Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:31-35 – The Unstoppable Jesus – His Love Never Fails

Grace For The Journey

This contains an image of:   Before we read this morning’s passage, I want to share with you again about this matter of “active listening.”  Yesterday morning in my quiet time I was encouraged by reading Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting on God.  Andrew Murray was a great missionary and pastor in South Africa. In one place he writes: “A minister has no more solemn duty than teaching people to wait upon God.”  Murray applies this to the matter of preaching.  Drawing from an incident in the Book of Acts, Murray asks, “Why was it that in the house of Cornelius, when ‘Peter spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all that heard him?’  They had said: ‘We are all here before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.’”

Murray applies this truth to expecting to hear from God when we gather together for preaching.  He writes: “We may come together to give and to listen to the most earnest exposition of God’s truth with little spiritual profit if there be no waiting for God’s counsel.”   He adds, “And so in all our gatherings we need to believe in the Holy Spirit as the Guide and Teacher of God’s saints when they wait to be led by Him into the things which God hath prepared…”

After Jesus spoke about the narrow way, about entering into the Kingdom of God, verse 31 picks up with what happened “on that very day.”  In these few short verses of our text Jesus mentions Jerusalem three times and, in essence He says, “Jerusalem: You have become pretty well known for your criminal activity.  You need no introduction.  Your reputation precedes you; Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you; Jerusalem, you who have a monopoly on being the locale for killing God’s servants; Jerusalem – it cannot be that a prophet should die anywhere else, but in Jerusalem.”

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, on His way to die there; on His way to die on the cross for our sins.  Jesus has been on His way for quite some time now, on His way with determination and precision of timing.  Nothing will stop Him from His purposes. 

Today we will look at some wonderful truths about “The Unstoppable Jesus.”  First . . .

I. Consider His Divine Control.

The first thing we see in this passage is that Jesus Christ is in absolute control of absolutely everything!  There is nothing that can hinder His purposes.  Look beginning at verse 31, “On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, ‘Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.’”  Some Pharisees came to Jesus and warned Him to get out of town because Herod wanted to kill Him.  Most of us are struck by this because we usually think of the Pharisees as the bad guys.  But not all were bad.  Note closely there in verse 31 that Luke writes “some” Pharisees.  Some, not all.  Apparently, these Pharisees are sympathetic to Jesus’ call and mission.  We need not assume that these Pharisees were somehow lying to Jesus or trying to hurry Him toward Jerusalem so that He would die more quickly.

Some Pharisees were sympathetic toward Jesus:

  • A ruler of the Pharisees in Luke 14:1.
  • Nicodemus in John 3,
  • Gamaliel in Acts 5. 

A side note here: Jesus could have said, “Well, the majority of the Pharisees are a bunch of self-centered, religious crazies who reject Me.  Therefore, I reject them all!”  That is the way some of us might reason when somebody wrongs us.  “Well, I’m not going to talk to any of those people.  They hurt me, so I am writing them all off!”   Thank God for the loving, patient, and preserving example of our Lord Jesus. 

Verse 32 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’”  Jesus knew Herod Antipas to be a schemer, a deceptive man acting with cunning trickery like a fox.  The statement, “Today, tomorrow, and the third day” was an idiom or proverb that simply meant, “I’m going to continue my work.  Nothing will stop me until I am finished.”  The point is, “Tell Herod, He can’t stop me.  Nothing can stop me.  I act independently of that fox’s plots and schemes.  Tell Herod it will be ‘business as usual.’”

Jesus knew where He was going.  It is good to be with someone who knows where he is going, is not it?  On the other hand, it is very frustrating when you are driving behind someone who does not have a clue where he is going, right?  It is good to shop with people who know where they are going and how long they are going to be there, and when they are going to be leaving.  Jesus knew where He was going.  We see again the steadfast determination of our Lord to complete the task for which He came.  He came to die.  He says at the last part of verse 32, “And on the third day I shall be perfected.”   That is a way of saying, “The day will come – and not a moment too soon or too late – the day will come when My work will be complete.”  This is the redemptive work for which Jesus came.  He came to die.

He is in control of every event – everything will happen according to His divine plan.  He is moving inexorably through the day-by-day ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons, moving step-by-step closer to Jerusalem where He will die. 

He says in verse 33, “Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”  There is the phrase again: today, tomorrow, and the day following.  This was a popular way of saying, “It is business as usual.  I have got work to do and nothing will stop Me until I finish My work.  And My work will be finished when I die.”

The phrase, “It cannot be that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem” was a proverbial way of saying, “Given Jerusalem’s reputation for killing God’s servants, it would be highly unusual for a prophet would die anywhere else, anywhere else but in Jerusalem.  That’ is the place that has the monopoly on killing good guys.”  Jerusalem had a reputation that preceded her of killing the prophets and stoning those sent to her:

  • The people wanted to stone David in 1 Samuel 30:6.
  • They stoned Adoram in 1 Kings 12:18.
  • Naboth was stoned to death in 1 Kings 21:13. 
  • Zechariah was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 24:21. 

Jerusalem would live up to this bad reputation by killing Jesus not very long after He makes this statement.  Many of the leaders of the early church would be killed as well, Stephen, for example, in Acts 7.

But you see, Jesus came to die.  And we are reminded yet again that . . .

  • Jesus came not so much to be our moral example, though He is that. 
  • Jesus came not so much to heal the sick, though He did that. 
  • Jesus came not so much to tell stories, though He did that. 
  • Jesus came not so much to hold babies in His arms and bounce them on His knees, though He certainly must have done that.

But these were not the primary reasons our Lord left the glory of heaven and came to fallen creation.  No . . .

Jesus came primarily to die.

This is the theme of the Bible . . .  

Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

John 10:17-18, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”

Jesus knew He would die.  He lay His life down of His own to die for us.  He died on the cross to pay our sin debt.  This truth is what gripped Isaac Watts when he wrote . . .

Alas! and did my Savior bleed

  And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

  For such a worm as I?

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,

  And the burden of my heart rolled away,

It was there by faith I received my sight,

  And now I am happy all the day!

 He came to die … the Bible teaches that nothing will hinder His purposes . . .

Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 21:30, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

  • Herod the Great tried to stop Jesus shortly after He was born by ordering the death of all children 2-years old and under.  Herod couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • Satan tried to stop Jesus by tempting Him in the desert.  Satan couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • The Scribes and Pharisees often tried to stop Jesus’ teaching.  The Scribes and Pharisees couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • Herod Antipas tried to stop Jesus, but Herod Antipas couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • The soldiers tried to stop Jesus, but the soldiers couldn’t stop Jesus. 
  • The cross couldn’t stop Him, the grave couldn’t stop Him. 
  • Death could not stop Him. 

He is the “Unstoppable Jesus!”

Consider His Divine Control.  Secondly . . .

II. Consider His Divine Compassion.

Listen to Christ’s His love in verse 34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  He longs for the Jewish people to receive Him as their rightful Messiah, but they will not.  They are not willing.  He wishes to gather them together the way a loving hen gathers her chicks under her wings to shield them, to love them, to protect them, to care for them, to preserve their lives, but “they were not willing.”  Just as John says in John 1:11, “He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.”  They were not willing.

Jesus looks ahead forty years to the horrid destruction of the temple of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans; AD 70 when Jerusalem’s “house is left desolate.”  This is what He means when he says in verse 35, “See!  Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”  The barren fig tree (Luke 13:6=9) cannot forever remain unpunished.  Judgment is coming to Jerusalem.

Then Jesus makes this statement at the end of verse 35, “I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”  This statement could refer to a “forced” confession – a confession apart from conversion; apart from salvation – that will be made one day by every current unbeliever.  One day, Christ will return and, as Paul says later, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).  Believers will confess freely and willingly, but the lost will be forced from hell, forced to admit at that point that Jesus Christ truly was and is the eternal Savior and King.

I read last week in my study a statement to this effect by JC Ryle.  He said, “Earth is the only place in God’s creation where there is any infidelity (or unbelief).  Hell itself is nothing but truth known too late.”  There are no second chances after death.  You must receive Jesus Christ as Lord.  If you do, you will be saved and you can say freely, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”  He is my Lord, Jesus!  But if you will not receive Christ, you will remain separated from God and from hell you will be forced to confess and admit and acknowledge that He was and is and will always be Lord.

One may also interpret this phrase in verse 35 positively.  The Apostle Paul speaks of a future mass conversion of Jews.  In Romans 11:26-27, Paul writes of a time when the Jewish people – in the main – will embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, a time Paul seems to tie to the second coming of Christ.  When Christ returns a large number of Jews will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The picture we are left with here is a picture of the divine compassion of Jesus.  He loves the way a hen loves her chicks, arms stretched out over them, lovingly caring for them and protecting them.  This picture of God as a loving One who gathers His children under His wings is a frequent picture in the Book of Psalms.

In Psalm 17:8, the Bible says, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

Psalm 36:7, the Bible says, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.”

Psalm 57:1, the Bible says, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.”

In Psalm 61:4, the Bible says “I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.”

What wondrous love of God,

The One

Who shelters us in His wings!

From these two main considerations – Christ’s divine control of all things, and Christ’s divine compassion – we learn about two reasons every Christian can be encouraged today . . .  

1) God Knows What He Is Doing In My Life.

God knows what He is doing at your life, Christian.  Consider His divine control.   He is in control of everything.  He knows your struggles.  He is just doing Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”  God is just working all things out in your life to conform you to the image of His Son, to make you like Jesus.  That is what you want, isn’t it?  Sure it is. 

  • God’s working in your school, He is working at your workplace.
  • He is working through your marriage.
  • He is working through your finances,
  • He is working through your ups and downs to make you like Jesus. 

He is in complete control and He knows what He’s doing in your life. 

Secondly . . .

2) God Loves Me and Covers Me With His Loving Arms.

The beautiful thing about the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is that God’s love for Christians is bound up in the Father’s love for His Son.  The Heavenly Father always sees us “in Christ Jesus,” so He will always love us because we are in His Son.  God will love us no more and no less.  We feel like failures sometimes when we sin.  But the joy of redemption and the glory of grace is that God loves us in Christ Jesus.  His love never changes.  The arms of Jesus are outstretched towards us.

The blind hymn-writer Fannie Crosby, while blind, could see Christ’s love.  She wrote these words . . .

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,

  A wonderful Savior to me;

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

  Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

  That shadows a dry, thirsty land;

He hideth my life with the depths of His love,

  And covers me there with His hand,

And covers me there with His hand.

And this is a love we then should share with others.  We should share this love with our neighbors, with our classmates, with our co-workers, with retailers, with waiters, with strangers, with people of every tribe, nation, and tongue; every ethnicity, every people group throughout the world.  In the words of one missionary, “If the arms of God’s people do not reach around the whole world, their arms are too short.”

Christians love because

Christians are loved.

But what of the non-Christian?  In John 6:37, Jesus says to every lost person, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”  Come to the One whose arms are stretched out for you.

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 13:22-30 – The Narrow Way

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series through the book of Luke called, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  Today we are looking together in God’s Word at a very important passage of Scripture.  In this passage, Jesus deals with a question that many of us may have asked at some time.  This section is clearly centered around salvation, more specifically, entrance into the kingdom of God.  We see this first of all by the people asking, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”  We see this also in the metaphor of a banquet or party at the Master’s house.  Throughout the Bible, the banquet dinner is a frequent symbol of the kingdom of God.

The people have heard Jesus speak of the Kingdom of God.  They are wondering how many will be there.  How many will be saved?  Of course, when we speak of “the Kingdom of God,” we are referring to those who are a part of God’s family, those who will share in eternity with Jesus, those who are saved. 

This question asked of Jesus is a likely one for His followers to ask.  Many thought that Jesus’ kingdom was to be an earthly kingdom, with Jesus conquering the enemies of the Jewish people and reigning on the earth.  Up to this point, Jesus had not made any sweeping movements toward establishing His earthly kingdom.  The people may have wondered, “What’s going on here?”  This question may also have come to the forefront of their minds because of the many other references Jesus made on this subject.  Jesus often spoke of the difficulty of following Him throughout the New Testament.  The people were hearing things from His teachings that they normally did not hear from their rabbis.  These teachings may have prompted His listeners to ask this question.

Indeed, the question is one that many of us ponder today.  How many people will really be in Heaven?  Jesus speaks of three different doors in reference to salvation.  We will examine those this morning . . .

 I. The Narrow Door. (Luke 13:22-24)

Verses 22 to 24 tells us, “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.  Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’”  The first kind of door that Jesus speaks of is the narrow door, or narrow gate.  The idea here is that most people will not try to go through this door because it is more difficult. 

The gate that Jesus speaks of here is one in which many want what is on the other side, but few are willing to make the commitment to enter the gate.  Although this is indeed the gate that is harder to go through, it is also the one that leads to the kingdom of God.  This gate is the difficult gate, but it offers the greatest reward.

Jesus does not answer the question of how many will be saved, but He does tell everyone to strive to enter through the gate that leads to salvation.  Jesus’ answer is not the answer found in contemporary American culture.  When asked today, “What must someone do to enter heaven?”  You would get a variety of answers:

  • Some would say, “You must be a good person?”
  • Some would say, “Believe whatever you believe with all of your heart?”
  • Some would say, “All religions lead to heaven.”
  • Some would say, “There is no heaven.”

Jesus tells the individual to strive to enter through this gate.  We should not think of “strive” here as working for entrance into the kingdom, but more so of a commitment to enter the gate that leads into the kingdom.

This is for instance not what we speak of when we make a commitment to train for a marathon.  You must work hours upon hours for weeks and months.  This is not the kind of commitment needed to join the United States Marine Corp.  You must undergo strict discipline and grueling work.  This is not that kind of commitment. 

This commitment does not require you

To work to get into the kingdom, but

To give your very self and life to Jesus. 

You commit everything you are to Him,

Because He has already accomplished

The required work to get in.

This is a lesson for us not to focus on hypotheticals, or to try to figure out the mind of God, but to focus on what God has revealed to us.  He has revealed the means of salvation, He has revealed the method of salvation, He has revealed the rewards of salvation, and He has revealed the judgement to those that reject salvation.

 Jesus did not candy-coat His message throughout the Gospels.  He made it very clear what it took to enter the kingdom of God . . .

TOTAL COMMITMENT TO HIM.

Jesus constantly warned His followers about the cost of following Him.  It seems at  times that He is trying to talk them out of following Him.

  • We must be willing to give up everything. 
  • We must be willing to turn away from our families if necessary. 
  • We must be willing to lose all material possessions. 
  • We must be willing to even lay down our lives if necessary.

Some of you may say, “Bro. Terry it is really not that hard for me to follow Jesus.  My life has not really changed that much since I have been a Christian.  My life looks about the same as my friends or coworkers.  I have not really given up much to follow Him.”

My encouragement to you is to make sure you know Who you are following. Has your “want to’ been changed?  Is your desire to live for Him or live for yourself.  Have you ever walked through the narrow door?

This leads us to the next door that Jesus discusses . . .

II. The Closed Door.

Verses 25-28 says, “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.”  Jesus next speaks of a different type of door.  This door is closed.  It is closed to those who are “workers of iniquity.”  The workers of iniquity are those who have rejected the gospel, the salvation that God provided to His people, and the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  One thing we must remember is that we were all once workers of iniquity.  It is not until we enter through the door that we are friends of God.

It is very clear that the Master who is spoken of here is Jesus Himself.  We see this because the Master was in the presence of the people when they ate and drank, and most obvious is the statement that He taught in their streets.  Jesus makes it very clear that once this door is shut, it will not be opened.  There is a sure indication here that many people who expect to enter through the gate will not be able to.  This is a reference to people to whom Jesus is speaking, the Jewish people.

Jesus is the difference maker

Into whether or not you can

Gain access to the kingdom. 

You are not admitted based

On your status, your goodness,

Your nationality, or even

Your devotion to God. 

It does not matter if

You know the Master,

What matters is if

The Master knows you.

God’s grace is abundant and deep.  However, His period of grace will eventually end.  Remember the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9.  The parable illustrates the Jewish people continually rejecting the Gospel, but Jesus asks for more time with them.  Make no mistake though, the tree will be cut down if it does not bear fruit.  At some point, God’s period of grace will end, and His period of judgement will begin.

When Jesus speaks of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob He is speaking of the patriarchs of the Jewish people, or the representatives of God’s favored people, Israel.  The people that Jesus is speaking of will long to be with these Jewish fathers, but they will be unable.  As a result, the punishment and agony they suffer will lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The time of Jesus’ offer of forgiveness will eventually come to an end.  Remember the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.  The man tried to store up material possessions for himself, but was not concerned with the things of God.  Little did he know that very night, he would face death.  So it is with all of us.  Just as it was with the rich fool, just as it will be with the Jewish people, so it will be with all of us.  One day the door will be closed, and it can never again be opened.

Jesus was speaking to the people directly.  They must go through the door before it is closed.

Finally, we see the last door . . .

 III. The Open Door.

Verses 29 and 30 tell us, “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.  And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”  In these final two verses Jesus explains not only that the door is open, but that it is open to all.  The reference to east, west, north, and south is a reference to the Gentiles.  Of course, when I say “Gentile” I mean everyone that is not Jewish.  God’s grace not only extends to the Jewish people, but to all corners of the globe.

This is obviously how we received God’s grace.  Most of us, if not all of us are Gentiles.  This is why we are so passionate about reaching the world, because God is passionate about reaching all stretches of the earth.

Jesus also speaks of the last being first and the first being last.  This is a reference to the free offer of the Gospel to all, no matter the notoriety, societal stature, financial means, or family heritage.  Jesus is pointing out that many people who think they will be the first into the kingdom, will indeed not be there at all.  Likewise, many who others would never expect to be in the kingdom will certainly be among those who are with Jesus.

Both of these statements would not have been received well by the Jewish people.  The last time Jesus spoke of the Gentiles receiving salvation while the Jewish people did not repent was in Luke 4.  That passage ends with the people trying to throw Jesus off of a cliff.  It was understood by the Jewish people that all of them would automatically be ushered into the kingdom of God, simply because they were God’s chosen people.  To hear now that non-Jewish people would be admitted, in addition to lowlifes like slaves, tax collectors, and prostitutes, was simply too much for them to handle.

This gate is not reserved only for special people.  It is open to all who are willing to go through it.  Jesus wanted to shake the self-confidence of His listeners.  He wanted to let them know that . . .

It was not their birthright to get into the kingdom. 

Rather, it required entrance through the narrow gate,

Repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord.

Let me conclude with some practical application of the truths we learned today . . .

1. Enter Through The Open Door, Before It Closes.

All of us will eventually face the moment when the door closes for us to enter into the kingdom.  When it does, we will hope that we already inside the door.

Many of you have probably heard of the death of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.  Steve Jobs lost his life to a battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer.  Jobs is responsible for the all of the black, white, or silver devices you see all over America with a little Apple logo on them.  He is responsible for the iPod, the iMac, the iPhone, the iPad, the Mac, the Macbook, the Macbook Pro, the Macbook Air, Apple TV, iTunes, and many other technological breakthroughs.  At his death he was estimated to have left behind a worth of over $8 billion.  I typed this study on a device created by Steve Jobs.  He was a very popular, innovative, wealthy, and extraordinarily gifted man.  However, the gate is now shut for Steve Jobs.  Wherever he stood with God before he died, is where he stands now.

2. Bring Others To The Open Door, Before It Closes.

 It does not take someone who takes the Bible seriously much time to figure out that Jesus’ method of reaching others with the Gospel is His followers.  We are the ones He intends to use to reach our neighbors and to reach the world.  We must have a sense of urgency in bringing people to the door, while it is still open.  Many people are dying everyday with no escape from the punishment of their sin, and we hold the solution.  TAKE THEM TO THE DOOR!  TAKE THEM TO JESUS!

2. Let Your Assurance Rest Only In Whether Or Not You Know Jesus And He  Knows You.

Friends, if your assurance rests in anything other than Jesus, you are utterly mistaken.  

  • It is not about being from a good family. 
  • It is not about being faithful Baptist. 
  • It is not about being baptized, giving money to the church, or teaching Sunday School.

Many will be sadly mistaken on that day.  They will say to Jesus, “I grew up in Sunday School.  I was married in a church.  I never did anything illegal.”  Jesus will say, “Depart from Me.  I do not know you.”  The only way you can get into the Kingdom of God is if Jesus says, “I know him.  I know her.”

He knows us when we admit to ourselves and God that we are sinners and that we cannot save ourselves, we turn from self and sin and turn to God in repentance, accept what Jesus did upon the cross and the empty tomb, and asked Him to be your Lord and Savior.  When we do that it put us on the right road and allows us to know life now and forever!

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 13:18-21 – The Transforming Power of the Gospel

Grace For The Journey

If you ever have the opportunity to watch a sketch artist at work, it really is something.  He or she begins with a small mark upon a piece of paper; just a small dot or line and draws just a line or two and moves back and looks at it and there is really nothing to see as far you can tell.  Just a small mark or a line, but to the artist it is the beginning of something big and wonderful.  We are going to see in this passage that something that begins so small and so seemingly insignificant will prove to have been the beginning of something mighty and powerful.

When we were last together, we studied the passage just preceding these verses (verses 10-17), the passage where Jesus heals a woman who had been bent over for 18 years.  We said that this healing was primarily an illustration of God’s kingdom coming, the kingdom of God breaking into this world through the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel.  We reviewed Luke 4 when Jesus began His ministry in Jerusalem, reading in the temple from the scroll of Isaiah.  He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor” … “to heal the brokenhearted…to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18-19). Christ’s healing of this woman illustrates how the kingdom has broken into this world.  Jesus is preaching the Gospel and healing the brokenhearted and setting people free.  The kingdom of God has broken into this world.

I want to take some time to review what we mean by the “kingdom of God.”  The kingdom of God is something the Christian enjoys now and something to which the Christian looks forward.  The kingdom of God is both present and future.  The kingdom of God is both “now” and “not yet.”  When we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we enter into the kingdom of God, not as a place, but as a position.  We enter into the reign of Christ.  Jesus Christ rules over our lives and we live under that rule and reign as we surrender to Him daily.  The kingdom is something we enjoy now.  But we also look forward to the “not yet” of the kingdom of God.  When Christ returns, we will enjoy the fullness of the kingdom of God.  This part of the kingdom is “not yet.”  We are waiting for it, anticipating its coming, and looking forward to it.  We recognize that while it is great to be a Christian, this world is not completely fixed.  Sin and darkness are still present.  The light is shining, but there is still much that needs to be fixed.  We look forward to Christ’s coming to fix it.  That’s the “not yet” of the kingdom. 

This healing serves as an introduction to the two parables in verses 18-21, the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven.  You will note the connection between the two things in verse 18 by the use of the word “Then.”  There is a connection.  The English Standard Version captures the connection even better.  It reads, “He said therefore.”  That is, after healing this woman who had been bent over for 18 years, after healing her, Jesus said, “Okay, now that I have your attention, I have a couple of questions for you: “What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what shall I compare it?”

Now these are rhetorical questions; Jesus does not really want an answer from them.  It is a bit like when a man dresses himself for church in the morning and his wife says to him, “Is THAT what you’re wearing?!”  That is not really a question.  She is not really wanting an answer.  She already has the answer.  Jesus asks a couple questions here and is prepared to answer the questions immediately.  He asks, “What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what shall I compare it?”  Then He answers – He gives two illustrations or pictures of the kingdom of God . . .

I. An Illustration From The Garden.

Verses 18 and 19 tells us, Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”  This teaching is simple and straightforward.  Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a tiny, seemingly insignificant seed that grows into a large tree, so large that birds come and nest in its branches.  That which seems like nothing proves to have been the beginning of something really powerful and mighty.

Here is an illustration from the garden.  The next illustration of the kingdom of God is . . .

II. An Illustration From The Kitchen.

Verse 20 says, “And again He said, To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?”  Again, Jesus is not looking for an answer here!  He says, “I will give you the answer; here it comes; wait for it!”  The answer is in verse 21, “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal (or, flour) till it was all leavened.”  Jesus says the kingdom of God is like that which you see happening when a woman bakes bread; she takes some leaven (today we would say, “yeast”) and she takes the yeast and mixes in some flour and works it through all the dough.  The yeast in the dough that has a transforming effect on all the dough.  This is what Jesus says the kingdom of God is like.

Here is the main point of these two parables or pictures or illustrations . . .

Something that begins so small

And seemingly so insignificant

Will prove to have been the beginning

Of something powerful and mighty.

There are at least two main “take away” points from this teaching on the kingdom.  First .. . .

1) Kingdom Power Works Outwardly Through The Church.

The growth of the mustard seed from a tiny seed to a large tree is an accurate picture of the outward work of the Gospel in and through the church.  If you think of this historically, you can see how this has been true.  In spite of persecution over 2,000 years the church has grown.  It has grown from something tiny into something huge.  Many scholars think that the imagery in verse 19 of “the birds of the air nesting in the branches” is a picture of the Gospel’s affect upon the entire world, that the kingdom of God will reach all nations.  There is some Old Testament imagery of nations being represented by birds and so it may well be that this imagery is in play here.  Certainly, this would be consistent with our Lord’s call for us to reach the nations with the transforming power of the Gospel.

We are a missional church because our Lord Jesus tells us to reach the nations.  He says in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  Because churches have been obedient to our Lord’s commission the church has grown from a tiny mustard seed into a tree in which the “birds of the air” or the nations of the world are finding a home.  We must continue to be about the business of reaching the 4 areas of Acts 1:8: our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth or as someone has put it, “our Community, Commonwealth, Country, and Continents.”  This is our mission.  What is remarkably encouraging about this is that God does this work through us, through the church!  I mean, look around at each other!  Look at us!  God works through the church to demonstrate the transforming power of the Gospel – in us and through us – to reach others.

Paul writes to the congregation at Corinth, and he says to them in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”  He says, “Look around, brothers and sisters.  You will note that there are not many in the congregation who are wise, not many of you are mighty or even powerful and popular. No,” he says, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.”  God delights in taking the tiny and seemingly insignificant and demonstrating the power of the Gospel by growing the tiny and seemingly insignificant into something powerful and mighty.  God does that. 

This is a consistent theme throughout the Scriptures.

The wise men came from the East and they came to a popular city and they came to a big temple and they stood before a big and mighty ruler and they asked, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?  We have seen His star.  We figure He must be a pretty big guy and that is why we came to this big city and this big temple and we’re standing before you, Herod, a big ruler because we figure surely you know what’s going on!”

Christ’s work does not begin the way man’s work would begin. 

  • The wise men find the kingdom of God beginning in a small, obscure town – the little town of Bethlehem – what a strange place for a king to begin a kingdom!  This king is born outside in a dirty feed trough!  How tiny and seemingly so insignificant.
  • This king grows and then He does not do things the way we would expect.  He does not call the popular and the princes to be His first followers . . . He calls the tax collector, the common fisherman, the unpopular, the outcast, and the overlooked.  There were a few popular and noble, but in the main, he chooses the seemingly tiny and insignificant.
  • He walks into a place of worship and He does not bring before the people the popular leader of the place, but He reaches to the back and calls forth an obscure woman, bent over for 18 years.
  • He does not build His church the way we talk about building a church in America today.  “Get your brand out there!  Get the color brochure and the billboard with a big attractive logo on the front!”  His logo is a tiny seed – The Word Of God!

Kingdom power works outwardly through the church.  Secondly . . .

2) Kingdom Power Works Inwardly Through The Christian.

Leaven or yeast is unseen and works silently within the dough.  You do not really see it, but you see the effect of it.  There is a transforming power at work within the Christian.  The woman bent over illustrates the working of this power from the inside out.  Christ comes and heals this woman who was bent over for 18 years.  Christ comes and touches her and kingdom power – like leaven mixed with flour – works on the inside and she is straightened out.

This is what God does for the Christian.  Through the power of the Gospel, the kingdom power of the Gospel, the work of grace within our hearts is that which works like leaven or yeast, working on the inside, transforming us, straightening us up, and healing us.  The small beginning of grace within our hearts works like leaven, gradually influencing every fiber of our being, transforming us into the likeness of Christ.  The kingdom of God is like that.  That which is small and seemingly so insignificant proves to have been the beginning of something powerful and mighty.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”  While we are “new creations” in Christ we are still growing . . . We are still becoming more and more like Jesus.  The grace at work in our hearts is working through us as we grow.

Some of us are so impatient with ourselves!  We want to “be perfect” right now.  It does not happen all it once.  Forgiveness happens all at once.  But we are not perfect all at once.  We are growing.   He is still working on us, to make us what we ought to be.

Some of us are so impatient with others!  Gospel power is at work like yeast within dough.  You do not see it, but it is there, working in and through every Christian.  It takes time while it is doing the work.  It is transforming character and conforming Christians into the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).

Like that sketch artist we were talking about.  He starts with something so tiny and something seemingly so insignificant.  It looks like nothing.  To everyone except that artist, it is nothing; just an insignificant mark on a canvass.  In fact, to some people it may even look like a mistake.  But to the artist, that small dot or line, that seemingly insignificant mark will prove to have been the beginning of something beautiful, a remarkable demonstration of the power of the artist.

God is at work through the transforming power of the Gospel.  God is growing His church like a tiny mustard seed growing into a tree.  And God is growing His Christians, transforming them from the inside-out, like leaven working through all the dough.  Praise God for the transforming power of the Gospel!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 10 38-42 – At the Lord’s Feet – The Most Important Thing In Life

Grace For The Journey

As a reminder, Dr. Luke, the physician, is the writer of the portion of Scripture that is our current focus, the Gospel of Luke.  He is recounting for us an incident from the year 29 AD.  Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem, and they stop for a visit in the suburban town of Bethany, just 2 miles southeast of Jerusalem.

Animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions.  The traditional lion tamer has a whip and a pistol holstered at his side, but he also carries a stool when entering the lion cage and that stool is the most important to the lion tamer.  He holds the stool near the seat and thrusts the legs toward the face of the lion.  What happens is that the lion tries to focus on all four legs at once.  In the attempt to focus on all four legs, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the lion, and the lion becomes weak and disabled because its attention is divided and fragmented.

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

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

First . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incidentally, it is a remarkable thing that, every time we read about Mary in the Bible, she seems to be found at the Master’s feet.  There is this passage here, where she sits at His feet listening to Him.  In John 11:32, before Lazarus is raised, she is found at His feet crying and calling out to Him.  Then in John 12:3 she is found again at the feet of Jesus, anointing Him and preparing Him for burial.  Every time we read of Mary, we find her at the Lord’s feet.  She had a desire to be with Jesus, a desire be at His feet where she “heard His word.”

That word there at the end of verse 39, “Heard,” is in the imperfect tense which means it is an action that is incomplete.  The action never ends.  It is continuous action.  This phrase conveys the idea of continual listening.  A better translation here would be, “Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and continually listened to Jesus; she hung on His every word.”

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

Do you have a desire to be with Jesus?  Do you regard Jesus as your most important need?  He is not something to be “added” to our already packed schedule.  It is not that we “work Him in” to our routine, carefully scheduling time with Jesus around our already scheduled lives. 

He IS our life.

It is not, “Well, I have got this going on this week, I have got to rush the kids here and there, or we have got this social engagement and that business deal, I believe I can work in Jesus right around here.” 

Work Him in?

If you are a part of a local church family, you sit at the Lord’s feet every time you gather together.  We come together in big group (corporate worship) and small group (Bible Study) every week because we have a desire to be with Jesus.  We sit at His feet publicly, gathering together in corporate worship, hearing the Word of God preached.  Every Christian who has a desire to be with Jesus desires to be in a big group and a small group where he or she can study, share, and learn among a group of friends who have a like faith.

If worship and small group Bible Study

Reflect our sitting at the Lord’s feet publicly,

Then our personal daily devotion reflects

Our sitting at the Lord’s feet privately.

We must take time privately to get alone somewhere and read God’s Word every day.   We must be with Jesus as Mary was with Jesus, listening as she listened, and hanging on His every Word.  Read the Bible every day.

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

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

This is our motivation

For sitting at Jesus’

Feet every week.

The reason some of us are not motivated to sit at Jesus’ feet weekly through public worship and daily through private worship is, quite frankly, because we believe we had something to do with our salvation . . . We think somehow that we were worthy of it . . . We earned it . . . God needed us. 

  • Only when we realize our goodness is tainted with sin.
  • Only when we believe the Bible’s teaching that none of us is worthy, none of us can please Him.
  • Only when we believe that God opened-up our blind eyes will we ever be motivated rightly to sit at the Lord’s feet publically every week and privately every day.

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

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

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

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

Martha soon begins acting the way spouses act when they argue.  She begins to place things down on the kitchen counter with a little more force now, placing things down so they make a noise that can be heard in the other room.  She shuts the cabinets now with a little more force.  You couples know how this is.  Were someone to ask, “Is anything wrong?”  And you answer, “NO!”  How many of you know “No” doesn’t mean “No?!”

Finally, Martha can take it no longer.  She bursts out into the living room and cries out, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell here to help me!”  Ever feel that way?  You try to do all you can.  You work as hard as you can.  You live as best you can.  You do, do, do, do, and it just seems like life meanly trudges on. Finally, you cry out like Martha, “Lord, don’t You care?!” 

Look at Jesus’ reply in verse 41, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”  Hear the tender compassion in His voice: “Martha, Martha.”  He cares for her.  But there is also a mild rebuke there: “you are worried and troubled about many things.”  The Greek word for “worried” there conveys the idea of being divided.  It is the same word found in Matthew 6 where Jesus says to not worry about your food, clothing, your life.  That is, do not allow yourself to “be divided” by all those concerns.  Rather, seek first the kingdom of God.  Seek just one thing, and all these others will be added unto you.  Know your greatest need.  Sit at the feet of Jesus.  Do not be distracted.

I want you to examine your distraction from Jesus this morning.  What distracts you from the Lord?  Good things can distract us from Jesus, things that in and of themselves are not bad.  Martha illustrates the danger of living a performance-driven life.  Martha illustrates the danger of seeking approval and acceptance before God based on our works. 

We will never be more acceptable

To God than we are in Christ Jesus.

We do not earn God’s approval and acceptance by our works before becoming a Christian . . . and . . . we do not earn God’s approval and acceptance by our works after becoming a Christian. 

We are accepted by God

Not on the basis of

Our personal performance,

But on the basis of

The infinitely perfect

Righteousness

Of Jesus Christ.

Beware of living a performance-driven life. 

The Christian life is not

So much about

Achievement for Christ,

But surrender and

Yielding to Christ.

Examine your desire for Jesus.  Examine your distraction from Jesus.  Finally, the Bible says . . .

3) Examine Your Devotion To Jesus: Verse 42.

Hear the words of Jesus as He mildly rebukes those of us who are the “Marthas” of today, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  Jesus says, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part.”

The picture I have in my mind is this:  Martha is preparing a meal.  There will be all sorts of dishes; all different types and portions of wonderful things from which to choose.  Jesus says Mary has chosen the best “plate” there is.  There are many things she could have chosen, but she chose the best thing there in that dining room.  She chose to sit at the feet of Jesus.  The things that seemed so important to Martha will one day be gone.  Those things that clamored for her attention, all those things will one day expire.

But the choice Mary made – and everything bound up with that choice – Jesus says, will not be taken away from her.  She made the right choice.  She is devoted to Jesus.

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

Alvin Straight was 73-year-old man who lived in Laurens, Iowa.  He had an older brother, Henry, who was 80-years-old and lived to the east, 240 miles east in Blue River, Wisconsin.  Alvin’s brother suffered a stroke one summer and Alvin desperately wanted to go see him, but he had a transportation problem.  He did not have a driver’s license because his eyesight was poor and he apparently had an aversion to taking a plane, train, or bus.  But Alvin did not let that stop him.  He loved his brother, was devoted to his brother, and was determined to be with his brother.

Alvin Straight did something so unusual that they made a movie about him, a movie called “The Straight Story.”  Alvin Straight went down to the local hardware store and picked up a few items for his six-week journey and then went back to his house and put his items into a trailer and then slowly boarded his 1966 John Deere riding lawn mower and, at a top speed of 5 miles per hour, drove 240 miles from Laurens, Iowa to Blue River, Wisconsin.

When you’re devoted to someone, you find a way to be with him.

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.”

*** With Christmas Eve on Friday and taking some time off the following week … My blog will resume on January 5, 2022.  I am prayer that you all have a Christ-filled Christ and a Christ honoring New Year!

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 10:25-27 – When Compassion is Optional

Grace For The Journey

When we were last in Luke’s Gospel, we heard Jesus say back in verse 21, “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.”  We talked about how it is that some “see” and understand spiritual truth and some do not see.  It is hidden from them, and the irony is that very frequently those who do not “see” are the very ones you would expect to see.  They are the so-called “wise and prudent.”  They have everything in place, but they are blind.If we needed a real-life example of a man who was spiritually blind, a man who had “everything in place,” but still could not see, then we have such a man in the passage before us this morning.  He approaches Jesus to ask Him a very important question.  I want to walk with you through these verses and the more familiar passage that follows, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and let’s learn from this dialogue between this “wise man” and Jesus. 

First . . .

1. Consider the Question of Eternity.

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

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

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

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

By the way, it is worth noting that Jesus answers this important life question with an answer that points His questioner to the Scriptures: “What is written in the law?”  What does the Bible say?  This prompts one commentator, JC Ryle to remind us, “It matters nothing who says a thing in religion, whether an ancient father, or a modern Bishop, or a learned (preacher). 

Is it in the Bible? 

Can it be proved

By the Bible? 

If not, it is

Not to be believed. 

It matters nothing how beautiful and clear sermons or religious books may appear.  Are they in the smallest degree contrary to Scripture?  If they are, they are rubbish and poison, and guides of no value.”

Listen how the man answers.  The expert in the law replies to Jesus in verse 27, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”  His reply should sound relatively familiar to a number of us as we studied time the very passage from which the man quotes in part, Deuteronomy 6:4, the passage recited twice a day by the faithful Jew in his morning and evening prayers.

The man says, “I enter into heaven by loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself.”  That is his answer.  Now maybe some of us are not prepared for Jesus’ answer.  Maybe some of us who were trained to share the Gospel using a particular outline or method are surprised by what Jesus says next.  After all, we believe this man just gave something of a “works” answer.  So, we are prepared to hear Jesus say, “No.  Wrong answer.  You cannot be saved by what you do.”  But what do we read?  Jesus says in verse 28, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”  And Jesus is right on, as He always is.  I mean it is true, isn’t it?  Is not the way to eternal life attained by loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength mind; and out of that relationship it leads us to loving our neighbor as ourselves?  Is not the very essence of faith bound up in a whole-hearted loving trust in God as King of our lives?  This is what faith is.  It is an expression of trust in the One who is the love of our lives.

The problem is, of course, that none of us actually loves the Lord perfectly.  The grammar here, present tense, imperative mood, suggests a translation like, “Keep doing this forever and you shall live.”  The opposite is: “Don’t keep doing this and you shall die.”  Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”  Is there a person reading this blog who has the audacity to say he or she always, consistently, and perfectly loves the Lord with every fiber of his or her being, totally devoted at every moment to the One True God?  The expert in the law, however, is blind to this. 

He is blind to it

Because He did not

Come to Jesus trusting

Him, but testing Him.

In fact, he apparently assumes he is doing just fine in these two matters, loving the Lord –  vertical relationship – and loving his neighbor as himself – horizontal relationships – but he wants to be sure, especially on this matter of loving his neighbor.  He might have thought, “Every Jew knows who the One True God is, but not everyone may know who their neighbor is,” and so, verse 29 says, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

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

Remember . . .

The man did not

Come trusting Jesus,

But testing Jesus. 

Therefore the man

Does not require

Instruction as much

As he requires humility.

The same may be said for many of us.  It is not that we need more information to trust God.  We need to humble ourselves with the information we already possess.  As the hymn-writer puts it, “What more can He say than to you He hath said?”  We do not need instruction as much as we need humility.  We must see ourselves in our sin and bow before the One true holy, and infinitely wise God.  But the man wants to justify himself and so he asks, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answers in verse 30 and following.  He answers by painting a picture of what compassion and mercy looks like.  He illustrates what it looks like to love one’s neighbor as oneself. 

Having considered the question of eternity we now consider the illustration of mercy.

2. Consider the Illustration of Mercy (30-37)

Verse 30 says, “Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’”  I am sure the man perks up at this point just as some of you do when a preacher begins to tell a story.  The preacher may be quoting from this Scripture and that Scripture and bringing a solid exposition of a text, but heads soon begin to fill with doctrine, become heavy and begin to nod . . . but just wait till the preacher says, “A guy is walking down the street,” and the room comes alive!  Everyone rises and wakes the person next to him and says, “Cheer up, he’s going to tell a story now!”

The road to Jericho is still visible today.  It is an 18 mile stretch downhill some 3,000 feet from Jericho to Jerusalem.  The terrain is rocky and in Jesus’ day thieves were notorious for hiding along the Jericho road, known then as the “red and bloody way,” as these thieves frequently burglarized unsuspecting travelers.  This man walks along the Jericho road, and thieves jump him.  They strip him of his clothing, they beat him, and they leave him half dead. 

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

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

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

Now Jesus takes the position of the questioner.  He asks the expert in the law in verses 36 and 37, “’So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’  And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”  Strictly speaking, Jesus never answers the man’s question.   Have you ever noticed that?  The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus does not answer that question. 

He answers a different question. 

He answers the question,

“How can I be a loving neighbor?”

In essence Jesus says, “You did not ask me this, but you should have.  You really should have asked, ‘How can I be a neighbor?’”  That is the kind of question My true followers ask Me.” 

The man wanted to know

When compassion is optional

And Jesus, in essence, says “Never.”

Remember . . .

That Jesus is not teaching

A sort of salvation by works:

Do your best to love God

And love your neighbor

And you will get into heaven. 

None of can love God

And neighbor perfectly.

Remember . . .

That this man needed

To be humbled. 

He came not to

Jesus trusting Him,

But testing Him.

He didn’t need instruction, he needed humility.

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

We live it out

As an evidence

That we are

Truly born again.

So . . .

Acts of kindness flow from the Gospel,

But . . .

Acts of kindness are not themselves the Gospel. 

Acts of kindness are not the way to life

But . . .

For the Christian, they are the way of life.

Put another way . . .

Showing mercy to one’s neighbor is

Evidence of having received mercy.

With that in mind, let me share with you about five ways we can show mercy this week . . .

1) Allowing For Divine Interruptions.

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

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

2) Taking Time To Really Listen To Others.

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

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

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

4) Sharing The Gospel. 

What greater way to show compassion and mercy than by caring for the soul of a person?  Some of you are fearful of knowing what to say.  Share your own story, or a tract with them, or read the Gospel verses to them.  The Holy Spirit use these to let them know what Jesus has done and what He can do in their lives as they receive Him as Savior and Lord. 

5) Being Missional (Pray/Give/Go To The 4Cs)

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 10:21-24 – Blessed To See And Hear

Grace For The Journey

This morning we pick up where we left off in Luke’s Gospel, which is about midway through chapter 10.  We last studied verses 17 to 20 so we pick up at verse 21 and we will read through verse 24.  In these verses, Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see.”  He is talking about what can happen to us spiritually.  We can have everything “in place” but still not see as God wants us to see. 

If we see at all,

If we understand

The things of God.

It will be because

God has graciously

Opened our eyes.

Through the power of the Gospel, He has revealed to us that the “old way” of seeing and understanding has replaced it with a “new way” of seeing and understanding.  This is a blessing to receive.  Not everyone has received this grace of spiritual sight.  Not everyone who sees really sees.  Let’s use our eyes and take a closer look at this passage and see what it teaches us this morning.

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

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

This battle goes back as far as Genesis 3:15, where we read what is often called, “The First Gospel.”  After Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, God says to serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed (or, her offspring); He shall bruise your head (Eve’s offspring shall bruise your head) and you (serpent) shall bruise His heel.”  From that point in Genesis 3:15 forward we read in the Bible of this ongoing warfare between man and Satan.  As Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing his head.  This warfare culminates on the cross.  Satan strikes the heel of the ultimate offspring of the woman, Jesus Christ.  Jesus dies on the cross.  But when He rises on the third day, He crushes the head of the serpent.  God defeats Satan yet again.

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

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

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

Yet, what God does is always consistent with man’s freedom and responsibility.  What Jesus says in verse 21 is a statement of fact.  The contrast between the “wise” and the “babes” is not a contrast between educated and uneducated.  It is a contrast between those who live for this world and those who live for God.  The “wisdom of this world” often makes men proud, doesn’t it?  Becoming proud and boastful, these men become resistant to spiritual truth.  Ben Stein’s interview of renowned atheist Richard Dawkins illustrates how the wisdom of this world can harden the heart of an otherwise gifted scientist.  It was striking to hear Richard Dawkins admit that it was possible some kind of intelligent being created the universe, but he would not allow for the possibility that this intelligent being was the God of the Bible.  This truth is hidden from him.  God reveals truth to “babes,” those whose hearts are humbled and softened to receive the truth of the Gospel.

In verse 22 Jesus says, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”   Verse 22 shows the unique relationship between the Father and the Son.  If all things have been given to the Son, then clearly the Son is on equal terms with the Father.  The authority of the Father is given to the Son because the Son is as much God as the Father is God.  So we see here the deity of Christ.  And then Jesus says, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  If anything, this verse teaches that the only way to know God is through the Son.  No one can know God apart from the Son.  When someone says, “I know God” but then does not live for Christ, we have to help them understand that no, in fact, they do not know God.  No one can know God apart from the Son.  This is why the Father says at the transfiguration of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him” (Luke 9:35)!

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

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

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:10, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”  Do you realize how blessed you are to see and hear?  Do you realize how blessed you are to share in God’s kingdom?  Not everyone sees.  Many walk around as though they had two pair of contacts in their eyes, neither pair helping them to see.  If we see at all it is only because God has opened our eyes.  If we hear at all it is only because God has opened our ears.  We have spiritual knowledge and understanding not because we are good or because we are educated or because we are church members.  If we see, we see because God has opened our eyes. 

I believe we can draw three truths regarding what we see and  hear when God opens our eyes and ears from these verses . . . 

1) God Reveals To Us His Triumph Over Evil.

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

We pick up the newspaper and we read that over 80 have died now in the horrible twisters that swept through Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas recently and we wonder where is the triumph of evil in that?  It would seem that Satan is doing a pretty good job of striking the heel of the seed of the woman.  And surely, none of us can know fully the mind of our perfect God and His sovereign ways.  Tornadoes, disasters, and tragedies are reminders of just how small we are in this world, and just how absolutely dependent we are upon the One True God for everything we have.  God has made a way for us to be saved, eternally saved, even from the ravages of storms and utter destruction.  Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”  While Satan is striking the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing his head.

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

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

When God opens our eyes to see, we understand that He has triumphed over all evil. 

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

2) God Draws Us To Himself Through Christ.

Jesus says in verse 22, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal.”  We cannot know God until Jesus Christ reveals God to us.  Did you catch the glimpse of Good News at the end of this verse?  The Son “wills to reveal” this saving knowledge of God to certain ones.  Who can understand this fully?  It is only by God’s grace that Jesus Christ reveals saving knowledge of the Father to us.

Verse 22 is similar to John 6:44. where Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  The Father draws souls to Himself through Christ, who chooses to reveal the Father to certain ones.  God draws us to Himself through Christ.

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

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

We are saved only when

God draws us to Himself

By way of the Holy Spirit

Through the Lord Jesus Christ

In the power of the Gospel.

Has there been a point in your life where you can trace the Hand of God working in such a way as to convict you overwhelmingly of your sin, humbling you to the dust, and you cried out in repentance, “God be merciful to me, a sinner?”  If not, you are lost and on the road to hell.  You need to be saved.  If there has been such a time, then you have, the basis of your joy.  Jesus says in verse 20, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  There is no greater gift than the certainty that when we die we will spend eternity in heaven because God has drawn us to Himself through Christ and our names are written down in heaven.  They are written there not because we were church members, deacons, pastors, and Sunday school teachers.  There are many lost church members, deacons, pastors, and Sunday school teachers.  Our names are written down only when we have humbly come to Christ, our hearts having been softened, His truth having been revealed to us and we receive that truth as a babe with child-like trust.

When God opens our eyes and ears, we understand that God triumphs over evil and He draws us to Himself through Christ. 

Thirdly, when God opens our spiritual eyes and ears, we understand that . . .

3) God Uses Us To Declare His Greatness.

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 10:17-20 – The Source of True Joy

Grace For The Journey

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

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

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

There may be a number of reasons for these things, but in today’s study I would like to suggest that where true conversion has taken place, that is, in the cases of those who are truly saved, these Christians who seem to have lost their joy have done so because they have located the source of their joy in the wrong places.  Does this describe any of you?  When you think of God and your salvation in Him through Christ does your heart flutter?  Do you frequently smile through the day when you pause to think of your salvation?  Or do you think at all about it?  Have you lost the joy of God’s salvation?  As we look at these verses more closely we will discover the source of true joy.

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

This phrase in verse 18, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” is a summary statement of the comprehensive defeat of Satan.  It is very important that we understand this because it goes all the way back to Genesis 3.  Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the “first Gospel,” proto-euengelion. In the Greek.  It just means “first Gospel.”  The context is Adam & Eve’s sin shortly after creation, their giving in to the temptation of Satan who speaks to them through the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  After they sin, God speaks a word of judgment to the serpent.  He says, “I will but enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  Here is a battle where the serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring (the entire human race) and the Seed of the woman (singular here, the one Seed), will Himself crush the head of the serpent.

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

We must not think of this as dualism . . .

The philosophy that says good and evil

Are equal and they battle it out every day

And sometimes good wins and sometimes evil wins. 

Satan is a defeated foe.

This is why in the Book of Job we read that Satan must come and ask permission to tempt Job.  Why?  Because God is greater.  As Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing Satan’s head. 

Nowhere is this truth evidenced

More profoundly than upon the cross.

It would appear that Satan has won.  He has struck a fatal blow against the heel of the seed of the woman.  Jesus Christ is dead, but on the third day, the Bible tells us in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  God Himself crushes the head of the serpent.  God will always win.  God is greater.  In verse 18 of our text we must understand it as a summary statement of the comprehensive, all-inclusive, wide-ranging defeat of the evil one.

This truth is further illustrated in Jesus’ giving authority to the disciples over the destructive efforts of Satan.  Jesus says in verse 19, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”  It is His authority to give because He has authority over Satan and He has authority over Satan because He is God.  He Himself is crushing the head of the serpent.  Christ can give the disciples authority to trample on serpents and scorpions (symbols of evil), and over all the power of the enemy so that nothing shall by any means hurt them.

Serpents and scorpions are symbols of evil.  We are not to take this verse out of context and bring snakes to our worship services and handle them and pass them around.  Leave that to the people in West Virginia or wherever people do that.  This verse is Jesus’ way of saying He has authority over the destructive efforts of Satan and He will protect His disciples from Satan’s powers.  If, and I stress if, the disciples should find themselves in a situation where they encounter a literal snake or serpent then God will protect them just as He protected Paul when that viper came out of the fire on the island of Malta and fastened itself to his hand. Paul just shook it off into the fire.  That is the idea.  Paul did not bring the snake with him in box to be used in a worship service.  If anybody does that, all I can say is they deserve to be bit.

What is happening in these verses is a footnote to Genesis 3:15.  As Satan is bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, God is crushing his head.  Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky.”  As a result of Christ’s coming, Satan is defeated.  God Himself is crushing his head.

Now that is reason to rejoice, isn’t it?  But Jesus says in verse 20, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  However wonderful it would be to cast demons out of people, Jesus says there is something far greater.  Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written down in heaven.  Rejoice because you are saved.  In Philippians 4:3, Paul refers to those “whose names are in the Book of Life.”  In Revelation 3:5, Jesus speaks of those whose names “will not be blotted out of the Book of Life.”  At the Great White Throne Judgment the ones who were cast into the lake of fire were those whose names “were not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15).”

When we are saved, God writes our names into a book called the Book of Life.  Our names are written in heaven.  It is a marvelous thing to think about.  When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He writes down our names in the Book of Life in heaven.

As we return to this question, “Where do we locate our joy?”  We may locate it in a number of places.   The first response is . . .

1)      Not In Our Possessions.

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

God never intended that we should joy first in stuff . . .

  • God never intended that we should love and enjoy in our house and all the stuff inside more than we should love and enjoy Him. 
  • God never intended for us to enjoy in our automobiles, toys, and clothes more than we enjoy Him. 
  • God never intended that our hearts beat more quickly for the latest technological gadgetry or game system more than our heart beats with joy at the thought of Him and our relationship with Him. 

We are not to locate the source of our joy in our possessions. 

Number two . . .

2) Not In Our Power.

The 70 were excited that they had power over the demons.  Jesus says, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you.”  It is not that your power over the enemy is not a big deal.  It is a big deal, but not the biggest deal.  It is not as big as your salvation.  Remember that these 70 disciples are unknown and rather unexceptional people called to a life of obscurity.   They were not to be enamored with power.  They are, as Jesus will say later, “little babes” among the “wise and prudent” (verse 21).

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

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

Thirdly . . .

3) Not In Our Performance.

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

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

Rather the source of our joy is to be found . . .

4) In Our Position (Our Salvation).

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

This joy is the driving force

Behind every other joy. 

This joy is greater than the joy of

Possessions, power, and performance. 

 This joy has nothing to do with us

And everything to do with God.

What causes your heart to beat more quickly? 

  • A paycheck? 
  • A sudden rise in your investments? 
  • Winning the big game? 
  • A certain boy or girl? 
  • A job or career? 
  • Popularity? 
  • Success?

Our greatest joy should be that we rejoice because our name is written in heaven. 

There is nothing more important

Than making sure our

Names are written in heaven.

Nothing.  Your job may seem most important.  Your career, your family, your stuff.  But nothing is more important than making sure God has saved your soul from hell.

And when this has truly happened, you never tire of it.  Let me ask you a question, “When was the last time you laughed in joy at the thought of your salvation?”  I forget where I heard this but a man riding a cart to a town where he is going to receive all kinds of riches and treasure, maybe an inheritance.  He had been riding for hundreds of miles and he is just a few feet from the gate where he is going to get all this wonderful stuff and then the wheels come off the cart.  Rather than leaving the cart and sprinting joyfully the rest of the way through the city gate, he picks up the broken wheel and wanders off muttering about how his cart broke down.

This is a fitting illustration of what it is like to completely forget about the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). 

  • Because we have located the source of our joy in our possessions when we lose our stuff we lose our joy.
  • Because we have located the source of our joy in our power then, when we lose our power we lose our joy.

We are like the guy who has forgotten his inheritance, muttering about a broken wheel that came off a cart, forgetting about the surpassing riches of Jesus Christ and eternal salvation in Him.

Because we can rejoice that our names are written in heaven, we can say . . .

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:1-17 – Glorious Things Done By Jesus

Grace For The Journey

We have been talking in recent weeks about the matter of “active listening.”  We listen to the reading, preaching, and teaching of the Word intentionally, listening as though our lives depended upon it, as indeed they do.  Active listening is to be contrasted with passive listening, hearing of the Word, but not really being tuned-in to the Word.  People were certainly listening actively to Jesus.  In the passage before is today, Luke gives us Jesus’ last teaching in a synagogue.  The people are listening carefully to Jesus and verse 17, gives the response of the people to what Jesus had been saying and doing.  It says, “And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitudes rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”  Picking up on that last phrase, I want to look in our study today on the matter of the “Glorious Things Done by Jesus.”

This passage divides evenly into two main sections.  If you like outlines, perhaps this will help you to arrange the material for your thinking. 

  • We have Jesus healing a woman inverses 10 to 13;
  • And then in verses 14 to 17 we have Jesus dealing with someone who objects to the healing, a person Jesus calls out for his hypocrisy

Let’s look a little more closely at this passage before taking away some pointed principles that surface from our study. 

First . . . 

I. Consider The Healing. 

Verses 10 and 11 tells us, “Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.  And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.”

This woman’s condition did not keep her from being active in the synagogue.  She came to learn and worship, never once complaining of her plight.  She had been bent over for years and I am sure walked very slowly.  She was bent over like that all the time.  The Bible does not tell us what kind of condition she had.  Most scholars believe had some sort of arthritic problem that prevented her from standing up straight.

Verse 11says that the woman’s condition was caused originally by “a spirit of infirmity,” or an “evil spirit.”  This is not to say that the woman was demon-possessed, but that her condition was like every person’s condition in a fallen world.  This was a common way to refer to sickness, all sickness – spiritually and physically – stands in need of Christ’s redemptive work.  This woman needed healing. 

Verse 12 and 13 tell us, “But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, ‘Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity’ (Literally, “Set free from your sickness.”) And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

Now the larger context – and we will see this more fully next time when we look at the two parables that follow; the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven – the larger context of this healing concerns Jesus and the arrival of His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

The healing of this woman is about primarily the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God comes with Christ.  It is both “now” and “not yet.”  It is “now” for those who look to the redemptive work of Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior, those who believe Jesus to be the Son of God.  For these, the Kingdom of God has come “in part.”  When Christ returns, the Kingdom of God will come “in full.” 

This is the larger context as seen when you turn in your Bibles back a few chapters to chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel and you recall how Jesus began His earthly ministry.  He was in another synagogue there and He had stood to read from the Old Testament and reading from Isaiah in Luke 4:18, He says, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”  This is what Jesus has been doing since leaving that synagogue in chapter 4, all through chapters 5 through 13.  He has been “preaching the gospel to the poor; healing the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and setting at liberty those who are oppressed.”  These works are evidence of the fact, He says in Luke 11:20 that, “The Kingdom of God has come upon you.” 

That is the healing.  It is followed by the hypocrisy . . .

II. Consider The Hypocrisy.

Verse 14 states, “But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.’”  This Jewish synagogue ruler took care of the facilities, coordinated meetings there, and oversaw the teaching.  He was a strict observer of the Law, but blind to the point of the Law.  He did not believe Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law.  He did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and did not want the crowd getting caught up with Him, either.  So this man – intending his words for Jesus – speaks them to the crowd!  The synagogue ruler misses the point of the Sabbath entirely.  As Jesus says elsewhere, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).”   

Verse 15 tells us, “The Lord then answered him and said, ‘Hypocrite!  Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?’”  Jewish law made allowances for acts of mercy and necessity on the Sabbath, including caring for the needs of animals.  Jesus says, “Look, if it’s permissible for you to “set free” a bound ox or a donkey in order to meet its needs, how much more should you desire to “set free” a bound woman in order to meet her needs?  Jesus continues in verse 16 by saying, “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham (a fellow Jew), whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”   

Jesus rightly calls the synagogue ruler out on his hypocrisy.  He was a hypocrite because he allowed his zeal for the Law to keep him from understanding the point of the Law.  His religiosity eclipsed necessary virtues like compassion, kindness, and mercy.  He cared more for animals than for humans!  If on the Sabbath “bound” animals may be given water to drink, how much more should “bound” souls be given to drink the Living Water?   Verse 17 concludes with, “And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.” 

In the time remaining, let’s consider together a few of the “Glorious things done by Jesus.”  First, this passage teaches that . . .

1) Jesus Has Power Over My Sickness.

Here is a woman who has been sick for 18 years and Jesus heals her.  The healing happens instantaneously and without any act of faith required on her part.  Verses 12 and 13 simply say that Jesus saw the woman, called her to Himself, and healed her.  That is it.  It happens quickly and instantaneously.  And her response is natural – the last part of verse 13 says she “glorified God.”  That is what we do when we are healed!

Apparently, she was used to glorifying God.  After all, she is there in the synagogue for the purpose of glorifying God through corporate worship.  It is hardly possible to preach on, or study, this text without noting that here is a woman, physically-challenged, bent over, but she has made it to “church” to worship.  I am sure he did not always “feel” like coming to worship, but she came nonetheless.  I think it is helpful for those of us who are younger to realize and appreciate the great lengths to which some people go to be in worship every Sunday, especially some of our older, faithful members.  This is one of the benefits of a healthy church family where there are people from every generation.  Some go to great lengths just to be present for worship.

This woman was sick and Jesus healed her of her sickness.  Ultimately all healing comes by way of the Good Physician, our Lord Jesus, whether healing comes by His saying the word or through a medical doctor or medicine.  Jesus has power over all sickness.

At the same time, however, we must take care to note that it is not always God’s will to heal physically every person.  Remember that this woman had been sick for 18 years.  18 years is a long time.  She was not “out of God’s will,” nor can we conclude that she did anything to deserve her sickness.  Like the man born blind in John 9, this woman was sick so that “the works (and glory) of God should be revealed” in her (John 9:3).  This truth can be safely concluded about all of God’s children who are bound in sickness.  Though we may not understand fully all of God’s ways, we can be sure that He knows what He is doing with us and that we are sick not without the notice of His tender care.  We are what we are that “the works of God should be revealed” in us – however God so chooses to “work” His works.

Jesus has power over my sickness.  Secondly . . .

2) Jesus Has Power Over My Sorrow.

This passage also serves to remind us that Jesus cares for the outcast, the downtrodden, the looked-over, the despised, the unnoticed, and the rejected.  Can you picture this bent-over woman coming to the synagogue every Sabbath?  No doubt people pointed fingers at her and whispered about her.  Imagine how she slowly struggled to make her way to the synagogue and stumbled about trying to find a place to sit down.  Charles Spurgeon suggests she may have “walked about as if she were searching for a grave.”

What a sight she must have been – and what sorrow she must have felt.  Yet while she came sorrowing, she went home singing!  The Bible says she left “glorifying God.”  This is one of the joys of meeting Jesus in public worship.  How many times have we said, “You know, I did not feel like coming today, but I sure am glad I did.”   We come sorrowing and we go home singing.

Jesus has power over your sorrows.  He knows all things.  Verse 12 says, “But when Jesus saw her.”  Jesus saw her.  He sees you, too.  He knows you.  He knows the pain you feel, the hurt you have, and the trials you face.  He loves you and is there for you.

If you can believe that and trust Him, you too may go home singing today.  Jesus has power over our sickness and power over our sorrow.  And all this because, thirdly . . .

3) Jesus Has Power Over My Sin.

Every physical healing of Jesus is an illustration of spiritual healing.  Our need for spiritual healing is far greater than our need for physical healing.  We are all in need of spiritual healing.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We are all sinners, “bent over,” if you like, just as this woman, bent over in sin.  We are fallen.  And there is no one who can “straighten us up” but Jesus.  I really do not want to make too much of the imagery here, but it is true, isn’t it?  We are bent over in sin and Jesus comes to straighten us up.  He comes to us.  He takes the initiative and sets us free.

There is no evidence here that this woman comes to be healed.  She is just “there,” just like many of us today would say we are just “here.”  This woman asks for nothing.  She is just there, and Jesus sees her.  He takes the initiative.  We serve an Initiative-Taking God!  He comes to us in our sinful condition.  He sees us and He comes to us and He “sets us free.”  Here again is what makes Christianity different from every other major religion.  Salvation comes not in our attempts to “get up there to God,” but salvation comes as a result of God’s coming down to us, dying on a cross for our sins, and rising for our justification, so that we by faith, receiving Him into our lives may be saved.  He knows what we are going through, He sees us, and He comes to us in power to reclaim and restore!

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 13:6-9 – What Tragedy May Teach Us – Part 2

Grace For The Journey

The date September 11th has become a date that causes most of us to pause and reflect on the unfortunate reality of national tragedy.  Our family recently watched a documentary about how persons were affected by this tragedy that occurred 20 years ago today.  Most adults can tell you exactly where they were 20 years ago when they first heard the horrific news about terrorists hijacking planes and flying them into the World Trade Center in New York City.  Nearly every American citizen can tell you something about what happened September 11th, that’s the nature of national tragedies.

Those who walked with Jesus 2,000 years ago were gripped with a similar sense of tragedy.  There were two tragedies fresh on their minds; the first related to the senseless deaths of a number of people killed by a maniacal ruler while they were worshiping.  They were “the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices,” mentioned in verse one.  Then there was another tragedy that occurred in Jerusalem, a tragedy even more similar to the tragedy of 9/11.  Verse 4 tells about a people who were killed when a tower fell; the Tower of Siloam fell resulting in the deaths of some eighteen people.

Tragedies like these – whether national or personal tragedies – cause men and women to wonder about a number of things and ask questions such as, “Why did that happen?  Could this have been prevented?  Where was God?”

On Monday we began the first part of a two-part message on “What Tragedy My Teach Us.”  And we noted that the passage – verses 1-9 – can be divide evenly into two main sections, the mystery of God and the mercy of God.  Let’s review and then we will continue our study of what tragedy may teach us. 

First . . .

I. Consider The Mystery Of God’s Ways: Verses 1-5.

Monday we looked at the fact that not all of God’s ways are easily figured out.  There is great mystery in why God allows tragedy.  God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.”  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  For some who walked with Jesus, however, there was no mystery at all.  They thought they had God all figured out.  They believed the reason these tragic events happened was because God was judging particularly bad sinners.  The Galileans in verse 2 were killed because they were really bad sinners and they had it coming.  The 18 who died when the Tower in Siloam fell were also killed because they were particularly bad people and they had it coming so God judged them.

This was a popular view in Jesus’ day, the belief that all tragedy occurred as a result of personal sin.  Even in our day there are some who are quick to ascribe blame when national or personal tragedy occurs.  It is noteworthy here in the text that Jesus nowhere rushes to any view regarding the judgment of God.  He does not even attempt to explain why the two tragedies in these verses occurred.  Jesus does not explain why some die tragically and why others live.  Rather . . .\

He brings out one of the major lessons

We need to learn from tragedy. 

He teaches about our need to repent,

To turn from our sin and to turn to God.

Twice He asks, “Do you think those people were worse sinners than others?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

That is, when death comes all will perish unless we have repented.  Repentance must happen in our souls, or we will perish at the judgment.  To illustrate this matter of repentance, and to highlight God’s mercy towards an unrepentant people, Jesus tells the parable in verses 6-9.  This takes us to the second main division in the passage.

We have considered the mystery of God’s ways, secondly . . .

II. Consider The Mercy Of God’s Ways –  Verses 6-9.

Jesus says in verse 6 that “a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.”  So the owner says to the keeper of his vineyard, the one who does the planting and tending,  “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none.  Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?”  In other words, he is saying, “Look, this is a waste of time, waiting around for this fig tree to bear fruit; it is using up all the soil.”

I remember reading about a guy in Georgia years ago who used to refer to people he thought were lazy and unproductive, he would refer to them as, “Oxygen wasters.”  Now we may argue whether that is a nice way to talk about people, but you get his point: there were some people who were just unproductive and up to no good. This owner of the vineyard is wondering what is the point of waiting around any longer on this fig tree?  There are three years during which it should have been bearing fruit and it has not produced a single fig.  It is a soil waster, cut it down!  Not an unusual nor even unreasonable request.  But what does the gardener say?  What does the one who tends the vineyard say?  We hear it in verses 8 to 9, “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.  And if it bears fruit, well.  But if not, after that you can cut it down.”

This parable is an illustration

Of the mercy of God towards

An unrepentant people.

Israel is like a fig tree that has been planted by God.  God looks to Israel, expecting her to bear fruit; namely to turn from her sin and turn to her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus had said back in chapter 12, verses 54 and following, that the crowds were good at discerning weather patterns, but not so good at discerning the times.  They were clueless as to who Jesus was and their need to turn to Christ before it was too late.  They should turn to Jesus before arriving at the bar of God’s judgment, like the guy who is on his way to court in Luke 12:57-59.

That theme of repentance continues into chapter 13.  The crowds of spiritual fence-straddlers are like a fig tree that does not bear fruit.  So, the owner of the fig tree which applied here is God who owns all things, the owner comes and says, “Cut it down!”   Then we have this beautiful illustration of God’s mercy: see this in verses 8 and 9, the vineyard keeper, emblematic of the Lord Jesus Christ, the keeper pleads, “No, don’t cut it down just yet!  Let me dig around it and fertilize it.  Give it a little more time, one more year.  Then, if it doesn’t bear fruit, cut it down then.”

Do you see the mercy of God in this parable?  The unrepentant crowd is like a fruitless tree.  Fig trees are supposed to bear figs.  They are supposed to bear fruit.  And while the fig tree should be cut down and the owner of the vineyard has every reason to cut it down, here comes the compassionate, merciful keeper of the vineyard who pleads: “Not just yet, a little more time, a little more mercy.”

We will flesh that out a little more fully as we move on to these six things that tragedy may teach us.  We dealt only with the first three last week and we’ll review them quickly.   

First, we noted . . .

1) Our Lives Are Uncertain.

Death is the common denominator for everyone.  It may seem like that which only happens to others, but sooner or later death will happen to us.  Our lives are uncertain.  

Secondly, we noted . . .

2) We Should Thank God For Our Preservation.

We should not take a single day of our lives for granted.  The only reason we continue to live is that God has spared us.  This is why, when speaking of the future we say, “Lord willing.” 

Thirdly, we noted the obvious implication.  Tragedy teaches us that . . .

 3) We Must Repent.

This is the application made twice by our Lord Jesus in verses 3 and 5, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  Rather than denouncing Pilate for his horrendous actions, Jesus turns the conversation inwardly, pointing out man’s universal need for repentance.  It is as though Jesus says, “Why are you fixated on this ‘out-there’ kind of tragedy when there is a far more personal tragedy at hand: your need for personal repentance?  Unless you repent, you too will perish at the judgment to come.”

Repentance is a change of the way we think about our sin.  We hate our sin.  We turn from our sin and turn to Christ.  It is something God leads us to do.  It is not just “cleaning up our act” or “deciding to live right.”  Repentance is a gift from God that comes by His changing our hearts, giving us a supreme hatred for our sin and a love for Jesus Christ. 

We noted two aspects of repentance . . .

a) We Repent Initially As We Place Our Faith in Christ.

We believe the Gospel and we repent, turning away from sin as a dominant pattern in our life and we turn in faith to Jesus Christ. 

Secondly . . .

b) We Repent Continually As We Live Our Faith In Christ.

Repentance is something true Christians do daily, continually throughout the day, every day for the rest of our lives.  As someone said, “I hope to carry my repentance to the very gate of heaven.” 

What else may tragedy teach us?  Number four . . .

4) We Must Live A Life For God (Fruitfulness).

The fig tree illustrates the need to be fruitful, to bear fruit, and to give visible evidence that we belong to God and that we live for God.  Here was Israel, blessed to have the Old Testament Scriptures that foretold the coming of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They had the benefit of worship at the temple, they had the privilege of being in the very presence of God, yet they missed the salvation that comes through personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The fig tree is not just a picture of Israel, but a picture of all who are blessed to benefit from the grace of God’s means.  We have the blessing of a Bible in nearly every home, the preaching of God’s Word, Christian radio, the freedom of worship in our country, but God may say, “Where is your fruit?  I don’t see that you are living a life for Me.”

The distinguishing feature of Christianity is fruitfulness.  Our lives must be different from the life of a non-Christian.  What does it mean to be fruitful?  What exactly is “the fruit of the Spirit?”  Think about whether you bear fruit according to Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  Do you bear that kind of fruit in your life?

5) We Should Thank God For His Love And Patience.

God in His great mercy has been so loving and so patient with so many of you.  God has every right to call you to His judgment bar in a moment, but He spares your life another day.  Some of you have not come to Christ, you have not been saved, and God continues to spare you another week since last Lord’s Day.  God allows you to live another day, another week, digging around you and fertilizing you with His Word, waiting to see whether you will bear fruit.  The final warning of this parable is that God’s mercy is not to be taken for granted.  God’s patience has an end. 

This leads us to the final thing tragedy may teach us . . .

6) We Must Prepare For Judgment.

The vine keeper says in verse 9, “If it bears fruit, well.  But if not, after that you can cut it down.”  Judgment will come to the fig tree if it doesn’t bear fruit.  Many commentators believe that God’s judgment came to Israel in AD 70 when Rome invaded Jerusalem and people were slaughtered and the temple destroyed.  But the danger that faced Israel was not unique to Israel.  The judgment of Israel is just a picture of the judgment that awaits all people who do not repent.

Jesus says, “Unless you repent you will all perish.”  Jesus stresses that the most important thing we can learn from a tragedy is that “Unless you repent you will all perish.”  There is nothing more important than preparing for judgment.  More important than our jobs, or our marriages, or our success, our health or our happiness is the preparing for judgment.  Jesus says, “Unless you repent you will all perish.”

John the Baptist prepared people for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Do you remember John’s words back in Luke 3?  He said to the crowds in Luke 3, verses 7 through 9, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Every one of us must prepare for judgment.  We must repent.  If we repent, then we have real hope in this world, not a false hope built on acts of human kindness or an imagined hope of world peace apart from Christ, but a real hope that comes through the power of the Gospel.  If we repent, we are blessed with hope and encouragement from the God who guides us through each day.  We are reminded every day that God is real and He is working out a perfect plan for our lives.

We have repented and so we will not perish.  We have repented and so we live in light of the hope of the Gospel, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

There is mystery to God’s ways, but He is there and He is at work.  He is at work through your brokenness, through your pain, through your suffering.  He is at work through your mistakes, through your difficulties.  He is there.  He is the God who is “working all things together for good for those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Tragedy teaches us to look up to God and to live for God’s glory.

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 13:1-9 – What Tragedy May Teach Us, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

Stories related to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 still appear today.  I think it is good that we not forget the events of that day.  Those of us who were around 20 years ago remember the events of that day, especially the visually graphic suicide attacks of Al-Qaeda members, who flew hijacked planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Thousands died as those towers collapsed.  The events of that day caused many to question what God was doing in allowing this tragedy.  Why did it happen?  Was God judging our nation?  And many other questions were asked.

Similar questions were on the minds of those who walked with Jesus and heard his teaching.  The opening verses of chapter 13 tell of two horrible tragedies that had occurred in Jerusalem and the people were thinking about them and wondering about what God was doing through these tragedies.  One of the tragedies, in particular, is strikingly similar to the events of 9/11.  In verse 4 Jesus speaks about a certain tower in Siloam that had fallen, killing a number of people.

We are making our verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke.  We are going to look as these verses in two parts.  We are going to be looking today and Wednesday at “What Tragedy May Teach Us.”  I have arranged the material in these nine verses under two main headings for our consideration.  This morning we will look only at the first main point . . .

I. Consider The Mystery Of God’s Ways.

We will spend the majority of our time today in verses 1-5.  What you have in these first five verses are two questions by Jesus, two answers by Jesus, and two applications by Jesus.  The questions follow what Luke records in verse 1, “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.”  Luke says that there were some people present “at that season” or “at that time” who were talking to Jesus.  We would ask, “At what season?” or, “At what time?”  This takes us back to what Jesus had said at the close of chapter 12, especially the last six verses.  Jesus rebuked the crowds for their ability to discern whether it was going to rain, but they were clueless about Christ’s presence in their lives, that He was and is the promised Messiah and Savior.  Then Jesus tells a mini-parable about the need for repentance and reconciliation with God.  He tells of a guy who is on his way to judgment and that it would be better for this guy to settle his case along the way rather than stand before the bar of judgment and be found guilty.  The point for us was clear: Jesus says each of us are on a journey, moving inexorably on our way to the judgment of God.  It would be wise for us to settle our case out of court, settling the charge of our guilt for sin, before we leave this world and it is everlastingly too late.  “Repent.  Turn to Christ your Savior” –  That is the point.

There were some present, as we see in verse one, who had just heard Jesus say this and it caused them to think about the matter of God’s judgment and to speak about one particular example – so they thought – of God’s judgment.  They seemed to think that this incident in verse 1 was an example of God’s judgment upon those who were particularly bad sinners.

The incident in verse 1 is “the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.”  Luke is describing an event known full well to all who lived at that time.  Some Jews from Galilee had apparently traveled to Jerusalem for worship, maybe for the Jewish Passover, and Pilate, who was a really mean ruler, had a number of them killed while they were worshiping.  That is the meaning of the phrase, “whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.”  While these Galileans were worshiping through the offering of sacrifices, Pilate brutally murdered them.  Apparently, these people listening to Jesus tell them about the need to prepare for judgment cited as an example felt were particularly bad sinners who faced the judgment of God. 

Whatever their motivation in bringing up this incident, Jesus replies in verse 2, “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?”  There is the question: “Do you think these guys were worse sinners than others simply because they suffered this way?”  Remember the structure here: question, answer, application.  He has asked the question.  The answer and application come in verse 3, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  Then Jesus raises another tragedy for their consideration, and again the structure is: question, answer, and application. 

Verses 4 and 5 tell us, “(Question) “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Answer) “I tell you, no; (Application) but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  This tower in Siloam was probably a structure that was built over one of the porticoes near the Pool of Siloam which John mentions in his Gospel, John 9, where Jesus tells the blind man to go wash.  There was a tower in Siloam that had fallen suddenly and its collapse resulted in the death of 18 people.  It was a tragedy and the people generally thought that this tragedy was evidence of the judgment of God upon particularly bad sinners.

We will spend the rest of our time here in these first five verses as we consider the mystery of God’s ways.  Wednesday, Lord willing, we will look at the second main point where we will consider the mercy of God’s ways.  We will deal next time with the parable Jesus speaks in verses 6-9, a parable illustrating the mercy of God upon an unrepentant people.

First we consider the mystery of God.  Now, as far as the crowd was concerned, there was no mystery about why these two events occurred: Pilate’s killing of worshipers and the collapse of the Tower in Siloam were evidences of God’s judgment upon a particularly bad bunch of people.  This was a popular belief in Jesus’ day.  I mentioned earlier the blind man in John’s Gospel.  Do you remember the question the disciples asked Jesus in John 9:2?  They asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” but that was the common view: this guy must have done something really bad to deserve this. 

It is the same error of thinking that befell Job’s so-called friends!  Job is suffering horribly and Eliphaz asks in Job 4:7, “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent?  Or where were the upright ever cut off?”  That is, “Job, the reason you are suffering is because you have done something wrong and God is punishing you.”  That is a popular view today.  It is not that God does not ever discipline us for personal sin.  He does.  But the view of Job’s friends is that all suffering is because of some kind of sin in our lives.  That is simply not true.  That was the wrong view of Job’s friends, it was the wrong view of the disciples in John 9 with the man who was born blind, and it was the wrong view of the people here in Luke 13 who brought up this tragedy of these Galileans who had been murdered.  Jesus asks rhetorically – and He asks this twice in verse 2 and verse 4, “Do you think these people were worse sinners than others?”  Then two answers in verses 3 and 5, “I tell you, no.”

This is an important reminder for us today.  It is popular today to view all suffering as evidence of some kind of personal sin in our lives.  This is the Eastern religious view of karma.  If you do good things it results in good for you.  If you do bad things it results in bad for you.  It is an unbiblical view and yet so many professing Christians live this way.  We even joke about it when some minor bad thing happens to a friend, we may say, “Well, you must not be living right.”  A certain preacher in a small town preached regularly against the existence of a local saloon in his town.  One morning a sudden tornado swept the saloon away.  Next Sunday the preacher stood in his pulpit and proclaimed that the destruction of the saloon was evidence of the judgment of God.  The following week another tornado visited the town and swept the church building away.  At this point, the preacher decided he had better change his theology!

There is great mystery in God’s ways.  Often the wicked prosper while tragedy befalls the most godliest of people.  You and I must remember this, or we may find ourselves falling into this erroneous thinking, that we must have done something terrible to make God mad at us.  We must avoid what Kent Hughes calls, “The misguided tendency of ill-informed Christians who heap imagined guilt upon themselves for the calamities that have befallen their children or other loved ones.”

I want to lay-out this morning a few implications that we will flesh-out a bit more fully next time.  If we ask the question, “What May Tragedy Teach Us.”  There are a few lessons we should learn. 

First . . .

 1) Our Lives Are Uncertain.

Our “default mode” of thinking tells us that we have got plenty of time.  We are going to live another day.  Tragedy is something that happens to others.  We read about it in the morning paper.  We see it on TV.  We think, It does not happen to us; it happens to others.’  Every funeral I preach I try to say something like this at the end, “One day, there will be a service like this for every one of us.”  It is a reminder, I trust, of the brevity and uncertainty of life.  Are you deeply aware of the uncertainty of your own life? 

If so, it will lead naturally to the second implication . . .

2) We Should Thank God For Our Preservation.

That is, we should not take any day of our life for granted, but should recognize that the only reason we continue to live is because God has spared us.  Do you thank God for His preserving your life?  Begin each morning before you get out of bed with these words, “God, thank you for giving me another day of life.”  Then add, “Now let me live it for Your glory.”

We used to teach our children this prayer that reminded us of the uncertainty of life and the need to thank God for our preservation.  We teach our children to pray in the evenings: “Now, I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep; and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  It is God who preserves our lives while we sleep, while we are not even thinking of Him.

This is a much more God-centered way of living, isn’t it?  It is not, “God, give me this,” or, “God, I deserve that.”  But rather, “God, I recognize that you are the One who keeps the blood flowing through my veins and the oxygen going to my brain.  You can stop my heart at any moment.  Thank you, O sovereign Creator and Sustainer of my life.  Give me the wisdom to live this day in gratitude to You for Your grace and mercy.”

Thirdly . . .

3) We Must Repent.

This is the application made twice by our Lord Jesus in verses 3 and 5: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  Some had told Jesus in verse 1 about Pilate and this tragedy in Jerusalem.  And rather than going off on Pilate and talking about tragedy in the abstract or general terms, Jesus turns the conversation inwardly, pointedly to these who have raised the issue.  In essence, Jesus says, “Let’s not try to solve the mysteries of God here with respect to tragedy somewhere ‘out there.’  Look at yourselves.  Unless you repent, you will perish, too.”  That is, when death comes, everyone perishes, everyone perishes unless he or she has repented.  Put another way, “We must repent or we will perish in the judgment to come.”

Repentance is a change of mind regarding our sin.  It is a change of heart about our sin and it is a turning from our sin and a turning to the One True God.  It is not merely outward reformation or change of behavior to benefit our situation.  It is not like hitting the “re-set” button or like “rebooting” our computers, clearing out the clutter of things we have done wrong and trying to start again afresh and anew.  That is not repentance.

Repentance is a gift of God that results in a changed heart, a heart responsive to the ways of God.  Repentance happens when we come to terms with the claims of Christ upon our souls and we are convicted of our sin and we turn to Christ.  We must feel our sin, mourn our sin, confess our sin, and hate our sin.  I heard someone say recently, “We should hate our sin as much as we hate our suffering.”  I think that is a good indicator that repentance has taken place.  Do you hate your sin as much as you hate your suffering?

Two quick aspects of repentance we will deal with more fully on Wednesday . . .  

a) We Repent Initially As We Place Our Faith In Christ.

We believe the Gospel and we repent, turning away from sin as a dominant pattern in our life and we turn in faith to Jesus Christ.  Some of you need to do that.  But repentance is not just that which we do initially. 

Secondly . . .

b) We Repent Continually As We Live Our Faith In Christ.

Repentance is something true Christians do daily, continually throughout the day.  A marriage counselor once said, “People don’t fall out of love, they fall out of repentance.”  He is right.  We must repent continually.  Similarly, we do not fall out of fellowship with friends, or other church members, we fall out of repentance.  We fail to confess our own sin and turn from our sin and go to that person and ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation.  Often we just ignore them and run away.

I close with the words of a preacher from an earlier generation.  He said, “Some people do not like to hear much of repentance.  But I think it is so necessary, that if I should die in the pulpit, I should desire to die preaching repentance, and if I should die out of the pulpit, I should desire to die practicing it.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”