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!
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.”