Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:6-9 – What Tragedy May Teach Us – Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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

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

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

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

First . . .

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

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

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

He brings out one of the major lessons

We need to learn from tragedy. 

He teaches about our need to repent,

To turn from our sin and to turn to God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This parable is an illustration

Of the mercy of God towards

An unrepentant people.

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

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

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

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

First, we noted . . .

1) Our Lives Are Uncertain.

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

Secondly, we noted . . .

2) We Should Thank God For Our Preservation.

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

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

 3) We Must Repent.

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

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

We noted two aspects of repentance . . .

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

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

Secondly . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) We Must Prepare For Judgment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 13:1-9 – What Tragedy May Teach Us, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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

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

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

I. Consider The Mystery Of God’s Ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First . . .

 1) Our Lives Are Uncertain.

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

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

2) We Should Thank God For Our Preservation.

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

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

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

Thirdly . . .

3) We Must Repent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondly . . .

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

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

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

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 12:54-59 – The Importance Of Being Spiritually Perceptive And Prepared

Grace For The Journey

Today’s passage is a short passage, just six verses, but a passage that arrests us and causes us to reflect on the depth of our spiritual perception, our real awareness about the things of God.  Contextually we remember that ever since Luke 9:51, Jesus “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  He is on a mission to go to Jerusalem to die for our sins.  Here in chapter 12 it is like He pauses for a moment and looks back to the crowds who are following Him and He utters these thought-provoking statements and stirring questions to challenge the crowds – and us – to think about how spiritually “tuned-in” we are and how spiritually prepared we are for the judgment to come.

Without the meanness and the malice, Jesus turns to His followers and He says, “Let me clue you in.”  His desire in these verses is to challenge our spiritual perception or awareness about spiritual things.  Are we clued-in?  Or are we clued-out or just clue-less. 

This passage has truths that lead us to ask two main questions for all of us.  First, we must ask of ourselves . . .

I.  Am I Spiritually Perceptive?

Do I have a clue about what is going on spiritually?  Jesus says to this crowd who is following Him, “You guys are not clued-in!”  Look at what He says in verses 54 to 56, “Then He also said to the multitudes, ‘Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is.  And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather;’ and there is.  Hypocrites!  You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?  There are two “weather events” mentioned in verses 54 and 55 respectively.  In verse 54 Jesus says to the crowds, “Look, when you guys see a cloud rising out of the west, you have enough perception to know that a shower is coming.”   And of course. that was true: a cloud rising over the Mediterranean Sea meant that water was evaporating, rising upward as the cloud moved over and climbed the cooler hills of Palestine.  Rain is coming.  There is an actual illustration of this in 1 Kings 18.  Many of you know the story of Elijah’s praying for rain and how his servant ran back and forth, looking for a rain cloud and after checking seven times he looks out over the sea and says, “I see one about the size of a man’s hand,” and then the rain comes.

Jesus says, “You guys are really perceptive when it comes to the weather, but you are not perceptive at all when it comes to Me.”  You can tell when it’s going to rain, but you don’t know the God who “reigns.”  That’s His point here.  He makes it again in verse 55, “And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is.”  The blowing of the south wind meant a sirocco was on the way.  The hot, dry wind blowing from the desert brought with it a scorching heat.  People would feel the south wind blow and they would say, “There will be hot weather.”  And so there was.  Jesus says, “You guys are good at telling whether it’s going to be hot or cold or whether it’s going to rain.  You are really good at it.  You do not even need the Weather Channel.  You are very perceptive when it comes to earthly things.  But you fail when it comes to heavenly things. 

In verse 56 Jesus concludes by saying, “Hypocrites!  You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?”  The phrase “this time” refers to the time in which Jesus was speaking, the time of His entrance into the world as its Savior.  It is a reference to the coming of His kingdom, here in part now, and in its fulness later.  Remember that the Kingdom of God is both “now” and “not yet.”  It is “now” in the sense of Jesus’ having come and making possible our salvation.  It is “not yet” in that Jesus will come again and bring about consummation, a new heaven and new earth.  It is already here in one sense.  Jesus says earlier in Luke 11:20, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  The kingdom of God has come in part, in will come in full.

Jesus says to the crowds who are following Him, but not really following Him, just sort of hanging on and hanging around, but not really diving in, Jesus says to them, “You know you guys are really good with the weather, but that’s about it.  You know nothing about Me, about My coming, about eternal matters.  You are perceptive when it comes to things of the world, but blind when it comes to things of God.  Don’t you know who I am?  What the Old Testament has promised has come to pass.”  The angel said to the shepherds at my birth. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  All of the prophecies, all of His teachings, all of the miracles He did should have helped them “get it.”  They were perceptive concerning the weather, but blind to the God who stands before them.”

We are not much better, are we?  We are pretty wise concerning worldly things.  Our priorities are not much different than those of 2,000 years ago.  On the front page of nearly every newspaper is a eye-catching summation of the weather forecast.  If there is any spiritual news at all to be read, it is generally buried deep on the inside of the paper.  We are pretty adept at worldly things, but not so good at the spiritual things.  We can time the sunset down nearly to the second, but we often fail to see what God is doing right here and right now in our lives.

With minimal evidence we draw conclusions from the observable world.  We can deduce when it is going to rain, and we know when a hurricane will come.  We even have photojournalists on the spot in advance to capture the big news story, but when it comes to spiritual things, when it comes to the things of God, we often have much greater difficulty seeing and perceiving.

What has happened this past week where God was at work, and you did not even know it?  He is the God who grants you life.  Is it possible while you have been looking for and waiting for the “big thing” to happen in your life that you fail to see God at work in the “little things,” working right now in your life?  Can you see Him?  Are you spiritually perceptive? 

Second question . . .

II. Am I Spiritually Prepared?

Jesus gives us a mini-parable here in verses 57-59.  Contextually we see that it Is meaning is to be interpreted with respect to what Jesus has just been talking about.  He is talking about spiritual things and so he gives this mini-parable to drive home the point of our need for spiritual perception.  This parable was spoken by Him more than once and in a different context elsewhere.  But here, the meaning is clear: prepare for judgment.  Verses 57 to 59 say, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?  When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.  I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.” 

Here is a general truth . . .

It is always best to settle accounts out of court.

Better to settle with one’s accuser before the dispute is brought before a judge.  Settle up on your way to the judgment.  Do not wait until the judgment.  Settle before you get there.  Contextually, do you see where Jesus is going with this?  There is a judgment coming.  A wise person is prepared for that judgment.  Given the arrival of the Kingdom of God, we would be wise to get in right standing with the Judge of the universe right now before it is too late.  If we wait until it is too late we may find ourselves like a man thrown into debtor’s prison from which he will never be able to be freed.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment.”  The point here is . . .

Because the Kingdom of God has come, we must be prepared.

We must get our lives in order and make our peace with God, getting right before the Judge before it is too late.

On the one hand this is a truth for both Christian and non-Christian.  We must live our days with the coming of Christ in mind.  Repent and let go of anything that pulls you away from Jesus Christ: a friendship, a job, a behavior, possessions, greed, lust, pornography, bitterness, or unforgiveness.  Settle your accounts, Christian, before you stand before the Judge.

But these words are directed especially at those who linger in the crowd, hanging around Jesus but never committing to Him, never receiving Him as Lord and following Him in baptism.  There are many people in church every Sunday, close to spiritual things, but not saved.  These are the ones to whom Jesus speaks most directly.  He calls such people hypocrites because they draw conclusions about the weather based on minimal evidence, but ignore the evidence before them concerning Christ.

J. C. Ryle says, “We have got nothing worth having in Christianity, until we have peace with God … Let us never rest till we know and feel that we are reconciled to God…till this is done, nothing is done.”  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Be reconciled to God!”  Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Like the man in the parable on his way to the judge, so we are on our way to stand before the Supreme Judge.  We have an appointment in our calendar that God has made.  We will stand before Him one day.  Are our sins forgiven?  Have we settled out of court?

 There is a place called, “Speaker’s Corner” in London.  It is in Hyde Park.  Some of you will have heard of it.  It is a place where you can go on any given Sunday afternoon and stand up and speak or pontificate on whatever you wish.  I heard Alistair Begg tell about a guy one day getting up to speak at Speaker’s Corner.  This man gets up and he is an atheist and he says, “They say there is a God in heaven, but I can’t see him.  And they say that there is a Christ who came, but I can’t see Him.”  And he went on and on like this and then he concluded to a smattering of applause to the crowd concerning his inability to see God and to see Christ.  He was followed to the box by another man who stood up to speak after him.  This man stood up with some difficulty.  He had trouble balancing himself as he stood.  This man spoke without looking out to the crowd and he said, “They say there is a sun in heaven.  They say there is a moon in the sky.  They say there are stars to behold, but I can’t see them – I’m blind.”  And then he took his place in the crowd again.  He had made the point eloquently.

Some of you are like the people in the crowd to whom Jesus speaks in this passage.   You make deductions about all kinds of things every day based on minimal evidence.  Jesus is here and He is speaking to you in His Word.  Do you hear Him?  Will you follow Him?  Come to Christ Jesus before it is everlastingly too late.

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 12:49-53 – Jesus the Great Divider

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series of messages through the Gospel of Luke.  We begin in verse 49 today and we come to a point in the passage where Jesus speaks briefly and succinctly with respect to the effects of His coming.  It is a startling passage inasmuch as Jesus says something here we really do not expect.  Have you ever heart this charge, “The Bible is full of contradictions!  Maybe you have thought that yourself.  For instance, in Matthew’s Gospel it says that both thieves on the cross were hurling insults at Jesus (Matthew 27:44) while in Luke’s Gospel only one is mentioned hurling insults and the other one is asking Jesus for forgiveness (Luke 23:39-43).  How do you deal with passages like that and are they evidence, in fact, of contradictions in the Bible?

Most of you know that the way you deal with these passages is by reading them carefully in context and by comparing Scripture with Scripture.  That is, we read the passage in context carefully and then ask ourselves, “Now where else in the Bible is this matter addressed and how does what we read there compare with what we read here?”  If we will do that carefully, we will find that there are no contradictions in the Bible whatsoever.

Strictly speaking a contradiction is a logical impossibility.  A contradiction is to assert something as true that simply cannot be. For example: “Two plus two equals four and two plus two does not equal four.”  Both statements cannot be true.  One contradicts the other.  There are no claims in the Bible where one thing is said to be true and then that truth is negated by some other passage.  There are no contradictions, but there are passages that may be problematic if we do not study them contextually and compare Scripture with Scripture.

Going back to the example given a moment ago, we read Matthew in his Gospel telling us that both thieves on the cross either side of Jesus hurled insults at Him while Luke mentions only one and that the other one actually asks Christ for forgiveness.  So, what is going on?  What is going on is that Matthew mentions only what happened initially with these two thieves and leaves out what happened later.  He says that both of these thieves hurled insults at Jesus.  That is true.  Luke then tells us what happens later.   One of these two thieves becomes convicted of his sin and later asks Jesus for forgiveness.  After all, they had hung on the cross for several hours and this other thief had time to witness the love and suffering of Christ and so, while he was initially speaking against Christ he later becomes convicted of sin and asks Christ for forgiveness.  Matthew simply omits this part of the crucifixion in his account.  There is no contradiction between the two accounts, but rather a harmonization that occurs when we read the two carefully, knowing that our God is not a God of contradiction, but a God of infallible, and inerrant truth.

Now I mention this because in our passage this morning Jesus says in verse 51, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?  I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”  Now wait a minute!  Didn’t we read earlier in Luke’s Gospel, back in Chapter 2, that an angel of the Lord appeared and spoke to the shepherds about the birth of Christ and then we read, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:13-14).  Christ comes to bring peace toward men.  But He says here in chapter 12 that He does not come to bring peace to men.  We also read in Isaiah 9:6 that prophetic announcement, 700 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet says, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus says here in Luke 12:51, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?  I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”  Do we have a contradiction here?  Well of course we do not.  We begin with the knowledge that God is perfect and without error so He will never once contradict Himself.  The fact is, both statements are true.   On the one hand, Jesus brings peace, peace with God and peace with others.  But, on the other hand, it is also true that Jesus brings division, a division between those who follow Him and those who do not follow Him.  Both statements are true and we know this experientially.  Many of us can talk about how our Christian faith brings about a real peace with God, but we can also share how it is that we also frequently experience a real division with others.  others.  This is the point that Jesus is making. 

Let’s look at these verses a little more closely.  I have two main divisions of the passage and then I want to share a few questions for personal reflection.  First . . .

I.   Consider How Christ’s Mission Affects Himself.

Jesus says in verses 49 to 50 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!”  Jesus uses two metaphors here with respect to His coming, to His first coming, His mission on earth.  He uses the image of fire in verse 49 and the image of baptism in verse 50.  The metaphor of fire shows the result of how His coming affects the world.  His coming is like a fire of division.  The word “fire” referring to the way the Gospel can be divisive, the way it can divide.  The word “baptism” in verse 50 refers to the way in which the result of Christ’s coming affects Himself.  In this context “baptism” refers to Christ’s suffering and death.  It is equivalent to what Jesus called “the cup” in Luke 22 where Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  Jesus is referring to the cup of suffering He must drink, the cup of God’s wrath poured out upon Him as our supreme sacrificial substitute to take away our sin.  This is the same meaning in verse 50 – This is the baptism that Jesus has “to be baptized with.”  This is how Christ’s mission affects Himself. 

Secondly . . .

II. Consider how Christ’s Mission Affects The World.

In verses 51-53 Jesus talks about how His coming, how His mission, affects the world.  We have already read how Christ’s coming affects Himself – He will undergo suffering and death to take away our sin – and now we read how His mission affects the world.  His mission brings division.  Read it again in verses 51-53:

Verses 51 through 53 say, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.  For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.  Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

The background for what Jesus talks about here comes from Micah 7:6.  The prophet Micah speaks about the division that occurs between the younger and older generation.  But Luke applies Micah’s words to the division that occurs between believers and unbelievers regardless of age.  It is a division that occurs between those who follow Christ and those who do not follow Christ.  This is a division that is seen even among those within their own families (verse 53).

So Christ’s mission affects Himself.  He speaks of His coming as baptism He must be baptized with, the immersion of Himself into suffering and death.  And He speaks of how His mission affects the world.  His coming brings division, division between believers and unbelievers.

I want to pull these truths together by asking 3 questions for personal application. 

First . . .

1)  Do I Realize The Depth Of Christ’s Commitment To My Salvation?

Jesus says in verse 49 that He came to send fire on the earth and then He adds this statement, “And how I wish it were already kindled!”  That is, Jesus looks forward to the culminating effect of His suffering and death upon the cross.  This is also the meaning behind what He says in verse 50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with,” – and that baptism is the baptism of His suffering and death.  Then Jesus adds these forceful words, “and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!”

Do you hear what Jesus is saying?  He is saying, “Look, I have come to die on the cross.  How distressed I am till it happens!  I cannot wait for my mission to be fulfilled.  I so want to make possible your salvation from sin that I am distressed till it is accomplished.”  Jesus Christ was utterly committed to dying on the cross for your sins.  His suffering and death was no accident.  His suffering and death was part of God’s divine, purposeful plan to accomplish your salvation.  It is important that we remember this.  Christ’s death was not some horrible cosmic accident or something that happened that was not part of God’s plan.  Jesus knew this was His mission when He came.  He will say later to Zacchaeus, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10).”  He says in John 10:17-18, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Jesus came to die for your sins.  He came with you and your need for forgiveness in mind.  Realize the depth of His love and commitment to your salvation.  He says, “I am distressed until this is accomplished!  I am looking forward to the culminating effect of my death, burial, and resurrection because it means life for you and forgiveness for you.”  In dying for us Jesus says, “I love you.”  Realize the depth of Christ’s commitment to your salvation. 

Second . . .

2)  Do I Understand That Following Christ Brings Division?

Christ’s coming, His mission and work, His death upon the cross, brings division between believers and unbelievers.  We should not be surprised when this happens.  Two quotes about the name of Jesus and how the Gospel is divisive, how it divides.   The first quote is from Kent Hughes, pastor emeritus of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois: “The very mention of Jesus’ name sundered ancient Judaism, giving His words exquisite fulfillment.  During the first 400 years of the Roman Empire, His name could land one in jail, or worse.  To the world religions, the name Jesus has been strident and invasive.  During the last seventy years, allegiance to Jesus could land one in a Chinese prison.  Islam is at war with the Christ of the Scriptures.  Just ask a convert!”  Even the American media are generally hostile to personal reference to Jesus Christ.”

True, isn’t it?  Following Christ brings division.  The second quote is from JC Ryle, pastor from an earlier generation, who says, “…The Gospel will often produce divisions in families, and … Even two persons who are most nearly related, may become estranged from one another, in consequences of one being converted and the other not.  That this is constantly the case, is well known to all who know anything of true religion.  Few believers can look round the circle of their relatives and acquaintances, and not see striking illustrations of the truth of our Lord’s prophecy in this passage.  Melancholy as it seems, it is a fact that nothing annoys some persons so much as the conversion of their relatives.”

I heard about a young pastor who had surrendered to the ministry and someone in his  extended family, upon learning of his enrolling in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Well, couldn’t he be a more distinguished minister – like and Episcopalian?!”  This relative was not a follower of Jesus Christ and so the comment was not too surprising.  In her view, Baptists were too caught up with the Gospel and the name of Jesus.  There is something about the Gospel and the very name of Jesus Christ that divides.  The Gospel divides.  It is a division that goes into eternity.  Jesus says in two different places: (1) Luke 9:26, “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.”  And (2) Luke 12:8-9, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.  But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”

Ask yourself, “Do I understand that following Christ brings division?”

Thirdly . . .

3)  Am I Willing To Risk The Disapproval Of Others To Follow Christ?

During a recent Operation Andrew outreach effort, we went into neighborhoods witnessing for Christ.  In one neighborhood where they were going door-to-door we had several folks express disapproval, rejection, and ridicule when we sought to shar the Gospel.  This is the sort of division we can expect when we share Christ.

Following Christ may cost you friends, a job, a promotion, or popularity.  It may cost you a future spouse.  This is why the Bible teaches that we are to yoke ourselves together with believers.  If you are dating with a view toward marriage, be sure you are dating a Christian.  It is not always easy.  Not everyone shares our love for the Gospel or even using the name of Christ.

Sometime back I was preparing for a funeral and the person with whom I was talking was not a member of our church.  It was left to her to make arrangements and she was going over with me her plans for the service.  More than once she said something like, “Keep in mind there will be people here from all walks of faith.”  I really felt like she was afraid I was going to “preach the Gospel!”  You know, “Watch out.  Don’t use the name of Jesus as though He were the only way.”  That is the way I felt she was coming across.  So what did I do?  I told her that I always incorporate in the funeral message a presentation of the Gospel – that that issue was no negotiable.  But understand that the very name of Jesus often divides.  The Gospel divides.  But remember this: whatever pain we may encounter here as a follower of Christ, will be worth every minute of it when we consider eternity.

Are you willing to risk the disapproval of others to follow Christ?  Can you sing:

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

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.

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: Luke12:35-48 – Ready, Or Not?

Grace For The Journey

In our passage of Scripture today, Jesus calls “blessed” those who are “watching” when the Master returns.  Why does Jesus call these disciples to “watch?”  Have you ever wondered?  Before we used it to refer to a timepiece worn on one’s wrist, the word “watch” was originally a verb meaning “to be awake,” or “to remain awake.”  Even today we speak of staying awake through “the watches of the night.”  Sentinels or guards “keep watch” during the night, keeping their eyes open, looking for activity of some kind or other.  It is important for them to “stay awake” and “stay alert.”Over the years clocks have chimed in order to wake people or to keep them awake.  In the 16th century, timepieces evolved from chiming clocks to chiming watch-clocks, or pocket-watches that again chimed in order to keep one alert and awake.  Before watches were worn on the wrist by men they were carried inside their pockets.  It was not until World War I that men, finding it rather impractical to have these pocket watches stuffed inside their jackets and pockets when they were in the middle of a battle, began actually strapping them around their wrists so that they could see the time more readily.   But the noun “watch,” referring to the timepiece we wear today around our wrists was originally more like a chiming clock used, as one 16th century source puts it, as “a clock to wake up sleepers.”

Jesus wants to “wake up sleepers.”  In the verses before us today, Jesus tells two parables about being awake, being alert and “watching.”  In our English translation the word “watch” occurs about four times as Jesus now turns His teaching away from discussions about greed and worry over possessions to teaching about His Second Coming.  The context is very helpful to us: the antidote to greed and worry about our possessions is to focus on the Lord’s Second Coming, to watch for Him.  Isn’t that helpful?  If I want to be cured of my greed or worldliness or worry, I need only focus on my Lord’s soon return.  It really does reorientate the mind to focus on what really matters.

So, our study this morning is about our Lord’s second coming.  Jesus has come once; and He will come again.  He will return and when He returns we will want to be ready.   The question this morning is, “Are you ready – or not?”  We will go verse-by-verse through this passage from verse 35 and following.  Jesus says there are a few things we must be doing . . .  

First . . .

I. Be Watching!

Verse 35 gives the image of a person ready for action.  Jesus says, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.”  We do not talk like that today.  Today we would just say, “Be ready to go.”  In Jesus’ day, men frequently wore long robes and, I do not know if you have ever tried to run in a robe, but it is not easy!  Maybe you have stepped out in your household to go to the mailbox on an early Monday.  Maybe you have had the unfortunate experience of a car approaching quickly, or a dog running at you, and you decided to run back inside the house.  It is not easy running in a robe.  You have got to grab the loose stuff around your waist and sort of hold it together.  It reminds me of a young man I saw a few years back, back when it first became popular to wear baggy pants.  This guy’s pants were so low and he was in a hurry running down the street so he had one hand on his pants, holding them up at his waist, and the other hand flailing in the air like a windmill.  So, verse 35, “Let your waist be girded.”  That is what it means.  Gather your robe up around your waist.  Cinch your belt tightly.  Be ready to run.

Jesus also says, “and your lamps burning.”  When it got dark in Jesus’ day, it was dark!  There were no headlights, stoplights, or streetlights.  It was pitch black.  If you were going to be doing something in the evening you had better be prepared.  You bought your lamp oil in advance and you were ready with plenty of oil all evening.  So, Jesus teaches, “Be ready for my return.  Be watching for it.”

Then Jesus gives two parables or similitudes, two portraits of what it means to be watching, ready, and waiting for Christ’s return.  The first is of a watching servant, verse 36, “And you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.”  This is pretty straightforward.  In Jesus’ day weddings often went late into the evening and so if a man had a servant, the faithful, waiting, and watching servant would be up at night waiting and watching for his master to return.  If the servant were ready for his master to return, he would receive something of a blessing from his master, as Jesus tells us in verse 37, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Verily, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.”  The master returns to the faithful, watching servant who serves him!  The master blesses the servant by giving him a meal and blessing him with the joy of fellowship. 

When you apply this as Jesus’ intends then it is really quite remarkable . . .

If we are ready, watching for our Lord’s return

Then we will be blessed when He comes.

Just as the master of the home returns to his watching servant and blesses him, so our Master, the Lord Jesus will bless us at His return.  His blessing upon us will culminate in a divine heavenly banquet of joy and fellowship. 

Verse 38 tells us, “And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”  The second or third watches of the evening, according to Roman reckoning of time, was anywhere from 9 PM to 3 AM, what we call “the middle of the night.”  The point is “Be ready.  Be ready by watching for Christ’s return.”  It could happen at any moment.  This is the point of the second portrait in verses 39-40, the portrait of a faithful, watching homeowner, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Verse 39 is strikingly simple.  If the master of the house – the homeowner – knows the hour a thief is planning on robbing his house, what is he going to do?  He is going to be sure someone is watching his house!  He is going to call the police or camp out himself, watching and waiting.  Jesus uses this metaphor of being awake, watching, and waiting for His return – why? – because, in verse 40 He says, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” 

Verse 40 serves as a reminder that we should never waste our time plotting what we believe to be the exact date Christ will return.  No matter how many maps or charts we may have Jesus says, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Do we not see this in the predictions people have made regarding Christ’s return?  They predict a date … it does not happen, then they revise the prediction, maybe several times.  Predictions of Christ’s return have been going on for years.  A popular book initially published in 1970 and probably collecting dust on a bookshelf in many of your homes is a book by Hal Lindsey entitled, The Late Great Planet Earth.  In it, Lindsey strongly suggests that Jesus Christ would return before the end of the 1980s.  Of course, Lindsey modified future editions of his book.   Also, during the 1980s, Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, published a book on the rapture.  His book was called, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988.  There are still predictors today but they are less and less as people focus more on worldly things and lose sight of this important truth.

Jesus says, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”  The point is, “be ready . . . Be watching.” 

Secondly, Jesus says . . .

 II. Be Wise!

Jesus is giving this great teaching and then Peter raises his hand and asks something I used to ask in high school, “Is this going to be on the test?!”  That Is the essence of the question Peter asks in verse 41, “Then Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?’”  Peter is asking, “Lord, is this for us or for everyone?  Do we need to be writing this stuff down?  I love the fact that the Lord never answers his question.  That is probably out of mercy for Peter’s sake.  Jesus’ teachings apply to everyone.  While the disciples were the primary target of His teachings, His teachings were meant for everyone to hear and obey. 

Jesus goes on to talk about a wise steward or servant in verses 42 through 44, “And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Verily, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.”  Jesus speaks here about the wisdom of our doing as He teaches until He returns.  As we saw earlier, there is a blessing that attaches to the person who is busy doing God’s will and obeying God’s Word when Christ returns.  This is the point of what Jesus says in verse 43, “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”  There is a blessing that attaches to the watching one, the wise one, who is living for the Lord when Christ returns.  Whatever else verse 44 means, it conveys the idea of blessing and reward for the faithful person when Christ returns.  Be watching . . . Be wise: the Son of man is coming at an hour we do not expect.

Thirdly . . .

III. Be Warned!

In verses 45 and 46 Jesus says, “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”  Here is a warning to the unconverted.  Here is a warning to the non-Christian, to the lost soul who will not be ready for Christ’s return.   He is not a wise servant, but an evil servant.  He lives only for himself.  Verse 45 says he eats, drinks, and beats others.  It is a life of self-focus and self-love.  This is the attitude of the person who is not a Christian and says, “Oh, I need not surrender my life to Christ today.  There will be time enough for that later in life.”  Jesus says in verse 46, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”  He dies lost.  Be warned: the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Jesus warns not only the lost, but He also warns the saved.  He warns not only the non-Christian, but the Christian, the Christian who is not ready for Christ’s return.  Verse 47 says, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (or with many blows, or beatings).  This is a reference to divine punishment.  This is not the punishment of the unbeliever about whom Jesus is speaking in the preceding verses, but the punishment of the Christian, the believer who is not found doing what Christ says when Christ returns.  We do not know what all Jesus has in mind when He speaks of this divine punishment coming to the Christian.  Thankfully, it does not concern the Christian’s soul.  The soul is saved because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer by faith.  But if the believer slides back from following Christ and Christ returns at that moment then the Christian experiences some kind of punishment, at the very least a loss of reward of some kind.  That is not a good thing.

The Bible refers to sort of person in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  That is, the Christian is saved, but he enters into eternity in a shameful, and regretful way.  Be warned.  Then Jesus concludes this section with a general warning to all people, it is a principle that we would expect from our just and righteous Lord.  Verse 48 says, “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” This verse teaches that God holds us responsible for the light we have received.  Greater spiritual light received should result in greater obedience to that light.  God holds us responsible for what we have read, learned, and heard in His Word.  A child in the faith is not expected to know as much as the person who has been a Christian for several years.  God expects us to grow and He holds us accountable to the knowledge we have received and teach.

This is why the Bible says in James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”  God holds us accountable to the spiritual light we have received.  There is no room in the Christian faith for just sitting idly by and doing nothing.  He has revealed His Word to us so we must read it.  We read it so we must obey it.  It is very much at the heart of what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 28:20 about making disciples of others.  He says, “Teach them to do all things I have taught you.”

What to Do Until Christ Returns:

1) Look To Christ And Be Converted To The Faith.

Spiritual life begins here.  The warning of verses 45-46 is aimed at those who are not converted, those who are lost.  If we live our days as though it were all about us, our selfish pursuits, our selfish interests, then the Lord will come at an hour we are not aware.  If you have been putting off a life of full-on commitment to Christ, thinking you will have time to do that in the future, hear again the warning of verse 46, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

2) Live For Christ And Continue In The Faith.

There is a strong call in this passage for perseverance, for continuing in the faith.  Only those who continue to the end are truly converted.  We are to live our life each and every day for Christ.  The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

The true believer does not wish to be “saved as through fire.”  If you are asking, “What is the least I have to do and still go to heaven,” you have far greater concerns than you may realize.  The true believer lives daily for Christ, continuing in the faith.

Live out the teachings Jesus gives in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  How can you let your light so shine before men? 

Two things . . .

a) Have An Upward Focus.

Live each day as though Christ were going to return in the evening.  Imagine if you knew Christ were going to return tonight at 5 o’clock.  How differently would you live?   Be like the faithful, watching servant, ready for his or her master’s return.  Remember, too, that looking for Christ’s return is the antidote to worry, greed, and an inordinate desire for possessions. 

Have an upward focus and, secondly . . .

b) Have An Outward Focus.

This does not happen naturally.  We are selfish by nature.  By nature we are like the evil servant who drinks and abuses others.  But when God changes our hearts we have an upward and outward focus.  The Bible tells us in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Let’s truly consider others better than ourselves.  Let’s have an upward and outward focus each and every day.  Let’s truly love one another, pray for one another, serve one another, and encourage one another.

 Have an outward focus at work this week.  Put others first.  This is the attitude of the faithful, watching servant.  He does not live for himself, but for others.  Watch how God honors your outward focus by taking away your worry and your inordinate desire for money and stuff.

 Students as you are beginning a new school year, let me encourage you to have an outward focus.  Forget about yourself.  Go up to other students and ask about them.  Go to the lonely and befriend them.  Talk to others.  Engage others.

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 12:22-34 – Conquering Our Worries

Grace For The Journey

We are in Luke’s Gospel this morning, chapter 12.  Friday we studied verses 13-21, where Jesus warns about the danger of covetousness, an unhealthy desire for things that do not belong to us.  Jesus taught the parable of the rich fool, the guy who was living large in a temporary world.  He died poor because he had laid up treasure for himself, but was not rich toward God.  We review this because the next thing Jesus says in verse 22 is, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘Therefore …’”  I have said numerous times that when you see a “Therefore” you should ask what is the “therefore” there-for?  And of course, it directs us back to what Jesus has just been talking about.  He has been talking about the problem of covetousness. One of the ways you can identify the main thrust of a passage is to note how frequently a word or topic recurs.  You see the word “worry” in the first verse of our text, verse 22, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry.”  You see “worry” again in verse 25, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”  You see the word “anxious” in verse 26, “Why are you anxious?”  You see the word “anxious” again in verse 29, “Do not seek what you should eat or drink, nor have an anxious mind.”  You see the word “fear” in verse 323, “Do not fear little flock.”  Worry, anxiety, and fear.  Jesus wants to help us this morning “deal with how we feel” when we feel worried, anxious, and fearful.

George Muller once said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”  I like that statement because there is a connection between worry and faith. 

Just as the root cause of covetousness

Is lack of trust in God, so the root cause

Of fear and worry is a lack of trust in God.

The psalmist said in Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid I will trust in You.”  It is not a

Here is the first action required of us this morning if we’re going to conquer our worries . . .  

I. Look To God And You Will Know His Provision – Verses 22-28.

Provision means that God provides.  He cares for us.  He loves us and He sees to it that we have everything we need.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  He provides.  We sometimes use the word “providence” to refer to God’s love and care for His creatures. God loves and cares for us so He will provide for us. 

Look at what verse 22 says, “Then He said to His disciples.”  Note that!  Jesus is not speaking to everyone here.  He is speaking to His disciples, His followers.  Jesus says to His disciples, “Don’t Worry.”  If you are not His disciple, you have got plenty to worry about. 

  • If you are not His disciple, you have got judgment to worry about, your un-forgiven sins to worry about, and hell to worry about. 
  • If you are not His disciple, you have ever reason in the world to be worried, anxious, and fearful.  Jesus is speaking here to His disciples. 

Verses 22 and 23 say, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”  We encountered this truth last time.  Jesus said back in verse 15, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 

True life is not about our possessions. 

True life is not found in laying up

Treasure for ourselves, but about

Our being rich toward God.

God created you.  God created your body so you can be sure He is going to provide food for your body and clothing for your body.  God loves you, He cares for you, He provides for you.  Look to God and you will know His provision. 

Look at how God provides for lesser creatures in verse 24, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”  Have you ever seen a raven, a little black bird, have you ever seen one walking out in the fields in overalls?  Got a bag of seed over its shoulder?  Casting seed here and there?  Ever see a raven riding a John Deere tractor, reaping its harvest, or storing up all its grain in a big, red barn?  Ever see one wiping sweat from its brow in the hot sun as it farms the land?  Of course not.  Jesus says they “neither sow nor reap” and “have neither storehouse nor barn and God feeds them.”  Here is the point: If God takes care of lesser creatures, of how much more value are you than the birds?  Answer: a lot!  Next time you fill out a job application and you come to that part that asks you about your qualifications, write down: “I am of much more value than a bird!”

Look to God and you will know His provision.  If God cares and provides for little birds, how much more will He care and provide for you, Christian, you who are made in God’s image and have been redeemed from your sin through faith in His Son Jesus Christ?

Verse 25 says, “And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”  The word “cubit” here is a standard unit, a measure of time.  This phrase is a metaphor for not just adding height to your frame but adding to the length of one’s life.  A better translation would be, “Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life span?”  In other words, “Why worry?  It accomplishes nothing.”  Worry is ineffectual.  Worry cannot change anything.  That’s the point.  Worry is ineffectual. 

So, Jesus says in verse 26, “If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?”  In other words, if worrying accomplishes nothing, what are you doing worrying?!  You cannot change your situation by worrying, so do not worry!  You cannot add a day to your lifespan, you cannot add an inch to your height, you cannot change the size of your shoe, so what are doing wasting your life by worrying?  Truth is most of the things you worry about never happen.

Mark Twain once said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”  Do not waste your life worrying.  Look to God and you will know His provision.  The words to an old hymn sums it up best . . .

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath his wings of love abide,
God will take care of you;

God will take care of you;
Through ev’ry day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

Jesus says in verse 27 says, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  King Solomon was clothed in splendid, regal, kingly robes.  Yet Jesus says that the grass of the field, lilies for example, are by comparison more splendidly attired.   Especially, given that these flowers do not spin their own clothes, God makes their clothing.  The same God who provides for the grass of the field provides for you.

Jesus concludes by saying in verse 28, “If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven (to be burned as fuel), how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  Do not be of “little faith.”  Look to God and you will know His provision.  He loves you, He cares for you.  He will supply all of your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Truth is most of us do not worry about food and clothing.  We know hardly anything about the world of the man who lives in the impoverished country, walking 20 miles each day to get water for his family.  Our lives are far removed from less fortunate folks living in dark corners of the world where 3 meals a day is a luxury, where healthcare is nonexistent, where an automobile is unheard of, and where a retail store is like something out of Fantasy Land at Disneyworld.

They are not worried whether their iPad is going to ship before their trip to Florida.   They are not worried whether their kitchen tile is laid properly.  They are not worried whether the lawn guy got all the weeds out of the flower bed, whether the value of their stock will rise, or whether their rings are sized correctly or whether the part in their hair is just right.

I am not after guilt here.  I am after perspective.  Look to God and you will know His provision. 

Secondly . . .

 II. Live For God And You Will Know His Peace – Verses 29-34.

Jesus continues in verses 29 to 30 to say,“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.”  Here is a call for unflinching trust in God.  Believe God.  Live for God.  Jesus says when you and I live all worried about this or that or have “an anxious mind,” we are living like unbelievers.   That is the meaning of verse 30, “For all these things the nations of the world seek after.”  That is a general way of referring to those who are not believers.  Matthew says, in chapter 6, verse 32, “For after all these things the Gentiles seek.”  The Gentiles are the unbelievers, the nations of the world, the people who are not followers of the One True God.  Jesus says when you worry you live like an unbeliever.

The root cause of anxiety is lack of trust in God.  You will not worry if you trust God.  The cure for anxiety is faith in God.  That is what the old hymn says,

Have faith in God though all else fall about you;
Have faith in God, He provides for His own:
He cannot fail though all kingdoms shall perish.
He rules. He reigns upon His throne.

The cure for anxiety is faith in God.  Live for God and you will know His peace. 

Verse 31 captures this truth in brevity with clarity, “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”  To “seek the kingdom of God” is to live under God’s rule; to live for God.  Live for God and you will know His peace.  Pursue the things that are spiritual rather than material and you will have peace.  Living for God means you trust Him.  Living for God means you believe He is sovereign and that He always does what is best.  Talk about the cure for worry, anxiety, and fear!  To seek the kingdom of God means to live for God, to trust Him, and to believe He is always doing what is best.   Seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you because Romans 8:28 tells us, “all things work together for good to those who love Him.”

God sees every tear that streaks down your cheek.  He hears every cry.  He knows everything about your situation.  He hears and understands every word the doctor tells you.  He feels every pain.  He knows every trial.  He sees every injustice … and He is working out all things together for your good.  You will believe that when you seek the kingdom of God.  The psalmist said in Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid I will trust in You.”

Verse 32 says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Live for God and you will know His peace. 

God’s greatest gifts to you

Are not material, but spiritual.

  • You want stuff, He wants to give you salvation. 
  • You want possessions, He wants to give you purpose. 
  • You want material things, He wants to give you meaningful things. 
  • You want luxury, He wants to give you life. 

It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  If you want to cure your anxiety, do not live for this world, live for the kingdom.  Remember, the Bible says in Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

When you live with a heavenly perspective, you will find verse 33 to be a natural result, “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.”  Live for God and seek His kingdom and you will hold your possessions more loosely.  You will be more likely to give because you know this is why God has given to you.  If you hoard up stuff, thieves will steal it and moths destroy it.  But if you give, unlike the rich fool who laid up treasure for himself, you will be rich toward God.

Pretty radical, isn’t it?  In essence, Jesus says, “Give your stuff away and then you won’t worry about your stuff.”  Want to cure your tendency to covet?  Give it away.  Can you part with your stuff?  Honestly?  How can you tell?  Verse 34 tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  If God takes your stuff away and your heart goes with it, then it will be clear you were living for this world.  Thank God that He took away your stuff.  But if God takes your stuff away and your heart is not with your stuff, it will not matter because your heart is with God.  You live for God and you know His peace.

I remember hearing years ago a man tell of his first car.  He was so proud of it, but then someone hit his car and totaled it.  His reaction?  He said something like, “God, it was never my car to begin with.  It is Your car that You gave for me to drive for awhile.  If You want to wreck Your car, that’s Your business.  It’s okay with me.”

Look to God and know His provision.  Live for God and know His peace.

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 12:13-21 – What Are You Living For?

Grace For The Journey

We are studying today a parable recorded only in Luke’s Gospel.  While it is found only in Luke it is a very well-known parable.  Probably most of us have heard of what has come to be known as “The Parable of the Rich Fool.”  It is one of our Lord’s parables on the matter of possessions.  Did you know that Jesus talks more about money than He does about faith, heaven, hell, or prayer?  Did you know that about one out of every ten verses in the New Testament talks about money or possessions?  Why do you think that is?  Could it be that the things that concerned people 2,000 years ago are the same things that concern us today? Jesus never provided a title for this parable.  The man was a fool because while he was very wealthy, he had laid up treasure for himself; he was poor toward God and so he died spiritually bankrupt, he died lost.  He had lived for this world only, a temporary world – not unlike many of us are tempted to live.  We may even title the parable “Living Large in Temporary Housing,” but this parable is not for the rich only.

Jesus says in verse 15, “Beware of covetousness.” Jesus is referring to the 10th Commandment.  The original Greek actually says, “Beware of all covetousness,” or “all kinds,” or “every kind of covetousness.”  Covetousness takes many forms and strikes all kinds of people.  You can resent the prosperity of your neighbor.  You can be rich or poor and covet another person’s job, family, or popularity.  You can covet another person’s stuff, joy, health, vacation, fitness, or even another person’s role in the church.   Yet, I do not think I have ever had anyone come up to me and say, “You know, pastor, I continually struggle with coveting.  What should I do?!”

In Colossians 3:5, the Bible refers to coveting as idolatry, ““Put to death … covetousness, which is idolatry.”  Why does God call covetousness idolatry?  Because when we covet, we worship stuff and stuff is not God.  When we covet we commit idolatry.  It is interesting to note the context here.  Remember from that the opening verses of chapter 12 Jesus has been talking about a number of things, including the providence of God.  He has been teaching that God cares more for His children than He does the tiny sparrows.  He will give you what you need and He will give you the very words to say if you are every arrested for your Christian faith.  There is this guy in the crowd who hears this, and we are told in verse 13 that he interrupts Jesus’ teaching, “Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’”  It is as though this guy has not even been listening to what Jesus is saying.   

Those of you who teach know what this is like, whether you are preaching or teaching the Word, or teaching in some other context.  You can pour your heart out in the proclamation of the Gospel and someone will come up afterwards and say, “Well, what do you think about the ball game tonight?”  It happened to Jesus.  He has been preaching about confessing Him before others and standing fast for the Gospel and this guy apparently pushes his way up to the front and bellows, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”  It seems all this guy has been thinking about is wealth.  Jesus has been preaching about commitment and this man in the crowd can think only of cash.  He interrupts Jesus, so Jesus takes this occasion to teach about wealth and possessions. 

His first point is . . .

I. Do Not Be Driven By Wealth – Verses 14-15.

Verses 14 and 15 says, “But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?  And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’”  I wonder if others were embarrassed by this man’s statement.  The man’s words suggest that he was a man driven by wealth.  He was so obsessed with these things that he was not even listening to Jesus’ sermon.  Rather, he looks for a moment of silence so that he can make his selfish demand.  He was driven by wealth, obsessed with possessions, and constantly thinking of material things.   The man’s father left an inheritance and this man could not get his mind off of it.  He wanted his share and he wanted it now.

Pastors and lawyers both can share stories of seeing the division of an inheritance divide a family.  Here are brothers and sisters ostensibly close to one another, but when the mother or father passes away, there is squabbling and fighting and division.  Why?   Because of covetousness and the error of thinking one’s life consists in the abundance of things he possesses.  Jesus says in the latter part of verse 15, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”  Is that true?  Do our lives reflect that truth?  Do our jobs reflect that life is not really about wealth and possessions?  Do our desires for promotion, worldly success, and our “power lunches” reflect that our lives do not consist in the abundance of the things we possess?  Or is the opposite true?  Jesus wants us to understand that real joy does not come from the abundance of things.

Someone has said, “When we are willing to part with heavenly blessings in order to obtain earthly ones it shows us something about the desires of our hearts.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” 

Do not be driven by wealth. 

Number two . . .

II. Do Not Be Deceived By Wealth – Verses 16-19.

Jesus illustrates that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.  In verses 16 to 19 He illustrates this truth by telling a story, “Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’  So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” 

This man was deceived by his money and possessions.  His first problem was that he thought it was he who had acquired all of this stuff.  In verses 17 to 19, the man uses the personal pronoun referring to himself no less than eleven times!  He thought this stuff was his!  But Jesus says in verse 16, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.”  It does not say that the man created his wealth.  His wealth was given to him by God who caused the man’s ground to yield plentifully.  To quote Job again, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

Do not be deceived by wealth.  Whatever you have comes from God.  He is the owner of everything we have.  We are merely managers of what He gives.  That is why God says in Malachi chapter 3, verses 8 to 9, “Will a man rob God?  You have robbed Me in tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me.””  That is God’s way of saying, “Don’t be deceived.  You did not create this wealth you have.  I have given it to you and therefore I expect you to return to me the first portion of it, the first ten percent.  That is what a tithe is.  It is the first 10% of whatever comes into our possession.

God says in Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.”  In the Old Testament, the storehouse was the temple.  In the New Testament, the storehouse is the church.  “Bring all the tithes – the first 10% of everything that comes into your possession – bring it into the storehouse.”  God says if we fail to do this, we are guilty of robbing God because the tithe belongs to Him.  That is why the Bible does not say, “Give” the tithe.  You don’t “give” it.  It belongs to God.  You “bring” it.  You “return” it to Him.  God goes so far to say that if we fail to return to God what is His, we are “cursed with a curse.”  Why?  Because we have robbed God of what is rightfully His.  Tithing is a way of acknowledging God owns it all.

God has given us everything we have.  Everything we have belongs to Him; 100%. We are just managing it.  God says, “Bring Me the first 10% of what you receive.”  That is the minimum we are to bring back to God.  Malachi teaches if we decide not to bring the 10% back to God, then the 100% is cursed.  But if we bring the 10% to Him, the 90% we keep is blessed.  You choose to live either with 90% of your income blessed or 100% of your income cursed; something to think about.

The man in this parable is deceived by his wealth.  Not only did he think his stuff was his own, but he lives as though he and his stuff are going to last forever.  When he runs out of room to store his stuff, he builds his investment portfolio by building bigger barns to store all of his possessions.  He says in verse 19, “I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’”  He is deceived.  He thinks he is going to be around a long, long, time.

This man failed to realize that not only did God own the man’s stuff, but God also owned the man’s soul.  And this leads to the final point of application.  Do not be driven by wealth or deceived by wealth.

Thirdly . . .

III. Do Not Be Destroyed By Wealth – Verses 20-21.

You can protect and multiply your investments, but you cannot protect and lengthen your life.  This man thought he had many years left.  He just kept storing up his goods, hoarding all his wealth, planning to live the easy life for many years.  He was “living large,” but he failed to understand that he was living large in “temporary housing.”

Verses 20 and 21 say, “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  That word “required” is a commercial term, a banking term.  It means “to call in a loan.”  Even our lives are “on loan” from God.  He is the owner of our stuff and He is the owner of our souls.

This man laid up treasure for himself, but he was “not rich toward God.”  Consequently . . .

He let money drive him,

He let money deceive him,

And, one night when God

Called in the loan of this

 Man’s soul, we see that

His money destroy him.

For this reason God calls him a “fool.”

So many prepare for all contingencies of life but ignored life’s only inevitability. People talk about their successes and their contributions.  One day they will die and will be buried.  Over their grave they put a large stone. On that stone is a word from the Bible, something from the poets, and a statement that he was noble, successful, visionary, and progressive. Then the crowd goes home.  The angel of God walked through that cemetery, and over each tombstone he wrote one solitary word: FOOL. 

Here’s a simple question.  Silently answer it with honesty: What are you living for?  Are you living for stuff, possessions, a life of ease?  Are you caught up with the accumulation of material things – money, cars, jewelry, boats, vacations – is that what drives you?  Are you guilty of laying up treasures for yourself but you are not rich toward God?  If so, talk to God this morning right where you are.  Just be honest with Him.  Ask for His forgiveness.  Take a moment and do that.

Here’s another question.  Do you tithe?  Do you regularly bring back to God the very best, the first 10% of what He has given you?  If not, talk to God now.  Tell Him you are sorry for robbing Him of what is His.  Tell Him you would rather live on 90% blessed than 100% cursed.  Tell Him you will begin tithing next week.

God gave His very best to us.  John 3:16 tells us that God so loved us that He gave.  He gave His very best.  He gave to us the precious Lord Jesus Christ.  Some of you have never received God’s best as your personal Lord and Savior.  You’ve not received Jesus Christ into your life.  This morning, come to Jesus and be saved.

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 12:1-12 – What Are Christians To Be Known For

Grace For The Journey

The best way to teach the Bible is to teach the Bible.  We are in the Book of Luke and we find ourselves at the beginning of chapter 12.  Crowds are forming and people are pushing and shoving to get near Jesus and Jesus takes this opportunity to speak directly and pointedly to His disciples, to those who have agreed to follow Him.

Few of us are unfamiliar with those little user agreements that pop up when you are updating your iTunes, downloading software, or purchasing something on the internet.  You are in a hurry and you are trying to click quickly through something and suddenly this “user agreement” pops up.  It is full of thousands of words, small type font you can hardly read.  So, you scroll down to the bottom where there is a box for you to click that says something like, “I certify that I have read this agreement and agree to its terms.” Then you click the box and you are off and running.

Truth is few of us read those bothersome user agreements.  The first time I clicked on the box that said I had read the whole thing, I went back and read the whole document, and then agreed to the terms.  Now I do not read through the entire legal dissertation because I figure they are all the same.  I did have a slight pang of conscience when I first did it, but not anymore.  Now I just click right through those things with record speed – and most of you probably do, too.  They have become kind of like those disclaimers at the bottom of television ads for new cars – all that small print at the bottom of the TV screen that just flashes from one frame to the next.  Who reads that stuff?!

Unlike user agreements on the internet or disclaimers at the bottom of our television screens, God provides for us the “the user agreement,” the requirements and assurances of following Jesus Christ.  That is what these twelve verses are about: the requirements and assurances of following Christ.  Unlike those lengthy disclaimers full of technical jargon and extraneous legalese, verses 1-12 are very clear and straight-forward; our Lord’s plain teachings about what it means to follow Him.  We are going to look closely at these requirements and assurances of followers of Christ.  Let’s look at what is required of Christ’s disciples. 

First . . .  

1) We Are Known For Our Authenticity – Verses 1-3.

If there is one character quality people want to see in Christians it is the quality of being “for real.”  People want to know if our faith is for real, if our church is for real, and if our Lord is for real.  Of course, we are not perfect.  We will always be sinners, but people want to know whether we are authentic or whether we are just putting on a show.  That is the meaning behind the word hypocrisy; to act one way on the outside when we are really a different person on the inside.

There will always be some who charge the church with hypocrisy. I am sure you have heard someone say, “I am not going to that church it’s full of hypocrites!”  Here is my answer to that accusation, the charge that the church is full of hypocrites –  “No, the church is not full of hypocrites; we have got room for one more.”  That people can accuse the church of being “full of hypocrites” means that there has been a great deal of hypocrisy among those who profess to follow Christ.  Yet, what do we read in the Bible? What does our Lord say?  Verse one tells us, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”  Jesus calls hypocrisy the “leaven” of the Pharisees.  Leaven was the old, unused part of dough that had become sour and fermented.  If it were not thrown out, but mixed together with new dough it then soured and spoiled the new dough.  Jesus says that hypocrisy is that way.  It sours and spoils others.  Your hypocrisy affects another.

The Pharisees were on the mind of Jesus because He had just addressed their hypocrisy.  In the previous chapter, chapter 11, Jesus had taken the Pharisees to task over their hypocrisy.  We saw in verse 39 that Jesus said, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.”  They looked one way on the outside, but they were a different person on the inside.  Or in verse 43 and following: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”  These Pharisees were looking one way on the outside, but were full of wickedness on the inside.  Outwardly they looked spiritual but inside they were full of pride and self-centeredness. 

Now watch what Jesus says back in Luke 12, verse 2, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”  Jesus says the day will come when God will expose what is in our hearts.  God will expose our hypocrisy.  Whatever hypocrisy that has been concealed, invisible to those who see only the outside of the cup – that hypocrisy will one day be exposed.  God will judge our hearts.  Whatever dark secrets we have hypocritically kept in our hearts will be brought to light as a thing proclaimed from the housetops.

All of this is given with reference to a future judgment.  The Bible says in Acts 17:31 that “God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world.”  God will judge the inner recesses of our hearts.  If we are in Christ; if we are saved, we have nothing to fear at the judgment.  Our sins are paid for in Christ and our Christian growth exhibits a life that has changed, a life that seeks consistency between what is in on the inside and what is on the outside.  But if we are hypocrites, then we have something to fear at the judgment because God will expose our hypocrisy.

I ask you: “Are you a hypocrite?”  Why do you do what you do?  What motivates you?  For example, the question for me is not, “Do I preach and teach well, but why do I preach and teach?”  What motivated me?  What’s in your heart?  Do I preach for human approval?  Applause?  Financial gain?  Do I regard preaching as merely a job?  What is in my heart?  God says, “I know what is in your heart and I will bring it to light on the Day of Judgment.”

 What about you?  Why do you do what you do?  What motivates you?  What is in your heart?  The question is not, “Do you go to church, but why do you go to church?  Why do you teach a Sunday school class?  Why do you tithe?  Why do you talk to certain people and ignore others?  Why do you not forgive?  What’s in your heart?”  God knows.  Let’s be “for real.”  Let’s be known for our authenticity. 

Secondly . . .

2) We Are Known For Our Bravery – Verses 4-7.

Jesus says in verses 4 and 5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”  Here is a call for bravery in the face of persecution.  The disciples would, of course, face persecution at the hands of unbelievers.  Church tradition tells us that all but one of the twelve died a martyr’s death.  So, Jesus issues a call for bravery when facing fiery trials. 

He addresses His disciples in verse 4 as “My friends.”  What a beautiful statement and a wonder to consider that Jesus calls us His friends.  He says, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more they can do.”  In other words, “All they can do is kill you.  They have no power over your soul.”  Rather, Jesus says, “Fear the one whom—after the killing of the body, has power to cast you into hell; fear Him!”  God has the power to cast our bodies into hell.  He is the One we are to fear.

We have here so much teaching if time permitted.  Our Lord teaches the reality of hell.  It is a real place.  People go there.  Jesus teaches that the preservation of our physical lives is not the chief purpose of our existence.  If you live with the idea that you will always be safe and sound and never face any trouble you will forever be enslaved by the shackles of fear.  You will be afraid to even step outside of your house.  Your body will one day cease to exist, and in all likelihood, much sooner than you think. 

Do not fear the death of your body. 

Fear where your soul will spend eternity. 

Fear God who has power over your soul. 

If we fear God and if we have entrusted

Our lives to God through faith in

Jesus Christ, then we need fear nothing.

God is going to care for us.  God has got us covered.  In His providential love and care, the God who preserves our lives cares for our souls. 

Verse 6 tells us, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.”  The people of Jesus’ day knew that sparrows were cheap.   Five sold for two small Greek coins, a coin that was 1/16th of a day’s wage.  Sparrows were cheap, inexpensive food, the “Taco Bell cuisine” of the first century.  Jesus says, “Aren’t these tiny sparrows sold for practically nothing – yet not one of them is forgotten before God.”  God cares for the tiniest sparrow that is here today and gone tomorrow, will He not much more care for you? 

Jesus declares in verse 7, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) might disagree with Jesus.  There is so much protecting of animals in today’s culture one would think animals were vastly superior to the human race.  The Bible clearly teaches that, unlike any other created being, only humans are created in the image of God.    Only humans are “like” God and “represent” God.  Only humans bear God’s image, which is why you will never find a dog scratching his head wondering about the meaning of life or why you will never see anthropologist Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees – intelligent as they are – you will never find them sitting around a table intelligently discussing the Holy Trinity.  Only humans bear God’s image.   Humans are the crowning achievement of God’s six days of creation.  And God has a special love for those humans who are His children, those who follow His Son Jesus Christ.  They are of “far more value than many sparrows.”  Jesus says God can account for every hair of your head, Christian.  He says in verse 7, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”  He cares for the smallest detail.  Did you know the average person has somewhere between 90,000 to 145,000 strands of hair on his or her head?  God knows every single one.  It does not take God long to account for my hair! 

Do not miss the encouraging doctrine of God’s providence here in these verses.  If God cares for the tinniest of sparrows, He cares for you, Christian.  Like the popular song, “His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me.”  God cares for you.  He knows what you are going through.  He is working all things according to the perfect counsel of His will.  Nothing happens in your life by accident.  Somehow God is working through every one of your problems in a way to perform what is absolutely best.  It may not always appear that way, like the inverted side of a quilt with all the tangled massive web of strands of yarn going this way and that, but when you turn the quilt over there is beauty and order and wonder.  God is at work in your life.  Believe it and be encouraged.  Believe it and sleep easily at night.  Believe it and be brave.

Followers of Christ are to be known for their authenticity and their bravery. 

Thirdly . . .

3) We Are Known For Our Loyalty – Verses 8-12.

Jesus says in verses 8 and 9, “Also I say to you, ‘Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.  But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”  If we are followers of Christ we will be loyal to Him to the end.  We will unashamedly confess Christ before others.  This confession begins with the ordinance of baptism.  When we are baptized, we are identifying publicly and unashamedly with Jesus Christ.  We are declaring our allegiance to Him.  If we refuse to be baptized, then we do not identify with Christ.  We do not follow His teachings and we therefore deny that we belong to Him.  This is why baptism is the first step of obedience in following Christ.  And if as believers we find ourselves at moments where we are to identify our allegiance we will do so unashamedly.  We will confess Christ at school, we will confess Christ at the workplace, at the gym, and in our community.  We will be quick to identify that we are loyal subjects of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  There is no such thing as a “Secret Disciple.”  Our allegiance to Jesus Christ is known publicly.  We will confess Him before men.

And if we do not confess Jesus Christ publicly before others, what are the consequences?  The Bible says Jesus Christ will deny us before the angels of God.  One of the greatest beauties of being “in Christ” is to know that at the Judgment God the Father looks upon us and sees the righteousness of Christ covering our sin.  God cannot look at Christians without seeing Christ.  It is as though God looks at us and Jesus says, “He’s one of mine.”  But if we deny Christ for fear or self-preservation, God looks at us and Jesus says, “He’s not one of mine.”  It is a terrible thought!  If I disown Christ in a foolish moment now, He will disown me for all eternity.  A true believer in Christ will not disown Him.  Only those who persistently harden their hearts to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and God’s provision of Christ as Savior will remain unforgiven. 

This is the meaning behind verse 10, “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.”  If any of us reading this blog remains hard of heart and refuses to trust Christ as Lord and Savior then we will never be forgiven of our sins.  Why?  Because we are unrepentant.  We have refused to allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts.  The same hot sun that melts wax also hardens clay.  How do you respond to the teaching of the Gospel?  The Bible says in Hebrews 3:15, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”  Trust Jesus Christ and be saved.  If you trust Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters into you and guides you and helps you, helping you even to stand faithfully in the face of persecution. 

Verses 11 and 12 tell us, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Even when you face trials for your faith – something few of us see living today in America – but even if you are to face opposing authorities because of your Christian faith, Jesus says, “Don’t worry.”  The Holy Spirit within you will guide you.   The Holy Spirit will teach you exactly what to say in that hour, just as the Holy Spirit helped the Apostle Peter after he was arrested for healing the lame man who had sat at the temple gate in Acts 3.  When pressed to explain his actions, the Bible says in Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke” to them.”  The Holy Spirit taught Peter in that very hour what to say.

God will do the same for you and me when we are placed in situations where we are asked to give a reason for the hope that is within us.  The Holy Spirit will guide you as to what to say.  Trust Him to do that as you declare your allegiance to Jesus Christ this week.  Let us all trust the Holy Spirit to guide in the days ahead as we are known for our authenticity, our bravery, and our loyalty.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

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 11:45-54 – Learning And Living By The Word Of God

Grace For The Journey

We make our way through the Book of Luke paragraph by paragraph and verse by verse.  On Wednesday we studied Luke chapter 11 verses 37-44.  We learned that a certain Pharisee had invited Jesus to lunch during which time Jesus pronounced three “woes” or judgments upon the hypocritical ways of the Pharisees.  In these three “woes” in verses 42, 43, and 44 Jesus is holding up a mirror before the Pharisees that they might see their hypocrisy and that they might understand that it is what is inside a person that counts.After hearing these three “woes,” one of the lawyers in the group – and a lawyer was a teacher of the Pharisees; said, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” Jesus takes this opportunity to pronounce three more “woes” upon the religious leaders.   We see these three in the passage before us this morning: verse 46, “Woe to you lawyers,” then again in verse 47, “Woe to you,” and one more time in verse 52, “Woe to you lawyers.”  Their condemnation is very similar. 

These three “woes” or judgments in this passage are directed at religious teachers of the Word, teachers who, by the way they use of the Word, lead others away from God.  Their condemnation is reported with alarming precision: Our Lord says in verse 52, “Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves,” – and this is a reference to their entering into the Kingdom of God; salvation – “you did not enter in yourselves and those who were entering in you hindered.”  In essence Jesus says, “Because you have mishandled the message – the Word of God – the key of knowledge – not only will you face the judgment of eternal separation, but you will have led astray a number of others, too.”

It is a striking verse, isn’t it?  Preachers can kill you.  Bible teachers can kill you.  And their murder weapon is not a club or a gun or a sword, but their murder weapon is the way they mishandle the Word of God.  This passage calls for our serious consideration of how we teach, how we treat, how we hear, read, and obey the Word of God. As we go through this passage of Scripture and identify three actions about the Word of God. 

First . . .

1) We Must Teach The Word Accurately – Verses 45-46.

Remember that there are two groups of people in the greater context of this passage: the Pharisees and the teachers of the Pharisees.  The word “Pharisee” means “separated one” and these were the very religious people who separated themselves from the world in hopes to be closer to God.  In point of fact, however, many of them because of their religiosity and hypocrisy had separated themselves from God.  That was the Pharisee upon whom Jesus pronounced three “woes” in the preceding verses.   In today’s passage, Jesus now pronounces three “woes” upon the teachers of the Pharisees.  This is the meaning behind the word “lawyers” there in verse 45.  These were not lawyers in the contemporary sense that we think of a lawyer today, but rather a scribe of the Pharisee, an expert in the Old Testament Law; a teacher who may himself be a Pharisee, but was chiefly responsible for the interpretation of Old Testament Mosaic Law and the teaching of it.

Jesus condemns these lawyers.  He says to them in verse 46, “Woe to you!”  The word “woe” is understood in the sense of coming judgment.  It is a reference to the certain future judgment of God upon these teachers.  What is the reason for this woe?  Jesus explains in verse 46, “For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”  Like a Boy Scout going on a hiking trip; everybody puts their stuff in his backpack.  They just keep piling in more stuff, pressing it down into the pack on his shoulders, piling it in, pushing and pushing down upon his pack until the boy feels he is going to collapse underneath the weight.  That is how Jesus says these lawyers – these teachers of the law – were treating the common, everyday hearer of the Word.  He says, “You load men down with burdens hard to be and you don’t seem to mind at all that they are collapsing under the weight.”

Jesus is addressing the traditions that these teachers have added to the Word of God.   He is talking about the some 6,000 plus laws that the scribes had added to the Law of God, so numerous and so burdensome that it was impossible for anyone to keep them, but rather people were collapsing under the weight of them.  Now in fairness to the Pharisees and the scribes, they had added further laws to the Old Testament Law as a means to protect it and honor it, but they became blind to the fact that their additions to the Law had made following God a burden no one could bear.  Their initial motive was good, like the man who reads the bottle of medicine and it says to take 1 or 2.  Men, if it says to take 1 or 2 how many are we going to take?  3!  Because if one or two is good, then three must be even better.  But doing so often leads to harm.

The Jews had these oral traditions, these numerous spoken laws that they had added to the Old Testament Law.  The Mishnah, the sort of “Jewish Rule Book” of the Pharisees, is a record of the oral traditions of Rabbinic Judaism.  The Mishnah records, for example, the requirement of ritual hand washing before meals that got this whole discussing with Jesus going.  This was a ritual cleansing that had to be perfect in order to be effective: “The hands are susceptible to uncleanness, and they are rendered clean [by the pouring over them of water] up to the wrist.  Thus, if a man had poured the first water up to the wrist and the second water beyond the wrist, and the water flowed back to the hand, the hand becomes clean; but if he poured both the first water and the second beyond the wrist, and the water flowed back to the hand, the hand remains unclean.  If he poured the first water over the one hand alone (are you following this?!) and then bethought himself and poured the second water of the one hand, his one hand [alone] is clean.  If he had poured the water over the one hand and rubbed it on the other, it becomes unclean; but if he rubbed it on his head or on the wall [to dry it] it remains clean.”  (Yadaim 2.3)

Where do you read that in the Bible?  Nowhere.  It was an addition to the Law, just one of six thousand man-made laws that became like barnacles encrusting the Old Testament Law into a weight no one could shoulder.  we must take care to teach the Bible accurately, plainly, and straightforwardly.  We are of help to no one when we impose upon the Bible legalistic obligations or fanciful interpretations that take us away from the main point of the passage.

Modern preachers, teachers, and writers are no different that the scribes of the Pharisees when the Bible is made to be something that no one could understand were it not for this gifted speaker or this latest book.  There is no secret code in the Bible that must be unlocked. 

The Bible is God’s revelation. 

He has revealed His Word to us

That we might learn it and live it.

While biblical studies are extremely helpful and a grasp of the original languages is an added benefit, the beauty of the Word of God is such that the Holy Spirit enables the unlearned and the child to understand it when read in a plain, straightforward manner. 

Always remember when reading the Bible

That the plain things are the main things

And the main things are the plain things.

We must teach the Word accurately. 

Number two:

2) We Must Respond To The Word Favorably – Verses 47-51.

Look at the next “woe” directed at these scribes of the Pharisees in verses 47-48, “Woe to you!  For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.  In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.”  Jesus says that the forefathers of these scribes and Pharisees were guilty of killing many of the Old Testament prophets.  Rather than heeding their Word, they killed them.  Jesus says to these lawyers of His day, “You share in their guilt.  You build tombs and monuments to the prophets of old as if you cared to honor their memory, but in reality you are just as guilty as your forefathers for killing them.  Your fathers did not respond favorably to the message of God’s prophets and neither do you.”

Jesus continues to say in verses 49-51 says, “Therefore the wisdom of God also said,” or, “God in expressing His wisdom said,” ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.  Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.”

God is saying, “Just like your forefathers, I am sending you prophets and apostles and you will kill and persecute them.”  And they do: John the Baptist is persecuted and killed, the early church leaders and apostles are persecuted and killed.  Most importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is persecuted and killed.  Because of this, God says, “Their blood will be upon you.  Your hands are stained with their blood and you will give an account of this on Judgment Day.”  In fact, Jesus says that the blood of all the prophets will be upon these teachers of the Law.  He speaks of all prophets in general, from Abel to Zechariah, all the prophets of the Old Testament who were killed.   This is a general and chronological way of referring to the entire Old Testament.  Abel was the first prophet killed in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 4) and Zechariah the last prophet killed in the Hebrew Bible (2 Chronicles 24).  A related point here is our Lord’s referring to the Old Testament as that which happened from the first book of the Bible to the last book of the Bible.  We have here Jesus Christ’s acceptance of the entirety of the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God.  He embraces the entire sweep of Old Testament history as a matter of factual, historical record.  Our view of the authenticity of the Old Testament should be no less than the view of our Lord’s.

Jesus tells these hypocritical teachers that a judgment day is coming.  That there is a judgment should be encouraging to those of us who are followers of Christ.  We need not fear the judgment.  All our sin is paid for and atoned for in Christ.  Our sin is taken care of in Christ Jesus.  We do not fear the coming judgment.  We stand forgiven, clothed not in our own righteousness, but the righteousness of another, our Lord Jesus.  The fact that there is a judgment encourages Christians to know that God will deal with the wicked.  For a little while it may seem that they have gained the upper hand.  We struggle to understand why it seems the ungodly prosper when the people of God are persecuted.  We are beaten down, overlooked, pushed away, and passed over, but a day of reckoning will come.  One day all will be made clear, a day when, in the words of JC Ryle, “the tangled maze of God’s providence shall be unraveled” and “every tear that the wicked have caused the godly shall be reckoned for.”  There is a coming judgment.

We must respond to the Word favorably.  The teachers of the Law and their forefathers responded to God’s message by killing God’s messengers.  Here was their hypocrisy!   In building tombs and monuments . . .

They honored the memory of the prophets

But not the message of the prophets.

What of our responding to the Word?  Do we respond favorably or would Jesus Christ lump us together with other religious people worthy of condemnation?  Do we even delight in hearing the Word?  We have far more of God’s Word than the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day.  We have some 66 books of the Bible and preaching and teaching in the local church and Bible teaching on the radio.  Do we even read it?  How do we respond to it – favorably or unfavorably?  The Word does not always address us in comforting ways.  Sometimes the Word convicts us and condemns us.  It points out our hypocrisy and prideful self-sufficiency.  What will we do?  Kill the messenger either literally as did the forefathers of the scribes, or symbolically by slandering those who stand in modern pulpits today with the courage to proclaim, “Thus says the Lord God?”   We must teach the Word accurately.  We must respond to the Word favorably. 

Thirdly . . .

3) We Must Handle The Word Reverently – Verses 52-54.

Verse 52 says, “Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you have hindered.”  What tremendous power the power of our influence.  How are we handling the Word?   Here were these lawyers, these scribes and teachers of the Pharisees.  They had the key to knowledge, but they were throwing the key away.  They had power to help people come to know God, but they obscured the plain teachings of the Word with their added traditions and goofy interpretations.

And to what extent?  To the extent that it kept people from entering into the Kingdom of God.  The misuse of the Word of God kept people from salvation.  They were like blind people leading blind people.  They themselves were not entering into the kingdom and so they hindered others from entering also.  After Jesus says this, the scribes and Pharisees begin to assail Him and confrontation continues.

We must handle the Word reverently.  The Word has the power to save souls from hell and to grant them heaven.  Imagine mishandling the Word so that we actually keep people from entering into heaven!  This again is why I place such an emphasis upon careful exposition of the Word.  If you are seeking bells and whistles and sugars and sweets added to the Word, you will not find that here at our church.  I believe the plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things.  I want only to unleash the Word and let it speak power into our people’s lives.

I close with these comments of Kent Hughes regarding our handling the Word reverently.  Kent Hughes is pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois.  He says, “We have all had the experience of hearing a text read and waiting in anticipation for its exposition, only to have the preacher depart from it never to return.  Preaching is not exposition if it views the text through the lens of a personal agenda – say, a patriotic lens or a therapeutic lens or a social lens – so that one’s sermons, regardless of text, are characterized by, for example, political chauvinism or repeated emphasis on wellness or a narrowly defined social issue.  We must free the Word from our scribal accretions, be they every so evangelical, and let God’s Word say what it says.” 

I share with him this aspiration.  If there is one goal I would like to reach through long years of ministry; it is to build a congregation who know when they hear the Word preached and who know when they do not hear it preached – people who are discerning.  I would like to leave behind a legacy of people who read many books but who are people of one Book.  If that happens, the future will be very bright.

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 11:37-44 – Marks of Christian Sincerity

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are going to be looking at Luke chapter 11, verses 37-44.  The passage we are looking at this morning.  It is a familiar passage, but it is not one that most preachers want to pull randomly out of Scripture and teach because it is sometimes difficult to teach on hypocrisy.  This subject is difficult to preach on because it is hard to knowingly step on toes, especially when those toes are your own.

This morning we are going to see Jesus hold a mirror up before the Pharisees and before us.  We will listen in as He shows us what it looks like to be a sincere follower of the One True God.  We will examine what it looks like to have the marks of sincere Christianity.

What we basically see Jesus saying to the Pharisees here is, “It is what is on the inside that counts.”   We have all heard this saying before and by-in-large it is always true.   Take for example Susan Boyle.  I am sure most people in the western world knows who Susan Boyle is.  She is the singing phenomenon out of Great Britain.  Her amazing talent was discovered on the reality show, “Britain’s Got Talent.”   Because you see Susan Boyle does not look like a superstar.  She has been described as a frumpy, middle-aged, not exactly attractive, unemployed woman from the middle of nowhere.   As she is about to perform in front of two very cynical British men and an audience of people rolling their eyes expecting very little.  But when the music begins to play and the first words come out of her throat the judges and crowd are stunned into silence and after just a few moments one of the judges and the crowd break into a standing ovation.  The host of the show is standing back-stage and he looks into the camera and says, “you weren’t expecting that were you” and after she finishes her song the judges tell her she is the biggest surprise they have ever had on the show.  One judge is even apologetic for judging her too soon.  Susan Boyle clearly had something on the inside that counts.

It is the same way in our Christian lives.  It is the same way with our hearts.  We can look one way on the outside and be completely and totally different on the inside.  We can look like a good Christian on the outside, we can go through all of the motions that are expected of a Christian, we can put on a good show and sometimes these things truly reflect what is in our hearts.  But all too often what is on the outside does not at all match up with what is on the inside and according to what Jesus tells us in the Scripture today is that it is what is on the inside that counts.

Let’s walk through these verses and identify some marks of sincere Christianity.  We will look at these verses under the main heading of, “Questions to ask in determining what is in my heart.”  We will start by asking ourselves some questions to determine if we have in our hearts wrong motivations for Christian living . . .

The first question we need to ask ourselves is . . .

1. Do I Focus On Another?

Look at verses 37-38, “And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.”  Did you catch that?  Did you see what it was that the Pharisee was looking at?  He was looking at the actions of another.  He was watching someone else with the intent to judge that person, with the intent to compare that person with himself.

The Pharisees were committed to living by the letter of the law and took great pride in doing so.  They also seemed to take great pride in catching others who were not as fastidious about the law.  I do not mean to say that Jesus did not take the law seriously because He did.  Listen to what he says in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For verily, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  Jesus did keep the law and He kept it perfectly.  What He did not do was give credence to the extra laws the Pharisees had tacked on, the meaningless laws that were a burden upon the people, the laws that would allow them to exercise an air of superiority over the rest of the people.  That is what this is an example of.  The Pharisee is not sitting there being disgusted because Jesus’ hands are filthy and He is touching His food with them.  The washing that Jesus did not do was a useless ceremonial washing.  It was the pouring of just a little water over the hands to symbolize the washing away of anything unclean that might have inadvertently been touched.

It was kind of like getting rid of cooties in elementary school.  It is like if I were in the third grade and thought girls were gross and one of them touched me.  Then I would have her cooties, so I would in turn go and touch some other unsuspecting boy so that I would be clean but now he has cooties.    know this is a gross oversimplification, but in essence this is what was going on with this ceremonial washing and Jesus was not concerned with this silly game.  You see, this Pharisee was watching Jesus, like I suspect he had watched others in the past, to see if he could catch him doing something that he could point at and say gotcha about.  He was watching to see if Jesus would do something that would allow him to comparatively feel superior.

Have you ever found yourself doing this?  I have.  More than I would like to admit.  There is one instance when I was guilty of this in high school that still weighs on me today.  When I was a junior a new family moved to town that had a son my age.  They visited our church and I made it a point to befriend him.  I introduced him to my friends, made sure to try and keep him involved in church as his family was not one that had been in the habit of regular attendance.  I in short, I made him my project.  Everything was going well.  But one weekend his parents left him home alone and he decided to throw a party.  He obviously knew better than to invite me or any of my other friends to this party, surely knowing my heart better than I myself did and knowing the judgment that would come.

But the following Monday he came to me and told me about the party and shared with me everything that went on.  Looking back, I think he was probably looking for someone to would be understanding, someone that would be there for him, someone that would show him the love of Christ.  But instead, he found someone who judged him, someone who compared himself to him and felt he was too good to be associated with someone who had done the things he had confessed to doing.  He found someone like this Pharisee.

Folks, we cannot compare ourselves to anyone else.  No matter how much better we may think we are than someone else.  No matter how much more Christian we may think we look.  God does not care.  He does not and will not judge us based on our performance compared to that of our neighbor. 

The only standard we will be judged by

Is the perfect standard of Jesus Christ

And In that comparison every one of us will fail.

If we ask ourselves “do I focus on another” and we find the answer is yes, we must repent and begin to focus on ourselves and the health of our own relationship with Jesus Christ.

Secondly, if we are going to determine what is in our heart we must ask ourselves . . .

2. Do I Focus On Appearances?

Look at what Jesus has to say to this Pharisee about appearances in verses 39-40, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?’”  When this Pharisee looks at Jesus and begins to judge Him based on His outward actions or on the appearance of what he is doing.  Jesus gives him a rather rebuking lesson.  He tells the Pharisee that a person can look all clean and perfect on the outside but if what is on the inside is dirty then the person is really dirty through and through.  He tells him that it is what is on the inside that counts.  He uses the example of a cup.  It is like he is talking about a travel mug I have sitting in my office.  On the outside it looks all pretty and clean but on the inside it is something completely different.  I have not washed it in months.  It might have the appearance of something you would want to drink out of but in reality it is filthy.

It is the same way with us as Christians.  We may look good on the outside.  We might “do” all the right things, we might avoid the public sins, we might go to church every week, we might even serve in the church.  But if in our hearts we do not have a real love for God, if all we are doing is going through the motions because it is what we are expected to do, or because we do not want anyone to know what really consumes our thought life, or because we do not want anyone to suspect us of our secret sin, or because it would be too embarrassing if someone knew I am really not sure if I am a Christian then we are as Jesus says “full of greed and wickedness” he says we are hypocrites.

Hypocrisy is an especially difficult sin because it consumes us in trying to live the lie.   Novelist Somerset Maugham, who was not a Christian, had an especially helpful insight on the sin of hypocrisy.  He said, “Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-wracking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit.  It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.”  What he is saying it that it is a full-time job to try and fool everyone around us into thinking we are something that we are not.  And even then, we are foolish because even if we fool everyone around us, we can never fool God.  Jesus says we cannot fool the One who has made us both inside and out.  God always knows when we are dirty on the inside and remember, it is what is on the inside that counts.

I heard a quote the other day from a children’s book, A Wrinkle in Time.  One of the characters in the book says, “like and equal are not the same.”  I think this is a good warning for us as Christians.  Just because someone looks like a Christian, just because someone has the appearance of a Christian, it does not mean that person is equal to being a Christian because “like and equal are not the same.”  That means that if the answer is yes when we ask ourselves “do I focus on appearances” when it comes to Christianity we need to examine ourselves to be sure we are not being foolish enough to think that looking like a Christian is equal to being one.

The next question we need to ask to determine what is in our hearts is . . .

3. Do I focus On Actions?

Jesus knew this Pharisee; He knew what was in his heart better than the man himself knew.  After all Jesus is the God man, 100% man but also 100% God.  He knew this man’s motives just as He knows ours.  He knew that this man was focused on and even dependent upon his actions or his works.  Jesus just picks one of the works that he knows this Pharisee to be proud of, he picks the act of tithing.

While tithing is not the main point of this verse I feel that there is something that needs to be said about it here.  This verse is not an “ah ha” New Testament proof text for the act of tithing, and it is also not a text that one can point to and say that Jesus condemned tithing.  Jesus is not condemning the act of tithing as prescribed in the Old Testament, He is not abolishing it.  What He is doing is condemning those who do so with the wrong motivation.  He is condemning this Pharisee and any others who give in order that they might be seen and praised by others just as he does in Matthew 6.

The tithe does not get abolished in the New Testament as some might argue.  It actually gets built upon.  It seems to serve as a starting place in the New Testament.  It seems to be a place to start, it does not serve as an end.  In the New Testament we are clearly expected to go beyond the tithe.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:2 is says, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

We are to give according to what we have been given. And we are to do so sacrificially according to Acts 2:44-45, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” These folks were giving way above 10% of what they were making, they were giving as they had prospered.  And they were doing so cheerfully as is called for in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

Tithing 10% can actually put us in the same category as this Pharisee if we are not careful.  If we give our tithe grudgingly, or if we give it pridefully, or if our prosperity would allow us to give much more and we focus just on the 10% saying that we are obeying to the letter of the law we may be treating the tithe as a work rather than as an act of worship and thanksgiving.  And that is exactly what Jesus is saying to this Pharisee.

Jesus states in verse 42, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Jesus is saying tithing is a good thing to do, it is the right thing to do, but only with the right motivation.  Only if we are living a Christian life for the glory of God and not out of obligation or for the glory of ourselves.  If we are focused on our works because of what they do for us, or out of obligation, or in order to get by with doing the bare minimum and nothing more, then we are guilty of Christian laziness and what is in our heart is not a sincere desire to love and serve the Lord.

The fourth question we must ask to determine what is in our heart is . . .

4. Do I Focus On Attention?” 

Look at verse 43, Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  The question really is, “Am I a self-centered, selfish Christian?”   This question again goes to the motivation of why we do what we do.  Unfortunately, we as Christians have allowed ourselves to follow the ways of the world and culture we live in.  We have become selfish and prideful.  I know this is not true of every Christian but it is a serious problem.

Take for example a unity pledge that was brought forward to be signed at our own Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting a couple of weeks ago.  Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee President, in his concern over the fracturing of our convention (which by the way is the largest evangelical group of cooperating believers in the world) over “some theological, mostly methodological” differences drafted a unity pledge to be signed by the heads of all the SBC entities, State convention executives, and several ethnic fellowship presidents.  Listen to one of the core pledges included in the document: “We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust, behaving ourselves trustworthily before one another, and trusting one another as brothers and sisters indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.”  Why is such a pledge necessary?  Is it because we are so concerned about ourselves and getting our way that we have forgotten what our mission is?  It is not just our leaders, it stretches all the way to each of us individually when we want our way or our comforts at the expense of the Gospel.

These are four questions that help us determine if the wrong things are in our hearts.  Let’s look at two questions that will help us determine if the right things are in our hearts . . .

1. Do I Focus On Loving God? . . . 2. Do I Focus On Loving Others?”

Look again at verse 42, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Jesus says to the Pharisee, “you tithe, you have good works, but your motivation is all wrong.”  Jesus says that our works should not be done for the sake of doing good works or for the sake of being viewed in a favorable light by others.

He says our works should flow out of the love that is in our hearts for God and for others.  He tells the Pharisee that he should tithe, he should have good works but not if he is going to do so without adhering to the greatest two laws there are.  Love God and love others.  All of the questions we have looked at are really summed up in the question of what is my Christian motivation?

Do I do the things I do because I truly love the one true God of Heaven who has given me salvation, who has sacrificed greatly on my behalf, and who has given me immeasurable grace that I can never repay?  Do I do the things I do because I love others?  Do I care that there are people around me and around the world that are dying without knowing the love of Jesus Christ?  Do I care that these people will spend an eternity in hell?  Do I care that there are people around the world starving to death?  Do I care that others are hurting in so many ways while I am so blessed?

When we can say yes to all of these kinds of questions and put ourselves last then we can have the true marks of Christian sincerity.

What is the danger if we do not have these marks; What is the danger of focusing on the wrong things?  Of having the wrong motivation?  Look at what Jesus says in verse 44, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”  The danger is twofold.  We run the risk of misleading ourselves and the risk of misleading others.

We mislead others as the Pharisees did by leading them to think the wrong things are important.  We teach them a works based and even hypocritical brand of Christianity that is not biblical and we may even lead them down a path that keeps them from salvation.

We may mislead ourselves.  We may convince ourselves that since we are doing all of the right things, that because we are saying all of the right words, and because we are basically good people that we are doing what God has called us to do and being what God has called us to be.  Some may have even convinced themselves that they are forgiven, born-again believers when they are not.

Please, examine your heart this morning.  Look to see what your motivations are.  Be sure of your salvation and determine today to avoid the dangers and pitfalls of hypocrisy.

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.”