Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 18:15-17 – Receiving The Kingdom As A Child

Grace For The Journey

If you are new to my blog, we are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  One of the results of a life of studying and preaching God’s precious Word is to develop a deep cherishing of the Bible.  The best way to cherish the Word is to study it verse-by-verse.  We are in chapter 18, today, we pick up with verse 15.

Context is always important as we read a passage of Scripture.  In fact, context is the key principle to accurate biblical interpretation.  Context is more important than knowing the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Context is king!  It has been said . . .

“A text without a context

Becomes a pretext

For a proof text.”

That means if I just take a passage or a verse out of the place in which is positioned for my proper understanding, if I just lift that verse out of its context without regard for its meaning, then I may use that text for my own purposes to prove whatever I wish.  Politicians are good at doing that.  I am not sure they mean to do that or even that they know they are doing that, but they do that all the time.  Frequently, you will hear some political candidate work some verse of Scripture into a political speech and, more often than not, he has taken a text out of context to make it “fit in” to his speech. 

Context is king.  What is the context of this small passage of Scripture–verses 15-17?  Maybe you read the verses earlier and you thought, “This is that wonderful passage where Jesus loves on the little children!  This is a sweet passage of Scripture.”  It is a sweet passage that highlights, among other things, our Lord’s love for children.  That is very evident.  I nearly always think of a childhood song I heard many, many years ago . . .

When parents brought children for Jesus to bless,

His followers noticed his need for rest.

And, knowing children, noisy at play,

They said to the parents, “Please take them away.”

But Jesus said, ‘Bring the children to me.

The kingdom of Heaven is theirs, you see.”

And holding them close, He blessed them and smiled.

“Whoever would enter must come as a child.”

The children I know are noisy, it’s true;

Inquisitive, open and loving too.

So maybe God’s kingdom is meant to be

A circle of love, filled with people like me.

That is not a bad song and it stresses the love of Jesus Christ and the openness of children to that love.  At the same time, however, it does not really get into the contextual issues of exactly why Luke places this account of Jesus in the exact position he does between two powerful teachings of Christ.

Remember that Jesus has just told the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. The pharisee you will remember was all about himself: “Lord, look at me, how self-righteous I am; I fast twice a week and give not just the expected tithe, 10% of my earnings, but I give a tithe on everything I possess.”  The tax collector on the other hand would not so much as lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me – the sinner.”  That is the story that precedes our text that we are going to look at this morning . . . What follows this short is a story that is introduced by this small passage of verses 15-17.  The passage that follows, verses 18 and following, is the popular passage of the “rich young ruler” who asks Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  A lesson about a guy who needs to totally divest himself of everything to depend totally on Jesus Christ.

There are these two stories, one preceding our passage and one following this passage . . .

Both teaching about what a true disciple looks like,

Both teaching about the posture and position

Of one who enters the kingdom of God,

Both teaching about what true disciples look like.

It is important that we remember this as we study the passage together.  Otherwise . .

We may just think this is

A nice little story about

Jesus loving on babies.

I heard about the story of a wise sage who was meditating by a river.  He was approached by a young man who interrupted his meditations.  The young man says, “Master, I wish to become your disciple.”  The wise sage says, “Why?”  He says, “Because I want to find God.”  The wise master jumps up and grabs him by the scruff of the neck, drags him to the river and plunges him under water.  He holds him under the water for a minute, all the while the guy is kicking and struggling to free himself.  Finally, the wise master pulls the guy up out of the river.  He is coughing up water and grasping to get his breath.  Finally, he settles down and the wise master says, “Tell me what you wanted most when you were under water.”  The guy says, “Air!”  The master says, “Very well.  Go home and come back to me when you want God as much as you just wanted air.”

I do not know whether that actually happened, but I do know that the story is . . .

A fairly accurate portrayal

Of the kind of dependence upon God

Necessary for followers of Christ. 

We are utterly and totally

Dependent upon God for everything

And therefore should desire Him

As much as we desire the very air we breathe.

Is that what this passage is all about?  I think it is.  Let’s go back through these three verses and we will talk about a number of things here, but I want you to remember this matter of our dependence upon God and let’s see if that is not what Luke is stressing for us. 

Verse 15 says, “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.”  Jesus has just taught the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector.  He has just finished talking about the problem of self-righteousness and then these parents approach him, holding little babies in their arms.  These are small children, many of them infants as verse 15 says.  These parents are approaching Jesus.  Verse 15 says, “they also brought infants to Him,” but it’s in the imperfect tense so the sense is, “They were bringing.”  That is, they were doing this often.  It happened a lot.  People were bringing to Jesus these infants that He might bless them.  This was not unusual.  It was customary for Jewish parents to bring infants and small children to Jewish rabbis for the purpose of their laying hands on them and saying a blessing over them.  It is a custom at least as old as the Book of Genesis.  You will remember when Jacob placed his hands upon Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:14) and pronounced a blessing upon his two boys.

There is just something about the physical touch and the word of blessing that affirms a child or a person at any age.  That is what was going on here in this passage.  These parents were bringing children to Jesus for the purpose of His placing His hands upon their head, and pronouncing a blessing upon them.  This is a good thing going on here in verse 15.

Unfortunately, the second part of the verse says, “but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.”  They rebuked the parents for bringing the children to Him.  I do not know why.  Luke does not tell us why.  Maybe they thought Jesus was too busy to be bothered by these little children.  Maybe they thought He was “above” these children and it was beneath His dignity to spend any time with them, at all.  After all, children were regarded by many in Jesus’ day as little things that just got in the way of more important things.  Children were viewed often in the same way people in the Ancient Near East viewed lepers, tax collectors, and even women.  They were part of the “outcasts” of society.  That may seem odd to us.  We live in such a child-centered world here in the West.  We have gone to the other extreme.  We have got children ruling their parents and ruling their homes, telling mom what they “must have” as they stand in the checkout line at Walmart.  They will pitch a fit until mom gives in and buys the silly thing that was just on a hook a moment ago.  Yet their names are proudly displayed on the bumpers of many automobiles: “My Child is a Genius.”  Well, I’m not so sure.  When I drive past these minivans I see the little genius inside, finger up his nose, and I am not so sure!

Children in Jesus’ day were considered a nuisance.  The disciples are like, “Hey, get those kiddos outta here!”  But notice Jesus’ response in verse 16, “But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’”  Jesus says, “Hey, wait a minute!  Do not forbid this! Let these parents bring these kiddos.  After all, the kingdom of God is for those who are ‘of such.’”  That is, “The kingdom of God belongs to ‘such as these.’”  Or put another way still, “One gets into the kingdom – one gets into heaven – by being as a child.”  This is not being “childish,” but being “childlike.”

That in itself was probably not enough for the disciples to understand what Jesus was getting at, so He says in verse 17, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Some commentators say, “Well, here is what Jesus means in verse 17.  He has just said in verse 14, ‘Whoever humbles himself will be exalted,’ so Jesus is saying we must humble ourselves like a child.”  I think I know what they mean by that, but I have got a small problem with it.  Do you know any small children or better yet any infants who just naturally “humble themselves?”  Is an infant naturally disposed to humility?  Not too long after it is born that infant is all about himself or herself.  It cries and wails, demanding food, attention, or sleep.  “Give me, give me, give me!”  What mother does not wish her newborn would say one evening, “You know, I realize you haven’t been able to sleep in days now and so I thought I would just sort of humble myself and take care of myself, you know, and you go ahead and sleep through the night.  Do not worry about me.  No need to “make it all about me.  I will take care of myself.  You go get your sleep now!”  Infants and small children know nothing or very little about humbling themselves. 

On the other hand, if by humility we mean that one can do nothing to help himself or herself, now I think we are getting at what Jesus is teaching here.  An infant can do nothing to help himself, isn’t that right?  Nothing.  In light of the context here: the preceding passage about a guy who thinks he can do for himself, the self-righteous pharisee, “Look at me, God, what I have done” and then the following passage, a passage about a rich young ruler, a man of prominence and position, a man who asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life,” between these two passages we find a statement where Jesus says . . .

“If you really want to be My disciple,

Here is the deal: You can do

Nothing at all, but totally depend upon Me.”

I have an unusual Bible study outline this morning.  I cannot remember the last time I had an outline like this.  I have only one main point.  In preaching, the joke is that every sermon has three points – “three points and a poem,” the saying goes.  Actually, a sermon ought to have as many points as the text being preached has.  If the text makes three points, the sermon should have three points.  If the text has four, then four in the sermon.  If the text has two points, there should be two points in the sermon.  Every sermon ought to have “a” point.  So . . .  here is the point . . . Here is the main point that I believe we must get from this short passage that will be helpful to us again next week when we study the following passage . . .:

I Must Totally Depend on God for Absolutely Everything.

If that is all you remember from our study this morning, that is okay.  If someone asks you later, “What did you learn in the study this morning.”  I pray you answer, “I must totally depend on God for absolutely everything.”  As an infant or a very small child depends totally on its parent for absolutely everything, so must we depend upon God for absolutely everything. 

The kingdom of God “belongs to such as these,”

People who depend on God for absolutely everything. 

That is the one main point in this passage.

You want into the kingdom of God?  You are going to have to depend upon God for absolutely everything.  Jesus says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Put positively this means, “Whoever does receive the kingdom of God as a little child – NOT COUNTING ON ANYTHING WITHIN THEMSELVES – but totally depending on God for absolutely everything, these will enter the kingdom of God.”

Remember the great hymn, ‘Rock of Ages,” by Augustus Toplady?  That hymn includes these words . . .  

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

You want into the kingdom of God?  You are going to have to receive it as a little child, hopelessly, helplessly, wholly and totally dependent upon God for every bit of salvation.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” And in Titus 3:5-6, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved s, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.  Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Self-righteousness is the kind of thing that is impossible for a baby.  A baby does not crawl around talking to God like the self-righteous pharisee or like the rich young ruler.  A baby is wholly and utterly dependent upon the provision of another.

Trust God for your salvation and trust God for your provision.  Trust Him to meet your every need.

Some of you would protest, “But pastor, you don’t know what I’m going through!  You don’t know what I’m facing!”

I don’t know HOW I’m going to make it.

I don’t know WHERE it’s going to come from.

I don’t know IF I’m going get through it.

Listen to me: As a little baby is unable to clothe itself, feed itself, take care of itself, and as this baby totally depends upon someone else to meet its needs, SO YOU ARE TOTALLY DEPEND ON GOD FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!

Trust God to meet your every need.

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you!

Beneath His wings of love abide,

God will take care of you!

God will take care of you,

Through every day o’er all the way;

He will take care of you;

God will take care of you!

 Someone said, “We must not think a child cannot come to God until he is like a man, but a man cannot come until he is like a child.”

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 18:9-14 – What Is Your Attitude About Yourself – Righteous Or A Sinner?

Grace For The Journey

We looked at verses 1 through 8 Chapter 18 on Monday.  Today we are going to pick up at verse 9.  Contextually, in verse 8 Jesus has just asked, “When the Son of Man comes (that is, when Christ returns) will He really find faith on the earth?”  What we have in the next few verses is a parable of what that faith looks like.  We have a parable of two people . . .

One who will not be found with faith when the Son of Man returns


One who will be found with faith when the Son of Man returns. 

We get used to doing things a certain way, we become overly familiar with them.  It is like the first time we learned to drive a straight shift and back the car out of the driveway.  We were focused on everything we had learned: put your right foot on the brake, left foot on the clutch, put the gear in reverse, ease up off the clutch with the left foot, give it gas with the right foot, and look in the rearview mirror.  It seemed it required all of our focus and energy.  But now we do not even think about what we are doing; just hop in the car, cup in left hand, biscuit and gear shifter in the right hand, rolling the car quickly backwards while we chomp on our breakfast. Familiarity with what was once unfamiliar.

Christians face the danger of having heard the Gospel so many times that we hardly hear the words of Jesus anymore.  We’re so familiar with them.  If we hear Jesus speaking at all, we feel He must be speaking to someone else.  In the words of Kent Hughes, “We have heard the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector so often that it has become to us like a comfortable old slipper that other people wear.”  I pray we all we hear this parable in a fresh new way, not looking around to see whether other people are listening to it, but purposefully and actively listening ourselves.  This is God’s Word.  He is speaking to us.  If we have “ears to hear” He will speak directly to us in this study.

As we look to our Bibles open before us we find straightaway that we are left in no doubt as to why Jesus told this parable.  Verse 9 tells us, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”  Why did Jesus tell this parable?  He was addressing a problem.  What was the problem?  Verse 9 tells us there were “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”  That is why Jesus told this parable, or short story. Jesus tolt this for two reasons: 1) To address: those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous; and, 2) to address those who despised others. 

Luke has just told us that Jesus is getting ready to tell a story – a story that will illustrate the problem of people trusting in their own goodness while, at the same time, hating others

Verse 10 introduces us to the story, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”  We must remember that when Jesus initially told this parable that people heard him differently than we do today.  We hear the word “pharisee” and we immediately think “bad guy.”  We have got to remember that Jesus’ first hearers would have heard the word “pharisee” and thought, “good guy.”  This was the religious one, the spiritual one, the good one.

There are two men in verse 10, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  Jesus says they both went up to the temple to pray.  Public, corporate prayer, would occur twice – at 9 AM (Acts 2:15) and 3 PM (Acts 3:1), but the temple was always open and folks who lived nearby were blessed to go pray whenever they wished. 

Let’s look now to the prayers of each one. First, the pharisee in verse 11, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.’”  Let’s break this down.  First, verse 11 says, “The Pharisee stood.”  In Jesus’ day, standing was the normal posture for prayer.  There is nothing wrong with his standing to pray.  Verse 13 notes the tax collector stood also.  What is significant, however, is that verse 13 indicates that the tax collector stood “afar of.,”  We can reasonably infer that the pharisee stood at the front of the temple where he could be seen and heard.  We may imagine the pharisee facing people nearby, standing with outstretched hands so all could see the phylacteries on his wrists and forehead.  You will remember these phylacteries were boxes containing Scripture verses, boxes attached to the wrists and forehead.  Displayed in the context of a pompous and showy prayer, these phylacteries would be nothing more than flashy spiritual accessories to accompany his impressive religious clothing.

Jesus says the pharisee stood “and prayed thus with himself.”  He prayed with himself.  The NIV has “about” himself.  It is possible to translate it even as “to” himself.  This is a self-congratulatory, self-eulogy.  The pharisee stands and reads to God his spiritual resume.  In one breath he uses the personal pronoun five times: “I, I, I, I, I.”  Note how the pharisee compares himself with others.  He says in verse 11, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers,” – then he looks over at the far end of the temple, shakes his head in disgust and says, “or even this tax collector.”

Do you hear his attitude?  The message is clear: “God, You are very fortunate to have someone like me around.”  He knows nothing of the holiness of God and the feeling of unworthiness before Him.  He knows nothing of the penitential psalms like psalm 32 or psalm 51.  He has nothing to confess.

The problem is not in the pharisee’s thanking God for keeping him from being like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers – that is not the problem.  The problem is that the pharisee has accomplished this himself.  It is he who has done the good job of not being unjust, an adulterer, and so forth.  He is not praising God nor is he asking God for any help or anything.  It is remarkable that he is praying at all because clearly he does not even need God.

The spiritual soliloquy continues in verse 12, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”  Admittedly, the pharisee’s discipline and charity are impressive.  Two days a week from sunrise to sunset he ate nothing.  He gave more money than the law demanded; he gave a tithe off not just his earnings, but a tithe off “all” that he possessed, a tithe off of everything that came into his possession.  If there were other pharisees standing around while Jesus told this parable we are right in imagining that they would be nodding their heads in approval.  This pharisee was a really good guy.   

Now the contrast, verse 13, “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”  His prayer is the opening line of Psalm 51:1.  Here is a man who knew his place before God.  He knew he was a sinner.  He was, after all, a tax collector, a despised Jewish man who worked for the Romans, collecting money from others at an exorbitant rate, lining his own pockets with the profits.  He knew he was a sinner.  He felt his sins.  He could not even raise his eyes to heaven, but “beat his breast,” a sign of contrition when you cannot even express on the outside what you feel on the inside.  He knew he was a sinner.  The Greek actually uses the definite article.  It really should be translated, “God, be merciful to me THE sinner.”  Like Paul later in 1 Timothy 1:15, this tax collector would have considered himself the chief of sinners.

His prayer in verse 13 is, “God, be merciful to me.”  The original is literally, “God, propitiate me.”  It is the verb form of the noun used by Paul in Romans 3:25 where, writing of our salvation, he refers to Christ Jesus as the One “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.”  Jesus died to propitiate the wrath of God, to satisfy God’s wrath toward us for our sin.  Jesus propitiates God’s wrath so that God’s wrath is removed and our sins are covered by Christ’s righteousness.  If by faith we believe in the work of Christ, God justifies us, declares us righteous, and gives us a new standing before God (see also 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10).

This tax collector wanted his sins covered and God’s wrath removed from him.  His plea in verse 13 is, “God, propitiate me!”  Now comes the zinger, verse 14, remember: Jesus’ original hearers – especially the pharisees – would have been shocked Christ’s conclusion in verse 14, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Not what most people in Jesus’ day would have expected.  The “bad guy” goes home from the temple justified while the “good guy” goes home from the temple not being justified.  By the way, do not miss the Christological jewel here: Jesus Christ knows the mind of God; He knows which man went down to his house justified.  How does Jesus know the mind of God?  He IS God.

The pharisee went home with God’s wrath still upon himself.  He was not saved.  He was condemned for sin, still under God’s wrath.  You ask, “How can you say that?!” Because Jesus says it.  He says it in verse 13, “I tell you, THIS man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified RATHER than the OTHER (the pharisee).”

The tax collector was justified by God – declared righteous – granted a new standing before God, a new relationship, a righteousness given to him by grace through faith.  Like Paul would say later, the tax collector is “found in Him, not having (his) own righteousness…but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).

The spiritual posture with which we pray

In our heart of hearts reveals whether

We have been made righteous by God.

With that in mind, let me ask: Who do you pray like – the tax collector or the Pharisee?  You say, “I want to pray like the tax collector.  I trust my heart is that of a changed heart.”  If so, pray this way . . .

God, Here is my Heart . . .

1) Keep Me From SELF Righteousness.

Salvation does not come by superior moral character.  In a moral character “matchup,” the pharisee wins over the tax collector.  He possessed a vastly superior moral character over the tax collector.  All his friends knew so.  All his worship buddies knew so.  All society knew so.  He was a good person … but he did not go home justified. Because he exalted himself, God humbled him.

Jesus had said this before in Luke 14:11, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  You cannot earn God’s favor by your goodness.  You cannot be saved by your self-righteousness.  You and I are sinners, and we stand in need of the righteousness of another.  Keep me from SELF righteousness. 

Number two . . .

2) Stop Me From COMPARATIVE Righteousness.

God, stop me from comparing my righteousness with the righteousness of another person.  Robert Stein writes, “Those who like the (tax collector) understand their sinful condition and know that they can only be saved by grace, find it difficult to despise others, for there is nothing of which they can boast.  Only those who possess a false confidence in their own righteousness look down at others.”

Are you ever guilty of looking down at others, comparing yourself to another person?  You look at them and you feel pretty good about yourself.  They sin in some big way and you think, “Well, at least I am not like that sorry scoundrel.”  Really think about this.  Are you guilty?  Did you look down your nose upon another brother or sister this week and tell yourself, “Well, I may not be perfect, but I didn’t do THAT!”   

As a pastor I do I great deal of counseling.  Just this past week I met with three different people, each of them dealing with what some of you might call “big time sins.”  Some might even be shocked to learn what happened in the lives of these persons.  My fear is that some of you may even say, “Well, I don’t want anything to do with someone like that, doing those kinds of things.”  But what about when you make a mistake?  You talk about the grace and mercy of God, but do you extend that same grace and mercy to others?  Honestly, sometimes I hear the kinds of judgmental comments people make and I think to myself, “Man, I know who NOT to go to when I fail.”  King David – a man after God’s own heart – with his moral failures culminating with adultery and murderous scheming would NEVER have been forgiven by some Christians.

Convicted by this unfortunate reaction of some Christians, Chuck Girard a number of years ago wrote the song, “Don’t Shoot The Wounded.”  That is – When a Christian brother or sister stumbles and sins in a big way, do not beat them while they are down.  That is acting like the pharisee in the parable.  Listen to the words of his song . . .

Don’t shoot the wounded, they need us more than ever

They need our love no matter what it is they’ve done

Sometimes we just condemn them,

And don’t take time to hear their story

Don’t shoot the wounded, someday you might be one

It’s easy to love the people who are standing hard and fast

Pressing on to meet that higher calling

But the ones who might be struggling, we tend to judge too harshly

And refuse to try and catch them when they’re falling

We put people into boxes and we draw our hard conclusions

And when they do the things we know they should not do

We sometimes write them off as hopeless

And we throw them to the dogs . . .

Don’t shoot the wounded,

Someday you might be one

One of the things that has made the church I pastor such a great church is our welcoming of people of all walks of life and our ability to be honest about our struggles, our trials, and temptations.  May we ever be a church full of saved, yet humble sinners.  May God spare us from the self-deluded, self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, and self-righteous, “good” Pharisee.

Number 3 . . .

3) Clothe Me In CHRIST’S Righteousness.

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:14 that we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness, but I fear some of us would rather strap-on the breastplate of self-righteousness.  You cannot be saved by your own righteousness.  You need the righteousness of Christ.

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 18:1-8 – Do Not Give Up!

Grace For The Journey

We have just come out of a passage of Scripture where Jesus speaks to His disciples (Luke 17:22) regarding the consummation of the kingdom of God.  Jesus is talking about that great day when the Son of Man returns (Luke 17:22-37) and God will avenge Christians and right all wrongs.  There is a sense in which the disciples very much want that day to come right now, just as many of us yearn for the return of Christ.  What Jesus says next in our passage is, in essence, a call to “hang in there” until Christ does return.  In fact, it is more than a “hang in there,” it is a “keep moving, keep praying, do not give up, trust Me to do what is right; trust Me and if you do not trust Me I wonder then whether “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth”  (verse 8).

Psalm 73 is a good parallel passage to run alongside our text this morning in Luke 18.  It was written by a guy named “Asaph” and Asaph is losing hope in God.  He is struggling in his faith.  He writes in the psalm that he could not understand why it is that the wicked seem to prosper while the godly people suffer harm.  He uses the phrase, “I almost slipped;” “I almost lost all hope.”  Asaph says he was this way, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (verse 17).  That was Asaph’s way of acknowledging that God knows what He is doing and that He will judge the wicked.  Asaph was reminded of this truth when he went to worship.  Because Asaph was a music man, assisting King David in the leading of music, we could title the psalm, “If You Do Not ‘See Sharp,’ You Will ‘Be Flat.’”

Jesus is addressing a similar concern of the disciples.  He has just told them in the end of chapter 17 that the kingdom of God is something to be understood in two senses.  There is a “now” of the kingdom and a “not yet” of the kingdom.  Those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior are “now” in the kingdom, but in another sense, they await the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom when Christ returns and rights all wrongs.  When Christ dies on the cross, is raised, and ascends to heaven there is this period during which the disciples – and future disciples – await Christ’s glorious return to usher in the fulness of His kingdom.  That is the “not yet” of the kingdom.

There is this interval between Christ’s first Coming and His Second Coming.  Jesus foresaw this interval, and He prepared His disciples for it, it is an interval between His resurrection and glorious return.  You and I live in that interval.  That is why Jesus told this parable.  He is teaching us how to live in the interval.  The days will not always be easy, and Christ’s disciples will face hardships and difficulties.  How many of you known hardships and difficulties?  Most of the hardships will come as a result of Christian persecution, but all hardships and difficulties come as a result of living in a fallen world, a world in which we yearn for Christ’s return.  Jesus is teaching us what to do in the meantime and how to think of God during this interval time.

Verse one says, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.”  Jesus is teaching what to do as we live in the “not yet.”  In fact, you could write that in as a subtitle underneath the part of your Bible that tells us this is the parable of the persistent widow.  You could write, “How to live in the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom.”  That is why Jesus tells this parable.  This is not a text to be lifted from its context and used to teach a general message on prayer.  It is connected to what precedes, this teaching is about Christ’s return.  That is also clear in the last verse of the parable, verse 8, where Jesus talks about “when the Son of Man comes.” 

This passage is more specifically about

How to live until Christ returns,

How to live in the “not yet.”

The kind of prayer Jesus is talking about is a persistent prayer in light of the preceding passage.  This is not a general kind of praying nor is Jesus suggesting a non-stop continuous prayer, just praying over and over again the same things to God, but this is a call to be in a continual state of prayer, praying as we go about our days looking forward to Christ’s return.  The content of the prayer then, in essence is, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).  This is a state of prayer, regularly talking to God, not so much going into the prayer closet, but a regular talking with Him as we go about the events of the day.  Doing this will keep us from “losing heart.”  We will persevere in our faith.  We will not quit.  We will not give up.  When the going gets tough, we will keep going.  When we face hardships, we will persevere. 

Verse 2 says, “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.”  There is a judge known for two things: He neither fears God nor regards man.  That is, he does not care about God and he does not care about you.  This judge does not keep the two basic commandments; Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself (cf Luke 10:27).  He neither feared God nor regarded man.

Verse 3 says, “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’”  Widows and orphans were among the most vulnerable people in the ancient near east.  Someone has been bothering her and so she is going to the judge with it, asking him to take care of the situation.  Luke writes that “she came to him” with this plea.  The verb is in the imperfect tense, denoting continual activity; incomplete action, she “kept coming” before the judge over and over again. 

Jesus tells us in verses 4 and 5, “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”  This woman is wearing out the judge with her persistence.  The word “weary” here in verse 5 translates a Greek word that means, “to hit under the eye” or, “to blacken the eye.”  This better expresses the judge’s frustration!  Today we would say, “She is driving me crazy!”

The judge is getting tired of this woman coming and asking him to avenge her.  So, he decides to hear her concern and judge the guy who is troubling her.    Jesus says in verse 6, “Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said.’”  Let what Jesus says sink in.  This is an unjust judge.  He is not a good judge.  He is unjust – but hear what Jesus said.  This unjust judge is going to avenge this woman, deal with her concern, and judge the wicked.  Notice verse 7 as Jesus makes the connection, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”  See the contrast Jesus is making here?  If this is how the unjust judge acts, how will the just, the righteous Judge act?

This is like in Luke 15:1-13, with the parable of the unjust steward, where Jesus uses a scoundrel to draw people into an illustration that is ultimately about God.  It is definitely an attention-getter because people are like, “Where is Jesus going with this ‘unjust judge’ business?!”  And the point again is, “If the unjust judge listened to the request of this persistent widow, how much more will the just Judge, the Supreme Judge of the universe, listen to you and answer your request?”  Or as Jesus says in Luke 11:13, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your Father in heaven give to you?”

God is not like the unjust judge.  You do not have to badger Him.  You do not have to go to Him over and over again and beg Him to do stuff.  What is more, whereas the unjust judge does not regard man, does not care for people, God loves you and is concerned about you.  Unlike the relationship between the unjust judge and the persistent widow, God loves you no less than He loves His own Son.  He wants to hear from you. 

The lesson is not to , , ,

“Bug” Him like the persistent widow

Wore-out the unjust judge,

A lesson about praying

The same thing over and over

Again until finally God is like,

“Okay, already!  I’ll do what you want!”

That is not the lesson here! 

The lesson is . . .

To trust God


Lovingly talk to Him

Continually throughout

The day in prayer.

 Verse 7 is an encouragement.  Jesus says, “Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”  The implied answer is, “Of course He will.”  God will do this because He is not an unjust judge, He is a just Judge.  And you are not a marginalized widow, cast aside by a judge.  You are God’s child!  You are God’s “elect,” His chosen.  He loves you.  He loves you no less than He loves His Son Jesus.  God sees the depths of your heart and He loves you the same!  God is going to avenge you.  He is going to take care of you.  He is going to right all wrongs.  Believe Him! 

Jesus drives that truth home in verse 8, “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”  God will avenge His children.  Trust Him to do so.  Jesus ends the teaching at the end of verse 8 with a question to all who profess to be His followers.  He asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”  That is – Will Jesus find folks who are truly people of faith, people in a continual state of prayer and trust, people who regularly commune with Him throughout the day and trust Him to do what is right or will He find folks who have lost heart and just plain given up?

The implication seems to be . . .

Prayer and faith

Stand and fall together.

If we lose heart and drift away from prayer, then the Son of Man will not find faith in us when he comes.  Faith is the furnace of our lives … and the shovel for feeding the (furnace) is prayer.  If you lose heart and lay down the shovel (of prayer), the fire (of faith) will go out, you will grow cold and hard.  The test will be whether you continued in prayer and did not lose heart. God’s elect will surely be saved; and, as verse 7 says, the sign of the elect is that they cry to God day and night.  Those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

Having gone through this passage of Scripture we are left with two straightforward action steps that rise from the text . . . 

1) Keep Talking To God Throughout Each Day.

This parable is a call for us to be in a continual state of conversation with God.  If you pray continually, talking to God not just in the morning or at mealtimes, but throughout the day, then you will persevere to the end and be ready when Christ comes.  You will not faint in times of trial and testing.  That is the idea Jesus is laying down here.

Do you regularly converse with God?  As you get up in the morning, as you get dressed, as you eat your breakfast, as you get in your car or walk down the street do you regularly converse with God?  As you go about your work or school, are you talking to God in your thoughts?  This may be new to some of you. Let me encourage you this week to think of God as though He were actually right there with you in your family room, at your kitchen table, in your car, in your cubicle, at your desk, on the assembly line.  Think of God as standing right there with you and talk with Him regularly throughout the day.

If you will do this . . .

You will be focused

On things that matter.

You will be living soundly in the “not yet” and you won’t be surprised by Christ’s return.  You will be prepared.  Your heart will not be bound up in the things of this world – money, possessions, fame, toys, recreation, self-centeredness – but your heart will be bound up in the things of God.  Why?  Because you have been talking to God throughout each day, talking to Him, focusing upon Him, and preparing for His return.  I guarantee you will have a greater sense of joy if you will focus on Christ throughout each day.  Keep talking to God throughout each day. 

2) Keep Trusting God Throughout Each Day.

Some of you need to live like God knows what He is doing in your life.  If the unjust judge avenges this unloved widow, how much more will the Just Judge avenge you, whom He loves no less than He loves His own Son?  Trust God!

Trust His timing.  Verse 7 indicates that some would question Christ’s delay in His Second Coming, “Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them.”  This is similar to what the Bible says in 2 Peter 3:3-4, “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’”

Some are like, “I’m not sure Christ will ever return and judge the wicked!  I mean He has not returned yet, has He?!”  Peter dealt with this in his day, and he said something that would be applicable however long Christ determines to delay His second coming.  Peter goes on to say in 2 Peer 3:8, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Trust God’s timing.  He will come when He is good and ready, and it will be at just the right moment.  In the meantime, trust Him.  See that Christ finds faith in you when He returns.  See that Christ finds you not fainting or giving up, but persevering, trusting throughout each day.  Persevere in your faith!  Bear fruit!

Be like the seed Christ talked about that fell on good ground in Luke 8:14 “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”  Do not quit!  Keep talking to God and keep trusting God throughout each day.

God is not an unjust judge; God is a just Judge.  The Bible reminds us in Genesis 18:25, that the “Judge of all the earth always does what is right.”

Some of you need to hear that this morning. 

God knows what

He is doing in your life.

If He is delaying answering your prayers, it is because He knows better than you.  He is allowing time to work out His perfect will, allowing time for folks to believe the Gospel and be saved, allowing time to fulfill His perfect plan for your life, building character in you and through you, shaping you through your hardships.  Trust in Him. 

I’m gonna trust in God

I’m gonna trust in Jesus

Without shame and without fear

I’m gonna fix my eyes

On the hope of glory

For His day is drawing near

(And) when the cares of life

Seem overwhelming

And my heart is sinking down

I’m gonna lift my hands

To the One who’ll help me

To the One who holds my crown

Keep talking to God; keep trusting in God. 

Jesus is saying, “I’m telling you all this now so that when the going gets tough, you will hang in there and trust in Me and keep going and not fall apart.”

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 17:20-27 – Kingdom of God – Have Your Surrendered . . . Are You In The Kingdom?

Grace For The Journey

When you look at the first word of our text this morning as we pick up where we left off in chapter 17 and verse 20 you read that Jesus was asked “when the kingdom of God would come.”  We are going to be studying about that this morning.  We are in the Gospel of Luke, and we left off last time in chapter 17 at verse 19 so we will pick up this morning at verse 20 and go to the end of the chapter.   

God created man with an inherent sense that this world is not all there is.  This sense is intrinsically interwoven into our psyche.  The only creation of God created in His image, man is reflective, contemplative, and deeply spiritual.  We just have this sense that there is something bigger than our day-to-day lives.  We feel sure Shakespeare’s Macbeth wrongly concludes that life is nothing more than a “walking shadow” … “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  We feel sure there must be more here, that there is a purposeful future, and real meaning beyond this existence.  We want to know what the future holds.

This question was on the minds of the Pharisees in verse 20 when they asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come.  Jesus’ extensive answer indicates that this question was also on the minds of the disciples, as I suspect it is a question that is on the minds of disciples today.  We want to know, “What does the future hold?  What is this business about the ‘kingdom of God?’  What’s up with that?”

This phrase, “kingdom of God” occurs 27 times in the Gospel of Luke.  Because it occurs that many times in the Gospel than we can safely assume that this “kingdom of God” is important to God and man.  But what is it?  What is the kingdom of God and why does it matter?

We have said before that it is helpful to think of the “kingdom of God” in two ways, as something that has happened and as something that will happen.  In one sense the kingdom of God is present and in another sense the kingdom of God is future.  In one sense the kingdom of God is “Now,” and in another sense the kingdom of God is “Not yet.”  In one sense the kingdom of God has already begun: it has been inaugurated, and in another sense the kingdom of God awaits fulfillment: when it will be consummated

As we look into this lengthy passage from verse 20 to the end of the chapter and we may arrange the material under two main headings.  We could arrange the material under the “now” and the “not yet.” 

I. The “Now” Of The Kingdom (20-21)

Verses 20 to 21 teach us about the first sense of the kingdom of God, the “now” sense of the kingdom and in doing so we will gain a better sense of exactly what the kingdom is.  In verses 20-21, the Bible says, “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation;’ nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’  For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”   

The first thing Jesus does in answering the question in verse 20 about when the kingdom will come is to say that you will not be able to predict its arrival beforehand.  This is the meaning behind “the kingdom of God does not come with observation” or as one translation has, “it cannot be detected by visible signs.”  To be sure, there are signs preceding the kingdom, but the point is that one will not be able to map it all out, to determine the exact moment of the kingdom’s arrival by use of maps, charts, and diagrams.

This, of course, does not stop man from trying to do so.  Hardly a length of time goes by before another someone claims to know the exact moment the kingdom of God will come or the exact moment that Jesus Christ will return.  Jesus warns against these kinds of conclusions.  He says in verse 21, “Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’”  Do not listen to these people!  Period.  Do not listen to them; do not buy their books; do not waste your life.

Jesus explains what is the kingdom of God.  He explains first that the kingdom of God has already arrived.  The kingdom of God is “now.”  The kingdom of God is present and spiritual.  This is the meaning behind the phrase in the last part of verse 21, “the kingdom of God is within you.”  The literal translation here is, “the kingdom of God is among you or in your midst.”  Here is the point . . .

Jesus is the King

God’s kingdom

Has already begun. 

The kingdom is now. 

Since the king is

Standing before you,

God’s reign has begun.

The kingdom is not just some future, faraway notion.  The kingdom is right now.  Our initial thoughts of a kingdom usually consist of something in space and time with geographical boundaries.  But . . .

The kingdom is first spiritual

Before it is geographical.

It is “now” and awaits the “not yet.”  In one sense it has already arrived.  It has been inaugurated in the person and work of Christ.

It harkens back to Luke 4, verse 21, where Jesus, having read from Isaiah in the synagogue says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled.”  What was the Scripture?  “To proclaim liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  In sum, “To inaugurate the kingdom of God.”  The kingdom has come in Christ and the kingdom will come in its fullness when Christ returns.

When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you entered into the kingdom of God.  You entered into His reign.  You understood that the King was standing in your midst, among you, and you received Him by faith into your life.  If you are a Christian, you are living in the “now” of the kingdom awaiting the “not yet” of the kingdom.  That is what verses 22 to the end of the chapter teaches us.  Verses 22, to the end of the chapter, deal with Christ’s Second Coming.  The Scriptures speak of two comings of Christ.  The Bible notes this in Hebrews 9:27-28, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin (that is, “not to deal with our sins”), for (ultimate) salvation.”

The writer of Hebrews is talking about the consummation of the kingdom of God.  If the “now” of the kingdom is “present and spiritual,” the “not yet” of the kingdom is “future and glorious.”  We await this future, glorious aspect of the kingdom of God – the consummation of the kingdom when Christ returns and rights all the wrongs, judges the wicked, and establishes His universal reign on earth; wars will cease … man will experience real peace … pain will pass away; night is turned to day.  This world is not all there is!  Christ will come again and fix everything and it will be a glorious time. 

This is what Jesus talks about in verses 22 and following.  The teach us about three aspects of His Second Coming . . . 

1. It Will Be Universally Visible.

The Bible tells us in verse 22, “Then He said to the disciples, ‘The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.’”  That is, “You disciples will no longer be here when I return,” or, “My second coming will not happen in your lifetime.”  That is the idea.  Verse 23 says, “And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.  Do not listen to these guys who tell you they have got it all figured out.  Do not go after them or follow them.”

Never forget how many people totally missed Christ’s first coming!  The Jews had the Scriptures and totally missed it.  This calls for deep humility regarding our prognostications, our careful mapping out of all the events of the second coming.  Verse 24 says, “For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.”  Christ’s coming will be universally visible.  As lighting flashes from one part of the sky to the other part of the sky and all may see it, so will Christ’s return be as visible to all on earth.  They all will see His coming.

God will work out the physics of this.  Some wonder how He can come to one part of the world in such a way that His coming is visible on the other side of the world.  We can safely assume the Grand Physicist will work out the physics of His coming.  After all, He created everything, all matter, and knows how to manipulate natural phenomena for His glory.

The point is that Christ’s Second Coming will not be secretive, it will be observed by everyone.  It will be very public, very evident to all.  Notice a qualifier in verse 25, “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”  Which is to say, the Second Coming will come sometime after Christ’s work of redemption on Calvary’s cross.  This is Christ’s immediate concern.  His first coming is about suffering and death.  He said in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man has come” … “To give His life as a ransom for many.”  He came to suffer and die.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” 

The first coming is about bearing the cross and

The second coming is about wearing the crown:.

Christ’s Second Coming will be universally visible.  All will see it.  Secondly . . .

2. It Will Occur Suddenly And Unexpectedly.

Jesus says in verses 26 and 27, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”  The point here is that Christ’s coming will occur suddenly and unexpectedly.   Many people will be surprised and unprepared.  People will be living their lives, living as though they would live forever.  The verbs at the beginning of verse 27 are all in the imperfect tense meaning uncompleted action; things will be continuing on without end, people are eating, drinking, marrying; it is business as usual.  They lived as though judgment would never come. 

Verses 28 through 30 tells us further, “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.  Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”  Here is the point . . .

Just as people in Noah’s day

And people in Lot’s day were

Just going on about their lives,

Eating, drinking, buying, selling,

Planting, building, so it is in our day

And so it is when Christ returns.

People live as though they are just going to get up again tomorrow and do the same thing they did yesterday.  They just go on about their lives as though judgment will never come – –eating, drinking, buying, selling, working, playing, watching TV, going to games, pursuing the degree.  Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected.  It will catch people by surprise. 

Verse 31 states, “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.”  New Testament scholar Robert Stein notes: “The picture is a well-known image of war describing the swiftness of an approaching enemy army, which does not permit time to prepare.  One can only flee.”  Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected.  There will be no time to prepare.  He will be here, and it will be too late to do anything.

These verses also indicate that one of the reasons many will be unprepared for Christ’s return is because of their preoccupation with material things.  Many are more concerned with “goods in the house” or the “eating” and “drinking” and “buying” and “selling.”  Many are more concerned with “stuff” than are concerned with their own “souls.” 

Jesus says in verse 32, “Remember Lot’s wife.”  Here is a picture of a woman unprepared for judgment.  Judgment came to Lot’s wife suddenly and unexpectedly.  What happened to Lot’s wife?  She was turned into a pillar of salt.  Why?  Because she looked back.  Lot and his family were instructed to flee from the land of Sodom and Gomorrah because judgment was coming.  So severe would be this judgment that to look back would cause them to be pulled into that judgment.  Lot’s wife looked back.  Why?  Because her heart was bound up in the things of the world.  She was running on the outside, but staying on the inside.  She looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. 

Verse 33 tells us, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  If we had more time, we would reflect on the fact that Jesus mentions here in this passage the historical persons Noah, Lot, and Lot’s wife.  He refers to them as real, historical people.  He refers to Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt without once calling into question the truthfulness of the account.  Our Lord believed in these Old Testament histories, never once questioning their authenticity.  If this is the view of Scripture held by our Lord it should be our view as well.  These things really happened.

We have said that Christ’s return and the coming kingdom will be 1) universally visible and 2) will occur suddenly and unexpectedly.  Thirdly . . . 

3. It Will Result In Separation.

Verse 34 says, “I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.”  The word “men” is not in the original and the idea seems to be two people from the same family, a married couple, for example.  There will be two people sleeping in bed and when Christ returns one will be taken and the other left. 

The idea is that one is

Taken away from judgment

And one is left for judgment. 

One is spared the judgment,

One will face the judgment.

This verse does not teach that people will “disappear.”  That is not the idea here.  The point is simply that Christ’s return brings separation between the saved and the lost.   The same point is made in verse 35, “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.”  The point is that when the kingdom comes in its fullness, when Christ returns, His coming will result in separation, separation between believers and unbelievers, even in families and among coworkers.  The wheat and tares are separated from one another, the good fish and the bad fish separated, the sheep and the goats.  Verses 36 and 37 convey the same sense.

Husbands, you cannot get into heaven on the back of your wife’s faith.  Wives, you cannot be saved simply because your husband is saved.  Two are in one bed, one is taken and the other left.  You cannot get to heaven on the faith of a family member, the faith of a mother, a father, a coworker, or a friend.  You must yourself believe and be saved in order to be taken from judgment when the kingdom comes.

The real question is, “Where will this judgment take place?”  Our Lord does not say exactly where the judgment will take place.  He may simply mean, “Wherever there are dead bodies (spiritually dead), there will be judgment.”  The tone of these verses are that It will be clear to all that Christ has come, so clear that no one will need to ask, “Where?”

So . . . What Are We To Do?

1) We Must Prepare Ourselves.

Are you ready for judgment?  Are you ready for Christ’s second coming?  Or will you be among the many who are caught by surprise; Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected.  Prepare yourself. 

2) We Must Prepare Others.

It is a frightful thing to think of the way Christ’s coming will result in separation of families.   Is everyone in your household saved?  What of your friends and coworkers?  Do you talk about things that really matter?  Are you preparing others for the judgment to come?

The kingdom of God is still “among us.”  Are you in the kingdom?

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 17:11-19 – Where True Faith Leads

Grace For The Journey

If we were going to make a video of this passage, the hymn, “Give Thanks With a A Grateful Heart” could be the theme song and musical score playing in the background of verses 11-19.  The passage tells us of ten lepers here who are all healed by Jesus Christ and only one of the ten returns to “Give thanks with a grateful heart.”  What does God want to show us from this passage?

Let’s take a walk back through this passage of Scripture and see what God wants to show us in this passage.  The greater context of these nine verses reaches back eight chapters ago to Luke, chapter 9 where Luke writes in Luke 9, verse 51, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  Jesus sets out – resolutely – for Jerusalem.  Why?  To die, and He says so again in Luke 13, verse 33, “Go tell that fox, Herod, I am on my way to Jerusalem, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”

That is why we read in the first part of verse 11, “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem.”  Jesus is on a mission to go to Jerusalem to die for our sins.  He is on a mission to save us from the penalty we deserve.  The Bible condemns every man guilty of sin and deserving of punishment for our sin.  Jesus takes the punishment we deserved upon Himself.  He dies in our place.  God charges Jesus with our sin and God credits us with Christ’s righteousness.

This phrase at the beginning of verse 11, “Now it happened as went to Jerusalem,” is not just a nice little way Luke thought he would begin a story about gratitude . . .

It is a reminder that God has visited us in

The person of Christ for the purpose of dying

And taking care of our sin problem.

This is the greater context of our passage and extremely important to us if we are going to see that this passage is more than a short story about being thankful. 

Verses11 and 12 tell us, “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.”  Most of you know why they “stood afar off.”  In fact, verse 12 says this all happened, “AS He entered a certain village.”  Jesus is not IN the village, it is AS He entered a certain village or AS HE WAS ENTERING a certain village.  These lepers were not allowed IN the village.  Lepers were expelled from the community.

If you have never heard that term “leper” before, just know that this was someone who had a terrible skin disease.  Lepers were expelled from the community and from local worship because they were considered “unclean” according to Jewish Law and custom.  These two passages, Leviticus 13:38-46 and Numbers 5:2-4, tell how Old Testament priests could determine whether someone had leprosy by looking at his skin and then pronounce the guy leprous if he was found to have leprosy.  Leviticus 13 and beginning in verse 44 says, “He is a leprous man. He is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean…Now the leper(‘s)…clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’…He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  These were outside of the camp or outside of the village because if anyone should accidentally come into contact with one of these lepers then they too would be considered unclean.  The only way a leper could gain re-entry to the village was to be pronounced “clean” by a Jewish priest. The priest would examine him and make sure the leprosy or skin disease was in fact gone and if so, the priest would declare the guy clean and he was able to go back to his family, go back to work, go back to worship, and so forth.  That is the background of why these 10 lepers are standing off to the side just outside the entry point of the village Jesus was entering. 

Verse 13 tells us that from a distance they cry out to Jesus, “And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  They are wanting Jesus to heal them.  It is interesting that apparently word had gotten out about Jesus.  These 10 lepers had heard about Jesus’ healing folks who were sick.  Maybe they had heard about the guy back in Luke 5 when Jesus had entered a certain city and this guy “full of leprosy” saw Jesus and fell before Him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Jesus put out HIs hand and touched him and said, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  I am sure they had heard how “immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-14).  In fact, the Bible says that right after that happened, “the report went around concerning Him all the more.” (Luke 15:15).

These 10 lepers likely had heard a great deal about Jesus’ ability to heal and they are crying out for help!  What is Jesus going to do?  Verse 14 says, “So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’  And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”   Now this is awesome.  When Jesus saw them, He does not do like he had done back in chapter 5.  He does not reach out and touch the lepers here; Here He heals from a distance!  He simply calls out to them in verse 14, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  In other words, “You guys go and see the priest who will determine whether you are fit to re-enter society.  Just go ahead and go,” and it’s AS THEY WENT, “they were cleansed.”  The healing came as they went, as they obeyed, the Lord Jesus.  It is reminiscent of2 Kings 5:10-14 where Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman of Syria to go wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cleansed of his leprosy.  “Obey Me; trust Me.”

These guys are on their way to see the priest and AS they are on the way, they are like, “Hey, check me out! My fingers aren’t falling off, my skin is normal!”  Like Elisha’s God in 2 Kings, Jesus heals at a distance.  Or Luke may put it this way, “The God of 2 Kings is the God of Luke 17.”  Do not miss the weighty Christological emphasis here.  Never forget Luke set out to write his Gospel as he tells Theophilus in his introduction, in the prologue in Luke 1:1-5, “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed,” those things concerning Jesus ChristThis is not wishful thinking, Theophilus.  Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  He does what no earthly priest can do.  He heals from a distance.”

There were ten lepers healed, but verse 15 tells us, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God.”  I love this!  Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, the one who was thought of as the “go-between” for men and God.  They are to go to the priest and this one guy when he sees that he is healed it seems he recognizes WHO the True Priest really is!  This one leper returns to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible says, “with a loud voice glorified God.”  The Greek for “loud voice” is from the word from which we get “phone” and “mega.”  From these words we get the word, “megaphone.”  Luke wants us to know that this leper was not quiet about giving thanks!  He shouted out his gratitude the way we would amplify it with a megaphone today! 

As the leper glorified God, verse 16 says he, “… fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.”  Note that this leper – when he saw he was healed – verses 15 and 16 say he did four things – he returned, he glorified, he fell down, and he gave thanks.

The Samaritan fell on his face at the feet of Jesus.  This is gratitude, praise, and worship directed at Jesus.  How would you feel if someone bowed down to you and worshiped you?  You’d feel funny.  Why?  Because you’re not God.  Why does the leper throw himself down at Jesus’ feet and worship Him?  Because He believes Jesus is worthy of worship.  Why does Jesus NOT rebuke the leper for worshiping a man?  Because Jesus is more than a man.  He is God. 

Verses 17 and 18 tell us, “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’”  Three questions Jesus asks here in verses 17 and 18: “Were not 10 cleansed?  Where are the others; the other nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner–this Samaritan?”  Apparently the other nine lepers were Jews and here is a leper who is a Samaritan.  In Jesus’ day, the Jews and Samaritans did not get along?  Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9)?  Jews and Samaritans hated one another.  They avoided one another.  But here you have these Jews and a Samaritan hanging out with one another.  Why?  Because when you have a shared hardship and a shared suffering, the things that once seemed so important are no longer important.  Class distinction does not seem to matter anymore; tradition does not matter; race does not matter; wealth does not matter; popularity does not matter.  Everyone is in the same boat now.  By the way, this is a beautiful picture of the church!  Through Christ Jesus there is no longer a distinction between Jew and non-Jew, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, American and non-American.  All are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus EXPECTED all ten to return.  He had told all ten to show themselves to the priest, but the text makes clear here that Jesus expected every single one of them to come back.  All people are to be grateful for what God has done. 

  • Too many people are like the nine.  The nine were healed and then rushed to the priest to get reinstated to society, to go back to hanging out with their friends, and get back to their old way of life. 
  • Too many today are like the nine, “God, get me out of this fix so I can get back to my life.” 
  • Too many are like the nine; like the rich man in the previous chapter, living for this world only. 

To the Samaritan, there is something much more important than time, toys, and treasures. There is something bigger going on here, and His name is Jesus! 

Nothing is more important

Than worshiping Jesus Christ.

The leper returns to give glory to God at the feet of Jesus.  He sees something the other lepers do not see.  Verse 19 says, “And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”  Literally, the Greek has, “Your faith has SAVED you.”  In other words, “I healed you of your leprosy, but because you see something the others do not see, because you see Me as someone ‘worthy of worship, worthy of praise, worthy of honor and glory,’ because you see something bigger going on here, it’s clear you are  a believer.  Your faith has saved you.”  You have experienced not only a healing of the BODY; you have experienced a healing of the SOUL.”

Some people get close to Jesus, but do not experience ultimate salvation.  The nine lepers got close to Jesus, they even experienced spiritual blessings that come as a result of God’s common grace – they were healed!  But you can be healed of leprosy and still go to hell.  The nine did not experience ultimate healing-spiritual healing, the healing of the soul.  This leper experienced both physical and spiritual healing.

As we close out study today, I want to give you two main principles and two main questions. 

First principle . . .

I. True Faith Leads To Gratitude.

One cannot be truly grateful to God apart from saving faith.  This leper had a faith in the One True God and he came and fell down at the feet of Jesus.  He was grateful because he possessed true faith.  The reason some people go throughout life ungrateful to God is because they have no faith.  They do not believe.  The Bible speaks about this in Romans 1.  This is our default position in life.  We are born sinners, sinners by nature and sinners by choice.  Of those who have not yet experienced saving faith in Christ, the Bible says in Romans 1:12, “Although they knew God (they knew “about” Him) they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.”  Gratitude to God does not come apart from saving faith in Christ.

The reason some people go through life neither glorifying God nor thanking God, the reason some people go throughout their lives ungrateful to God, is because they have no faith.  They are not true believers.  True faith leads to gratitude. 

Principle number two . . .

II. Gratitude Leads To Glorifying God.

This leper knew God.  This leper knew that nothing was more important than glorifying God, thanking God, and spending time at the feet of Jesus Christ.  So here are two questions to leave you with. 

Number one, ask yourself . . .

1) Am I Truly Grateful For What God Has Done?

Do you thank God for your physical well-being?  Do you thank Him every day for your spiritual well-being?  Do you realize how much God has done for you?

  • Did the sun come up this morning?
  • Were you able to get out of bed?
  • Are you breathing on your own?
  • Does your heart beat work?
  • Are you able to hear, see, touch, smell?
  • Do you know the beauty of color and the brilliance of light?
  • Can you feel the warmth of another human being you are able to embrace?
  • Can you feel inside yourself love, joy, happiness, and peace?

 Then thank God for what the Lord has done!

Second question . . .

2) How Do I Regularly Show My Gratitude?

In other words, “Is it really clear and plain to everyone that I am a grateful person?”  What is my conversation like?  When people ask you how you doing or how it is going, how do you respond?  How do I regularly show my gratitude through my conversation and through my worship?  Am I truly grateful for what God has done and how do I show it?

Gratitude cannot come apart from faith.  Gratitude springs from faith.  Let me share this with you and we’ll close in prayer.  Many of you are familiar with Matthew Henry, the great puritan of an earlier generation.  Many of you have the Matthew Henry commentary set.  Matthew Henry was once robbed by a couple men while walking down the street.  He writes of his grateful response to God following his robbery.  Here is what he prayed: “I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my (wallet) they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.”

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 17:1-10 – Living as Unworthy Servants

Grace For The Journey

Several weeks ago, in my quiet time reading, I came across this quote by Harry Blamires, an author who began writing at the suggestion of his friend at Oxford, C. S. Lewis.  In this quote, Blamires is responding to the statement sometimes made by Christians who say, “Oh, I could never do that.  I am not worthy for such a task.”  Here is what Blamires writes, “To ask, ‘Am I worthy to perform this Christian task?’ is really the peak of pride and presumption.  For the very question carries the implication that we spend most of our time doing things we are worthy to do.  We simply do not have that kind of worth.”

Have you ever reasoned this way?  When asked to do something at work or at school, take on a special project, perform a certain task, or, when asked to do something at church, teach a class, serve on a committee, preach a sermon, or volunteer for something, have you ever responded this way: “Well, I am really not worthy to do that?”  Blamires exposes the flaw in our thinking.  None of us is worthy to do anything.  We do not spend the majority of our time doing things we are worthy to do.  We are not “worthy” to do anything.  This is the point the Apostle Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 3:7, when addressing the similarities between Christians who “plant” the evangelistic message and those who “water” the evangelistic message.  He writes, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”  Neither he who plants, nor he who waters “is anything.”  None of us is worthy to do anything.

Why?  Because we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice.  Because . . .

Apart from God’s redemptive grace that awakens us

From the death of our spiritual condition,

Dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1),

We are without hope.  We are wholly dependent

Upon God’s grace to come to us and to make us alive.

For the rest of our days we will always and forever be dependent upon that grace of God.  None of us is worthy to do anything.  We are unworthy servants.

This is thrust of our Lord’s teaching here in the opening verses of Luke 17 . . .

We are unworthy servants,

Wholly dependent upon

God to do anything.

This passage is addressed to Christians.  It is one of those passages given to self-inquiry and the material may be arranged under four main questions we are each to ask of ourselves. 

I. Am I Causing Anyone To Sin?

Verse 1 says, “Then He said to the disciples, ‘It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!’”  Note how the verse begins, Jesus said this “to the disciples,” to Christians, “It is impossible that no offenses should come.”  The word, “offenses” here translates a Greek word that means, “things that cause people to sin.”  We get the word “scandal” or “scandalous” from this word.  Broadly used it means, “Anything that would cause another person to sin.”  The idea is, “Do not be a stumbling block to another, do not cause another person to stumble in his or her faith.”  That is, we live in a fallen world and there are stumbling blocks everywhere and we are all tripping over them – BUT – and note this, the “BUT” it is emphatic . . . that means it should be in all caps or we should underline it, “But woe to him through whom they do come!”  In other words, If you cause anyone to sin it is really bad news.  How bad? 

Verse 2 tells us, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”  The “little ones” there at the end of verse 2 is a reference to believers, particularly new believers.  In the parallel passage in Mark 9:42 Jesus says, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”  A millstone was used for grinding grain and they varied in size.  They had a hole in the middle of them so Jesus says, “If you cause anyone to sin it would be better for you to have one of these big stones placed around your neck and for you to be thrown into the ocean.”  In other words, if you cause someone to sin it is better for you to die suddenly, suffering merely immediate physical consequences than to have to stand before God and face eternal spiritual consequences.  The point . . .

Anything is better than doing harm to souls.

It is no wonder that the Bible warns us in James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment,” because you can do harm to souls by misusing Scripture.  Are you a teacher of the Word?  Has a friend asked you about a matter the Scriptures address?  Are you counseling your friend correctly, based upon the clear teaching of Scripture?  A friend asks you for counsel about abortion, homosexuality, or divorce & remarriage, are you counseling them according to the Scriptures?  Or are you harming their soul by causing them to sin?  It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck, and you were thrown into the sea, than that you should cause anyone to sin.  Strong language?  That is what Jesus says.

Even indifference to the training of new Christians can harm their souls.  If our church does not take seriously the matter of strengthening the family through proper Christian discipleship our passivity may harm their souls by leaving them theologically vulnerable.    We must continue to challenge Christians to not think of Sundays as merely an event or an entertaining get-together, but as a reminder that we are to be in the Word every single day, growing in our faith in our homes, in our places of work, in our school, or at our leisure, learning and becoming more like Jesus Christ.  Indifference to the training and treatment of new Christians can leave them biblically vulnerable.

Now what is true about our influence upon Christians is also true about our influence upon non-Christians.  Are we causing them to sin?  Is our behavior pushing people further away from Christ or drawing them closer to Christ?  Does the language we use at work or school serve to build people up or tear them down?  Are we consistently the same person Monday through Saturday that we are on Sunday? 

Question one: Am I Causing Anyone to Sin?  Question two . . .

II. Am I Forgiving Others Limitlessly?

Verse 3 says, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”  The phrase “Take heed to yourselves” may also be translated, “Watch yourselves.”  It points both back to the verses preceding as well as forward to the statements Jesus makes next.  The idea is do not watch someone else’s self.  Watch YOUR self.

The Jesus goes on to say, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents forgive him.”  If a Christian brother or sister sins against you, what are you to do?  You are to go to that Christian brother or sister privately and rebuke him.  That phrase “rebuke Him,” is a rebuke that is tied to forgiveness.  Read it again there in verse 3, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”  The rebuke is tied to forgiveness.  Unless your rebuke is tied to forgiveness, it is an unbiblical rebuke.

f someone sins against you, hurts your feelings, speaks ill of you, or in some other way offends you, what are you to do? 

First, check your attitude. 

“Take heed to yourself.”  Ask yourself, “Am I a Christian?  If so, do I love that person?  Am I willing to forgive that person? “ Unless your rebuke is tied to forgiveness it will not help.

The next thing you do is to approach your brother or sister privately.  This is implied in verse 3, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him;” that is, “Go to him, not to someone else.”  It is helpful here to read Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 15, as they are germane to this discussion, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone …”

Much of the trouble in churches today is because of the failure to do this.  If your brother or sister sins against you, go and tell him or her their fault between you and your brother or sister alone.  Rather than doing what is biblical, people are running off all offended and telling others how they have been offended.  Christian, if another believer hurts you, upsets you, or does you wrongly, do not you go telling someone else.  Lovingly approach the person who wronged you.  It is what Christians do.  J. C. Ryle said, “To say that of a brother behind his back which we are not prepared, if needful, to say before his face, is not the conduct of a true servant of Christ.”

Perhaps one of the disciples would say, “Well, this is all fine and good if someone sins against me once in a blue moon.  I think I am probably spiritual enough to forgive anyone once.”  But Jesus goes on in verse 4, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”  That is . . .

We must forgive others without limit. 

We must forgive others limitlessly.

That is the point behind what Jesus is saying.  In Matthew 18:22 He says, “Seventy times seven.”  Both mean the same thing, “There is no limit to forgiveness.”

And note that there is no option here.  Jesus says in the last four words there in verse 4, “You SHALL forgive him.”  In other words, you WILL forgive if you are My disciple.  You WILL forgive if you’re a Christian.

So Christian wife, if your husband sins against you, you SHALL forgive him.  Christian husband, if your wife sins against you, you SHALL forgive her.  If your fellow church-member sins against you, you SHALL forgive him or her.  Quit running around like a child whose feelings are always hurt, crying to everyone else.  Go lovingly to the person who caused you the hurt, honor that person by talking to that person ALONE and forgive that person.  How?  As God in Christ forgave you,  The Bible says in Ephesians 3:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

We must be prepared to forgive others the way the father forgave the prodigal son two chapters ago.  Too many professing Christians are more like the elder brother in the parable.  They really do not want to forgive.  Someone said . . .


Is not a feeling,

It is a promise.

It is a promise not to bring it up again, not to bring it up to others, and not to bring it up to myself.  You cannot always forgive and “forget.”  You may forget, but you may not.   

I would encourage you to write those three things down . . .

1)  Forgiveness is a promise not to bring it up again to the person.

2)  Forgiveness is a promise not to bring it up to others.

3)  Forgiveness is a promise not to bring it up to myself.

 Question 1: Am I Causing Anyone to Sin?  Question 2: Am I Forgiving Others Limitlessly?  Question 3 . . .

III. Am I Living By Faith?

Verse 5 says “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’”  This talk about forgiveness has really struck a chord with the Twelve!  They want more faith.  But . . .

The amount of faith

Is not as important

As the right kind of faith

Faith in an all-powerful God.

We studied this several chapters ago when we were studying “Great Faith.”  Great faith is not a result of my effort, like, “I’m going to close my eyes, clench my jaw, and really, really, really believe so that will have great faith.”  That is not great faith; that is just great energy! 

Great faith is not

Faith inside me,

But faith outside me. 

It is not the size of

Your faith that matters;

What matters is the size

Of the One in

Whom your faith rests. 

It is not that we must

Have great faith so much

As it is that our faith

Is in a great God.

The question is, “Am I living by faith?”  Does my faith rest in the great God who has made Himself known to me in the Person of Jesus Christ.  If I believe in Him, the size of my faith does not matter.  I can have faith as small as a mustard seed and I am going to be okay. 

That is what Jesus says in verse 6, “So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”

The size of one’s faith does not matter,

The size of the One in Whom

Your faith rests is what matters. 

We do not need “more” faith.

A tiny seed of faith is more than enough if it is alive and growing.

Remember that the immediate context here is the matter of forgiveness.  You need only believe in Jesus Christ to be able to forgive others.  We are not to read verse 6 as though faith were to be used to put on a show for others.  Faith is complete and humble obedience to God’s will, a readiness to do whatever He calls us to do, such as forgiving others limitlessly.  You can do that.

Question 1: Am I Causing Anyone to Sin?  Question 2: Am I Forgiving Others Limitlessly?  Question 3: Am I Living by Faith? 

Question 4 . . .

IV. Am I Serving The Lord Dutifully?

The whole point of these last four verses

Is to illustrate that we are merely

Servants doing what Jesus calls us to do.

We do not deserve anything for doing these things . . .

  • We do not deserve special recognition for not causing others to sin.
  • We do not deserve special recognition for forgiving others limitlessly.
  • We do not deserve special recognition for living by faith. 

We are merely doing our duty.  We are Christians.  This is what we do.  Jesus says in verses 7 through 10, “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat?’  But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?’  Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?  I think not.  So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”  You see . . .

If we forgive others limitlessly,

If we live by faith,

If we love,

If we witness,

If we evangelize,

If we tithe,

We deserve no

Special recognition

For these things.

We are servants . . . It is our duty to do these things.

There is no room in the Christian life for boasting.  There is no room for self-exaltation or self-righteousness.  We are servants of Christ.  We are merely doing our duty.  It is not that God does what WE say, we do what HE says.  Many professing Christians insist that God do what THEY say.  We are the slaves and He is the Master.  We do as He says.  He rescued us from sin.  We do what HE says.  He granted to us eternal life.  We do what HE says.  We are merely servants.

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 16:19-31 – Money Talks – Are You Trusting It Or Are Your Trusting God?

Grace For The Journey

We are looking this morning at the last part of chapter 16.  We are reading another of our Lord’s parables.  Parables are short stories that Jesus told that conveyed one main spiritual truth.  We have said before that we are not to press the details of parables, but rather simply see that “the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.”  Something that will be a helpful is to remember – the one main point is seen more clearly when you take into consideration the entirety of chapter 16.  Context is king!

I heard about a man who was really struggling with some life issues and had been referred to a person for helpful counsel.  And after calling and making an appointment with the counselor, the counselor told the man just before hanging up to be sure to bring his checkbook when he came to the office.  When the man said that he thought the counselor did not charge for his help, the counselor replied, “Oh, that’s right.  I do not charge, but if you will bring your checkbook it will help us see what’s going on in your life.”

Most of us will agree that if others were to take a close look at our checkbooks, our bank statements, and receipts, together they would be a pretty accurate indicator of what is been going on in our lives, what we value, how we spend our time, and what is important to us.  In this sense, our money “talks.”  It tells a lot about us.

This passage we will look at this morning has so much for us to learn.  When I initially read this passage, I thought it was a message primarily about hell.  One guy dies and goes to heaven and the other dies and goes to hell.  Of course the parable does teach us a few things about the afterlife as we shall see.  But . . .

The parable is not so

Much about the afterlife

As it is about decisions

Made BEFORE the afterlife.

The key to interpreting this parable correctly is to look at the greater context of chapter 16.  Last time we were together we studied verses 14-18 and read about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  This exposure of their hypocrisy follows Jesus’ telling about the rich man with the unjust steward (verses 1-13).  Jesus tells us about this dishonest manager who prepared for his coming judgment.  Jesus taught us about how we are to prepare for our judgment, living with an eye to eternity, using our worldly wealth wisely to build the kingdom of God.  And Jesus concludes the parable by saying in verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon,” or “God and money.”  Verse 14 tells us the hypocritical Pharisees did not care for that conclusion.  It says that they “derided” Jesus.  Why?  Because of verse 14, where it says, “they were lovers of money.”  Jesus has this brief exchange with them, exposing their hypocrisy, and pointing out their playing fast and loose with the Law, the Word of God. 

This is the point where it is particularly helpful to us to note the context.  If you will read the next parable as that which follows immediately on the heals of the previous parable, then you will see that this parable of the rich guy and Lazarus is an expression of what Jesus concluded in the preceding parable: “You cannot serve God and money.”  Let me say that again – Today’s parable in verses 19-31 is but an expression or extension of what Jesus concluded in the preceding parable when He said.  Put another way . . .

This parable shows us what happens when you make money your god.  This parable shows what happens to you when you die if money was your god.  So . . . Like the preceding parable . . .

The decisions we make here

In time affect eternity.

This is a helpful thing to get at the outset of our study.  It will be helpful in that it keeps us from reading into the parable things our Lord did not intend.  It will also protect us from wrong conclusions such as the conclusion that poor people go to heaven and rich people go to hell. 

The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. 

The rich man went to hell because he was ONLY rich. 

He went to hell because money was his god.

Let’s walk through these verses together and see what our Lord teaches us. 

Verse 19 says, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”  Here is a very rich man, clothed in the finest clothing of the Ancient Near East and “faring sumptuously every day.”  That phrase in Greek connotes more literally that the man was “enjoying himself by eating sumptuously every day.”  In other words, every day was a feast.  He was very rich, had the finest clothes and enjoyed the finest foods.  I picture him strolling in and out of the gate of his home singing like Frank Sinatra’s, “It’s the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal, ah the good life.”

But there is a problem here as he strolls in and out of his gate.  Verse 20 tells us, “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate.”  Here is this poor guy sitting at the rich man’s gate.  He is a beggar.  In fact the phrase he “was laid at his gate” is literally, “he was cast at his gate” – he was thrown down there, dropped off there to beg for money and food, cast down there almost like someone were driving by in a car and slowed down just enough to boot the guy out so that he might tumble out of the car and rest up against the gate in order to find some food to survive.  This is a pitiful picture.

The beggar is described as a person “full of sores.”  These sores are ulcers that added to the man’s misery.  He is poor.  He is sick.  He is hungry.  Interestingly, his name is given to us – the only time Jesus actually names a person in a parable and perhaps to highlight the irony here.  The name Lazarus is the Greek form of the name Eleazar, which means, “The one whom God has helped.”

That does not seem quite right, does it?  I believe Jesus does this to draws attention to the contrast between the world’s values and eternity’s values.  The people of the world look at a poor beggar like Lazarus and say, “Where is your god?!  Why doesn’t he help you?”  And the same is true today.  The skeptic asks, “How can you say there is a God with all this suffering going on?  The one whom God has helped?  Ha!  Something seems wrong with this picture.” 

We read more about Lazarus’ pitiful condition in verse 21, “Desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”  Dogs in those days were not the cute, healthy, and domesticated animals some have in our homes.  If you have the opportunity to travel overseas, especially in impoverished areas, you will see dogs like dogs in Bible days that are scrawny, ugly creatures that seldom make eye contact and wag their tails, but rather slink from one place to another searching for food.  This is to show us just how bad off Lazarus is – even these the dogs were coming by making things worse by licking his ulcerated sores.

Verse 21 also says Lazarus “desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.”  He did not want much, just the stuff the rich guy would throw away.  It is amazing how much food we throw away?  Think of how much food you will threw away this past Christmas season.  This poor beggar Lazarus, were he able, would gladly have gone through the rich man’s gate, bothered no one as he walked to the back yard and over to the side and would have been delighted just to open the rich man’s trash cans and eaten the leftovers that had been pitched.

Verse 22 says, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.”  The phrase “Abraham’s bosom” is a term for heaven, the place of the righteous dead.  Abraham was the father of the Jews (Genesis 12:1-3; Luke 3:8; Luke 13:16).  He had long since gone on to be with God in heaven.  Lazarus died and went to be with all the other righteous dead.   Verse 22 adds that “the rich man also died and was buried.”  And where did he go?  Verse 2 tells us, “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”  The word “Hades” in this context is clearly understood as hell, the place of the unrighteous dead – in contrast to Abraham’s bosom; heaven, the place of the righteous dead. 

From hell the rich man sees Lazarus in heaven and he cries out in verse 24, “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”  In a moment I want to share with you some general truths about eternity, but before I do I want to remind you that Jesus is telling a parable, in order to stress one main point.  In this instance the point concerns what happens to us in the next life if money is our god in this life.  That is the main point.  It is wrong for us to press the details from this parable such that we build an entire doctrine on the afterlife from this short story.  What is important for us to see right now is that the rich man is in hell and he is in torments.  He is in pain, and he cries out for relief.  And he says, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” 

Before we do anything else, let us note that the rich man knew Lazarus by name.  I find that striking.  In other words, when the rich man was alive, he walked by this poor guy every single day at the gate and knew enough about him that he knew his name, but did nothing to help him.  He was a rich man who lived for himself.  He was a rich man who apparently had not heard Jesus’ teaching about using your worldly wealth to make an eternal impact on family, friends, and neighbors.  He had apparently not heard Jesus’ teaching about when you throw a party, do not invite other rich folks, but rather invite the “poor, the lame, and the blind.”  How many poor, lame, and blind folks do we ignore every day?

Verse 25 says, “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’”  A popular theme in Luke’s Gospel is the theme of reversal.  We see that here.  The poor beggar and the rich man have exchanged places.  It calls to mind Jesus’ teaching back in Luke 3 verses 20 and 24 to 25, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” . . . “But woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”

Remember . . .

The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich.

Abraham mentioned here as Father of the Jews; Father Abraham.  Abraham was one of the wealthiest men in Jewish history and he is in heaven.  No, the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. 

The rich man went to hell because he was ONLY rich.

Abraham reminds the rich man about how he had lived his life.  Money was his god so he is now where that kind of life has taken him.  He adds in verse 26, “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”  Eternity is fixed.  The righteous dead go to heaven.  The unrighteous dead go to hell.  And the two are separated forever.   

In verses 27 and 28, the rich man begs, “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’”  The rich man wants to warn his family not to make money their god.  He wants his five brothers to prepare for eternity with the same shrewdness of the unjust steward in the previous parable.  He wants Lazarus to return to them from the dead and warn his brothers.  But what does Abraham say in verse 29, “Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them?’”  This another way of saying they have the Law and the prophets, or in sum – they have the Bible.  They have God’s Word.  Let them hear the Word of God.  The Word of God tells them what to do.  The Word of God tells them to live with an eye to eternity.  It is all there in the Word! 

The rich man says in verse 30, “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’”  This verse demonstrates again that . . .

The rich man’s fate was not due to his being rich,

But due to his being ONLY rich;

Due to his failure to repent and

Turn from money as his god

To God as His God. 

He failed to repent.

He believed that if someone from the dead appeared to his family they would really believe.  In sum, the rich guy was saying forget about the Bible – give my family some tangible evidence, an experience, a warning they will see with their eyes and then they will repent.

Abraham responds in verse 31 by saying, “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”  Verse 31 is a sermon all by itself.  We could come back to this verse at a future time and talk about the supremacy and the sufficiency of Scripture. 

God has given us His Word,

A Word that is sufficient to teach us

ALL we need to learn about God

And the things of God. 

 His Word is sufficient for

ALL our spiritual needs.

Many people today are like the rich man.  They want “God, He is real to just give them a sign, or do a miracle and they will believe.  There are several things wrong with this thinking . . .

1) Who are WE to make demands of God? 

2) What more can He say than to you than He has already said?  He has spoken in His Word.  If you do not hear “Moses and the prophets, neither will you be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

These verses demonstrate that the refusal to repent does not arise from lack of evidence, but from having a stubborn and rebellious heart. We do not need more information to believe.  We do not need some supernatural experience to believe.  We need the Word of God to believe.  We need a heart to believe it.  We need a new heart.  We need regeneration.  As the prophet Ezekiel taught, we need God to come to us and remove our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, a soft heart, open and responsive to the truth of His Word (Ezekiel 36:26).

The lost person today says the same thing the rich man says, “Forget about the Bible.  Give me an experience!”  I find it remarkable at the end of Matthew’s Gospel that the resurrected Jesus Christ appears to a number of people, just before His ascension into heaven.  The Bible says that while a number of these people are looking at Jesus that “some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).  A supernatural experience does not guarantee one will believe.

In Luke 24 when Jesus is walking with the two men on the road to Emmaus do you remember what He did with these men who were “slow of heart to believe?”  The Bible doesn’t say Jesus performed some sort of miracle or do trickery and so forth to convince them that He was the risen Christ, but rather it says, “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).”  Then what happened?  Their hearts were opened and they believed.

The supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture means God has given us ALL we NEED to know about Him and to live for Him.  We might expect lost people like the rich man to ask for something other than the Word.  What troubles me as a pastor is how quickly professing Christians turn to popular books other than the Bible for conclusive evidence about something the Bible addresses.  These books become popular about someone’s supposed experience about the afterlife.  Christians flock to the bookstores to read the latest story about some guy or some kid who supposedly died and went to heaven and came back.  What are we to make of these experiences?  I don’t know.  But that’s just it: I don’t know.  On the other hand, I turn to the Bible and I DO know.  Whatever it teaches about heaven and hell is true.  Whatever experience someone claims to have had, what the Bible teaches is absolutely certain.  I think will just stick with the Word of God.

Now, I have two sets of points for you to learn in this passage. 

First, I want to share three general truths we can learn about eternity.  I will not dwell on these, I just want to share them with you.  We said earlier that we are not to press the details of a parable and build a doctrine around a story Jesus tells.  On the other hand, if we allow the plain things to be the main things and know that the main things are the plain things, then we can walk away with some general truths from the parable.  So first here are . . .

General Truths We Can Learn About Eternity . . .

1) There Is Eternal Consciousness After Death.

There is an eternal awareness for both believer and unbeliever.  When the unrighteous person dies, when the lost person dies, they go on into eternity aware of their surroundings, aware of their plight.  This is demonstrated in the parable of the rich man here.  It is not as though the lost person’s soul is destroyed along with his body at death.  The parable would make little sense if that were the case.  No, the lost man’s soul goes on into eternity. 

2) Our Eternal Destiny Is Irreversible.

The parable illustrates the separation between heaven and hell and the fact that once we enter one or the other, our destiny is fixed and irreversible.  There is no mention anywhere in Scripture about a so-called “second chance” to trust Christ and be saved after we die.:

3) The Pictures Of Hell Illustrate The Horror Of The Reality.

Sometimes people want to know whether hell is a place of literal fire and flames.  I think that is missing the point.  The fire and flames mentioned by Jesus, while picturing hell, are pictures of reality.  That is to say, if speaking of flames and fire are merely pictures our Lord uses to symbolize the reality of hell, then hell must be even worse than we can possibly imagine.  In other words, the pictures of hell illustrate the horror of the reality of hell.

Now let me leave you with two main points that we can live by from this parable . . .

1) Our Decisions Here During Our Life Affect Our Destiny In The Hereafter.

Remember the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich.  He went to hell because he was ONLY rich.  Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and money” and the rich man decided his master was money.  Money was his god.  The Bible says in Proverbs 11:16, “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.”

Our decisions in time affect eternity.  Our decisions here affect hereafter.  We must repent and accept Christ alone.  He alone is our Savior and Master.  If we trust in Christ alone as our Savior, then we will be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) and we will have “treasure in heaven” (Luke 12:23).” 

2) True Riches Are Found In Using Worldly Wealth To Serve God And Others.

The parable is an extension of Jesus’ teaching from the previous parable of the unjust steward.  We are to live with an eye to eternity, using worldly wealth to serve God and serve others; using worldly wealth to build the Kingdom of God; using worldly wealth to bless others by sharing the practical expressions of the Gospel.

How do you use your money?

Let me share these two Scriptures and then we will end our study today . . .

James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”

1 John 3:17, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Money talks, what does yours say?

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 16:14-18 – What Do We See When We Look Into The Mirror Of God’s Word?

Grace For The Journey

We are in Luke 16 today.  There are two parables in Luke 16.  We looked at the first one last time and we will look at the second one next time.  Both of them mention a rich man who has a dishonest manager (verses 1 to13) and a rich man and Lazarus (verses 19 to 31).  Sandwiched between these two parables are five verses that at first may seem disconnected from the two parables (these are verses 14-18), our text for this morning.

Before we look at these verses, we need to remember that Jesus has just told the parable of the unjust and dishonest steward.  Jesus said in verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon – or God and possessions; God and money.”  Then we read how the Pharisees respond.  The Pharisees are the ruling religious leaders in Jesus’ day.  How do they respond to what Jesus has been teaching?

In telling these parables, it is like Jesus takes a mirror and holds it up before the Pharisees and says, “Do you guys see yourselves here in the story?”  It is easy to listen to preaching so long as the application of the message seems to be directed at someone else, at other people, at Pharisees and the like.  But the Word of God becomes especially meaningful to us when we see ourselves in it.

The Bible says in James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  When we read and study God’s Word it is always helpful to pray, “Lord, help us to look into the mirror of Your Word, help us see ourselves, help us to see our sin and to be startled by what we see and then help us see Christ and go to Him for correction.”  That is my prayer as we go through these verses.  I trust it is your prayer as well.

Verse 14 says, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.“  Make no mistake: the Pharisees – for the most part – were hypocrites.  Jesus had called them out before on their hypocrisy; back in Luke 11:39, the Bible tells us, “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.’” They may look okay on the outside, but on the inside they are full of greed and wickedness.

Luke tells us the same thing about the Pharisees here in verse 14, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things (all the teachings of Jesus about the need to prepare for eternity, to not use money for earthly things, but for heavenly things) and they derided Him.”  Outwardly, they acted like they were really spiritual, and were concerned for spiritual things, but inwardly they cared more for earthly things – things such as money.

Luke actually identifies the Pharisees in verse 14 as, “lovers of money.”  It is a remarkable thing to be so religious, but to be known as a “lover of money” rather than a “lover of God.”  It would be rather hypocritical to act as though we trusted God for everything, but inwardly hold onto our money because we really trust in it.  The Pharisees did not like what they were hearing from Jesus.  They did not like this parable of the dishonest manager in the preceding verses and Jesus’ point about our living with an eye to eternity, preparing for the judgment to come.  No, they loved the things of earth more than the things of heaven. 

Verse 15 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  Again, note the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Jesus says in verse 15, “You are those who justify yourselves before men – You like to appear all righteous in public; got your head in the air, eyes closed, hands folded in front of yourselves – BUT GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS.”  What does God know?  God knows our hearts.  You can fool others, but you can’t fool God.

A self-righteous, pompous sort of deacon was trying to impress his class of young boys.  He stood before them with an air of superiority and asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?”  One of the boys said, “Maybe because they don’t know you.”

God knows us.  He knows our hearts.  It really does not matter what the world thinks if God is not pleased.  God’s value system is different from the world’s value system.  In the last part verse 15, Jesus says, “For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Remember the greater context here is a recurring exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees.  We go back to Chapter 15 and you will remember in verse 1 that “all the tax collectors and the sinners (all the outcasts) drew near to Jesus to hear Him,” and verse 2 says, “And the Pharisees complained, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”  They complained about Jesus’ hanging out with these sinners.  They believed Jesus was belittling the Law, ignoring the Old Testament laws which called for separation from the ways of unbelievers.  But God never intended the exclusion of lost people from the Kingdom. 

Separation had to do

With a call for holy living,

Not a call to exclude some people

From the blessings of God.

God’s plan to save people from their sin encompasses all of the lost, including so-called “tax collectors and sinners,” – outcasts, the spiritually poor, blind, and crippled.  The Pharisees had added interpretations to the law God never intended, using the Law as something that benefited themselves and excluded everyone else. 

Jesus sets forth to straighten their understand of the Law.  In verse 16 He says, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  The Law and the prophets – the moral, ethical, social, and spiritual commands of the Old Testament – were proclaimed up to the time of John the Baptist.  The Old Testament Law was given to prepare people for Christ’s coming.  The Old Testament Law was given to prepare people for arrival of the Kingdom.

Since that time – the time of John the Baptist – the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is being called into it.  Before the coming of John the Baptist, the Old Testament Law was preached.  The Law is like a mirror.  You stare into it and you see yourself, your sin, and your need for a Savior.  The Old Testament Law was proclaimed until John the Baptist.  And John prepared people for the arrival of the Kingdom.  John the Baptist’s message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”   The Kingdom has come as God has broken into this fallen world, coming to us in the Person of a Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The second part of verse 16 says, “Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  The Gospel is here, the Good News, God’s salvation, the Kingdom has come.

People are pressing into the kingdom.  The Pharisees!  While they sneer at Christ’s teachings, people are pressing into the kingdom – all kinds of people, spiritually poor, blind, crippled; the Gentiles! People are pressing into the kingdom while they just stand there with a scowl on your faces.

The Law served as a pointer, pointing out our sin, pointing out our need for salvation, and pointing us to Jesus Christ.  That is what John did.  He was just a finger pointing to Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).” 

While the Old Testament Law served primarily

As that which pointed out our need for a Savior,

This does not mean that the Law is now to be cast aside.

Verse 17 tells us, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.”  The word “tittle” there is a reference to the smallest stroke of Hebrew lettering.  It is like the small mark that distinguishes an E from an F or like the dot of an I.  It is a really small stroke of the pen.  Jesus is saying the Old Testament Law – such as the 10 Commandments – is still binding today.  While the ceremonial law no longer applies, the moral law remains binding today.

Let me just add as a helpful reminder – When we ask what parts of the Old Testament Law are still binding today? – We simply turn to the New Testament and ask whether we read anywhere that the Old Testament laws have been set aside – there are a few, such as forbidding the eating of certain foods, previously considered unclean according to the Old Testament are now regarded clean according to the New Testament.

But in this exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus is addressing their failure to obey the moral law of the Old Testament.  It is like He is saying to them, “Look, you guys think I’m the one belittling the law!  YOU are the ones playing fast and loose with Scripture.  I have already addressed your failure to “love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  You love money more than you love God.  You break the Old Testament Law.” 

Then Jesus gives us another example.  He moves from “money” to “marriage.”  Verse 18 says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  Now remember that this verse is directed primarily at the Pharisees of Jesus’ day so that they can be confronted with their hypocrisy.  The Bible is clear that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life.  God’s ideal is expressed in Genesis 2 where we read of two becoming one so that Jesus will say, “What God has joined together let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).  This is God’s ideal for marriage.

We need to feel the weight of this truth today.  The same goes for today.  God’s ideal for marriage is that the two who have become one REMAIN one.  It is not my purpose today to provide a full-blown doctrinal treatment of divorce and remarriage.  There are a couple of other passages we would turn to that would provide more information on divorce and remarriage, namely Matthew 19:1-10, and 1 Corinthians 7:10-15.  If we study these passages carefully, we will see that there are two possible qualifiers.  Jesus is stressing that God’s ideal is for the two who became one to REMAIN one.

But the Pharisees had added to the Old Testament Law their own ideas about divorce and remarriage.  If you look at these Jewish writings that were added to the Law, you will find Jewish rabbis approved divorce for all matter of things – including a woman’s burning her husband’s dinner or if a man found another woman more attractive than his wife; one rabbi permitted divorce so that the man could marry the other woman.  You see the hypocrisy here.  These Pharisees were making a big deal about their loving the Law when, in point of fact, they had added to the Law things that justified their sinful behavior.

So Jesus is saying, “You Pharisees act like you are so reverent and holy.  You sneer at Me, accusing me of playing fast and loose with the Law, while you yourselves are the kings of breaking the Old Testament Law and re-writing it to suit your sinful desires.”  It’ is generally always easier to enjoy the finer points of sermon application when we believe those points are sticking the guy next to us.  Here’s a question for you: “Are you a Pharisee?”  When you look into the mirror of God’s Word, what do you see?  Here are three questions to ask.

Number one . . .

1) Am I More “Here-Focused” Than “Hereafter-Focused?”

Jesus says in verse 15, “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  One theologian (Robert Stein) offered this insight, “This is a proverb that warns us not to conform to the way this world thinks (cf. Romans 12:2).  Jesus was not saying that values of the world are not exactly the same as God’s or that at times they are different or that frequently they are different.  Rather the value system of this world is “detestable,” i.e., an abomination to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:19).”  J. C. Ryle says, “These verses teach … how widely different is the estimate set on the things by man from that which is set on things by God” … “We have only to look around the world and mark the things on which most men set their affections in order to see it proved in a hundred ways.  Riches, and honors, and rank, and pleasure, are the chief objects for which the greater part of mankind are living.  Yet these are the very things which God declares to be ‘vanity,’ and of the love of which he warns us to beware!  Praying, and Bible-reading, and holy living, and repentance, and faith, and grace, and communion with God, are things for which few care at all.”

When you look in the mirror what do you see?  Are you more here-focused than here-after focused? 

Number two . . .

2) Do I Really Love Jesus More Than Anyone Or Anything?

Were the Pharisees lovers of God or lovers of money?  In verse 14, Luke identifies them as “Lovers of Money.”  How about you?  Few things seem to agitate the contemporary church in America more than talking about money.  Someone says, “I haven’t been to church in 6 months, I decide to come and what does the preacher talk about?  Money, money, money!”  The answer is, of course, this person should have been attending his local congregation’s services the previous 6 months and he would have seen that the preacher reason was talking about money that today is because it just happened to be the next paragraph in the Bible.  If it is in the Bible, the preacher ought to preach it!

This leads us quite naturally to the third question . . .

3) What Is My Honest Attitude To The Teachings Of Scripture?

The Bible says in verse 14 that the Pharisees “derided” Jesus, or “sneered” at Him.  That was their attitude.  The Bible teaches that the Pharisees looked for loopholes in the teachings of Scripture.  They were really good about getting around the moral commands of Scripture.  Jesus gave an example of their playing fast and loose with Scripture, adding to the Scriptures permission to divorce their wives for nearly any and every reason.

What about you?  What is your attitude to the teachings of the Bible?  What is your attitude toward money, marriage, surrender to God, obedience, evangelism, missions, or tithing.  Do you immediately look for loopholes or exceptions?

What do you see when you look into the mirror of God’s Word?  Do you feel like a Pharisee?  You know, you are who you are when no one is looking.  Mark Twain said, “We’re all like the moon, we have a dark side we don’t want anyone to see.”  But God knows our hearts.

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 16:1-13 – Building Your Spiritual Portfolio

Grace For The Journey

Today we are in Luke 16 where we have another parable of our Lord Jesus.  Parables are short stories Jesus tells where He stresses a heavenly truth.  Parables are not to be allegorized where one finds supposed “hidden meanings” here and there, but rather parable are to be seen as a short story that stresses one main point.  See if you can discover the one main point in this parable.  Jesus speaks to His disciples and He tells them about a rich man who has a steward or manager, a guy who manages his possessions.

Arguably the greatest challenge facing Christians is the challenge to live our lives with eternity in view; to live not for this present world, but for the world to come.  Few of us actually wake in the morning thinking that this may well be our last day.  We rise, shower, dress, and go and do the things we have done before.  We can even be religious and still be lulled into the notion that our days are many and eternity is that vague, future, far away thing that we will get to someday, but right now there are far more pressing matters: we have got to get to work, got to go to the store, got to clean the house, go shopping, prepare the meal, and enjoy life.

It is not like we set out to be conformed to this world and its ways, values, and priorities; like our rising and showering each day our conforming to the world “just happens.”  We are lulled into it the way a small twig is carried downstream by the current.  In many ways Christians are not altogether different from non-Christians in the way they live their lives, order their priorities, and plan their futures.

Christians are tempted like the guy we read about back in chapter 12, tempted to “build bigger barns” to store all their worldly goods or tempted to build a large investment portfolio for the purpose of enjoying a life of ease and luxury.  Occasionally, a sermon, an event, or a twinge of guilt reminds us of the brevity of our lives and the importance of taking care of our posterity and many then carve out a bit from their worldly possessions to leave behind something for their children and grandchildren.  The talk at the funeral home and elsewhere is about what he or she did in this life and “left behind” for his or her posterity.  This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.  It is important to take care of our children and grandchildren. 

But the Bible intersects this discussion

With the striking truth that real life is

Determined not so much by what one

Has “left behind” as it is determined

By what one has “sent ahead.”

Do you have an investment portfolio?  There is nothing wrong with this; you should be wisely investing for the future.  But is your investment portfolio part of a greater spiritual portfolio, a portfolio that takes into account the greater purpose for why you are here on this earth?  Does your investment portfolio reflect the truth that your days here are few in number and that you were created not to enjoy a life of ease and luxury, but that you were created for the purpose of glorifying God and furthering His kingdom?

One day we will die and stand before the Supreme Judge of the Universe.  We will die and stand before our Creator.  There will be a final accounting.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”  In Hebrews 9:26, the Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.”

Christians must live with an eye to the future, acting wisely, acting purposefully as we prepare to stand before God to give an accounting of the way we lived our lives.  That is the truth and that is the one main point of this parable.  Whatever else we may learn from this parable, we must see the one main truth that Christians are to live with an eye to the future, living wisely in this world, knowing one day we will answer to God for how we lived. 

Let’s study that truth more closely as we go through these verses.

Verses 1 and 2 tell us, “He also said to His disciples: ‘There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.  So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’”  There is this rich guy who has a lot of stuff and he has a guy working for him to manage his stuff.  The rich guy learns that the fella he has hired to manage his stuff is wasting his stuff.  Verse 2 says the rich guy calls him into his office and terminates him.  Picture the presidentof a company bringing a guy into his office and uttering those two infamous words, “You’re fired!”  That is the scenario.  This steward or manager managed money and possessions for his rich boss and now his rich boss has fired him.  He tells him to clean out his desk and get the accounting books in order and turn them over to him.

Verse 3 says, “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.’”  The fired steward or manager is like, “What am I going do now?!  I am not good at physical labor like digging ditches and I am too proud to stand on the corner with a sign begging for money.  What am I going to do?”

Verses 4 tells us the former mangers says, “I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.”  This fired manager, has an idea.  He is going to do something good for these clients who owed his rich former employee so that they can help him out in return. 

Verses 5 to 7 tell us, “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’”  This former manager of his rich boss is severely cutting the debts that these folks owed the rich boss.  The steward or manager was previously occupied collecting these debts for his rich boss and so, because he is being fired, he is getting the books in order to turn them over to his boss, and before he turns them over, he is contacting the people who owe his boss and drastically cutting the debts by as much as one half.

Now we would anticipate that the master, or the rich guy, the Donald Trump person, would be really ticked off when he learns what the steward or manager has done.  We would expect that because the fired manager is slashing his profits.  But look at what verse 8 says, “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.”  The master finds himself smiling and shaking his head at the shrewdness of this fired manager.  It is as though he says to himself, “Well, that little rascal!  I told him to clean out his desk and bring me the books and he had the shrewdness to take care of himself before he turned everything over to me.  What a creative scoundrel!”

Now note this . . .

The master commends the unjust steward

Not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness.

This is important if we are to interpret the parable correctly.  The Bible does not condone the fired manager’s self-centered dishonesty, but his shrewdness.  Jesus goes on to save in the part of verse 8, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”  The “sons of this world” refers to lost people and “sons of light” refers to saved people.  Jesus says in one sense you have got to hand it to lost people, to unbelievers.  Unbelievers are unquestionably living for this world and they are good at it.  Believers, on the other hand, are not always so good at living for the world to come. 

Jesus is teaching Christians to act

As wisely and prudently

Concerning spiritual things

As non-Christians act

Concerning earthly things.

 In verse 9, Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home.”  “Mammon” is an Aramaic term that means money or possessions.  “Unrighteous mammon” is best translated as “worldly wealth” or “worldly possessions.”  The term “friends” here is best understood as “God and all of heaven.”  Jesus tells Christians, “Make friends for yourselves by using your worldly wealth in such a way that – by your use of it – you will one day be welcomed cheerfully into an everlasting home.  Put another way, “Build your spiritual portfolio by investing in the future.”  Invest in the future and you will not regret it.  You will be richly rewarded in heaven.

Verse 11 tells us, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”  Jesus makes the point again: Use your worldly wealth and worldly possessions in such a way that they accrue to you a heavenly reward; true riches.  It is not what you “leave behind,” it’s what you “send ahead.” True riches are enjoyed when we go to heaven and hear the “thank you’s” for what we “sent ahead” with respect to money, with respect to time, witness, mission, evangelism, encouragement – all for the purpose of building Christ’s kingdom.

Verse 12 says, “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?”  God has loaned us everything we have.  It is “another man’s.”  There is nothing that is truly ours.  We are to use what has been loaned to us as shrewdly for spiritual things as the fired manager used what belonged to another man for earthly things.  If we are faithful in “what is another man’s,” in the things that God entrusts to our care, then we will receive that which is “our own.”  That which is “our own” refers to true riches, spiritual wealth, heavenly rewards, things that cannot be taken away.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  You cannot serve God and money.  You cannot serve God and possessions.  The fact that mammon is compared to God suggests the idolatrous nature mammon may take in our lives.  We worship money and possessions instead of God.  Jesus teaches here that we will worship one or the other.  You cannot worship both.  You cannot.  And yet, how many of us try?

J. C. Ryle said, “Thousands on every side are continually trying to do the thing which Christ pronounces impossible.  They are endeavoring to be friends of the world and friends of God at the same time.  Their consciences are so far enlightened, that they feel they must have some religion.  But their affections are so chained down to earthly things, that they never come up to the mark of being true Christians.  And hence they live in a state of constant discomfort.  They have too much religion to be happy in the world, and they have too much of the world in their hearts to be happy in their religion.   In short, they waste their time in laboring to do that which cannot be done.  They are striving to ‘serve God and mammon.’”

How can you tell if you are a slave to money? Ask yourself . . .

  • Do I think and worry about it frequently?
  • Do I give up doing what I should do or would like to do in order to make more money?
  • Do I spend a great deal of my time caring for my possessions?
  • Is it hard for me to give money away?
  • Am I in debt?”

There are three general questions for us to answer as regards our spiritual portfolio. 

 1) Do I Honestly Live Each Day With Eternity In View?

Really think about this one.  Ask yourself these questions . . .

  • Do I honestly live each day with eternity in view?
  • Do I prepare for the future as shrewdly as the unjust manager prepared for his future?
  • As a child or teenager or young adult, am I living each day knowing that I will one day stand before God and answer for how I spent my time?
  • As a parent, do I prepare my children or grandchildren for eternity. 
  • Do my daily activities with my children demonstrate that we all are preparing for eternity, that this is far more important even than academics or sports, band, and extracurricular activities?

There will be a final accounting.  Am I preparing for it?

2) Do I Accept As True That I Own Nothing, But Am Merely A Steward Of All That

    God Has Given Me?

Think of that.  We own nothing really.  I am merely a steward of that which God has loaned to me.  Am I acting shrewdly with what has been entrusted to me by my Master?  The biblical principle of tithing rests on the truth that we are merely returning to God that which is His.  God owns 100% of all things.  He has entrusted to our care the 100% we have.  The tithe – and the word “tithe” means, “tenth” – the tithe is that which we return to God in demonstration of our accepting as true that we own nothing but are merely stewards of God’s stuff.  The tithe is our acknowledging Christ’s lordship over everything.

3) Is My Treasure Found In God Alone?

Am I trying to serve two masters – God and money?  Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Is my treasure found in God alone?  Often you can determine where a person’s treasure – and by extension where a person’s heart is – by listening to what they usually talk about.  What do you talk about most when you talk with your family?  When you talk with your friends?

I have read, The Diary & Journal of David Brainerd. Jonathan Edwards is the editor of the Brainerd’s Diary.  Both of these names are familiar to those who know a bit of history of the First Spiritual Awakening in colonial America; Edwards known mostly for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Brainerd known mostly for his tireless mission work among the Native American Indians in New Jersey and elsewhere, dying at age 29.  A striking similarity between Edwards and Brainerd was their shared love for spiritual conversation.  In the Introduction to Brainerd’s Diary it is written: “He had no liking for conversation which did not transport him into the presence of God.”  In one place in his Diary he bemoans that far too many professing Christians speak too little of spiritual things.

Think of it: How often do you and your spouse speak about spiritual things?  What do you speak about mostly – the car, the house, the vacation, the kids?  What do you speak about mostly to your friends – job, clothes, recreation, sports?  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Are you living for the “here” or the “hereafter?” 

Are you living for the “now” or the “then?”

In Philippians 3:18-20, Paul bemoans that, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their same – who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says that while we are dying, our “light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

I heard about a man whose wife died a few years ago.  The man’s name is Ed Hartman, a pastor and author of a book entitled, Homeward Bound: Building an Attractive Christ-Centered Family on Eternal Principles. In the book, Ed writes about when his wife was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and how she had died leaving behind four small children.  In the book, Ed writes about the last really lucid conversation that he had with his wife, Amy.  Three weeks before she died, he asked her: “Sweetheart, do you know what is happening to you?” She nodded her head slowly and replied, “I’m going home.” He asked her how she felt about that. With a quiet calm she replied simply, “I’m okay, I know who I’m going to see,” and then she drifted off to sleep. Several months before she died, Amy had stopped by the local florist’s shop on her way to visit a friend.  She knew she was going to die but was not yet bed-ridden.  While she was in the shop she noticed several large floral arrangements that had been prepared for a funeral scheduled later that day.  Though the flowers were beautiful she did not like the pre-printed cards attached to the flower arrangements: “With Deepest Sympathy” or “With our Condolences.”  She said to the florist, “Those cards are too depressing and I don’t want any of those on the flowers you prepare for my funeral. Let me see what you’ve got.” So she thumbed through all the florist’s pre-printed cards (cards not just for solemn occasions, but cards for joyous occasions) and found one she liked and told the florist to put it on all the cards sent with flowers to her funeral.  Three months later, at her service, all the flowers at the church and the grave included the card she had selected: “Welcome to your new home.”

Are you building your spiritual portfolio?  Are you investing in eternity?  Are you preparing for your heavenly home?  Jesus says in Luke 9:25, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  We must prepare for our “final accounting.”  We must repent from our sin and accept Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  If He is Lord we will relinquish to Him our soul, our lives, our all.

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.”