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
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!
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.”