appeared That Jesus Was Taking His Place.  

John did not seem to mind having an inferior role to that of our Lord, but it might have been an irritation for John to learn that Jesus was being received as a great prophet.  This is what we see in the immediately preceding context, in the crowd’s response to the raising of the widow’s dead son in verse 16, “And fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us! and, God, has visited His people!”

(4) There Were Great Differences Between John’s Ministry And Message And The Ministry And Message Of Our Lord.

John and Jesus were very different men. Jesus was gentle and soft-spoken.  John, it would appear, was rough-hewn and outspoken.  Jesus was very much in contact with people, frequently found in the cities, and often in contact with sinners.  John was a man who lived a very secluded life.  He lived in the desert, so that the people had to come out to hear him preach, if they would hear him and be baptized.  His seclusion was extended by his imprisonment.  John did not eat many foods, but ate a kind of desert “C Rations.”  Jesus, on the contrary, drank wine and ate foods that John did not and would not (cf. Luke 7:33).  John’s disciples fasted, and Jesus’ disciples did not (Luke 5:33).

John’s ministry, so far as the Gospel record informs us, did not include miracles, healings, and wonders.  It is possible, perhaps even likely, that John may have performed wonders, but we are never told of any.  Jesus, on the other hand, frequently worked miracles.  The two which are mentioned in the immediate context (the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the raising of the widow’s son from the dead) are but a sampling.  It would not be difficult to see why Jesus’ healing ministry would trouble John if he had no healing ministry himself.  Jesus’ ministry was, at the moment, very popular, while John had little or no public ministry while in prison.

The major difference between John and Jesus, and the one which best explains John’s unhappiness with Jesus, is the difference in the emphasis of the message of each.  John’s emphasis was on sin, judgment, and condemnation, while Jesus’ emphasis was on healing and salvation.  Both emphases were biblical and important, but they were very different in tone and in their outworking.  The Old Testament prophets contained an emphasis on both areas, but in practical outworking John focused on the judgment side of Messiah’s coming and Jesus focused on the salvation side.

John’s task was to condemn Israel’s sins and to warm of the impending judgment of God.  It was also to call on men and women to repent for their sin to avoid the wrath of God.  John’s problem was that he did not understand that there were two comings of Messiah, the second of which was for the purpose of judgment, the first of which was to become a provision for man’s salvation by dying for the sins of the world.  

Jesus’ first coming was to bear

The judgment of God, not to bring it.

John’s message was true, and it served the purpose of preparing men for Christ’s first coming by calling many to repentance.  Those who acknowledged themselves to be sinners found grace and forgiveness.  John was perplexed by our Lord’s mercy and healing, for He expected Him to inaugurate the kingdom in a very different way.

John’s challenge was thus his attempt to force the Lord’s hand, to press Jesus to announce that He was the Messiah, and to cause Him to begin to bring judgment to the earth.  John had warned men that Messiah would come with fire, and John thought it was high time for Jesus to get with it, and to do as he had warned Messiah would do. John’s failure to fully grasp the prophecies of the Old Testament and thus the two-fold coming of Christ, led him to conclude that Jesus was in need of some straightening out. That is what John set out to do, but as we shall see, this is not what happened.  Let us now move on to consider the way in which Jesus dealt with this crisis, which John precipitated.

II. The Response Of Jesus To John’s Question.

I cannot help but wonder how we might diagnose John’s problem today.  Some would undoubtedly see this as a “self-image problem.”  It seems to me that nearly every problem today is related to low self-esteem.  I wonder which of the plethora of books on the shelves of the Christian bookstores we would have sent to John.  Jesus’ actions and words would not have conformed to much of what we would say or do.  Let us begin, then, by taking note of what Jesus did not do, but what we might have been inclined to do in His place.

Jesus did not do what John demanded.  Jesus did not make a declaration that He was (or that He was not) the Messiah.  John may have given an ultimatum, but Jesus did not take the bait.  Jesus did not give John His personal attention.  Some would have felt that John was merely lonely and depressed and that he needed some “quality time” spent with him.  Jesus did not think so.  Jesus did not tell John the answers to his problems, which would have put his mind at ease.  John’s grasp of the messianic prophecies was incomplete and distorted.  Jesus could have straightened John out.  He could have laid out the whole “plan of the ages,” but He did not.  Jesus, I might add, did not inform John that he was soon to die at the hand of Herod.

Jesus’ response to John was very simple.  He simply told John’s emissaries to tell John what they had witnessed, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Luke 7:22).  In effect . . .

Jesus is suggesting to John the solution to his problem.  

He is simply telling John to do what every saint must do,

Compare the prophecies of the Old Testament

With the deeds and declarations of Jesus Christ.  

If Jesus fulfills these prophecies, then the Bible

Bears witness to the fact that He is the Messiah.

Note how the words and works of Jesus do compare with these Old Testament messianic prophecies in Isaiah:

Luke 7:22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.Isaiah 29:18 And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.Isaiah 35:5-6 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.

John’s assurance that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah

Should come from the knowledge that

The deeds and declarations of Jesus fulfilled

The Old Testament prophecies which spoke of

His healing ministry and of His preaching

Good News to the poor and the oppressed.

John needed to get back to the Word,

The Word which He had proclaimed.

Unfortunately, John had tended to divide what God had joined together.  John had filtered out the salvation and healing texts and focused only on the judgment texts.  And yet, when we look at the Scriptures, we find the two themes welded together.  

Look, for example, at the broader context of this text we just cited from the prophecy of Isaiah 29:18-21, “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.  Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.  The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down — those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.”

Perhaps because of the tendency of men to compartmentalize truth, God has in this prophecy and others joined together the two themes of mercy and justice, of salvation and judgment.  While it will take two comings for these promises to be fulfilled, God wants His people to understand that Messiah will achieve both.  He will accomplish salvation for those who trust in Him; and He will accomplish divine justice on those who persist in their sin.  

John, like many of us,

Seems to have emphasized

One aspect of prophecy to

The exclusion of the other.

Thus, when Jesus’ first coming was characterized by mercy and grace, John was inclined to think he had designated the wrong Messiah, and that led him to question his thinking and theology.  

Jesus’ words take

John back to the Bible,

Which is the only standard

For our thinking and theology.

Jesus’ ministry was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and thus it is John who must stand corrected.  It was not Jesus who needed to change, but John.

Jesus had become, as it were, a stumbling block to John.  Our Lord’s final message to John is one which encourages him not to stumble over our Lord: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me” (Luke 7:23).

There are many lessons for us to learn from John’s failure and Jesus’ words of encouragement and correction.  Let me suggest a few . . .

1. This Incident Teaches Us That The Only Valid Test For Determining Whether Or

    Not Jesus Is The Promised Savior Of The World Is The Test Of Scripture.

Does Jesus and Jesus only fulfill those promises and prophecies of the Bible which speak of the coming Savior of the world?  If the deeds and words of Jesus, as reported by the Gospel accounts, fulfill the Old Testament prophecies (which every Gospel writer assures us that they do), then Jesus is the Messiah.  

The test of who is God’s Savior is

The test of the Scriptures themselves.

Everyone who claims to be Messiah must measure up to the standards which God has set for Him.  

Only Jesus meets these standards.

Jesus does not give John a direct claim for many other men have made the same claim. Jesus does not attempt to use His personal magnetism or charisma, but rather points to the deeds which He has done and to the Scriptures which speak of these deeds.

Let me ask you very candidly, my friend – Have you looked carefully at the evidence? Are you seeking God’s salvation?  Do you wish to have your sins forgiven?  Do you wish to experience the grace of God, rather than His judgment?  Then you can only do so by trusting in God’s provision, God’s Messiah.  

Who Jesus Christ is,

Is the most important

Question in the

World to you.

Have you read the Old Testament prophecies?  Have you studied the words and deeds of Jesus.  If you conclude that Jesus was an impostor then you cannot look to Him for salvation, but if you conclude that He alone fulfills the Scriptures, then you must turn to Him, trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection for your salvation.

2. For Christians There Are A Number Of Principles Which Are Relevant To Our

    Own Experience.

I will mention just a few . . .

  • Prophets Are Not Perfect.

John was a prophet, in fact the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, but John was not perfect, as our text makes clear.  Many of the great Christian leaders of present and past times have been known (at least by those close to them) to be men with some strange ideas or practices.  Great Christians have not necessarily been good husbands or fathers. They may not have been able to get along well with others.  Men who are great in one area, might not be great in another.

More than this, men who are great in one area may have major problems in that very area of their greatness.  John was a prophet, and thus we must say that his specialty was prophecy, but this was precisely where his great error arose, too.  John failed to grasp the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  John was trying to straighten Jesus out, when John needed to straighten out his grasp of prophecy.

John was not alone in this, for Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:10-12 that all of the Old Testament prophets struggled to grasp the meaning of biblical prophecy.  Indeed, they even struggled to grasp the meaning of their own prophecies, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  Even angels long to look into these things.”

  • Our Difficulties In Understanding The Bible Can Be Found In Several Areas . . .

First, there is the limitation of the “natural man,” unsaved, and unaided by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).  

Then, there is the limitation of our finiteness.  Even saved people have limits as to what they can grasp now.

Third, there is the limitation of our sinfulness, our waywardness, and of our warped past. A child abused by his father will find it difficult to read those passages which speak of God as Father, without reading into the text those ideas which are rooted in their experience, but are not true to the Word.

Finally, we have difficulties in fully grasping God’s truth because of our limitations in the area of our spiritual gifts and ministry.  Each Christian has a particular form of “giftedness,” which God has given to equip them for a certain kind of ministry.  Since we do not possess all of the gifts, we approach the Scriptures only through the gifts which we have.  For example, when Paul and Barnabas strongly disagreed about taking Mark on their next missionary journey (cf. Acts 15:36-41), each had a perspective based on his own gifts and calling.  As a front-line apostle, Paul refused to take along a man who had failed under pressure, and rightly so.  As an encourager, Barnabas refused to give up on a man who had failed, and rightly so.  Each viewed Mark through the grid of his own gifts and calling.  I am suggesting that we approach the Scriptures in the same way, with our own strengths and corresponding weaknesses.

If the Old Testament prophets – those through whom the Scriptures were given – did not fully understand the Scriptures (1 Peter 1:10-12), how can we suppose that we understand them completely, either?  The apostle Paul tells us that the Scriptures do not tell us all we would like to know.  The Scriptures enable us to “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), only to know fully in eternity.

  • Our Limitations In Understanding The Scriptures Suggest A Couple Of Areas Of Application . . .

1) We Should Be Very Careful Not To Become Overly Dogmatic About Those Things Which Are Not Crystal Clear In The Scriptures.

I notice, for example, that some Christians tend to be very dogmatic about certain views about prophecy (eschatology).  Whether you are “pre, mid, or post trib,” for example, is something about which one can be absolutely convinced.  If John could be so wrong about the Messiah, let us be very cautious about eschatology, and any other area of biblical truth, too, if it is not emphatically and clearly taught in the Bible.

Knowing our own limitations in understanding the Scriptures, let us learn the dangers of isolationism and autonomy in Bible study and Christian living.  Part of John’s problem, in my opinion, was his isolation from other believers.  He had no one to challenge his thinking, and even his biblical interpretation.  You and I need one another for many reasons, but one good reason we need others is to balance off our own limitations and distortions.  Any Bible teacher who does not listen to and learn from other Bible teachers, is suspect, in my opinion.  Any Christian who thinks they need only their Bible and the Holy Spirit is likely to become extreme in some view of what the Bible teaches. Let us learn to lean on one another to help balance out our grasp of biblical truth.

Knowing that our grasp of the Scriptures is imperfect, we need to learn to live by holding truth in tension.  John, like the other prophets, could not harmonize the seemingly contradictory truths of Christ’s suffering and His triumph, of Messiah’s judgment and His salvation.  And yet what John could not reconcile, God does.  No prophet could reconcile these truths in tension until they had been fulfilled.  Jesus did not solve John’s problem by informing of how all of the Messianic prophecies would be fulfilled in the future, by one Messiah and by two comings.  Jesus encouraged John to study the Scriptures and to believe them, even though certain truths seem to be in tension.

I believe that we need to do likewise.  We must, for example, hold the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in tension with the equally true doctrine of man and his responsibility.  We do not do justice to the Word of God by holding to one truth and excluding the other, only for the sake of clarity, simplicity, or preference.  Let us learn, like John, to hold seemingly opposing truths in tension, until God reveals their unity and harmony in the future.

2) There Is A Great Danger Posed By Unrealistic Expectations.

The bottom line is that John had unrealistic, inaccurate expectations of God.  His expectations with regard to the Messiah and His ministry were wrong, and thus they came into conflict with the ministry and message of Christ.  John tried to change Christ to conform to his expectations, rather than to change his expectations.

We put ourselves in a very vulnerable position when we allow ourselves to hold unrealistic expectations, either of God, or of our mate, or of our children, or of our church, or of our ministry.  Let us be on guard to keep from having expectations which surpass the Scriptures.

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 7:11-17 – Hope for a Hurting World

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke, learning about the power and person of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This morning we read a miraculous account of Jesus’ raising a dead person to life.  There are only three accounts in the Gospels where we read of Jesus’ raising a dead person to life.  We read of His raising a little girl, the daughter of a man named Jairus.  We read of Lazarus, another person miraculously raised from the dead.  Then we read of this account here in chapter 7.  In fact, this miracle is recorded only here in the entire New Testament, just here in verses 11-17. Picture with me what is taking place here in these seven verses.  The passage describes the coming together of two crowds.  Verse 11 tells us one crowd and verse 12 tells of another.  In verse 11 Jesus is entering into a city called Nain and along with Him are many of His disciples “and a large crowd.”  These are people who had heard Jesus teaching that wonderful sermon on the plain in chapter 6 and people who had witnessed Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s servant.  They are impressed with Jesus and so they are following Him to this city called Nain.  That is one crowd.

Then verse 12 tells us of another crowd.  It tells us that when Jesus came near the gate of the city, the one crowd meets another crowd.  Verse 12 tells us that “when Jesus came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow.  And a large crowd from the city was with her.”  This is a crowd of people heading out of the city and going to a cemetery to bury a loved one who had died.

We are reading of the converging of these two crowds:

One crowd is moving out of the city –

A crowd of people mourning

For one who had died;

The other crowd is moving into the city –

A crowd of people following

One who brings life.

Death and life converge at the city gate of Nain.  Death meets life.  Sorrow meets joy.  Hopelessness meets Hope.

We will draw forth some truths from this passage that tells of an event that occurred in real space and time 2,000 years ago in a town about 20 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee.  The first truth is not a popular truth and is often avoided by those who wish to stress only the positive truths in Scripture.  But we cannot appreciate the positive truths without appreciating the negative truths. 

The first truth is . . .

I.  We Live In An Imperfect World: Verses 11-12.

Verses 11 and 12 remind us that we live in a world of hurt.  We live in an imperfect world.  Things are not as they were meant to be.  God created the world perfectly.  After the six days of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 we are told that God called everything “good.”  But Genesis 3 tells us that man sinned and brought death and sin into the world.  We refer to this as the Fall.  Fomans 5:12 tells us Adam fell by bringing sin into the world, “… Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

This is the reality of our situation.  We live in a fallen world, an imperfect world, a hurting world.  We all inherit the sin of Adam.  As Adam was the representative of the human race, we can say that when he sinned, we sinned right along with him. This is why we are born sinners and why we face all the effects of the fall, including death.  Death will come to each and every one of us.

We are like the second crowd moving out of the city.  We all are on an inexorable march toward death.  We are in a procession towards death.  Unless Christ returns first, every single one of us will die.  It is often said that “the old must die; the young may die.”

Death can come at any age.  We often think of it as coming only to those who are elderly and infirm, but death can come to a young person.  That is the case here in the text.  We learn later that this one who has died is a “young man.”  And if we are wise we will pause long enough to consider whether we are prepared for that moment when we will leave this world, whether we are ninety or nineteen.  Young person, have you been saved?  Little boy, little girl, young man, young lady, have you surrendered your soul to the Lord Jesus Christ?  The only way to avoid the penalty of our sin and an eternity of hell is to surrender to Christ.  Death can come at any age.

We live in an imperfect world, a world of hurt.  Verse 12 tells us that this young man being carried out in an open coffin is “the only son of his mother; and she was a widow.”  There is so much hurt there in those phrases.  She had been through similar suffering before when her husband died and now she is suffering again with the loss of her only son.  I am not sure any of us can fully understand what it would have been like in Jesus’ day to be left without a provider and a protector.  She has no one.

We imagine her getting up that morning to prepare for her son’s funeral.  Many of you have done similarly.  A loved one dies and you grieve as you have never grieved before.  You cry as you have never cried before.  And this crowd is mourning and crying.  We can only imagine the looks and the sounds of this crowd proceeding out of the city to the cemetery.  But here the crowd of hopelessness converges with the crowd of hope. 

We live in an imperfect world . . . number 2 . . .

II.  We Serve A Perfect Lord: Verses 13-17.

That which is imperfect meets that which is perfect.  The two crowds come together.   Hopelessness intersects Hope.  The Bible says in verse 13, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”  In the midst of great sorrow Jesus has a word of hope.

There are two realities about Jesus Christ that bring hope for a hurting world.  Let’s consider them together.  First . . .

A) Consider Christ’s Sympathy Toward Us – Verse 13.

Verse 13 states, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Nobody said anything to Jesus.  He just “saw her,” He saw the woman and reached out to her.  Why?  Because He cares for us.  He sympathizes with us.  He loves us.  He knows what we are going through.

The Bible says Hebrews 4:15, “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses…”  He sympathizes with us.  He loves us.  He cares for us.  The Bible also says in Lamentations 3:22-23, “His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning.”  He is a compassionate Savior.

I am so encouraged that Luke tells us “the Lord saw her.”  Jesus Christ sees you.  He sees what you are going through.  He knows when you cry and no one else knows.  He knows your deepest hurts.  He loves you.   He is going to care for you.  His heart goes out to you this morning.

Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  He is the same Lord today as He was in the city of Nain 2,000 years ago.  He loves you and His heart goes out to you today.  I don’t know what many of you are facing, but our Lord knows.  He sees you and He says, “Do not weep.”

Jesus Christ is hope for a hurting world. 

  • He may not raise your loved one from their sickbed or bring to life a dead child from a funeral procession.  There were countless hundreds and thousands who had died during the ministry of Christ, and He only raised three of them from the dead. 
  • He may not raise your loved one from sickness or death, but He promises to be with you and His heart goes out to you in the depth of your sorrow. 

But our Lord loves you.  He cares for you.  His heart goes out to you.  This is why He has given us so many precious promises.  He says in . . .

Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always.”

John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Luke 6:20-23, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!  For indeed your reward is great in heaven.”

Jesus Christ is hope for a hurting world.

It was Christ’s hope that kept those 33 Chilean miners alive for more than two months in the darkness of a coal mine.  So many of them are changed men because of that experience.  Miner Mario Sepulveda said, “We 33 miners are walking hand in hand with God.”  I read where early on the men said they had set aside time each day to pray.  And when people began to gather there at the mine, Christians ministered to many of the families sending small Bibles and magnifying glasses down to the miners.  They also sent down an audio version of “The Jesus Film” on 33 MP3 players.  Local ministers said that two of the miners surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.  While still struggling to overcome the ordeal, the youngest miner of the 33 miners, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez wrote in a letter from the mine, “There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here.”  Several of the rescued miners were wearing T-shirts given to them by Campus Crusade for Christ.  The shirts read on the front, “Thank You, Lord!”  On the back is a reference to Psalm 95:4, which says, “In His hand are the deep places of the earth.”

Jesus Christ is hope for a hurting world.  Consider Christ’s sympathy toward us.

Secondly . . .

B) Consider Christ’s Authority Over Us – Verses 14-17.

The larger theme in this historic incident is Christ’s authority over everything, including death and the grave.  Because He is God, Jesus Christ holds the keys of death in His hand. 

He has authority over death and if

He has authority over death,

He has authority over life.  And

If He has authority over life,

He has authority over every living thing.

Verse 14 teaches us that Christ speaks to the dead and the dead listen.  Verse 15 declares, “So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.”  The young man sat up and began to speak, offering proof that he was, indeed, alive.  Then Jesus presents the young man to his mother.  Little wonder verse 16 says, “Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us;’ and, ‘God has visited His people.’”

A great prophet has risen up among the people, yet a person who is more than a prophet.  God had indeed visited His people in the person of Jesus Christ, second person of the Holy Trinity, fully God and fully man.

It is remarkable that Jesus speaks to the dead and the dead listen.  This is a demonstration of the truth that while the body physically dies, the spirit lives on.  Jesus talks to the living spirit of the young man.  He speaks to the young man’s soul.  When we die our soul will live on in one of two locations, either in heaven or in hell.  The body dies, but the soul lives on.

Jesus has authority over death, hell, and the grave.  He is all-powerful.  Something is very different about this healing compared to the healing we studied about last Monday.  In this healing there is no mention whatsoever of anyone’s faith which shows, that Jesus’ healings ultimately were not dependent on the faith of the person being healed but on His own power and might.

I stressed in Monday’s study that when we talk about great faith it is not defined by the size of our faith, but the size of the One in Whom our faith rests.  Great faith is not, “This will happen if I really, really, really, believe.”  Great faith is not determined by the size of our faith, but by the enormity and power of the One in Whom our faith rests, Jesus Christ.  That truth is illustrated here in that we read nothing about anyone’s faith.  Without being asked and in His own power and might Jesus approaches the open coffin, speaks the word, and the dead is raised.

I am reminded of the verse in the hymn, “In The Garden,” He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.”  At the sound of the all-powerful, all-authoritative voice of God, the young man’s lungs fill with oxygen.  His heart begins to beat, his arteries and veins fill with blood.  There is activity in the brain.  His eyes open.  His body raises up and his mouth speaks.  He’s alive!  He’s alive!  Somebody tell those grave diggers they are not needed anymore.  He’s alive!  Somebody tell those flute players to stop playing that depressing music.  He’s alive!

And this young man is alive because He who raised him from the dead would one day Himself be raised for the dead.  He who is perfect has come to rescue those in an imperfect world.  That is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 2 when he writes that we are all dead, spiritually dead, in trespasses and sins.  There is no way out of our predicament, except through God.

Ephesians 2:4-6 declares, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

In the words of Charles Wesley, in “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing:”

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,

New life the dead receive,

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,

The humble poor believe.

This is hope for a hurting world.  This is the great missional hope we carry to our community and to the continents.  This is what we proclaim – This is the hope of the Gospel that we proclaim to Jerusalem, Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth:

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;

Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

This is why we share the Gospel with our loved ones.  This is why we must tell the Good News to our family.  So that if God should call one of our loved ones home early through the tragedy of  death we can say, “My son knew Jesus Christ and he is now with our Lord in heaven.”  He lives.

And if Christ returns before we die, we had better be ready.  One day our Lord is going to come again and when He comes, He comes with the words, “I say to you, arise.”  As the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

We are all in a procession of death.  We are all in a crowd of spiritual death, marching inexorably toward an eternal cemetery of hell.  We all stand in need of someone to come interrupt the procession.  Jesus Christ came to interrupt our march toward death.  Have you been saved?  Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ?  If so, you know something of our Lord’s sympathy and our Lord’s authority.  One day you will join all of God’s faithful, all Christians, and enter into that beautiful place called heaven, a place where, according to Revelation 21:4, “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.”

Jesus Christ is hope for a hurting world.

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 7:10 – Great Faith

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke, believing studying and preaching through Books of the Bible is the best way to learn the Word of God.  Today we are in chapter 7 where we read about a miraculous healing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 9 tells us what Jesus does after hearing this centurion soldier speak to Him.  Him.

The Bible says in verse 9, “When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him—at the centurion—and said to the crowd that followed Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.’”  It is the statement in the beginning of verse 9 that is real interesting.  Luke writes, “When Jesus heard these things (that the centurion said), He marveled at him.”  He “marveled” at him.

That is an amazing statement to me.  Imagine causing the Son of God to marvel for just the slightest moment.  Jesus knows all things and has all power, so, in the strictest sense, nothing really surprises Him.  He is never caught off guard, but it is a fascinating thing to note here that this Roman soldier caused the all-powerful Son of God to marvel at him.

There is only one other place in the entire New Testament where we read of Jesus’ marveling at something and it is used in the opposite way.  In Mark’s Gospel Jesus marvels at the lack of faith of the people in Nazareth.  It says in Mark 6:6, “He marveled because of their unbelief.”  The Bible presents only two instances of Jesus’ marveling: once in response to lack of faith and then here in response to having faith.  Jesus marvels at the centurion’s great faith.  Imagine what it would be like to be that centurion and to be able to tell all your friends that you caused Jesus, the eternal Son of God, even if just for a moment, you caused Jesus to “marvel!”

I want to share with you some principles that help us have a kind of great faith that causes our Lord to marvel, but first I want us to make our way back through these verses and I have a simple two-point outline that divides the passage evenly in half. 

First . . .

I.  Consider The Humility Of The Centurion: Verses 1-5.

In verse 2, Luke tells us that this centurion had a servant who was “dear to him.”  That alone tells us a lot about this centurion.  In a day when roman soldiers treated their servants like property, the same way they treated their armor or their weapons, this statement describes a uniquely kind centurion.  His servant was “sick and ready to die” and no one would have blamed the centurion if he had just let the servant die as this was what roman soldiers did.  But not this centurion.  He was different.  Verse 3 tells us that he sent men to Jesus to help.  He had heard of Jesus, so he sent “elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.”

Matthew’s Gospel records the same incident in Matthew 8.  But Matthew reports the incident a bit differently.  He has it that the centurion himself comes to Jesus and pleads with Him.  Now this seems to present a problem.  Luke tells us the man sent other men to Jesus to talk with Him, but Matthew says the centurion came to Jesus.  How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

We know that the Bible does not contradict itself.  The Bible is without error and completely true in all that it records.  So, just as in other places where we have more than one account of an incident, we understand that we are getting a different perspective.  Luke tells us that this centurion sends men to Jesus.  Matthew tells us that the centurion came to Jesus.  Matthew is interested in the conversation between the centurion and Jesus while Luke is concerned that his account is verified by the “eyewitnesses’ who were there.  Matthew writes no differently than a journalist today would write.  In reporting on a meeting of the President, he might write that “the president of the United States spoke today with the president of China.”  He does not tell you that there were others present who were part of his cabinet and others who were translating what the presidents were saying to each other.   Remember when you read and study the Bible that it never once errors in anything it records.

Luke shows us the reason that the centurion brought the Jewish elders with him – to testify of the centurion’s kindness, to give Jesus a reason why He should come and see this centurion and heal his servant.  After all, they say in verse 5, “He loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.”  The very fact that Jewish elders were running an errand for a Roman Gentile speaks volumes about the kindness of the centurion.  He was a kind man. 

Secondly . . .

II.  Consider The Power Of Christ: Verses 6-10.

Jesus is on His way to the centurion’s house to heal his servant.  When Jesus is very close to the house, the centurion sends friends to Jesus and says to Him, “Look, I am not worthy that You should come to my household.  Just say the word and my servant will be healed.”  He says this because he recognizes that Jesus is operating under divine authority.  He seems to understand that Jesus is submitting to the authority of the Heavenly Father and just as Jesus is a man under authority so is he as a Roman soldier.  The centurion says in verse 8, “I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me.  And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The centurion says, “Jesus, You do not need to come Yourself.  I am not worthy that You should enter into my house.  You just say the word and my servant will be healed.’”  Jesus marvels at him and says, “I have not seen such great faith!”  And the Bible says in verse 10 that when those who were sent, returned to the house, they found the servant well.  Why?  Because of the power of Christ.  Jesus need only say the word and the servant is healed.

Jesus is God in the flesh.  He is the Son of God with the Heavenly Father at creation who called the stars of the sky into being.  The psalmist says in Psalm 33, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” … “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”  He just “says the word.”  Jesus can say the word this morning and heal your sin.  He can say the word and heal your marriage.  He can say the word and bring you joy and peace.  He need only say the word.

The larger point of this passage is that Jesus Christ has authority and power over everything, demonstrated here in His ability to not only heal a sick person at the point of death, but to heal that person at a distance just by saying the word.  But the more immediate point of the passage is this centurion’s “great faith.”

Most of us want great faith.  We want to believe that everything’s possible and God can fix it all.  We identify with the disciples who asked Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5).  Jesus said to them, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’” (17:6).

We can have that faith and this passage will help.  I want to give you some truths that are found in this passage, things not just about the centurion, but about great faith, in general.  I want to share these things with you by putting them before you in the form of tests.  Let’s ask ourselves whether we pass these three tests concerning great faith.

First, ask . . .

  • Do I Pass The Missional Test?

Now this first test may not be so obvious at the beginning.  The missional aspect is not seen so much in the centurion as in the events surrounding the centurion.  We see that in verse 2 where the Bible says that the centurion “heard about Jesus.”  If he heard about Jesus, then someone had to . . . What? . . . Tell him about Jesus.  

He is Gentile, and, as a gentile he was considered by the Jewish people as a spiritually unclean man.  This is at least one reason he likely said, “Jesus I am not worthy that You should come into my house.”  He knew that Jews regarded Gentiles as unclean and he did not want Jesus to defile Himself by entering a Gentile home.

It is remarkable how Jesus brings people together.  He breaks down the barrier between Jew and Gentile.  You have got Jews and a Gentile here getting along.  You have got people from “opposite sides of the tracks” getting along.  The Jews go to bat for the Gentile.  They tell Jesus that this Gentile loves them and even built himself their Jewish synagogue, and even foot the bill himself!  Luke writes in verse 4 that these Jews beg Jesus to come.  God has a way of bringing people together.  He brings together people of different backgrounds, skills, talents, genders, and ethnicities.  Jesus brings people together.

 The Gospel is making its way to Gentiles, and we are seeing fulfillment of the prophecy of Simeon way back in Chapter 2.  Remember when Jesus was born and Simeon takes baby Jesus into his arms and he says in chapter 2:32 that Jesus will be “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.”  Jesus brings hope and salvation to all people.  He is a light, not just to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, too.  And this Roman soldier is a Gentile who sees the light.  And how did he see the light?  Somebody told him.

Underline those four words in verse 3, “He heard about Jesus.”  Have you told someone recently about Jesus?  Have you shared with a family member about Jesus?  Have you told a co-worker what a difference Jesus has made in your job?  Tell someone at work this week about Jesus.  Work His name into the conversation.  Tell about Jesus at work.  Tell about Jesus at school.  When did you last text a friend about the Lord Jesus Christ?

Some unnamed person told the centurion about Jesus and God wants to use you to tell people about Jesus this week.  He wants to use every one of us as His missionaries, fulfilling His Acts 1:8 Commission to us, telling others about Jesus in our community, in our commonwealth, in the country, and across the continents.  In spite of the fact that a light has come to the Gentiles, to the nations, one third of the earth’s population remains in darkness.  We must tell others about Jesus.

The great need of the hour is for those who are saved to have hearts that beat for the souls of lost people across the street and across the seas.  Do I pass the missional test? 

Secondly . . .

  • Do I Pass The Humility Test?

The Jewish elders tell Jesus in verses 4 and 5 that this centurion deserves to have Jesus come and heal his servant.  Imagine telling Jesus: “You have to come.  This man deserves it.  He has earned it.”   The reason is in the later part of verse 5, “for He loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”  Doesn’t this characterize popular understandings of religion today?  “Well, God should be pleased with me.  After all, I’ve given money to the poor.  I’ve been good to others.  I’ve come to church today.  I deserve God’s blessing.”  This is human nature.  And it is wrong.

None of us deserves any grace or mercy from God.  It is not that we are to go around talking about how “really bad” we are or that we are incapable of any good, but it is to admit that we are sinners and that we deserve nothing but what our sins require: punishment and separation from a holy and perfect God.  That is what we deserve.  All the money and goodness in the world cannot change that.  We can give our money, be morally upright, be good citizens, and be kind to our neighbors, but we are still sinners.

Some who are reading this blog may not be saved this morning because you think you deserve God’s blessing and you have not yet come to terms with the fact that you are a sinner deserving nothing but hell.

This centurion passed the humility test.  Despite what the Jewish elders said about his deserving that Jesus should come, he says, “No, I don’t deserve that Jesus should come.”  In verses 6 and 7 he says, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof” . . . “Therefore I did not think myself worthy to come to You.”  That is the right approach.

Listen to what a person talks about and you can tell whether he passes the humility test.  Some talk about what they do; what they do at their church or what they do in their community or what they do for the less fortunate.  It is as though they are reading you their personal resume of moral goodness.  You never once hear any brokenness in their conversation because what they are really saying is, “I deserve God’s blessing because of all these things I do.”

Contrast that with the humble centurion; contrast that with every true child of faith who daily says something like, “God, thank You for saving me from my sins.  Thank You for “bringing me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and setting my feet upon a rock, and establishing my steps, and putting a new song in my mouth.” (Psalm 40:2-3)

Are you saved?  Do you pass the humility test? 

Thirdly, we must ask ourselves . . .

  • Do I Pass The Faith Test?

The centurion says, “Lord, You need not come into my house to heal my servant.  Just say the word, just speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”  Verse 9 tells us, “When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed him—and in this sense He is saying this to you and me as followers standing in the crowd – ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’”  The Greek word order is turned around for emphasis.  Jesus says, “Not even in Israel have I found such great faith!”  The point being, “We would expect God’s people, the Jews, to have this kind of faith, but here is a Gentile whose faith is greater than any Jew on the face of the planet!”

And it may be said that this Gentile, this Roman soldier, has a faith greater than most of us.  He believed in the power of God’s word without requiring any special signs.  He did not require that our Lord give him visible, tangible guarantees that what He said would take place.  He did not think that Jesus had to actually be there to heal his servant.  He did not think that Jesus had to be present physically like another Gentile, Naaman of the Old Testament, who expressed his displeasure when he said, “You know, I thought God’s man would come over here and wave his hand over the place that needed healing>” (2 Kings 5).  No, this Gentile, this Roman centurion believed God did not need to be physically present but needed only to say the word and the result would be healing.  He does not require supernatural signs; he takes God at His word.

Is it not enough for us that Jesus has given us His Word?  Do we really need Him to “spell it out in the sky for us” or to “send some miraculous sign” to confirm that He is there?  Is not enough that He speaks the Word when He says, “I will never leave you?”  Is His Word not enough, the One who says, “I will meet all of your needs?  Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest?”  Is His Word not enough this week? 

Many Christians misunderstand the power of great faith.  The power of great faith is not the subjective element, what is inside.  I do not have great faith just because I say, I “really, really, really believe.”  That is how most Christians define great faith.  They say, “Man, if I just close my eyes and grit my teeth and just really, really, really believe, then it is going to happen.”  That is not great faith.  That may be great energy or great emotion, but it is not great faith.  Why?  Because it is not the subjective, inner element that makes for great faith, but the objective, outer element – not faith inside me, but faith outside me, faith in an outer object, or faith in the objective reality, the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is what makes faith great.

That is why Jesus says in Luke 17:6, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this big mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted!’”  Why?  Because you really, really, really believed the tree was going to be uprooted?  No . . .

Because your faith was placed in the right object.

Your faith rested in the objective power of the Lord. 

It is not the amount of your faith that matters,

What matters is

The size of the one in whom your faith rests.

I recently heard a preacher tell it this way.  He said there were two hikers coming down from a mountain and as they were slowly and carefully stepping down from the mountain, they saw that they could either step on one rock or the other.  One hiker really believed the one rock to be more secure and the other hiker really believed the other rock to be more secure.  The first hiker stepped on a rock and when he stepped on it, the rock slipped out from under his foot and the hiker fell.  The other hiker stepped out on the other rock and safely made his way down the mountain.  Now, which had great faith?  The one who really, really, really believed?  No, it was the one who stepped on the right rock.  That is it.  That is great faith. 

It is not the size of your faith that matters,

What matters is the greatness of the

One in whom your faith rests.

We do not need to be spiritual superstars.  We just need to look to and lean on God. Just take God at His Word this morning and every day.

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 6:46-49 – Living By God’s Word – Building A Life That Last

Grace For The Jouirney

We have been studying in recent weeks a sermon preached by our Lord Jesus.  The majority of our Lord’s ministry was that of preaching.  Of course, He performed miracles and He healed people of sicknesses, but the majority of His ministry, was defined by preaching.  Chapter 6 contains a sermon of our Lord’s referred to often as the “Sermon on the Plain,” a sermon preached on a level ground to hundreds of people, many of whom were His followers and it is to those He is addressing His message.One of the benefits of having your Bible with you and opened before you is that you can see the passage in its context.  It helps to see these verses that we are going to study in their proper context.  We are going to be studying verses 46-49.  These verses are the concluding statements to a message Jesus began preaching back in verse 20 where the Bible says, “Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you poor,’” and so forth.  When we read these last verses of the chapter we realize we are reading our Lord’s conclusion to a sermon.  He is drawing to a conclusion everything He has been teaching His followers to do.

Jesus has been preaching that true followers of Christ may be blessed though they may not enjoy the temporary blessings of the world like riches, fame, and popularity.  They will be blessed when men hate them, exclude them, and revile them, for “great is their reward in heaven.”  Jesus teaches His followers to love their enemies, to be merciful, to not be judgmental, to give and to be forgiving.  He teaches us to not pick at the petty faults of others without recognizing our own faults, removing the log in our own eyes.  He teaches that if we are true followers of Christ, then we will demonstrate this by bearing good fruit.  Then He preaches this conclusion to everything He has said in, verses 46-49.

A few years ago there was a popular leadership book written by Jim Collins entitled, Good to Great.  It is a book that finds that successful companies and organizations are those who do not just do good things, but aspire to do great things.  That book followed another popular book by Collins entitled, Built to Last, a book that examines the successful habits of visionary companies.  A visionary company is a company that does not just start well, but finishes well.  It is a company “Built to Last.”

If Collins is concerned about companies that are “Built to Last,” our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned with Christians that are “Built to Last.”  Jesus is concerned with lives built to last.  One need not be an expert builder to understand our Lord’s analogy in these concluding verses of chapter 6.  He says that the person who hears all of the teaching of His sermon – and by way of extension, all of the teachings of Christ and all of the teaching of God’s Word – a person who hears our Lord’s teaching but does not live it out is like a man who built his house without a foundation.  The rain falls, the streams rise and beat against that house, and it collapses because it was not built to last.  On the other hand, the one who hears the Lord’s teaching and lives it out is like a man who builds his house on a good foundation.  It lasts.  If I were to summarize these verses we would say, “Just as building a house without a foundation results in peril and loss, so hearing Jesus’ words and not doing them results in peril and loss.” 

Of course, we do not “do” the things that Jesus teaches in the hopes that doing them will accomplish our salvation from hell.  That is, we cannot earn our salvation.  We do not get to heaven by being good little boys and girls and doing what Jesus says. No . . . 

We are saved by believing

That Jesus perfectly kept

All of God’s commands for us

And died on the cross to

Satisfy God’s wrath directed

At us because of our sin.

Jesus took our place on the cross, taking the punishment we deserved and dying as our substitute.  We are saved on the basis of our believing what Christ has done for us.  We believe He lived a perfect life and died on the cross, was buried, and rose the third day that we may be declared “not guilty.”  This is the Gospel.

If we believe the Gospel, then we will live out our lives in keeping with what our Lord commands.  We are committed to Christ.  Believers, Christians, keep our Lord’s commands because we are committed to Him.  We do what He says.  We are not concerned with doing what He says in order to get into heaven.  We do what He says because we believe He has taken care of our getting into heaven Himself and we do what He says because we love Him, thank Him, and we commit our lives to Him.  We obey because He has saved us.

The scary thing here is that these words are directed at those who claim to be followers of Christ.  Jesus is talking to those who say they are Christians.  It is a warning.  He may be speaking then to a number of us reading right now.  We say we are followers of Christ – but are we really?  Have we deceived ourselves into merely thinking we are followers of Christ?  Are we on the path that leads to life, or on the path that leads to destruction?   Look at what Jesus says in verse 46, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”  Jesus is asking, “Why do you claim to follow me with your lips, but fail to follow me with your lives?  Why play the part of a play actor, a hypocrite, who says one thing and does another?”  Applied directly to Jesus’ sermon on the plain, we “say” we are Christians, yet we do not forgive others.  We speak to the Lord, we say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but we fail to show mercy.  We say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but we criticize others, we judge others, and we hate others.  We will not forgive our spouse, our children, our co-worker, or our fellow church member.  Jesus says, “Where do you get off with this business of calling me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not doing what I say?”

Those of us familiar with the Book of James can hardly read this passage without continually hearing James echoing the teaching of our Lord in James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Mere verbal profession in Christ does not save.  Verbal profession is important and essential, but verbal profession alone does not save a person.  You can say that Jesus is Lord.  You can pray a prayer and be baptized and still be lost.  When we baptize people, we do not baptize them because we have this absolute assurance that they are saved.  No one really knows that at the moment of baptism.  We baptize based on a person’s profession of faith.  They confess that Jesus is Lord, but no one really knows if they mean business until that life is lived out.  If a person sincerely believes Jesus is Lord, then he or she will keep Jesus’ commands.  He or she will live a life that “bears fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

Jesus is speaking here to those who say they are Christians, and He wants us to consider whether we really are.  When Jesus says here that the man who hears His Word and does nothing is like the man who builds His house without a foundation, and that the storm comes and the house falls, He is talking about the judgment.  He is talking about judgment day.  When He says these last words here in verse 49, “and the ruin of that house was great,” He is talking about a life that did not stand in the judgment.  That is especially clear in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus makes the same point.  He says in Matthew 7:21-23, “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.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” 

Jesus is speaking here to those who say they are Christians and He wants us to consider whether we really are.  If we really are followers of Christ, we will do what He says. 

What does it mean to follow and obey Christ?  Let me give you points to consider regarding this issue . . .

I.  Build On The Right Foundation.

Jesus says that the man who hears His sayings and does them is like a man who builds his house on the right foundation.  He dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.  We must build our lives upon the rock of our Lord’s commands. 

Do not hear this in the abstract.  Do not hear it as some nice analogy that someone else needs to get.  Ask yourself, “Do I love the Lord’s commands and want to live by them? Do I enjoy hearing His Word and living it out?  Is it my inclination to do what Jesus says in His Word or, do I find myself justifying my actions and explaining away my failure to forgive my spouse, or to show mercy to my co-workers, or to love my enemies?  Do I really love those who hate me?  Does my life give evidence to the fact that I have built my life on the right foundation?”

II.  Building On The Right Foundation Is Not Always Easy.

If you had observed these two houses going up in your neighborhood, you would note that one went up a little more quickly than the other.  The builder of the first house seemed to be taking forever, digging a huge hole in the ground and doing something down there for weeks.  The other guy, however, did not seem to waste any time at all, but immediately began to build the first level and off he went.  I pray you did not make a note to yourself and say, “You know, if I ever need to build a house, I am going to contract the second guy to do the work.  He is quick.  I do not know what in the world’s going on with that first guy.”  What is going on with that first guy is that he is taking pains to build his house carefully on a solid, rock foundation.  It takes time and it is not always easy.  It comes by virtue of blood, sweat, and tears. 

Likewise, building your life on the Word of God is not always easy.  It does not “just happen.”  It requires hard work.  For example . . .

A) Listening To God’s Word Is Not Always Easy.

Right?  It requires hard work to take the time necessary to open God’s Word and to hear from Him.  Listening to the Word requires discipline.  We read from His Word daily to ensure that we are laying the right foundation for our lives.  Sometimes what we read and hear in the Word hurts us.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, for example, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  And that sometimes hard to hear and it convicts our hearts.  Or, Jesus calls us out on our hypocrisy and that hard to take.  Amy Carmichael, the famous missionary to India who served there for 55 years without furlough said, “If you have never been hurt by a Word from God, it is probable that you have never heard God speak.”

Listening to the Word of God is not always easy.  It requires hard work and discipline.  Kent Hughes, pastor emeritus at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois notes the challenge of listening to biblical preaching in a worship service.  He asks. “What can we do to become and be good hearers of the Word in church?  Pray – for the preacher and for yourself.  Come prepared to listen, understanding that listening is work.  The will to concentrate is fundamental.  We cannot listen to God’s Word the way we watch TV – kicked back with a bag of chips in hand or pleasant daydreams occupying our minds.   Keep your Bible open to the sermon text and turn to the other passages that are cited.  Take notes.  One of the curious by-products of the Great Awakening in America [a time of powerful revival in the 1700s and again in the 1800s] was a sudden interest in shorthand.  It was not unusual to see men and women, quill pens in hand, carrying portable inkwells as they hurried to a preaching service on the village green.  The same thing happened in Scotland under similar circumstances.  Revived hearts lead to scribbling hands.’

Listening to the Word is not always easy and . . .

B) Doing The Word is Not Always Easy.

It is not always easy to forgive those who hurt us.  It is not always easy to love those who persecute us.  It is not always easy to restrain our tongues from criticizing or condemning others, but we ARE to do these things.  They are not optional.  Hearing and doing go together.  In fact, the best way to really learn anything is by doing.  We hear that we are to forgive and to show mercy and to love others so what do we do?  This week we put that teaching into practice.  We do it.  We do love, we do mercy, we do forgiveness.  For some of us that will mean that we will make a phone call to someone this week, for others we will write a note or send a card.  Some of us will need to change something we are doing at work or school.  We will do the Word.  What is it that you need to do this week?

Build on the right foundation, and know that building on the right foundation is not always easy.  Number three . . .

III.  Building On The Right Foundation Ensures Your Building Will Last.

We need to remember, Jesus is speaking primarily concerning Judgment Day.  If we build our lives on the rock-solid foundation of God’s Word, hearing what our Lord teaches and then doing what our Lord teaches, then we will demonstrate that we are truly committed to Him.  The building of our lives will stand in the judgment.  When the rain falls and the streams beat vehemently against our lives, when we stand before the judgment seat of our Lord, we will not be shaken because our lives have been built on the rock.  But if we have not built our lives on the Word of God, we will fall in the judgment.  We will hear our Lord say, “I never knew you.  Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). 

This verse also means that our lives will stand the test of any storm in this world.  Come what may, financial hardship, job loss, troubled marriage, we will stand and not be shaken by the storms of life.  When the rain falls and the streams rise, a life built on God’s Word will stand.  When the storm comes, a marriage built on God’s Word will stand, a relationship built on God’s Word is a relationship built to last.

I heard about a guy who happened to notice one day as he was looking out his window that somebody was building something near his home.  He watched each day as construction workers cleared the land and moved dirt and trucks rolled in and out.  The guy said that the first thing he saw them do was to pour a big concrete slab and then put this big steel looking box on top of the slab.  There was just this big box on the slab and the guy figured that this must be some kind of storage shed or something the workers kept their tools in.  But after a day or two the workers began to build a concrete wall all around that big box.  Then they added drywall and now the guy is wondering what in the world they are building over there.

His curiosity gets the best of him and he goes over to them and he says, “I have been watching you guys each day and I saw you pour this foundation and put this box in the middle and then build a wall around it and I am just wondering what in the world you are building?!”  And the construction worker said, “Oh, we’re building a bank.  That box you’re talking about with the wall all around it there is the vault.”   The guy explained that when you build a bank you build the central and most important part of the bank first and then you build everything else around it.  Because of the large size of the vault and its heavy weight, they had to start with it because they later would not be able to fit it through the door.  And because of the importance of that vault, that it would contain all manner of riches, and treasures, and wealth, it was the key part of that building and so they wanted to be sure they got it right and then built everything else around the centrality of that vault.

When you build a church, when you build a family, when you build a relationship, and when you build a life, make sure that the most important part is in place – the Bible.  Then you build everything else around it.  Because the Bible contains all the riches and treasures and wealth of the Gospel it is the key part of our lives and everything else must be built around the centrality of the Bible.  When we do this our lives are “Built to Last.”

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 6:43-45 – Speaking And Living From The Heart

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we are in a very practical section of Luke’s Gospel, a section known as the “Sermon on the Plain,” called that because Jesus is preaching this sermon on a level piece of ground where hundreds of people gathered together to hear Him.  The sermon is preached primarily to those who are followers of Jesus Christ and so we ourselves find almost immediate application as followers of Christ.We have heard Jesus say that Christians are to love their enemies, to give to those who ask of us, to be merciful, just as our heavenly Father is merciful, to not judge, to not condemn, and to be forgiving. 

The only way Christians can

Do any of these things

Consistently is to have

A changed heart. 

When God changes our heart,

Our inner being, by the power

Of the Gospel, we are then in

A position to do these things.

This is essentially what Jesus says in the few verses that are the subject of our text

Everything that precedes these verses in the Sermon on the Plain, especially beginning at verse 27, all of the things Jesus says are possible for us to do consistently only if we have changed hearts, which is what Jesus says in verses 43-45.  It is important that we

Jesus teaches that Christians start off small, having believed in the Gospel, God changes our hearts, and we begin to grow and bear fruit.  We continue growing, year-by-year, decade after decade, and we continue bearing more fruit.  People can come by and look at us and “check us out,” and they can see evidence of life and godliness.  People can see the fruit of our lives.  People can see evidence that we are Christians by the way we love our enemies, by the way we are not judgmental, by the way we are merciful toward others, and by the way we forgive others.  That is the fruit of our lives that indicates we are true followers of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at these verses closely and make sure we understand them correctly.

Verses 43 and 44 say, “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  For every tree is known by its own fruit.”  This is so simple and straightforward it seems senseless to go into detail here.  I mean, we all get it, right?  You go to an apple tree, and you will find apples.  You go to an orange tree, and you find – what?  Oranges.  Don’t you love it when the questions are easy?!  A tree is known by the fruit it produces. 

Jesus continues in verse 44, “. . .For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.”  This is what is so cool about Jesus’ teaching.  He teaches the one thing, but you know He is really teaching something else, right?  We know it is not Jesus’ main concern to teach us all about horticulture.  Although we will be quick to add that while the Bible is not primarily a science book, what it teaches about science is true because God is behind all science.  God created the man who observes what the man calls science.  All truth is God’s truth wherever it is found.  Let’s not allow for thoughtless statements that separate the Bible from science as though the two were incompatible.  They are not incompatible.  The Bible and science go together beautifully.

Jesus’ main concern here is not to teach about fruit trees and thorn bushes.  His main concern is to teach about how we are like fruit trees and thorn bushes.  Verse 45 says, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  Let me paraphrase this – verse 45 teaches that “what is inside a man will come out.”  Whatever character exists inside your very being will eventually come out by your actions.

Adrian Rogers used to say, “If you want to see what a man is made of, shake him up a bit.”  What he meant was if you wanted to find out whether a nice man is really a nice man, just ruffle his feathers a bit and see what happens.  We can all act like we are nice and good and kind on the outside, but it is who we are on the inside that produces fruit, showing people who we really are.   If you have a person who talks about love, mercy, and patience, as though he has got it all figured out and someone else comes along and hits that guy across the face, or steals his car, or embarrasses him in front of others, how that man responds will determine who he really is because his response will come from what is inside, straight from the heart.

Who we are on the inside

Determines what we

Do on the outside.

From these verses, let me give you these three things we need to remember this week.   First . . .

I.  Christians Are Known By The Fruit They Produce.

If a man says he is following Jesus Christ, that man will produce fruit and it will be good fruit.  Remember the context!  If a man or if a woman says they are a Christian then they will give evidence of their Christianity by loving their enemies, by being merciful toward others, by not being judgmental, by not condemning others, by forgiving others, and by removing the plank from their eyes.  Christians are known by the fruit they produce.  If you are a Christian, you will love your enemies.  You will be merciful toward others.  You will forgive.

By the way, we have confirmation here that what I said earlier about the phrase “judge not” in verse 27 is true.  I said that the phrase “judge not” does not mean what so many people in today’s American culture use it to mean.  People use this phrase “judge not” to exclude any kind of judging whatsoever.  Some preacher preaches something that does not line up with what the Bible teaches and someone says, “Well, you are not supposed to judge.”  Or somebody comes tumbling out of a bar and reeks of alcohol and plops down behind the wheel of a car and drives away.  A friend of his sees this and raises an eyebrow and says, “I saw him in church last Sunday.  His Christianity must not be real.”  And the guy next to him, “Well, you know, you are not supposed to judge.”  That is not what “judge not” means.  As we have noted before, when Jesus says “judge not,” He does not mean that we are to never make decisions based upon people’s behavior.  He just means that we are not to look down our noses upon others as though we are better than they, being judgmental.   That is different.

Of course we are to make decisions and render judgments based upon people’s behavior.  The reason we nominate men to serve in the deacon’s ministry is because we have observed their behavior and rendered a thoughtful, moral judgment.  You read about the first deacons in Acts 6 and then you read about the qualifications of deacons in 1 Timothy 3 and you thought about men whose behavior was consistent with those qualifications and you elect them.  You made a judgment about them. We all do this all the time.

This is why Jesus says “every tree is known by its fruit.”  He is saying, “You can determine whether a person is a true follower of Christ by the way they live their lives, by their behavior.”  Now again, contextually, this means that Christians will love their enemies, will be merciful, will forgive, and will remove the plank from their eyes.  Why?  Because . . .

We have changed hearts.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation.”  When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God gives to us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  The Bible teaches in Galatians 5 that when we have the Spirit of God in us we will bear the fruit of the Spirit, fruit like, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Here again is a reminder . . .

That we do not do these things

In order to become a Christian,

But we do these things

Because we are a Christian. 

We cannot get into heaven

By being good because

None of us is perfectly good.

We do not read the Sermon on the Plain as conditions that must be met in order to be saved.  The standard is perfection and none of us can meet that perfect standard.   

When we speak of Jesus

Dying on the cross for us,

We must also remember

That the Gospel means

That Jesus lived for us.

He lived according to the perfect standard.  He never once lied, He never once was unforgiving, and He always loved His enemies.  He was perfect.  If we believe in Jesus Christ, then we are credited with His perfection. 

The Gospel is that Jesus died

To take the punishment

I deserved for my sin,

But the Gospel is also that

Jesus lived the perfect life

I could not live.

That’s why we can sing the hymn chorus . . .

 Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;

Buried He carried my sins far away;

Rising, He justified freely forever;

One day He’s coming – O glorious day!

Jesus loved us so much that He lived for us the life we could not live ourselves because we were in bondage to sin.  We were enslaved to sin.  Jesus lives and dies for us that we may be free from sin.  While we are still not perfect, we now have the ability – the Holy Spirit within us – to live the life God wants us to live.

The reason we love our enemies, the reason we are merciful, the reason we forgive our spouse and our children and the classmate and the guy who wrongs us at work is because . . .

Our hearts have been changed

By the power of the Gospel. 

We have the Holy Spirit

Within us to live the life

God has called Christians to live.

Christians are known by the fruit they produce.

On the other hand, if we say we are Christians, but there is no fruit to back it up, then we are deceiving ourselves.  JC Ryle says, “There is only one satisfactory test of a man’s religious character.  That test is his conduct and conversation.”  He adds, “Let it be a settled principle” … “that when a man brings forth no fruits of the Spirit, he has not the Holy Spirit within him.”

Christians are known by the fruit they produce. 

Number two . . .

II.  It Is Possible For Christians To Bear Bad Fruit But Not For Long.

Because we are not perfect we are going to make a mistake from time to time.  We are going to slip into a sinful thought, a sinful action, or sinful words.  It is at these moments we need to remember to preach the Gospel to ourselves.  When we sin, we immediately confess that sin and go to the cross.  We say, “God, I have sinned.  Thank you for dying for that sinful thing I just did, or that sinful thought, or that sinful word I just spoke.  I am sorry.  I repent.  Forgive me for hurting You and thank You that because of Your grace and mercy, You have already forgiven that sin through Jesus Christ my Savior.  I love You Lord, Amen.”   We then experience again the joy and warmth and sweet fellowship of our heavenly Father.  You see . . .

The Gospel is not just for when a person gets saved,

But the Gospel is for every moment of every day

As the Christian lives his or her life.

A Christian can bear bad fruit, but he will not bear bad fruit for long because the Holy Spirit will convict him of his sin, and he will cry out to God and repent.  Remember, the evidence that one is a Christian is revealed in a general pattern of bearing good fruit.  I like to use the picture of a line graph.  If you can imagine a line graph in your mind, the dot represents the point in time when I came to Christ and over here is the other point at the end of my life then the graph should look like this nice, straight line.  Every day I am becoming more like Christ, growing in my sanctification, until I reach this point the last point.  That is how it should look, but it actually looks like up, down, big up, big down, up, up).  There are points where I may fall (think of King David and his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah), but the overarching pattern is one that goes up.

If someone says he is a Christian, but there is no overall pattern of growth, he is not a Christian.  Why?  Because Jesus teaches us “a tree is known by the fruit it produces,” because, “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.”  It is possible for a Christian to bear bad fruit, but not for long.  When he does something he should not do or says something he should not say, he will experience conviction by the Holy Spirit within him and he will repent.

In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, Kent Hughes tells about a man who was saved under the ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Hughes writes of the conversion of this particularly foul-mouthed man: “His speech was so blasphemous and filthy that even the toughest acquaintances were sickened by him, so that he was almost always left to drink by himself.  After meeting Christ, he found that he could not speak without swearing.  The words poured forth before he could even think.  He was sickened himself by the filthy words.  But deliverance came.  He was dressing for work and could not locate his socks.  Instinctively, he shouted to his wife, ‘I can’t find my _______ socks!  Where are the _______ things?’  As his words echoed back in his ears, sorrow gripped him, and he fell back on his bed and cried aloud, ‘O Lord, cleanse my tongue. tongue.  Lord, I can’t ask for a pair of socks without swearing.  Please have mercy on me and give me a clean tongue.’  Lying there, he knew something had happened.  Form that day on no foul or blasphemous word ever came from his lips.”

So yes, it is possible for a Christian to bear bad fruit, but not for long.  He will be so convicted by the Holy Spirit that he will cry out as David cried out in Psalm 51, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!  Create in me a clean heart!”

What have we learned so far?  Christians are known by the fruit they produce and it is possible for a Christian to bear bad fruit, but not for long. 

Thirdly . . .

III.  The Most Obvious Fruit Christians Bear Is Good Speech.

Jesus says in verse 45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  What inside a man, what is in his heart, will come out, and will come out through his speech.  This teaching is not just about our not saying bad things, though it is that.  It is also important for us to consider what we spend the majority of our time thinking about because what is in our hearts will come out.   Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”  That is true.  Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Let me give a quick example: The pastor preaches a powerful message about reaching the nations for Jesus Christ.  It is powerful and convicting.  Most who are present feel his passion and heart for the lost while he was preaching.  The real question is, “How long do they feel that way?  Did that message get down deeply into their heart and stay there throughout the week?  Did they continue thinking about how they spend your money and whether more could be given to overseas missions?  Did they think about what they could do personally to reach the nations for Jesus Christ?  On the other hand, we could hear a powerful message like that, but before the day is out, we have forgotten most of it and the topic of conversation returns to the latest current event, fad, movie, song, or food because that is what is really in our hearts.  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  What do you spend the majority of your time talking about?  It will likely be what you spend the majority of your time doing.

This verse also reminds us to guard our tongues and say only things that glorify God and edify others.  We speak on average about 16,000 words per day.  Some think women speak more words than men.  A husband looking through the paper came upon a study that said women use more words than men.  Excited to prove to his wife that he had been right all along when he accused her of talking too much, he showed her the study results. It read, “Men use about 15,000 words per day, but women use 30,000.”  The wife thought for a moment, then she said to her husband, “It’s because we have to repeat everything we say.”  The truth is it is hard to find documentation of studies proving women use more words then men.  There is one study, however, they document the fact that men and women both use about 16,000 words per day.  Given this fact, we should curb our tongues.  Someone said, “A tongue three inches long can kill a person six feet tall.”

The Bible says in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  James 1:26, says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is useless.”  In Proverbs 6:16-19 Solomon lists six things the Lord hates and one of them is “one who sows discord among the brethren.”  I want you to remember that the next time you are inclined to say something negative about anyone in your church family.  Someone has well said, “If you your lips would keep from slips, 5 things observe with care: of whom you speak, to whom you speak, and how and when and where.”

The preacher Gordon MacDonald tells of a time he was in Japan on a speaking tour with a close personal friend.  Gordon says, “He was a number of years older than I was. As we walked down the street in Yokohama, Japan, the name of a common friend came up, and I said something unkind about that person.  It was sarcastic.  It was cynical.  It was a put-down.  My older friend stopped, turned, and faced me until his face was right in front of mine.  With deep, slow words he said, ‘Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend.’”  Gordon said, “He could have put a knife into my ribs, and the pain would not have been any less.  He did what a prophet does.  But you know something?  There have been ten thousand times in the last twenty years that I have been saved from making a jerk of myself.  When I’ve been tempted to say something unkind about a brother or sister, I hear my friend’s voice say, “Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not speak in such a way about a friend.”

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 6:39-42 – God Gives Us Power To Love, Look, And Live Like Our Lord, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

We are studying through the Gospel of Luke, and we are a little better than half-way through a sermon by our Lord in Luke 6 many refer to as the “Sermon on the Plain.”  It is very similar to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel, but shorter and spoken at a different location.  Last time we began a study of verses 37-42, and we looked at verses 37 and 38.  We will review those two verses today and then study through verse 42.

Consider this real-live story: He was a man who was respected by nearly everyone in the community.  He was married and had many gifts and talents.  He was generally kind and giving, but he was also a man of great power.  And being a man of great power and influence, he was accustomed to getting what he wanted, and he usually did.  When he saw the young lady, he was so taken by her physical beauty that, despite his religious upbringing and his clear moral sense of right and wrong, he soon entered into an adulterous relationship with this woman, she herself being married to another man who had been out of town for quite some time.

As he had been with the woman just one evening, the man no doubt thought that he had gotten away with what he had done.  The two returned to their homes and lives as though nothing had happened and no one had seen.  Some weeks later the woman discovered she was pregnant, carrying the child of the man with whom she had had the affair.  When she sent word to the man, he devised a series of plans he hoped would protect both of them and keep their actions a secret.  His use of power and influence led ultimately to a scenario that ended in the death of the woman’s husband.  The man had gotten away with it.  It seemed no one knew about the evening of adultery and that he could carry on with his life as before.

One evening another man who lived near this man who had committed adultery came over to his house.  As the two talked over different matters of business, this “neighbor” shared with the man a story about an injustice that had occurred recently.  He said, “In this particular city there are these two men who live very close to each other, one of them very wealthy and prosperous—hundreds of flocks of sheep and herds of cattle—and the other man very poor.  The poor man really had nothing at all.  I mean, he had one little lamb, but even it was more like a child to the man than anything else.”  And the man continued, “Do you know, one day someone came and visited the rich man and the rich man, rather than taking from among his hundreds of sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for his visiting friend, went to his poor neighbor and took from that poor man his little lamb who was like a child to him, he took that lamb and killed it and served it to his friend.  Can you believe that?!”

After hearing this, the man was incensed and replied, “Such injustice!  I’ll tell you what they ought to do to that fellow that killed the poor man’s lamb, they ought to kill him!”  And after a moment of silence, the neighbor – whose name was Nathan – said to the adulterous man, whose name was King David, “You are the man.  You are the man in this story of mine.  You are the rich man in my story who took from the poor man and even had the poor man killed.  You are the man.”

The story in 2 Samuel 11-12 brings to color and high definition what Jesus teaches here in Luke 6.  God sends Nathan the Prophet to King David to point out his hypocrisy.   Jesus says concerning our relations with others, “Judge not, condemn not,” and what you see in David is a man who judged another and condemned another.  And in judging and condemning others David shows he is a hypocrite because, in his zeal to remove the speck of dirt from the eye of another, he fails to see the log in his own eye.

If you remember nothing else from what we study today, remember that . . .

We are in no position to criticize others

As long as we fail to see that we have

Something in our own eyes. 

We have our own failures. 

We have our own flaws. 

We are in need of God’s grace,

Forgiveness, and the mercy of

Redemption as much as

The other guy – if not, more.

Jesus teaches us how to live here in these six verses, how to live among others.  He is talking to His followers here, His disciples, true followers of Jesus Christ.  He is also talking to us this morning.  He teaches first that . . .

I.  We Must Love Like Our Lord – Verses 37-38.

This is the first main point in the sermon this morning.  We studied these two verses last time.  Jesus says in verse 37, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.”  The verbal construction in the original is more like, “Stop judging,” which indicates that Jesus’ followers were already engaged in judgmental behavior and that Jesus is telling them to stop judging others.

Remember that Jesus does not have in mind here the judging that we do in order to discern right from wrong or truth from error.  He is not talking about the place of law courts and classrooms as though no one could ever say anything because, “the Bible says, ‘Judge not.’”  He is talking about our not having a critical spirit, a judgmental nature, or condemning nature that causes us to look down upon others.

Last time I used the word “censorious” to describe this kind of behavior. It is a good word.  It is a word that means “to be contemptuous and hypercritical” in relation to others.  We are to not be judgmental, we are not to condemn, we are to have a giving nature toward others and we’re to have a forgiving nature toward others.  Jesus teaches that if we are truly Christians that we will forgive others.  He says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So, we asked, “How do you stay in a marriage?”  The answer is “forgive.”  How do you stay in a job where you have been wronged?  Forgive.  How do you stay in a church where you have been hurt?  Forgive.

Secondly . . .

II.  We Must “Look” Like Our Lord – Verses 39, 41-42.

What I mean here is how we look with our eyes.  Our Lord has perfect vision and He looks upon others without being critical or judgmental.  We are to look upon others as our Lord looks upon others.  We are not to look upon others with a critical, judgmental eye, but we are to look upon others lovingly.  To do so means we have to acknowledge our own faults and failures.

The Bible says in verse 39, “And He spoke a parable to them: ‘Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?’”  Jesus teaches here the danger of our being blind to our own faults while at the same time judging others.  He says it is like a blind person leading a blind person.  If a blind person leads a blind person, they both will fall into the ditch.  Ancient Palestine had these ditches everywhere.  A person did not have to walk far before they found themself in one of those ditches.

Jesus says if a blind person leads a blind person not only will he be unable to keep the other from falling into a ditch, but he himself will fall into the ditch, too.  Why?  Because he cannot see any better than the other guy.  Jesus is saying, “When you and I attempt to point out a fault in another person we fail to remember that we too, have faults.”  We are in no position to help another person so long we fail to see that we are also imperfect.  It is like wanting to help another with their “special problem” and the whole time we are talking to them we fail to see our own “special problem” or “problems” and we both end up worse than before.

This is the context for understanding this imagery of the speck in the eye and the plank in the eye.  Verses 41-24 say, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Now that is pretty funny, isn’t it?  This shows us that Jesus had a sense of humor.  We never read of His laughing anywhere, but that certainly does not mean that he never did.  I read this and I see humor in it.  I mean, it is absurd, isn’t it?  You picture this guy with a long, piece of wood, like a 2-by-4 sticking out of his eye.  And he has this beam sticking straight out of his eye and he comes up to another guy and he says, “Hey, you have got something there in your eye, a little tiny, speck there.”  Meanwhile, the other guy is like, ‘You mind backing up a bit, buddy?!’  What do you mean?”  He is ducking while he’s talking.  “Watch out with that beam in your eye!  You are going to knock me over.”  Then the other guy asks, “What piece of wood?  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I don’t see anything.”  Then the other responds, “You do not see anything?!  You do not see this huge beam sticking 8 feet out of your eye?!”  His friend replies, ““No – but I can see that little speck of dust in your eye!  Here, let me help you remove it.”  That is about how silly we look when we go around and try to straighten everyone else out, totally blind to what needs straightening out in our own lives.  That is about how silly we sound when we talk so critically of others as though we ourselves were perfect.  Most of the behavior Jesus condemns here has to do with what we say, with the words that come out of our mouths, words that are used to condemn others, words that criticize others, words that express a judgmental nature over others.

Jesus introduces much of what He teaches here in the context of loving our enemies.  Let me ask you a question I ask of myself.  Get an enemy in your mind.  I am sure you have one or two – a boss, a coworker, a church member, a former church member, an ex-friend, or even a family member.  You know there are a few out there who do not like you.  Get that person or persons in your mind.  Now, based on your behavior last week, based on what you said about that person last week, how did you do with respect to avoiding having a judgmental nature, speaking critically of that person, or expressing a judgmental nature over that person?

One of my favorite Proverbs is Proverbs 10:19: “Where words are many, sin is not absent.”  We must be careful what we say.  We must think about the speck of dust in our enemy’s eye and the plank of wood in our own eye every time we speak.  Because if we do not, we are engaging in un-Christian behavior.  Have you heard the poem about all that we said in a single day being recorded and then read back to us?

If all that we say in a single day with never a word left out,

  were printed each night in clear black and white

it would make strange reading no doubt.

And then just suppose, ‘ere our eyes should close

  we should read the whole record through;

Then wouldn’t we sigh, and wouldn’t we try,

  a great deal less talking to do?

And I more than half think, that many a kink

  would be smoother in life’s tangled web,

If half what we say in a single day,

  were to be left forever unsaid.

Think of that this week when you find yourself tempted to open your mouth and say something negative and critical of someone else.  Be quick to see the beam, the plank, in your own eye, and you will be too busy to worry about the speck of dust in your neighbor’s eye.

The more I reflect on this teaching the more I think that if we take the time necessary to remove the plank from our own eye that we will never get around to removing the speck of dust from our neighbor’s eye.  If each of us simply focuses on the beam sticking out of our own eye, we will never have to worry about the speck in the other’s eye.  I mean, if you think about it, what I see in my neighbor’s eye is a speck and what I do not see in my eye is a beam.  What he sees in my eye is a speck and what he doesn’t see in his eye is a beam.  What we each need to do is take care of the beam in our own eye and if we will do that, there will be no speck to remove from the other’s eye.

In verse 41, practically speaking, Jesus tells us how it works out, “And why do you look at the speck in your spouse’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your wife or husband, ‘Let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye?  You hypocritical husband, you hypocritical wife!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your spouse’s eye.  And if both husband and wife will take the time to remove the planks from their own eyes then they will live as Jesus would have them live.”

This means I come to my wife, and we are having a discussion about something – we do not fight of course, we have discussions – and we are butting heads.  It is likely because, in my effort to point out what I perceive to be the flaws in my wife, I am ignoring my own flaws.  We learned last week that a spirit of criticism or judgmental nature is the result of our maximizing the offense in others while at the same time minimizing the offense in ourselves.  I come to my wife and I acknowledge that I am to blame for at least part of the problem.  Even if I feel she is 90% to blame and I am only 10% to blame then I will work on the 10% without trying to correct her 90%.  If we do that, focus on our own faults, then the result is a healthy relationship, whether it is a husband and wife, employee and supervisor, church member and church member, and so forth.

We Must Love Like Our Lord . . . We Must “Look” Like Our Lord . . . Thirdly . . .

III.  We Must Live Like Our Lord – Verse 40.

Jesus says in verse 40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”  We are the “disciple” in verse 40 and Jesus is the “teacher.”  Everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.  We must live like our Lord.  I am encouraged that the phrase “perfectly trained” there has to do with the final state of a long process.  It was a word in the original Greek used to describe the process of mending fishing nets.  It takes a long time to mend torn and broken nets. 

God in His grace takes us torn and broken creatures and He mends us, and this through the strength and power of the Gospel.  God takes whatever time is necessary to mend us and train us to be just like Jesus.  We must live like our Lord.  That the goal!  We should want to become like our Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ.  If so . . . we will love like Him, “look” like Him, and live like Him.

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 6:37-46 – God Gives Us The Power To Live Like Christ, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way through Luke and we are in chapter 6.  Jesus is preaching this sermon, sometimes called the “Sermon on the Plain.”  And he has been preaching on loving our enemies, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Then He makes these statements beginning at verse 37 and as you follow along this morning, you will find verses packed with practical teaching that will help each of us this week. 

Our eyes just get used

To seeing ourselves as

We have always been and,

In this sense, we do not see

Ourselves as we really are.

It is almost like we have become blind to the changes or that we have something in our eyes that prevents us from seeing clearly.  We use these same eyes, these very same eyes, to look out at others and formulate opinions about what we see.  We look at others and, based upon what we see, we make judgments about them and offer criticisms about them and totally unsolicited opinions about them without seeing them as they really are.

This passage will help us look upon others in the right manner.  This passage will help us see clearly. 

  • Do you want to know how to have a happy marriage? 
  • Do you want to know how to get along with your family? 
  • Do you want to know how to get along with your superiors, your shift supervisor, manager, or teacher, enemy? 

This passage will help.  It is not that we come to the Bible looking for “Keys to Successful Relationships.” 

God did not write the Bible primarily

With our personal success in view. 

The Bible may indeed help our self,

But it is not primarily a “self-help book.” 

The Bible teaches us to glorify

God and enjoy Him forever. 

And when we seek to love Him

With all of our heart, soul, mind,

And strength, then we will find ourselves

The happy benefactors of those who enjoy

The unsearchable riches of Christ

And live in light of His Word.

Jesus is telling His disciples here how to live.  He is telling those who are Christ-followers how to interact with others – how to love them, look at them, and live before them.  If we are true followers of Christ, we will do these things.  They are not options.  Not everyone reading this study will do these things because not everyone is a follower of Christ.  Those, however . . .

Who love the Lord,

Will love His Word

If we love our Teacher

Then we will love His teachings

If we love Christ,

We love His commands.

What does He teach us about others?  What are we to do in our relationships?  There are three main headings for this passage, but we are only going to get to the first main heading in today’s study because the first two verses yielded much more material than I had anticipated in my study and preparation. 

Here is the first main heading . . .

 I.  We Must Love Like Our Lord – Verses 37-38.

I trust your remember, context is the key.  The key to verse 37 is the preceding verse, verse 36.  We left off last time with verse 36.  Jesus says, “Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  Then, Jesus gives us some specific examples of what being merciful looks like.  In verse 37 He shows us how to be merciful, to show mercy, and love, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not, forgive, etc.’”  If we love like our Lord then we will not be judgmental, we will not condemn, we will forgive, and we will give generously. 

 These four actions in verses 37 and 38 require a little explanation.  The first action, “judge not,” does not of course refer to the right actions of law courts and judges or teachers and students who must discern between truth and error.  That kind of judging must always be done.  Things are either true or they are false.  Rather, the phrase “judge not” has to do with having an ungodly spirit of criticism, of having a disapproving, judgmental nature, even of sinfully enjoying what one calls, “judging for the pleasure of judging.”

 In fact, the next action, “condemn not,” is essentially a synonym for being judgmental.  Jesus teaches that we are never to look down upon others with a high-handed “I am holier than you” attitude.  This is the attitude of the hypocrite who thinks his behavior is far superior to everyone else’s.  He thinks to himself, “I may not be perfect, but I’m better than that person over there.  Just look at her!”  This is the attitude Jesus denounces.

This is the idea in the scenario John writes about in chapter 8 of his Gospel.  Jesus is teaching in the temple and the scribes and Pharisees interrupt His teaching by dragging before Him a woman whom they seemed very pleased to have caught in the very act of adultery.  They put her there in front of everyone and said to Jesus, “Now the Law says she should die a death of stoning,” and perhaps even at this point they were all passing around a bucket of rocks.  They asked Jesus, “So what do You say?”  And John suggests that they did not care at all about this woman but that they were just trying to catch Jesus in some sort of inconsistency. 

Remember what Jesus says to all of these men so ready to get on with the brutal execution?  He says, “Alright, here is how we are going to go about this: the first guy who has never sinned will cast the first stone.  So go on now, he who is without sin, go ahead and throw.”  To the credit of the formerly eager crowd, they all walked out, one by one, leaving their stones behind.

Now based on just these first two actions, “judge not” and “condemn not,” how would lost people, unbelievers in our community and across our country, rate the church’s effectiveness in living up to these two commands?  Would they say the church is very loving and gracious to unbelievers, or are they more likely to say that they feel Christians are always looking down their noses at them, always condemning and criticizing them when it is very clear that the Christians themselves aren’t exactly glowing examples of virtue?  Isn’t this the very accusation of the unchurched?  What do they say?  “I’m not going to that church.  The church is full of – what? – hypocrites.  It may be an excuse but if the claim can be fairly made then we should be very concerned.  Judge not, condemn not.

In his book on these teachings of Jesus, John Stott writes this about the judgmental person.  He describes this person as “the fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failures.”  Then Stott sums it all up by describing the judgmental person in three actions . . .

“He puts the worst possible

Construction on their motives,

Pours cold water on their [plans],

And is ungenerous towards their mistakes.”

Why is it a sin to be judgmental?  Why is it a sin to have a condemning spirit?  Have you ever thought about this?  It is a sin because when we are judgmental, we are placing ourselves in the position of one who knows all things?  We ourselves are not perfect and therefore are unworthy to be un-lovingly critical of others.  God is perfect.  Let Him judge.  When we are judgmental, we are also attempting to take the place of the only One who knows everything about others, including their inner thoughts and motivations.  We place ourselves on a throne that only God can occupy and we hand down these judgmental criticisms even though we do not have all the information.  We do not know everything God knows about others so we’re in no position to have a judgmental spirit or condemning nature.

We are so quick to criticize and categorize people even though we do not have all the information.  For example, the woman who frowns at you while you are giving your sales pitch, you feel certain is a fool who disagrees with everything you are saying when in actuality she is just trying really hard to listen to what you are saying.  The man who always sits in the office with his arms crossed in front of himself may not be as disinterested as you think; it may be that he is hiding a tremor in his hands, an early sign of Parkinson’s.  The guy who sleeps through the sermon may not be a hard-hearted unbeliever; it may be that he was up at 2 AM and 3 AM and then again at 4 AM worried about his teenage daughter.  Sometimes we make these quick and faulty judgments even though we simply don’t have all the information.

How quick we are to just write people off, categorizing them as hopeless causes because we have made a hasty, judgmental determination about them we feel must be true.  It can happen in an instant.  I mean someone pulls out in front of you as you are driving 55 miles per hour.  The guy just pulls out right in front of you and drives 25 miles per hour.  You just cannot wait to get around this guy and have a look at him.  You feel certain when you see this guy, he is going to have his teeth sticking out and big ears and a dumb look on his face; but when you are able to pull up to him and look over at him and he looks just like you; pretty normal.   In that moment God says to me – yes, this is an autobiographical illustration – “Hey Terry, have you never done something like that?  Hmm?”

Then Jesus says, “. . . Forgive.”  Do you have a forgiving spirit?  When you are wronged or hurt are you willing to forgive?  Let me caution us against making light of this.  The ability to forgive is evidence that one is a true Christian.  Indeed, all of these actions are actions of true followers of Christ.  Jesus says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” that is, not be judged by God.  If you are judgmental towards a person, showing judgment without mercy, the Bible says in James 2:13 that you can expect God to show the same kind of merciless judgment to you: “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.”  And Jesus says, “Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.”  If you are a true follower of Christ you will not have a spirit of condemnation towards others.  If you do, you can expect God to condemn you.   Forgive others and God will forgive you.  Do not forgive others and God will not forgive you.

It is quite alarming, isn’t it?  If we say we are Christians, but we do not forgive another person we are lying.  We are not Christians at all.  This is not the opinion of your pastor.  This is the teaching of our Lord.  Our Lord’s Prayer is, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:14).  Be very careful before you say something like, “Well, I forgive but I will not forget!”  Be very careful because your words may mean that you really do not intend to forgive.

This is why the puritan Thomas Watson said, “A man can as easily go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing.”  Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Do not think for a moment that if you are unwilling to forgive someone who offended you and you go to sleep one evening and die in your sleep, do not think for even a moment that you will have the assurance of waking up in heaven.  Jesus says as clearly as it can be said, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus drives that point home in the parable He tells in Matthew 18.  Jesus and His disciples are walking along and Peter asks, “Lord, how many times should I forgive someone who sins against me—seven times?”  Then Jesus says, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy times seven,” the point being forever.  There is no end, no limit to our forgiving others, even if it is the same guy sinning against us over and over again.  Then Jesus illustrates the truth in Matthew 18 by telling about this guy who owed his master something like in today’s money a trillion dollars.  Facing prison for his inability to pay the money back, the guy gets down on his knees and begs him, “Just give me time and I will pay back every penny,” which was impossible.  He could never pay back the debt.  But the master is overcome with compassion and releases the man’s debt and sets him free.  But this man goes out and finds a guy in his office who owes him lunch money and he puts his hands around his neck and threatens him to pay it back.  When word of this gets back to the man who had forgiven the trillion dollars he has the guy locked up and delivered over to torturers.  Then Jesus says to every Christian listening to Him, “So – or, likewise – My heavenly Father will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother.”

The reason Jesus can say, “If you don’t forgive others then you cannot expect your heavenly Father to forgive you” is because . . .

If we really have been forgiven by God,

And understand what forgiveness means,

We acknowledge the tremendous debt we owe to Him.

We acknowledge that we as sinners were on our way to hell and that we deserved nothing but judgment for our sin.  But, in Christ Jesus, God took the debt that we owed and gave to us the credits of Jesus.  So if we have experienced forgiveness we will forgive others.  It is just that clear.   Forgiveness is not always easy, but we will get around to it sooner rather than later if we have been forgiven by God.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.

How do you stay in a marriage?  One word: “Forgiveness.”  That is pretty much it.  People are rushing to the courthouse completely throwing aside what they said before God and all the wedding guests back when the minister was leading them through the vows.  One of them gets ticked off and says some unkind things and the other says some unkind things back and they begin to say they do not really love each other anymore, but the truth is they are unwilling to be Christ-like and forgive.  So often marital breakups have little to do with infidelity or the abandonment of a Christian spouse by an unbelieving spouse, both permissions for biblical divorce as I understand the texts.  Most divorces are not on biblical grounds but on unbiblical grounds.   Someone got their feelings hurt, someone was misunderstood, someone said things they should not have said and it just escalates.

What we are doing by not forgiving others is allowing our sin natures to just take over.  We become self-focused, self-centered, and blind to our own faults. 

When we choose not to forgive

Those who have hurt us

What we are doing is

We are minimizing our own

Offenses by maximizing

The offenses of others.

This is what Jesus goes on to teach later in the passage about the speck of dust in your brother or sister’s eye and you have got a log in your own eye.  We have all been to a party or social engagement of some kind and you know you go up to talk with someone and they are talking and you see immediately that they have this little piece of green spinach or something stuck in their teeth and it just looks horrible.  But you do not say anything.  And they are just talking on and on and laughing and there it is for the world to see, that green thing.  Then they go and they talk to someone else.  After an hour or so this poor person goes into the restroom and is washing her hands and looks in the mirror and there it is.  And she cries and wonders how many people she has gone around talking to looking like this.  And so many of us go around interacting with all kinds of people, quick to point out what is wrong with what they are doing and all the while we have got this problem sticking out ourselves that puts us in no position to correct the faults of others.

So . . .

  • How do you stay in a marriage?  Forgive.
  • How do you keep working at that place with the guy who’s so unkind?  Forgive.
  • How do you stay in a church when someone ticked you off and hurt you?  Forgive.
  • How do you stay as pastor of a church when you’ve been hurt?  Forgive.

Then Jesus says in verse 38, “. . . Give . . .”  Note how beautifully this word “give” is woven together with these other behaviors.  Have a giving spirit towards others.  Be quick to extend to them the inexhaustible grace of your love, mercy, compassion, and kindness.  Give unto them – do unto them – as you would have them give or do to yourselves.  You see how this action belongs here with the others?  The word “give” is not to be untied from the verses around it, lifted-up, and pulled from its biblical context, its meaning changed by a slick, smiling prosperity preacher who promises that if you will just give your money to God and His work then He will bless you with more.  No, the action is spoken with reference to how we interact with others.  We are to love them like our Lord loves us, showing mercy, not being judgmental or condemning.  We are to have a forgiving spirit toward others and a giving spirit toward others.  And if we will treat others this way then God will treat us the same.

If we give our love, compassion, kindness, possessions, and selves to others, then God will treat us the same way which may or may not include tangible things like money or possessions, but will certainly include the giving of His limitless mercy, grace, and kindness.  That is the idea. 

The measure of love you extend to

Others will be measured back to you.

Have a giving spirit toward others and God will have the same spirit towards you, so gracious is His giving that it is like when you go to get grain, says Jesus, and you open up your cloak in order to catch grain and the guy pours the grain into your cloak that it fills every empty space and just spills everywhere.  That is the superabundant measure of love that God gives to us and that is precisely the measure of love that we are to give to others this week – our spouse, our parents, our children, our fellow church members, our supervisors, our co-workers, our teachers, our students, our friends, and our enemies.  We must love others as our Lord loves us.

Judge not.  Condemn not.  Forgive.  Give.  In sum, “Be merciful and extend grace just as your heavenly Father.”

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 6:27-36 – Love Your Enemies

Grace For The Journey

We are studying Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” that is recorded in the Gospel of Luke 6:20-49. A similar – but not identical – sermon is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5 – 7.  Jesus opened his sermon with a description of the blessings that belong to those who have entered the kingdom of God, and He also warned those who have not yet entered the kingdom of God.  Then Jesus described how His disciples were to live as citizens of the kingdom of God.  Unlike many preachers, Jesus did not soft-peddle His message. He did not try to sugar coat what He was about to say. He did not ease into His message with a funny story aimed to set His disciples at ease. No. Jesus immediately gave His disciples what commentator Philip Graham Ryken calls, “The Hardest Commandment.”  All of us find some people easy to love and others more difficult to love.  If we probed deep enough, we would discover that there are some people we really do not like at all. In fact, some of us might even admit to hating them.

In his outstanding commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Philip Ryken tells the story of Ernest Gordon who wrestled with the question of loving our enemies.  Ernest Gordon was a prisoner of war in the infamous Japanese work camp on the River Kwai during World War II.  Extremely harsh conditions brought Gordon to the verge of death. Finally, Gordon writes, “I was headed for the Death House.  I was so ill that I didn’t much care. But I was hardly prepared for what I found there. The Death House had been built at one of the lowest points of the camp. The monsoon was on, and, as a result, the floor of the hut was a sea of mud. And there were the smells: tropical ulcers eating into flesh and bone; latrines overflowed; unwashed men, untended men, sick men, humanity gone sour, humanity rotting . . . The last shreds of my numbed sensibilities rebelled against my surroundings – against the bed bugs, the lice, the stenches, the blood-mucous-excrement-stained sleeping platforms, the dying and the dead bedmates, the victory of corruption. This was the lowest level of life.”  In the providence of God, and through the compassion of some of his army friends, Gordon did not die, but survived.  More than that, he. and many of the men in his camp, came to faith in Jesus Christ. They learned to love each other. 

Yet they still found it impossible to love their enemies. As Gordon writes, “We had learned from the Gospels that Jesus Had his enemies just as we had ours.  But there was a difference: He loved his enemies. He prayed for them. Even as the nails were being hammered through His hands and feet, He cried out, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’  We hated our enemies.  We could see how wonderful it was that Jesus forgave in this way.  Yet for us to do the same seemed beyond our attainment.”

Whether it seems beyond attainment or not, Jesus commands all his disciples to love their enemies.  If you are a Christian today, if you are a disciple of Jesus, then today’s study is aimed directly at you and me.  If you are not yet a Christian, then I have Good News for you. Today, you also will learn how to love your enemies.

In today’s study in Luke 6:27-36, Jesus teaches His disciples that we must love our enemies.  We learn that we must love our enemies because of . . .

1. The Command About Loving Our Enemies – Verse 27a.

It is very important to keep in mind the context of Jesus’ sermon.  Immediately after Jesus had selected twelve men to become His apostles, He came down from the mountain with them, stood on a level place, and preached to the apostles, disciples and a great multitude of people.  Luke said that Jesus began his sermon by “(lifting) up His eyes on his disciples” (6:20).  The sermon was primarily aimed at disciples, that is, at those who were followers of Jesus.

Jesus told His disciples that by following Him His disciples would have to endure poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution for Hs name’s sake, but they would also have His blessing.  Jesus then pronounced warnings on those who did not follow Him and who were living for themselves with no thought for God and the things of God.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that God blesses those who follow Him. In fact, in the fourth beatitude Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (6:22).

With that context in mind, Jesus said in Luke 6:27a, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies.”  Jesus’ disciples must have been taken aback.  What?  Love our enemies?  How in the world do we love our enemies?  This is where knowledge of Greek is helpful.  In English we have one word for love.  But, as Leon Morris notes, “There are several words for love in Greek.  Jesus was not asking for storge, natural affection, nor for eros, romantic love, nor for philia, the love of friendship.  He was speaking of agape, which means love even of the unworthy, love which is not drawn out by merit in the beloved, but which proceeds from the fact that the lover chooses to be a loving person.

Agape is different from all other loves . . .  

It is not a love based on

Natural affection,

Romantic love,

Or friendship.  

It is a love based on

A deliberate, willful

Choice toward another

And empowered by God.

As Phil Ryken says, “Jesus called his disciples to show a deliberate affection that was not based on what people deserved, but on the grace of God.”

Agape love supersedes natural inclinations

And often exists in spite of them.  

It is a deliberate love, rooted in

The will – a love by choice. 

Agape love is a deep, continuous,

Growing, and ever-renewing activity of the will

Superintended by the Holy Spirit. 

Agape love says,

“I will love this person

Because, by God’s grace,

I choose to love this person.”

But what about enemies?  Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”  Who are the enemies we are to love? The Greek word for “enemies” (echthros) “denotes the inner disposition from which hostility arises, i.e., hatred.”  In other words, an enemy could be anyone “that is antagonistic to another.”  An enemy could be a demeaning boss, an abusive family member, a divorced spouse, an angry neighbor, or even a friend who has grown distant because of a disagreement.

So, who is your enemy?  That is an important question for you as a Christian to answer, because whoever is your enemy, Jesus commands you to love that person.

II. The Manner Of Loving Our Enemies – Verses 27b-28.

Jesus gave us three ways to love our enemies.

  • We Love Our Enemies By Our Actions.

Jesus said in Luke 6:27b, “. . . do good to those who hate you.”  Think of someone who hates you. Then think of something good that you can do for that person.  Then do it!  It is just that simple.  The problem is that we do everything we can to avoid the person who hates us. We do not want to have anything to do with that person.  But Jesus said, “. . . do good to those who hate you.”

  • We Love Our Enemies By Our Words.

Jesus said in Luke 6:28a, “. . . bless those who curse you.”  Again, think of the person who curses you. Do not respond in kind.  Instead, respond with heartfelt blessing!

C. We Love Our Enemies By Our Prayers.

Jesus said in Luke 6:28b, “. . . pray for those who abuse you.”  Has someone abused you?  Or, as some translations put it, has someone mistreated you, or spitefully used you?  You may be deeply wounded and hurt.  Again, you may want to have nothing to do with such a person. But Jesus said, “. . . pray for those who abuse you.”

It is almost impossible to pray for someone and hate him or her at the same time.  What do you pray for?  You may pray that God’s grace will overwhelm that person, and that he or she will see God as utterly holy and himself or herself as completely sinful and desperately in need of the grace of God.  When you pray that way, you will love your enemy.

Now, you may be thinking . . .

How radically different & difficult

It is to love our enemy.

And that is exactly the point!

Third . . .

III. The Illustrations About Loving Our Enemies – Verses 29-30.

Jesus gave four illustrations about loving our enemies.

1. We Love Our Enemies By Enduring Insults.

Jesus said in Luke 6:29a, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.”  Some scholars say that Jesus is referring to an insult here and not to being struck on the jaw.  In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said, “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39b).  In the ancient world if a person wanted to insult someone, he slapped the other person with the back of his hand on the opposite cheek.  So, a right-handed person would slap another person on the right cheek when he wanted to insult him.  Jesus is not commenting about physical violence, He is telling His disciples to endure insults for his name’s sake.

You may endure insults if your spouse, or parent, or family member, or colleague, or friend is not a believer and mocks your faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus says, “Offer the other cheek also.” That is, love keeps enduring insults for Jesus’ sake.

2. We Love Our Enemies By Suffering Loss.

Jesus said in Luke 6:29b, “. . . and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.”  Jesus calls His disciples to be willing to suffer loss because we are more concerned about the needs of other people.  He was saying that if someone was desperate enough to take our cloak (or coat), let him have the shirt off your back too.

3. We Love Our Enemies By Sharing Generously.

Jesus said in Luke 6:30a, “Give to everyone who begs from you.”

The Greek word for beg (aiteo) is better rendered as “ask.” Jesus was not talking about giving to panhandlers, or to people who will use what is given for evil purposes, but about giving to those who have legitimate material needs.

4. We Love Our Enemies By Abandoning Payback.

Jesus said in Luke 6:30b, “. . . and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.”  Jesus is not talking here about people stealing but rather about people borrowing and not returning what is borrowed.  Jesus said that we should not harass them for our goods. 

How are we to implement these illustrations?  Surely Jesus calls us to err on the side of generosity.  But there are limits to what we can give or should give.  There may be times when it is more loving not to give, because giving will hurt rather than help the person.  We think of times when we do not give to our children because we know that what they are asking for may not help them but rather hurt them.

We are often called to make difficult decisions.  We must decide that we love others – especially our enemies – by giving them what they truly need.  We must not hold on to what we have but be willing to give it away as an expression of love.  Leon Morris summarizes this by saying, “If Christians took this [command] absolutely literally there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves.”  It is not this that Jesus is seeking, but a readiness among His followers to give and give and give.  The Christian should never refrain from giving out of a love for his possessions.

Fourth . . .

IV. The Rule For Loving Our Enemies – Verses 31-34.

  • The first rule for loving our enemies is called “The Golden Rule.”

Jesus said in Luke 6:31, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” We usually say it this way: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Jesus’ rule is really radical.  There were other teachers who gave similar rules, but as far as we know, they were always put in the negative.  Their rules were stated something like this: “Do not do unto others what you do not want them to do to you.” This was not a radical law of love.  Instead, it was merely a law of self-preservation.  Jesus’ rule is applicable to everyone, even our enemies.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, no person in all of East Germany was more despised than the former Communist dictator Erich Honecher.  He had been stripped of all his offices.  Even the Communist Party rejected him.  Kicked out of his villa, the new government refused him and his wife new housing.  The Honechers were homeless and destitute.  Pastor Uwe Holmer, director of a Christian help center north of Berlin, was made aware of the Honechers’ difficulties.  Pastor Holmer felt it would be wrong to give them a room meant for even more needy people.  So the pastor and his family decided to take the former dictator into their own home!

Erich Honecher’s wife, Margot, had ruled the East German educational system for twenty-six years.  Eight of Pastor Holmer’s ten children had been turned down for higher education due to Mrs. Honecher’s policies, which discriminated against Christians.  Now the Holmers were caring for their personal enemy – the most hated man in Germany.

This was so unnatural, so unconventional, so supernaturally sublime, and so Christlike.  By the grace of God, the Holmers loved their enemies, did them good, blessed them, and prayed for them.  They turned the other cheek.  They gave their enemies their coat (their own home).  They did to the Honechers what they would have wished the Honechers would do to them.

  • The Second Rule For Loving Our Friends Is Called “The Reciprocal Rule.”

Jesus said in Luke 6:32-34, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.”  In each case, help is offered on the assumption of reciprocity.  Almost anyone can offer this kind of love, because it is based on self-preservation.

  • The love that Jesus commands His disciples to demonstrate is radical.
  • It is love not only for friends, but it is also for enemies.  
  • It is not limited to those who love you, help you, and repay you.
  • It extends even to people who hate you, curse you, and abuse you.

And disciples can love like this because God enables and empowers you to do so.

V. The Reward For Loving Our Enemies – Verses 35-36.

First, the reward for loving our enemies will be great. 

Jesus said in Luke 6:35a, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great.”  Jesus encourages His disciples to keep in mind that if they love their enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, their reward will be great.

Second, the reward for loving our enemies reflects our relationship to God.

Jesus said in Luke 6:35b-36, “. . . and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  Disciples who love their enemies demonstrate that they are in fact sons of the Most High God.

Therefore . . . Christians must love our enemies.

  • Jesus was hated.  

He was hated by Judas, by the Pharisees, and by all the people who demanded His crucifixion. 

  • Jesus was cursed.

He was cursed by the false witnesses who testified against Him, the soldiers who mocked Him, and the governor who sentenced Him to die a God-forsaken death.

  • Jesus was abused.

He was abused by the priests who whipped Him, the soldiers who hung Him on the cross to die, and all the people who swore at Him while he was dying on the cross.

His enemies struck Him on the cheek again and again, insulting His true identity as the Son of God.  They took away both His cloak and His tunic, leaving Him to die naked. They stripped Him of everything He had, down to His dignity.

How did Jesus respond to his enemies?  He responded by loving them and giving His life to pay the penalty for their sins.  As He was dying on the cross, suffering at the hands of His enemies, Jesus was showing them His love – the very kind of love He called his disciples to demonstrate to their enemies.

Jesus was doing good to those who hated him, suffering the punishment they deserved for their sins.  Jesus was blessing those who cursed him, offering salvation to the thief on the cross.  He was praying for those who abused him, saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

This is where we learn to love our enemies: at the cross, where we see that love demonstrated to the “ungodly,” the “sinners,” and the “enemies” of God, as Paul said in Romans 5:6, 8, and in verse 10, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” . . .  ““But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” . . . “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”

If you are a disciple of Jesus, if you are a Christian, you know that loving your enemies is impossible.  That is why you and I must stay close to the cross of Jesus.  It is at the cross of Jesus where we see the power of God’s love that enabled Jesus to love his enemies.  And it is at the cross of Jesus where we find the power of God’s love to enable us to love our enemies.

If you are not yet a Christian, you will never be able to love your enemies until you first come to Jesus for salvation.  Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin, and then turn from, that is, repent of, your sin.  Then, and only then, will God’s power, the same power that enabled Jesus, enable you to love your enemies as Jesus loved his enemies.

Let me finish the story of Ernest Gordon.  Eventually, Ernest Gordon learned how to love his enemies, the Japanese, as Jesus commands.  After the war ended, Gordon and other POWs from the River Kwai made their long, slow way back to Britain, traveling through Asia by train. Along the way, they ended up in a rail yard next to a train full of wounded Japanese soldiers.  Gordon describes their miserable condition: “They were in a shocking state; I have never seen men filthier.  Their uniforms were encrusted with mud, blood, and excrement.  Their wounds, sorely inflamed and full of pus, crawled with maggots” . . . ‘The wounded men looked at us forlornly as they sat with their heads resting against the carriages waiting fatalistically for death.  They were the refuse of war; there was nowhere to go and no one to care for them.  These were the enemy.”

Gordon tells how he and some other soldiers responded, “Without a word, most of the officers in my section unbuckled their packs, took out part of their ration and a rag or two, and, with water canteens in their hands went over to the Japanese train to help them” . . . “We” . . . “knelt by the side of the enemy to give them food and water, to clean and bind up their wounds, to smile and say a kind word.”

But not everyone was pleased with this remarkable display of compassion. One Allied officer said, “What bloody fools you all are!  Don’t you realize that those are the enemy?”  Of course, Gordon and the other officers realized it: that was exactly the point! The dying soldiers were the enemy, and for that very reason, Gordon and his friends were called to love them and do good to them.

They learned to give this kind of love from the same place where we can learn to give it: at the cross of Jesus.  Jesus died for us and now calls us to give his love to others, including people who hate us.

Who are the enemies that God is calling you to love?  Do good to them . . . Bless them. Pray for them . . . Show them the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

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 6:17-26 – Your Life: The World Or The Lord?

Grace For The Journey

We are preaching our way through the Gospel of Luke.  This is what we do here at First Baptist, preach through books of the Bible, believing it is the best way to learn the Word of God.  This means we will always have one main passage of Scripture we are studying together, ensuring that we are bound to the context and rightly interpreting the Bible.  This also means that the text will be our teacher and provide our topic, rather than our randomly choosing a topic that interests us and trying to find verses that support our topic.  The problem with that sort of preaching is that it often pulls verses out of context and is far more likely to lead to our making the Bible say what we want rather than allowing the Bible to speak for itself.We left off with Jesus’ calling the 12 Disciples in verse 16, so we pick up at verse 17 and we will study through verse 26.  This is a passage where Jesus begins preaching a sermon, the content of which is usually referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount,” or “Sermon on the Plain.”  This sermon was preached on two different occasions.  In Matthew, this sermon is three chapters long, Matthew 5-7.  In Luke, it is just chapter 6, so Luke records a time when Jesus preaches a shorter version.Some years back I heard one of those stories you hear that you do not know is true, but you get the point.  You know those kind of stories?  There was a pastor who was baptizing a man in his church and, when he baptized this man he held him under the water longer than usual.  You usually lay a person gently down under the water, like laying a loved one in the grave, to picture death to the old life, and then you immediately bring that person up to picture new life in Christ.  This pastor layed the man down into the water and held him there for several moments.  The man being baptized began to wonder when he was going to come up out of the water.  He began to rise himself, but the pastor held him down.  Again, he tried to rise up, but the pastor held him down.  Out of air now, the man began to kick a little and squirm and forcefully try to get up so he could get some air.  Finally, the pastor raised the man up out of the water.  The man was relived and began to breathe heavily.  He asked the pastor why he held him under water so long.  The pastor responded, “When you want Jesus in your life as much as you wanted that air, you’ll be living as a true Christian.”

I have never done that in a baptism and I never will, but I really feel that the pastor’s words are true.  When you want Jesus Christ in your life as much as you want the air you breathe, then you are living as a true Christian. 

This passage of Scripture tests us

To see whether we really want

Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives. 

It tests the reality of our

Christian faith and commitment.

We will go through this passage and study it closely so that we understand it and then see how it applies to our lives today.  That is where we’re headed here as we study this passage that tests the reality of our Christianity. 

First . . .

I.  Consider The Power Of Christ – Verse 17-19.

After Jesus calls the 12 Disciples, the Bible says in verse 17 that Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people were there to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases.  Verse 18 says that there were also a number of people there who were tormented with unclean sprits.  And they were healed.  Verse 19 sums up the activity, “And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.”

In one sense these verses summarize much of what we have been reading in these opening chapters of Luke.  Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, has authority and power.   He has power over sickness, power over spirits, and power over sin.  Jesus’ power is evident at the start of His earthly ministry.  The people said, “He teaches with authority and power” and, “With authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.”  The power of Christ for ministry is a power that is passed along to all who follow Christ.  Luke writes in the opening chapter of his second volume, the Book of Acts, that Jesus says, “You shall receive this power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall—in this power—be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).  The power of Christ. 

Second . . .

II.  Consider The Preaching Of Christ – Verses 20-26.

Beginning in verse 20 we have the preaching of Christ.  Jesus’ sermon goes from verse 20 to the end of the chapter.  If you have a red-letter Bible, you see red from verse 20 to the end of the chapter.  This is Jesus’ teaching that tests the reality of our Christianity.  I want you to notice in verse 20 that this sermon Jesus preaches is directed first to His disciples, “Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples.”  The disciples would include the 12 and then the larger crowd of disciples gathered there to hear Him, and it would include the majority of us reading this blog, those of us who consider ourselves followers of Christ.

I have taken care to set this passage in the proper context because doing so prevents us from the common error of wrongly interpreting these verses.  This is important.  Do not miss this! 

These verses are not conditions

To be met in order to go to heaven. 

Jesus is speaking blessings to those

Who have already become Christ-followers


He is speaking woes to those who have not.

That is really important.  In the first few verses Jesus is speaking blessings to those who have already entered into the kingdom of heaven, and this is followed by woes Jesus pronounces upon those who have not.  So, you have two groups of people.  The first group is in verses 20-23.  This group is the poor-hungry-weeping-hated group, the Christians.  And then you have the second group in verses 24-26, the rich-full-laughing-spoken well of group, the non-Christians.

The sermon begins with blessings directed to followers of Christ.  These blessings are sometimes called “beatitudes.”  Beatitude is simply the Latin word for “blessing.”  Most of us do not speak Latin so let’s stick with blessing.  \

Here is what Jesus says to the first group . . .

III.  Live For The Lord And Be Blessed – Verses 20-23.

There are four blessings Jesus pronounces here upon His followers. 

  • He says in verse 20, “Blessed are you poor.”
  • He says in verse 21a, “Blessed are you who hunger.”
  • He says in verse 21b, “Blessed are you who weep now.
  • He says in verse 22, “Blessed are you when men hate you.”

These verses are blessings upon one group, the poor-hungry-weeping-hated group, the Christians.

Remember, Jesus is not pronouncing a blessing upon all of the poor of the world or all of the hungry of the world.  I take time to stress this because some have taken these teachings out of context and taught that God is going to save all people who are poor or who hunger and so forth.  Jesus does not contradict Himself.  He says in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  We are not saved by being poor, or hungry, or otherwise unfortunate.  We are saved by believing that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, who died for our sins that we might be saved.

What Jesus means to do here is to encourage His followers.  He encourages them by reminding them that this world is not all there is.  Some of us need to be reminded of that today.  The reason Jesus says “Blessed are you poor” is what?  Last part of verse 20, “For yours is the kingdom of God.”  You may be poor in this world but you are rich in the kingdom of God.  You are rich in the kingdom, rich because you are saved from the penalty of sin and living for what really matters.  One day you will leave this temporary world and enter fully into the kingdom of God.

Then Jesus says in verse 21, “Blessed are you who hunger now,” why?  Because “you shall be filled.”  You will one day hunger no longer.  He then says, “Blessed are you who weep now,” why? Because you shall laugh, you shall live in a place where there’s no more sorrow.  And, in verse 22 He says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake (for being a Christian).”  Jesus says in verse 23, rejoice when this happens, “Rejoice in that day (that day of persecution—leap for joy!)” Why?  “For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”  Jesus says if you are hated or excluded for being a Christian, you are in good company.  The Old Testament prophets were also hated and excluded and they are now enjoying their reward in heaven.

Jesus is teaching that these consequences

Of being poor-hungry-weeping-and excluded

Are the natural consequences of living for

Jesus Christ, especially in the first couple

Centuries as Christianity was getting started.

The best way to understand the application of these verses is to picture a group of Christians from the first or second century huddled together underground in the dark Christian catacombs of Rome.  Because they are forbidden to bury their Christian loved one in a public cemetery, they are burying their loved one, perhaps a martyr of the Christian faith in the catacombs, away from their persecutors.  And at some point in the burial service by the dim light of a flickering lamp, a Christian unfurls a brittle papyrus, a page from the Gospel of Luke, and reads, “Blessed are you poor, blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil.”  You see?  These are words of encouragement to remind us that we do not live for this temporary world.  We live for the Lord, and if we live for the Lord, we will be blessed because this world is not all there is.  Live for the Lord and be blessed. 

The alternative is found in verses 24-26 . . .

IV.  Live For The World And Be Cursed – Verses 24-26.

If the four blessings are directed to group of those who follow Christ, then the four woes are directed to whom?  They are directed to the group of those who do not follow Christ, those who do not live for the Lord, but for the world.  Just as we pointed out in the blessings, that Jesus was not talking to all the poor of the world and all of the hungry of the world, but rather the believing poor, the poor who are Christians, etc., so here it is important for us to see that Jesus is not saying woe to all who are rich or all who are full, but rather to the unbelieving rich and the unbelieving full, and so forth.

The point of these woes in verses 24-26 is, as Jesus will say elsewhere, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  That is the point . . .

If you live for the world

Instead of for the Lord

Then you may be rich now,


You will be poor eternally.

You may be full now,

But you will hunger. 

You may laugh now,

But when you die and

Your soul goes to hell

Because you refused

To follow Christ,

You will mourn and

Weep in that day.

Now,  I want to give you a few “Power Points” to take home with you. 

Number one . . .

(1) Know That Our Values Are Completely “Out of Step” With What Is Normal.

Christian values are completely out of step with what is normal.  The things Christians value are completely opposite of the things the world values.  Did you notice that in these verses?  The things that the world values, non-believers value, are totally opposite of what Christ values and His followers value. 

This is a common theme in Luke’s Gospel,

The theme of the Great Reversal. 

What seems right to the world

Is opposite of real Christianity.

When you look at the woes in verses 24-26, aren’t these the things that are most important to people of the world?  To be rich, to be full, to laugh, and to have people speak well of you?  Isn’t that what the world values?  TV ads illustrate this: Be rich, be full, eat, get as much as you can, laugh, and be popular.  The world yearns after these things. 

You see these ads on TV that begin in a way that hooks all of us.  It shows this melancholy black and white scenario of a person, and the voiceover softly says, “Are you lonely, depressed, and have days when you just don’t want to get out of bed?”  And I am raising hand, who hasn’t, right?!  Then the ad tells us that if we will ask our doctor for such and such we will be happy.  And it shows this guy who was sad and previously in black-and-white now in full-color with a bright smile!  It all sounds great and then you get the thing at the end: Side effects may include irritability, hair loss, impotence, and death.  The world yearns after the woes!

Then you look at the blessings in verses 20-23, and you read things that everybody tries to shun.  Nobody wants to be poor, or hungry, or to weep, or hated, or excluded.  When was the last time you read a newspaper ad that tried to sell you on the merits of being poor?  When was the last time you clicked on an internet ad that promised you unpopularity, hatred, and exclusion?

Christians are to

Value things differently

Than the world values things.

This leads to the second “Power Point” for us to take home today and implement this week at school and work . . .

(2) Continually Guard Against Falling Back Into Old Ways.

By that, I mean old ways of thinking, old ways of living, and old ways of valuing things, the ways we Christians lived before coming to Christ.  This is one of the Christian’s greatest dangers and temptations.  If we are not careful, we will allow ourselves to fall back under the old influence of the world.  Remember what the Bible says in Romans 6:11?  “Reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.”  The Christian is to be dead to that old way of thinking, living, and valuing things.  That is the old way before you became a new person.  Guard against falling back into old ways of thinking.

When Christians start placing more faith in their jobs or begin thinking more about their money than about their Master, they are falling back into old ways.  Many young moms and dads fall into this temptation.  You see them make a decision for Christ and join the church and before long, their attendance becomes sporadic.  They used to come to everything, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening, Wednesday, Bible Study, everything.  But the tug of the world became strong and they yielded to those tugs that lulled them away into thinking riches, abundance, laughter, and popularity is where it is at.  They slipped back into old ways of thinking and living.

It is sort of like how our hearing breaks down with age.  A humbling experience is to get online and find a website that plays these radio frequencies that can or cannot be heard depending upon your age.  When you are young, you can hear higher frequencies than when you are older.  And the older you get, the less you are able to hear high-pitched sounds.  So, you click on this sound and the younger people are like (covering their ears), “Too loud!” and the older people are like, “I don’t hear anything!”

A person can come to know Christ and be saved and be fired-up, living the new life and hungering after the Word of God.  But, if he is not careful, rather than continuing to grow and improve, his spiritual hearing begins to break down and he can come to a service and the preacher can be preaching, but he does not really hear him anymore.  He looks around and others seem to be hearing, but he is not really interested.  He is on a different wavelength.

Teens are tempted to compromise their faith for popularity.  In our passage today, Jesus says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.”  There is a sense in which if we are loved by everyone that it may indicate that we have compromised our faith for popularity.  If you are a Christian and you take a stand for Christian principles, not everyone is going to like you in school, or at your workplace, or even in your family.  It does not mean that we are to be judgmental and talk down to people and act arrogantly.   Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you and revile you for the Son of Man’s sake,” for lovingly taking a stand on, and living by, Christian principles.

Have you seen the T-Shirt or bumper sticker that says, “Go against the flow?”  It is a picture of a fish swimming upstream, while everything else is swimming downstream.   We must continually guard against falling back into old ways, allowing ourselves to be carried by the currents of popular society and the ways of the world. 

Thirdly . . .

(3) Praise God That Christ Reverses His Fortunes With Us.

I noted earlier that this passage is an example of Luke’s recurring theme of “Great Reversal.”   There is an exchange of one thing for the other, like the rich becoming poor and the poor becoming rich.  The reason Jesus can say, “You shall be rich, filled, laugh, and have a reward in heaven” is because He reverses His fortunes with you. 

  • He put Himself in the place of one who was poor so that you could be rich. 
  • He put Himself in the place of one who was hungry so you would be filled. 
  • He put Himself in the place of one who mourned so that you could laugh. 
  • He put Himself in the place of one who was hated and excluded so that you could rejoice and be glad.

As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” and in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Jesus Christ reverses His fortunes with us. 

He dies for our sins that we may live. 

He reverses His fortunes with us

So that on the cross God treated Christ

As we deserved to be treated,

That He might treat us as

Christ deserved to be treated.

So, how are you living your life?  Do you live for the things of the Lord, or the things of the world?  Do you want Jesus as much as you want the air you are breathing?  Is He life to you, real life?

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 6:12-16 – Following the One Who Calls

Grace For The Journey

We reach a point in Luke’s Gospel where the ministry of Jesus Christ becomes more up-close and personal.  While He will continue to speak to crowds and minister to large numbers of people, Jesus selects 12 men for a 3-year course of intimate instruction that in quality surpasses the highest educational degrees offered by today’s finest seminaries.  Jesus selects 12 men to serve as apostles, men specifically called by Jesus to be sent on a mission as messengers of the Gospel.  One might ask, “Why study this list of disciples?  Why not just read the names and then “get on with the action?!”

There are at least a couple of reasons why we should slow down here and consider what this text teaches . . .

  • First, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is profitable in instructing us and equipping us as children of God, so we know it is wise to pause when reading any text and consider what it might be teaching us, even a seemingly “random” list of information. 
  • Secondly, Luke tells us that Jesus’ calling and selecting these 12 men to follow Him was no small decision, but that it is a decision that comes after much prayer.  Luke writes in verse 12 that Jesus went out to a mountain to pray “and continued all night in prayer to God.” 

We have read previously of our Lord’s prayer life, Luke having told us in the previous chapter – Luke 5:16 – that, “He himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”  It should not surprise us that Jesus is praying here in verse 12, but the text says that He “continued all night in prayer to God,” which really heightens the importance of the decision to call these 12 men.

When was the last time you spent “all night in prayer to God” about some decision?  I am not sure I can recall a time I ever spent “all night in prayer to God.”  Certainly, a long time in prayer, but all night?  This prayer of perhaps 10-12 hours in length is extremely important to our Lord.  So, before we even get into the list of the apostles, a number of us are convicted by the prayer life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One we claim to follow as our example.  So often, it seems we find ourselves engaged in obligatory prayer.  We know it is right to pray and we endeavor to begin our day in prayer. 

Jesus engages not

In obligatory prayer,

But dependent prayer.

Preacher and writer Kent Hughes explains why this matters, “Too often we engage not in dependent prayer but in obligatory or routine prayer.  (In John 15), Jesus didn’t say, ‘Apart from Me you can do something.’  Rather, He says, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing.’”  The next time we engage in our prayer time with God, let us remember the difference between obligatory prayer and dependent prayer.  Let’s slow down and really think about what we are saying to our Lord when we pray and let’s acknowledge our dependence upon Him.

Jesus spent several hours in prayer with God.  That is a remarkable thing to think about, the three members of the Trinity communing with one another, Father, Son, and Spirit all conversing as One!  It really boggles the mind, but the point is that . . .

It is through these hours of prayer

That the decision to call these 12

Men is clarified and crystallized.

Verse 13 tells us the next day that Jesus calls the larger number of disciples to Himself and then from this larger number, He chose 12 whom He also named apostles, another name for the 12, a technical term that mean “one who is sent” or a “messenger.”  What I want to do in our study today is consider these men Jesus called and to consider the parallels between these men and us.  We are not apostles, but we are followers of Jesus Christ.  Those of us who have been saved from our sin, have entered into a life of following the One who has called us.  These verses we are going to study today serve as an encouragement, a warning, and a challenge to us. 

Here is the first truth . . .

I.  Be Encouraged: God Uses Ordinary People.

One of the first things that strikes us as we study the list of these 12 names is that there is nothing really special about any of them.  None of them is a scholar.  None of them is particularly well-known or popular.  In fact, it’s very interesting to consider who Jesus did not call.  Jesus did not call religious people, rabbis, priests, Pharisees, scribes, or well-trained scholars.  Jesus did not call people “everybody knew and loved,” popular, winsome, engaging and personable people.

We might expect Jesus to choose people like that, people whom high society and popular culture hold up as models of success, the trim and tanned “life coach” with the big smile and brilliant white teeth.  But, His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).   Rather, Jesus chooses weak, ordinary, people.  He chooses a brash guy named Peter, a man John MacArthur describes as an “apostle with the ‘foot-shaped mouth!’”  Peter, who often speaks before thinking.  Peter, who is rebuked by our Lord more than any other disciple.  Peter who said things like, “I’ll never deny you, Lord,” but then denies the Lord not once, but three times. 

Jesus chooses weak, ordinary people.  He chose Andrew, a guy who constantly lived in the shadow of his brother, Peter.  He chose James and John, two guys who wanted to call down fire upon a bunch of Samaritans to kill them, and two guys who make the self-centered request of sitting on thrones at the right and left hand of Jesus in the eternal kingdom.  Jesus chose ordinary people.  He chose Philip, a numbers guy who cannot figure out how in the world Jesus is going to feed 5,000 with just one boy’s sack lunch.  He chose Bartholomew, who many believe is also named Nathaniel, a guy who struggled with prejudicial thoughts.  When Philip told him, they had found the Messiah, who was from Nazareth, Nathaniel smirked and said, “Nazareth!  Can any good come from Nazareth?!”  Jesus chose ordinary people.

He chose Matthew, a tax-collector, a guy who had a shady past and was not exactly someone you would call a “pillar of society.”  He was a thief and a crook.  But Jesus chose Him to follow.  He chose Thomas, a guy who comes across as really negative and pessimistic.  When Jesus decides to go to Judea, the disciples warn Him that the Jews will kill Him, but Jesus wants to go in order to heal Lazarus.  So, Thomas bleakly says, “Let us go that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16).  Thomas would not believe in the resurrected Christ until He personally saw the nail prints.  Thomas, an ordinary man, a bit doubtful, and a bit depressed.

Jesus chose ordinary men like “James the son of Alphaeus.”  The only thing we know about him is that (verse 15).  The only thing the entire Bible tells us about this guy is his name!  An ordinary guy.  Jesus chose ordinary people like Simon the Zealot, a guy whose zeal for spiritual things was frequently misplaced and misdirected, and ordinary people like Judas the son of James, a guy John takes care to distinguish from another Judas, the one who occurs last in every list of apostles, Judas Iscariot, the traitor.

You go through this list, and you find how remarkably ordinary are these 12 men.  There is practically one of every kind of imaginable personality.  We can identify with at least one or two of these characters.  I hope that this is an encouragement to us because so often we are tempted to think that God can only use “superstars” and “champions” in ministry.  This is one reason I am always a bit reluctant to make a big deal of some so-called great Christian athlete or Christian singer or Christian Hollywood personality.  I am afraid promoting those kinds of things may serve to discourage the “normal” and “ordinary” Christians, the overwhelmingly vast majority of those who follow Christ.

These are ordinary men.  They are sinners.  They have arguments among themselves about which of them is the greatest (Luke 22:24) and they run away from Jesus when the going gets tough.  There is nothing really special in them, or about them, to commend them.  They are weak, ordinary people.  They are people just like you and me. 

It is like what Paul writes about in first chapter of 1 Corinthians.  He is writing to the church in Corinth, and he writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26, “You look at yourselves.  Look at you guys, the ones our Lord has called to follow Him in the Christian life.  Look at the kind of people our Lord calls.  Not many of you are wise, not many of you are mighty, and not many of you are noble.”  I would assume the same thing of most of you reading this blog – Not many of us are wise, mighty, or noble in the world’s eyes or estimation.  Why is that?  Paul continues in verse 27 through 29, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”  God chooses weak, ordinary people like you and I to follow Him so that . . .

When people look at us later

And see us as growing,

Developing Christians,

They will not conclude

That it is on account

Of any special quality

Within us, but rather

That God must truly be

At work in our lives.

God chooses ordinary people to follow Him so that . . .

When He does a mighty work

In us and through us it will be

Very clear that it is God who is

Doing the work so that God

Alone will receive the glory from it,

“That no flesh should glory in His presence.”

Be encouraged today: God delights in using ordinary people like you and me. 

He delights in glorifying Himself

Through you in the ordinariness of

Your everyday workaday world.

He is drawing your neighbors to Himself through your ordinary witness and your ordinary ways.  He loves you as a weak, ordinary person and He sees who you can become in the strength of His power and the might of His Holy Spirit.  Be encouraged: God uses ordinary people. 

Here is a second truth . . .

II.  Be Warned: Nearness Does Not Always Mean Salvation.

The most sobering truth about Christ’s calling Judas Iscariot to follow Him is the truth that nearness does not always mean salvation.  Judas was one of the 12.  Judas walked with Jesus Christ.  He was near Christ and was a part of Christ’s supernatural ministry.  Yet, he never trusted Christ with his heart and he betrayed Christ in the end.  Judas Iscariot turned Christ over to the Jews who had sought to kill Him.  He betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver and afterward, in remorse but not repentance, He killed himself and entered into a hopeless eternity of separation from our Lord.  He died lost, referred to by the Apostle John as the “son of perdition” or “one who will perish,” a lost, unsaved man.

Judas Iscariot is a tragic reminder and stern warning to us that one can be close to Christ and yet be unconverted.  Judas was as close to Jesus as we could imagine, but he was never a true follower of Christ. 

He had given Christ his service, but

He had not given Christ his heart. 

He followed him, but he remained

In the world with a tight grip

On the things of the world.

When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly oil, Judas acted like he was concerned for the poor when he said, “What a waste!  This oil could have been sold and given to the poor!”  It sounded really spiritual, but he did not mean it.  John wrote that Judas said this “not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief.”  Judas was in charge of the money box and John wrote that Judas “used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6).

Judas Iscariot was the classic hypocrite.  He acted one way on the outside, but he was an entirely different person on the inside.  Maybe this is precisely why Jesus chose him as one of the 12.  I mean, haven’t you ever wondered why Jesus chose Judas Iscariot, knowing full well in advance that Judas would eventually betray Him?  Maybe this is why: Jesus chooses Judas Iscariot to remind us of the danger of being so close to Christ and yet so lost.  We can be close to Jesus and the things of God.  We can go to church, we can read our Bibles, we can teach Sunday school, we can sing great hymns and yet be as tares among the wheat, chaff among the grain, and lost among the saved.  It really matters little what people think of you on the outside if you are not that person on the inside.

Have you been saved?  Have you truly given your heart to Jesus Christ, giving Him not just your service, your deeds, your works, or your “random acts of kindness?”  Have you given Him your heart and your life?  That’s what saves us.  Be warned: nearness does not always mean salvation.

There is a third truth . . .

III.  Be Challenged: True Followers Grow.

These 12 men changed.  While they were clearly weak people when Christ called them to follow Him, they did not remain weak.  They did not remain crooks, and they did not remain prejudiced or pessimistic.  They grew in the power of the Lord.  True followers grow.  The change comes when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit came in unusual power at Pentecost in the Book of Acts, and we read how these men changed and grew in faith. 

This same power of the Holy Spirit comes to us today at the moment of salvation and we are encouraged to yield to the power of the Spirit every moment of our lives so that we live, as the Lord says through the prophet in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.”  That is what makes the difference in these apostles.  In Acts 4, for example, after God heals the man at the temple through the ministry of Peter and John, Peter is speaking to the Sanhedrin and the Bible tells us he is “full of the Holy Spirit” and after he finishes speaking, the Bible says in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

They were men about whom it would be said, in exasperation by their unbelieving enemies, that “they had turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). 

  • They were changed now.
  • They were bold now. 
  • They were powerful now. 

And the secret to their strength was the power of the Holy Spirit and a life sold-out to living for the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of the world.  True followers understand the challenge of our Lord Jesus who asked in Mark 8:36, “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?”  These apostles lived for the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of the world, so much so that the Book of Revelation says their names will adorn the 12 gates of the eternal city, the New Jerusalem.  True followers grow.

Are you growing in Christ?  Do people look at you and your witness and marvel that you have been with Jesus?  Do they know you are a follower of Christ?  Are you sold-out to living for the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of this world?  If so, that truth will be reflected in our Gospel witness, our finances, our giving, our goals, and our openness to being missional in our community and to the continents.  These apostles lived such a life dedicated to our Lord that, according to church tradition, all but one of them died the death of a martyr, died unwilling to turn their backs upon the Lord Jesus Christ, dying simply for being a Christian.

Many of us know of Peter’s martyrdom.  In his third book, early Christian historian Eusebius writes of Peter’s martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Nero, but he also writes of the martyrdom of Peter’s wife.  Together, Peter and his wife were a loving team who followed the Lord Jesus Christ.  Eusebius writes that when Peter’s wife was being led away to die, Peter comforted her by calling out to her lovingly, “Remember the Lord.”  Then, when it was Peter’s turn to die by crucifixion, Eusebius writes that Peter requested to be crucified head-downwards, as he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same way as his Lord Jesus was crucified.  This the man who earlier in his life had denied the Lord three times.

Be encouraged: God uses ordinary people.

Be warned: Nearness does not always mean salvation.

Be challenged: True followers grow.

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.”