Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 5:27-32 – For Sinners Only

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Book of Luke and we have been noting in recent weeks the awesome power of the Lord Jesus Christ . . .His power over Satan,

His power over the sick,

is power over sin. 

Today we pick up in Luke 5 with another example of that power over sin.  There is a guy who needs that power to be delivered from his sin and his name is Levi.  The text is just six verses long, but I would like to ask you to listen for what it teaches about the Christian faith.  Who is Christianity for and what does it require of us?

One of the blessings of regular Bible study is that we are reminded in the Scriptures of things we already know.  This is a blessing because we need to be reminded of them.   We are a forgetful people, and we need reminding.  We must resist the temptation to always look in the Bible for something “new and different.”  I read recently where someone said, “If it’s new, it’s not true; if it’s true, it’s not new.”  I like that statement!   The power of preaching does not lie in the speaker’s finding some “new twist” to a text, but in the simple, straightforward explanation and application of a text.  Most of us are not learning something new each week, but rather are having previously-learned truths reinforced.

I asked you earlier to consider “who is Christianity for” and “what does it require of us” and I will bet most of us know the correct answers.  We may say the things a little differently, but we would be roughly on the same page.  We have an opportunity this morning to remind ourselves who Christianity is for and what it requires of us.

Sometime back I read about a pastor who put a sign over the front door of the church.   It read, “For Sinners Only.”  I thought about that sign because if I had to answer the question, “Who is Christianity for?”  I think I would answer it that way.  It is for sinners only.  This text certainly teaches that.  As we study this text together we will see what is required of each and every one of us if we mean to take seriously what the Bible teaches.  Today’s passage is a call to real Christian living.  The passage really has nothing to say to folks who wish to be entertained, nor even does it have anything to say to folks who wish to hear a popular talk on feeling good about ourselves.  This passage focuses our attention upon what real Christianity looks like the way a laser beam focuses light upon a wall.

As we consider what real Christianity looks like I want to share with you some actions that are required of each and every one of us this morning.  These actions are not something we are to do only once, but actions we are to do repeatedly, and continually.  That is important for us this morning.  We must do these things continually.  Number one . . .:

I.  We Must Come To The Savior.

Now this is what we may call a “no-brainer,” right?  Of course we must come to the Savior.  What is salvation without a Savior?  What is Christianity without a Christ?  Of course, we must follow Jesus!  But . . .

Luke means for us to see

In his Gospel that coming to

Christ is not a one-time event,

But a continual action.

Jesus walks along the road and he sees Levi sitting at the tax office and says, “Follow Me” and Luke writes in verse 28 that Levi “left all, rose up, and followed Him.”  If we focus only on the fact that Levi “left all, and rose up,” we may miss the force of the phrase “and followed Him.”  Luke’s use of the imperfect tense means that the phrase may better be translated as, “and Levi began to follow Him.”  Levi began his first day of following Christ.  That is the idea here.  It was not a one-time event, but a continual action.  Coming to Christ is a continual coming.

Luke will stress this again a few chapters later.  In Chapter 9 verse 23 to 26, Luke will record the words of Jesus, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”  Jesus says this right after telling His disciples that He Himself will suffer many things and be rejected by the religious leaders, killed, and rise the third day.  He is saying, “This is what you are getting into if you follow Me.  I am going to die on a cross, so following Me will require your ‘taking up your cross daily.’”  Daily.  Coming to the Savior is not a one-time event, but a continual action.  It requires the continual denying of ourselves, picking up the cross, and being ready in a moment’s notice to die as our Master dies.  The is Christ’s message to His followers – For whoever desires to save his life will lose it … for what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?   No, not everyone who says he is a Christian is truly a Christian because not everyone is willing to continually follow after Christ, daily denying ourselves of glory, popularity, material success, and worldly comfort.  But those who are truly His, will “leave all, rise up, and follow Him” and will continue to do so each day.

This continual coming to Christ is seen also at the end of the passage, in verse 32 where Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  The call to follow Jesus Christ is a call “to repentance.”  Do not miss this . . .

The call to discipleship

Is a clarion call to a life

Of repentance, of regularly

Turning away from our sin

And turning to our Savior.

That is our calling.

Coming to Christ is not something we do merely in our heads as though we could sit and hear the reading from the New Testament and nod our heads in agreement.  No! 

Coming to Christ requires life-change. 

It does not mean that we change

Our lives in order to be saved,

But that God changes our lives

Through the power of His Word

And this power results

In demonstrable life-change.

This happens when what we know to be true in our heads resonates with what we know to be true in our hearts and it is confirmed in how we live that truth in our lives.

We see this in Levi.  Jesus comes to Levi in verse 27 and says, “Follow Me.”  That is all Jesus says.  We do not know if Levi had heard of Christ before.  Maybe he had even talked with Christ before.  The text does not say, but what it does say is that immediately after Jesus says, “Follow Me,” Levi “left all, rose up, and followed Him.”  What causes a man to leave his entire business, worldly goods, wealth, and power, and immediately rise-up and begin a life of following Jesus?  The answer is . . .

The power of His Word. 

The Word of Christ! 

Preaching is not

About the wit

And genius and

Cleverness of the speaker. 

Preaching is about

Proclaiming the Word of Christ. 

That is where the power is.

Levi hears the Word of Christ.  The power of Christ’s Word awakened the sinner Levi and changed him so that Levi left all, got up, and began a life of following Christ.  He continued to follow Christ.  This Levi is also called Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew as well as in all four lists of disciples in the New Testament.  Most folks living then had both a Hebrew name as well as a Greek name and that is what we see here: Levi or Matthew, continual follower of Jesus Christ.

That Jesus came to Levi prepares us for the second action required of every one of us.  Not only must we continually come to the Savior but, secondly . . .

II.  We Will Have A Concern For Sinners.

Levi was a tax collector, probably better understood as “toll collector.”  These people had toll booths not too unlike a toll booth today.  He sat there, perhaps at the entrance to Capernaum, and collected a fee from people as they walked by.  You could not walk by without paying the tax.  These guys, like Levi, contracted this business with the Roman government in advance.  They would bid the work and pay maybe an annual fee up front to the Romans and then they were left to collect whatever they wanted.  They would cover their cost that they paid for the contract but then collect more, often a lot more, to make an unreasonable profit.  Tax collectors were regarded as dishonest people and were considered the scum of society.  They were looked upon as bad people whose testimony was not even accepted in a court of law.  But this is exactly the kind of person for whom Jesus died.  Jesus comes to the outcasts to tax collectors and sinners.

And to demonstrate that Levi really is a changed person who has begun a life of repentance . . .

Levi shows the same concern for others

That Christ had shown for him. 

We must show the same concern

For others that Christ has shown for us. 

This is what Levi does.  Verse 29 says that Levi gave Jesus a great feast in his own house, “And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.”  These “others” are people to whom the Pharisees refer to as “sinners.”  We see that in the next verse.  Verse 30 says “And the scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’”

Levi shows what happens to us when God saves us.  We share what we have received with others.  We share the truth we have received with others.  Levi was obviously pretty wealthy.  He throws a big party and invites all of his tax collectors and sinner friends and sinner co-workers and sinner neighbors to come!  Why?  Because he wants them to receive what he himself has received – salvation.  J.C. Ryle said, “A converted man will not wish to go to heaven alone.”

Sharing the Gospel does not mean we have to know all the answers to all the questions.  At the heart of it . . .

Sharing the Gospel is merely

Inviting people to Christ,

Inviting them to hear and

Consider the Word of Christ.

Evangelism, as someone said, “is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  That is what Levi does here.  He invites others to come to know Christ as he has come to know him.  He, who knew himself to be a sinner, now has a concern for other sinners.

And the church must have the same concern!  It is crucial for us to understand that the question asked by the scribes and Pharisees, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners,” was a question not put to Jesus, but put to His disciples.  Verse 30, “Their scribes and Pharisees complained against His disciples.”  Of course, the complaint includes Jesus and Jesus will answer the complaint, but do not miss that the complaint was directed to the disciples, why?  Because disciples do the same thing their teacher does.  Disciples are followers of Christ.  Disciples love the same people their Master loves.  Disciples love tax collectors and sinners.

Every church must love the same people our Master loves.  Do you?  Our Master loves all people irrespective of gender, age, social status, academic achievement, economic condition, ethnicity, or geographical location.  Luke will put it even more succinctly when he records the words of Jesus in Chapter 13, where Jesus says that lost people “will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (13:29).  Christ loves people from all countries, and all continents.  He loves all people in our commonwealth and in our community.

We must come to the Savior . . . We must have a concern for sinners and, thirdly . . .

III.  We Must Cast Off Our Self-Righteousness.

The scribes and Pharisees complain against Christ’s disciples and you can hear the contempt in their complaint,: “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?!”  A popular person walks into our congregation and everyone is looking over at him, smiling, welcoming, and shaking his hand.  Are you as quick to welcome the dirty, lowly, and unpopular sinner?  Or do you grimace and ask, “Why are tax collectors and sinners attracted to this place?!  Our church is a ‘respectable’ church.”  May God deliver us from “respectable” churches.

The phrase there in verse 30, “eat and drink” suggests a deeply personal activity.  In Jesus’ day, to eat and drink with someone, to share a meal with someone, was a way of demonstrating a special kind of oneness with another.  The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was that they were not one with these people.  They had placed themselves in a different category, a separate category, a better category.  They had placed themselves in upper category of “the righteous.”  So, Jesus says in verses 31-32, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  It is not that the scribes and Pharisees were righteous.  Obviously, they were not, but they sure thought they were.  I wonder whether some of us think we are righteous, but are not?  There was a time I thought of myself as righteous when I was not.  It can happen to any of us.

This is obviously a concern of Luke’s as he will record Jesus’ telling a parable in chapter 18, verses 9-14, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Real Christianity means we cast off our self-righteousness.  Jesus says, “I have come for those who know they are sick.  I have come not for those who think they are well.”

A doctor cannot help a patient who thinks he is well when all the tests indicate otherwise.  The doctor can say, “There is simply no question here.  You are very sick.  Look at these test results.  And look at you!  You are not well.”  He cannot help the patient at all if the patient says, “I do not really care what all the tests show and I do not really care that I have had no appetite in 12 weeks and that I am in constant pain and that I am bleeding everywhere I tell you I am not sick!”  That is ludicrous.

But that is the point Jesus is making.  He cannot help those who think they are well.  He has come to those who know they are sick.  He has not come to those who think they are righteous, but to those who know they are not.

The beauty of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is found in learning that we are forgiven not on the basis of what we have done, but on the basis of who we know and what He has done for us: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Or, as Paul writes in Philippians 3:9: “Not having my own righteousness…but that which is through faith in Christ.”  God gives us Christ’s righteousness.  He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us.  It does not mean that we are “made” righteous as though it were intrinsic, inside us.  No, it is a righteousness that we wear like a garment.  It covers us.

We do not come to Christ dressed in our own righteousness.  We cannot enter heaven this way.  We agree with the hymn-writer that we are “faultless to stand before the throne” precisely because we are “dressed in His righteousness alone.”  Anytime we find ourselves putting back on our old dirty rags of our own righteousness we are in trouble.  Cast them off.  You are not well.  You need a doctor, not just once, but continually.  You and I both need to be under the constant care of the Great Physician.

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 Time: Luke 5:17-26 – Power to Forgive Sins

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke.  This is what we do here at First Baptist – expository preaching, teaching through books of the Bible.  We gather together as students of His Word and, therefore, all good preaching is teaching, explaining, and applying the Word of God.  To this point in Luke’s Gospel we have been witnessing the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have read of Jesus’ power over Satan and then His power over sickness, last week, for example in His healing a man with leprosy.  Jesus has demonstrated His power over Satan and His power over sickness.  And now we read about His power over sin.  We read an incident where Jesus demonstrates His authority and power to forgive sins. This is a great story.  Story, not in a fictional sense as though it did not happen, but story in the sense of Luke’s giving us a narrative of a true event that occurred early on in Jesus’ ministry.  This paralyzed man is let down through the roof of a house in order to get to Jesus.  This paralytic literally, as we often say about this passage, he “brings the house down!”  What is the main point of this passage?  When preparing to teach a passage from the Bible we must read it through several times asking ourselves, “What is the main point of this passage?”  Every biblical text has one main point or one main theme that runs like a strong thread, holding all the fabric of the verses together.  In this passage, as we have already noted, the main point is that Jesus has authority or power to forgive sins.

Now this truth may not really grab us at first.  I mean, if you sinned against me, let’s say you hit me for no reason and I said to you, “Hey, it’s okay.  I forgive you for what you did to me.  I forgive your sin.”  Well, that’s noble and good and even non-Christians and atheists could appreciate that.  If, however, you sinned against someone else, you hit another person.  And then I say to you, “I forgive you for what you did to him,” now that is different, isn’t it?  It is one thing for me to forgive something you did to me, it is another thing for me to insinuate myself into you and another person’s business and say, “I forgive your sins.”  You would be like, “Who are you to forgive sins?!”  And that is precisely what is going on in this passage.  Jesus demonstrates His power to forgive sins, the sins of others against others, the sins of others against God.   The Pharisees in this passage are beside themselves.  They are like, “Jesus, who are You to forgive sins?!”

Verse 17 says, “Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”  That is really better translated, “to heal,” rather than “to heal them.”  It almost sounds like the power of Jesus is present to heal the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Now they could use some healing, but the point is that Jesus has power present to heal, to heal the sick.

Speaking of the Pharisees, this is the first time we read about them in the Gospel of Luke.  Most of us are familiar with the Pharisees.  They were the most influential among the “big three” groups or sects of Jews in Jesus’ day – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes.  The Pharisees were very legalistic, and we see that from the get go, they are after Jesus because Jesus is challenging their authority and power, and challenging their teaching.  The Pharisees are forming a sort of, “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”  If they had Facebook back then. the Pharisees would have had their own page and you could become a fan of the “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”  They are going to be after Jesus, trying to catch Him in some kind of trap, so they can get their power back. 

Verses 18-19 tell us, “Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.”   We do not know who these guys are, but I would love to have them as members of First Baptist.  Such initiative!  Mark tells us in his Gospel that there were four of these guys.  They had walked to the paralytic’s house and they put him on this bed and carried him on the bed to Jesus.  I do not know how far they walked, but when they finally get to the house where Jesus is, there is a crowd around the door and they cannot get in so one of them says, “Hey, let’s take him down through the roof.”  I do not know how they got up there, Luke did not feel it was important to tell us, but somehow these guys got on the roof and then they removed a tile from the roof and lowered the guy down to Jesus.  Talk about a sermon interruption!  Pieces of tile falling to the ground, a cloud of dust forming in the air, people looking up to the ceiling, these four guys’ mugs looking down through the hole.

We have to note, if only in passing, the lengths to which these men go in bringing a needy soul to Jesus.  If most of us worked only half as hard as these guys did in bringing people to Jesus, we would have baptisms every Sunday till Christ returns.   Such evangelistic and missional zeal!  May God help us to be as enthusiastic about getting our loved ones to Jesus.

The Bible says that Jesus looks up and sees their faith.  He sees their faith, the faith of all of these men, the four guys and the guy on the bed and what does He say?  Verse 20 says, “When He saw their faith, He said to him, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’”  I want you to notice something here.  Why did the four men bring the paralytic to Jesus?  They brought him, of course, so he would be healed of his paralysis.  He had a physical need.  Does Jesus address the man’s physical need?  Not immediately.  He addresses the man’s spiritual need first.  He says, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  Why?  Because . . .

As we have been noting in our

Study the past couple weeks,

Our greatest need is not

Physical, but spiritual.

Let’s pause right here and note three important truths about every one’s life . . .Number one, we must . . .

I.  Never Forget What Our Greatest Need Is.

Our greatest need is

Forgiveness from sin.

That is our greatest need.  More than anything else we need we need to be forgiven of our sins.  Never forget that.  This is my greatest need, your greatest need, the greatest need of your loved ones, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your leaders, and the greatest need among the 6,000 unreached people groups, 1/3 of the earth’s population.  Our greatest need is not housing, education, clothing, or even food or water.  Our greatest need is forgiveness.

Many of us are familiar with the Christmas card or the frequently forwarded email that describes our greatest need.  Have you heard this?

  • If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
  • If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
  • If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
  • If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
  • But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.

Never forget what our greatest need is: Our greatest need is forgiveness.  Jesus will go on to address the paralytic’s physical need, but not before addressing first his spiritual need.  The man needed forgiveness from sin.

This is here for our learning.  What a tragedy if we prayed only for people’s physical need without giving thought to their spiritual need.  What good is it to pray for physical healing for someone if we never inquire as to their spiritual condition, of their need for salvation?  Admittedly, our first reaction when we hear someone is sick or in the hospital is to what?  It is to pray for their physical well-being, for their healing.  But is that person saved?  Is that person’s soul healed?  They will get physically sick again.  They will!  We all will. 

We are physically dying on the outside

Because of a sin nature on the inside.

The next time we ask for prayer for someone sick and in the hospital, let’s be sure to ask how we can pray for their spiritual wellbeing too.  Are they saved?  Have they been forgiven?   Are they growing in their faith? 

Never forget what is our greatest need. 

The second thing we note is . . .

II.  Never Forget The One Who Meets That Need.

These physical healings of Jesus are not ends in themselves, but each healing is a means to a far greater end.  These physical healings are like road signs pointing to a far greater destination. 

It would be tragic to get all excited

About the sign and miss the thing

To which it was pointing. 

The sign points to the only

One who can meet our greatest need. 

The healings point to the Savior –

The only Savior – Who alone

Meets our need for forgiveness.

This healing brings out the unique character and nature of Jesus Christ, Son of God.  You get it immediately after Jesus says to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  Verse 21 says, “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’”

The Pharisees have a point here.  We will concede a point of the “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”    The point is . . .

Only God can forgive sins.

The Bible says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake.”  Only God can forgive sins.

So, Jesus comes along and says to this paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you.”  So, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy.  Blasphemy is irreverence to God, a sin punishable by death.  Now do not miss this . . .

When Jesus said to the paralytic,

“Your sins are forgiven you,”

Jesus placed Himself on

Equal footing with

God the Father.  Why? 

Because He is on equal

Footing as God the Son.

Someone says, “Well, Jesus never said anything or did anything to show He is God.”  What is this?  In case we miss it, He fleshes it out even more clearly in what follows.

We find out now that these Pharisees are reasoning these things in their hearts, they are murmuring these things on the inside and Jesus knows their hearts.  Look at what He says in verse 22, “But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, ‘Why are you reasoning in your hearts?’”  I do not want to press beyond what is appropriate, but Jesus knows what they are thinking!  It illustrates to some degree what John was talking about in John 2:25 when he wrote that Jesus “knew what was in man.”  Or, as the psalmist wrote of God in Psalm 139:4, “There is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.”  Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?”  In other words, “Why are you thinking I am guilty of blasphemy?  Don’t you know that I am about my Father’s business here?  Don’t you now that I have the authority and power to forgive sins?”  So Jesus asks this question in verse 23, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk?’

Well, on the one hand, it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.”  No one can see a person’s sins being forgiven on the inside of a person.  It would be practically impossible to verify that it had happened.  A person could just say that, but it is also easy to say to a paralytic, “Rise up and walk.”  That is also easy to say, but in this case, it could be verified immediately because the paralytic is in a position to verify it.  If the paralytic is physically healed he will get up and walk.  And the mastery of what Jesus is doing here is that He is teaching the Pharisees that He has the authority and power to heal both the man’s physical sickness and his spiritual sickness. 

So, Jesus makes this statement in verse 24, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the man who was paralyzed, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’”  In essence, Jesus says, “I am going to show you that I have authority to heal this man on the inside by doing a work that you will see on the outside.”  Jesus says, “You cannot verify what I am doing on the inside so, ‘that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—inside work—He said to the man who was paralyzed, ‘Arise, take up your bed.”—outside work.  So, Jesus heals the man on the outside to show that He had healed the man on the inside. 

Verses 25 and 26 declare, “Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today!’”  This is the understatement of the day!  “We have seen strange things today.”  The Greek word translated “strange things” is “paradoxa,” from which we get our English “paradox,” which means “an unexplained phenomenon.”  Never forget what is our greatest need.  Never forget the One who meets that need. 

Number three . . .

III.  Never Forget The Wonder Of Having That Need Met.

“The crowd was all amazed, but not the Pharisees, they were not amazed, at all.  You would think this would make a believer out of them, but they are just going to grow colder and colder as the following verses and chapters will demonstrate.  But there was joy and wonder among everyone else about how Jesus had met this man’s spiritual and physical need.  Imagine as soon as this paralytic gets up what everyone is thinking.   There is a gasp in the room as he just gets up. 

The man was paralyzed,

Now

The crowd is paralyzed!

The guys on the roof looking down through the hole are like, “We won’t have to carry him home!”  Everyone in the house just marvels, watching this paralytic who had been brought to the house on a bed, now walking out of the place as he carries the bed.

Verse 26 says He, “departed to his own house, glorifying God.”  Can you see him walking down the street to his own house?  Surely others had seen him being carried earlier by the four men.  Here he is now with bed under arm, skipping, jumping, and praising God. 

He is glorifying God,

Praising the God who

Had met his needs and

Met them in order

Of importance:

First spiritual,

Then physical.

He is a changed man.  If married, he comes home to his wife as a changed husband.  If he has kids, he comes home to his children as a changed father.

Christian . . .

Never get over the wonder of having

Your spiritual need met in Christ.

Do you hear what Jesus is saying to this paralytic?  He says, “Man your sins are forgiven you.”  Not, “Your sins may be forgiven” or, “might be forgiven, but are forgiven.”  Nor does Jesus say merely, “Your sins have been forgiven,” as though forgiveness extended only to the man’s past.  No, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven you,” which emphasizes the continual and abiding state of forgiveness.  The Christian’s sins are forgiven in Christ, completely forgiven.

Imagine a convicted felon standing before a judge and the judge says, “You are forgiven for this crime you have committed – and oh, by the way – you are also forgiven for all future crime you will commit!”  How scandalous!  How paradoxical!  How strange!  How gracious, how merciful, how loving!  When you know this truth – that all of your sins “are forgiven you,” then you will depart to your own house glorifying God.  When you experience the wonder of having your greatest need met and you know that all of your sins “are forgiven you,” then you will be “amazed” and will be “filled with fear” and will “glorify God.”

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 5:12-16 – Being Made Clean

Grace For The Journey

We are going through the Book of Luke.  We left off last time at verse 11 where Jesus had called forth His first disciples.  Peter, Andrew, and James and John, Luke says, “forsook all and followed Him.”  We read next a brief account of how this Lord, who makes fish swim into the fishermen’s nets as Lord of all the sea, now, demonstrates His power as Lord of all sickness.  Today’s passage illustrates that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, has all power to heal.

A couple of weeks ago we were studying the passage in Luke 4 where Jesus is in the synagogue and casts a demon out of a man.  I shared with you that we do not see demon possession as much in America because, I believe, Satan gets to us where he can get us best.  His aim is to distract us from Jesus.  For us, Satan does not often work through the power of paranormal experiences such as demon possession.  He knows most of us are snugly in bondage to self, recreation, money, material success, sport, and leisure.  These are the things that draw us away from a full-blown devotion to Christ.  Satan does not need to “wow” us or frighten us with demon possession when we are so complacent with our false understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, defined by the average American as just being good and going to church once a week.

I shared that occurrences of demon possession are far more likely to be reported in poorer, third world countries where folks are less likely to be in bondage to material things and leisure.  Let me share a prayer request forwarded to me from the International Mission Board from Christian pastors in Laos Some names and places are abbreviated or omitted for security purposes:  The Laotian pastor wrote . . .

“I am serving in a church in ________ province of Laos.  A man named “Mr. K” who has been possessed with demonic spirits for four years came to our church.  [See how that is reported so straightforwardly as a matter of fact?] We prayed and fasted for him.  Finally, he became a believer after being delivered by the power of God.  We discipled him for 4 months and, after that period, he went back to his village named ________.  In (this) village a man “Mr. L” also became a believer after hearing that Mr. K had been delivered by the power of God.  But we had continually prayed for Mr. L for 4 months before he finally became a believer and saw God’s delivering power.  We thank God that He is greater than the demonic force that has kept the Laotians in bondage for many generations.  But now God is delivering one by one into His kingdom.”

I share this with you as a reminder that demon possession is not something found only in the New Testament, but that there continue to be reports of occurrences all over the world.

The point of Jesus’ healing a man full of a demonic spirit is the same point of Jesus’ healing a man full of leprosy:

Jesus has all power to heal

And He has all power to heal

Because He is more than just a man,

More than just a good moral teacher,

He is God in the flesh.

Verse 12 tells us the man was “full of leprosy.”  The picture in our minds of this man is probably accurate.  Most of us are familiar with the modern leprosy known as Hansen’s disease.  The word leprosy in the Bible, however, encompassed a wide variety of skin diseases, including the occurrence of various boils and sores upon the body.  While we will not go into great detail here about how leprosy horribly disfigured a person and caused the person to lose feeling in his body, we will note that such a dreaded skin disease caused a person to be regarded as “unclean,” physically unclean and ceremonially unclean.

Lepers, for example, were forbidden to worship at the temple and were forbidden to congregate in the mainstream of society.  In fact, Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 give us the most biblical information of how lepers were treated in biblical times.  You may wish to read those chapters later.  For now, let me quote just from Leviticus 13 for what the Mosaic Law teaches about lepers.  Leviticus 13:45-46 says, “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean!  Unclean!  He shall be unclean.  All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean.  He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  Not a very pretty picture is it?  Lepers were isolated from society because leprosy was considered highly contagious.  If a leper were walking down the road and someone happened to turn the corner in his direction, the leper was obligated to warn the person by covering up his face and warning, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  He lived alone because all society regarded him as unclean.  I suppose he woke up every morning thinking to himself, “Unclean.”

Leprosy was also nearly always thought of as a judgment from God for sin.  Part of the reason people felt this way was because God had, in fact, directly punished some people this way . . . 

  • One of the 10 plagues in the Book of Exodus was a plague of boils that broke out upon the people of Egypt (Exodus 9:8-12). 
  • When Moses’ sister Miriam complained against Moses and criticized him, God judged her with leprosy (Numbers 12:10). 
  • Prideful King Uzziah became leprous because he tried to do something that only God’s priests were to do (2 Kings 15:5).  

These examples likely led many to think of leprosy as a direct punishment by God for sin in a person’s life.  But of course, many people became leprous who had done nothing at all to deserve leprosy.  Many people became leprous for the same reason many people become sick today.  We live in an imperfect world and all of us get sick at one time or another.

What a horrible thing it would be to have had leprosy in biblical times, to be ostracized by society, and to have such a grotesquely disfigured appearance.  Think of it . . .

Most diseases are on the

Inside, unseen by others. 

If one had leprosy,

The entire world could

See it because it

Affected the entire body.

Add to that the humiliation of always having to cover your face and cry out, “Unclean!   Unclean!” and we can understand something of how this leper in Luke 5 must have felt.

Luke tells us that after Jesus heals this leper that he instructs him in verse 14 to tell no one, but to go and show himself to the priest.  He says, “Go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them as Moses commanded.”  The passages we mentioned earlier in Leviticus spell out how a person who is cleansed from leprosy is to go about the process of being re-integrated into mainstream society.  It was a rare thing to be healed from leprosy, but sometimes it happened through a process of time as an infection cleared up.  But only a priest could pronounce a person “clean” from leprosy and then issue an official certificate that allowed the healed person back into the general population.  So, Jesus tells this cleansed leper to follow the book, follow the Levitical law ,and go and see the priest for his certificate.

But Jesus also instructs the man in verse 14 to “tell no one.”  We have touched on this before.  Jesus is not yet prepared for the world to know that He is the promised Messiah.  He is revealing this truth a little at a time, taking time to call disciples and taking time to train them.  He is taking time to preach and teach the Good News.  He is aware of the fact that if word gets out too quickly that He is the Messiah that people will misunderstand because they had in their minds notions of a popular ruler over the world rather than a Savior of the world.  He does not want people flocking to Him for physical healing and completely miss the fact that what they need most is spiritual healing.  Jesus has a lot of teaching yet to do and so He simply tells the man to “tell no one,” but to go and show himself to the priest.

Nevertheless, word gets out what Jesus had done in cleansing this leper.  Verse 15 says, “Great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.”  It is for this reason that Luke tells us in verse 16, “He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”

The Greek construction here in verse 16 suggests an ongoing activity.  It is probably better translated, “was praying,” so that a better translation of the phrase would be something like, “Jesus was regular in this business of going off somewhere and praying.”  And He was! 

We read in Luke more than any other

Gospel about Jesus’ prayer life.

  • Luke 6:12, “He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” 
  • Luke 9:18, “And it happened, as He was alone praying …” 
  • Luke 9:28, “… He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.” 
  • Luke 11:1, “Now it came to pass, as He was praying …” 
  • Luke 18:1, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” 
  • Luke 22:41, “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed.”

So frequently in Luke do we find our

Master praying that some scholars

Refer to the Gospel of Luke

As “The Gospel of Prayer.”

How important that we should take time to pray!  How frequently do you get alone to pray?  Are you a follower of Christ?  If so, you will follow His example in prayer.  Take time to get away each day and get on your knees and talk to God.

We noted earlier that Jesus does not want people merely flocking to Him for physical healing completely missing the fact that their greater need was spiritual healing.  Do you know that your greatest need is spiritual healing?  Your greatest need is not to become a successful business person; Your greatest need is not to find a career that makes you happy; Your greatest need is not to enjoy life and leisure; Your greatest need is not to feel well and be physically fit, or even to be healthy; Your greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.  Your greatest need is to come to Jesus Christ and to be cleansed from sin. 

Christ’s physical healings were

Like sign-posts or arrows that pointed

To the far greater need for spiritual healing.

While leprosy itself is not necessarily a judgment for sin, leprosy certainly illustrates the effects of sin.  Like leprosy, sin permeates our entire being from head to toe.  We all have this dreaded condition of sin and it covers us entirely and, if leprosy separated a person from others, our sin separates us from God.  So lest we think there is nothing here for us to learn, let us mentally regroup and learn from the actions of this leper.   From the actions of this leper we can learn something about ourselves and about God.  There are profound spiritual lessons here in this account of physical healing, two actions in particular.  First we learn the importance of . . .

I.  Approaching Christ In Humility.

Verse 12 tells us that this leper when this leper, “full of leprosy,” saw Jesus that “he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”  Do you have that image in your mind?  Maybe Jesus had just finished teaching a bit or was walking down the street of this certain city, but here comes this man full of leprosy.  Mark’s account tells us that the man came to Jesus.  He comes up to Jesus and falls face down before Him, just falls, says Luke “on his face.”  That is the posture of one who understands something of humility, isn’t it?  How unlike the way so many people rush to God today as though He were some sort of Santa Claus figure who exists for the purpose of satisfying our whims and giving us gifts as we request them.

There is not only humility in what the leper does, but also in what the leper says.  He says, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 

Those four little words reveal

The humble heart of a man

Who understands that

He deserves nothing.

He doesn’t say, “Lord, You should do this.  Lord, You must do this.  Lord, it isn’t fair.  You simply have to do this!  He says, “Lord, if You are willing.”

The leper understands that it may not be the Lord’s will to heal him.  He understood the truth we read back in chapter 4 when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue.  Jesus said in verse 27, “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  It was not the Lord’s will to heal every leper.  It is not always the Lord’s will to heal us of every disease.

See the humility in all of this!  We must approach our Lord the same way.  We must be willing to accept His plan and purpose regardless of whether His plan is what we think it should be.  We must believe that God knows best and always does what is right.  God knows best.  He knows best.

He knows best in keeping you from getting that promotion; He knows best in protecting you from that bad relationship; He knows best in providing for you the salary you are now receiving; He knows best in allowing you to suffer that special setback, difficulty, and illness.  His will is perfect.  May God help each of us to fall on our faces daily before the Lord and cry, “If You are willing.”  The Lord’s prayer is “Thy will be done,” not “My will be done.”

Approach Christ in humility.  Secondly, the leper teaches us to . . .

II.  Acknowledge Christ’s Ability.

This leper acknowledges Christ’s divine ability.  He recognizes Christ’s divine ability to heal.  He says, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  After falling on his face, the leper addresses Jesus as “Lord.”  It is not insignificant that Jesus never corrects the leper for calling Him Lord.  He is, in fact, Lord.  After the leper says, “if You are willing, You can make me clean,” Jesus says, “I am.”  I am willing.  Jesus does not say, “Wait a minute!  You have got this all wrong.  If any healing takes place here it will be because God, Yahweh, does the healing.  I cannot do this.  I am merely a prophet.  I am merely a good, moral teacher.”  No.  He says, “I am.  I am willing.”  He accepts the man’s response to call Him Lord because that is Who He is.  He is Lord over all creation.  He can make fish swim into the net for a great catch and He can touch this man and heal him immediately of his leprosy.

The leper acknowledges Christ’s divine ability.  “You can make me clean.”  He can!  There is no limit to “You can.”  There is no limit to Christ’s divine ability.  Do you believe He can? 

  • Do you believe He can answer that prayer? 
  • Do you believe He can take care of you this week?  
  • Do you believe He can meet your needs? 
  • Do you believe He can heal your hurts? 

Or do you find yourself placing your trust in other places?  Is it not, “Lord, You can,” but, “Government, You can?!  Investments, You can?!  New boyfriend, You can?!  New car, You can?!” 

Do you trust the Lord with your future?  Do you believe He can give you peace?  Do you believe He can calm your storm?  He can!  Recognize His divine ability.  He can.  This leper knew his need.  He knew his condition.  He was unclean.  “If You are willing,” he said to Jesus, “You can make me clean.”  He knew he needed to be cleansed.

All it takes is one touch and one word.  Jesus touches this man everyone else shunned.  He compassionately touched him.  And then one word, just one word in the Greek, “Catharistheyti!” from which we get our English word, “Catharsis,”  meaning “purging or cleansing.”  Like the leper, we must know our condition.  We are unclean, spiritually unclean.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  There is nothing good in us.  All of our righteous acts and works of goodness and random acts of kindness are all regarded by God in Isaiah 64:6 as “an unclean thing.”

We must come to Christ in humility and acknowledge Christ’s ability, coming to Him saying, “Unclean!”  We are unclean from head to toe, not 80% clean and 20% unclean or 10% unclean and 90% clean.  No, we are 100% unclean and in desperate need to be cleansed of our spiritual leprosy of sin.  We need a touch from Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

Certainty in Uncertain Times: Luke 5:12-16 – Being Made Clean

Grace For The Journey

We are going through the Bool of Luke.  We left off last time at verse 11 where Jesus had called forth His first disciples.  Peter, Andrew, and James and John, Luke says, “forsook all and followed Him.”  We read next a brief account of how this Lord, who makes fish swim into the fishermen’s nets as Lord of all the sea, now, demonstrates His power as Lord of all sickness.  Today’s passage illustrates that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, has all power to heal.

A couple of weeks ago we were studying the passage in Luke 4 where Jesus is in the synagogue and casts a demon out of a man.  I shared with you that we do not see demon possession as much in America because, I believe, Satan gets to us where he can get us best.  His aim is to distract us from Jesus.  For us, Satan does not often work through the power of paranormal experiences such as demon possession.  He knows most of us are snugly in bondage to self, recreation, money, material success, sport, and leisure.  These are the things that draw us away from a full-blown devotion to Christ.  Satan does not need to “wow” us or frighten us with demon possession when we are so complacent with our false understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, defined by the average American as just being good and going to church once a week.

I shared that occurrences of demon possession are far more likely to be reported in poorer, third world countries where folks are less likely to be in bondage to material things and leisure.  Let me share a prayer request forwarded to me from the International Mission Board from Christian pastors in Laos Some names and places are abbreviated or omitted for security purposes:  The Laotian pastor wrote . . .

“I am serving in a church in ________ province of Laos.  A man named “Mr. K” who has been possessed with demonic spirits for four years came to our church.  [See how that is reported so straightforwardly as a matter of fact?] We prayed and fasted for him.  Finally, he became a believer after being delivered by the power of God.  We discipled him for 4 months and, after that period, he went back to his village named ________.  In (this) village a man “Mr. L” also became a believer after hearing that Mr. K had been delivered by the power of God.  But we had continually prayed for Mr. L for 4 months before he finally became a believer and saw God’s delivering power.  We thank God that He is greater than the demonic force that has kept the Laotians in bondage for many generations.  But now God is delivering one by one into His kingdom.”

I share this with you as a reminder that demon possession is not something found only in the New Testament, but that there continue to be reports of occurrences all over the world.

The point of Jesus’ healing a man full of a demonic spirit is the same point of Jesus’ healing a man full of leprosy:

Jesus has all power to heal

And He has all power to heal

Because He is more than just a man,

More than just a good moral teacher,

He is God in the flesh.

Verse 12 tells us the man was “full of leprosy.”  The picture in our minds of this man is probably accurate.  Most of us are familiar with the modern leprosy known as Hansen’s disease.  The word leprosy in the Bible, however, encompassed a wide variety of skin diseases, including the occurrence of various boils and sores upon the body.  While we will not go into great detail here about how leprosy horribly disfigured a person and caused the person to lose feeling in his body, we will note that such a dreaded skin disease caused a person to be regarded as “unclean,” physically unclean and ceremonially unclean.

Lepers, for example, were forbidden to worship at the temple and were forbidden to congregate in the mainstream of society.  In fact, Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 give us the most biblical information of how lepers were treated in biblical times.  You may wish to read those chapters later.  For now, let me quote just from Leviticus 13 for what the Mosaic Law teaches about lepers.  Leviticus 13:45-46 says, “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean!  Unclean!  He shall be unclean.  All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean.  He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  Not a very pretty picture is it?  Lepers were isolated from society because leprosy was considered highly contagious.  If a leper were walking down the road and someone happened to turn the corner in his direction, the leper was obligated to warn the person by covering up his face and warning, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  He lived alone because all society regarded him as unclean.  I suppose he woke up every morning thinking to himself, “Unclean.”

Leprosy was also nearly always thought of as a judgment from God for sin.  Part of the reason people felt this way was because God had, in fact, directly punished some people this way . . . 

  • One of the 10 plagues in the Book of Exodus was a plague of boils that broke out upon the people of Egypt (Exodus 9:8-12). 
  • When Moses’ sister Miriam complained against Moses and criticized him, God judged her with leprosy (Numbers 12:10). 
  • Prideful King Uzziah became leprous because he tried to do something that only God’s priests were to do (2 Kings 15:5).  

These examples likely led many to think of leprosy as a direct punishment by God for sin in a person’s life.  But of course, many people became leprous who had done nothing at all to deserve leprosy.  Many people became leprous for the same reason many people become sick today.  We live in an imperfect world and all of us get sick at one time or another.

What a horrible thing it would be to have had leprosy in biblical times, to be ostracized by society, and to have such a grotesquely disfigured appearance.  Think of it . . .

Most diseases are on the

Inside, unseen by others. 

If one had leprosy,

The entire world could

See it because it

Affected the entire body.

Add to that the humiliation of always having to cover your face and cry out, “Unclean!   Unclean!” and we can understand something of how this leper in Luke 5 must have felt.

Luke tells us that after Jesus heals this leper that he instructs him in verse 14 to tell no one, but to go and show himself to the priest.  He says, “Go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them as Moses commanded.”  The passages we mentioned earlier in Leviticus spell out how a person who is cleansed from leprosy is to go about the process of being re-integrated into mainstream society.  It was a rare thing to be healed from leprosy, but sometimes it happened through a process of time as an infection cleared up.  But only a priest could pronounce a person “clean” from leprosy and then issue an official certificate that allowed the healed person back into the general population.  So, Jesus tells this cleansed leper to follow the book, follow the Levitical law ,and go and see the priest for his certificate.

But Jesus also instructs the man in verse 14 to “tell no one.”  We have touched on this before.  Jesus is not yet prepared for the world to know that He is the promised Messiah.  He is revealing this truth a little at a time, taking time to call disciples and taking time to train them.  He is taking time to preach and teach the Good News.  He is aware of the fact that if word gets out too quickly that He is the Messiah that people will misunderstand because they had in their minds notions of a popular ruler over the world rather than a Savior of the world.  He does not want people flocking to Him for physical healing and completely miss the fact that what they need most is spiritual healing.  Jesus has a lot of teaching yet to do and so He simply tells the man to “tell no one,” but to go and show himself to the priest.

Nevertheless, word gets out what Jesus had done in cleansing this leper.  Verse 15 says, “Great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.”  It is for this reason that Luke tells us in verse 16, “He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”

The Greek construction here in verse 16 suggests an ongoing activity.  It is probably better translated, “was praying,” so that a better translation of the phrase would be something like, “Jesus was regular in this business of going off somewhere and praying.”  And He was! 

We read in Luke more than any other

Gospel about Jesus’ prayer life.

  • Luke 6:12, “He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” 
  • Luke 9:18, “And it happened, as He was alone praying …” 
  • Luke 9:28, “… He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.” 
  • Luke 11:1, “Now it came to pass, as He was praying …” 
  • Luke 18:1, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” 
  • Luke 22:41, “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed.”

So frequently in Luke do we find our

Master praying that some scholars

Refer to the Gospel of Luke

As “The Gospel of Prayer.”

How important that we should take time to pray!  How frequently do you get alone to pray?  Are you a follower of Christ?  If so, you will follow His example in prayer.  Take time to get away each day and get on your knees and talk to God.

We noted earlier that Jesus does not want people merely flocking to Him for physical healing completely missing the fact that their greater need was spiritual healing.  Do you know that your greatest need is spiritual healing?  Your greatest need is not to become a successful business person; Your greatest need is not to find a career that makes you happy; Your greatest need is not to enjoy life and leisure; Your greatest need is not to feel well and be physically fit, or even to be healthy; Your greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.  Your greatest need is to come to Jesus Christ and to be cleansed from sin. 

Christ’s physical healings were

Like sign-posts or arrows that pointed

To the far greater need for spiritual healing.

While leprosy itself is not necessarily a judgment for sin, leprosy certainly illustrates the effects of sin.  Like leprosy, sin permeates our entire being from head to toe.  We all have this dreaded condition of sin and it covers us entirely and, if leprosy separated a person from others, our sin separates us from God.  So lest we think there is nothing here for us to learn, let us mentally regroup and learn from the actions of this leper.   From the actions of this leper we can learn something about ourselves and about God.  There are profound spiritual lessons here in this account of physical healing, two actions in particular.  First we learn the importance of . . .

I.  Approaching Christ In Humility.

Verse 12 tells us that this leper when this leper, “full of leprosy,” saw Jesus that “he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”  Do you have that image in your mind?  Maybe Jesus had just finished teaching a bit or was walking down the street of this certain city, but here comes this man full of leprosy.  Mark’s account tells us that the man came to Jesus.  He comes up to Jesus and falls face down before Him, just falls, says Luke “on his face.”  That is the posture of one who understands something of humility, isn’t it?  How unlike the way so many people rush to God today as though He were some sort of Santa Claus figure who exists for the purpose of satisfying our whims and giving us gifts as we request them.

There is not only humility in what the leper does, but also in what the leper says.  He says, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 

Those four little words reveal

The humble heart of a man

Who understands that

He deserves nothing.

He doesn’t say, “Lord, You should do this.  Lord, You must do this.  Lord, it isn’t fair.  You simply have to do this!  He says, “Lord, if You are willing.”

The leper understands that it may not be the Lord’s will to heal him.  He understood the truth we read back in chapter 4 when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue.  Jesus said in verse 27, “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  It was not the Lord’s will to heal every leper.  It is not always the Lord’s will to heal us of every disease.

See the humility in all of this!  We must approach our Lord the same way.  We must be willing to accept His plan and purpose regardless of whether His plan is what we think it should be.  We must believe that God knows best and always does what is right.  God knows best.  He knows best.

He knows best in keeping you from getting that promotion; He knows best in protecting you from that bad relationship; He knows best in providing for you the salary you are now receiving; He knows best in allowing you to suffer that special setback, difficulty, and illness.  His will is perfect.  May God help each of us to fall on our faces daily before the Lord and cry, “If You are willing.”  The Lord’s prayer is “Thy will be done,” not “My will be done.”

Approach Christ in humility.  Secondly, the leper teaches us to . . .

II.  Acknowledge Christ’s Ability.

This leper acknowledges Christ’s divine ability.  He recognizes Christ’s divine ability to heal.  He says, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  After falling on his face, the leper addresses Jesus as “Lord.”  It is not insignificant that Jesus never corrects the leper for calling Him Lord.  He is, in fact, Lord.  After the leper says, “if You are willing, You can make me clean,” Jesus says, “I am.”  I am willing.  Jesus does not say, “Wait a minute!  You have got this all wrong.  If any healing takes place here it will be because God, Yahweh, does the healing.  I cannot do this.  I am merely a prophet.  I am merely a good, moral teacher.”  No.  He says, “I am.  I am willing.”  He accepts the man’s response to call Him Lord because that is Who He is.  He is Lord over all creation.  He can make fish swim into the net for a great catch and He can touch this man and heal him immediately of his leprosy.

The leper acknowledges Christ’s divine ability.  “You can make me clean.”  He can!  There is no limit to “You can.”  There is no limit to Christ’s divine ability.  Do you believe He can? 

  • Do you believe He can answer that prayer? 
  • Do you believe He can take care of you this week?  
  • Do you believe He can meet your needs? 
  • Do you believe He can heal your hurts? 

Or do you find yourself placing your trust in other places?  Is it not, “Lord, You can,” but, “Government, You can?!  Investments, You can?!  New boyfriend, You can?!  New car, You can?!” 

Do you trust the Lord with your future?  Do you believe He can give you peace?  Do you believe He can calm your storm?  He can!  Recognize His divine ability.  He can.  This leper knew his need.  He knew his condition.  He was unclean.  “If You are willing,” he said to Jesus, “You can make me clean.”  He knew he needed to be cleansed.

All it takes is one touch and one word.  Jesus touches this man everyone else shunned.  He compassionately touched him.  And then one word, just one word in the Greek, “Catharistheyti!” from which we get our English word, “Catharsis,”  meaning “purging or cleansing.”  Like the leper, we must know our condition.  We are unclean, spiritually unclean.  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  There is nothing good in us.  All of our righteous acts and works of goodness and random acts of kindness are all regarded by God in Isaiah 64:6 as “an unclean thing.”

We must come to Christ in humility and acknowledge Christ’s ability, coming to Him saying, “Unclean!”  We are unclean from head to toe, not 80% clean and 20% unclean or 10% unclean and 90% clean.  No, we are 100% unclean and in desperate need to be cleansed of our spiritual leprosy of sin.  We need a touch from Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

Certainty in Uncertain Times: Luke 5:1-11 – Forsaking All to Follow Christ

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke in a series called, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  The series comes from the prologue of the Gospel, the opening five verses, where Luke says to a man named Theophilus that he is writing this book that he “may know the certainty” of the things in which he was instructed.  What is true for Theophilus is true for us.  Our study of Luke’s Gospel is a study in certainty, a study of truth, that we may be certain in these uncertain days. 

Jesus has begun His earthly ministry and what we learn about this morning is His calling forth of His first disciples, His first followers.  Recently I came across an internet blog whose author imagined what a job description for followers of Jesus Christ would look like.  It was entitled, “Job Vacancy – Disciple.”  The job description was based upon things Jesus said or did in the Bible.  I thought it good to share from some of it with you:

Job title: Disciple

Location: Flexible. You will essentially be a field worker fulfilling the requirements of the role in your local community. You must be prepared to leave the security of home behind at certain times.

Role and purpose: You are to live as Jesus taught, and follow His example.

The successful candidate must be available to start immediately with no exceptions for family emergencies or sensitivities.

You may be required at times to undertake public relations exercises to senior officials hostile to the organization. Specific instructions for these exchanges will be supplied in the field.

You will be expected pray always and not give up.

You will be expected to love God and others as you love yourself.

You will be expected to be clear about your priorities – loving your family must come second to loving your employer.

You will be prepared to undertake suffering as and when it is required of the job, taking up your cross each day.

The ideal candidate will not be a worrier, particularly about food, security, and clothing.

While not paying a salary in the conventional sense you will undertake your position with the following understanding:

Be prepared to sell all your possessions and give to the poor.

When travelling do not take money, a bag, spare clothes, or shoes.

Whoever follows Jesus, will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

(Abridgement from)

Those of us familiar with the Bible will know that that job description is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The passage before us is one such passage that helps us understand what followers of Jesus Christ look like.  I am going to assume that there is a majority reading my blog this morning who wish to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Not all will be interested, but many of you are because you want to grow in your walk with the Lord and be the man or woman God saved and designed you to be.  To this end our passage helps greatly as it answers the question, “What do we see in true, Christ-followers?”  We will also note that there are a few defining characteristics of those who wish to follow Jesus.  What do we see in true, Christ-followers?  First . .

I.  We See Willingness.

We see a spirit of willingness to obey Jesus Christ no matter what He asks us to do. We see that in our passage today.  Look at the opening verses of chapter 5.  Luke first gives us the background of the situation.  He says in verse 1 that the crowds are pressing about Him to hear the Word of God as He stands teaching by the Lake of Gennesaret.  As a preacher, I have never had this problem of crowd control!  They are pressing about, pushing, shoving, trying to hear Jesus, so Jesus decides to do something about this.  Verse 2 says He sees a couple of boats there by the lake.  Verse 2 also says that “the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.”  Later verses and the greater context reveal to us that these boats belong to Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  Jesus is eyeing these boats because He plans to use one of them as a floating pulpit.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you cannot preach to a crowd of people because you cannot see them and they cannot see nor hear you, then you get yourself in a position that improves the situation.  Verse 3 tells us that Jesus “got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.”

This is the background for what happens next.  Look at verses 4-5, “When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’”  Imagine how absurd this request must have sounded to Simon.  He and at least three other men; his brother Andrew, and James and John, had been fishing all night and had caught nothing.   Nighttime was the time to fish on Gennesaret Lake, not daytime.  And the men had been out all night.  Earlier, when Jesus began preaching to the crowd, the men were gone, verse 2 told us, “washing their nets.”  These were huge, dragnets that were cast into the waters by these strong and burly men.  Great strength quired to cast the net again and draw it up, and then cast it again and draw it up, over and over again.   The arms would quickly tired and the back began to hurt from bending over for such long periods of time.  These men had not even caught a single fish.  They had returned the evening before tired, exhausted, and empty-handed.  The next morning, they took these heavy, water-logged nets and they were washing them and carefully untangling and mending them.  Then they set them out to dry under the hot sun.  Jesus says, “I want you to gather up those nets again and take this boat out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Now what do you think was the first thing to go through Simon Peter’s mind?  I suppose had I been Simon Peter I might have thought, “You obviously know nothing about fishing.  You do not do this thing in the daylight hours under the hot, eastern sun.  Furthermore, we have been fishing all night in this lake and we have not caught so much as a single, solitary, sorry carp.  Launch out into the deep and let down our nets for a catch?  We will let down our nets, but there will be no catch.  Jesus, you are a carpenter.  What do you know about fishing?”

Is that what you would say?  “Jesus, your area of expertise is biblical teaching and Bible study and smiling and bouncing children on your knee, what could you possibly know about accounting?  You are a Bible teacher, Jesus, so what could you know about banking, about sales, about machinery, medicine, welding, profit and loss statements, and inventory and end-of-the-month reports?   Jesus, what could you know about social services and teaching unwilling students in public school?  What could you know, Jesus, about laundry and housework?”

If Peter thought that way – and he may have at first – he was willing nevertheless to do what Jesus asked.  Verse 5 indicates a spirit of willingness, “But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.’”  That was a statement of fact.  They had fished all night and were unsuccessful, but do not read that without quickly moving on to what Peter says next.  He says, in last part of verse 5, perhaps with a congenial smile, “Nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net.”

Here is a man with a willing spirit.  Here is a man who obeys Jesus even when there is an inner struggle with what Jesus says to do.  Peter obeys Jesus even when everything within him screams, “This cannot be!  This will never work!  This doesn’t make sense!”

It is a bit like Genesis 12 where God says to Abram, “I want you to pick up everything and move.  Go away from your country, from your family, and from your father’s house.”  Where?  God says, “To a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12”112:1).”  Now does that make sense?  Would you be willing to quit your job, pack up your family, and your personal belongings and, when someone asks, “Where are you going?”  You say, “God’s going to show me.”  “Oh… right.” 

A faithful follower of Jesus Christ

Has a willingness to do what

He is asked even if it does not

Seem to make sense. 

A faithful follower of Jesus

Has a willingness to do what

He is asked even if it seems

Out of step with the world.

When Peter obeys the Master’s command, God honors that obedience and shows Himself strong in Peter’s life.  The power of God is evident in the catching of a huge number of fish so that, verse 6, “their net was breaking.”  Verse 7 says, “So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them and they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”

It is difficult to read these verses without asking ourselves some soul-searching questions.  Could it be that the reason I do not experience a great sense of God’s power is because I am unwilling to do all that He asks?  I know what the Bible says about witnessing, about trusting, about praying, attending church, about tithing, and about trusting and obeying, but some of the things He asks me to do are so out of step with the world!  Could it be that the reason you do not experience power and victory in your life is because you never do anything radical.  You just wade in the shallow waters by the shore.  You are safe there.  You ae secure there.  You are comfortable there.  You like to go to church once a week.  It feels good.  You are comfortable.  It works well into You schedule.  We never wade out into the waters.  We just float around living a safe, secure life.  Jesus calls us to more than that.

He says in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” 
Jesus is calling you to something bigger, better, and greater than your safety, your security, and your comfortable lifestyle.  Jesus calling you to a soul-saving, disciple-making, world-changing kind life.  Are you in or out?  Willingness. 

What else do we see in true, Christ-followers?  Secondly . . .

II.  We See Brokenness.

True, Christ-followers maintain a humble, spirit of brokenness before the Lord.  They are aware of their sins and their constant need for the grace of God.  We see this in Peter as he is simply overwhelmed at the great catch of fish.  Verse 8 to 10 tell us, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.”

Note that phrase again in verse 8, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’”  Maybe we have read this event so many times that we have forgotten how strange this reaction seemed to us when we first read it.  We might have expected something different.  Jesus performs this great miracle, demonstrating that He is Lord over all creation, including the fish in the lake.  He just thinks it and all the fish in the lake swim into the nets, and had we been there, we would have been like, “Wow!  This is great!  Jesus come again tomorrow and we will catch some more fish!  We will make a killing!”  But that is not how Simon Peter responds.  I sense that there is a long period of silence, Peter’s face frozen in shock, staring at Jesus, trying to process everything that has been happening since he first met Jesus of Nazareth and, after what seems an eternity, he falls down at Jesus’ knees, falling down headfirst into the mass of smelly fish and cries, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O lord!”

Peter recognizes that this Jesus is more than a moral teacher, more than a good man who says good things.  He had already been gathering this from Jesus’ teachings and healings in the previous chapter.  Peter had seen Jesus heal his own mother-in-law.   While he may not have yet been ready to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of God,” he realizes that there is something uniquely divine about this Jesus of Nazareth.  You note Peter’s growing understanding in the progression from verse 5 to verse 8.  In verse 5 he calls Jesus “Master;” in verse 8 he calls Him “Lord.”

This is the natural response when a sinful man finds himself in the presence of a holy God.  When sinfulness meets holiness, the result is brokenness.  True, Christ-followers maintain a spirit of brokenness before the Lord.  True, Christ-followers understand the feeling of Peter much as we understand the feeling of Job in Job 42:5-6, who said to God, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.  Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  True Christ followers understand the feeling of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, when he said, “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips.”  True, Christ-followers understand the feeling of the Roman Centurion in Luke 7:6, who said to Jesus, “I am not worthy for you to enter my house.” 

When sinfulness meets holiness,

The result is brokenness.

The more the Christian grows in Christ, the more aware he becomes of his sin.  The more the Christian grows in Christ, the more sensitive he is of his sin.  We sing, “I need Thee, O I need Thee.  Every hour I need Thee.”  We grow in our awareness of sin and the great need, therefore, for a continual Mediator, a constant “Go Between,” to stand between God and us, forever taking care of our sins through and granting to us His righteousness.  There is no room in the Christian experience for prideful boasting.  We identify strongly with the words in the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

Forbid it Lord that I should boast

Save in the death of Christ my God.

The vain things which charm me most

I sacrifice them to His Blood.

True Christ-followers maintain a spirit of brokenness.  We see willingness . . . We see brokenness . . . and finally . . .

III.  We See Devotedness.

Peter is broken and on his knees before the Lord.  Not part of him, but all those with him.  Verse 9 states that they, “were astonished” at what had happened.  Verse 10 says, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men.’”  I like that little phrase, “from now on.” 

That phrase sums up the Christian experience.

When we have a life-changing encounter with Christ, things will be different. 

  • From that time on we will walk in His strength. 
  • From that time on we will have His power.
  • From that time on our lives will have purpose. 
  • From that time on we will be forgiven.
  • From that time on we will catch men.

True, Christ-followers are catchers of men.  Christians are persons who share the Gospel with men and women.  We do so in the “4 Cs” of Acts 1:8 . . .

Our community,

Our county,

Our country,

And

The continents.

We are devoted to the task of “catching men.”  We are called to a lifestyle of catching men.  Some will do this in a full-time vocational sense of missionary work across the seas.  Others will remain in jobs and positions in the community, but will be no less devoted to this mission of sharing the Gospel this week with co-workers, friends, and neighbors.  You cannot miss the sense of utter and complete devotedness to Christ in verse 11, “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”  They forsook all and followed Him.  They just left everything right where it was and they followed Jesus.  He was now “Number 1” in their lives.  He was “first place.”  He was “Lord.”

Not every one of us is a true, Christ-follower.  Not every one of us can truthfully sing the words, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back; though none go with me, still I will follow; the world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.”

Are you a true, Christ-follower?  Do have a constant sense of willingness, a constant sense of brokenness, and a constant sense of devotedness?  What is the Master and Lord Jesus asking you to do right now in your life?  Come and surrender your life to Christ, being saved from sin, death, and hell?  Come and surrender your life to missional work among a waiting unreached people group?  Come in some other way?  Will you do it?  Will you forsake all and follow 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.”

Certainty in Uncertain Times: Luke 4:31-44 – The Authority and Power of Christ

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  We are going to begin reading at verse 31 today.  Remember the context . . .

  • Having been baptized and having passed the tests of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus begins His earthly ministry and He does so, Luke tells us in verse 14, “in the power of the Spirit.” 
  • Having been rejected in His hometown of Nazareth, He now travels down to Capernaum where He ministers in great authority and power. 

Beginning in verse 31, we are going to be reading about the authority and power of Christ.  My aim this morning is to exalt Jesus Christ, to lift Him up.  I want to lift Him up because . . .

He alone has all authority and power

And is therefore exclusively worthy

Of our worship and praise.

I read awhile back about the late E. V. Hill, famous African-American pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.  Pastor Hill told about an elderly woman in his church whom everyone called “1800” because nobody knew exactly how old she really was.  But she had this ministry there at the church.  This woman was especially hard on preachers who may not have had much experience preaching.  She would sit on the front row and as soon as the preacher started preaching she would shout, “Get Him up!” meaning, “Get Jesus up.  Lift Him up!”  After a few minutes of preaching, if she did not feel there was enough of Christ in the sermon she would shout again, “Get Him Up!”  If the preacher wasn’t preaching a Christ-centered sermon, he was in for a long and difficult sermon!  That is exactly what my aim is this morning, to “Get Him up!”  I want to exalt Jesus Christ who has all authority and power and is therefore exclusively worthy of our worship and praise.

Because Jesus has all authority and power . . .

I.  Jesus Is Sent To Conquer Satan – Verses 31-37.

In these first seven verses we have the first of 21 miracle events recorded by Luke.  It is not insignificant that the first of these 21 miracle accounts demonstrates Jesus’ authority over Satan and the dark, spiritual realm.  We read earlier in verse 13 that Satan, after failing to conquer Jesus in the wilderness temptation, “departed from Him until an opportune time.”  Now Satan comes against Christ again, this time through a demon possessed man in the synagogue.

Jesus is in the synagogue in Capernaum and He is teaching the people.  Luke says in verse 31 that He is doing it, “on the Sabbaths.”  We remarked last time about our Lord’s habitual weekly practice of worship in God’s house.  If this was the practice of our Lord Jesus, it should be the practice of His followers.  We should be in God’s house every week to learn the Word and to encourage and minister to one another.

The people are listening to Jesus teach in the synagogue and Luke says in verse 32 that “they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.”  Most of the teaching by rabbis in the synagogue was their quoting other rabbis.  One would stand and say something like, “As Rabbi Abramson has said,” and then a quote would follow.  But Jesus stands and He quotes no one.  He speaks His Word – the Word.  You get a greater sense of this in the Sermon on the Mount where He says, “You have heard that it was said” … “But I say unto you.”  He spoke with authority and it astonished the people.  They had heard nothing like this before.

This authority and power is about to be challenged.  Imagine as He is teaching that a man suddenly cries out, “Let us alone.”  Other translations have, “Ha!  What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth!”  Now that would get your attention, wouldn’t it?  One time, at a church I was pastoring in college, my preaching was interrupted by a wasp that made some “bombing runs” down the middle of the isle.  I believe I would prefer that interruption to this!  Jesus rebukes the demonic spirit, casting him out of the man and, verse 36, “they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is!’”  Literally, they said, “’What a word this!  For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.’”

We should note in verse 34 specifically what the unclean spirit says just before being cast out. 

  • First, he says, “Let us alone.”  Demons often speak in the plural, sometimes denoting that there was more than one spirit inhabiting the body of a person. 
  • The demon also asks, “Did You come to destroy us?”  The demons know that their ultimate fate is to be cast into the abyss (Revelation 20). 
  • The demon also says in verse 34, “I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” 

It was widely believed in Jesus’ day that one showed mastery over the other by identifying the name of the other.  This, of course, does not work for the demon.  And Jesus rebukes and silences him.  Jesus is not prepared for the entire world to know His exact identity at this point and certainly not in this manner, coming from a demon of all things so He rebukes the demon.

We should also note that verse 34 demonstrates . . .

That it is possible to know Jesus Christ

And to even know His identity

As “the Holy One of God”

And yet to remain lost.

There are many people who are members of churches all across our country, including the one I pastor, who know intellectually that Jesus Christ is “the Holy One of God,” but are unsaved, unconverted, and unforgiven. 

Just knowing truth about Christ does not save. 

We must personally appropriate that truth

Into our hearts, receiving Jesus Christ

As Savior and Lord of our lives. 

We must believe with both head and heart.

It is a dangerous thing to know only the objective truth of the Gospel without having personally embraced that truth with our hearts.

When reading these examples of demonic possession, someone invariably asks why it is we do not see this as much today.  The truth is we do see it in many places outside of our country.  You will see this much more in third world countries where Satan continues to operate this way.  We may wonder then, “Why not here as much in our country?”  We must remember that Satan is highly intellectual.  He will get us where he can get us best.  He knows the best way to detract us from Christ is not through the attention getting displays of demon possession, but through the more subtle means of prosperity, greed, and self-sufficiency.  If Satan and his demonic minions can get us to fall in love with the world, then there is no need for dramatic displays of demon possession.  So, let us examine our hearts.  Is Jesus really Lord of all?  Are we trying to hold the things of God in one hand and the things of the world in the other?

If we live whole-heartedly for the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no fear of Satan.  There are Christians running around and wringing their hands because they are afraid of Satan.  There are some who are afraid to pray out loud about their innermost concerns and temptations and worries for fear that Satan will hear and learn of them and somehow triumph over them.  What lack of faith in the authority and power of Christ!  In Colossians 2:15, the Bible talks about one of the benefits to Christians as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Jesus Christ has authority and power over Satan.  We must remember, as Martin Luther, the great reformer, writes in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” that just “one little word” from Jesus causes Satan to fall. 

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.”

Jesus is sent to Conquer Satan.  Secondly . . .

II.  Jesus Is Sent To Conquer Sickness – Verses 38-41.

Verses 38 and 39 tell us, “Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.  So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.”

I find what happens to Simon’s mother-in-law utterly amazing!  I know how weak I am even after I have had a severe cold and my fever breaks.  But . . .

So immediate and complete is our Lord’s healing

That Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who had “a high fever,”

Not just any fever, but “a high fever” gets up immediately

And serves them a meal, why?  Because, just as before,

One word from the Master is all it takes.

Such authority and power!  He just speaks the Word.  He rebukes the fever.  He talks to the fever!  He says, “Go” and it goes.  This authority and power over Satan and over sickness continues in Capernaum.  Verses 40-41 say, “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God.’  And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.”

Jesus is sent to conquer Satan and Jesus is sent to conquer sickness.  There are three things we must remember here about healing . . .

First, Because Jesus Is The Great Physician, Then He Gets The Glory For All Healings, Whatever The Means Through Which They Come. 

If healing comes through medicine, surgery, radiation, or other means, we credit doctors for their skill and giftedness, but Christ is the One who gets the glory for it.  Our Lord may elect to heal through medicine or He may desire to just speak the Word.  In either case, He gets the glory for the healing. 

This raises the question of whether

We are in the habit of giving God

The glory for healing every time

We have been sick.

Do you thank God for healing you of a headache through the means of ibuprofen?  Do you thank God every day for the health you enjoy?  None of us can produce good health on our own, we do not even deserve good health.  We are all sinners, deserving nothing.  But if, in God’s grace, He allows us to enjoy good health, should we not be in the habit of thanking Him regularly?  May we never take our good health for granted.   Our good health comes to us as a gift from the Great Physician.

Secondly, It May Not Be The Lord’s Will To Heal Our Physical Sickness. 

Not every Christian in the New Testament was healed by our Lord.  Remember what Jesus had just said earlier when teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth.  He says back in verse 27 that there were many lepers in Israel, but Elijah was not sent to bring God’s healing to any one of them, but rather to someone living outside Israel in Syria.  And we learn from 2 Corinthians 12 that Paul had his “thorn in the flesh,” that he asked God three times to heal but God chose not to  And in 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul writes that he left a fellow believer named Trophimus in Miletus “sick.”  It is not God’s will for every person to be healed of physical sickness this side of heaven.  Sometimes, He permits sickness because He knows best.  It is not the purpose of this study to talk about all of the reasons why God may allow sickness in our lives, but let us at least acknowledge that God knows what He is doing and that He always does what is best.

Thirdly, Because Jesus Is The Great Physician, He Is The Healer Of Every sickness We May Face.

Not just physical sickness, but heart sickness, emotional sickness; worry sickness, anxiety sickness, and sickness over hurts, loss, defeat, and despair.  No, this is not to suggest that if you will just “come to Christ” all will be well, and you will never hurt again.  But it is to remind us that we have in Jesus someone who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).  We have a loving Lord who says to us, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Rest!  Our Lord will calm your hearts this morning if you will but trust Him.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast your care upon Him for He cares for you.”  He will heal you of your hurts and your worries and your cares.  Just trust Him to care for you today.

Jesus can do so because He is sent not only to conquer Satan and Sickness, but thirdly . . .

III.  Jesus Is Sent To Conquer Sin – Verses 42-44.

The Bible says that following this long day of ministry Jesus gets up the next morning and finds a place of seclusion.  Verse 42-44 say, “Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.  And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.”

Before we discuss the main point of these three concluding verses, I want to pause for a moment and consider the devotional practice of our Lord Jesus.  Frequently we find Him in the Scriptures going away to a secluded place for mediation with the Heavenly Father.  You know, it is not enough that we take time to read our Bibles and have a regular time of prayer.  This is very important!  Most of us do not do that as we should.  But, in addition to our daily prayer time and Bible reading, we ought to periodically get away and just be quiet somewhere before God.  Jesus just disengages and gets away to be quiet before God.  He had to go somewhere where the people were not.  He went away from the crowds of people and got alone before God.

And again, we find ourselves confronted with the question that if this was the practice of our Lord Jesus, how much should it also be the practice of those who follow Him?  And how much more important given our busied barrage of noisy and bothersome technology: televisions, radio, CDs, DVDs, laptops, cell phones, texting, tweeting, and gaming?  We must “unplug” every once in awhile and get away somewhere and just be quiet before God.  Failing to do so increases our vulnerability to worldly temptation and exposes us to the unhappy prospect of backsliding into sin.  Let’s follow the Master’s example and periodically get away from it all and be quiet before God.

The crowd manages to locate Jesus and they are all like, “Hey, Jesus!  Come on!  Let’s get back to the town!  Everyone is asking about You!”  But Jesus says in verse 43, “I must preach (that is, “evangelize,” or, “share the Good news about”) the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”  That phrase, “the kingdom of God,” is the first of 31 references in Luke’s Gospel.  The kingdom of God refers more to God’s reign than it does to a specific place.  The “kingdom of God” is both a present and future reality.  If we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then the kingdom of God breaks into our lives.  God reigns in our hearts.  But one day, when Christ returns, He will set up a literal kingdom and God will reign on the earth.  So the kingdom can be a present reality to all who trust Christ.

The kingdom of God is the Good News of the Gospel coming into our lives and freeing us from the bondage of sin.  Jesus Christ was so focused upon His mission that, inspite of the fact that great things were happening there in Capernaum, He says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom elsewhere, too.”  Why?  “Because for this purpose I have been sent.”  Jesus is sent to conquer sin.  No one city has exclusive rights to the Gospel.  The Gospel is for all peoples in all places.  The Gospel is for people in the community, the commonwealth, the country, and the continents.  The Gospel is for everyone.  The Gospel is for you.  The Bible declares in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only, unique, one-of-a-kind Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life.”

“For this purpose,” says Jesus, “I have been sent.”  He has been sent.  Have you received Him?  If not, do so right now.  Admit to yourself and God that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself.  Turn to Jesus Christ and accept what He has done upon the cross and through the empty tomb.  Ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.   Then live under His authority and in His power.

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 4:14-30 – Acknowledging Our Personal Need And Global Need For The Gospel

Grace For The Journey

We are in Luke chapter 4 and we will pick up at verse 14.  Here is the background: Luke has told us in the opening chapter that someone is coming, the Messiah, the anointed Savior of God.  He tells us about the Angel Gabriel declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.  We read where Simeon the Prophet declares Jesus to be the Christ; Anna the Prophetess declares that Jesus is the Christ; and John the Baptist declares that Jesus is the Christ.  Now, in our passage today, Jesus Himself declares that He is the Christ. I remember preaching my first sermon as I was sensing the Lord’s call into full-time Gospel Ministry.  I remember asking the Lord for some kind of favorable response to the preaching, someone coming forward to be saved or re-commit himself to Christ.  The service went well and through that event and a combination of other events God confirmed His calling in my life.

I am not so sure how I would have felt had people responded to my first sermon the way people responded to our Lord’s first recorded sermon.  That is what we have here in the text, our Lord’s first sermon recorded in Scripture. 

His first sermon has one main point . . .

I am the Messiah, the Christ,

The long-awaited Good News.”

That is it.  What is remarkable here is the response to the sermon.  The people praise Jesus for His ministry in Galilee (verses 14-15, and 22).  Then when Jesus travels 30 miles south and enters Nazareth, His hometown, and preaches in the synagogue, the people again respond favorably at the beginning, but by the end of the message they are out to literally kill Him.  Note that progression in verses 23 to 29, as they go from liking Him for what He says to wanting to kill Him for what He says.

The passage leads us to consider how we are to respond to the preaching of our Lord and how we are to respond to the Gospel.  There are two responses we are to have . . .

I.  We Must Acknowledge Our Personal Need For The Gospel.

The Bible says in verse 16 that Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.  As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.  We do well to pause for a moment and underscore the phrase, “as His custom was.”  It was our Lord’s predictable, weekly routine to be in the God’s house every Sabbath.  It was His custom.  It was His habitual practice.  Luke does not say that Jesus went only when He felt like it . . . only when His schedule permitted it . . . only when He was not so tired from the previous week . . . only when everything at the Synagogue worship service was to His liking.  No.  He just went.  That is what this phrase means.  It was His custom.  He went because He wanted to and needed to.  Our Lord’s worship behavior is to be mirrored in His followers.  There is rich, spiritual benefit to us and to our families when we predetermine to be in God’s house every week as a custom, as a predictable behavior, a weekly routine, an expectation, not a question.  We are going.  A small child asks his parent, “Why are we going?”  His dad replied, “Because, son, it is what we do.  It is our custom.”  And week after week after week, faithful attendance to the exposition of Scripture, participation in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the singing of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs produces a man or woman in love with the Lord Jesus Christ.  What a powerfully concise statement is this, “As His custom was.”

Jesus enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and stands up to read.  It was His turn to preach, to provide an exposition of a text.  Verse 17 tells us He is handed the book of Isaiah.  This would have been a scroll at this point in history.  He is familiar with this Old Testament scroll and He un-rolls it to the point we know as Isaiah 61.  And He reads in verse 18-20, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, and the blind, and to set at liberty those who are captive.  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, (that is, ‘the season of our Lord’s favor.’”  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.”  Why?  Because now He was going to provide the exposition.  He was going to give the meaning and application of this text.  And Luke gives us the opening words of His sermon, verse 21, “And He began to say—in other words, He said more than what Luke records here—He began to say, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Of course, He said more than this as verse 22 says, “All bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.”  Luke provides a summary of our Lord’s exposition of the text.  It may be summed up with, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words,Jesus is declaring, “I am He.  I am the Good News.  I am the One who is Good News to the poor, who gives sight to the blind, who sets the captive free.  Today this Scripture is fulfilled in Me.”

Jesus Christ is Good News to the poor, both economically and spiritually poor.  In fact, what we see in Luke’s Gospel is the frequent comparing and contrasting of the rich and poor to show those who are most aware of their personal need for the Gospel.  In the Bible . . .

We see what we also know to be true

By experience that those who are poor

Are usually in the best position to see

Their personal need for the Gospel

While those who are rich are typically

Less likely to see their personal

Need for the Gospel. 

The economically poor are typically

Most sensitive to their spiritual poverty.

For example . . .

  • In Luke 13, Luke records the parable of the rich fool, a self-sufficient man who is totally blinded to his need for spiritual riches. 
  • In Luke 15, we read of the prodigal son, a young man who went from riches to poverty and was then in a position to see his spiritual need. 
  • In Luke 16, it is the rich man who fails to see his need for the Gospel and dies and goes to hell while the poor man, Lazarus, acknowledges his spiritual poverty and was therefore reclining upon Abraham’s bosom in heaven.  In Luke 18, it is the rich young ruler who walks away from Jesus sorrowful because his money was more important to him than his salvation. 
  • In Luke 21, it is the poor widow who, in putting into the temple treasury two small copper coins, gives more than all the rich people put together.  Why?  Because she, in her economic poverty, had been set free from her spiritual poverty.

It is not that the poor are more spiritual than the rich or that having riches is somehow intrinsically evil.  That is not the point.  The point is the truth captured by evangelist Billy Sunday when he said, “The fellow that has no money is poor, but the fellow who has nothing but money is poorer still.”

In Luke 19, Luke presents Zacchaeus who was rich.  He had plenty of money.  But by God’s grace His eyes were opened to his spiritual poverty.  He had been blind to his need for the Gospel, but now He could see.  By God’s grace His eyes were opened to the fact that his money had held him strongly in its grip.  He was captive to it.  But now Jesus had set him free from bondage.  Now Zacchaeus says, “Look, I am ready to part with this money because I now know true riches.”  He saw his personal need for the Gospel.

We, too, must see ourselves among the poor, the blind, and the captive.  We must see ourselves this way if we are to be saved.  Doing so requires humility.  One of the unfortunate truths about the so-called religious people in the New Testament is that they are the least aware of their need for the Gospel.  They are offended at the very idea that they need to repent and come to Christ.

The religious people in the New Testament are very much like religious people today.   They thank God that they are not poor, blind, and captive!  They are a good people.  They have been raised properly.  They are morally upright.  They a decent job and contribute positively to society.  They love preaching because it makes them feel good about themselves.  They are glad that Jesus came to speak gracious words to all those common, dirty, less religious people who need to hear them.  But they do not realize the condition that they are in.

In a moment Jesus shows that this idea of the Gospel is far from right.  He very directly says that they really do not know what they are talking about. 

The Gospel is not for those

Who think they are healthy,

It is for those

Who know they are sick.

The Gospel is not just for those who see yourselves on the wrong side of the track;, it is for those on the right side of the track too.”  This causes the people to quickly change their opinion of Jesus and before you know it they are out to kill Him.

One of the greatest challenges of ministry in America in the 21st Century is . . .

To lead people to understand that

Their goodness, morality, and charity

Neither saves them nor impresses God. 

He is not pleased with our boastings of

Our goodness, our uprightness in the

Community, our fine moral examples. 

He wants us to see that we are

Poor, wretched, and blind captives.

It is the morally upright, the good people, who are often least likely to see their need for the Gospel.  They think they are not as bad as others and certainly are not in bondage!  They think they are free.  Their thinking is like someone who looks at a mouse whose tail is caught painfully in a trap – he is in bondage, but they are fine.  But there another kind of trap that traps an animal inside of box, allowing him a freedom with limitations, the freedom to breathe and move about?  But he still is trapped, isn’t he?  Such is the nature of man.  We do not even realize it, but we are captive.  We move about as though we will live on this planet forever, but we are blind to the fact that our freedom is a freedom with limitations.  We freely breathe and move about, but judgment is coming.  We will die and we will stand before our Creator.  And . . .

He will not be pleased if we begin to boast

About how good a person we were. 

He will not be pleased with our wasting

Our lives on worldly pursuits and selfish gain. 

He will be pleased only with whether we have

Bowed humbly before the Lord Jesus Christ,

Having received Him as Lord and Savior and

Having lived our lives wholly dedicated to the Kingdom.

We must acknowledge our personal need for the Gospel. 

The other response this text requires from us is that . . .

II.  We Must Acknowledge The Global Need For The Gospel.

Jesus has just heard the crowd in the synagogue say, “What gracious words proceed out of His mouth!  Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?”  And perhaps that last question is framed in the negative as if to say, “Wait a minute!  How can this carpenter be the Christ?  Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”  Jesus knows what they are thinking, and He certainly knows how they will ultimately respond to His being the Messiah.  He says in verse 23, “You will surely quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!  Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’”  The crowd believes they know who He really is, just a local boy of Joseph’s!  If He is the Messiah, they want Him to prove it by performing some supernatural signs.  Jesus answers this proverb with another in verse 24, “No prophet is accepted in His own country.”

He says this because He knows the people in His own country will reject Him just as they rejected the prophets of the Old Testament.  And in verses 25-27, Jesus illustrates how the prophets Elijah and Elisha were better received outside Israel.  They were not received as well among their own people, “inside the beltway,” as it were.  Their ministries were better received outside Israel, not among the Jews, but among the Gentiles.  Jesus reminds them in theses verses that God sent Elijah not to a Jewish widow, but a Gentile widow in the region of Sidon (Phoenicia).  God sent Elisha not to a Jewish leper, but a Gentile leper needing cleansing, Naaman the Syrian.

When these Jews hear that the Gospel, the Good News, is not what they thought it was, Good News for “good people,” religiously favored people, elite people, but Good News for common, dirty, Gentiles, too, well – you know how this ends!  Verses 28-29 tell us, “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.”  They sought to kill Him!  But it was not yet His time, so verse 30 says, “Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”  No sooner than Jesus begins His earthly ministry do we see the shadow of the cross immediately appearing and growing larger and larger with each passing day, darkening His path until He arrives in Jerusalem three years later and is sentenced to death.

Isn’t it striking how the people move from “Good preaching, Jesus!” to, “We want to kill You, Jesus!?” 

They liked the preaching

So long as it did not

Require a personal change

On their part. 

They liked the preaching

So long as it did not

Require repentance.

It is not enough to say to the minister after the sermon, “Good preaching!  I enjoyed the message today!”  We must respond to the preaching by repenting, by turning to God in response to the message.

J. C. Ryle says, “Let us often examine ourselves on this important point.  Let us see what practical effect is produced in our hearts and lives by the preaching which we profess to like.  Does it lead us to true repentance towards God, and lively faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ?  Does it (lead) us to weekly efforts to cease from sin, and to resist the devil?  These are the fruits which sermons ought to produce if they are really doing us good.  Without such fruit, a mere barren admiration is utterly worthless.  It is no proof of grace.  It will not save the soul.”

The people of Nazareth reject the Good News, so Jesus takes the Good News elsewhere.  And as He goes . . .

He teaches them that the Good News

Is not at all what they think it is. 

The Jews think it is something they

Personally do not need because

They believe they are morally upright people. 

They have missed the point that the Messiah

Has come not to deliver the Jews

From their Gentile oppressors,

But that the Messiah had come

To create one new “people of God,”

A people consisting of both Jew and Gentile.

And when the people hear about the Gentiles coming into the kingdom it makes them angry.

This passage is a bit like the one in Matthew 8 where Jesus is talking to the Roman centurion who asks Him to come and heal his servant.  In verses 11 and 12, Jesus says to the crowd, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Jesus says, “Many will come from east and west.”  Many will come from Egypt, Greece, Lybia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and Indonesia.  He is redeeming a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.  Those who thought they were the exclusive recipients of the Good News were “cast out into outer darkness.”  We must acknowledge . . .

Not only our personal need for the Gospel,

But we must acknowledge

The global need for the Gospel.

Jesus rebukes their ethnocentric ways of thinking.  He rebukes them for their racial prejudice, for thinking that their own people were somehow more favorably disposed than all the other nations of the earth.

Do you think this way?  Do you resent taking the Gospel to the nations?  Do you look at all the people in Iran or Afghanistan as people less worthy to hear the Gospel, people who don’t really deserve the Gospel?  Do you hear the Word of God convicting your heart, exposing your feelings of religious superiority?  May God have mercy on us and lead us to acknowledge our personal need for the Gospel and the global need for 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 4:1-13 – Overcoming Temptation

Grace For The Journey

We are preaching our way through the Gospel of Luke and we come to a pivotal passage today where our Lord Jesus Christ faces 40 days of trial and testing in the wilderness of Judea.  Most of us are familiar with this passage and know that Satan appears before Jesus and tempts Him three times, each time beginning the temptation with the words, “If You are the Son of God,” or, “If You will worship me.”  It is important that we remember where we were last time as context helps us understand what is happening in today’s passage.  Last time in chapter 3 we studied the baptism of Jesus and we recall from verse 22 that when Jesus came up out of the water He heard the Heavenly Father say, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”  What we have now in chapter 4 is a challenge to those very words.  Satan is challenging the divine sonship of Jesus.  What Satan aims to do in this passage is to get Jesus to doubt whether the Father really meant what He said when He said, “You are My beloved Son.”  His whole modus operandi is to get Jesus to doubt His unique role as Son of God and that the Father really loves Him and will provide for Him.  That is why Satan prefaces his temptations with, “If you really are the Son of God.”Immediately preceding our text, the last few words of chapter 3, we have the tail-end of the genealogy of Jesus which Luke traces all the way back to Adam who, like Jesus, was a unique “son of God,” but unlike Jesus, Adam failed his test.  So now the “second Adam,” our Lord Jesus, is being tested.  The serpent who assaulted the first Adam in the Garden now assaults the second Adam in the wilderness, and the second Adam passes the test.  The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  We may say that . . .

The first Adam

Failed the temptation,

Bringing sin to mankind,

The Second Adam, Christ Jesus,

Passed the temptation,

Bringing salvation to mankind.

As I was reflecting on this topic of “Overcoming Temptation,” it occurred to me that we could have just as easily entitled our message, “Overcoming Idolatry.”  Because when we give into temptation we are saying, “No” to God and “Yes” to something else in God’s place.  Think about it. 

  • If we give in to the temptation of greed, we do so because money, power, or possessions have taken God’s place. 
  • If we give in to the temptation of lust and commit adultery in either thought or action, we do so because our lustful desire replaces the desire for God. 
  • If we give in to the temptation to gorge ourselves on food not because we need the nutrition but because we just love the taste of something in our mouths, then we have placed that something else before God and have fallen – at least for a moment – into the sin of idolatry.

This is important for us to grasp as we study the temptation of Christ because, as the Son of God, Jesus will show that He will have nothing to stand between Himself and His Heavenly Father.  If the Father had said, “You are My Son, whom I love,” then Jesus’ actions in the Judean Wilderness reply back, “You are My Father, whom I love.”

What I want to do in our study today is keep our focus on Jesus, noting how He overcame His temptation with the obvious secondary question of how then we are to overcome our temptation.  If He is our Master, then we will learn from His actions and emulate His ways.  And the very first thing that leaps off the page and into our eyes is the phrase in verse 1, “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

This shows us the first way to overcome temptation . . .

I. Be Filled With The Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a favorite emphasis of Luke’s.  We know from having studied Luke’s book of Acts that Luke made much of the Holy Spirit in Acts and wrote of people being filled with the Spirit . . .

  • Stephen was a man “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:55)
  • Barnabas was “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 11:24)
  • Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:9)
  • In chapter 1 of Luke, John the Baptist will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:15)
  • Elizabeth was “filled with the Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).”
  • Zacharias was “filled with the Spirit.” (Luke 1:67).” 
  • Mary was overshadowed by the Spirit, and gave birth to Jesus who grew and became “strong in the Spirit” (Luke 2:40).
  • During His baptism, descending upon Him in the form of a dove, is “the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 3:22)
  • The Holy Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1))
  • Following what happens in the temptation, we read that Jesus returns to Galilee in “the power of the Spirit.” (Luke 4:14)

All of these occurrences are not accidental . . . 

Luke is showing us that if we expect

To be of any use to our Lord and

If we expect to have any victory

In this world then we had better

Be filled with the Spirit. 

And before we can be

Filled with the Spirit,

We must receive the Spirit.

We receive the Spirit when we become Christians.  We must be saved.  When we are, God indwells our bodies, our temples, by way of the Holy Spirit.  He immediately and entirely enters in and takes up residence.  He stays here with us, living within us. 

To be filled with the Spirit means that we

Regularly, continually, throughout each day,

Submit ourselves to His complete control. 

We yield our lives to Him, our passions

To Him, our desires to Him. 

To the degree we do this

We are being filled with the Spirit.

God is number one in our lives.

This is how Jesus overcomes the tempter’s first test.  After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, having eaten nothing and afterward being hungry, the devil says to Him in verse 3, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  Jesus could have done that, but He does not.  He replies, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Jesus fasts 40 days and refuses to give in to temptation to turn stones to bread to show . . .

That He will be

Enslaved by nothing,

But God.

He is filled with the Spirit and His life is focused on loving His Father, living for Him, and honoring Him.  He would say later in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”

This is to be our response as well.  When we are tempted to sin we will not give in to that temptation if we are filled with the Spirit.  If you are filled with the Spirit your mind, your heart, and your affections are consumed with God.  When you are yielding to the Spirit, you cannot think an unholy thought and a holy thought at the same time.  You cannot sin when you are filled with the Spirit.  So “say no” to the tempter and “say yes” to the Spirit.  Say, “Holy Spirit, I yield to You.  Fill me.  Take control.  I surrender myself to You.” 

This is the same thing Paul had in mind when he wrote in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  Do not allow your body to be enslaved by anything other than God.  Be filled with the Spirit. 

Number two . . .

II. Be Faithful Through Suffering.

It is important for us to stress that Christ really did suffer.  If we are not careful in our thinking we may accidentally slip into a heresy of thinking that somehow because Jesus was not only human, but also divine, that He did not really feel temptation as we feel it.  The thought has probably entered most of our minds at one point or another in our Christian experience.  The writer of Hebrew says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Perhaps we reason, “Well, because He is both human and divine, somehow it was easier for Him to resist temptation.”  As though when the devil says, “If you really are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread” and Jesus replies stoically, “I am not even hungry.  I am the Son of God.  I can do anything.  40 days is nothing.  I’m just getting started!” 

There is a reason Luke takes the care to record with precision in verse 2 that after the 40 days were ended, “He was hungry.”  Had we been there, He would have looked painfully emaciated.  I mean, starving for food.  He felt real hunger.  It was precisely because He was both man and God that He suffered the temptation in a far greater way.  You and I are clearly not divine.  For us to give in to temptation is nothing.  We are sinners.  Temptation comes knocking and it does not take long for it to knock us over.  But because Jesus is also God, He suffers a temptation far greater than ours.   Sin comes knocking at Jesus and it knocks, knocks, and knocks and He feels every single blow in a way you and I can only imagine.

His sinlessness did not immunize Him against the effects of sin, either during His life or on the cross.  In fact, He tasted our temptations with a sensitivity none of us has known precisely because He resisted them.  Whatever your experiences of temptation or suffering, Christ’s was deeper because His humanity was sinless.  The good news here is that because Christ suffered temptation, He knows what we are going through!  This is the point of the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  When we cry out to God because of our temptation, Jesus Christ knows what it is like.  He knows.  He has been there and done it.

To appreciate this, imagine for a moment that Jesus gave in to this first temptation of the devil’s and He turns the stones into bread.  He could have done that.  But then how would He have ever been taken seriously later in His ministry?  I mean, when He starts preaching the Sermon on the Mount and He says in Matthew 6, “Don’t worry about food.  Your heavenly Father loves you and will take care of you.”  His disciples would be like, “Easy for You to say, Jesus!  When You were in the wilderness You changed rocks into sandwiches!  Easy for You to say.”  No.  He knows what it is like to walk in your shoes.  He really did suffer.  When you suffer this week, He is there, with You, reaching out to You from the shadows of your suffering and saying, “It is okay.  I am with you.  I know what that is like.  It’s going to be okay.”

Then the devil takes Jesus and shows Him, perhaps in a vision, all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  He says, “I will give You authority over all this if You will worship me.”  Of course, Jesus knew that whatever authority Satan had, it was a temporary authority God allowed Him to have as the “ruler of this world (John 12:31, etc.), the “prince of the power of the air “(Ephesians 2:2).  Satan says, “I will give You their glory if You will worship me.  Jesus, You want glory?  I will give You glory!  And Jesus, You will not even need to suffer for it.  I will give it to You right now!  You cannot possibly think Your Heavenly Father loves You, can You?  Look at what You are going through, here!  You are starving to death!  Come on, just say the word and all this will be yours!”  I wonder how many of us may have jumped at the chance to be so powerful, exchanging the glory of God for the glory of the world.  But Jesus is faithful through suffering.  He says, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only shall you serve.”

It is important to see here that Satan is trying to . . .

Offer Jesus a shortcut to glory.

He was tempting Jesus to get a crown without the cross.  He was tempting Him to forego suffering.  Had he succeeded, there would have been no hope for our salvation.  This is why Satan works so hard at it.  He is trying to get Jesus to avoid suffering and, because we are Christ’s followers, Satan tempts us the same way.

The devil tries to get us to doubt the Father’s love for us.  He says to us, “If God really loved you; you would be driving a better car.  If God really loved you, you would have gotten that promotion.  If God really loved you, you would have been healed of that disease.”  How will you reply to him?  The devil tries to get us to forego suffering.  “You don’t need all that suffering business,” he says.  “I am offering a life of ease and indulgence.”  But Jesus warns us in Matthew 16:24-25 that, just as it was true for Him, there is no crown without the cross, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”

Satan promises the easy way.  He tells you that you really do not need to suffer.  He wants us to think that Jesus did not really mean for you to “take up your cross” and “lose your life” and all that.  That is far too costly!  You impatiently watch a missions video or listen to somebody sharing about missions and the devil whispers into your ear, “God does not really expect you to fly to Asia and share the love of Jesus Christ with the 70 million orphaned children there.  Look at how much good can be done here and just see how God is blessing!  God does not really expect you to share the Gospel among the 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV.  No, that is for others to do.  He is got you here to enjoy the niceties and comforts of your predictable income, your house, your recreational activities, your food and your gadgets.  Do not risk your life going to some crazy foreign country!  Let the fanatics do that.  You’re okay.”  And if you have a heart of wisdom, may you reply to those temptations of Satan the same way our Lord did when, through Peter’s offer of glory without suffering, Jesus heard him and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

 The devil then takes Jesus to Jerusalem and to the highest point of the temple and says, “If you really are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  After all,” says Satan, “The Bible says in Psalm 91 that Your Father will send His angels to protect You.”  And Jesus replies in verse 12, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”  That is, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  In essence, Jesus says, “Just because God promises His protection, I have no guarantee from Him that if I act foolishly, He is going to bless Me.”  It is like reading in Mark 16 that believers will be able “to take up serpents” and then saying, “Well, let’s just bring a bunch of snakes into our worship service and see what happens!”  How often God must look down from heaven and just shake His head.  We are to never put God to the test.  That God promises to love and care for us give us no green light to act like fools.

Someone says, “Well, I would never be so foolish as to handle snakes or throw myself down from a building to test God.”  No.  But maybe you would test God by “throwing yourself” into other things, what Kent Hughes refers to as, “willful swan dives” into situations without first seeking God.  Hughes illustrates how doing so puts the Lord to the test.  He says, for example, “Diving into a marital relationship that does not have the approval of God’s Word; misapplying Scripture with disastrous consequences, then crying out for God to catch us before we hit bottom; rationalizing a head-strong plunge by saying, ‘If this works, God will receive great glory.  Just think of the souls that will be saved.  God you have to be in this – You just have to!’”  Hughes adds, “True, (God) specializes in picking up the pieces, but we must not test Him through rationalized disobedience.”

The third mark . . .

III. Be Familiar With The Scriptures.

It is of no small importance that when Jesus is tempted these three times by Satan that every single time He responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  In fact, no other words of Jesus’ are recorded here except His quoting Scripture.  Three time He says, “It is written.”  Even the devil realizes this and so, after the first two temptations, the devil tries it out himself in the third temptation, misinterpreting Psalm 91 as a grounds for putting God to the test.  You see it is not enough to quote Scripture.  The devil can quote it.  We must rightly divide it, rightly interpret it.  This is one reason we place such emphasis upon the Scriptures here at First Baptist, Butler.  We recognize the sufficiency of Scripture to answer our every question.  We see how familiar was our Lord with the Scriptures and we seek to follow Him.   

In the words of the hymn-writer . . .

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said—

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Jesus used the Scriptures to battle the devil and so must we if we are His followers.   The Apostle Paul agrees.  He says in Ephesians 6:17 that in order to “stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil,” we must “take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  We cannot take up the sword of the Word if we do not know how to use it.  What good is a sword to a soldier in battle if he does not know how to take it up?

So we must learn the Bible.  Take it up!  Read it daily.  At times, read it slowly.   Memorize it as did our Lord that we might use it to fight against sin.  May we say with the Psalmist in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.”  Vance Havner says, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”

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 3:21-38 – A Very Unique Son

Grace For The Journey

Several weeks ago, we began a series of messages through the Gospel of Luke.  Today we finish chapter 3 as we pick up where we left off at verse 21 and then go to the end of the chapter.  As we look at the passage you will note that the first couple of verses concern the baptism of Jesus and then verses 23-38 give us the genealogy of Jesus.  In the latter portion of Scripture, you will notice certain names that bring up memories about how God worked in and through those persons.

You may wonder what is the benefit of actually reading the some 75 names in the genealogy?  Someone might ask, “Can’t we just skip over them?”  And that is not uncommon as many people endeavor to read through their Bibles.  They come to a list like this and say, “Oh, this is too much.  Let’s just skip these names!”  But I would like to suggest that you might feel differently about the genealogy if your name were listed there; if somewhere in the list of “who was the son of whom” you could point there and say, “Look, there is our family name!  There is my grandfather; there is my great-grandfather.”  Many people, I among them, are increasingly interested in tracing out our family lines.  Websites like ancestry.com provide large networks of information helpful to us in discovering our family tree and roots.  Imagine if everyone in our families kept records like those we read in the Bible!

Perhaps the greatest spiritual reason for reading a genealogy is to remind us of the truth that one day our names will be in a list.  The Bible says in Job 7:6, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.”  Isaiah 40:6-7 says, “All men are like grass…the grass withers and the flower fades.”  We do not like to talk about it much, but we are all dying people in a dying world.  There is a better than even chance that one day someone will be searching for our name to fill the gap in their family tree.  Genealogies remind us of the truth that we need to learn in Psalm 90:12, “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” and to be encouraged that while we find ourselves in this dying world, we live each day to know and serve the living Savior, the one who says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

Our study today is entitled, “A Very Unique Son.”  The word “unique” suggests one-of-a-kind.  Jesus Christ was and is one-of-a-kind.  This is the true meaning of the word “begotten” often found in the King James Version of the Bible.  Many of us know it from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten – His unique, one-of-a-kind Son – so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Jesus is God’s only begotten – His unique, one-of-a-kind Son.

As we study the uniqueness of the Son of God, I want to take something of an inductive approach and ask two very simple questions of the text.  The questions are . . .

1) Why the Baptism? (Verses 21-22) Why the baptism of Jesus?  Why was He baptized?

2) Why the Background? (Verses 23-38) Why does Luke provide this genealogy here?  What is especially unique about his list?

By the end of our time together we will have the answers to those two questions.  Why the baptism and why the background?  First, let’s study the baptism of our Lord Jesus.  Look again at verses 21-22, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.  And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’”

We could talk about a number of things here in these verses. 

  • We could talk about the fact that Jesus prays during his baptism. 

Only Luke has this detail in his Gospel.  Prayer is important to Luke.  He will point out for us that Jesus often prayed before and during significant events, such as, the selection of the 12 disciples, and the Transfiguration.

Or . . .

  • We could talk about the doctrine of the Trinity. 

It is interesting to note here in these two verses, verse 21 and 22, that we have all three Persons of the Holy Trinity revealed to us.  God is One is essence, three in Person.  God is One in substance and essence with no division of His nature and yet, at the same time, He is three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You have the voice of the Father from heaven, the Son in the water, and the Spirit of God descending upon Him.  All three are equally concerned about man’s redemption.

1) Why the Baptism? Why was Jesus Baptized?

A common answer is that Jesus was baptized to set an example for us: “Jesus was baptized and so should we be baptized.”  There is something about our wanting to follow the example of Jesus, but that answer glosses over the theological questions we have about a sinless Savior submitting to a “baptism of repentance” when this same Savior had no sins from which to repent.  Remember that John the Baptist’s baptism was called back in verse 3 a “baptism of repentance.”  Multitudes of people came to be baptized by John to indicate that they were “turning from” their sins and “turning to” the One True God of the Bible.  So why does Jesus get into the water?

 Jesus had not sinned.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that He “knew no sin” and inHebrews 4:15 that Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  This is why Matthew records in chapter 3 and verse for us in his Gospel the startled statement by John the Baptist.  Jesus comes to John to be baptized and John says, “You’re coming to me to be baptized?!  I need to be baptized by you.”  And Jesus replies in verse 15, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Whatever else the phrase “to fulfill all righteousness” means, it surely must include that what Jesus was doing was the right thing to do.  He Himself was not a sinner so He did not need to repent of any sin.  What He is doing here He is placing Himself among these sinners so that He might identify with them.  His whole life and death revolved around His identifying with sinners.  He places Himself in solidarity with these people without participating in their actions, much as an athlete who is not playing in the game because of an injury dresses out and sits on the bench or stands with his team.  He does not participate in the activity of the team, but he stands in solidarity with the team.

Jesus places Himself in solidarity with sinners,

Agreeing with them about the importance

Of turning away from sin and turning

To the One True God. 

He does not stand among them

As One who commits sin with them. 

He stands among them as

One who bears their sin.

That is why He got in the water.  He identifies with us.

 This is why Jesus left the wonder, splendor, and glory of heaven to dwell among us in this sin-cursed world.  This is why He was not born in a golden palace and raised in a wealthy city.  Why would he do that?  He had better than that in heaven!  However beautiful a palace of gold may be to our eyes we see only an imperfect copy or shadow of glorious things unseen in the heavenly realm.  That Jesus was born in a humble, smelly feed trough in a small obscure town makes sense only if the Supreme God of the Universe really wanted to identify with us.  That is why He got in the water.  A heavenly King’s choosing to be born among common shepherds of the hills makes sense only if this King really wanted to “rub shoulders” with us, “to walk with us and talk with us, along life’s narrow way.”

 The religious people could not understand that!  When Jesus says to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5, “Come down out, for today I must stay at your house!””  The religious people complained, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!”  Dah!  That is the point . . . 

This God wants to identify with His creation. 

He Himself is not a sinner. 

He is a sin-bearer. 

He will bear their sins on Calvary’s Cross.

His baptism portrays His desire to identify with us.  And this encourages us!  It means that our God knows what it is like to walk in our shoes. 

  • Having “no place to lay his head,” He knows what it is like to be poor. 
  • Having put in long sweaty hours in the carpenter’s shop, He knows what it is like to work. 
  • He knows what it is like to be ridiculed. 
  • He knows what it is like to be in a storm. 
  • He knows what it is like to experience profound hunger, to be tired, to become emotionally drained. 
  • He knows what it is like to be in pain. 
  • He knows what it is like to suffer. 
  • He knows what it is like to be rejected and betrayed. 
  • He knows what it is like to lose a loved one. 
  • He knows what it is like to die.

This is the kind of God we want, isn’t it?  We do not want a god somewhere “out there,” far away removed and immunized from our everyday problems.  We want a God who can identify with us.  That is why He got in the water.  And that is why we today get into the water through Christian baptism . . . 

He identifies with us,

That we

May identify with Him.

That is why we get into the water.  When we are baptized we are identifying with the One who identified with us.  So, as the Bible says in Romans 6:3-5, we were, “… baptized into His death.  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Baptism pictures our identification with Christ and celebrates our permanent union with Christ.  Baptism pictures what Jesus did for us – death, burial, and resurrection – and what is consequently true for us – we have died, our sins buried, and we have been raised to walk in a new way of life.  We are now permanently united together with Christ Jesus.  Baptism pictures this.

  • Union with Christ means that all of our sin has been forever forgiven. 
  • Union with Christ means that whatever is true of Christ is true of the believer.
  • Union with Christ means that God forever regards us as covered in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Writing of the blessing of our union with Christ, Jerry Bridges in The Gospel for Real Life asks, “Have you ever thought about the wonderful truth that Christ lived His perfect life in your place and on your behalf?  Has it yet gripped you that when God looks at you today, He sees you clothed in the perfect, sinless obedience of His Son?  And that when He says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased,’ He includes you in that warm embrace?  The extent to which we truly understand this is the extent to which we will begin to enjoy those unsearchable riches that are found in Christ.”  Christians live a guilt-free life because God forever regards them “in” His Son Christ Jesus.  If we are saved, He sees us “in Christ,” united together in glorious, permanent union with His Son.

We will never truly understand the love of God until we understand this!  So many Christians live in fear and guilt.  “I am such a sinner,” a Christian says.  “I just feel like I keep on failing God and I feel horrible!”  That ought to be how we feel when we sin.  But, do not stop there, look quickly to Calvary, Christian!  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Know that God forever regards you safely “in Christ Jesus.”  You will forever be clothed in His righteousness and all of your sins paid for in Him.  Remember what the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Union with Christ!

So why the baptism?  Identification.  We understand God’s love for identification.

2) Why the Background? What is especially unique about this genealogy?

Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew, chapter 1, goes back only to Abraham.  Matthew was addressing primarily a Jewish audience.  Luke’s genealogy, however, goes back all the way to Adam.  Luke is addressing primarily a Gentile audience.  Remember in the opening verses of his Gospel he is addressing a man named Theophilus, a Gentile.  He says, “I am writing this Gospel so that you may know the certainty of the things in which you were instructed.”  Luke is addressing a Gentile audience.  Do you remember what Simeon said in his prophecy back in chapter 2 when he held baby Jesus in his arms?  In Luke 2:32, Simeon says that this baby was not only “the glory of Israel,” but is also, “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.”

Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus

All the way back to Adam because

Adam is the representative of the

Entire human race, Jewish and Gentile.

So, in the words of one commentator, we are reminded that “Jesus is the fulfillment not only of Jewish hopes and aspirations but of the hopes of the entire world.”  The Bible says in Acts 17:26 that “from one man (Adam) God has made every nation of men.”  Adam is our representative, the head of the human race.  The Bible says in Romans 5:19, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”  This is why we may refer to Jesus Christ as the “second Adam.”  He is the new representative of humanity.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  As the poet puts it . . .

“Christ the Son of God

Became a Son of Adam

That we sons of Adam

Might become sons of God”

All of humanity, then, is joined either to Adam or to Christ.  We are either lost or we are saved.  Luke’s point in giving this particular background is to highlight the importance of sharing and receiving the Gospel, the Good News that sons of Adam may become – through Christ – sons of God, children of God.

So why the background?  What is especially unique about this genealogy?  Well . . .

If the first key word was Identification,

Then

The second key word is Evangelization.

In tracing the genealogy of Christ all the way back to Adam, we understand God’s love for evangelization, for sharing the Good News of the Gospel.  And this comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  From the start we see that Jesus has come not only to rescue Jewish lost people, but Gentile lost people.  As Luke records later in Luke 19:10, what many see as the key verse to the entire Gospel, Jesus came “to seek and save those who are lost.”

Apart from Jesus Christ, all are lost. 

Apart from Jesus Christ, no one will

Hear God say, “With you I am well pleased.” 

God is not pleased with our spiritual performance

Or good deeds or charitable giving. 

None of those things earn for us

The right to enter heaven. 

There is only one way to escape

Hell and the judgment to come. 

We must be “in Christ Jesus.”

We must identify with the One who identified with us.

Apart from Jesus Christ, no one will hear God say, “With you I am well pleased.”  But if we have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, God sees us differently.  In the words of a favorite hymn . . .

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me

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 3:1-20 – Marks of True Believers

Grace For The Journey

A professor on the faculty at Southeastern Seminary in North Carolina stated recently that his next preaching book was going to be on listening.  He said most preaching books are written to help the preacher preach, but this would be a book to help the listeners listen.  I thought that was an interesting project because . . .

Listening to the message preached

Is as important a task as is

Preaching the message that is heard.

Both do not come easily and both require the discipline of hard work.  We are dealing here with the very Word of God.  We are wise to make as our own the words of Richard Baxter who said, “I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.”

John the Baptist was one such preacher.  He was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” a man not interested in gaining a following for himself, not interested in building crowds, but interesting only in preparing people for the One greater than he, the Lord Jesus Christ.  His message was compelling and demanded to be heard.  His message divided people into two groups:

Those who were

Genuinely saved

And

Those who were not.

The one group consisted of those whose hearts had been truly converted.  The other group consisted of those whose hearts had not.  One group listened and was changed.  The other did not and was not.  And the same will be true in my blog today.  The teaching of the Word will go forth and, to borrow from the words of Jesus, those who “have ears will hear” and those who do not, will not.

Some will hear the Word of God and, like a seed sown into fertile soil, the seed will spring up and bear fruit in their lives.  Others will not hear the Word of God but, perhaps because of a thousand things going on in their minds or a propensity for mind-wandering or critiquing all around them, their hearts will not receive the Word, but the Word will be to them like a seed scattered among rocks or thorns – It does not take root and it bears no fruit.  This is at least one reason why we speak sometimes about those who are truly saved and those who are not.  They both look the same . . . They both hear the same Word . . . but some have truly confessed Christ while some have made merely a false profession.  In the words of JC Ryle, “The visible Church is now a mixed body.  Believers and unbelievers, holy and unholy, converted and unconverted, are now mingled in every congregation, and often sit side by side.  It passes the power of man to separate them.  False profession is often so like true, and grace is often so weak and feeble, that, in many cases, the right discernment of character is an impossibility.  The wheat and the chaff will continue together until the Lord returns.”

If there is one thing that John teaches us in this passage it is . . .

Some of the distinguishing

Marks of true believers.

There are a few things that are evident in the lives of true Christians that separates us from false Christians, those who have merely made a decision of some kind, but are not truly saved.  As we look for those features, let us first note that this passage divides into two parts . . .

  • John’s Ministry – Verses 1-6.
  • John’s Message – Verses 7-20.

We will make our way through these verses and note these marks of true believers.

In verses 1 and following, Luke mentions no less than seven historical figures to let his readers know something of the time frame in which he was writing.  Remember from the opening chapter of his Gospel that he is writing an “orderly account” (1:3) of the events and so he gives the background before telling us how John begins his ministry.

Had we time, we would spend awhile on two phrases that are necessary to the Gospel ministry.  Verse 2, “the word of God came” and verse 3, “and he went.”  The Word of God comes to a man and then he goes.  A man does not decide to become a preacher in the way he decides to become an accountant, a salesman, or a pilot.  He does not sit down with a guidance counselor and conclude that he will apply to become a pastor somewhere.  No, the Word of God comes to him and then he goes.  And at least one reason why people walk out of so many churches shaking their heads and saying of the sermon, “Those things he said I could have read myself in the paper or in news magazines.  He knows a lot about current events, but I’m just not sure what he was trying to do up there,” is likely because the Word of God did not come to the man and he went without being sent.  The Word of God came to John and John went. 

Verse 3 tells us, “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”  John’s message was essentially the same message preached later by Jesus and by the early church.  John preached the Gospel.  Verse 18 says, “And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.”  The word “preached” here is the word from which we get evangelism from, the telling of the Good News.  It is the Gospel.  John’s message called for people to repent, to turn away from their sin, and to turn to the One True God who would forgive their sin on the basis of the coming Messiah.  Those who did repent were then baptized in the Jordan River there to indicate their break with the old life and their start of a new life.

Luke tells us John’s ministry was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah some 700 years earlier as written in Isaiah, chapter 40 verses 4 to 6, “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’  Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”  John the Baptist is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is preparing people for the Messiah, the One who brings the salvation of God.  John wants to make the way smooth for the Messiah, something akin to filling the valleys and bringing the mountains and hills low, so as to make a level path for the coming Christ.

Luke tells us that “multitudes” came out to be baptized by John.  This is the modern preacher’s mark of a successful ministry!  What preacher today would not smile at the prospect of hundreds of people coming to him for baptism?  It is important to notice what John said to the multitudes.  Verse 7 tells us, “Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’”  That is quite a statement.  It is very different the from popular notions of “effective preaching” today.  He doesn’t say, “Welcome, you lovely people.  God loves you.  Come!”  He says, “You all are a bunch of snakes, slithering away from a fire, hoping to escape the flames of judgment!”  We may well imagine one of John’s disciples nudging him and quietly saying, “John!   We are never going to build a following that way!  Tone it down a bit!”  But John senses that a great number of these coming forward are insincere.  They are coming for the wrong reason.  They are coming merely to escape the wrath of God, to “get their card punched,” if you will.  There is no real repentance, there is no real conversion, just a desire to get this thing done so that they may be forgiven. 

John continues in verse 8 and 9 “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.  9 “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.”

At this point we begin to see some of the identifying marks of true believers . . .

1) We Must Exercise Saving Faith.

John’s preaching was the Gospel (recall verse 18).  He warned people to flee the wrath to come by receiving the Good News, the Gospel, the truth that their sin would be forgiven in the coming Messiah, revealed shortly thereafter in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way to be forgiven of sin.  There is only one way to get to heaven.  It is not by joining a church, not by being baptized, not be being a good person. 

It comes by God’s grace

Through faith in Christ. 

We must believe that

Jesus Christ died on the

Cross for our sins. 

He took the punishment

We deserved . . .  He died

For our sins, was buried,

And rose the third day

For our justification. 

Without Christ we are lost

And destined for eternal hell

Because of our sin. 

With Christ, our sins are

Forgiven once we receive Him

As the very Lord over

Everything we think, do, and act.

We receive Him as Savior. 

We do so by faith, belief, trust in Him.

This is a decision that we must make personally.  When we speak of trusting Christ as a personal decision, it does not mean private.  It means that we personally, on our own accord, are placing our faith in Christ.  We are not relying upon someone else’s life or faith.  John says in verse 8, “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.”  John is saying we cannot get to heaven on the back of someone else’s faith. That you come from a Christian family means absolutely nothing if you have not personally placed your faith in Christ.  Your family ancestry is not what gets you saved.  John says, “If God were concerned only about the physical, he could make physical descendants out of physical matter, turning stones into people.”  That is not what God is after here.  He is after the spiritual.  He is after your personally trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  You cannot be born physically into the family of God.  You must be born spiritually, personally coming to faith in Christ.

The second mark is . . .

2) We Must Truly Repent.

John says in verse 8 that true believers are to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” which implies, of course, that true repentance is necessary in order for one to be truly saved. 

Repentance is both

A “turning from” and

A “turning to.” 

We turn from our sin

And we turn to the Lord.

Repentance is more than just being sorry for our sins.  It is that, to be sure, but it is more than that!  If we are only “sorry” for our sins and we come to God looking for something like a “Get out of hell free card,” then we have not truly repented.  We have merely turned from our sin, but we have not really turned to God. 

We have come to God

In a different way

Than we may “use”

Him for our benefit,

Much as we would “Use”

A fire Insurance policy.

We do not really bother with the policy unless we really need it.  In fact, we resent that we even have to deal with the policy at all.  It is costly and maybe we think it is even unnecessary but, just to be sure, we get this policy “just in case we need it.” 

We do not treat

God this way.

Repentance is a

Turning from

And

A turning to. 

This is why we thank God for the ministry of John the Baptist.  One expositor likens him to sandpaper that is necessary to sand away the rough edges so that the paint will stick.  John’s bold, confrontational preaching was used by the Holy Spirit to sand away the rough edges of the peoples’ hearts so that the Gospel would stick.

We ask this question sometimes?  We ask, “That person heard the Gospel, but it didn’t seem to stick.  Why is that?”  Could it be because they never truly repented?  They only “turned from” sin.  They were sorry for their sins.  They wanted to be sure they would go to heaven.  But they only “turned from,” like a viper turning from the flames of judgment, but did not “turn to” the one true God and living for that God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We must remember this in our evangelism!  True repentance requires both a “turning from” and a “turning to.”  We dare not ask people to bow their heads and repeat a prayer with us unless the Holy Spirit is convicting their hearts like sand paper sanding away the rough ages so that the Gospel takes hold and sticks.  We tell them they must also “turn to” the Lord.  They are wasting their time repeating a prayer if they will not let the Holy Spirit give them the life of Christ and changed their lives for God’s glory.  Repentance is a turning from and a turning to.

The third mark it . . .

3) We Must Be Baptized.

We are not baptized in order to “get” saved.  Salvation is not a work.  One cannot be baptized until his heart is first purified and cleansed through conversion, through faith and repentance.  At the same time, however, baptism is not to be isolated from faith and repentance as though it were some unnecessary, optional step.  True Christians are baptized. 

They indicate that they have, in fact, repented;

They have in fact turned from their old life

And have turned to the Lord. 

He is number one now.

That is what baptism pictures: Just as Jesus died, was buried, and was raised to new life so we have died to the old life and have been raised to walk in a new way of life.   True believers will be baptized as soon as possible to demonstrate their love for and commitment to the One to whom they have in repentance turned.

The fourth mark is . . .

4) We Must Live Differently (Bear Fruit).

In verses 8-9, John the Baptist warns that true believers must “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”  That is . . .

If one is truly repentant,

You will be able to tell

Because his life is different.

He will live a life that proves the sincerity of his repentance.  The things he used to do no longer form the dominating pattern of his life.  He is different.  There is a visible change in his or her life.  He now “bears fruit” that indicates he has truly repented.  Just as a good tree brings forth good fruit, visible evidence of a living source, the true believer lives out his life before others in such a way to give visible evidence that he really is alive . . . He is different.

So serious is this matter of living differently and bearing fruit that John says in verse 9, “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.”   This is very similar to the words of our Lord Jesus.  Warning about the false teachers who come to the people as wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing, Jesus says something that has implications for the way to recognize true believers from false believers. Matthew 7:16-21 states, “You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  Then He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  Not everyone is a believer who says he is a believer.  True believers must live their lives differently.  It is not that they are perfect and never sin again.  It is that they now hate their sin.  They have turned from sin and have turned to God.

This hard, sandpaper-like preaching of John’s is a blessing.  It makes sure the paint of the Gospel sticks.  It elicits the right response that comes by the power of Holy Spirit conviction.  The people are convicted.  Note how they respond in verses 10 through 14, “So the people asked him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’  He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics (the inner garment worn under the cloak), let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’  Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ (known for collecting more than required; pocketing the difference)  And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’  Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’  So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’”

Three times different people ask, “What shall we do?” (verses 10, 12, and 14).  That is the question of a true believer.  We need not beg true believers to do anything.  They will come asking themselves, “What shall we do?”  The answer will always be: live your lives differently now.  Bear fruit proving the sincerity of your repentance.

As we look at verses 10, 12, and 14 and we ask ourselves, “Am I generous?  Do I enjoy giving?  Am I willing to give to the poor?  Am I honest in my work?  Do I intimidate others, use power unwisely?  Do I accuse people falsely? Am I always truthful?  Am I content?”

Verses 15 through 20 tells us, “Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.’  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.”

John the Baptist makes clear that he is not the promised Messiah.  The Messiah is coming and coming very soon.  He is the supreme Judge.  He is the One who will separate the true believers from the false believers on the Day of Judgment.  Those who have turned from sin and turned to Him will be saved.  Those who have not will, “burn with unquenchable fire (verse 17).”

In so many congregations it is hard to tell those who are saved from those who are not.  They both look very similar.  The wheat and the chaff will continue together until the Lord returns.  But there will be an awful separation at the last day.  The unerring judgment of the King of kings will divide the wheat from the chaff, and divide them for evermore.  The righteous shall be gathered into a place of happiness and safety.  The wicked shall be cast down to shame and everlasting contempt.  In the great sifting day, everyone shall go to his own place.  I could not be considered a loving preacher of the Gospel if I did not conclude our time together today without asking, “Have you really placed your faith in Jesus Christ?  Have you truly repented?  Have you been baptized?  Is your life different?”

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.”