Grace For The Journey
The best way to teach the Bible is to teach the Bible. We are in the Book of Luke and we find ourselves at the beginning of chapter 12. Crowds are forming and people are pushing and shoving to get near Jesus and Jesus takes this opportunity to speak directly and pointedly to His disciples, to those who have agreed to follow Him.
Few of us are unfamiliar with those little user agreements that pop up when you are updating your iTunes, downloading software, or purchasing something on the internet. You are in a hurry and you are trying to click quickly through something and suddenly this “user agreement” pops up. It is full of thousands of words, small type font you can hardly read. So, you scroll down to the bottom where there is a box for you to click that says something like, “I certify that I have read this agreement and agree to its terms.” Then you click the box and you are off and running.
Truth is few of us read those bothersome user agreements. The first time I clicked on the box that said I had read the whole thing, I went back and read the whole document, and then agreed to the terms. Now I do not read through the entire legal dissertation because I figure they are all the same. I did have a slight pang of conscience when I first did it, but not anymore. Now I just click right through those things with record speed – and most of you probably do, too. They have become kind of like those disclaimers at the bottom of television ads for new cars – all that small print at the bottom of the TV screen that just flashes from one frame to the next. Who reads that stuff?!
Unlike user agreements on the internet or disclaimers at the bottom of our television screens, God provides for us the “the user agreement,” the requirements and assurances of following Jesus Christ. That is what these twelve verses are about: the requirements and assurances of following Christ. Unlike those lengthy disclaimers full of technical jargon and extraneous legalese, verses 1-12 are very clear and straight-forward; our Lord’s plain teachings about what it means to follow Him. We are going to look closely at these requirements and assurances of followers of Christ. Let’s look at what is required of Christ’s disciples.
First . . .
1) We Are Known For Our Authenticity – Verses 1-3.
If there is one character quality people want to see in Christians it is the quality of being “for real.” People want to know if our faith is for real, if our church is for real, and if our Lord is for real. Of course, we are not perfect. We will always be sinners, but people want to know whether we are authentic or whether we are just putting on a show. That is the meaning behind the word hypocrisy; to act one way on the outside when we are really a different person on the inside.
There will always be some who charge the church with hypocrisy. I am sure you have heard someone say, “I am not going to that church it’s full of hypocrites!” Here is my answer to that accusation, the charge that the church is full of hypocrites – “No, the church is not full of hypocrites; we have got room for one more.” That people can accuse the church of being “full of hypocrites” means that there has been a great deal of hypocrisy among those who profess to follow Christ. Yet, what do we read in the Bible? What does our Lord say? Verse one tells us, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Jesus calls hypocrisy the “leaven” of the Pharisees. Leaven was the old, unused part of dough that had become sour and fermented. If it were not thrown out, but mixed together with new dough it then soured and spoiled the new dough. Jesus says that hypocrisy is that way. It sours and spoils others. Your hypocrisy affects another.
The Pharisees were on the mind of Jesus because He had just addressed their hypocrisy. In the previous chapter, chapter 11, Jesus had taken the Pharisees to task over their hypocrisy. We saw in verse 39 that Jesus said, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.” They looked one way on the outside, but they were a different person on the inside. Or in verse 43 and following: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” These Pharisees were looking one way on the outside, but were full of wickedness on the inside. Outwardly they looked spiritual but inside they were full of pride and self-centeredness.
Now watch what Jesus says back in Luke 12, verse 2, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” Jesus says the day will come when God will expose what is in our hearts. God will expose our hypocrisy. Whatever hypocrisy that has been concealed, invisible to those who see only the outside of the cup – that hypocrisy will one day be exposed. God will judge our hearts. Whatever dark secrets we have hypocritically kept in our hearts will be brought to light as a thing proclaimed from the housetops.
All of this is given with reference to a future judgment. The Bible says in Acts 17:31 that “God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world.” God will judge the inner recesses of our hearts. If we are in Christ; if we are saved, we have nothing to fear at the judgment. Our sins are paid for in Christ and our Christian growth exhibits a life that has changed, a life that seeks consistency between what is in on the inside and what is on the outside. But if we are hypocrites, then we have something to fear at the judgment because God will expose our hypocrisy.
I ask you: “Are you a hypocrite?” Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? For example, the question for me is not, “Do I preach and teach well, but why do I preach and teach?” What motivated me? What’s in your heart? Do I preach for human approval? Applause? Financial gain? Do I regard preaching as merely a job? What is in my heart? God says, “I know what is in your heart and I will bring it to light on the Day of Judgment.”
What about you? Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? What is in your heart? The question is not, “Do you go to church, but why do you go to church? Why do you teach a Sunday school class? Why do you tithe? Why do you talk to certain people and ignore others? Why do you not forgive? What’s in your heart?” God knows. Let’s be “for real.” Let’s be known for our authenticity.
Secondly . . .
2) We Are Known For Our Bravery – Verses 4-7.
Jesus says in verses 4 and 5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Here is a call for bravery in the face of persecution. The disciples would, of course, face persecution at the hands of unbelievers. Church tradition tells us that all but one of the twelve died a martyr’s death. So, Jesus issues a call for bravery when facing fiery trials.
He addresses His disciples in verse 4 as “My friends.” What a beautiful statement and a wonder to consider that Jesus calls us His friends. He says, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more they can do.” In other words, “All they can do is kill you. They have no power over your soul.” Rather, Jesus says, “Fear the one whom—after the killing of the body, has power to cast you into hell; fear Him!” God has the power to cast our bodies into hell. He is the One we are to fear.
We have here so much teaching if time permitted. Our Lord teaches the reality of hell. It is a real place. People go there. Jesus teaches that the preservation of our physical lives is not the chief purpose of our existence. If you live with the idea that you will always be safe and sound and never face any trouble you will forever be enslaved by the shackles of fear. You will be afraid to even step outside of your house. Your body will one day cease to exist, and in all likelihood, much sooner than you think.
Do not fear the death of your body.
Fear where your soul will spend eternity.
Fear God who has power over your soul.
If we fear God and if we have entrusted
Our lives to God through faith in
Jesus Christ, then we need fear nothing.
God is going to care for us. God has got us covered. In His providential love and care, the God who preserves our lives cares for our souls.
Verse 6 tells us, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” The people of Jesus’ day knew that sparrows were cheap. Five sold for two small Greek coins, a coin that was 1/16th of a day’s wage. Sparrows were cheap, inexpensive food, the “Taco Bell cuisine” of the first century. Jesus says, “Aren’t these tiny sparrows sold for practically nothing – yet not one of them is forgotten before God.” God cares for the tiniest sparrow that is here today and gone tomorrow, will He not much more care for you?
Jesus declares in verse 7, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) might disagree with Jesus. There is so much protecting of animals in today’s culture one would think animals were vastly superior to the human race. The Bible clearly teaches that, unlike any other created being, only humans are created in the image of God. Only humans are “like” God and “represent” God. Only humans bear God’s image, which is why you will never find a dog scratching his head wondering about the meaning of life or why you will never see anthropologist Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees – intelligent as they are – you will never find them sitting around a table intelligently discussing the Holy Trinity. Only humans bear God’s image. Humans are the crowning achievement of God’s six days of creation. And God has a special love for those humans who are His children, those who follow His Son Jesus Christ. They are of “far more value than many sparrows.” Jesus says God can account for every hair of your head, Christian. He says in verse 7, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” He cares for the smallest detail. Did you know the average person has somewhere between 90,000 to 145,000 strands of hair on his or her head? God knows every single one. It does not take God long to account for my hair!
Do not miss the encouraging doctrine of God’s providence here in these verses. If God cares for the tinniest of sparrows, He cares for you, Christian. Like the popular song, “His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me.” God cares for you. He knows what you are going through. He is working all things according to the perfect counsel of His will. Nothing happens in your life by accident. Somehow God is working through every one of your problems in a way to perform what is absolutely best. It may not always appear that way, like the inverted side of a quilt with all the tangled massive web of strands of yarn going this way and that, but when you turn the quilt over there is beauty and order and wonder. God is at work in your life. Believe it and be encouraged. Believe it and sleep easily at night. Believe it and be brave.
Followers of Christ are to be known for their authenticity and their bravery.
Thirdly . . .
3) We Are Known For Our Loyalty – Verses 8-12.
Jesus says in verses 8 and 9, “Also I say to you, ‘Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” If we are followers of Christ we will be loyal to Him to the end. We will unashamedly confess Christ before others. This confession begins with the ordinance of baptism. When we are baptized, we are identifying publicly and unashamedly with Jesus Christ. We are declaring our allegiance to Him. If we refuse to be baptized, then we do not identify with Christ. We do not follow His teachings and we therefore deny that we belong to Him. This is why baptism is the first step of obedience in following Christ. And if as believers we find ourselves at moments where we are to identify our allegiance we will do so unashamedly. We will confess Christ at school, we will confess Christ at the workplace, at the gym, and in our community. We will be quick to identify that we are loyal subjects of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is no such thing as a “Secret Disciple.” Our allegiance to Jesus Christ is known publicly. We will confess Him before men.
And if we do not confess Jesus Christ publicly before others, what are the consequences? The Bible says Jesus Christ will deny us before the angels of God. One of the greatest beauties of being “in Christ” is to know that at the Judgment God the Father looks upon us and sees the righteousness of Christ covering our sin. God cannot look at Christians without seeing Christ. It is as though God looks at us and Jesus says, “He’s one of mine.” But if we deny Christ for fear or self-preservation, God looks at us and Jesus says, “He’s not one of mine.” It is a terrible thought! If I disown Christ in a foolish moment now, He will disown me for all eternity. A true believer in Christ will not disown Him. Only those who persistently harden their hearts to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and God’s provision of Christ as Savior will remain unforgiven.
This is the meaning behind verse 10, “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.” If any of us reading this blog remains hard of heart and refuses to trust Christ as Lord and Savior then we will never be forgiven of our sins. Why? Because we are unrepentant. We have refused to allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts. The same hot sun that melts wax also hardens clay. How do you respond to the teaching of the Gospel? The Bible says in Hebrews 3:15, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” Trust Jesus Christ and be saved. If you trust Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters into you and guides you and helps you, helping you even to stand faithfully in the face of persecution.
Verses 11 and 12 tell us, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Even when you face trials for your faith – something few of us see living today in America – but even if you are to face opposing authorities because of your Christian faith, Jesus says, “Don’t worry.” The Holy Spirit within you will guide you. The Holy Spirit will teach you exactly what to say in that hour, just as the Holy Spirit helped the Apostle Peter after he was arrested for healing the lame man who had sat at the temple gate in Acts 3. When pressed to explain his actions, the Bible says in Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke” to them.” The Holy Spirit taught Peter in that very hour what to say.
God will do the same for you and me when we are placed in situations where we are asked to give a reason for the hope that is within us. The Holy Spirit will guide you as to what to say. Trust Him to do that as you declare your allegiance to Jesus Christ this week. Let us all trust the Holy Spirit to guide in the days ahead as we are known for our authenticity, our bravery, and our loyalty.
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.”