Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 11:45-54 – Learning And Living By The Word Of God

Grace For The Journey

We make our way through the Book of Luke paragraph by paragraph and verse by verse.  On Wednesday we studied Luke chapter 11 verses 37-44.  We learned that a certain Pharisee had invited Jesus to lunch during which time Jesus pronounced three “woes” or judgments upon the hypocritical ways of the Pharisees.  In these three “woes” in verses 42, 43, and 44 Jesus is holding up a mirror before the Pharisees that they might see their hypocrisy and that they might understand that it is what is inside a person that counts.After hearing these three “woes,” one of the lawyers in the group – and a lawyer was a teacher of the Pharisees; said, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” Jesus takes this opportunity to pronounce three more “woes” upon the religious leaders.   We see these three in the passage before us this morning: verse 46, “Woe to you lawyers,” then again in verse 47, “Woe to you,” and one more time in verse 52, “Woe to you lawyers.”  Their condemnation is very similar. 

These three “woes” or judgments in this passage are directed at religious teachers of the Word, teachers who, by the way they use of the Word, lead others away from God.  Their condemnation is reported with alarming precision: Our Lord says in verse 52, “Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves,” – and this is a reference to their entering into the Kingdom of God; salvation – “you did not enter in yourselves and those who were entering in you hindered.”  In essence Jesus says, “Because you have mishandled the message – the Word of God – the key of knowledge – not only will you face the judgment of eternal separation, but you will have led astray a number of others, too.”

It is a striking verse, isn’t it?  Preachers can kill you.  Bible teachers can kill you.  And their murder weapon is not a club or a gun or a sword, but their murder weapon is the way they mishandle the Word of God.  This passage calls for our serious consideration of how we teach, how we treat, how we hear, read, and obey the Word of God. As we go through this passage of Scripture and identify three actions about the Word of God. 

First . . .

1) We Must Teach The Word Accurately – Verses 45-46.

Remember that there are two groups of people in the greater context of this passage: the Pharisees and the teachers of the Pharisees.  The word “Pharisee” means “separated one” and these were the very religious people who separated themselves from the world in hopes to be closer to God.  In point of fact, however, many of them because of their religiosity and hypocrisy had separated themselves from God.  That was the Pharisee upon whom Jesus pronounced three “woes” in the preceding verses.   In today’s passage, Jesus now pronounces three “woes” upon the teachers of the Pharisees.  This is the meaning behind the word “lawyers” there in verse 45.  These were not lawyers in the contemporary sense that we think of a lawyer today, but rather a scribe of the Pharisee, an expert in the Old Testament Law; a teacher who may himself be a Pharisee, but was chiefly responsible for the interpretation of Old Testament Mosaic Law and the teaching of it.

Jesus condemns these lawyers.  He says to them in verse 46, “Woe to you!”  The word “woe” is understood in the sense of coming judgment.  It is a reference to the certain future judgment of God upon these teachers.  What is the reason for this woe?  Jesus explains in verse 46, “For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”  Like a Boy Scout going on a hiking trip; everybody puts their stuff in his backpack.  They just keep piling in more stuff, pressing it down into the pack on his shoulders, piling it in, pushing and pushing down upon his pack until the boy feels he is going to collapse underneath the weight.  That is how Jesus says these lawyers – these teachers of the law – were treating the common, everyday hearer of the Word.  He says, “You load men down with burdens hard to be and you don’t seem to mind at all that they are collapsing under the weight.”

Jesus is addressing the traditions that these teachers have added to the Word of God.   He is talking about the some 6,000 plus laws that the scribes had added to the Law of God, so numerous and so burdensome that it was impossible for anyone to keep them, but rather people were collapsing under the weight of them.  Now in fairness to the Pharisees and the scribes, they had added further laws to the Old Testament Law as a means to protect it and honor it, but they became blind to the fact that their additions to the Law had made following God a burden no one could bear.  Their initial motive was good, like the man who reads the bottle of medicine and it says to take 1 or 2.  Men, if it says to take 1 or 2 how many are we going to take?  3!  Because if one or two is good, then three must be even better.  But doing so often leads to harm.

The Jews had these oral traditions, these numerous spoken laws that they had added to the Old Testament Law.  The Mishnah, the sort of “Jewish Rule Book” of the Pharisees, is a record of the oral traditions of Rabbinic Judaism.  The Mishnah records, for example, the requirement of ritual hand washing before meals that got this whole discussing with Jesus going.  This was a ritual cleansing that had to be perfect in order to be effective: “The hands are susceptible to uncleanness, and they are rendered clean [by the pouring over them of water] up to the wrist.  Thus, if a man had poured the first water up to the wrist and the second water beyond the wrist, and the water flowed back to the hand, the hand becomes clean; but if he poured both the first water and the second beyond the wrist, and the water flowed back to the hand, the hand remains unclean.  If he poured the first water over the one hand alone (are you following this?!) and then bethought himself and poured the second water of the one hand, his one hand [alone] is clean.  If he had poured the water over the one hand and rubbed it on the other, it becomes unclean; but if he rubbed it on his head or on the wall [to dry it] it remains clean.”  (Yadaim 2.3)

Where do you read that in the Bible?  Nowhere.  It was an addition to the Law, just one of six thousand man-made laws that became like barnacles encrusting the Old Testament Law into a weight no one could shoulder.  we must take care to teach the Bible accurately, plainly, and straightforwardly.  We are of help to no one when we impose upon the Bible legalistic obligations or fanciful interpretations that take us away from the main point of the passage.

Modern preachers, teachers, and writers are no different that the scribes of the Pharisees when the Bible is made to be something that no one could understand were it not for this gifted speaker or this latest book.  There is no secret code in the Bible that must be unlocked. 

The Bible is God’s revelation. 

He has revealed His Word to us

That we might learn it and live it.

While biblical studies are extremely helpful and a grasp of the original languages is an added benefit, the beauty of the Word of God is such that the Holy Spirit enables the unlearned and the child to understand it when read in a plain, straightforward manner. 

Always remember when reading the Bible

That the plain things are the main things

And the main things are the plain things.

We must teach the Word accurately. 

Number two:

2) We Must Respond To The Word Favorably – Verses 47-51.

Look at the next “woe” directed at these scribes of the Pharisees in verses 47-48, “Woe to you!  For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.  In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.”  Jesus says that the forefathers of these scribes and Pharisees were guilty of killing many of the Old Testament prophets.  Rather than heeding their Word, they killed them.  Jesus says to these lawyers of His day, “You share in their guilt.  You build tombs and monuments to the prophets of old as if you cared to honor their memory, but in reality you are just as guilty as your forefathers for killing them.  Your fathers did not respond favorably to the message of God’s prophets and neither do you.”

Jesus continues to say in verses 49-51 says, “Therefore the wisdom of God also said,” or, “God in expressing His wisdom said,” ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.  Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.”

God is saying, “Just like your forefathers, I am sending you prophets and apostles and you will kill and persecute them.”  And they do: John the Baptist is persecuted and killed, the early church leaders and apostles are persecuted and killed.  Most importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is persecuted and killed.  Because of this, God says, “Their blood will be upon you.  Your hands are stained with their blood and you will give an account of this on Judgment Day.”  In fact, Jesus says that the blood of all the prophets will be upon these teachers of the Law.  He speaks of all prophets in general, from Abel to Zechariah, all the prophets of the Old Testament who were killed.   This is a general and chronological way of referring to the entire Old Testament.  Abel was the first prophet killed in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 4) and Zechariah the last prophet killed in the Hebrew Bible (2 Chronicles 24).  A related point here is our Lord’s referring to the Old Testament as that which happened from the first book of the Bible to the last book of the Bible.  We have here Jesus Christ’s acceptance of the entirety of the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God.  He embraces the entire sweep of Old Testament history as a matter of factual, historical record.  Our view of the authenticity of the Old Testament should be no less than the view of our Lord’s.

Jesus tells these hypocritical teachers that a judgment day is coming.  That there is a judgment should be encouraging to those of us who are followers of Christ.  We need not fear the judgment.  All our sin is paid for and atoned for in Christ.  Our sin is taken care of in Christ Jesus.  We do not fear the coming judgment.  We stand forgiven, clothed not in our own righteousness, but the righteousness of another, our Lord Jesus.  The fact that there is a judgment encourages Christians to know that God will deal with the wicked.  For a little while it may seem that they have gained the upper hand.  We struggle to understand why it seems the ungodly prosper when the people of God are persecuted.  We are beaten down, overlooked, pushed away, and passed over, but a day of reckoning will come.  One day all will be made clear, a day when, in the words of JC Ryle, “the tangled maze of God’s providence shall be unraveled” and “every tear that the wicked have caused the godly shall be reckoned for.”  There is a coming judgment.

We must respond to the Word favorably.  The teachers of the Law and their forefathers responded to God’s message by killing God’s messengers.  Here was their hypocrisy!   In building tombs and monuments . . .

They honored the memory of the prophets

But not the message of the prophets.

What of our responding to the Word?  Do we respond favorably or would Jesus Christ lump us together with other religious people worthy of condemnation?  Do we even delight in hearing the Word?  We have far more of God’s Word than the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day.  We have some 66 books of the Bible and preaching and teaching in the local church and Bible teaching on the radio.  Do we even read it?  How do we respond to it – favorably or unfavorably?  The Word does not always address us in comforting ways.  Sometimes the Word convicts us and condemns us.  It points out our hypocrisy and prideful self-sufficiency.  What will we do?  Kill the messenger either literally as did the forefathers of the scribes, or symbolically by slandering those who stand in modern pulpits today with the courage to proclaim, “Thus says the Lord God?”   We must teach the Word accurately.  We must respond to the Word favorably. 

Thirdly . . .

3) We Must Handle The Word Reverently – Verses 52-54.

Verse 52 says, “Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you have hindered.”  What tremendous power the power of our influence.  How are we handling the Word?   Here were these lawyers, these scribes and teachers of the Pharisees.  They had the key to knowledge, but they were throwing the key away.  They had power to help people come to know God, but they obscured the plain teachings of the Word with their added traditions and goofy interpretations.

And to what extent?  To the extent that it kept people from entering into the Kingdom of God.  The misuse of the Word of God kept people from salvation.  They were like blind people leading blind people.  They themselves were not entering into the kingdom and so they hindered others from entering also.  After Jesus says this, the scribes and Pharisees begin to assail Him and confrontation continues.

We must handle the Word reverently.  The Word has the power to save souls from hell and to grant them heaven.  Imagine mishandling the Word so that we actually keep people from entering into heaven!  This again is why I place such an emphasis upon careful exposition of the Word.  If you are seeking bells and whistles and sugars and sweets added to the Word, you will not find that here at our church.  I believe the plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things.  I want only to unleash the Word and let it speak power into our people’s lives.

I close with these comments of Kent Hughes regarding our handling the Word reverently.  Kent Hughes is pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois.  He says, “We have all had the experience of hearing a text read and waiting in anticipation for its exposition, only to have the preacher depart from it never to return.  Preaching is not exposition if it views the text through the lens of a personal agenda – say, a patriotic lens or a therapeutic lens or a social lens – so that one’s sermons, regardless of text, are characterized by, for example, political chauvinism or repeated emphasis on wellness or a narrowly defined social issue.  We must free the Word from our scribal accretions, be they every so evangelical, and let God’s Word say what it says.” 

I share with him this aspiration.  If there is one goal I would like to reach through long years of ministry; it is to build a congregation who know when they hear the Word preached and who know when they do not hear it preached – people who are discerning.  I would like to leave behind a legacy of people who read many books but who are people of one Book.  If that happens, the future will be very bright.

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 11:37-44 – Marks of Christian Sincerity

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are going to be looking at Luke chapter 11, verses 37-44.  The passage we are looking at this morning.  It is a familiar passage, but it is not one that most preachers want to pull randomly out of Scripture and teach because it is sometimes difficult to teach on hypocrisy.  This subject is difficult to preach on because it is hard to knowingly step on toes, especially when those toes are your own.

This morning we are going to see Jesus hold a mirror up before the Pharisees and before us.  We will listen in as He shows us what it looks like to be a sincere follower of the One True God.  We will examine what it looks like to have the marks of sincere Christianity.

What we basically see Jesus saying to the Pharisees here is, “It is what is on the inside that counts.”   We have all heard this saying before and by-in-large it is always true.   Take for example Susan Boyle.  I am sure most people in the western world knows who Susan Boyle is.  She is the singing phenomenon out of Great Britain.  Her amazing talent was discovered on the reality show, “Britain’s Got Talent.”   Because you see Susan Boyle does not look like a superstar.  She has been described as a frumpy, middle-aged, not exactly attractive, unemployed woman from the middle of nowhere.   As she is about to perform in front of two very cynical British men and an audience of people rolling their eyes expecting very little.  But when the music begins to play and the first words come out of her throat the judges and crowd are stunned into silence and after just a few moments one of the judges and the crowd break into a standing ovation.  The host of the show is standing back-stage and he looks into the camera and says, “you weren’t expecting that were you” and after she finishes her song the judges tell her she is the biggest surprise they have ever had on the show.  One judge is even apologetic for judging her too soon.  Susan Boyle clearly had something on the inside that counts.

It is the same way in our Christian lives.  It is the same way with our hearts.  We can look one way on the outside and be completely and totally different on the inside.  We can look like a good Christian on the outside, we can go through all of the motions that are expected of a Christian, we can put on a good show and sometimes these things truly reflect what is in our hearts.  But all too often what is on the outside does not at all match up with what is on the inside and according to what Jesus tells us in the Scripture today is that it is what is on the inside that counts.

Let’s walk through these verses and identify some marks of sincere Christianity.  We will look at these verses under the main heading of, “Questions to ask in determining what is in my heart.”  We will start by asking ourselves some questions to determine if we have in our hearts wrong motivations for Christian living . . .

The first question we need to ask ourselves is . . .

1. Do I Focus On Another?

Look at verses 37-38, “And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.”  Did you catch that?  Did you see what it was that the Pharisee was looking at?  He was looking at the actions of another.  He was watching someone else with the intent to judge that person, with the intent to compare that person with himself.

The Pharisees were committed to living by the letter of the law and took great pride in doing so.  They also seemed to take great pride in catching others who were not as fastidious about the law.  I do not mean to say that Jesus did not take the law seriously because He did.  Listen to what he says in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For verily, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  Jesus did keep the law and He kept it perfectly.  What He did not do was give credence to the extra laws the Pharisees had tacked on, the meaningless laws that were a burden upon the people, the laws that would allow them to exercise an air of superiority over the rest of the people.  That is what this is an example of.  The Pharisee is not sitting there being disgusted because Jesus’ hands are filthy and He is touching His food with them.  The washing that Jesus did not do was a useless ceremonial washing.  It was the pouring of just a little water over the hands to symbolize the washing away of anything unclean that might have inadvertently been touched.

It was kind of like getting rid of cooties in elementary school.  It is like if I were in the third grade and thought girls were gross and one of them touched me.  Then I would have her cooties, so I would in turn go and touch some other unsuspecting boy so that I would be clean but now he has cooties.    know this is a gross oversimplification, but in essence this is what was going on with this ceremonial washing and Jesus was not concerned with this silly game.  You see, this Pharisee was watching Jesus, like I suspect he had watched others in the past, to see if he could catch him doing something that he could point at and say gotcha about.  He was watching to see if Jesus would do something that would allow him to comparatively feel superior.

Have you ever found yourself doing this?  I have.  More than I would like to admit.  There is one instance when I was guilty of this in high school that still weighs on me today.  When I was a junior a new family moved to town that had a son my age.  They visited our church and I made it a point to befriend him.  I introduced him to my friends, made sure to try and keep him involved in church as his family was not one that had been in the habit of regular attendance.  I in short, I made him my project.  Everything was going well.  But one weekend his parents left him home alone and he decided to throw a party.  He obviously knew better than to invite me or any of my other friends to this party, surely knowing my heart better than I myself did and knowing the judgment that would come.

But the following Monday he came to me and told me about the party and shared with me everything that went on.  Looking back, I think he was probably looking for someone to would be understanding, someone that would be there for him, someone that would show him the love of Christ.  But instead, he found someone who judged him, someone who compared himself to him and felt he was too good to be associated with someone who had done the things he had confessed to doing.  He found someone like this Pharisee.

Folks, we cannot compare ourselves to anyone else.  No matter how much better we may think we are than someone else.  No matter how much more Christian we may think we look.  God does not care.  He does not and will not judge us based on our performance compared to that of our neighbor. 

The only standard we will be judged by

Is the perfect standard of Jesus Christ

And In that comparison every one of us will fail.

If we ask ourselves “do I focus on another” and we find the answer is yes, we must repent and begin to focus on ourselves and the health of our own relationship with Jesus Christ.

Secondly, if we are going to determine what is in our heart we must ask ourselves . . .

2. Do I Focus On Appearances?

Look at what Jesus has to say to this Pharisee about appearances in verses 39-40, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?’”  When this Pharisee looks at Jesus and begins to judge Him based on His outward actions or on the appearance of what he is doing.  Jesus gives him a rather rebuking lesson.  He tells the Pharisee that a person can look all clean and perfect on the outside but if what is on the inside is dirty then the person is really dirty through and through.  He tells him that it is what is on the inside that counts.  He uses the example of a cup.  It is like he is talking about a travel mug I have sitting in my office.  On the outside it looks all pretty and clean but on the inside it is something completely different.  I have not washed it in months.  It might have the appearance of something you would want to drink out of but in reality it is filthy.

It is the same way with us as Christians.  We may look good on the outside.  We might “do” all the right things, we might avoid the public sins, we might go to church every week, we might even serve in the church.  But if in our hearts we do not have a real love for God, if all we are doing is going through the motions because it is what we are expected to do, or because we do not want anyone to know what really consumes our thought life, or because we do not want anyone to suspect us of our secret sin, or because it would be too embarrassing if someone knew I am really not sure if I am a Christian then we are as Jesus says “full of greed and wickedness” he says we are hypocrites.

Hypocrisy is an especially difficult sin because it consumes us in trying to live the lie.   Novelist Somerset Maugham, who was not a Christian, had an especially helpful insight on the sin of hypocrisy.  He said, “Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-wracking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit.  It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.”  What he is saying it that it is a full-time job to try and fool everyone around us into thinking we are something that we are not.  And even then, we are foolish because even if we fool everyone around us, we can never fool God.  Jesus says we cannot fool the One who has made us both inside and out.  God always knows when we are dirty on the inside and remember, it is what is on the inside that counts.

I heard a quote the other day from a children’s book, A Wrinkle in Time.  One of the characters in the book says, “like and equal are not the same.”  I think this is a good warning for us as Christians.  Just because someone looks like a Christian, just because someone has the appearance of a Christian, it does not mean that person is equal to being a Christian because “like and equal are not the same.”  That means that if the answer is yes when we ask ourselves “do I focus on appearances” when it comes to Christianity we need to examine ourselves to be sure we are not being foolish enough to think that looking like a Christian is equal to being one.

The next question we need to ask to determine what is in our hearts is . . .

3. Do I focus On Actions?

Jesus knew this Pharisee; He knew what was in his heart better than the man himself knew.  After all Jesus is the God man, 100% man but also 100% God.  He knew this man’s motives just as He knows ours.  He knew that this man was focused on and even dependent upon his actions or his works.  Jesus just picks one of the works that he knows this Pharisee to be proud of, he picks the act of tithing.

While tithing is not the main point of this verse I feel that there is something that needs to be said about it here.  This verse is not an “ah ha” New Testament proof text for the act of tithing, and it is also not a text that one can point to and say that Jesus condemned tithing.  Jesus is not condemning the act of tithing as prescribed in the Old Testament, He is not abolishing it.  What He is doing is condemning those who do so with the wrong motivation.  He is condemning this Pharisee and any others who give in order that they might be seen and praised by others just as he does in Matthew 6.

The tithe does not get abolished in the New Testament as some might argue.  It actually gets built upon.  It seems to serve as a starting place in the New Testament.  It seems to be a place to start, it does not serve as an end.  In the New Testament we are clearly expected to go beyond the tithe.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:2 is says, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

We are to give according to what we have been given. And we are to do so sacrificially according to Acts 2:44-45, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” These folks were giving way above 10% of what they were making, they were giving as they had prospered.  And they were doing so cheerfully as is called for in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

Tithing 10% can actually put us in the same category as this Pharisee if we are not careful.  If we give our tithe grudgingly, or if we give it pridefully, or if our prosperity would allow us to give much more and we focus just on the 10% saying that we are obeying to the letter of the law we may be treating the tithe as a work rather than as an act of worship and thanksgiving.  And that is exactly what Jesus is saying to this Pharisee.

Jesus states in verse 42, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Jesus is saying tithing is a good thing to do, it is the right thing to do, but only with the right motivation.  Only if we are living a Christian life for the glory of God and not out of obligation or for the glory of ourselves.  If we are focused on our works because of what they do for us, or out of obligation, or in order to get by with doing the bare minimum and nothing more, then we are guilty of Christian laziness and what is in our heart is not a sincere desire to love and serve the Lord.

The fourth question we must ask to determine what is in our heart is . . .

4. Do I Focus On Attention?” 

Look at verse 43, Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  The question really is, “Am I a self-centered, selfish Christian?”   This question again goes to the motivation of why we do what we do.  Unfortunately, we as Christians have allowed ourselves to follow the ways of the world and culture we live in.  We have become selfish and prideful.  I know this is not true of every Christian but it is a serious problem.

Take for example a unity pledge that was brought forward to be signed at our own Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting a couple of weeks ago.  Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee President, in his concern over the fracturing of our convention (which by the way is the largest evangelical group of cooperating believers in the world) over “some theological, mostly methodological” differences drafted a unity pledge to be signed by the heads of all the SBC entities, State convention executives, and several ethnic fellowship presidents.  Listen to one of the core pledges included in the document: “We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust, behaving ourselves trustworthily before one another, and trusting one another as brothers and sisters indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.”  Why is such a pledge necessary?  Is it because we are so concerned about ourselves and getting our way that we have forgotten what our mission is?  It is not just our leaders, it stretches all the way to each of us individually when we want our way or our comforts at the expense of the Gospel.

These are four questions that help us determine if the wrong things are in our hearts.  Let’s look at two questions that will help us determine if the right things are in our hearts . . .

1. Do I Focus On Loving God? . . . 2. Do I Focus On Loving Others?”

Look again at verse 42, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Jesus says to the Pharisee, “you tithe, you have good works, but your motivation is all wrong.”  Jesus says that our works should not be done for the sake of doing good works or for the sake of being viewed in a favorable light by others.

He says our works should flow out of the love that is in our hearts for God and for others.  He tells the Pharisee that he should tithe, he should have good works but not if he is going to do so without adhering to the greatest two laws there are.  Love God and love others.  All of the questions we have looked at are really summed up in the question of what is my Christian motivation?

Do I do the things I do because I truly love the one true God of Heaven who has given me salvation, who has sacrificed greatly on my behalf, and who has given me immeasurable grace that I can never repay?  Do I do the things I do because I love others?  Do I care that there are people around me and around the world that are dying without knowing the love of Jesus Christ?  Do I care that these people will spend an eternity in hell?  Do I care that there are people around the world starving to death?  Do I care that others are hurting in so many ways while I am so blessed?

When we can say yes to all of these kinds of questions and put ourselves last then we can have the true marks of Christian sincerity.

What is the danger if we do not have these marks; What is the danger of focusing on the wrong things?  Of having the wrong motivation?  Look at what Jesus says in verse 44, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”  The danger is twofold.  We run the risk of misleading ourselves and the risk of misleading others.

We mislead others as the Pharisees did by leading them to think the wrong things are important.  We teach them a works based and even hypocritical brand of Christianity that is not biblical and we may even lead them down a path that keeps them from salvation.

We may mislead ourselves.  We may convince ourselves that since we are doing all of the right things, that because we are saying all of the right words, and because we are basically good people that we are doing what God has called us to do and being what God has called us to be.  Some may have even convinced themselves that they are forgiven, born-again believers when they are not.

Please, examine your heart this morning.  Look to see what your motivations are.  Be sure of your salvation and determine today to avoid the dangers and pitfalls of hypocrisy.

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 11:29-36 – Filled with the Light of Christ

Grace For The Journey

Have you ever said, “God, would You please just give me a sign?!”  As followers of Christ, we sometimes look for God to give us a sign, but we need to be reminded that God has given us His Word to find His will.  Roughly 75% of God’s will is already revealed to us in His Word.  As believers if we will do what He has already revealed in His Word we find that He will guide us in the other areas, too.

But what about unbelievers asking God for a sign?  What about when an unbeliever says something like, “God – if there is a God up there – if you will just do this or that, I will believe.”  What about that?  This is the context for what we are studying here today.   This verse is a foreshadow of our passage.  Look back at verse 16 which says, “Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.”  Jesus was casting out demons from people, demonstrating that the Kingdom of God had broken into this world, but it was not enough for some of these folks.  They were like, “Do something else.  Give us a sign from heaven,” and the implication is, “and then I’ll believe you are who you claim you are.”  Some people are that way today: “God, do this or do that and then I’ll believe and follow you.”

But did you know the Bible teaches that signs alone do not produce faith?  Supernatural signs from heaven do not make believers out of unbelievers.  The Bible tells us in Luke 16:19-31 the story of the rich man who died and went to hell.  Remember what he asked?  He asked whether someone might be able to visit his family from beyond the grave, in order to warn his unbelieving family about eternal judgment.  He said, “If they see someone come from the dead then they will believe.”  And what was he told? “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets” – that is, the Old Testament, the Word of God . . . if they do not listen to the Scriptures – “they will not be persuaded to believe, even if one comes from the dead to warn them.”  Signs alone do not produce faith nor guarantee faith.

Then you have that reaction of some of the Jews to Christ’s having risen Lazarus from the dead.  You read about it in John chapter 11: Christ raises Lazarus from the dead.  Then you turn to John chapter 12 and you read where some of these Jews went to Bethany for the express purpose of seeing the risen Lazarus they had heard about.  The Bible says that the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death – Why? – because “on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:9-11).  Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead resulted in some to think more deeply about following Him, but resulted in others hardening their hearts.  Signs alone do not produce faith and signs do not guarantee faith.

This is foundational for what we read in verses 29 and following as these verses teach us . . .

1. If You Want A Sign From God … Look To Jesus And Believe Him – Verses 29- 32.

Jesus says in verses 29 and 30, “And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, ‘This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Johan the prophet.  For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.”  Jesus is saying, “I refuse to be your entertainer, doing things to satisfy your whims.  You want a sign?  Do you remember Jonah?”  Most of us know the story well.  Jonah is called to preach to the Ninevites, the people of Nineveh, and he is to preach a message of repentance.  But Jonah disobeys and gets on a ship going in the opposite direction.  God sends a storm and Jonah knows it is his fault.  He instructs the captain and crew about what is happening and he is thrown overboard and the sea becomes calm.  God prepared a big fish – probably a whale – to swallow Jonah and Jonah is inside the belly of the whale for three days. Then the whale spits Jonah onto dry land and off he goes to preach to Nineveh.  Maybe you prefer the children’s rhyme:

Come listen to my tale
Of Jonah and the whale
Way down in the middle of the ocean.
How did he get there
Whatever did he wear
Way down in the middle of the ocean
Preaching he should be
At Nineveh, you see –
He disobeyed – O what a foolish notion.
But God forgave his sin
Salvation entered in
Way down in the middle of the ocean

Elsewhere Jesus speaks very pointedly about the sign of Jonah.  In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  There is your sign.  Jesus will die for the sins of the world and be buried three days and nights in the heart of the earth.

It is certainly worth noting that Jesus believed in the historical accuracy of the account of Jonah and the big fish.  He refers to the entire event as that which actually and literally happened.  To those who say there are some things in the Bible that are not to be taken as actually history, but merely as figures and metaphors, we must reply that we have no cause to do so when such things are recorded as having actually happened. Jesus never once questions the historicity of the account of Jonah.  Whatever His view of Scripture should be His followers’ view as well.

Jesus says in verse 32, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”  The people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s message and they heeded it.  They repented and turned to the One True God.  Jesus says these Ninevites will put you to shame at the judgment because they repented at his preaching, but you do not – even though “a greater than Jonah is here,” that is, Jesus is greater than Jonah.  Jesus is the ultimate prophet and Lord of the prophets. The Ninevites will put you to shame at the judgment – a reminder, incidentally, that there will be a judgment, a final judgment.  God will judge the works of all people.  Only those who are safely “in Christ Jesus,” clothed with the righteousness of Christ will be safe in the last judgment.  All others – all unbelievers – whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Jesus also says in verse 31, “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them,” – Why? – “for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.”  You can read later in 1 Kings 10:1-13 for the background to this statement of Jesus.  Some of you will remember the Queen of Sheba who traveled hundreds of miles just to visit King Solomon and to hear of his wisdom.  Jesus says just like the Ninevites, the queen of the South will be there at the judgment too, to laugh you to scorn, to shame you for not listening to Christ.  She traveled hundreds of miles to hear the wisdom of Solomon and “a greater than Solomon is here,” Jesus in whom, the Bible says in Colossians 2:3, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Jesus is Himself the embodiment of wisdom.

Do not miss the point of verses 29-33!  Jesus is the only sign you need.  Hear Him.  Hear His Word.  If you want a sign from God, look to Jesus and believe Him. 

Secondly . . .

2. If You Want A Life from God… Look to Jesus and Receive Him – Verses 33-36.

Elsewhere Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).  Jesus is the light of the world.  The light of Christ which shines for all to see makes any other sign pale by comparison.  Verse 33 says, “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.”  The word “lamp” here is a metaphor for Christ and His mission.  Jesus Christ is the lamp that shines for all to see, that gives light to all who will come so that they may see.  Jesus is saying that the light of Christ which shines for all to see makes any other sign pale by comparison.

But you have got to receive that light into your life.  Verses 34-36 describe two very different ways of responding to the light of Christ.  Either we allow the light of Christ into our lives or we do not.  Consequently, we are either filled with the light of Christ or we are filled with darkness.  Verse 34 tells us, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.”  If your eye is “good,” or “healthy,” which is to say, “if we have a spiritually healthy way of looking at things, if we are open to Jesus and His teaching,” what is the result?  Verse 34 tells us, “Your whole body also is full of light.”   Christ reigns within us.  But – note the last part of verse 34, “when your eye is bad,” which is to say, “if you have a spiritually unhealthy way of looking at things, if you are not open to Jesus and His teaching,” what is the result?  Last part of verse 34 tells us, “Your body also is full of darkness.”

Jesus concludes this teaching in verse 35, where He says, “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.”  Wow.  This means it is possible to think you have the light when you do not.  Jesus is addressing religious people here.  You can be religious and morally upright, striving to keep the 10 Commandments and so forth, but be filled with darkness. 

I grew up in the country.  One of the things I really enjoyed about that is being able to see the many stars at night.  Those of you familiar with living in the country know what this is like.  At night it seems you can see every star in the sky!  Now are those stars not there when you are living in the city?  Of course, they are there.  Those stars are always there, but it is the light of the city that keeps you from seeing them.  You have light, but the light of the city hides the true light of the stars.  You have light, but it hides the true light.  Take heed that the light which is in you not an artificial light that keeps hidden the true light of Christ.

Listen, Christian.  Too many of us have the wrong kind of light filling our bodies.  We let in the light of pleasure, the light of fame, the light of material stuff, the light of pride, the light of sport and recreation, the light of worldliness, the light of things that obscure and hide the true light of Christ.  Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.

Verse 36 says, “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”  Jesus says make sure your body is full of light.  Make sure you respond positively to the light of Christ and His mission.  Make sure you receive the light of Christ into your body.  And if you do, your “whole body will be full of light,” as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.  You will shine the light of Christ upon others just as a lamp gives light to others.

In my notes this week I wrote down this phrase: “When I am filled with the light of Christ, then…” 

What happens when we take heed that

The light which is in us is not darkness?  

What does it look like when our bodies

Are full of light, when we are

Taking in the things of God?

Four things happen when I am filled with the light of Christ . . .

1) I Think Differently.

I think differently because Jesus Christ and His mission fills my mind and my heart!  My body is filled with the light of Christ, so I think differently than I think when my mind and heart are filled with an artificial light or with darkness.  My thoughts are filled with the things of God, the things that please God.  I am going to be a learning and living by the Word of God.  Remember what Jesus said last time in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  We listen to the Word.

I am going to think differently because I have the light of Christ and His Word in my mind and heart.  The Bible says in Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.”  I think differently.

I think differently about what I’m pursuing in this life.  I am making sure each and every day that the light that is in me and not darkness.  Jesus Christ is Lord of everything in my life – Lord of my stuff, my ambitions, my goals, my money, my agenda, my everything.  I think differently. 

Number two . . .

2. Talk Differently.

Because we think differently we talk differently.  Because the light that is in us fills us, the light of Christ within us, we cannot help but talk differently.  The light spills out of our mouths.  The Bible says in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.”  Because the light of Christ fills me, I am filled with His Word, and it comes out.

We should be soaking up the Word of God, the Bible so that when the world squeezes us, we drip Bible.  We talk differently.  The Word of God informs us how to talk.  People who talk to us hear the Word.  Scripture just comes out because we are taking heed that the light that is in us is not darkness. 

When I am filled with the light of Christ, I think differently, I talk differently and, number three . . .

3) I Trust Differently.

Because the light of Christ is in me, I know that God is in control of my life, and I can trust Him.  If other things fill me – worries, concerns, anxieties – I am filled with darkness because I am not trusting God.  When the light of Christ is in me, I know that God is in control and He always does what is right.  The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  You can trust Him when you are filled with the light of Christ.

I think differently, I talk differently, I trust differently.  Finally, when I am filled with the light of Christ . . .

4) I Treat Others Differently.

Jesus teaches in verse 36 when our body is full of light we are like a bright lamp that shines light for others to see.  This is what Jesus says elsewhere in Matthew 5”16, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven.”  You and are to reflect Christ’s light.

You reflect the light of Christ by treating others differently than you would if your body were filled with darkness.  When you are filled with the light of Christ, you treat others differently. 

  • You love others. 
  • You forgive others. 
  • You pray for others. 
  • You give to others. 
  • You share the Gospel with others. 
  • You are missional to others. 
  • You live an others-focused life because you are filled with the light of Christ. 

And your light shines upon others pointing them to the True Light of Christ that you have received.

Even as the whole person is filled with the light of Christ to those who receive Him so does darkness fills the life of the person who rejects Him.  Have you received the Light of Christ into your body?  Can you say . . .

I saw the light, I saw the light.
No more darkness; no more night.
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!

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 11:14-28 – Power to Change Your Life

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke.  The best way to learn the Word of God is book by book, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, verse by verse.  When we preaching and study the Bible this way we are far less likely to take verses out of context and make them say things God did not intend them to say.  Studying and preaching verse by verse, allows God to determine the subject each week rather than the preacher determining the subject which means we are far more likely to be God-centered in our worship and life rather than we are to be man-centered.  This will produce authentic God-centered lives that lead to God getting all the praise and glory.

We pick up this morning at verse 14 and we learn today about Jesus’ casting a demon out of man who was unable to speak and the ensuing conversation that follows, a conversation between Jesus and some unbelievers.  I wonder whether you believe in Jesus and whether you believe in demons.  Why does God preserve this historical incident in Scripture?

In verse 20, Jesus says, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Today most people are familiar with the widely popular film series, The Chronicles of Narnia.  But not enough people know that the writer of the novels upon which those movies were based was a Christian who wrote a number of great books on the Christian faith.  C.S. Lews, the writer of the books known collectively as The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote one particular book about demons and demonology.   I have a copy in my library.  It is called The Screwtape Letters.  This book is a series of imaginary letters written from an older experienced demon named Screwtape.  He is writing to his young nephew, an inexperienced demon named Wormwood.   Screwtape is advising his young nephew on how best to tempt a particular man known only as “the Patient.”  When you read the book, you get a sense that this really seems to be the way demons operate today.  I think the book is much better than most of the popular books on the subject and I think you will enjoy reading it or re-reading as it has been awhile.

I mention it this because in the preface of Lewis’ book, he makes a statement that bears repeating in light of our text today.  I have asked you whether you believe in demons.  Some of us may not believe in demons and some of us may believe in demons far too much.  Let me quote Lewis from the preface.  He writes, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which we can fall about the study of demons.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  The demons themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”

If you have an excessive interest in demons that pleases them greatly.  They would love to take you away from studying the things of God that you may study the things of Satan.  If, on the other hand, you say, “Of course I don’t believe in demons, how silly! How absurd, inane, and childish!”  That position also pleases demons.  They would love for you to think demons are all a bunch of hocus-pocus or that these early Christians were somehow just naïve, unschooled, and ignorant people who frequently mistook mere physical maladies for supernatural manifestations of the evil one.  In either case, the demons are pleased, and they sneer.

Most of us take the Bible as God’s inerrant Word and we seek to interpret it in a plain, straightforward manner and so, because the Bible teaches about this subject, we believe in demons.  They really existed in the day of Jesus, and they really exist today.  Just as certain as there is a God who is holy, there is a Devil who is not.  Just as certain as there are angels of light who work for God so are there angels of darkness who work for Satan.

But what we absolutely must understand about demonology, the study of demons, is that Satan is operating as a defeated foe.  Jesus says in verse 20, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you,” and what He is saying is that the presence and power of God has come.  That is what “the finger of God” means there in verse 20.  It stands for “the power of God.”  This phrase describes God’s writing the 10 Commandments into stone in Exodus 31:18.  The tablets of stone were written with “the finger of God.”  God’s presence and power has come; the kingdom of God has broken into this world through the coming of Jesus Christ.   Remember that when we speak of the “kingdom of God” we are speaking about a kingdom that has come already in part, and will come later in full.  The kingdom is both “now” and “not yet.”  The kingdom has come already in part and at least one evidence of God’s kingdom having come in part is Jesus’ ability to cast out demons.  That is what Jesus says in verse 20.  Verse 20 is the most important verse in our passage.

Today we will study about this power of God that comes with the kingdom of God breaking into this fallen world, ushering in the Gospel and salvation through Christ Jesus and what this power means to you and me.  This is so important because this power of God is power to change your life. 

Our study will helps answer three questions about how God brings real change in our lives through Jesus Christ . . .

1) Do I Believe Jesus Christ is Lord?  Verses 14-23.

Or, to put it another way, “Do I Believe God has all authority over me?”  We read in verse 14 that Jesus was casting out this demon and the Bible says “it was mute,” that is, “it caused muteness.”  It caused this man to be unable to speak.  Jesus casts the demon out of the man and the man begins to speak to the amazement of the crowd.  But some, verse 15 says, were skeptical.  Matthew, in his Gospel, identifies these people as Pharisees.  These guys are skeptical, and they accuse Jesus of being in league with the devil.  Their charge is that Jesus is working in collusion with Satan.  They say that Jesus can cast out demons because Jesus is on the same team as the prince of demons.  That is the meaning behind this charge in verses 15, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.”  Beelzebub is another name for Satan.

Verse 16 is kind of funny because it says, “Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.”  Some in the crowd believed Jesus really cast out a demon but said He was working in concert with Satan, but others in the crowd were like, “Yeah, He cast a demon out, but that’s not enough for us to really believe in Him.”  But I love verse 17! Don’t let it get by you too quickly.  How does it begin?  “But He, knowing their thoughts.”  Do you know my thoughts?  Do I know yours?  No way, right?  Okay, but Jesus is God.  He knows the thoughts of man.  He can read our minds.  Jesus knows what they are thinking and He speaks to these skeptics.

Jesus listens to the thoughts of these skeptics who think He is working on the same team as Satan and He speaks to their thoughts.  What He says is pure, simple, and beautifully logical.  He says to them, “Look, a kingdom or a house that is divided against itself will fall.”  It is like a country divided against itself through civil war.  Division leads to destruction.  Jesus says, “If I were on the same team as Satan then Satan would be divided against himself.”  That does not make any sense.   Jesus adds another point to His defense.  He says in verse 19. “And If cast out demons by Beelzebub (by Satan), by whom do your sons cast them out?”  The word “sons” there is understood as “followers.”   Jesus says, “By whom do your followers cast out demons?”

Many of the Jews also practiced the casting out of demons.  There is nothing in the Bible that suggests they were ever successful, but non-Christian writers like the historian Josephus wrote in his work, Antiquities of the Jews, that there were these certain rituals Jews were to follow in attempting to cast out evil spirits.  Jesus says, “Hey, if I am working in league with Satan then I guess your followers are also working in league with Satan.”  But of course, Jesus is not working in league with Satan and so He makes this statement in verse 20 we have identified as the key verse to this passage.  He says in verse 20, “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

The kingdom of God has come!  We spoke of this in the last chapter, In Luke 10:18 Jesus comments on the missional work of the returning 70 disciples.  Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  As quickly as lighting appears in the sky so quickly was the sign that Satan was being defeated.  In one sense, Satan has held the world in his grip ever since Genesis 3 when the Fall of Man occurred.  Adam and Eve sinned, and everything began to spin off balance.  Sin entered the world.  But Jesus Christ has now come, and the kingdom of God begins for those who enter into it.  We enter into it by surrendering to Christ as Lord.  The kingdom of God breaks into this fallen world to rescue men and women who are held in bondage to sin and the devil.

Jesus goes on to illustrate the truth that the kingdom of God has come, that He Himself has entered into enemy-occupied territory and is now defeating Satan.  Jesus says in verse 21, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.”  The “strong man” guarding his palace is Satan.  Jesus goes on to say in verse 22, “But when a stronger than he comes” – a stronger one than Satan, then this One “overcomes” the other, taking from him “all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.”  In essence, Jesus says, “I am not working on the same team as Satan.  I am utterly obliterating Team Satan!  I am annihilating Team Satan.  I am overtaking Team Satan.”

It is interesting what Jesus says here – He has entered into enemy-occupied territory, a world under the rule of Satan and He overcomes the enemy.  He strikes a blow at Satan and takes away what was once in his hands.  Jesus is plundering Satan’s kingdom by taking people away from him and transferring them into His own kingdom.

And Jesus says you are either on one side of the battle or the other side of the battle.  You and I are either fighting against the enemy or you are fighting with the enemy.  This is the meaning of verse 23 where Jesus says, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”  You are either on Jesus’ team or Satan’s team.  You say, “Well, I’m on neither team, thank you very much.”  Jesus has not left you that option.  There’s no neutral position.  There is no in-between.  Either we believe Jesus has all power and we submit ourselves to His Lordship over our lives, or Jesus says we are “against Him” and rather than “gathering” with Him, we are “scattering,” we are working against Jesus.  We are still in enemy-occupied territory, under the control of the evil one.  There is no neutral, comfortably in-between position.   You are either under the rule of Satan or the rule of Jesus Christ.

The first crucial question is, “Do I believe Jesus Christ is Lord,” which is to say, “Do you believe Jesus Christ has all power over you?”  You have got to believe that to be saved from enemy-occupied territory.  You have got to believe in Christ to be saved from sin and Satan’s power.  If you and I transfer from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light then we avail ourselves to Christ’s power in our lives.  If Jesus has all power over Satan, He has all power over everything and that same power works in your life and mine, power to change your life. 

  • Power to save you from sin, shame, and guilt. 
  • Power to cleanse you from sin and clothe you in Christ’s righteousness. 
  • Power to make you stand safely before God on the day of judgment. 
  • Power to change your ways. 
  • Power to save your marriage. 
  • Power to give you meaning and purpose. 
  • Power to overcome depression and discontentment. 

The kingdom of God has broken into this sin-cursed world, but you have to cross over into this kingdom.  You have to leave the team of the enemy and enter the ranks of Team Jesus.  This comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  And you must come all the way.  There is no in-between.  When you become a Christian, you enter into the kingdom of God, a kingdom that has come in part, and one day will come in full.  When that day comes what a joy it will be!  We will enter into the final state of glory where there is no more sin, sorrow, or sickness. 

With that in mind comes Question Number Two . . .

 2) Have I Experienced True Conversion?  Verses 24-26.

Or put another way, “Have I gone further than merely ‘Cleaning up My Act.’”  Imagine thinking you had escaped enemy-occupied territory, but then discover you are still in it.  How scary that would be!  You think you are safe, but soon discover you are in real danger because you have not crossed over to the winning side.  This is what Jesus teaches in verses 24 to 26, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

Jesus teaches here what true conversion looks like

And He teaches that it is more than just our

“Cleaning up our act,” which is how many people

Wrongly think of how we get right with God.

True salvation is more than just trying to do what is right and removing what is bad.  If that is what we are doing then we are like a guy who has swept away all the bad from his life, but never fills Himself with Christ.  He is like a guy who just reforms his behavior and says, “I am going to start living right and I am going to start keeping the 10 Commandments and so forth so that God will accept me.”

Jesus says that is like a guy who “sweeps out” his life, and everything is placed in order.  He is a good neighbor.  He’s a fair businessman.  She gives money to the poor and is kind to the children.  He is morally upright.  Jesus teaches that the enemy loves a person like this.  Satan and his minions love to find people who have merely “cleaned up their act,” religious people, moral people, good people – lost people.  Verse 26 says that an unclean spirit “takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  What a scary thing to think that you were safely on the winning side of the battle when you were actually on the losing side.

Have you experienced true conversion?  Do you realize that being a Christian is more than just “cleaning up your act?”  In spiritual conversation with our friends, family, and strangers, let’s not be satisfied with those who say they know there is a God up there somewhere and so they are living their lives as good people hoping to go to heaven one day.  You can be a good person and die and go to hell. 

True conversion is not found in reforming

Our behavior and trying to live right. 

True conversion is actively and decisively

Leaving the side of the enemy and crossing

Over into the kingdom of God.

We enter into the kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ.  It does not happen automatically, and it does not come with our attempts to clean up our lives. 

Salvation comes when we humbly bow before God

And admit our sins and repent, turning from our sin,

Turning away from going our way

And surrender to Christ as Lord.

This helps us understand why some who seem to have professed faith in Christ later fall away.  They joined a church.  They were baptized.  But later they fall away and go back to their old ways.  What happened?  They were like a man who swept his house.  They cleaned up a little here and a little there.  They felt they had reformed their behavior and got a bit of religion, too.  Everything is clean and put in order.  But you see they never really entered into the kingdom of God.  An unclean spirit returns with a bunch of other unclean spirits so that, the last part of verse 26 says, “and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  It is worse because this man thought he was okay before God but he was not.  He was never truly saved to begin with and how difficult it is now to get him to see this.

Hear again these words: Have you experienced true conversion?  Has there been a time in your life where you humbly bowed before God, seeking nothing more than the salvation of your soul and rescue from the enemy?  If so, one of the evidences will be your love for God’s Word. 

Question 3 . . .

3) Do I Love To Hear And Keep The Word?  Verses 27-28.

Or to put another way, “Do I have an interest in and hunger for the Bible?”  Verses 27 and 28 say, “And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!  But He said, ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”

Here is a woman who is listening to Jesus share these words about God’s kingdom and power and true salvation and she is overcome with joy.  She marvels at what it would be like to be tied to Christ through familial means, to be related to Him physically, to be His mother.  She cries out, “Blessed is your mother!”  That of course is the meaning behind these words in verse 27, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You.”  What a blessing it would be to be Your very mother!  Jesus responds in verse 28 with, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”  The first time I read this I thought Jesus was sort of reprimanding this woman or reproving her.  But . . .

Jesus does not reprove her statement;

But rather He improves her statement.

A paraphrase might be, “You have spoken the truth about my mother, but her blessedness does not consist simply in her relationship with Me; her blessedness consists in the fact that she heard the Word of God and kept it, which is where true blessedness is found.” 

Think of this!  Jesus says that to hear the Word of God and then keep the Word of God is a greater blessing than to be tied to Jesus by family.  You see how important it is to hear the Word of God and keep it?  This is why we make so much of the Bible here at our church.  We want people to fall in love with the Lord and His Word.  Jesus says, “Blessed are you when you hear the Word of God and keep it.”  If you have been born again, you have a natural desire to hear the Word of God and obey it.  If you find the Bible boring, that should be a cause of great alarm and concern for your soul.  Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

This is the answer to the question, “How can I experience God’s power in my life!”  It comes from hearing the Word of God and living by it.  You cannot be blessed by just attending church services or doing things yourself.  This is true not only of experiencing God’s power but of enjoying God’s presence.  Do you really want to be close to Jesus?   Was Mary, the mother of Jesus, blessed to be close to Jesus?  Yes!  Do want to be closer to Jesus than His own mother?  It comes from hearing the Word of God and keeping it.

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 11:5-13 – How Should We Pray?

Grace For The Journey

We are studying through the Gospel of Luke, verse-by-verse, believing this is the best way to learn the Bible.  If we are saved, we are called to be students of the Word.  We study God’s Word and we read His Word like we would a love letter written to us, so we will not take a verse here and a verse there, but read we will read and study it verse-by-verse, line-by-line, cherishing the Word and reading it carefully, thoroughly, and studiously.

Chapter 11 begins with one of the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus began His teaching on prayer with what we should think about when we pray.  Unlike most of our prayers, Jesus tells us that we should focus on God, His character, and His loving provisions.  We pick up today with our Lord’s continued teaching on prayer in verses 5 and following.

 This passage continues the reply of Jesus to the request of the unnamed disciple back in verse 1, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Most of us struggle to keep an ongoing, vibrant prayer life.  Of course, there are many reasons to pray.  R.A. Torrey in his famous little book on prayer provides among the many reasons for praying, these considerations . . .

  • Because there is a devil, and prayer is a God-appointed way to resist Him (Ephesians 6:12-13, 18).
  • Because prayer is God’s way for us to obtain what we need from Him (Luke 11:3-13; James 4:2).
  • Because prayer is the means God has appointed for us to find “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
  • Because prayer with thanksgiving is God’s way for us to obtain freedom from anxiety and to receive “the peace of God” (Philippians 4:6-7).

William Cowper said, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.”

In today’s passage, our Lord specifically gives us three ways we are to pray. 

First . . .

 1. We Must Pray Boldly – Verses 5-8.

Jesus has just taught in the Disciples’ prayer that there are some things for which it is proper to ask God.  In the previous verses we saw . . .

  • In verse 2 we are to pray for God’s name to be honored and to advance throughout the world.
  • We are to pray for God’s kingdom to come, understanding the danger of holding onto things in this world as though this world were all there were. 
  • In verse 3 we are to ask for daily provision – all that we have comes from God – and we pray for forgiveness and for protection from temptation. 

Then Jesus goes on to teach about how we are to ask for these things and others, and He teaches first that we are to ask boldly.  Look again at this illustration Jesus gives in verses 5-6, “And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’”  This does not happen to us very often today – someone knocking at your door at midnight asking for three loaves of bread – but in Jesus’ day this was something that would not have been very unusual.  The hot, near eastern climate during the day was such that it was safer and more comfortable to travel long distances at night when it was much cooler, so arriving at a destination around midnight was not uncommon. The same is true today in much of Asia and Africa.

Jesus says this guy has been traveling on a long journey, he finally arrives, and he is famished.  Imagine, says Jesus, this guy is at your house, and you are looking for something to give the guy to eat, but the cupboard is bare – nothing, not even a piece of bread.  In Jewish culture to have nothing to give someone to eat is the epitome of inhospitality.  It was embarrassing beyond belief.  Jesus says this guy who has nothing in his kitchen to feed his famished friend decides to go over to his friend’s house where he knows the guy has got plenty of food.  I love the way he addresses his neighbor at this hour at the end of verse 5: “Friend, lend me three loaves.”  Friend!  Friend, help me out.  The man does not return the salutation.  He does not reply to his knocking neighbor with the same kind word, “Friend.”  In fact, he may have muttered another word or two as he began to awake from his slumber.  Verse 7 tells us, “And he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you.’”  He does not sound very happy, does he?  He has been awakened at midnight!  But again, understanding the ancient near eastern culture is helpful to us.  First, he says in verse 7 that “the door is now shut.” During the day, house doors were open.  People were invited to come and go into the neighbor’s houses.  It was not like it is today with gated communities and air-tight seals and locks on every door.  It was a very open culture.  The door was open during the day, but shut at night.  That alone signaled that one just did not come knocking at the door – plus it is midnight!

Note also the man says in verse 7, “My children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you.”  In other words, “If I get up, everybody gets up.”  This was especially true in the poorest of Jewish homes, which were essentially one room, with the entire family sprawled across the floor at nighttime.  To get up was to wake everyone up.  It is a bit like camping for many of us.  Imagine your whole family in one tent and you decide to get up and go out of the tent.  It is not always easy doing that without waking someone.

Verse 8 tells us, “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”

The guy does not get up merely on the basis of his friendship with his neighbor.  It is not merely because his knocking neighbor happens to be his friend that he immediately jumps up and empties the cupboards for him.  He does not think: “Oh well, this is my friend knocking at the door and what are friends for?”  No.  He does not go to the door merely on the basis of his friendship.  Jesus says, rather, that the man gets up because of his neighbor’s boldness.  The word in verse 8 is the word “persistence,” but it is an unusual word in the Greek, found only here in the entire New Testament.  It is better translated as sort of a “shameless boldness.”  This neighbor coming to him at midnight and knocking at the door has a particular kind of boldness that drives him to come and ask with great confidence and assurance that he will get what he needs.  The neighbor rises and gives him “as many as he needs.”

The point is this: just as this man boldly approached his neighbor, so should we boldly approach God in prayer.  Unlike the man in the parable, God does not need to be awakened because he never sleeps.  And unlike the man in the parable, God is always glad to hear from us, whatever the time, whatever the occasion, whatever the need.  We are to approach Him boldly.  On the one hand, it is understandable why we may, at times, think of God as a sort of “distant neighbor” whom we dare not disturb.  But remember the context.  Jesus says back in verse 2 that this is the God of the universe we address as, “Father.”  He is our Father.  He loves us.  He loves for us to come to us.  He loves for us to come at any hour for any need.

The Bible says in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Some of you are so worried about bothering the heavenly Father with your so-called petty needs.  Do you not realize He loves to hear from you?  He expects you will come to Him at any time of the day with any request for help.  He is not too busy to hear from you.  Consider the omnipotence of God.  He is all-powerful and has the ability to hear every single request going up to Him at once and with perfect clarity of understanding.  If we all prayed right now at the same time, He would not be too busy to listen and to hear each and every request.  What an awesome God He is!  Come to Him boldly. 

Secondly, when we pray . . .

2. We Must Pray Continually – Verses 9-10.

Jesus teaches, in light of the parable of the knocking neighbor, that we must develop the habit of prayer.  It must be a habit of life, something we do continually.  Look at verses 9-10 which say, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  The verbs here – ask, seek, and knock – are in the present tense and imperative mood which suggests a regular habit we must be about continually.  Verse 9 is better translated, “Ask, going on asking, seek, going on seeking, and knock, going on knocking.”  Do not stop . . . Continue this habit of prayer.

It is as the Bible teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”  Do not stop.  Continue praying.  Make prayer a habit of your life as predictable as getting dressed every day and eating every day.  I dress every day, I eat every day, I breathe every day, and I am to pray every day.  Pray continually.

It is not so much that we are to ask for something over and over again.  That is not the idea here in verses 9 and 10.  That is how the verses are sometimes used – wrongly, I think.  There are other places where that idea seems to be taught, like the parable of the persistent widow we will get to in chapter 18.  The verses here seem most likely to teach the development of the habit of ongoing communication with God.  We are to be seeking a vibrant, ongoing relationship with our heavenly Father.  When you pray, go on asking, go on seeking, and go on knocking and you will find.  You will find grow in your relationship with the heavenly Father, the One who gives to you and opens the door for you.  Pray without ceasing.

Do you have an ongoing prayer life?  Is your life characterized by the habit of asking, going on asking and seeking, going on seeking and knocking, going on knocking?   Jesus teaches that you are to have that kind of prayer life.  Begin every day by talking to God.  That was David’s way in Psalm 5:3, where he says, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.”  Let me encourage you to do the same.  Begin every day by talking to God and take time throughout the day to talk to Him.  There are times you will ask for help quickly between phone calls or interactions with others at the workplace.  There will be other times when you will get alone quietly before God.   Corrie Ten Boom said, “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.  A man is powerful on his knees.”  Then pray in the evenings, pray before bedtime.  Pray for your children and your grandchildren.  Develop a habit of prayer and, in this way, you will ask, going on asking, seek, going on seeking, and knock, going on knocking.  We must pray boldly, and we must pray continually. 

Thirdly . . .

3. We Must Pray Expectantly – Verses 11-13.

What do you expect when you talk to God?  How do you expect Him to answer your prayers, especially when you are asking Him for certain things?  Verses 11-12 tell us, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?”

This almost sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Imagine a son asking his father for bread and his dad gives him a stone, instead.  If we contemporize these sayings, it would be like a son asking his dad for a Sonic sandwich and his dad says, “Sure,” and slips in a bunch of rocks between the bread.  Or a son asks his dad to take him fishing and his dad takes him to the lake and pushes him into a bed of snakes.  Or a son asks his father for an Egg McMuffin and his dad gives him a scorpion with the McMuffin.  You get the idea.

How many fathers act that way?  We would be hard pressed to find one father in a thousand who would treat his own children this way.  So, Jesus makes the application in verse 13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater: ‘A’ is true, but ‘B’ is much more true.”  If you, being an earthly father, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to His children. 

Jesus actually says, “If you then, being evil.”  How do you like that?!  If you, “being evil.”  You say, “I resent that!”  No, you represent that.  You and I are, by nature, evil.  We are sinners.  Jesus’ original audience had no problem with this.  The disciples were well-acquainted with Genesis 3 which teaches why we are all sinners and why we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  This is precisely why God came to us in the perfection of His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from the penalty of our sin.  We are, by nature, evil.

Jesus actually says, “If you can expect your earthly father or mother to give you good gifts (evil sinners as they may be) “then how much more, then, can you expect your heavenly Father to give you good gifts – good and perfect as He is?”  You can expect your heavenly Father to give you good gifts.

Actually, Luke puts a theological emphasis upon this.  He says, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  Luke frequently stresses the Holy Spirit in his Gospel.  This, of course, is a reminder that our greatest needs are not material or physical, but our greatest needs are spiritual.  The greatest gift the Christian has is the Holy Spirit who resides within him.  He is the Holy Spirit who helps him pray and guides him or her along the way.

The Holy Spirit even helps us pray when we do not know how to pray.  This is the idea behind Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  The Holy Spirit helps us pray when all we can do is groan.  He groans within us in such a way that the heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers.

Do you see the application here?  You can expect good gifts from your heavenly Father.   He delights in hearing you pray, and He delights in answering your prayers.  He will always give good gifts.  But two warnings here: Jesus’ teaching on prayer does not make the Father into a sort of divine machine dispensing gifts down to earth automatically and unconditionally.  We can expect good things from our Father when we are obedient to Him and when we pray according to His will.

John is helpful here. In 1 John 3:22 he writes, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”  We must keep God’s commandments; we must obey His Word.  1 John 5:14 also says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  We must pray according to His will.

God is not an automated heavenly dispenser of unconditional gifts as though we could ask Him for a new house, a new car, a new job, a new mate, or ask Him for money, or success, or power, or even healing – as if we are asking with no regard for keeping His commands or seeking His will.  We often pray without regard to keeping His commands or seeking His will because we “are evil” (Luke 11:13).  We do not know how to pray as we should (Romans 8:26).  We must remember that God knows best.  He is working “all things together for good to those who love Him” (Romans 8:28) that He might “conform us to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).  God knows best.  Trust Him to give you the good gifts you need.  When you pray, pray boldly, continually, and expectantly.

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 11:1-4 – What We Should Think About When We Pray

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  I preach through books of the Bible in our worship services, typically going through a New Testament book in the morning and an Old Testament book in the evening.  I believe it is the best way to teach the whole counsel of God.  Preaching verse-by-verse allows God to determine each week’s sermon subject rather than man.  No preacher knows the hearts and minds of each listener.  Only God knows what we need and so we just read through it, verse-by-verse, and God hits us where each of us needs hitting.

When we were last in Luke’s Gospel, we concluded chapter 10 and so of course we pick up in chapter 11.  We read last time at the end of chapter 10 about Mary who “sat at the Lord’s feet,” listening to His Word, listening to His teaching.  We spoke of the importance of our sitting at the Lord’s feet, reading His Word, listening to Him speak as we read the Bible.  But we also sit at the Lord’s feet in prayer.  That is the subject of our passage this morning: prayer.

Few of us will find it difficult to identify with the request of this nameless disciple in verse 1: “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Of all the Christian disciplines, including reading the Bible, attending worship, giving, and serving the local church, having an active, vibrant prayer life is one of the most difficult things for the Christian to maintain. 

The disciples had seen Jesus pray on numerous occasions.  Luke, the writer of this Gospel, draws attention to the prayers of Jesus as a theme in his book.  Already we have read of our Lord Jesus praying in the Gospel of Luke. 

  • In Luke 3:21-22, Jesus prays at His baptism.
  • In Luke 5:12-16, He prays after he heals a man of leprosy. 
  • In Luke 6:12, He prays before choosing the 12 disciples, spending all night in prayer.
  • In Luke 9:18, He prays during His transfiguration. 
  • In Luke 10:17-19, He prays after hearing the report of the 70 disciples. 
  • In Luke 11:1, He prays before His teaching about prayer! 
  • In Luke 19:41-44, our Lord prays over Jerusalem.
  • In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus prayers for Peter,
  • In Luke 23:34, 46 Jesus prays at the cross.
  • In Luke 24:13-35 Jesus prays at Emmaus.
  • In Luke 24:50-53 Jesus prays at His Ascension.

Someone has said, “If you want to get to know someone intimately, eavesdrop on their prayers.”  The disciples had numerous opportunities to listen in on the prayers of Jesus.  No doubt they were eavesdropping here in verse 1.  The Bible says “as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’”  You get the sense that at least this one unnamed disciple is watching Jesus, patiently waiting for Him to finish, so that he can then ask Him to teach about prayer.  He says, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray and so here is a disciple of Jesus speaking for the rest of the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

This is the natural desire of a follower of Christ.

It is natural that we should want to pray to God.  It is hard to understand how one could be a Christian and have no desire to talk to the God who has saved him or her.  It is our heart’s desire to commune with the heavenly Father.  We feel a strong point of contact with this nameless disciple here.  We can relate.  

What follows in verses 2 and following is our Lord’s instruction on prayer.  Contextually, His teaching goes on through verse 13.  This morning’s passage, however, will stop at verse 4, covering what is traditionally called, “The Lord’s Prayer.”  But of course, it is not so much the Lord’s Prayer as it is the Disciples’ Prayer.  Our Lord did not need to ask for forgiveness of sin as He teaches His disciples to ask in verse 4.  It is the disciples’ prayer, our prayer, not to be used in vain repetition (Matthew 6:7) as though the saying of it over and over again were the means by which one expressed penance and was granted perfunctory forgiveness.  To be sure, the prayer stands on its own as a suitable prayer for corporate worship, but it is more than that. 

It is a prayer that guides us into

How to think when we speak to God.

Pondering this prayer in verses 2-4 helps us think of who God is and what He does. This goes a long way towards helping us pray.  Our Lord teaches us to pray by teaching us about God . . . specifically thinking about God in four broad categories.  Let’s look at . . . What to Think About When Praying:

1) The God Whom We Praise – Verses 1-2.

The prayer begins with “Father,” our Father in Heaven.  I wish it could just go without saying, but I feel it necessary to point out the obvious: God is Father; He is not Mother.  We never once read anyone in the entire Bible addressing God as Mother.  He is Father.  In our interest to change up the gender when referring to man or mankind as is sometimes appropriate, we must never change the way in which we refer to God.  He is Father.  We may speak of God metaphorically, as the Prophet Isaiah in one place, speaking of the God who comforts His people as a mother comforts her children (Isaiah 66:13), but He is Father.

I am not sure that Jesus’ referring to God as Father really grips us as it should.  The word “Father” is a word that denotes an intimate, personal relationship.  It used to be popular in commentaries and sermons to point out that the Aramaic word for Father – Abba – was used of children when speaking to their fathers and so some said Jesus was saying, “Daddy.”  But this is misleading and may lead to irreverence.  After all, not only did Hebrew children refer to their fathers by the name Abba, but so did adult Hebrew children refer to their fathers by the name Abba.  It is more important that we understand this term to be one of personal relationship.

The word “Father” is used in reference to God in the Old Testament only 14 times.  In the 39 books of the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father just 14 times, and then very impersonally, describing the Father of the corporate nation of Israel.  But our Lord Jesus refers to God as Father some 60 times, and only as Father.  That is quite a difference: 14 times in the Old Testament in an impersonal, corporate way, and 60 times in the New Testament in a much more personal, intimate way.  So striking is the difference that some scholars say this is what makes all the difference between the two Testaments, the nearness of God and our knowing Him intimately through Jesus Christ.

Of course, not all can call Him Father.  This is not a prayer for all people without exception.  It is a prayer for disciples, for Christians.   Not everyone is a child of God.  Only those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, only those who are born-again, can call God Father.   Paul is addressing Christians in Romans 8:15-17, “For … you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”

So not all can call God Father, only those who have been born-again can; only those who have been adopted into God’s family.  To be born-again is to be a Christian.  It is the term Jesus used when speaking to Nicodemus (John 3:7).  Jesus said, “You must be born-again.”  Being born-again does not describe one kind of Christian, it describes every true Christian.  You must be born-again.  If you are, you are a child of God and can address God as Father.

The next phrase is, “Hallowed be Your name.”  For Jewish people the name of a person stood for the character and attributes of that person.  This is a cry, then, for God’s name – His character, and His attributes and His perfections to be increasingly known, honored, and glorified.  It is as Jesus prays in John 12:28, “Father, glorify Your name.”   The idea is, “God, I want You to be known!  I want the world to see and know the awesomeness of Your ways!”  Do you pray with that in mind?

Then, Jesus says, “Your kingdom come.”  God has ordained a future kingdom; it will come, a time when God’s will is done on earth even as it is in heaven.  It is kingdom of perfection where Jesus Christ will rule and reign forever and ever.  The kingdom has already come in part with the first coming of Christ.  This is why Jesus can say later in verse 20 of this chapter, “Surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  The kingdom has come, in part, to those who are saved, those who are born-again.  But it will come, in full, when Christ returns.

This a very God-centered way to pray.  Does verse 2 reflect the way you usually pray?  Most of us want to grow beyond the rather immature prayers we often speak.  Here is a way to grow beyond it.  Begin your prayers thinking about the God whom we praise.  He is Father.  Reflect on what that means for you.  Here is the God of the universe who has made Himself known to you in Christ Jesus that you may refer to Him intimately.   Then, do you pray that God’s name may be known, may increase more and more, that the world may know His character and attributes?  Do you yearn for the consummation of His kingdom?  Do your prayers include verse 2?  If not, pray this week with verse 2 in mind.  Think about the God whom we praise. 

Secondly, when you pray, think about . . .

2) The God Who Provides – Verse 3.

Verse 3 says, “Give us day by day our daily bread.”  Here is a reminder that our heavenly Father delights to provide His children with all that is necessary to live.  This is more than bread itself, this everything we have.  All that we have comes from the Father. The Bible says in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” in other words, “You can depend upon Him.”

The Bible says in Acts 17:25 that God, “… gives to all life, breath, and all things.”  Think of it: All that we have comes from God, including the very air we breathe, so Daniel reminds Belshazzar in Daniel 5:23, “The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways.”  We depend upon God for everything.

In our prosperous country it is easy for us to forget that all that we have comes ultimately from God.  We get in our cars and drive to Price Chopper or Walmart and we grab a shopping cart, look at our list, and start piling stuff in.  Unless we are careful, however, we will somehow think with every item we place in our carts that somehow it is we who have gotten this stuff.  Man puts it on the shelf, man takes it off the shelf, man rings it up, man puts it in the car, man puts it in the pantry, man puts it on the dining room table, and man puts it in his mouth.  But God caused the sun to shine, the rain to fall, the seed to grow, and the grain to harvest so that you could eat that thing you got.   “Give us this day our daily bread” reminds us that all we have comes ultimately from God.

Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?”  Answer: Nothing.  The God who provides. 

Thirdly, when you pray, think about . . .

3) The God Who Pardons – Verse 4a.

Jesus says in verse 4, “And forgive us our sins.”  This is not a prayer for initial forgiveness of all sin, forgiveness that comes as a result of justification.  When we are born-again, at the moment of our repentance of sin and faith in Christ, at the moment of salvation, we are forgiven of all sin – past, present, and future – it is all forgiven.  That is justification.  We are declared “Not guilty” of all sin, forever.  We are born-again.  We are new creations in Christ.  What Jesus has in mind here is our regular prayer throughout the day for forgiveness.  This is our sanctification, our daily growth in Christ.  This is the essence of 1 John 1:9, written to Christians, where the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You see, while we are forgiven of all sin when we are adopted by God as His children, we still do things that hurt the joy and wonder of this fellowship with our heavenly Father.  While we are forever forgiven of the penalty of all sin, we still mess up from time to time and rightly find ourselves coming to our heavenly father and apologizing, asking for forgiveness for the way we have hurt Him.

True Christians also forgive those who have sinned against them.  The next part of verse 4 says, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”  The Christian is so motivated by God’s forgiving his own debts that He is quick to forgive those who are indebted to him, those who have sinned against him.  This is the idea behind Ephesians 4:32, where the Bible says, “Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted; forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you.”

In fact, if a professing Christian does not forgive those who have sinned against him or her, he or she can hardly claim to be a Christian.  We know this because of what Jesus says in the other place where this prayer is found, Matthew 6:8-15.  In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, “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.”  This is why the puritan Thomas Watson said that “a man can as soon go to hell for not forgiving as he can for not believing.”  Or as Charles Spurgeon  says, “Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.”  If you have been forgiven by the God who pardons your sin, then you will be quick to forgive the brother or sister who has sinned against you.

You cannot ignore the second person plural used throughout this prayer, can you?  It is a prayer for disciples, followers of Christ, to be used primarily in a corporate sense, in the community of faith, in the church: “Our Father, Give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”  The prayer naturally calls for brothers and sisters in the church to get along, to forgive one another – not to run away and gossip about the brother or sister you feel hurt you, but to lovingly go to that person and lovingly forgive.

When you pray, think about the God whom you praise, the God who provides, the God who pardons, and . . .

4) The God Who Protects – Verse 4b.

The last part of verse 4 says, “And lead us not into temptation.”  God is not the author or primary cause of evil.  God does, however, permit evil to occur in a mysterious way that concurs with the counsel of His perfect will.  We see this in the Lord’s testing of Job and the testing of Jesus in the wilderness.  Going through these times of trial and temptation makes us strong.  This prayer means something like, “Spare us, Lord, from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin.”  It is the humble plea of the true Christian, one who knows he or she is dependent upon God for everything and knows his or her own heart far too well.  I know I am a sinner, do you?  I know what it means to be in certain circumstances where I am tempted to sin.  I cry out to our Father, “Do not lead me into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one.”

As we draw this study to a close, let me ask you, is God really your Father?  Do you think of God in these terms?  Do you yearn for the advancement of His name and His kingdom?  Do you pray depending upon Him for everything, including the air you breathe?  Do you pray daily for forgiveness and for strength during time of trial and temptation?  Is He really your Father – not just a Father in an abstract sense – but 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 10:38-42 – Understanding The Most Important Thing In Life

Grace For The Journey

In our passage today we will be looking at Luke recounting for us an incident from the year 29 A. D.  Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem, and they stop for a visit in the suburban town of Bethany, just 2 miles southeast of Jerusalem.

Some time back I read about why animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions.  Have you ever noticed this?  Especially the traditional lion tamer, he has a whip and a pistol holstered at his side, but he also carries a stool when entering the lion cage and that stool is the most important tool to the lion tamer.  He holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the lion.  What happens is that the lion tries to focus on all four legs at once.  In the attempt to focus on all four legs, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the lion, and the lion becomes weak and disabled because its attention is divided and fragmented.

There is a real sense in which that happens to many people today.  There are so many things thrust at us.  Each day we face a number of choices, options, problems, and challenges.  We have places to go and people to see, especially in our western world where we have all the modern conveniences of speed and technology to hurry us on from one appointment to the other.  Our time is divided between these appointments.  We rush from here to there, rushing off to work, rushing off to play, rushing kids and grandkids from one thing to another, rushing to the grocery store, rushing to the post office, and rushing to church.  We may feel, at times, a bit like a lion staring at a four-legged stool that is spinning around in front of our faces, trying to focus in on one thing at a time, but being overwhelmed by what seems to be a thousand things vying for our attention.

This morning’s passage is a call to stop the madness and consider what is the most important thing to our existence.  This passage we will study today is a prescription to save us from this unhealthy malady.  Dr. Luke will help us administer something of a “self-examination” this morning.  I want to walk back through this small paragraph and encourage you to take this self-examination with me. 

First . . .

1) Examine Your Desire For Jesus – Verses 38-39.

In these verses we read here about two sisters, Mary and Martha.  The Bible tells us they lived together in Bethany along with their brother, Lazarus.  You will remember Lazarus as the one Jesus Christ raised from the dead.  Jesus went to the tomb where Lazarus had been dead for four days and cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” and Lazarus did come forth, miraculously raised from the dead.

Martha appears to be the older sister.  Her name in Aramaic means “mistress” and so she is likely is in charge of the house.  She does most of the housework.  She is always busy, always working.  Mary, on the other hand, seems to be the quieter, introspective, and contemplative type.  Usually when we read this passage, we tend to compare and contrast the two sisters, casting Mary in the better light.  We tend to look up to Mary and look down upon Martha.  But before we come down too hard upon Martha, I want you to notice something wonderful about her.

Did you catch it back in the latter part of verse 38?  What does the Bible say that Martha did?  The Bible says that Martha, “welcomed (or, received) Him into her house.”  Martha had a desire to be with Jesus.  Martha welcomed Him into her house.  This is a time long before cell phones, emails, and text messages.  Jesus did not pull out his iPhone and text, “omw; on-my-way.”  He just dropped in unexpectedly, just stopped by while He was in town.  No time to clean house.  Jesus is here.

I wonder whether Jesus would be welcome in your house this morning?  What if Jesus stopped by this afternoon?  What “cleaning up” would you wish you had done before He came?  What things in your home would you wish you had cleaned up?  What things in your life would you wish you had cleaned up?  Is He welcome in your house today?

Martha had a desire for Jesus.  But so did Mary.  Look where she is found in verse 39, “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”  Mary is found at the Master’s feet.  This is the position of a student before the teacher.  It was virtually unheard of for a woman to sit at the feet of a rabbi, but Mary knows that this particular Jewish rabbi is more than a Jewish rabbi.

Incidentally, it is a remarkable thing that every time we read about Mary in the Bible she seems to be found at the Master’s feet.  There is this passage here, where she sits at His feet listening to Him.  In John 11:32, before Lazarus is raised, she is found at His feet crying and calling out to Him.  Then in John 12:3 she is found again at the feet of Jesus, anointing Him and preparing Him for burial.  Every time we read of Mary we find her at the Lord’s feet.  She had a desire to be with Jesus, a desire be at His feet where she “heard His word.”  That word there at the end of verse 39, “Heard,” is in the imperfect tense which means it is an action that is incomplete.  The action never ends.  It is continuous action.  This phrase conveys the idea of continual listening.  A better translation here would be, “Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and continually listened to Jesus; she hung on His every word.”

Context helps us understand the depth of her desire for Jesus Christ.  Remember the context?  Back in verse 25 an expert in the law tested Jesus by asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus helps the young man consider the great commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  The man wanted to justify himself so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” and you will remember that the Lord responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

If the Good Samaritan is an example

Of loving one’s neighbor as oneself,

Then Mary is an example of loving

The Lord our God with all our

Heart, soul, mind, and strength.

She had a desire for Jesus.

Do you have a desire to be with Jesus?  Do you regard Jesus as your most important need?  He is not something to be “tacked on” to our already packed schedule.  It is not that we “work Him in” to our routine, carefully scheduling time with Jesus around our already scheduled lives.  He IS our life.  It is not, “Well, I have got this going on this week and I have got to rush the kids here and there and I have got this social engagement and that business deal, I believe I can work in Jesus right around here.”  Work Him in? 

We sit at the Lord’s feet every time we gather together.  We come together in big group – corporate worship – and small group – Bible Study – every week because we have a desire to be with Jesus.  We sit at His feet publicly, gathering together in corporate worship, hearing the Word of God preached.  We gather together weekly in a big group and we gather together weekly in a small group, too.  Every Christian who has a desire to be with Jesus desires to be in a big group and a small group where he or she can study, share, and learn among a smaller group of friends.  If worship and Bible Study school reflect our sitting at the Lord’s feet publicly, then our personal daily devotion reflects our sitting at the Lord’s feet privately.  We must take time privately to get alone somewhere and read God’s Word every day.  We must be with Jesus as Mary was with Jesus, listening as she listened, hanging on His every Word.  Read the Bible every day.

Why?  What is the motivation for our being with Jesus?  Why does a true Christian have a real desire to be with Jesus?  Why does the true Christian worship every Sunday – not just Christmas and Easter – but every Sunday, weekly, in big group and small group?  Why does the true Christian not fill his schedule with umpteen activities that crowd out his life and keep him and his family from weekly worship and Bible Study attendance?  Why does the true Christian open the Bible and read a chapter or more a day every day?  Why?  Out of legalistic compulsion, a sense of slavish duty, driven by guilt?  No.  Because the pastor said we’re to do this?  No.  Why?

The true Christian looks to the cross for his motivation.  He never forgets what happened there at Calvary’s cross.  We must humble ourselves and remember that none of us gets into heaven by our deeds of kindness or by giving our money to the poor.  We are all sinners, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and by the deeds of the law shall no one be justified (Romans 3:20).  God says that all of our good deeds are to Him like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).  We humble ourselves, remembering that God came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ that we could be saved.  He came as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  God came to us, we who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) to save us from the penalty of our sin.  Through the power of the Gospel God opens up our blind eyes so that we may believe in Christ and be saved.  We did nothing to deserve it and still do nothing to deserve it.  If we are saved, we are saved by grace, through faith, in Christ alone.  God delivers us from hell.  God grants us eternal life in heaven.  It does not come automatically.  It comes only when we repent from our sin and accept Christ Jesus alone as Savior.  When we believe in Christ, God makes Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  This is our motivation for sitting at Jesus’ feet every week.

The reason some of us are not motivated to sit at Jesus’ feet weekly through public worship and daily through private worship is, quite frankly, because we believe we had something to do with our salvation.  We were worthy of it.  We earned it.  God needed us.  Only when we realize our goodness is tainted with sin, only when we believe the Bible’s teaching that none of us was worthy, none of us could please Him, only when God opens up our blind eyes will we ever be motivated rightly to sit at the Lord’s feet publicly every week and privately every day.

Examine your desire for Jesus.  Are you truly saved?  Are you, in the words of Jesus in John 3, “born again?”  If so, you will want to sit at the Lord’s feet, loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  You will sit at the Lord’s feet at every opportunity, hanging on His every Word.  Examine your desire for Jesus. 

Secondly . . .

2) Examine Your Distraction From Jesus – Verses 40-41.

Verse 40 tells us, “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’”  Do you see what happened to Martha?  She had a desire to be with Jesus, but she soon became “dragged about” with much serving.  So while she had a desire for Jesus, she had now become distracted from Jesus.

We can see her working there in the kitchen, Mary probably helping her at first.  Martha throws the roast in the oven and sends Mary out to set the table.  But Mary does not make it back in.  Martha glances out into the living room and sees Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus.  She goes back to her work.  She is working hard, scurrying about, wiping her hands on her apron, sweat on her brow, and her hair beginning to frizz.  The microwave is beeping, the tea pot is whistling, the oven timer is buzzing.  All she can think about is her sister Mary in the other room, no longer helping, but just sitting there with Jesus.

Martha soon begins acting the way spouses act when they argue.  She begins to place things down on the kitchen counter with a little more force now, placing things down so they make a noise that can be heard in the other room.  She shuts the cabinets now with a little more force.  Finally, Martha can take it no longer.  She bursts out into the living room and cries out, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell here to help me!”

Ever feel that way?  You try to do all you can.  You work as hard as you can.  You live as best you can.  You do, do, do, do, and it just seems like life meanly trudges on.  Finally, you cry out like Martha, “Lord, don’t You care?!”  Look at Jesus’ reply in verse 41, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”  Hear the tender compassion in His voice: “Martha, Martha.”  One translation reads, “My dear Martha” (NLT).  He cares for her.  But there is also a mild rebuke there: “you are worried and troubled about many things.”  The Greek word for “worried” conveys the idea of being divided.  It’s the same word found in Matthew 6 where Jesus says to not worry about your food, clothing, your life.  That is, do not allow yourself to “be divided” by all those concerns.  Rather, seek first the kingdom of God.  Seek just one thing, and all these others will be added unto you.  Know your greatest need.  Sit at the feet of Jesus.  Do not be distracted.

I want you to examine your distraction from Jesus this morning.  What distracts you from the Lord?  Good things can distract us from Jesus, things that in and of themselves are not bad.  Martha illustrates the danger of living a performance-driven life.  Martha illustrates the danger of seeking approval and acceptance before God based on our works.  We will never be more acceptable to God than we are in Christ Jesus.  We do not earn God’s approval and acceptance by our works before becoming a Christian or after becoming a Christian.  We are accepted by God not on the basis of our personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Beware of living a performance-driven life. 

The Christian life is not so much about

Achievement for Christ, but surrender to Christ.

Examine your desire for Jesus.  Examine your distraction from Jesus. 

Finally, the Bible teaches . . .

3) Examine Your Devotion To Jesus – Verse 42.

Hear the words of Jesus in verse 42, as He mildly rebukes those of us who are the “Marthas” of today, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  Jesus says, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part.”  The picture is this:  Martha is preparing a meal.  And there are all sorts of dishes; all different types and portions of wonderful things from which to choose.  Jesus says Mary has chosen the best “plate” there is.  There are many things she could have chosen, but she chose the best thing there in that dining room.  She chose to sit at the feet of Jesus.  The things that seemed so important to Martha will one day be gone.  Those things that clamored for her attention, all those things will one day expire.  But the choice Mary made – and everything inextricably bound up with that choice – Jesus says, will not be taken away from her.  She made the right choice.  She is devoted to Jesus.

Examine your devotion to Jesus.  Are you truly devoted to Him?  Is that reflected in the way you live your life?  If you’re really devoted to someone, you find a way to be with him.

Alvin Straight was 73-year-old man who lived in Laurens, Iowa.  He had an older brother, Henry, who was 80-years-old and lived to the east, 240 miles east in Blue River, Wisconsin.  Alvin’s brother suffered a stroke one summer and Alvin desperately wanted to go see him, but he had a transportation problem.  He did not have a driver’s license because his eyesight was poor and he apparently had an aversion to taking a plane, train, or bus.  But Alvin did not let that stop him.  He loved his brother, was devoted to his brother, and was determined to be with his brother.  Alvin Straight did something so unusual that they made a movie about him, a movie called “The Straight Story.”  Alvin Straight went down to the local hardware store and picked up a few items for his six-week journey and then went back to his house and put his items into a trailer and then slowly boarded his 1966 John Deere riding lawn mower and, at a top speed of 5 miles per hour, drove 240 miles from Laurens, Iowa to Blue River, Wisconsin.

When you are devoted to someone, you find a way to be with them.

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 10:25-27 – What Does Compassion Look Like?

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Book of Luke.  It is my practice to preach and study through Books of the Bible.  I believe this is the best way to get at what the Bible calls, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  Therefore, as we study the Gospel of Luke we are study verse-by-verse through this great Book of the Bible.

I do not want to overwork an illustration, but last time we were in Luke’s Gospel I shared with you about my accidentally putting a new pair of contacts directly on top of an old pair of contacts resulting in my inability to see.  I had everything in place, but I was blind.  When we were last in Luke’s Gospel, we heard Jesus say back in verse 21, “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.”  We  talked about how it is that some “see” and understand spiritual truth and some to do not see.  It is hidden from them, and the irony is that very frequently those who do not “see” are the very ones you would expect to see.  They are the so-called “wise and prudent.”  They have everything in place, but they are blind.

If we needed a real-life example of a man who was spiritually blind, a man who had “everything in place,” but still could not see, then we have such a man in the passage we will look at this morning.  He approaches Jesus to ask Him a very important question.  I want to walk with you through this passage we and the more familiar passage that follows, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and let’s listen and learn from this dialogue between this “wise man” and Jesus. 

First, we need to . . .

 1. Consider The Question Of Eternity: Verses 25-29.

Verse 25 tells us that a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  It is a question of eternity.  What must I do to enter to the kingdom of God?  Again, context is helpful here.  In the previous verse Jesus had just told His disciples that many prophets and kings had desired to see what they had seen, but did not see it.  Here is a man who joins the many prophets and kings in the quest for spiritual truth as he asks, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

It is a good question.  Maybe some of you find yourselves standing next to this man and, with him, looking to Jesus awaiting His response.  It is a good question, this question of eternity.  A problem, however, is that this man is asking it, verse 25 tells us, in order to “test Him.”  It is the same word used earlier by Luke where Jesus says one should never “put the Lord thy God to the test” (Luke 4:12).  The certain lawyer of verse 25 “tested Him.”  This suggests the man does not have the purest of motives.  He is testing Jesus.  Will Jesus pass the test?

This “certain lawyer” is literally translated as “an expert” of the Jewish Law.  He is the sort of man who made a life of studying the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.  He would have had memorized large portions of Genesis through Deuteronomy.  He knew the finest details of Jewish law and could quote passages at will.  He is the kind of man who, as one person says, would have been something of “a bore at parties,” because often when one specializes in a particular field of study, he cannot help but share the great depth of his knowledge with all who come within a few steps of him.

He asks Jesus the question and Jesus responds as He often does with sneaky people like this; He answers the question with a question of His own.  Verse 26 tells us, “He said to him, ‘What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?’”  He may as well have said, “You are the expert, are not you?  Tell Me!”

By the way, it is worth noting that Jesus answers this important life question with an answer that points His questioner to the Scriptures, “What is written in the law?”  This prompts one commentator, J. C. Ryle to remind us, “It matters nothing who says a thing in religion, whether an ancient father, or a modern Bishop, or a learned (preacher).  Is it in the Bible?  Can it be proved by the Bible?  If not, it is not to be believed.  It matters nothing how beautiful and clear sermons or religious books may appear.  Are they in the smallest degree contrary to Scripture?  If they are, they are rubbish and poison, and guides of no value.”

The man answers.  The expert in the law replies to Jesus in verse 27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”  His reply should sound relatively familiar to those of who a familiar with the Scriptures.  It is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:4, the passage recited twice a day by the faithful Jew in his morning and evening prayers.  The man says, “I enter into heaven by loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself.”  That is his answer. 

Some of us may not be prepared for Jesus’ answer.  Some of us who were trained to share the Gospel using a particular outline or method are surprised by what Jesus says next.  After all, we believe this man just gave something of a “works” answer.  We probably were prepared to hear Jesus say, “No.  Wrong answer.  You cannot be saved by what you do.”  But what do we read?  Jesus says in verse 28, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”  It is true, isn’t it?  Is not the way to eternal life attained by loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves?  Is not the very essence of faith bound up in a whole-hearted loving trust in God as King of our lives?  This is what faith is.  It is an expression of trust in the One who is the love of our lives.

The problem is, of course, that none of us actually loves the Lord perfectly.  The grammar here, present tense, imperative mood, suggests a translation like, “Keep doing this forever and you shall live.”  The opposite is: “Don’t keep doing this and you shall die.”  Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”  Is there a person reading this who has the audacity to say he or she always, consistently, and perfectly loves the Lord with every fiber of his or her being, totally devoted at every moment to the One True God.   The expert in the law, however, is blind to this.  He is blind to it because He did not come to Jesus trusting Him but testing Him.   In fact, he apparently assumes his doing just fine in these two matters, loving the Lord and loving his neighbor as himself, but he wants to be sure, especially on this matter of loving his neighbor.  He might have thought, “Every Jew knows who the One True God is, but not everyone may know who their neighbor is,” and so, verse 29 tells us, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

The very question illustrates that the man is clearly missing something here.  His question implies that, to him, some people qualified as neighbors, and some did not.  The prevailing opinion among the scribes and Pharisees was that there were certain ones to whom they were expected to show mercy and others to whom they were not expected to show mercy.  Compassion was required in some cases and optional in other cases.  It is as if the expert in the law asked Jesus, “Look, Jesus, I do not want to be wasting my time showing compassion to people who are not my neighbor.  Clearly compassion is optional in some cases, so what are – or who are – those cases?  Who is my neighbor?”

Remember . . .

The man did not

Come trusting Jesus,

But testing Jesus.

Therefore . . .

The man does not require instruction

As much as he requires humility.

The same may be said for many of us.  It is not that we need more information to trust God.  We need to humble ourselves with the information we already possess.  As the hymn-writer puts it, “What more can He say than to you He hath said?” 

We do not need instruction as

Much as we need humility. 

We must see ourselves in our sin

And bow before the One true, holy,

And infinitely wise God.

But the man wants to justify himself and so he asks, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answers in verse 30 and following.  He answers by painting a picture of what compassion and mercy looks like.  He illustrates what it looks like to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  Having considered the question of eternity we now consider the illustration of mercy.

 2. Consider The Illustration Of Mercy – Verses 30-37.

Verse 30 says , “Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’”   The road to Jericho is still visible today.  It is an 18 mile stretch downhill some 3,000 feet from Jericho to Jerusalem.  The terrain is rocky and in Jesus’ day thieves were notorious for hiding along the Jericho road, known then as the “red and bloody way,” as these thieves frequently burglarized unsuspecting travelers.  This man walks along the Jericho road and falls among thieves.  They strip him of his clothing, they beat him, and they leave him half dead. 

Jesus continues the story in verses 31 and 32, “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.”  These two, the priest and the Levite, pass by the man without stopping to help him. The question that is immediately raised is, “Why didn’t they at least stop.”  Maybe because they were involved in spiritual duties in the Jewish synagogue, they feared becoming spiritually and ceremonially unclean.  We do not know.  The point is that they did not stop to show mercy and compassion.  We would have expected such mercy to come from these two, they are after all the “spiritual people,” not unlike the expert in the law who was asking Jesus about eternity, but they both pass by. 

Where does the man’s help come from?  Verse 33 tells us, “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.”  Maybe there was a gasp in the crowd at this point in Jesus’ story.  A Samaritan!  Who would have expected help to come from a Samaritan?  Some of you will remember John’s editorial comment in John 4:9, where he writes, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”  Most Jews considered the Samaritans as “half-breeds,” and unworthy of any attention at all.  In John 8:48 some Jews use the term contemptuously in expression their hatred of Jesus.  They say, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?!”  Who would have expected this man to be helped by a Samaritan?

Verses 34 and 35 tells us, “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’”  The kind Samaritan, the “Good Samaritan,” rubs soothing oil upon the man’s beaten body and pours wine as an antiseptic into the man’s wounds and he cares for him.  He interrupts his own schedule and takes the beaten man to a nearby inn where he cares for him through the evening, perhaps making sure he lives through the night.  The next day the Good Samaritan takes two denarii – the equivalent of two days wages – and gives the money to the innkeeper in case the man has any other needs.  And if this money is not enough the Good Samaritan will repay all at a future date.

Then, in verses 36 and 37, Jesus takes the position of the questioner.  He asks the expert in the law, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?  And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”  Strictly speaking, Jesus never answers the man’s question.   Have you ever noticed that?  The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus does not answer that question.  He answers a different question.  He answers the question, “How can I be a loving neighbor?”  In essence Jesus says, “You did not ask me this, but you should have.  You really should have asked, ‘How can I be a neighbor?’  That is the kind of question My true followers ask Me.”  The man wanted to know when compassion is optional and Jesus, in essence, says “Never.”

Let us remember that Jesus is not teaching a sort of salvation by works: Do your best to love God and love your neighbor and you will get into heaven.  None of us can love God and neighbor perfectly.  Remember that this man needed to be humbled.  He came not to Jesus trusting Him, but testing Him.  He did not need instruction, he needed humility.

The moral demands of the Old Testament are not set aside by the New Testament.  The moral demands of the Old Testament are fulfilled perfectly in Jesus Christ who said in Matthew 5:17, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”  As our substitute, Christ fulfills the law perfectly for us.  He takes our sin upon Himself so that our sin is paid for, and He fulfills the righteous demands of the law for us so that we may receive His righteousness.  Then, we who are Christians are saved from the penalty of sin and we live new lives in Christ, new lives that endeavor to live out the moral commands of the law – not because the law saves us, but because the law is good for us.  We live it out as an evidence that we are truly born again.

Acts of kindness flow from the Gospel; but

Acts of kindness are not themselves the Gospel. 

Acts of kindness are not the way to life but,

For the Christian, they are the way of life.

Put another way: showing mercy to one’s neighbor is evidence of having received mercy.  With that in mind, let me share with you about five ways we can show mercy this week . . .

1) Allowing For Divine Interruptions.

 This Samaritan no doubt had his own schedule as he was making his way down the Jericho Road.  If he were us today, he would have carried a day-timer or a smart phone with his calendar in it and he periodically pulled it out of his pocket the way so many of us do, checking to see whether we have received another email, text, or tweet.  But he was open to interruptions.  We need to allow for Divine interruptions.  Allow God to change your schedule one day this week and marvel at how God brings people into your lives that you may bless them.

The priest and the Levite missed their opportunity.  Whereas the priest and the Levite passed by the wounded man, verse 33 says that this certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, “came where he was.”  The problem with many of us is that “we are not where the man is.”   We are not where the man is because we are caught up in our own little worlds, and our own “Christian causes,” complete with petitions we pass out and signs we stick in our yards and stickers we put on our cars, but “we are not where the man is.”  We do not open our eyes to the needs all around us.

2) Taking Time To Really Listen To Others.

Husbands listening to wives, children listening to parents, co-workers listening to one another—really listening.  Listen like Jesus.  Take time to do that this week.  Really listen to others.

3) Meeting Needs Of Others (Physical, Economic, Social).

Does someone need money or help?  Are we too quick to explain away our need to give to that person or is our first inclination to go and help?  Do we really love all persons regardless of race, color, culture, social status, and education?

4) Sharing The Gospel.

What greater way to show compassion and mercy than by caring for the soul of a person? 

5) Being Missional (Pray/Give/Go to the 4Cs)

Every Christian is a missionary.  We show mercy by being missional, taking the Gospel to the 4Cs of our Community, the Commonwealth, the Country, and the Continents.   Every one of us is called by Jesus to pray, give, or go.

May God help us beware of thinking we can love Him whom we have not seen when we do not love our brother whom we see at every opportunity.  Thank God for showing the greatest mercy and compassion one could show by coming to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, coming to us “where we were,” like a beaten man on the side of the road, naked, wretched, and poor.  Thank Him for coming to us as the compassionate Good Shepherd who took care of us and paid the debt we owed, dying for our sins upon the cross that we might be healed, saved, and forgiven.

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 10:21-24 – What The Spirit Helps Us Hear And See

We continue our study of the Gospel of Luke.  Several years ago, I got some new contacts.  I had a new prescription and picked up the box at the eye doctor’s office.  I then went out to my car and decided to go ahead and put these new contacts in my eyes.  I carefully removed each one from the box and squirted the saline solution on them and carefully placed them in my eyes.  I blinked a couple times and looked out the windshield into the parking lot and thought, “Well, this isn’t good.”  One of the eyes was a little clearer than the other, but both were blurry.  I remember thinking, “Man, I must have gotten the wrong prescription.  I have everything ‘in place’ here, but I could see better before I put these things into my eyes!”  It wasn’t until I began to remove each of contacts that I realized what I had done: I had placed this new pair of contacts – directly on top of the old contacts that were still in my eyes.  It made sense then!  I understood why I could not see like I was supposed to see.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see.”  My experience was a metaphor of what can happen to us spiritually.  We can have everything “in place” but still not see as God wants us to see.  And if we see at all, if we understand the things of God, it will be because God has graciously opened our eyes.  Through the power of the Gospel, He has revealed to us that the “old way” of seeing and understanding is replaced with a “new way” of seeing and understanding.   This is a blessing to receive.   Not everyone has received this grace of spiritual sight.  Not everyone who sees really sees.  Well, let’s use our spiritual eyes and take a closer look at this passage and see what it teaches us today.

Verse 21 says, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.’”  It is impossible for us to rightly understand what Jesus is talking about in this without backing up and reading what Jesus said immediately preceding.  Jesus had sent out 70 or so disciples to go and proclaim that the Kingdom has come.  It is a new day.  Christ Jesus is here to save the lost and to bring sight to the blind, more than just physical sight, but spiritual sight, too.

The disciples had gone out and shared that message, and when they came back to Jesus, they were all fired up about the fact that even the demons were subject to them.  Jesus makes this statement in verse 18, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”   Every time a disciple cast out a demon, it evidenced the defeat of Satan that was occurring as quickly and as suddenly as lightning flashes.  The statement, “I saw Satan fall like lighting from heaven,” is a summary statement of the comprehensive, all-inclusive, and wide-ranging defeat of the evil one.

This battle goes back as far as Genesis 3:15, where we read what is often called, “The First Gospel.”  After Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, God says to serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed (or, her offspring); He shall bruise your head (Eve’s offspring shall bruise your head) and you (serpent) shall bruise His heel.”

From that point in Genesis 3:15 forward we read in the Bible of this ongoing warfare between man and Satan.  As Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing his head.  This warfare culminates on the cross.  Satan strikes the heel of the ultimate offspring of the woman, Jesus Christ.  Jesus dies on the cross.  But when He rises on the third day, He crushes the head of the serpent.  God defeats Satan yet again.

When Jesus says in verse 21, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent,” the “these things” He is talking about is this sweeping nature of the comprehensive defeat of the Evil One that happens through the power of the Gospel, namely the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Verse 21 says this causes Jesus to “rejoice in the Spirit.”  Interestingly, it is the only statement on record we have of Jesus rejoicing.  Surely, He rejoiced at other times, but this is the only time it is recorded.  We read of Jesus weeping three times, but rejoicing only once.

You also have the Trinity referred to in verse 21.  You will never find a place in the Bible where it says, “And here is the doctrine of the Trinity,” but you see the Trinity at several points as you read through the Bible.  I always like to point this out in our preaching through it.  In verse 21, Jesus is talking.  Jesus is, of course, the Son of God.  So, you have God the Son.  The Son rejoiced “in the Spirit,” so you have God the Spirit.  And, the Son is talking to the Father.  You have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit; one God in three Persons.

Jesus says in verse 21, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things (namely the presence of God’s Kingdom and Satan’s fall) from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.”  God hides and God reveals.  Who can understand why God reveals spiritual truth to some and hides it from others?  Jesus acknowledges in the last part of verse 21, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”  Whatever reason God has for revealing spiritual truth to some and hiding it from others, He has good reason.

And yet, what God does is always consistent with is man’s freedom and responsibility. What Jesus says in verse 21 is a statement of fact.  The contrast between the “wise” and the “babes” is not a contrast between educated and uneducated.  It is a contrast between those who live for this world and those who live for God.  The “wisdom of this world” often makes men proud, doesn’t it?  Becoming proud and boastful, these men become resistant to spiritual truth.

This truth is brought out in a documentary on creation and evolution. Ben Stein is interviewing the renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.  This interview illustrates how the wisdom of this world can harden the heart of an otherwise gifted scientist.  It is striking to hear Richard Dawkins admit that it was possible some kind of intelligent being created the universe, but he would not allow for the possibility that this intelligent being was the God of the Bible.  This truth is hidden from him.  God reveals truth to “babes,” those whose hearts are humbled and softened to receive the truth of the Gospel.

Verse 22 says, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  This verse 22 shows the unique relationship between the Father and the Son.  Jesus says, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father.”  If all things have been given to the Son, then clearly the Son is on equal terms with the Father.  The authority of the Father is given to the Son because the Son is as much God as the Father is God.  So we see here the deity of Christ.

And then we read, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  If anything, this verse teaches that the only way to know God is through the Son.  No one can know God apart from the Son.  When someone says, “I know God” but this does not live for Christ, we have to help them understand that no, in fact, they do not know God.  No one can know God apart from the Son.  This is why the Father says at the transfiguration of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35).

And this was the essence of Peter’s statement in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no other name, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved but the name of Jesus Christ.”  Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to Father except through the Son.”  The only way we can be know God and be saved from sin and have God’s forgiveness is through the Gospel, through Jesus Christ.  Only Christ has this unique relationship with the Father.

Verses 23 and 24 tell us, “Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.’”  What a blessing it is to see!  What a blessing to have spiritual sight and spiritual hearing!  Jesus says, “Many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it,” but you have.  Jesus may have asked, “Do you realize how privileged you are?!”

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:10, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”  Do you realize how blessed you are to see and hear?  Do you realize how blessed you are to share in God’s kingdom?  Not everyone sees, you know.  Not everyone in you’re your congregation sees.  Many walk around as though they had two pair of contacts in their eyes, neither pair helping them to see.

If we see at all it is only because

God has opened our eyes. 

If we hear at all it is only because

God has opened our ears. 

We have spiritual knowledge and

Understanding not because we

Are good or because we are educated

Or because we are church members. 

If we see, we see because

God has opened our eyes.

In our remaining time, let me give you these three important truths about how we see and hear when God opens our eyes and ears . . .

1) God Reveals To Us His Triumph Over Evil.

Not everyone understands that God has already conquered evil.  This is the truth that caused Jesus to rejoice back in verse 21.  Satan was continually falling as quickly as sudden flashes of lighting.  In Christ Jesus is the comprehensive defeat and triumph over the Evil one.  Every time Satan bruises the heel of the seed of the woman, God crushes his head.  Satan is a defeated foe.  God triumphs over evil.  This is a spiritual truth that not everyone sees.

We pick up the newspaper and we read that over 300 have died now in horrible twisters and we wonder where is the triumph of evil in that?  It would seem that Satan is doing a pretty good job of striking the heel of the seed of the woman.  And surely, none of us can know fully the mind of our perfect God and His sovereign ways.  Tornadoes, drought, fires, and tragedies are reminders of just how small we are in this world – and just how absolutely dependent we are upon the One True God for everything we have.  God has made a way for us to be saved, eternally saved, even from the ravages of storms and house fires, and utter destruction.  Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”   While Satan is striking the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing his head.

God reveals to us His triumph over evil and this truth causes us to live in joy.  We know that God is there, and He always does what is right.  Whether we are suffering in what seems to be a dead-end job, or a seemingly hopeless medical challenge, or a strained marriage – God is there, crushing the head of the Evil One.

David Wilkerson certainly understood this truth.  He had eyes to see and ears to hear. Some of you will have known David Wilkerson, pastor of the 5,000 member Time Square Church in one of New York City’s red-light districts and author of the famous book, The Cross and the Switchblade.  Wilkerson died tragically when his automobile was struck by a semi-truck.  In his last blog post the day he died, he wrote these words: “To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: weeping will last through some dark, awful nights and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, ‘I am with you.  I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan.  It was no accident.’”  When God opens our eyes to see, we understand that He has triumphed over all evil.  

Secondly, when God opens our eyes to see and our ears to hear, we understand that . . .

2) God Draws Us To Himself Through Christ.

Jesus says in verse 22, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal.”

We cannot know God until Jesus Christ reveals God to us.  The Son “wills to reveal” this saving knowledge of God to certain ones.  Who can understand this fully?  It is only by God’s grace that Jesus Christ reveals saving knowledge of the Father to us.  Verse 22 is similar to John 6:44, where Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  The Father draws souls to Himself through Christ, who chooses to reveal the Father to certain ones.  God draws us to Himself through Christ.

If anything, these verses remind us that no man just “decides” to become a Christian as though he made that decision on the basis of having weighed the evidence or thinking that becoming a Christian would be good for his reputation or for his family’s sake.  Many church members are lost because they believe they themselves have done the work of salvation.  This helps us understand the problem of why some professing Christians act like Christians and some do not.  Some are saved and some are not.  No one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him or her to Christ.  We must ask ourselves whether we are truly saved.

  • Joining a church saves no one. 
  • Being baptized saves no one. 
  • Living the 10 commandments saves no one. 
  • Being good saves no one. 

We are saved only when God draws us to Himself by way of the Holy Spirit through the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Gospel.  Has there been a point in your life where you can trace the Hand of God working in such a way as to convict you of your sin, humbling you to the dust, and you cried out in repentance, “God be merciful to me, a sinner?”  If not, you are lost and on the road to hell.  You need to be saved.

If you have, then this is the basis of your joy.  Jesus says in verse 20, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  There is no greater gift than the certainty that when we die we will spend eternity in heaven because God has drawn us to Himself through Christ and our names are written down in heaven.  They are written there not because we were church members, deacons, pastors, and Sunday school teachers.  There are many lost church members, deacons, pastors, and Sunday school teachers.  Our names are written down only when we have humbly come to Christ, our hearts having been softened, His truth having been revealed to us, and we receive that truth as a babe with child-like trust.  When God opens our eyes and ears we understand that God triumphs over evil and He draws us to Himself through Christ. 

Thirdly, we understand that . . .

3) God Uses Us To Declare His Greatness.

Remember that the context of this paragraph is couched in the mission of the 70 disciples.  They were going around declaring the truth that God’s kingdom had come in Christ.  This is the truth that the disciples had seen and heard, and Jesus had said to them, “He who hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16) and God uses us to declare His greatness and those who hear us, hear Him.

  • God uses us to declare His greatness through worship, through singing the wonderful truths of God. 
  • God uses us to declare His greatness through witness at home among our family and at work among our co-workers. 
  • God uses us to declare His greatness through sharing Jesus Christ to a neighbor, to a fellow student at school, through missional work from our neighborhood to the nations. 
  • God uses us to declare His greatness through our giving, our tithing, and our serving.

What is the motivation for our declaring His greatness through all of these means?  The motivation is joy.  Rejoice that your names are written in heaven, the disciples’ joy.  We share in the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ who “Rejoiced in the Spirit.”

When we come to terms with what it means to see and what it means to hear, we live every day in joy.  We live joyfully because we understand that there is meaning behind everything that happens and that God is in control and He always does what is right.  We rejoice that our eyes and ears have been opened to see and hear this truth.  When join the hymn writer in saying, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

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 10:17-20 – The Source of True Joy

Grace For The Journey

Jesus had sent 70 people to go out on a mission.  They were to go out into the surrounding towns and proclaim the kingdom of God.  They were to tell people that the time had come when God would rule and reign and right all wrongs.  So, the 70 went out and proclaimed this message of the kingdom.  Now they return and we read how their mission journey went.

Some of you have seen the movie that was out a couple of years ago called, “Amazing Grace.”  It is based on the true story of William Wilberforce, the 18th century young man who changed Great Britain by arguing in Parliament against the slave trade.  The movie tells of his life, including his meetings with John Newton, author of the great hymn, Amazing Grace.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie occurs sometime after Wilberforce’s conversion to Christ, when he gets saved.   There is this scene where Wilberforce is out by himself in the back yard of his house, lying upon the grass, just laughing and talking to God.  And his house butler comes out for something and finds Wilberforce in this state of joy.  At first Wilberforce is a little embarrassed, but then shares with his butler about his enjoying the presence of God.

Some of us can share a similar testimony.  We came to know God in a personal way and nothing else in all the world mattered to us.  We have been saved and we will trade our salvation for nothing.  The joy of knowing God!  Yet, today when one looks at the typical professing Christian in the typical American community he sees anything but joy.  There go the Christians, off they go to their churches on Sunday, drudgery to many of them, bickering with one another, and yelling at their kids, off to Bible Study and off to church.  During the week, they look very much like the people who are not Christians.  They seem to have the same interests and aspirations as lost people.  They seem – in the main – a very joyless group of people.

Now there may be a number of reasons for these things, but I would like to suggest that . . .

Where true conversion has taken place,

That is, in the cases of those who are truly saved,

These Christians who seem to have lost their joy

Have done so because they have located

The source of their joy in the wrong places.

Does this describe any of you?  When you think of God and your salvation in Him through Christ does your heart flutter?  Do you frequently smile through the day when you pause to think of your salvation?  Or do you think at all about out now?  Have you lost the joy of God’s salvation?  Let’s journey back through these verses a little more closely and see if we can find the source of true joy.

When the 70 return from their mission trip they are excited.  In verse 17 they say, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”  As the 70 had gone out into the various towns on the way to Jerusalem they find great success in their mission.  They even succeeded in casting out demons in the name of Jesus Christ and they are pretty fired up about that.  I suppose I would be, too, wouldn’t you?  I mean that is something, isn’t it?  And Jesus shares in their joy.  He makes this statement in verse 18, that is a bit puzzling at first, “And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’”  Because of the grammar, it is probably better translated as, “I was seeing Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  That is, every time the disciples succeeded in casting a demon out of someone, it was evidence of the defeat of Satan, a defeat occurring as swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash.  Whatever else this phrase means, it is, at its core, a summary statement of the comprehensive defeat of Satan.  The kingdom of God has come, and the kingdom of Satan is being defeated.  Jesus says later in chapter 11, verse 20, “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  This phrase in verse 18, is a summary statement of the comprehensive defeat of Satan.  It is very important that we understand this because it goes all the way back to Genesis 3.

Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the “first Gospel,” (proto-euengelion).  It just means “first Gospel.”  The context is Adam & Eve’s sin shortly after creation, their giving in to the temptation of Satan who speaks to them through the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  After they sin, God speaks a word of judgment to the serpent.  He says, “I will but enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  Here is a battle where the serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring (the entire human race) and the Seed of the woman (singular here, the one Seed), will Himself crush the head of the serpent.

This is why Sinclair Ferguson has rightly said everything in the Bible is a footnote to Genesis 3:15.  Everything we read in the Bible is somehow rooted in this ongoing battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.  We read time and again of Satan’s bruising the seed of the woman and God’s crushing the head of the serpent, whether it is the story of Cain and Abel or the Israelites and the Babylonians or Daniel and the lion’s den, or the Christians and the non-Christians.  The antagonism between good and evil is ongoing because as Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing his head.

We must not think of this as dualism, the philosophy that says good and evil are equal and they battle it out every day and sometimes good wins and sometimes evil wins.  It is not dualism.  The two are not equal in power.  God is greater.  Whenever Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman God Himself is crushing the head of Satan.  Satan is a defeated foe.

This is why, in the Book of Job, we read that Satan must come and ask permission to tempt Job.  Why?  Because God is greater.  As Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing Satan’s head.  Nowhere is this truth evidenced more profoundly than upon the cross.  It would appear that Satan has won.  He has struck a fatal blow against the heel of the seed of the woman.  Jesus Christ is killed.  Satan has struck the heel of the seed of the woman, but on the third day, the Bible proclaims in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  God Himself crushes the head of the serpent.  God will always win.  God is greater.  Therefore, we understand the phrase in verse 18, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” as a summary statement of the comprehensive, all-inclusive, and wide-ranging defeat of the evil one.

This truth is further illustrated in Jesus’ giving authority to the disciples over the destructive efforts of Satan.  Jesus says in verse 19, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”  It is His authority to give because He has authority over Satan and He has authority over Satan because He is God.  He Himself is crushing the head of the serpent.  So, Christ can give the disciples authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy so that nothing shall by any means hurt them.  Please understand “serpents and scorpions” as symbols of evil.  We are not to take this verse out of context and bring snakes to our worship services and handle them and pass them around.  This verse is Jesus’ way of saying . . .

He has authority over

The destructive efforts of Satan

And He will protect

His disciples

From Satan’s powers.

If, and I stress if, the disciples should find themselves in a situation where they encounter a literal snake or serpent then God will protect them just as He protected Paul when that viper came out of the fire on the island of Malta and fastened itself to his hand. Paul just shook it off into the fire (Acts 28:3-4).  That is the idea.  Paul did not bring the snake with him in box to be used in a worship service.  If anybody does that, all I can say is they deserve to be bit. 

What is happening in these verses

Is a footnote to Genesis 3:15.  

As a result of Christ’s coming,

Satan is defeated. 

God Himself is crushing his head.

Now that is reason to rejoice, isn’t it?  But Jesus says in verse 20, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  However wonderful it would be to cast demons out of people, Jesus says there is something far greater.  Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written down in heaven.  Rejoice because you are saved.  In Philippians 4:3, the Bible refers to those “whose names are in the Book of Life.”  In Revelation 3:5, Jesus speaks of those whose names “will not be blotted out of the Book of Life.”  In Revelation 20:15, at the Great White Throne Judgment the ones who were cast into the lake of fire were those whose names “were not written in the Book of Life.”  When we are saved, God writes our names into a book called the Book of Life.  Our names are written in heaven.  It is a marvelous thing to think about.  When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He writes down our names in the Book of Life in heaven.

So, we return to this question, “Where do we find our joy?”  We may locate it in a number of places . . .

1. Not In Our Possessions.

Remember that these 70 disciples were sent on a journey without a lot of stuff.  They were not to carry with them extra money, extra sandals, and so forth.  They were to be content with whatever they received and wherever they stayed.  And we noted how this serves to illustrate that the Christian life is not about the amassing of great fortunes and possessions.

God never intended that we should joy first in stuff.  God never intended that we should love and joy in our house and all the stuff inside more than we should love and joy in Him.  God never intended for us to joy in our automobiles, toys, and clothes more than we joy in Him.  God never intended that our hearts beat more quickly for the latest technological gadgetry or game system more than our heart beats with joy at the thought of Him and our relationship with Him.  We are not to locate the source of our joy in our possessions. 

Number two . . .

2. Not In Our Power.

The 70 were excited that they had power over the demons.  Jesus says, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you.”  It is not that your power over the enemy is not a big deal.  It is a big deal, but not the biggest deal.  It is not as big as your salvation.

Remember that these 70 disciples are unknown and rather unexceptional people called to a life of obscurity.   They were not to be enamored with power.  They are, as Jesus will say later, “little babes” among the “wise and prudent” (Verse 21).

Do not rejoice in your power or prestige.  You may have some degree of power or authority at work or among your peers.  Do not rejoice in that.  Do not let your powerful position be the driving force to motivate you.  Do not allow your heart to be captured by desires to be powerful and influential as though nothing else mattered.  Your work is not the most important thing in the world.

The source of our joy is not to be found in our possessions or our power. 

Thirdly . . .

3. Not In Our Performance.

I find this one particularly interesting because these 70 disciples are doing a good thing.  They are going around and preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick and casting out demons, yet Jesus does not want them to joy primarily in this mission work. Mission work is a great joy.  Evangelism is a great joy.  Church work is a great joy.  The use of our spiritual gifts for God’s glory is a great joy.  But none of these things are to be the primary joy of our lives.

The source of our joy is not to be found in our possessions, in our power, or in our performance.  Rather the source of our joy is to be found . . .

4. In Our Position (Our Salvation).

Jesus says in verse 20, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” 

This joy is the driving force

Behind every other joy.

This joy is greater than the joy of possessions, power, and performance.  This joy has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God.

What causes your heart to beat more quickly?  A paycheck?  A sudden rise in your investments?  Winning the big game?  A certain boy or girl?  A job or career? Popularity?  Success?  Rejoice because your name is written in heaven.

There is nothing more important than making sure our names are written in heaven.   Nothing.  Your job may seem most important.  Your career, your family, or your stuff.  But nothing is more important than making sure God has saved your soul from hell.  When this has truly happened, you never tire of joying in it.  Let me ask you a question, “When was the last time you laughed in joy at the thought of your salvation?”

I forget where I heard this – a man riding a cart to a town where he is going to receive all kinds of riches and treasure from his inheritance.  He has been riding for hundreds of miles and he is just a few feet from the gate where he is going to get all this wonderful stuff and then the wheels come off the cart.  Rather than leaving the cart and sprinting joyfully the rest of the way through the city gate, he picks up the broken wheel and wanders off muttering about how his cart broke down.  This is a fitting illustration of what it is like to completely forget about what the Bible tells us in Ephesians 1;3 about how our, “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

Because we have located the source of our joy in our stuff when we lose our stuff we lose our joy.  Because we have located the source of our joy in our power then, when we lose our power we lose our joy.  We are like a guy who has forgotten his inheritance, muttering about a broken wheel that came off a cart, forgetting about the surpassing riches of Jesus Christ and eternal salvation in Him.

Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.  Can you say . . .

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
And the white robed angels sing the story,
“A sinner has come home.”
For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for Heaven,
Never more to roam.

Do you know for certain that God has written down your name?  Can you say . . .

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

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.”